Shared interests. If your child with autism has something they’re really interested in, find a hangout, class, or group activity that focuses on that interest. If you can’t find something, start it yourself. Why? Because it’s one of the best ways for your child to learn and practice social skills and friendship.
When my son, Jonathan, was younger, we found theater. Performing and getting involved in the theater community was life-changing for him. He found friendship, pride, confidence, and, for the first time, saw a path to his future as a voice actor and storyteller. He learned valuable social skills and the importance of working with a team towards a common goal…putting on a show.
Recently, Jonathan’s been doing some volunteer work for Gatepath’s Social Connection. Their social groups develop special interests—yoga, cooking, martial arts, and filmmaking—and provide learning opportunities beyond the mastery of those interests. Jonathan volunteered to help with the film class.
On its surface, the film class feels like any other instruction course on the filmmaking process: scripting, directing, acting, camera work and editing. But the autistic kids, teens and adults who participate takeaway so much more. They learn that their ideas have value and the value of working as a team. They learn to listen to each other, to compromise, and cooperate. Most of all, they feel safe to let their voices be heard in such an inclusive, accepting environment.
One of the most brilliant ideas was filming “The Experts of Everything.” Everyone had on-camera time to talk about something they liked and knew a lot about. From Power Puff Girls to car engines, each had time to share their passion in a concise “expert on the Today Show” format, including making an interesting segue to the next expert.
At their film premiere you could see the comraderies and group pride at their creativity and accomplishments. Everyone cheered each other’s films and high-fived each other for their hard work.
Will the film class create the next Spielberg? It’s possible. But for me, it’s seeing their joy of creating and the confidence that comes from it. That’s what makes Gatepath’s Social Connection Oscar worthy.
If you liked this post, you may like:
- Why I’ll Be Forever Grateful to the Inclusive World of Theater
- Why Unconditional Love and Support Aren’t Enough