There can be surprising effectiveness in addressing an issue from an unexpected angle or finding another way. Thus, I have been teaching H the skills of a magician and encouraging him to do ‘magic shows‘ for friends and family. This is a brilliantly fun way to practice using Theory of Mind (ToM) because H thinks magic is cool and he has to carry with him the perspectives of his audience in order to make it work. I believe in looking for unusual methods to strengthen the areas of challenge that often present for a child with autism – so I am teaching my child sleight of hand - or perhaps, more – sleight of mind!
H cannot do magic without understanding that what he knows must be different from what the audience knows, and that he has to hide the “trick” so that it appears that he is doing the impossible. He has to hold the perspective of the audience both physically and cognitively to understand what it is he can reveal and what he needs to hide. I help him ahead of time to practice the varying aspects of this and work out some of the finer points by acting as the audience and sharing my perspective with him. He doesn’t naturally “get” how it plays out – but I know he is increasing his social understanding with experiences like this. Also – it is amazing to see H perform his three or four magic tricks for his Grandma and Papa or __?__ and then to observe how proud he is of himself.
Additionally, he has the opportunity to experience that what we see or perceive does not always reflect the reality of the situation. Developing this understanding is critical for a child who takes things literally and who is socially vulnerable. How many times in the social world is there a discrepancy between what is seen or said and the reality of the situation? This gives my child a chance to experience the goings-on behind the scene, and a real-life experience of the tricky dynamics of ToM and the potential dynamic of social deception. If there is a fun way to increase H’s social savvy and perspective of others – then ON WITH THE SHOW!
H slyly shares his practiced response, “A magician never reveals his secrets!”
(In contrast: I am completely prepared to share mine!!)
30 Days of Autism is a project designed to promote social understanding and offer a glimpse into the perspectives of those whose lives are touched by Autism.
© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2011)