If you are on Instagram, you most assuredly have scrolled past the most brilliantly creative comic series that has debuted in a long time: Strange Planet. (If you aren’t on Instagram, he also publishes on Facebook). Nathan Pyle is New York City-based artist who debuted this new series less than a year ago. In this Strange Planet series, he comments on the weird things humans do in daily life by substituting aliens as humans. Then he changes the words people say by substituting words that mean the same thing. By doing that, he forces readers to examine the actions they take from a new point of view. The result is to realize the insanity of many of the things we do — and then laugh in recognition and relatability.
Beyond just regular humor, I believe these comics work well with students with communication disorders. Students with communication disorders often have trouble understanding human behavior. In particular I think students in middle and high school would benefit the most from these comics and would have high engagement during speech therapy sessions with his comics. Here’s how to use these comics with students:
- Inferencing – When Nathan Pyle depicts a family celebrating a birthday party, he shows them throwing “tiny trash” and “extinguishing a fire.” SLPs can ask students what does “tiny trash” really mean? (confetti) and “extinguishing a fire”? (blowing out the candles).
- Social skills – Nathan Pyle draws social situations from every day life and that is so valuable for people with disabilities. It can be hard to find depictions of ADLs (activities of daily life) and these pictures are useful to conceptualize them in a different way. Ask students to describe a social situation that is described in the comic. Ask them to figure out if how the aliens acted is the way that a person should act or not. What would they do in that situation and is that right or wrong?
- Synonyms – A huge number of the words chosen by Nathan Pyle are not the usual words we use to describe. Common words are out the window. He uses words like “sustenance” for “food,” “gratitude” for “thank you,” and “skyshield” for “umbrella.” Pick out the words from a comic and ask students to name the “real word” that humans use.
Nathan Pyle’s genius as a comic artist is that he thinks differently about the human experience — and he does it in such a deadpan kind of way that appeals to may of my students. Since many of students with communication disorders struggle with self-expression, I think these comics are a fun medium for a speech path to use to tackle communication goals in speech therapy sessions.
He has a book coming out: Strange Planet, that is available for preorder. I think it will be fabulous for speech paths to have to increase engagement with older students. In fact, I’m going to pre-order it right now!