by Dan Coulter
How do you motivate a child who has Asperger Syndrome?
It's one of the questions I hear most from parents.
You can try to tie the things you want your child to do to his or her special interests. That's a good tool, but it doesn't always work. Sometimes we need a whole toolbox full of solutions. Especially to find the right tool to help an individual child develop abilities in a specific area, such as basic social skills.
Here's a tool some parents have found effective: motivate and teach your child through entertainment. When I was growing up, I didn't know I had Asperger Syndrome. I did know entertainment was one of my best teachers. I loved science fiction and read a lot of it. One side effect was that I absorbed a lot of real science. That helped spark a life-long interest that reached its peak when I become a media relations director at Bell Labs. In that job, I got to explain scientific and technology breakthroughs to reporters for the national news media. But reading science fiction as a kid also taught me about people and their interactions. Authors Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov helped me see inside their characters' heads and understand why they acted as they did. Some of those characters became role models for me.
Which brings me back to social skills. I see a growing need to motivate kids to focus on social skills early, especially to prepare for middle school. If your children haven't yet reached middle school, the parents of kids who have can fill you in on the social challenges ahead.
With this is mind, I decided to investigate writing stories for kids using social skills as a key plot element. I knew the stories would have to be compelling. That was confirmed by a children's librarian I interviewed. She told me she sees a lot of special needs materials that are too long on message and too short on fun. She said kids with special needs want and deserve the same kinds of entertaining stories produced for other kids. She was singing my song.
I also researched the best ways to deliver these stories. Because I used to work in radio and have narrated a lot of video programs and commercials, I thought about producing audio stories like the ones I told my children when they were little. I'm still considering this, but a lot of kids on the autism spectrum are visually oriented. This pushed me in the direction of having the stories illustrated and publishing them as computer apps, which makes production more complicated.
I decided I'd start by writing a prototype story, which grew into a book. It's designed for students in upper elementary and middle school. I'm releasing it as a paperback book and E-book to gauge audience reaction and get input from readers on future projects.
Here's a synopsis of the book, titled MAKE EVERY WORD COUNT:
“With no warning, Mike and his too-perfect sister are transported to a world where people use magic instead of science. And, oh yeah, an evil wizard is using mind control to take over the planet. Of course, this could be an opportunity for a brainy, talkative middle school kid with Asperger Syndrome who loves maps and military strategy games. But how can he use his smarts and skills when he falls under a spell that lets him say only five words every five minutes? How does a guy who's used to saying everything lead an uprising when he can hardly say anything? His only chance is to make every word count.”
It's a story about learning to listen, making friends, and using your strengths to build self-reliance. Sibling cooperation also plays a role.
If you'd like read a sample, I've posted the first two chapters on my website's article blog. You'll also find a link to an audio recording of the chapters on YouTube if you'd prefer to listen. You can leave comments and suggestions on the blog, or you can email them to me. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, parents, teachers, and other care-givers, if you find this approach appealing, I'm interested in what age ranges you'd like materials for and what subjects you'd like covered. Also, do you want books for middle school grades? Would you like shorter stories for younger children? Should short stores be produced in print or would you like recorded audio stories or illustrated computer apps that would work on mobile phones and tablets? Should audio stories or computer apps have music and sound effects?
If there's enough interest in other media formats, I might start a Kickstarter campaign to fund production.
For years, my wife and I have been working on projects that will either help people on the autism spectrum or help others understand and support them. With Make Every Word Count and similar projects, we're hoping to do a bit of both.
Thanks, and here are links to:
Read or listen to sample chapters and leave comments.
Read more information about the book or place an order.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR -- Dan Coulter is the author of the thirteen videos and two books about Asperger Syndrome and autism. The videos are available both as downloads and DVDs. You can find more articles and information on his website: www.coultervideo.com.
Copyright 2016 Dan Coulter Used by Permission All Rights Reserved