The key to every social lesson I've taught my son, is to make it fun and appeal to his sense of humor.
When my son was younger and I had to prepare him for an upcoming social event, we would role play. I would pretend to be a person who had to introduce themselves to a group of peers. I'd enter and re-enter his room introducing myself in different, exaggerated ways. Shoulders hunched and eyes on the ground, mumbling my name and offering a really limp handshake or dragging my feet into the room, smacking my gum, eyes fixed on my phone, then keeping my arms crossed and not introducing myself at all. Then I would have him tell me what his first impressions of me were when I behaved that way.
Once the point was made, we'd practice the proper way to introduce ourselves (eye contact, firm handshake, shoulders back, chin up) and work on 'getting to know you' questions and answers. Once the lesson was done, we would take the game in a really exaggerated direction and take turns acting out really outrageous introductions and laughing at the impression those characters would make on a new group of people.
I had the bright idea, after showing him the best of Adam Sandler skits from SNL, to sign him up for a local improve class. Luckily, the first place we signed up with was a perfect fit. It was owned and run by some young adults (former Disney TV celebs) and was close to home. It took just one test class for him to agree to join up for weekly improv lessons. The energy was high, the classes were small, and the rules were loose - it was a perfect place for my boy to learn about himself.
The zanier the exercise, the more involved he would become, completely forgetting to be self-conscious or uncomfortable - because he and all the kids there with him were just 'acting' and it wasn't 'real life'. It wasn't long before I could see self-confidence begin to grow. Sadly, the classes weren't getting enough participants and they didn't run as often as I would have liked. We tried an improv class that was being offered at the community center, but the vibe just wasn't the same, it was too focused on the 'art of improv' and not enough on the 'just go for it' improv he had previously experienced. He tried out one class and didn't want to go back. At the end of the day, I think taking improv changed his life. He has been, increasingly, the class clown over the years since always searching for that great feeling that making people laugh gives a person.
I made is sound kind of easy, but he started out as a very frustrated boy. He couldn't articulate his feelings and would often go into 'rage mode' because of it. After doing improv on and off for a few years, he was better able to control his body and articulate his feelings. I believe that learning to manipulate and express himself in a safe and accepting environment like improv class, helped him to get in touch with his own voice and sense of self.
I also believe, that Aspies should, where possible, go into groups like this with 'typicals' to offer them the opportunity to learn from them via proximity by witnessing how they react and behave in different situations.
Do you have any similar stories or suggestions to help our Aspie kids? Leave a comment!
Good luck our there,