Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Role-Modeling vs Prompting-&-Reinforcing

I've had modeling on my mind. Role-modeling. There's great power in it, you guys.

I am a Southerner by birth. If you've ever spoken with me, you know I carry quite a twang. My college voice and diction teacher taught me that I have a Southern dialect. I also speak and translate Left Coast and Midwest dialects of the United States.

I have used the term, "y'all" most of my life. After several years of living in the Midwest, though, I heard myself dropping "y'all" and saying, "you guys" in place of it. The first few times, I looked around to see who said "you guys". Surely it did not come from my mouth. I do not say "you guys". I say "y'all".

How did this switch in my vernacular happen? Shocking as it may be, it happened outside of my will and effort.

No one prompted or reinforced "you guys".

At the same time, I was removed from everyone and anyone who used "y'all".

And, you guys, slowly but surely, all that role-modeling around me affected a change in me.

I remember little moments in our RDI(r) journey after years of behavioral therapy. We were told (nicely) to shut up, to turn off all the talking and prompting, and to communicate richly in other ways. Slow down to allow her to respond, to take her own physical, non-verbal action, in interactions with me.

We videotaped quite a bit of interaction at the time, watching the tapes, learning from them, seeing where I went too fast, where I didn't allow her the opportunity to be active with me, where I did.

And, in reviewing the tapes, I remember seeing my girl gesturing with her "talk". She wanted "that one". "Over there." And I had to follow her gesture. She began using facial expressions and using the direction of her face and head to communicate alongside her words. And she did all of that without our directly teaching her by prompting and rewarding her. I was astounded.

Flashback: When she was two, we taught her to point as a mand. First she pointed to her juice to request it, then we paired pointing with the "j" sound, and eventually, we shaped that into, "juice please" and "I want juice please". And we checked the box for pointing on the ABLLS. Pointing. check.

But pointing isn't simply a mand. It's a piece of rich joint attention. And we missed that.

And I believed that she could not learn anything that we did not directly teach her via the behavioral technique of prompting and rewarding.

I was wrong.

Role-modeling works, you guys.

PS: We're among people who use "y'all" now. I wonder how long it will take for us to make the switch to "y'all" with all the role-modeling around us? I predict that I will be the first one we'll hear come out with "y'all" instead of "you guys". ;) My children have known nothing but "you guys". It will be funny to hear them make the switch, and I believe it will happen at some point.

1 comment:

Catherine said...

What a great example! I spent a semester in South Bend, IN, and by the time I left, I found myself using words like "pop" and "tennis shoes" instead of my NY words, "soda and "sneakers". NY is also a "you guys" state, but I really love "y'all".

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