Posted by: victoriapynchon | December 5, 2010

Face It! Empathy Requires Faces

Teaching is communication and communication, as we all know, is not just talking.

“Peer communication is a nightmare of complexity,” says [Sioban Boyce, a communication and behaviour specialist. F]riendships develop with shared feelings and attitudes, subtly conveyed. In her book, Not Just Talking, Boyce describes the child who “doesn’t recognise when his teacher first begins to feel annoyed by his behaviour and only takes notice when she has got to the point of being absolutely furious.”

Boyce showed us before-and-after video clips of a six-year-old boy whom she had helped. The difference was extraordinary. At first, he did not make eye contact and could not tell that a grinning man in a photograph was happy.

After 19 half-hour sessions with Boyce, he was looking at her, laughing and explaining why he found a photograph of a boy with ice-cream on his face so funny. The change was so great that he will probably not now be diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome. There are limits to what some autistic children will learn but they can still benefit, says Boyce.

“Babies and children need to watch hundreds of faces in conversation to understand and use facial expressions themselves. This happens less today, with online shopping, fewer meals around the table and buggies that face away from the parent.”

For the full article, go to TES Connect here.

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