Monday, May 11, 2009

"Academic Communicator" vs "Social Communicator"

I often write about the way we went about autism intervention with the wrong focus. It's my attempt to save other families the heartache of making the same mistakes we made.

I met a mom named Nancy Blackmon on the internet, and her experience sounds similar to mine. She recently wrote about it on an internet list in a conversation to another parent, and she used the term, "academic communicator" to describe what they did with their daughter.

That's a good description. We, guided by professionals who understand behavior, but not development, who have degrees and charge big fees, completely ignored pre-verbal, non-verbal foundations of communication. We gave our daughter lots of words, but not reciprocity or interaction. We made her an "academic communicator" instead of a "social communicator". We ignored the fact that there is "non-verbal behavior" that preceeds "verbal behavior" in development. One of the risks of ignoring non-verbal foundations of development of communication is turning your child into an academic communicator.

Here's the post from Nancy Blackmon. You will be able to tell she wrote it as part of a thread to a parent who is asking about the importance that her child endure non-preferred activities at school as an IEP goal. I have Blackmon's permission to share it with you. Blackmon's advice is pure gold:

I listened to the school when my child was younger. They insisted on academic goals, things she "needed" to learn to meet the requirements of an IEP. What we managed to do with this approach instead of one that focused more on building social interaction is to create an academic communicator. My child learned that language was something to use to give people the answer, or as close as she could get to the answer they want so they would leave her alone. Communication is not something she learned to enjoy because she was pushed to do things beyond her capabilities and I think often felt unsure and like a failure. Now she mostly seeks interaction only to have needs met and occasionally, but rarely in any kind of playful, fun way. Your child has a lifetime to learn to attend to non-preferred tasks. Just my opinion but if you don't get the social stuff in place first, its a real uphill climb to go back and get it. Those are just my thoughts from almost 18 years of experience living with my child. Nancy B

I wish I'd read those words seven or eight years ago.


Anne said...

Great advice. I think we've been blessed to have our sons in programs that teach social interaction.

walking said...

If anyone does NOT believe this, go to youtube and look up autism and recovered. I have seen many academic communicators who have been apparently recovered from autism.

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