Dr. Heather MacKenzie

Reaching and Teaching Children with Autism and other Special Needs

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Small Talk – the game©

Most people on the autism spectrum have great difficulty engaging in small talk. In our society, it’s an important way to get to know others. Small talk helps us ‘break the ice’ with other people and begin to build friendships.

Our children on the spectrum may talk at length about topics of interest to them or contribute minimally if at all when other people try to chat with them. Beginning conversations with other people can be a challenge (unless it is about a favorite topic, of course) and keeping the talking going is even more difficult. This made other people think that children with ASD didn’t care about other people and perhaps had nothing to share.

Seeing this and knowing children with ASD very well, I was concerned about their being underestimated (a constant theme in my work). In talking with the children, I found that the main issues were that they didn’t see any real use in chatting with other people. They also didn’t know how to start conversations and how to keep them going.

Recognizing the difficulties most people on the autism spectrum have with conversational small talk, I developedSmall Talk – the game©. I read everything I could find about conversational skills. I contacted experts around the world who are looking at what kids talk about and how they do it. One researcher told me that there had not been too many significant advances since the early 1980’s and that seemed to be the case. This led me to dig inside my own experiences and to do a lot of people-watching.

IMG_2466Small Talk – the game©  uses a playful format so that practice doesn’t seem tedious. Also, in a game format, rules for participation are clearly laid out. The game consists of a game board, topic cards, a timer, social cues cards, tokens and a manual all contained in a carrying case.

Small Talk – the game© will be on sale soon. Please check back to look for updates.

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