Thursday, February 17, 2011

What do children need before having conversations?

In my effort to educate other parents about the things I wish I'd known and understood as we were beginning autism intervention, I am sharing with you the words (with permission) of a brilliant teacher.

After my girl regressed, I wanted nothing more than to get her development back on track, to give her words so she could talk to me. I had all the confidence in the world that the vocabulary we had her memorizing would not be useful without a foundation of non-verbal conversations, first. The more she memorized, the less communicated. I was shocked by that. I was told we'd get something very different from our behavioral approach, not the robotic, prompt dependent child who did not interact on her own.

Yesterday's post is Dr Jim's wisdom about communication myths. Go here to read it. Today's post is closely related. Below is more insight from Dr James D MacDonald, this time, some specifics about what children DO need before having conversations.

I wish I'd understood this concept when my daughter was just turning two years old. We went the behavioral route, which didn't do what we thought it would, and it created a lot of problems that we are still unraveling at 11. I hope I help someone avoid the mistakes I made.


by Dr James D MacDonald

A Conversation is any meaningful exchange of ideas, information or emotion between two persons. The beginnings of conversations lie in skills young children can develop. If they are not developed, older children can still learn conversations but they must also learn the early skills that build them. Those skills are:

1. Social interaction habits
2. Initiating and responding
3. Imitating and learning from others’ models.
4. Taking turns in a give and take style
5. Being reciprocal- sharing each other’s meaning.
6. Staying in interactions more than briefly.
7. Communicating for a response not just at someone.
8. Listening and responding in kind.
9. Showing interest in what another says.
10. Having something too say to another.
Nonverbal children who have active relationships with others can learn these early skills. For persons without conversation skills, they are the keys to build in them.

They also need to interact frequently with people who are

sharing control
being playful and emotionally attached.

Conversations are partnerships and so this requires both he child and his partners to change and join the child's developmental path.

I'd like to see some examples of your children's conversations and your struggles in building them with your child.
(Note from Penny: Dr Jim's web site provides info about an internet location to chat with him and other parents about early foundations of communication.)

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