A collaboration between the Temple Grandin School and the University of Colorado’s Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences department is using radio interviews as a way of teaching better communication skills to individuals with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS).
“The Perspectives” program capitalizes on the fact that learning to interview helps AS students become interested in what other people are thinking and appreciate their perspective. In the course of the three week experience, students work in small groups to arrive at topics and develop questions. The interviews are recorded, affording students the opportunity to review their work to see if they stayed truly connected to the topic and the interviewee. The process helps the AS individual learn the give-and-take process of engaging others, with the goal of developing the flexibility necessary to achieve meaningful conversations.
My personal experience is that this kind of creative approach is much more successful at delivering results than ordinary lecturing about the rules of conversation. My fifteen-year-old-son suffered severe stuttering despite having been in speech therapy since age four. Within the past year, he has cured himself without trying after he became interested in posting video blogs online. Wanting to come across well, he recorded them over and over again until they were stutter-free. Simultaneously, he became interested in rap, particularly fast rapping. He wrote his own fast raps and worked on them until he could delivery them to perfection. Now it’s hard to remember he ever even stuttered.
As another example, my son’s biggest meltdown trigger at school was being cut off in mid-sentence and not being about to finish his thought. Because of his interest in drama, I suggested to his speech therapist that she role play different scenarios where this actually occurs so that he could creatively arrive at a different response than his autonomic meltdown. She was nervous about it, but it turned out to be a smashing success.
Whenever possible, identify what excites your child and use it to provide creativity and inspiration to the learning of crucial skill sets. For my son, it achieved what years of speech therapy and expensive social skills classes could not. For others, "The Perspective" program is opening up a whole new approach to communication for students on the autism spectrum.