Comic Strips in Therapy
I work with an elementary caseload this year; however prior to this year I also worked with Autism Support classes in the middle and high schools. Several times this year I've been asked by different individuals, "What did you DO with those students?" Although I no longer work with these populations, I wanted to share one my personal favorite therapy activities I used with these students.
I prefer elementary students. I worked in early intervention prior to working in the schools, so the younger, the better! Needless to say, being assigned to middle and high school students when I started my current job definitely put me out of my comfort zone. When I started working with students in the Autism Support program at the high school, one of the best and most useful suggestions given to me by the outgoing speech-language pathologist was to use comic strips in therapy. I found them very useful (and motivating!) for students at both the middle and high school levels.
Comic strips are great for working on/discussing a wide variety of social language skills. Targets I've used them for have included perspective-taking, impression-making, conversation skills, and reading/interpreting non-verbal language. Why do comics work so well? First and foremost, they are visual. The characters facial expressions are often exaggerated, making it easier for students to interpret. Not only are the speech bubbles visible, but the characters thought bubbles are also visible, so the students don't have to "guess" what others are thinking about (which we all know is very hard for students on the autism spectrum).
My absolute favorite comic strip to use with my middle and high schoolers is Zits. For those of you not familiar with this strip, it shares the daily adventures and sagas of a high school student named Jeremy. Jeremy is a typical high school boy who has to deal with various social situations at school and home, all while holding a job, handling a girlfriend, socializing with his friends, and dealing with his parents. My students found his social situations not only funny but also useful. As most of my students I worked with were teenage boys, they often related very well to Jeremy.
I found myself scouring the daily paper looking for appropriate comic strips to address my therapy targets. I often forgot to cut ones out and couldn't remember what day I saw a great comic that I wanted to use in therapy. If you look up Zits online, you can sign up to have it sent to your inbox every day. Plus you can look through archives. This website also has an A-Z listing of other comic strips you might be interested in using in therapy. Another one not on this website that I highly recommend is FoxTrot, which shares the daily activities of three siblings and their parents.
Working with adolescents and teens, motivation and high-interest activities are crucial for students to get the "buy in" to therapy that many often lack I've never found a single middle or high school student who hasn't enjoyed reading, analyzing, and discussing comic strips in therapy. Have you ever used comic strips in therapy? What skills do you use them to teach/practice? Do you have any favorite comic strips other than the two I've mentioned?