Sunday, June 20, 2010

Break out your thinking caps

I went to the amusement park with the HFA/AS group yesterday, and we really had a great group of people. There were 8 of us (until the rain let loose, and then there were 7) and we went from noon till the park closed at 10:30 PM. The leader of the group and her son rode everything with me (I was all worried that everyone would be selective and I wouldn't be able to ride my favorite crazy rides), so that worked out wonderfully. It was hot as a brick oven until it rained and we all got cold, and I burned even with SPF 110, but it's part of the summer amusement park atmosphere and I kind of enjoyed the heat. It made the rides feel really, really good with the wind.

Although rides are my favorite thing in the world, I also really enjoyed getting to talk to everyone there. While it rained, we talked about disclosure vs. nondisclosure (most people are for not disclosing), diagnosis, and meds. I hadn't taken my Geodon that day and everyone noticed how talkative I was. I talked a lot with the group leader and her son and really enjoyed getting to know them both better, since to this point I hadn't talked to either of them much due to my Geodon, mostly.

One of the things we all talked about while standing in line was how frustrating the bi-weekly discussion groups have become. The groups are divided into social outings and discussion groups and have different leaders. In the discussion groups, 2-3 people, who are all less than pleasant, use the group as their own personal therapy session and the rest of us, especially those of us who tend to be quieter, never get to say anything. A few of us have decided to leave the group because it's become so ridiculous. The (social) group leader suggested that I contact the discussion group leader and let her know of my frustration.

Knowing that the discussion group leader had blown off other people's similar frustrations in the past (saying, "just jump in!"), I wrote a very straightforward email to her and explained my concerns. I said that it's unfair to expect the group members to "jump in" and cut off the "talkers," especially because one of the "talkers" likes to get in people's faces when he gets cut off. I said that I thought it was her job to curb the talking.

I was surprised that she got back to me very quickly and said that she understood why I was frustrated and that she had tried many things, and so far, nothing had worked. She has broken the group up into smaller groups many ways, put the talkers together and split them up, and still, the talkers talk. I suggested trying to impose a time limit on talking for each person or a number of turns limit per group. I also suggested breaking the group into small ones of 3-5 and asking each small group to find something they had in common, as a way to get to know everyone, even the quiet ones.

I hope something works out, because I really do like the company of certain people within that group and the possibilities of an HFA/AS discussion group. So, I ask you this. Do you have any ideas as to how to curb the talkers and bring out the quiet ones? Either general ideas or specific activities we could do that would allow everyone to participate would be great.

Got your thinking cap out and ready? Time to put it on!


  1. what about having conversation cards? and using a time timer, when the timer is up, the leader says in a calm voice _____ "time's up for talking it's _____ turn." and the leader could also use a visual prompt if they think that it would help. something like this may help for the quieter people. Also some of the talkers in the group may really not know/understand how they are percieved by others in the group, they may just start talking about a particular topic, and just go off on a tangent and start obsessing about a particular topic. Maybe if the leader explains that there are lots of people in the group who like to talk (using visuals) and that it is important that everyone gets their turn to talk. If a talker or anyone for that matter goes off on a tangent about a topic, or engages in exssesive talking the leader could say something like "bobby, I know you have a lot to say about ____, but now it is Lydia's turn." Maybe the leader can use a hand signal like making a T (timeout/stop) with her hand or just holding her hand up (stop/wait)or even a visual stop sign. When the talkers show good turn taking even if it requires lots of prompting it is important that the leader acknolodges and praises them for it. She can say something like "Bobby, I liked the way you gave Lydia a turn." or "Joey, I know you really wanted to talk about dogs, but thanks for waiting til it was your turn to talk.", "Timmy, I liked how you waited til your turn to talk."

  2. Has anyone just told the talkers they need to ease up? You could introduce a card system - yellow for "you're going on a bit, ease up" and red for "time to stop right now" Would it be possible to have available other means of communication for those non-talkers to make it easier for them to join in? Or maybe you could have a green card for "I've got something to say" which would mean the current talker would have to stop at the end of their sentence.

    There are so many options, maybe there could be a general discussion on what you wanted to do as a group. This would not only get you a new system but would also raise the point about not dominating the conversation without singling anyone out.

  3. Divide into small groups, but put all the talkers into the same group.