By Dan Coulter
Speaking at a volume that’s appropriate to the situation is a basic social skill that most people pick up intuitively. Most people. Who hasn’t stood near strangers who are having a loud conversation and seem oblivious to the fact that they’re annoying others? I recently sat eating in a hotel breakfast area and was treated to high volume details from a nearby table about a messy medical procedure.
Children with Asperger Syndrome who are trying to fit in at school may need voice volume lessons to help ensure they don’t innocently annoy classmates.
If your child with AS isn’t creating a template in his head that tells him the appropriate volume to use in a given situation, you can help him create one.
Start by having your child speak at three volume levels that are easy to understand: A whisper, a normal speaking voice, and a yell made at the top of his lungs. Next, help him find a volume that’s between the normal speaking voice and the yell. Call it a loud voice that can be heard across a large room, but not across a neighborhood. When he’s mastered the concept of finding a volume between talking and yelling, it’s time to introduce the quiet voice. This is the voice volume between the whisper and the normal speaking voice.
You now have five volumes:
Demonstrate each volume and have your child practice speaking at each sound level. You could make a game of it, calling out a number and having your child use that voice volume.
Next, match each voice to situations where it should be used. Voice five when people are in danger and you want to warn them. Voice four when you’re giving a class presentation and you want everyone to hear. Voice three when you’re talking at the dinner table. Voice two when you’re in a line to enter a movie. Voice one when a movie is playing and you’re leaning over to talk in your friend’s ear so no one else will hear.
Come up with as many situations as you can think of and tell your child which should voice be used in each. Children with Asperger Syndrome often have difficulty generalizing. In this case, that means it could be hard for them to figure out which voice to use in a situation you haven’t covered. So, the more specific examples you can think of, the better. Have your child practice speaking in the proper voice for each situation. While you’re covering situations, you may want to include subjects that should be discussed in a quiet voice.
I recall being in a McDonald’s restaurant years ago when a tiny girl proudly proved she’d retained the gender-based anatomy lesson her mother had shared earlier. “MAMA!” she said at the top of her little lungs, pointing at the child next to her, “THAT LITTLE BOY HAS A _____!” Mom’s eyes grew wide as her daughter confidently cataloged her equivalent body part, “AND I HAVE A ______!”
In the laughter that followed, it was clear that everyone understood the young speaker was an innocent, and gave her the benefit of the doubt.
Asperger Syndrome often involves developmental delay. Our children with AS can be just as innocent at later ages when they use inappropriately loud voices and people don’t understand the reason. It’s up to us to teach our kids skills that will help them weave themselves into the social fabrics they want to be a part of.
So, think about giving your child those voice volume lessons.
You can consider it a reminder every time you pass a McDonald’s.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the producer of the DVD, “Manners for the Real World: Basic Social Skills.” You can find more articles and information on his website: coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2010 Dan Coulter All Rights Reserved. Used by Permission.