As some of you know all too well, students on the autism spectrum have a great deal of trouble with figures of speech. It's because they are very concrete in their thinking; very literal. The English language is full of idioms, metaphors, etc. and I have to be very conscious of this when talking to sixth graders in general, but especially with kids on the spectrum.
Take Troy, for example. Hard as he tries, he just can't seem to grasp the double meanings in so much of what we read in class. When I ask questions about the intentions of various authors' techniques, I always get very concrete answers from Troy. When observing him conversing with peers, it's often clear that he and the other kids are on different wavelengths when it comes to what's funny and what's not.
Today, we started working on Readers Theater, which is basically like forensics; students read scripts together, demonstrating smooth reading fluency, voice inflection, etc. Students grouped up and began searching for appropriate scripts. Troy was invited to join a group that quickly found a script, but he did not want to join them; he said he was sick of always working with those same kids, but no one else seemed to have room for him. I encouraged him to look for a script to possibly invite someone to join him. Troy quickly became frustrated with the process and was starting to lose his cool. His tell-tale anger cues (loud voice, red face, etc.) were starting to show. He just didn't like any of my suggestions, either, until finally, I asked him,
"Do you like baseball?"
Score! Troy apparently likes baseball! I asked if he'd ever heard of Who's On First, performed by Abbott and Costello. He told me that he hadn't and seemed only mildly interested, but it had been almost an hour, and I really needed to get him interested in something, so I grabbed my (school's) iPad and found an Mp3 recording of the original and the script. I told Tory to let me know what he thought of it, and I walked around the corner to help a couple of other kids, who were working on their script in the hallway.
Several minutes later, I heard some loud chuckling. Soon, Troy came rushing around the corner with the iPad, enthusiastically offering, "It's totally going to work! I really wanna be the guy with the anger problem! Can I be the guy with the anger problem?!"
We enlisted the help of another student to play the role of Costello. (He's a very capable reader and has a nice, even temperament.) It's going to be great.
And just like that, Troy changed from sullen and disconnected to excited and engaged.
I wonder what Abbott and Costello would think, to know that they helped a kid with autism today.