Poetry seems intimidating, but last week attendees at our Lecture Series – Autism and Language Arts: Unlocking potential through poetry and song – discovered just how accessible it can be for individuals with autism.
Through years of work with people with autism, Chris Martin shared the natural affinity for poetry that many people on the spectrum have. Learning specific tools that he uses to inspire communication through poetry helped everyone see the power of poetry. We also explored how many individuals are “natural poets,” given the way their brain works.
Poetry has rules and form. Those skeletons help learners with autism write because it comes with structure. And we all know how necessary structure is in the lives of people with autism. As Chris said, “Poetry is like Temple Grandin’s hugging machine. The form of the poem gives people just the right amount of pressure so that they are regulated enough to get their thoughts out.”
Everyone got a chance to explore this pressure through different forms or constraints that Chris often uses with students: the Four-by-Four Poem, the Me Nest, the Four-Letter Word Poem and the Poem for Every Person. These examples give you a place to start, but you can create your own rules along with your child. The first step is to create the form and then create the poem, using the form.
Co-presenter, Brian Laidlaw, discussed how patterns, rhythms and meter within poems open up paths to expression. Meter is a combination of stressed and unstressed syllables. This resonates with many learners because it enforces a certain type of logic. Once you have the meter set and your rules, you can fill in the box you’ve built for it.
So try sitting down, starting with your child or students special interest, create a couple rules, maybe throw in a rhyme or two (because everyone loves a good rhyme), and get some thoughts and emotions out.
Exploring poetry and song as a creative means of expression brings surprising results, even addressing executive functioning issues.
- Find out more about the work Chris and Brian do through Unrestricted Interest
- Ralph Savarese on how those living with autism are “hardwired” to think poetically
- Poetics App a great tool for playing with words visually
- Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird by Wallace Stevens is a great starter poem. Challenge a young writer to pick their own noun to replace “blackbird” in the poem.
Join us for our next Lecture Series – Managing Challenging Behaviors in Children with Autism on January 25!