Mike’s Crush

More Details

Mike's CrushThe Mike’s Crush curriculum was developed as a direct result of needs expressed by middle and high school students with disabilities, their parents, and teachers.

The goal of the program is to provide these students with the knowledge and skills needed for healthy relationships with their peers, including romantic relationships.

Why this is important

All people who want romantic relationships make mistakes, but ideally, they learn from their mistakes. For many teens who have autism or other disabilities, this learning is hindered because they cannot read the social signals that their peers are sending. If their peers do not want friendship or romance, this often leads to confusion, misunderstandings or more serious consequences.

We know that it is safer for high school students to make these mistakes when there are supports available at home and in school. Young adults who have fewer safety nets can lose their jobs, and be charged as adults in the criminal justice system when they make the same mistakes.

Since extreme forms of sexual harassment and stalking are illegal, all students with disabilities need to understand relational boundaries, laws, and consequences. Other types of sexual harassment and stalking are not against the law, but have real consequences in a high school setting.

On the other end of the spectrum, we also know that people with disabilities are victims of sexual abuse and abuse at a far higher rate than their non-disabled peers.

Teaching methods:

After completing the Mike’s Crush curriculum (video and lessons), students will be able to:

  1. Identify the right and wrong social skills presented in the two videos.
  2. Define vocabulary words included in each lesson.
  3. Describe why appearance and hygiene matter in school.
  4. Identify and define different types of relationships.
  5. Demonstrate how to start a conversation and get to know someone.
  6. Identify and describe how a peer looks when he or she is not interested in talking to you or getting to know you.
  7. Recognize and describe sexual harassment, stalking, and abusive and illegal behavior.
  8. Recognize and demonstrate safe and healthy relationships, including what to do if you are being stalked or harassed.

This curriculum takes a multifaceted approach to teaching these skills based on current research and best practices for students with autism and other special needs students.*

Because these students are visual learners, video peer modeling and video self modeling (VSM) are the most important teaching techniques. Also essential are role playing and practicing new skills that assist teens with generalizing their learning to other situations outside of the classroom. Finally, a wide variety of interactive teaching methods are necessary because these students need to repeatedly practice the same material.

* “An emerging body of research demonstrates great promise for the use of video modeling (peer or adult as model) and video self-modeling (VSM) as a therapeutic modality for individuals with ASD.” “These teaching techniques are effective interventions strategies for addressing social-communication skills, behavioral function, and functional skills in children and adolescents with ASD. Specifically, these procedures promote skill acquisition and skills acquired via video modeling and VSM are maintained over time and transferred across person and settings.”
Bellini, S. (2006). Building Social Relationships: A Systematic Approach to Teaching Social Interaction Skills to Children and Adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders and Other Social Difficulties, APC Autism Asperger Publishing Co. Shawnee Mission: Kansas

Video Modeling: Bad Day and Good Day

Key resources for the curriculum are the two Mike’s Crush videos, written and produced specifically for the program. The videos help students discover the difference between incorrect and appropriate social behavior.

The videos use professional actors to demonstrate over-the-top examples of BAD DAY scenarios that are easily recognized and realistic in a high school environment. The same school, students, and scenarios are then replaced with what a GOOD DAY would look like, including role modeling a better way to approach relationships.

Video #1 Mike’s Very Bad Day is an extreme example of how teens should NOT behave if they have a crush on a girl at school. Throughout the video, other students tell Mike that what he is doing is not useful, but he does not listen. This video also shows some consequences of not following the rules and laws that apply to “romantic relationships” and how a victim of stalking feels.

Video #2 Mike’s Good Day at School dramatizes how a healthy and positive relationship develops over time, providing a positive role model of a high school crush. The GOOD DAY scenario gives concrete examples of better ways to approach relationships, and demonstrates situations that can be used as models when developing a friendship.

Both videos have been written to be entertaining but make the point that there is a right way and a wrong way to develop a romantic relationship.

How to use the course

This curriculum is appropriate for youth with a wide range of disabilities including autism, intellectual, and learning disabilities.

The lessons are written for use by many types of instructors including health teachers, guidance counselors, school psychologists, nurses, or social workers, depending on the students and the structure of the school. The course is also recommended for use by therapists, disability organizations, and socialization groups outside the structure of a school.

Lessons should be taught to small groups of students with similar needs. This information is best taught slowly, in small groups and with only students with disabilities in the classroom.

Although the curriculum is eight lessons, learning the material correctly takes time and practice. In fact, the lessons are most effective when taught over a period or months, not weeks.

Teachers can use the lessons as written, adapt them, or use the videos alone. It is up to each teacher to determine what specific information is relevant to the students, what skills the students are able to master, and how much time will be needed to discuss and practice the material in this curriculum.