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  Teaching Asperger's Students Social Skills Through Acting

 
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by Amelia Davies, Foreward by Jeannette McAfee, M.D.

Destined to become a classic, this innovative book provides a program for parents and professionals to teach social skills to children diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome and High Functioning Autism through acting.  The author has worked closely with Jeannette McAfee, author of the internationally acclaimed social skills guide, Navigating the Social World.

With an irreverent sense of humor and belief in the potential of these children, Ms. Davies has found that people with Asperger's Syndrome and High Functioning Autism who successfully function in the neurotypical world, do so by learning to "pretend" or "act" in ways that are expected of them, literally memorizing how to handle hundreds of social interactions as they would memorize favorite statistics or trading cards of baseball players.  These children may not feel all emotions or understand the feelings of others intuitively, but they can be taught to understand them logically, like an anthropologist studying another culture, and through memorization.  Over time, if practiced regularly, memorization of social skills can become internalized, generalized and provide children with a more intuitive understanding of social give and take and what makes neurotypical people tick.  

According to Ms. Davies, children with Asperger's Syndrome not only tend to be extremely talented at acting and mimicking voices, but there are several professional actors and actresses who have Asperger's Syndrome.  I speculate that some top actors and actresses are more comfortable pretending to be someone else and following a scripted dialog than interacting with others in an unpredictable, unscripted world.  

Research studies have indicated that neurotypical children who take acting classes have better social skills than their peers.  Teaching social skills through acting draws upon the latent talent waiting to blossom in many children with Asperger's Syndrome and High Functioning Autism.   I have seen this innate ability in my own son, who is diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome.  He is a wonderful mimic of different accents and television characters, and has always performed as well if not with considerably more dramatic flair than his peers when given scripted dialogs in school plays. 

This book contains the nuts and bolts of how to create an acting class and the proper attitude to approach teaching acting (non-judgmental, wild, Monty-Pythonesque style humor where almost anything goes; one U.K. expert on Asperger's Syndrome has speculated that Monty Python's humor is very "Aspergian" and that probably one or more of its members are on the spectrum).  The book also includes detailed acting exercises and examples of plays, allowing parents and professionals to create a wonderful and effective program. 191 pages.