Gorman John Ruggiero, a Communications Skills Therapist, has developed the interpersonal Communications Skills Process (CSP), a successful 12-week program that teaches children with Asperger’s Syndrome how to improve their communication skills, and ultimately, their relationship skills. His program is appropriate for children from age five to 18.
According to Gorman, in order to teach communication skills you have to go to the experts in the field, and he believes these experts are in the Expressive Arts. He has combined psychology and brain function research with expressive arts techniques for the effective socialization of children with Asperger’s.
Gorman, a graduate from the Conservatory of Acting at State University of New York at Purchase, has spent the past 35 years teaching children the necessary elements of good communication. Although he began his career teaching acting classes, he gradually modified his techniques for the children in his class who had Asperger’s Syndrome, which eventually led to his CSP Program. “I break down my techniques to the fundamentals, and once these kids practice communication skills in small units, they respond automatically,” explains Gorman. “We start with observation skills and then build on those.”
Gorman initially teaches his class of eight to 10 students to closely observe objects in their surroundings. This leads to a discussion of the object’s color, shape and texture. They must use different descriptions, other than their obvious choice. For example, they must describe “blue” without using that word. “As a result, children are communicating in a way they don’t normally communicate,” says Gorman.
After using real objects, students are asked to create imaginary objects and to create movements to explain their objects without words.
Students observing the movements discuss them with each other, and that discussion becomes key because it leads to intense social interaction. When discussing observations, children are encouraged to speak out rather than raise their hand. This process leads to organized discussions and “gradually, speaking on top of each other is reduced through practice,” Gorman explains.
CSP develops into more intricate scenarios that focus on physical and emotional content. Gorman typically asks children to create a short scene within which is a problem and a solution. Some kids work together in teams, while the others observe and comment on what they believe is taking place during the scene.
“By observing peers and discussing minute physical activities and emotional content, interactions are guaranteed,” says Gorman, who explains that his techniques are developed from three knowledge bases: brain function, child development and expertise in expressive arts.
Performing students get the opportunity to explore scenarios while peers observe them. This helps children understand what it’s like to be the ones participating in a scene, helping them develop empathy.
“I invite parents to attend every session, so they can reproduce what we do in class,” says Gorman. “My most successful students are the ones who apply what they learn in their everyday lives.”
Students in this program learn to make friends by accurately reading people’s gestures, voice tones and cues. This, in turn, helps them develop more satisfying relationships with their peers and family members.
According to Gorman, “If you can teach children how to interpret others correctly, social skills will come as a benefit of good communication skills.”
Gorman’s next program begins November 6th and another begins February 2014. To register your child, call 215-598-3727 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, visit communicationskillsprocess.com for more information about his upcoming lectures and classes.
PHOTO CAP: Gorman John Ruggiero