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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Book Review: We All Need People Skills


Talkability is a parent-oriented program offered by the Hanen Centre, and they have a guidebook with the same name. Geared towards parents of verbal children on the spectrum, it offers excellent tools on how to help children learn to engage in reciprocal conversations.

So often, as parents, we're lost on what to do to help our children. It can and is painful for us to watch when our kids are always on the periphery, not interacting with their neurotypical peers, and we flounder, trying to figure out what tools our children need and how we can help them acquire them.

And let's be brutally frank: we, their parents, might be floundering on how to help them because we find those same situations confusing and uncomfortable. How many of us wandered the edge of the playground, watching but not sure how to engage other kids? I know I was one of those who preferred to be with the teachers and talking to them or in the library where I could read to my heart's content. I found my peers often unapproachable, as if they were living in a completely different world.

Now, sure, I turned out fine without that toolkit...

And chances are, your kids will find their niche with positive support and acceptance, but if they are on the edges watching and wanting to engage, then giving them some tools, well, come on, that's a good thing to do. The more tools in their toolkit, the easier they will find it to approach others confidently and to make sense of what we often find to be mystical: the chit chat that people do to pass the time.

It beats standing there looking blank and planning ways to escape.

Talkability is colorful and most important, it's not intimidating. The skills it teaches are helpful for parents, too. I mean, how many times have you stood there at the school with all the other parents, shuffling your feet, avoiding looking at them and hoping to heck that they wouldn't ask you a question? I know that was an everyday occurrence for me when I'd pick up the kids from school. I'd get there early because I was terrified they'd come out the door and bolt into the busy parking lot because their teachers were distracted. So there I was, twenty minutes early every day for years waiting to grab them as they hit the doorway. I'd stand there, leaning against the wall, waiting, nodding as mom after mom joined me and we did this weird dance of glancing, nodding, shuffling, muttering something about the weather, enduring the awkward silences that popped up. If I'd had this book five years ago, both the girls and I would have probably found their early years of school easier to endure. It's that good a toolkit.

I still would probably find chit chat with strangers kinda pointless, but I'd be able to do it better, and that's a good skill to have. It beats closing your eyes and pretending you're alone. :)

Give the Hanen Centre a look. I enjoyed reading Talkability and will be implementing some of their tools with the kids and when I'm getting my haircut and the hairdresser asks me questions. 

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