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How to teach losing skills?

Updated: May 29, 2023

Losing skills. Bea Inclusive TV and Podcast Episode 017

Hi there,

Last time I talked about how to prepare our provision and help children transition to school. In this episode of Bea Inclusive TV, I will focus on how to teach losing skills.

Let me also say a huge thank you to all who subscribed to my channel. I appreciate that you are here. Thanks to you, I can post more videos like this. Please make sure you will hit the like button as this makes the video more visible on the YouTube channel, and more people will be able to learn for free.

If you are new to me – my name is Bea, and this VLOG is dedicated to advocating truly inclusive school provision through well-researched, safe and recommended approaches such as Lego-based Therapy.

So, I invite you to follow my journey in creating genuinely inclusive provisions to help you support children and develop your skills. Are you ready? Let’s go!

Today is the Q&A Type of vlog, and I prepared for you FREE resources to download.

Big thank you to Bev, who send me this question and oh boy! What a good question it is:

"I'm wondering if you can advise me on any ideas for teaching a particular pupil to accept losing. I find it hard to plan activities other than simple builds".

"When playing football, he will do anything to win…. pushing other pupils over, he feels he is the best so, therefore, must make all the decisions, take all the shots. He easily loses focus during Lego (and class activities)- if the pace is too slow or another pupil finds it tricky to verbalise their thoughts- we've now got other parents saying they don't want their child to play with him due to his impulsiveness".

"I also have two years one pupil both with ASC, they will hit, shout "I don't want ……… to win" they will both blame each other "it's……. fault "they are both very vocal, and we will often have tears of anger that the other has won a game".

"Take your pick. I look forward to your blog and increasing my Lego knowledge to support the children in developing new skills. Lego therapy is by far my best tool".

Thank you, Bev. This is an excellent question, as many teachers and parents struggle with this, and I was no exception.

Why do some pupils with autism struggle to deal with winning and losing concepts?

Losing a game is a challenging concept for some children, and they may have problems self-regulating and expressing their disappointment in a calm and socially acceptable way.

They could shout, swear, hit, damage the game, hide or damage elements of the game, throw a tantrum or have an emotional outburst.

The possible reasons that children with autism may struggle with this concept are:

  1. Lack of losing experiences – as parents or supporting adults may have allowed them to win all the time, so they did not develop coping strategies when they lost the game.

  2. Struggle in the "Theory of Mind" describes self-awareness and awareness of others. Struggle to understand that people have intentions, desires and beliefs that are different to your own. For example, they may struggle with the concept that all children can be good at playing the game and have the same chance to win.

  3. Struggle in "Impaired Executive Functioning" – the cognitive processes that help us regulate, control, and manage our thoughts and actions. They may struggle with self-regulation or have poor impulse control.

  4. The rigidity of thinking – inflexibility of thought and focusing on the single aspect of the activity, in our case – winning in the game.

How to teach the child to cope with losing. The graduated way is the best, and if you know the stages, you can quickly assess your child's needs:

  • Always start with short one-to-one sessions and play the simple game, for example: throwing the bin bag into the empty bucket, skittles, Pop up Pirate, etc. It would be great if you would choose a game that not excites the child very much. So it will be easier to model the response. When the child masters the skills with you, it will be time to generalise (different – play in another place or with another adult). After that, you can introduce another child, and from that, progress to a group of three and a bigger group of 4-5 children before expecting the child to cope with this skill in the classroom or on the playground.

  • Allow the student to win 2-3 times so you can model the things that we say when we are not winners, such as: "Well done, I will get you next time"; "I lost, that was fun, let us play again"; "I lost again, I'm disappointed, but I will do my best to win so let's play". Use this time to think about his and your emotions and ask the child how he would feel if he lost the game. This simple stage is vital as it allows you to model socially approved emotional and behavioural responses.

  • Prepare necessary visual support, such as verbal prompts, so when the child loses, he can choose what to say. Remember to model the use of visuals when modelling the responses.

  • You can ask the child what level he would like to play: Easy (you have a fair chance of winning), Difficult (winning is not easy so that you may lose) or Hard (you are more likely to lose), and prepare necessary visual support. Nowadays, children are familiar with this concept as they play plenty of computer games, so they will understand what to expect.

  • Reinforce and praise each time the child stays calm or use visual prompts to help him accept that s/he did not win. Ignore temper tantrums (if it occurs in crying, shouting, stomping feet, or throwing himself onto the floor). At first, it may make the tantrum worse, but eventually, your child will grow bored when he sees he does not have an audience. Avoid looking at the child and limit talking. When calm, give him positive attention and two choices (play the game again or do something else).

  • Reflection on the child's feelings and model the proper response. Practice the responses.

  • Teach the child self-regulatory skills to cope with the stress of losing, such as square breathing, belly breathing, etc. Then, stop the game if necessary and take your time to relax to reduce the anxiety.

  • You can also support the whole process with the social story– which is the way of illustrating facts around the concept of losing the game and giving the child potential tools to cope with the disappointment by teaching them new positive responses to the situation, for example: what to say, request break, ask to stop playing, ask to play the easy level of the game, square breathing, etc.

  • Alternatively, to the social story, you may watch some children's movies about winning and losing, or you can use real video case studies from your school.

Winning and losing videos that you can find on YOUTUBE, and I will place the links in the comments below my video.

Why is it important to teach children to cope with losing?

Losing games:

  1. It teaches people to show empathy and cope with the whole experience of losing.

  2. Help learns from own mistakes and thinks about strategies to improve.

  3. Teaches children that they must work hard to succeed because good things are not just handed over to them.

Children who do not experience losing can grow anxious because they start seeing the possibility of not winning as some form of harm and cannot deal with situations that do not go their way.

Children who are not coping with their feelings when they lose the game have problems keeping friends. Peers will more likely exclude them from the play because they make them uncomfortable.

If you would like to teach losing but you DON'T have enough hours in the day, to prepare the resources, then I suggest to DOWNLOAD my free pack, which includes:

  1. What to say when I lose the game prompting cards

  2. Different levels of the game prompt cards.

  3. Let's square breath visual support.

  4. Choice board and four other options

  5. Example of a social story about losing

  6. Anger rules,

  7. Lego® based therapy easy game to practice losing skills.

There you have it!

I hope that you enjoyed my blog today, Bev. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. Please comment below the video and consider subscribing to my channel, as this will help me to create more videos like this one, and more people will be able to learn for FREE. Please do not forget to hit the like button.

After you've finished, join the discussion below to share precisely what you learned today and, more importantly, the impact of teaching this skill on your pupils' lives.

What are you doing differently?

Until the next time

Love and xxx



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