Making Social Concepts Into Games: Learning New Behaviors Can Be Fun


©Catherine Faherty 2000-2017


How to acknowledge that a mistake is discovered; understand that mistakes can be corrected; and feel okay with mistakes and the act of correcting.


It’s okay to make mistakes. Mistakes can be corrected. Some mistakes can be funny. It’s even okay to laugh about one’s own mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. Mistakes aren’t “bad”. Mistakes can be keys to learning new things.* (See reference with asterick below.)


Children may become upset when their mistakes are discovered and/or when they have to correct mistakes. The intent of this game is to give your child practice with the process of making mistakes, identifying mistakes, correcting mistakes, knowing that everyone makes mistakes sometimes…and for this learning to be fun.


While working on increasing understanding about aspects of mistakes through Social Stories, consider scheduling time to play a game of making mistakes to help change the stigma of  “mistakes are bad”.   Give your child plenty of practice making mistakes and laughing during the process!  Play The Mistake Game! The game can be created and played by a teacher in school, or by a parent at home.


Take turns pulling cards out of a box.  These are the Situation Cards. An assignment or situation is listed on each piece of paper, such as “Count to ten,” or “Write your name”.  When it’s your turn, you must complete the activity with a mistake.  The adult or another child may have model how to actually make a mistake even when they know the right way. (This may take some teaching.**)  In the beginning it will help to exaggerate the silliness to make obvious mistakes, ensuring that the game is funny and absurd. Each time repeat a verbal slogan, routinely, such as “Oops this time it’s a mistake!  But that’s okay…it can be corrected.” Then the person immediately corrects the mistake.

 What is written on the Situation Cards: In the beginning (Level 1), make sure all of the Situation Cards contain assignments that have been easily mastered by the child – in other words, easy things that he can already do.  Making it somewhat ridiculous to make mistakes on these things, may help him learn to laugh at these mistakes.  After all, he and everyone else knows that he REALLY can do these simple things.

After playing at this level for a while (days, weeks…) begin playing “Level 2”, as described below:


Draw a card and make a mistake on the direction stated on the card (same as Level 1), but this time the players also draw from a second pile of cards.  These cards are called Correction Direction Cards and contain one of these three directions:

Correct it now.             Correct it later.                 Ask for help.

Correct it now.

If this card is drawn, the player immediately corrects the mistake.

Correct it later:

If a player draws the “Correct it later” card, with the help of the teacher or parent, they can insert it into his or her personal daily schedule (or list of what is happening today) to show exactly when during the day to correct the mistake. If he or she has a written schedule, simply write “Time to correct mistakes” into the schedule, later in the day.  Establishing this routine (of making a time to correct mistakes) will be useful away from the game, when doing school work or homework, since you will be able to save all assignments with mistakes in a folder for the designated later time, and your child will not have to deal with them until the designated time. This will structure at time for this – making it easier to handle. 

Ask for help:

If the player picks this card, he or she can refer to a list of phrases, each one cues him to ask for help with slightly different wording.  He chooses one to use and then asks his teacher or parent for help. (Examples of possible wording that can be chosen, are: “Please help me with ______.” “Can you help me with _____ please?” “I need some help please.” “Help me correct this mistake please.”)

IMPORTANT: About the Situation Cards: The assigned situations- what the Situation Cards say – should be changed as time goes on, adding novelty and eventually more challenging situations. Remember, the first few weeks or so of playing the game involves already mastered skills (as described in Level 1).  As your child finds it easier to make mistakes and enjoys the silliness and absurdity of the game, you can begin to include cards which describe slightly more difficult directions, until they include some situations where a real mistake would probably be made by the child. This way, the child has practice with this routine of correcting mistakes – but now with a possible real mistake. However, since it is still part of the game, it may be easier for him or her to use this newly practiced skill of being okay with mistakes and corrections during the game. Eventually, the idea is to follow the routine in a real life situation, even when not formally playing the game.

Parents or teachers can then bring up the “game” idea even in real situations, in real life. The idea is that associating a real mistake in real life, with the fun and silliness of the game, may help ease the discomfort of a mistake and let correcting it become less emotionally charged.

In summary, here is the MISTAKE GAME: Level 2:

  1. Pick a Situation Card.
  2. Complete the assignment WITH a mistake.
  3. Say “Oops this time it’s a mistake! But that’s okay…it can be corrected.”
  4. Pick a card from the Correction Directions (These are the cards that say either Correct it now, Correct it later, or Ask for help)
  5. Follow the procedure stated on the Correction Direction Card.
  6. The game session is finished at a predetermined time. It can be either when all of the Situation Cards are gone, or at a certain time, or after each person has a certain number of turns, or another predetermined event. ALWAYS determine at the beginning of the game, when the game will end, so players know when the game will be finished.

*See Chapter 16 from the book “Understanding Death and Illness and What They Teach About Life: An Interactive Guide for Individuals with Autism or Asperger’s and Their Loved Ones” by Catherine Faherty. A large section on “Learning From Your Mistakes” is included in this chapter which covers positive life lessons. (Future Horizons Inc, 2008)

 **Ideas for teaching how to make a mistake when you really know how to do it correctly are provided on another sheet.  Some children with ASD may find this concept confusing.

 ***REMEMBER: Write Social Stories™. Social Stories™ describe life.  Teachers and parents are encouraged to be trained in writing Social Stories, by Catherine Faherty, or another member of Carol Gray’s Team Social Stories.