Monday, November 9, 2009

First Words -- thoughts from "Dr Jim"

I wish I'd heard of Dr Jim (Dr James MacDonald from Communicating Partners) before I heard of ABA. He posted on his yahoo group ("communicating") over the weekend, and he was writing about us, about what we did wrong. Please learn from our mistakes. I blogged about some of our experience here and about how finally finding RDI(r) got us back on the right track. RDI(r) and Communicating Partners are different developmental interventions that share some similarities.

Dr Jim's post is below.

I have known many children who have learned words for many school type learning- words for colors, shapes, numbers.

Why can that be a problem?

Those words are not very communicative; in daily interactions they are not the meanings we communicate about. So while the child may store them for being tested, they are not words that they will use and practice much.

Think of words coming from the child's experiences and reasons to communicate.

When you ask yourself: what should a child say now- ask: what does he know and what is he doing and what does he want to tell someone?

Those three questions will give you words that he is ready to speak and communicate.

What should his next words be? His next words should be combinations of words he knows singly. They should also be new words that describe what he is doing, experiencing and wanting to tell someone.

Help your child talk from his real self not just from list of words he learns in school or the things you think he needs to know. He will talk more when he is talking from his own experiences.

One thing you can do is translate he actions, sounds and experiences into one or a few words. Think of his actions and sound as 'pre-words" ideas that he is ready to learn in word form.


JamBerry said...

Yep--that's us too. I need to ponder this post and how to apply it to Jman's ProLoQuo2Go.

walking said...

You are preaching to the choir . . . although I jumped off the ABA bus pretty early in life! In fact, I am working on a project and what I wrote matches very well what Dr. Jim wrote, "My daughter Pamela was four years old when a seminal book on behavior modification hit the market. My town lacked certified therapists, so I ordered the only manual in print and squeezed in ten hours a week of behavior modification. We progressed quickly in imitating, matching, and following verbal instructions. Pamela learned color, shape, and size through flashcard drills. A large vocabulary of nouns sprinkled with a dash of adjectives emerged.

"When I reached the chapter on teaching play skills, a seed of doubt sprouted. Making autistic children 'indistinguishable from their peers' is the goal of behavior modification. Forcing her through the motions of play might make Pamela look normal. Could she enjoy play if we taught her the mechanics? Would unexpected adventures ripe in play spark her imagination? Would she create her own scenarios or just follow the crowd because we trained her to be that way?

"This doubt led me to think more deeply. While Pamela could imitate my actions, she cried during circle time at school. She could name her colors, size, and shapes but never described the smooth, white petals of a magnolia or the big, black ants on the sidewalk. Pamela did not want to share her ideas with those newly acquired words, except in response to direct questions. I quit the behavior modification program six months into it."

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