Aspergers and Conversation Skills
Now that we seem to have the meds situation figured out, and the academic front appears to be going well, we can now work on what has been a long-time problem with our son -- his difficulty with conversation skills. At our doctor's office, we have a great therapist who sees my son about every three or four weeks to work on things like conversation skills -- but that just isn't often enough. So last week I explored what was available on the internet.
I came across what I think is an absolutely terrific resource for working on these skills:
This website publishes articles on improving conversation and social skills. The articles are entertaining but useful, in that they kind of dissect the real issues shy people have with trying to think of subjects to talk about, or how to get a conversation started, or how to keep one going, etc. These are the kinds of things my son (and many people with aspergers) has difficulty with, and so as I read the articles, they really GRABBED me.
At dinner, we are taking one article per week, and using them as jumping off points for discussion and conversation practice. For instance, this week we are using the article that discusses the fact that conversation shouldn't be perceived as work, or something to DO, but instead conversation should be perceived as PLAY. For example, if you were at dinner with friends, and you got up to go to the bathroom, and your friend asked "where are you going," a typical response would be "I'm going to the bathroom." What COULD be said instead, in a playful manner, "I'm tired of you guys -- I'm going off to find better options!" or "it's a secret..." or "In search of a yetti." Anything that is unexpected could be funny.
The thing about this sort of conversation -- kids on the spectrum could be GREAT at thinking up unusual answers. Some answers would be awesomely funny, but depending on your audience, some answers would completely miss their mark. THAT'S why practice, over and over and over again, is essential. For example, my son might try and make a joke that's a reference to a heavy metal band, or a video game -- often things that not everyone can relate to, and if they don't know a lot about the subject, then the potential audience won't see the humor in my son's comment. We are trying to steer him towards subjects that MOST PEOPLE will relate to. We are also trying to show to him that, sometimes, WE do not hit the mark in our attempts at funny comments. That's why it's important to practice in front of a "safe" audience (such as parents, siblings, or really close friends who love you no matter what) before you try your humor out on a larger, possibly less-safe audience.