This blog post is to explain how to make and use really useful hand-held visuals for teaching topic coherence to children withAsperger’s and other autism spectrum disorders. (The downloadable images are shown below the text here. Just click on them and print).
Children with autism often find it difficult to find a shared topic of interest and then stay with it. Their preferred interests tend to drag them away from topics of mutual interest.
Often, it helps to teach conversation in a visual manner. The following are methods articulated by David Gutstein in Relational Development Intervention.
How to create the hand-held visuals:
1. Click on the images below the text of this blog post. Wait a second for them to open in a different window
2. Print them on cardstock or paper and cut them out. You will get better results if you can laminate them as well. Print out about twenty total linked chain images and two broken chains. Print out about twenty girders and about three wrecking balls.
How to use the visuals: (If YOU are a visual learner, then watch my Youtube video which demonstrates how to use these things: My Youtube on using the chain and girder visuals
To use the chains and broken chains:
Tell the kids: “We are going to play The Chain Game. The object of the game is to get twenty connected chains without getting any broken chains. I will place a chain picture on the table each time you and I [or two kids together] talk back and forth about the same thing. If someone changes the subject too suddenly, or talks about something the other person does not care about, then I put down the Broken Chain.” (Variations: kids put down the chain pieces while YOU talk; kids put down the chain pieces while two other kids are talking.)
To use the girders and wrecking balls:
Tell the kids: “We are going to play the Builder Game. The object of the game is to get twenty girders all in a row on the table. I will place a girder picture on the table each time you and I [or two kids together] talk back and forth about the same thing. If someone changes the subject too suddenly, or talks about something the other person does not care about, then I put down the Wrecking Ball.” (Variations: kids put down the girder pieces while YOU talk; kids put down the girder pieces while two other kids are talking.)
I have used these techniques often and kids usually like them a lot. Later, if a child is monopolizing conversation or talking in a “disconnected” manner, I can say “Careful–broken chain” or “Careful–wrecking ball” and this seems like a more effective, and gentler manner of reminding them to try to keep their conversation in areas of mutual interest.
I wish you enjoyment and success when you try these methods.
Joel Shaul, LCSW