The Filter Approach – A book review

I am always on the lookout for something new to use with students. I was recently sent a copy of The Filter Approach: Social Communication Skills for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders by Stephanie Sanders to review. (Disclosure: I receive a copy of the book at no charge, and I have not as of yet implemented this method with a student.) That said, the approach seems to have some merit. There is a website that discusses more about the book as well (The Filter Approach) and also discussed the author background, and provides a link to purchase the book. 

Filter Approach

The FILTER Approach: Social Communication Skills for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders    ISBN13: 978-1-59756-939-2

Stephanie D. Sanders

Details:383 pages, Color Illustrations, Spiral Bound, 8.5 x 11″

Publish Date: 2016, Price: $49.95

One of the things that I loved about this book, from the time I opened it, is that it was workbook style. This book is designed to be used to teach older elementary and middle/high school students not only what a filter is, but how to create a conversational filter.

The book reads like a workbook, and is very easy to understand. It moves from concrete (“Name a common filter you’ve seen around your house.”) to more abstract (“What is a ‘conversational filter’ and where is it located?” The name of the book comes from:

F – Facial clues: look for information about how someone is feeling
I – Inappropriate: avoid “red light” comments and topics
L – Listen: tune in to the person talking and tune out distractions
T – Target: are you hitting or missing the target in conversation?
E – End the conversation (and start it) at the right time
R – Repair mistakes made in conversation

There are two different sections in the book. Section I contains the introduction and discusses each element of F.I.L.T.E.R. Section II contains the answer keys for the therapists. There are also 5 appendices: Which filter is it? Curriculum review, Homework Activities, Data Collection, and Idioms and Expressions.

The Introduction is just that, it explains what a filter is, what it does, why we need them, and asks the students to identify concrete filters in everyday items before moving to more abstract concepts. I love that it includes some neurology components and discusses the amygdala, mirror neurons, and the medial prefrontal cortex in ways that a student can understand. Not only does it explain how filters work, it explains how our brain CAN work to filter.

The rest of Section I is broken down into the various elements of FILTER. For each area there is a “preview” section to help prepare students for what they will be learning. Then there is an explanation of what each element is (e.g., What are Facial Cues), questions, examples, a practice activity, and a review.

I LOVE the format for Section I. I believe that this approach could help many of those students who are on the autism spectrum, but it will also help with some self-regulation and emotional intelligence for children with FASD (fetal alcohol spectrum disorder). Honestly, I think it would work for many children who struggle with social skills and understanding pragmatics and social situations not just those with a diagnosis. I can see elements of this working for entire classrooms as well, not just individual students.

Section II is rather self-explanatory. It’s the answer key to the various pages in the workbook. I don’t know about you, but there have definitely been times when I’m going through a program and I realize I don’t know the answer…or I’m not 100% convinced that the answer I think it is, is the right one (…what, you don’t do that? Oh… *sigh*). This section helps alleviate some of that confusion (and for those of us that may struggle a bit socially ourselves, it’s rather eye-opening).

The appendices are nice. For instance, in the Curriculum Review, there are 10 questions…It’s quick, it covers the information…could it be more? maybe… I’m not sure. Like I said, I haven’t really done it yet. The Homework Activities appendix is simply a letter sent home to parents asking parents to remind them to use their social skills and a single page of activities for each element. There is a very simple data collection form broken down by date and element. The final section is about Idioms and Expressions and discusses common idioms (that are used in the workbook area as well) and their meanings (and it provides examples and alternative sentences to really teach the meanings).

All in all, I’m impressed with the ease of the book. It looks like it would be very simple to begin a social skills group, open to page 1 of the Introduction and get to work.

Have any of you used this book? I’d love to hear what you think about it.

Until then…Adventure on!


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