When They Don’t Know What To Say, Give’em a Script!
Remember the story about Cyrano de Bergerac? A handsome young suitor wants to court a lady he is interested in, but does not have the words to express his thoughts and feelings. He engages the services of the large nosed de Bergerac who happens to possess the gift of elegant expression. de Bergerac hides himself as he pours out his heart to the young lady while he pretends to be the handsome suitor.
Our students often have no idea of what to say in a variety of social situations. I’m not advising that we speak for them as de Bergerac did, but we can provide a script that allows them to practice what could/should be said in a variety of social situations.
I have a wonderful example of just how powerful scripts can be. I was asked to provide some suggestions for a high school student with a mild mental disability who was living in a group home and having issues with the staff in the home. Based on their behaviors, my guess is that these two staff members did not like their job. One Saturday morning, this student woke up late. Because she slept in, she was not allowed to have breakfast. She was angry and had no idea how to handle the situation except to act out. Her behavior was so serious that the behavior specialist had to be called in and she lost her privileges for a week.
I suggested that we write a script for what could have been said during the same situation. The student agreed so we wrote the script together. I wrote the dialogue of what could have been said by the student and the student helped to verify what exactly happened during the whole situation. We practiced the script. I took the role of the unhappy staff member and the student played herself. In the script, the student offered a compromise when told she couldn’t have breakfast. She said, “OK, well could I have some toast and juice to hold me over until lunch?” Then when the staff told her “no” the student practiced taking “no” for an answer and replied, “Bummer, I guess I better make sure I get up on time tomorrow!” and then she turned and walked away.
After reading the script through 2 or 3 times, I took the script away and we practiced the scenario without the visual support. The results? The student was elated!! I’ll never forget how she repeatedly said, “Now I know what to do!” The outcome? The following week, the student’s behaviors were so positive, she earned a dinner out with her dad and got all of her meals with no issues.