Thursday, June 18, 2009

Improv as social skills training

Months ago, I purchased a book entitled "The Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Comedy, Theatre, and Beyond" by Tom Salinsky and Deborah Frances-white. I wanted to help Will improve his improv skills when he attends his theatre program.

As I read the book, I realized that Improv classes just might be the way to teach teenage kids on the spectrum to understand humor, and through humor, find ways to develop friendships. Successful improv requires certain skills that kids on the spectrum need to develop, such as listening skills, give and take between two people in conversation, and working within a team. Improv requires that one person listen to another person and build on whatever it was they said. Kids on the spectrum rarely listen to or pay attention to what others are saying, and that is why their conversations can appear so one-sided. Also, through improv, one often can develop the ability to predict or recognize what another person is thinking -- and this could be an invaluable skill to a teenager on the spectrum.

The key to improv is that when a child is successful with this type of class, they receive immediate positive feedback by way of audience, or group (class) laughter. I don't know about your child, but my son finds nothing more enticing or fulfilling then making others laugh. He can't be successful, so far, in doing this very often, but when he does, it's all the motivation he needs to continue trying.

I want to try some of the improv exercises that the book provides with my son this summer. Eventually, I would love to try to develop a class for kids on the spectrum, to see if they would enjoy working at this sort of thing.

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