Conversation Ball

The idea of the conversation ball is one that Kate and her tutor and I developed. It presents a way to actually "see" language in action thus making it much easier for the Aspie to understand how to have more comfortable conversations with other people.

The ball represents the conversation itself. We used a physical ball and by passing it to the person who would speak next, it demonstrated the idea that a conversation involves more than one person. I

In general during a conversation the ball/conversation will be passed back and forth in a fairly even rhythm. Each person having a time to listen and a time to talk.

If a person keeps the ball/conversation for too long (going on and on in speaking without letting someone else speak) without tossing the conversation back to someone else, the listener may become bored or restless.

It also may be used to demonstrated how we need to use some general phrases before changing subjects, otherwise the listener catching the ball is not prepared to have their mind relocating. Phrases such as: "Did you also know...?", or "By the way..", or "Before I forgot..." let the listener know the subject is fixing to change and is prepared to switch subjects. If a person simply changes the subject with no warning, it is as if the ball were tossed in a direction away from the listener. If the listener is not prepared to "move" to "catch the conversation", the conversation may either be lost or confuse the participants.

This method also shows how the ball may be passed a short distance or a long distance depending on how confidential the information being shared is. If the two people are gently and rhythmically tossing the ball a very short distance and using soft low voices, then it is an idicator that another participant "ball player" is not being invited into the conversation. On the other hand if the conversation is a little louder, distance greater between the two speakers then it is more likely to be less "sensitive or private information being shared and another participant might be welcomed into the conversation.

Eye contact is especially important here as well. If when a new participant walked up to the ball players (those having a conversation) and they do not toss the ball quickly to the person who approached, that it is likely that they are in a private conversation. On the otherhand, if they both look directly at the person approaching and either toss her/him the ball(by asking a question, or addressing a statement to the person) then you will know you are being welcomed into the conversation. But be aware, that if the ball was passing often between speakers then you will want to help keep the rhythm going at the same pace. You will also want to toss the ball back and forth to all the person "playing with the ball" and not exclude those there before you. This method helped us explain to Kate how to enter a conversation, how to stay on the subject of the earlier speakers in the conversation and how not to run on and on with the same information (because the ball had to be passed back rhythmically.

Also discussing how easy or hard the ball is passed may demonstrate how our information may be said in a quiet voice, but knock a person over if they are not prepared for the ball.

You'll see that this ball/conversation method has many lessons to teach. You'll find yourself making up your own examples and analogies depending on the persons with whom you are discussing the method. By the way, a ball about the size of a soccer ball, but a little softer works best.


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Martha Kate Downey



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