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My Favorite Martian

Visual imagery is a very important skill to have. It helps with memory, comprehension, math and planning. Visual imagery is the ability to picture things within a person's head what may not be seen with the eyes. It involves the use of imagination.

Some children do not have much of an imagination. Some children interpret everything literally and in concrete terms. My Favorite Martian exercise helps children to use their imagination, visualize things that do not exist in reality and will hopefully help them improve in their ability to learn. Some older children lose the creativity that they once had. This exercise can also be used to help older children and adults gain their creativity back.

The exercise is best played with two people. However, additional participants can play this game. The object is to be able to imagine a Martian with distinct characteristics and then put that mental image on paper through drawing. The drawing does not have to be done with skill. Stick figures can even be used. This can also be seen as an auditory memory exercise, but that is not its primary purpose. The primary purpose is to strengthen visual imagery.

Step by Step Instructions: My Favorite Martian.

1. The assistant instructs the participant that they are going to play a game that requires imagination. It is a game where you describe a creature that lives on the planet Mars. The assistant and the participant will take turns naming characteristics about the Martian. After four characteristics have been named, both will draw a drawing of the favorite Martian.

2. The assistant says: My favorite Martian has ... The assistant is to complete the sentence any way they want. For example the assistant may say: "My favorite Martian has green skin."

3. The participant repeats what the assistant said and then adds a characteristic. The characteristic can be anything. For example: "My favorite Martian has green skin and pointed ears."

4. The assistant has to repeat what has been said thus far and add another characteristic. For example, "My favorite Martian has green skin, pointed ears, and drinks Coca-Cola.

5. The participant has to repeat what has been said thus far and add another characteristic. In this example: "My favorite Martian has green skin, pointed ears, drinks Coca-Cola and wears a dress.

6. The assistant and the participant then draws a picture of what was said. In this example both would draw a Martian with green skin, pointed ears, drinking Coke-Cola and wearing a dress. Some autistic children may prefer to use a computer paint program rather than draw the picture by hand. Have drawing materials that the participant likes to draw with and have many colors to choose from. At first the assistant may have to coax the participant into drawing something.

7. Compare the pictures and discuss what was seen in their mind and how that differs from what they were able to draw. Make sure the mood of the exercise is as relaxed and as fun as possible.

8. Mastery is where the participant can list up to 8 characteristics, draw them relatively quickly and it is clear based on the conversation that they have good and clear visual imagery.

Exercise:My Favorite Martian.

Time: about 5 minutes. Longer at first due to hesitancy in drawing.

Recommended Frequency: once a day, 5 or 6 days a week until mastery has been reached.

Materials Needed: materials to draw on (e.g., paper, colored pencils, crayons) or a computer paint program.

Pretest Assessment: the participant has trouble with their imagination or visual imagery.

Mastery: is when the child can easily draw an imaginary object that they have described eight characteristics. It is clear in the discussion that they have good imagery.

Additional comments: This exercise can be made easier or harder depending on the skills of the participant. Naming only two characteristics helps make it easier. Drawing with stick figures makes the drawing easier. Some children will need to have a drawing first and then describe what they saw and then draw the same drawing that they saw. After they become skillful at drawing drawings that they have already seen, they then should be ready to draw images from their mind.

To make the game exciting over time, other themes can be used such as The car I want in the future... The best soldier... Santa's house... The best lunch... The assistant can pick themes that the participant is interested in or knows something about. Mastery would include a theme that the participant is not that interested in or does not know that much about. To be successful they have to use their creative imagination to draw the picture.

As mentioned above, this exercise can be performed with more than one participant. In the long run it may help some participants if additional peers were doing the exercise too.

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