Three things above all else have shaped me into the person I am today and have developed my social skills. I believe that many individuals on the autism spectrum can learn from these experiences and parents can use what I have done to help their child.
The first major milestone occurred for me in the eighth grade. At the time, I really wanted to impress my English teacher and do anything to make her happy. You see, I figured that since she was an English teacher she could help put me in contact with people who would be interested in my screenplay that I was working on at the time. Even in middle school, I had dreams of becoming a writer. Anyway, moving on, the English teacher mentioned to the class that the school play needed male actors to act in the school play. The previous week, no guys had auditioned and thus they had to hold another week of auditions.
Because I wanted to make my English teacher happy, I decided to audition. And, I was offered the role of the lead villain. Acting did not come easy for me. The director was very frustrated. I couldn't speak loud enough. People couldn't even hear me from the front row. Also, my mannerisms were off.
Luckily, the director worked with me, if for no other reason than she didn't want the play to become a disaster. Over time, I learned to project my voice, and I gained a slight awareness of how my mannerisms came off. In addition, the script from the play served as a beginning stage of socializing for me. The script offered me structure and was in my comfort zone.
Then, the day of the play arrived. I was beyond terrified. I had never been more scared in my life. I almost gave up and didn't perform, but I didn't want to ruin the play, so I got up there and gave my performance.
After that day, I was never afraid to go up and perform or give a presentation in front of people ever again.
The second breakthrough happened about 3 1/2 years later. It happened over a period of time during the 11th and 12th grades. At that time, I decided to improve and work on my social skills. I was getting tired of people telling me what was and wasn't possible for me to achieve. My mom was getting worried for my future and began to believe that I would never be able to improve my social skills and live a successful life. I decided to do something about that.
So, I began to visualize myself as a good socializer and communicator. I imagined what someone that was socially successful was like and how they might think. This helped a little bit, but I still had a lot to grow.
For the next step, I told everyone about my goal. I worked with my specialist, my speech therapist, and a psychologist to help improve my social skills. Everyone offered their own feedback and advice. I learned a bit more about facial expressions and body language. However, I had even further to go.
Then, I ended up taking a psychology course and that was of tremendous help. Human behavior became more predictable. I now had a tool to understand other people. But, my psychology course wasn't my biggest breakthrough, even though it was very big and helpful in getting me to understand people better.
Then, for the final stage, I ended up taking an Interpersonal Communication Course the following semester. That was perhaps the single biggest breakthrough in my life. I learned so much. I learned about making a first impression, small talk, asking people questions about themselves, not hogging a conversation, and how to show someone you are interested in them among many other things.
I then applied the teachings, and guess what, they worked. I was met with social success.
Then, many years later, I told my friend of how I wanted to get better at talking to women. What I am about to tell you is my third milestone in terms of social skills. So, my friend recommended that I try social dancing. So, I got into blues dancing which is a partner dance. And, it has helped me so much. Here is an entry on my experiences with blues dancing. And, here is a video of me blues dancing.
Anyway, today, blues dancing has helped my coordination, it has also helped me understand nonverbal communication much better, and I am also not as shy when it comes to approaching women. I'm still shy at times, but I do feel much more confident.
So, with that said, I feel that acting in a play, social dance, and an interpersonal communication class can go a great deal to helping out other autistic individuals. I know these three things transformed my life.
Bonus: I have also made a video on this because I felt that today's topic is so important. If you found this blog entry or video below helpful, please share with others. Thanks. Oh, and be sure to check out the video below.