EVERYONE HAS A STORY TO TELL

FOCUSING ON CONNECTIONS AND ORAL NARRATIVES

Narratives.  Stories.  We all tell them.  We learn from them. We teach with them. We listen to them .

For young learners, narrative demands begin with a simple question, “How was your day?”  No matter your child’s ability, language level, speech intelligibility, and cognition; we want this simple question to be answered fully by them.  Here is the problem, most therapy albeit speech therapy, ABA therapy, OT, etc. is not built for that question to be answered to satisfaction.  Here is why…most therapy is working on noun identification and labeling in its onset.  The parent and social contradiction is that most people do not care about the number of nouns you know or your ability to label…they want to know actions and feelings.

In short, three things drive and continue human interactions or conversations.

  • What happened (actions)
  • Who did it (people)
  • How do you feel (feelings)

Here is the problem: TEACHING actions,people, and feelings happen later.  The bigger shame is that connecting these elements to relevant human experiences don’t usually happen.  For example, learning “The girl is happy”  or “The boy is swimming” from a card is very different from looking at family/friend pictures and saying “Mommy is eating”.  When we decide to do this kind of work (which takes more time on the part of the therapist to prepare for sessions), we indirectly guide our clients to tune in.  Since social relatedness, attunement, etc. are challenges why teach learners with autism to apply learned language concepts to people and things they have no experience with?   Our clients may not know “the girl”, but they do experience their sister “Emily” daily.  So essentially, you can graduate from therapy and label pictures very well.  AND most therapists have the same pictures!!!  This means that even if your child moves from one center to another, they will see the same cards…and we have the nerve to take data on challenging behaviors.  I can now understand throwing a bit better.  Graduating from therapy and not being able to look at your environment and make meaningful verbal connections is the problem paid for.

So what should a parent do when looking at their child’s therapy?  

Get the therapist to move past the “He/She is not ready to learn that” statement.  Find someone (a therapist) who gets it! It is important to move the conversation because the world is happening.  Outside of the half hour speech session and the three hour ABA session, the world is moving.  And therapy must meet the world so that our client’s can grow and be self-sufficient.

What should the well meaning therapist do?  

Position your treatment to change and then be impactful in your therapy clinic, school, university, etc.  Use real world materials (USA today, family pictures, family videos, etc.)

Teaching oral narratives.  The ability to share what I see, think, feel, and history is innate to all people.  Everyone deserves the right to learn from and share stories regardless of diagnosis and ability.

Let’s THRIVE and focus on making people better for having known us!

Landria Seals Green, MA., CCC-SLP

~SLP GURU

 

Before you answer the next email, do one thing to Increase Your Child’s Language

pillow, decor, boy, childBeing present is tough. Demands of emails, text messaging, who’s running for president, and the latest news story require you to keep up. But then you have the responsibility of these little people who are growing, developing, and will be off to college before you know it. On top of this, you see headlines for TV not great for kids, iPads not great for kids, and all other things to just add on the parental pressure.  And the old-new advice: READ READ READ to your children.
So this blog is for people like me. If you have any of the following, read on:
• Work demands requiring a response.
• Deadlines to meet
• Scheduling Doctors and Dentist appointments
• Planning and Packing for Vacation while juggling the current schedule
• Checking in on aging parents and family members
• Being there for a friend going through a tough time
• Mompreneurs
• Toddler and Kids running around.
• Dogs requiring attention
• Healthy meal shopping and recipes
• Slightly sleep deprived
• Still in search of a great pillow
• Obsessed with checking your blood pressure (that may be just me).
• Taking conference calls in your car in a grocery store parking lot while your toddler naps
There is a universal theme regardless of class, color, or occupation; we want all of our children and our children’s play partners. We want them healthy, safe, and smart. We want them all to achieve their level of greatness and the beginning block includes language development.
Here are some ways to increase language in your daily life beyond reading the one book everyday.

1. BECOME THE NARRATOR: Talk about everything that you are doing. Talk about what they are doing. Talk about things you see that may be interesting.
2. SING children’s song and nursery rhymes in the car and in the kitchen while you cook. Create your own jazzy versions and melodies.
3. TALK ABOUT FOOD AND COOKING.  The verbs, the utensils, the ingredients, the complexity of basting, broiling, chopping, sauteing.
4. USE REAL WORDS and specific language. “That’s a transporter truck. Look at the bull dozer.
5. USE THE SYNONYMS OF COMMON WORDS so that we build a repertoire of word variety. “We have to walk to the counter and purchase our groceries”
6. ADD ADJECTIVES. “Child say’s truck”. Add in color words, size words.
7. TALK ABOUT AND VALIDATE FEELINGS when the child is expressing them. Give emotions words. “You feel angry because you didn’t want to share. I know it’s tough. But it’s nice to do sometimes and makes everyone comfortable.”
8. RESPOND TO BABBLE as if it were real sentences and words. This is critical…instead of giggling and saying “what”. Pretend they have said something incredibly valid and respond with real words.
9. REPHRASE AND GIVE YOUR CHILD THE LANGUAGE HE SHOULD USE. This is especially important for hitting and tantrums and asking questions. In the morning, he says “Daddy”. I added “Where is Daddy?” and now he adds “where” when he is looking for anything.

With this, you are creating that language rich encounter.  This will over time become your new habit.  Increased encounters doused with reading the daily book will create the language rich environment we SLPs love to talk about. More importantly, you will evoke a curiosity for words and the reciprocity of your little person pointing and sometimes asking “what is that?”
Parenting is masterful work.

Let’s master it together!

Landria Green, MA., CCC-SLP

THE COURAGE TO CHANGE

CHANGING YOUR CHILD’S THERAPY TEAM WHEN THEY NO LONGER WORK FOR YOU

Making the switch is a tough decision. If you are like me, you are committed and loyal to your relationships and have a hard time switching and moving on. But, sometimes it is completely necessary. And the top reason to move on is Vision. When people on the team share the same vision and philosophy, the team moves forward and progress is made. I recently read a post in a professional facebook group where the therapist asked “How can I get mom to understand that her child who is autistic and nonverbal will have slow progress and will not reach the goals she has for him? How can I get mom to understand that he won’t…”. I responded quickly with, “Are you the right therapist for this family? If your belief about therapy and it’s influence don’t mesh with the mom’s vision for her child, you should refer”.

Belief is often entangled in three things:

1. KNOWLEDGE  (Do I know how?)

2. STRENGTH (Do I want to put forth this great effort?)

3. MISSION (Is it my mission to truly see children who are nonverbal become literate and communicators?).

I have a doctor who no longer works for me. And to be completely honest we never did mesh. I didn’t choose her, she was mine by default…doctor of choice moved on, she was the replacement. I was initially excited because of credentials; fresh out of medical school for me translated into cutting edge. All the professional accolades out of the way, we simply didn’t mesh in philosophy or vision. I am an advocate of medicine last: food, diet, mental health status, exercise…lifestyle adjustments and vitamin supplements first.  I need my physician to know who I am and treat. That is important to me. I am okay with hard truths, straight from the hip honest dialogue, but I like a personal understanding of my life and how it translates into my health. So today, when she gave a different target for me than I had for myself and was okay with me still reaching hypertensive blood pressure levels, I realized this level of low expectation vision could no longer be in my life, medically speaking. Time to switch.

Moving on is a bold admission that what worked, no longer does. And it may bring into the reality that the switch and move should have happened long ago.

There are many things we sweep away, in order to get the coveted time slot and therapy spot. I swept away, the language of familiarity (girlfriend posture and talk) that I don’t want in my professional visit to my physician. You may be sweeping away lack of progress or slow progress over the love you think the therapist has for your child. Just as a side note: You don’t need the therapist to love your child, you need them to love their profession. When the love for the profession is there, your therapists will be literature readers, answer seekers, and full of informative tips so that you can move forward in the vision.
This time we have is short. Spending it afraid to move on from the therapist or school or teacher that no longer serves you, should happen quickly. Why? Because surviving is no longer okay. Thriving in this one life is the goal.
So let’s THRIVE together.

Landria Green, MA., CCC-SLP

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Writing and Communication Tools for Parents and Therapists

This tool created by ReadWriteThink can be used by reading specialists, speech-language pathologists, parents, and tutors.  More than that, it can be used in a variety of ways.

http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/student-interactives/comic-creator-30021.html

Here are some suggestions:

1. Social Stories with an interactive Comic Strip. Set up the good idea, the bad idea, and the open ended comic strip.  Infuse the Conversation Colors to make the feeling states concrete and the story alive.

2. Conversation Skills and Fluency: It is important for the teacher to type!  (as this activity goes fast and after all, fluency is a goal).  With this, you can create a scenario, have the student take on a character and flow with the conversation.  Analysis comes after!

3. Written expression:  Move away from the essay and the lined paper or blank compute screen.  A quick comic strip can target any type of expository writing and actually target the quality of the skill acquisition rather than getting the length.  Length comes later.  AND this heightens the cool factor for the teacher and the socioemotional buy in needed to get to the goal of length.

4. Synonyms/Antonyms/Vocabulary:  In this idea, one character (teacher’s character) can supply a simple statement.  The learner’s character has to restate it using the targeted vocabulary words from classroom curriculum.  This supports the student’s ability to demonstrate real vocabulary use and application to the curriculum.  The learner gets to demonstrate that he/she really understands the deep structure of the word through the development of a comic strip.

One Language or Two? The Bilingual Quandry in Autism

I appreciate great research, well founded studies with clinically relevant recommendations that can be utilized by therapists and consumers.  The topic of Bilingualism as it relates to autism or even relevant research with strong implications for bi or tri language acquisition in people with autism is a subject not well researched.  However, the answer of “No, use one language only preferably English” is often communicated to families (typically Spanish speaking families) whose children have a diagnosis of autism.

While I understand the perspective of the well meaning therapist.  I must ask, why are we communicating “No use of a second language” without real evidence in practice?

Language is personally relevant as it demonstrates a person’s identity from a cultural, socioeconomic, and/or religious perspective.  Language is a source of identity.  When parents strive to teach a child a language such as Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Swarti, etc. that is typically part of who they are.  In fact, these families usually seek to teach these languages first and also add English.  When a therapist states that one language should be utilized, it is in fact, asking a family to choose their identity.  Is this fair?  Is it okay to ask a family to choose a language?

Because this topic is important to my clients, I decided to conduct a review of research so that my recommendations have evidence and not my opinion disguised as fact.  The truth is, the spare research made public, is not based in the US primarily. In fact, the research is coming from Canada and other countries.   Is this because being bilingual is the norm in other countries in comparison to the US culture that subliminally states that bilingualism or the L2 is an extra language and English is the norm and primary?  Is this fair in a world of cultural, ethnic, and linguistic diversity?

I suspect that my readers may be thinking that these statements are acceptable for typical language development, but autism or atypical language acquisition should have different rules. While this may or may not be true, there is little research in the area of autism and bilingualism.  The research that is available has found:

1. The research that has been conducted is positive in the acquiring Language 1 and Language 2.

2. Children seem to acquire both and use one or both primarily.

The authors of the research studies separately state that the although autistic, each brain is different in how and what it will acquire.  In addition, no research stated the teaching a second language has an adverse effect on progress.  I think ineffective therapy masked as effective, unfounded information, and a therapist that does not seek to understand a families dynamic including how a family identifies themselves will have greater adverse impact.

Tasking a family to choose the language form they should communicate with their child is not only unfair but culturally dismissive.

When faced with this language quandry, families should:

1. Require that their therapy tem provide Evidenced Based Practice and Relevant Research

2. Request data that shows how their child is progressing in either and both languages

3. Be allowed to decide and not forced to make the choice

4. Get therapists that understand them from this language relevance perspective and therapists who will move beyond their comfort zone and seek to learn about the families language and utilize this language in therapy.

In short, families make many many choices.  And a diagnosis is heavy regardless of severity.  A diagnosis makes people readjust and create new norms on something that is unplanned, can be unpredictable, and not always smile worthy.  To add “no to the use of a family identifier” is not the best way to create a buy in to the therapy process.

If my family were fortunate enough to be bilingual and this news was given to us as we are a family of people that has a few sprinkles of people with special needs (an uncle with a severe cognitive impairment, cousin with CP, and a cousin with language learning disability) …I can just imagine the “kitchen table” conversation…and we would not adhere to the recommendation because our language is relevant to who we are.  In fact, we would reduce the impactfulness of the therapist and thereby listen less to future recommendations…especially if this person did not have proof that this was more than an opinion.

We would want our therapist recommendations to meet us where we are and founded in relevant research.

Enjoy and Be Empowered!

~Landria Seals Green,M.A., CCC-SLP

Using Patterning to Teach Social Skills

I read an article today posted on the web about teaching social skills.  The authors of these articles are correct: We cannot leave the teaching of social communication to the teacher.

I’d like to add some other lessons as we enter the school year

1. Magic is magic and only left to the magicians.  With this, we cannot put our kids in social situations and expect them to just get it…it’s like putting me in a football field and expecting me to make a tackle, touchdown, and win the game.  Sure I would run..but have no idea about the purpose, whose team I’m on, and what I should be getting from this game of football.  So yes, teaching the why, the how, and giving practice (scrimmage..for you football fans), and then getting in the game makes much more sense.

2. Tolerance must be taught to the typicals.  Therapy and social groups are always for the people with social language deficits.  May I suggest that those without social language challenges need some support too!  Not support to be fake friends, allowing our kids not to get the real social experience they need…but support to be real people…not hand holders with gentle voices, with a bombardment of questions.  Tolerance is teaching the difference, what to expect, and how special doesn’t mean treat so differently that real relationships cannot be cultivated.  But tolerance teaching emphasizes how this experience is a win win for everyone.

3. Some things happen because its what kids do…not because he’s autistic.  One of my therapists had this fabulous conversation with a mother.  The mother was saying that her son was not telling her everything that happened at camp.  She wanted details.  Instead she was getting one word responses.  The therapist gently reminded the mom that her 13 year old son may be like most 13 year olds…they don’t have much to say about their day and an increase in questions may result in a decrease in the length of the response.

4. Let’s focus on talking and not the Q&A. One of my greatest pet peeves when observing a social group (not the Keep the Conversation Going groups run by our staff) is the barrage of questions and the responses by our kids versus teaching them to have statement to statement communication.  If you listen to the typicals talk, watch Nick or Disney..you will see there is more social commenting and opinions rather than the questions.  Questions are only asked if the statements are not informative enough.

5. Motor patterning or Role Playing.  Excuse my small yell of encouragement…GET UP FROM THE TABLE! If we want our kids to be social…we have to get up from the therapy table.  We need to have social postures: sitting, walking, playing, sports, hanging out and all those physical postures in between.  Role playing is crucial as embedding social thinking does not mean thinking in solitude and the quiet…true social thinkers do this on the fly.  They are walking and talking.  They are dribbling the basketball and thinking and talking.  They are gesturing and talking.  We have to teach our kids to read and understand social information (using static pictures and short snippets of movies) as well as inhabit the motor pattern of what it means to participate socially.

6. Social therapy is just not for those with high functioning or Aspergers.  Everyone needs to understand social information and be social.  Social interaction is at least 60% nonverbal…40% talk.  So those who are nonverbal or use AAC systems should be participating in social groups and social therapy too!  There was a study by Kuehn and Weiner that discussed how those even with low IQs had the ability to be more social despite the IQ number.  BUT  their social IQ was dependent upon opportunities.  This means, that going to the one time a week social group or lunch bunch is not enough opportunity.  And being included without appropriate and faded support is not opportunity.  Systematic teaching, systematic coaching is opportunity.

Let’s get in this school year and BE SOCIAL!