Children with Asperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders often have difficulties producing the appropriate voice volume in different settings. Some children on the autism spectrum speak too quietly. Others speak too loudly. Still others do not compensate adequately for the social milieu or ambient noise level. Since I am not a speech language pathologist myself, I don’t know the reasons for this problem. I assume it has something to do with theory of mind deficits; if their voice sounds like the right volume to their own ears while they are speaking, then they must assume that a listener can hear it the same way.
The “control-o-meter” device is easy to make. I saw a colleague using one years ago with an Asperger’s boy who talked too loud. I recently saw a speech language pathologist using a professionally manufactured one with another child in speech therapy. I have created two other control-o-meters to help kids with physical distance problems and with problems determining the right level of formality for various occasions.
How to make the volume control-o-meter:
1. Click on the image to print out. Wait a couple seconds for it to open in another window. Print onto cardstock, or onto paper that you can laminate. Punch a hole through the black dot and find a grommet that will hold the arrow there.
2. Click on the arrows and print them. Cut out the arrow you need.
3. Attach the arrow to the control-o-meter using the grommet.
How to use the control-o-meter:
1. Use words like this with the child on the autism spectrum: “People can make their voices louder and softer. It’s an important social skill. It’s like turning the volume up and down on a TV. The control-o-meter will be used now to help you with the volume control of your own voice.”
2. Play with it. “Try using the control-o-meter to make my own voice louder and softer. As you move the arrow, notice how my voice gets too soft and too loud!”
3. “Now, let me try controlling your voice volume. Watch the arrow, and make your voice louder or softer as I move the arrow around.”
4. Try keeping the control-0-meter around during class and group activities now. You can use it instead of verbal prompts.
The other two meters are used the same way. Proceed through steps one through four and make up your own social skills learning activities.
These aren’t hard to make and they are handy social skills tools for kids on the autism spectrum.