Comics are a very popular literary medium for all ages, and have a deep history in pop culture. From Charlie Brown to Batman, comics offer a wide variety of storytelling styles that can cater to any reader’s taste. They can be silly or serious, light-hearted or dark, funny or sad. Whatever the content or the message…comics are just plain awesome!
But comics aren’t often spoken about as educational or therapeutic tools, and they most certainly CAN be. In order to explain how they can be helpful in speech and language therapy, we have to get a little technical.
One important component of effective communication is a psychological phenomenon called “Theory of Mind” (ToM). Simply put, ToM is a person’s ability to recognize and appreciate that others do not necessarily share his or her perspective. It also includes a person’s ability to take another’s perspective. There are many reasons this skill may not be present or could be impaired. Age is one reason. Intellectual disability, autism spectrum disorder, or other mental health disorders can impair a person’s ToM, and hence impair his or her communication. To understand ToM a little better, look at the picture below and answer the question before reading on. (You may have to enlarge the image to see better see the text.)
A person with intact ToM would think that Sally would look for her ball where she had last left it: in the basket. Persons with undeveloped or impaired ToM would answer that Sally will look in the box, because they do not have the ability to take another person’s perspective or understand that Sally has different knowledge than they do.
So how do comics fit in to all of this? The artwork in a comic can provide the visual support and backdrop for social scenarios to engage kids in story-telling from varying perspectives. Kids can see different facial expressions, when a character’s mouth is open to indicate his or her turn to speak, or body language shown by characters. In addition, the thought- or speech-bubbles coming from characters can allow for practice in perspective-taking or thinking about what a character may be thinking about or feeling. Check out Calvin and his mom below…what do YOU think they are saying to each other?
There are many free, make your own comic applications available if kids want to get creative.
So, comics aren’t just about the antics of Archie and his pals or about the Dark Knight fighting Gotham’s worst. They can be much more! Just be careful to choose comics that are appropriate for your child’s age. Someone at your local public library would be more than happy to help you find age-appropriate comics.
If you suspect or have been told by your physician to seek support for your child’s communication skills, please call or fill out our on-line referral form.
All images in this post belong to their respective copyright/trademark holders:
The Justice League (top): Detective Comics
Calvin & Hobbes: Bill Watterson