How to use scripts with children with autism is contingent on a several factors.
The first being consideration of the child’s cognitive abilities, particularly reading with comprehension. Many children with autism are “word” callers…they can read very advanced text but do not have the comprehension to go with it.
The second, will the scripting be taught across all contexts of the child’s life – generalized, e.g. home, school, church, other community events.
Third, scripting requires the support of two or more adults initially to help pair the script at the appropriate breaks in conversation.
Fourth, will the scripting take into account unplanned commenting or questioning by others.
Fifth, will the child use the script to fill in information within situations he or she does not understand. Sixth, will the person using the script be able to interpret or comprehend the subtle nuances of facial expressions, body language and vocal tones of the person he or she is interacting with. Finally, the script must have a way to indicate when not to talk and when to talk without the person reading the silent components out loud.
I will share a story, Johnathan, a young person with considered “high functioning” autism. He had been taught to respond to situations of dissapointment with the phrase, “It is okay sometimes things happen that I do not feel happy about”.
We had been working on building clay pots. When fired in the kiln, his pottery exploded into a zillion pieces. I saved the pieces to talk with him about what happened. He said “It is okay, sometimes things happen that I do not feel happy about.” wow! I thought that was really accepting. The following week I learned that he had gone home and literally had a major meltdown that involved agressive behavior, kicking cupboards, punching walls, throwing dishes, and literally destroyong his mother’s home. His emotions and the phrase were not a match. He demonstrated delayed and unregulated expression of dissapointment.
Scripting can be a good tool …however caution must be used. We cannot predict all of the encounters the person with autism might have … scripting can be a reliable tool if the person is provided with a personalized reference guide about when to use what script.
Jozua another young man with limited speech was able to learn to use a script in a six week period to greet teachers and collect attendance. By the sixth week he required only a shadow person to monitor the use of the script.