Friday, July 11, 2008

Baby Steps in Guiding with Communication

Steve is taking his first steps in guiding Pamela through his altered communication style--the same steps I took last year! Yesterday, we talked to our consultant by phone about how to help Steve get started. He has a tougher job in some ways because Pamela adjusted to my guidance when we first started homeschooling. With Steve, she is used to wielding the awesome, incredible superpowers of Daddy's little girl. One pout . . . and he caves! LOL! For example, last weekend, when we tried to capture their interactions on film, Pamela refused to do anything dynamic with him (I think because she senses this is the beginning of the end of the Queen Bee's reign). They ended up putting together a puzzle of the United States--a very static activity.

We brainstormed an outdoor activity they can do together that is part of Steve's weekend routine. We settled on Pamela donning a swimsuit and helping him wash the cars (I think it is a winner because Pamela asked what we were doing tomorrow; when I told her about the swimsuit and car wash plan, her entire face lit up with excitement). The neat thing about washing cars is that it is ripe for interaction patterns: simultaneously wash up and down or side to side, alternate I spray and you spray, etc. To focus on avoiding the dreaded QPC (questions, prompts, commands) monster, he thought of the perfect phrase for himself, "Give her time!"

Learning to change your communication style is a mental game! You have to think about what you plan to do in advance! Our strategy is:Pamela and I are working on separate objectives. We have been breaking down gestures, starting off with receptive gestures to tell us that she is listening and understands. She has mastered pointing out what she sees to establish joint attention with me and nodding or shaking her head when I talk. We have spent the past ten days transferring the responsibility of orientation to her. Whenever Pamela talked to me, I went out of my way to turn my body to her so that we could have face-to-face communication. She now realizes that she needs to orient herself as well. Rather than have a specially framed activity to teach this, I waited for natural opportunities in real life:
  • If Pamela started talking from another room, I ignored her until she walked into the room and established face-to-face with me.
  • If I was in the middle of something (reading a book while sitting on the couch), I did not look up unless she tapped me on the shoulder.
  • If I was in front of the computer or sink, I scaffolded her by taking a few steps back to give her maneuvering room. At first, I gently guided her with my arm until she had face-to-face contact.
  • Occasionally, I turn away from her before the conversation and wait for her to orient in my direction.
She now understands her responsibility and, once I capture this in action on film and am satisfied with what I see, I plan to be more natural about it. In most interactions, both people work together to orient themselves and, to spotlight her responsibility, I have been unusually unresponsive!

Since Steve's schedule is so busy (major business meeting next week), I asked David to film Pamela and I shopping, which has scope for lots of face-to-face connection, disconnection, and reconnection. Being the easily embarrassed teen, he was less than thrilled. I thought providing him a better understanding might encourage him to step up. Our consultant told me yesterday that nobody in the RDI world has broken down receptive listening like we have. We are pioneering this aspect of this objective for others down the road. Because Pamela is so comfortable with gestures, we find it worthwhile to linger here for the moment to give her a wider range of communication. I told David that what he films will end up in the RDI computer system and these films will help other parents doing this same objective with their children down the road. To make an impression on David, I told him parents all over the world, in places like Singapore and Australia, are using RDI.

The shared understanding tactic worked! David's eyes widened when he realized the scope of what we do on a daily basis around here. He told me, "Okay, Mom! You've inspired me!"


Steph said...

It looks like Steve and I are in a similar place. :-) I will be back later to re-read this post and explore all your links. As always -- thank you for sharing your journey in such detail and with such wisdom and humor. :-)

The Glasers said...

You have to start somewhere!!!! It is tiring at first, but it becomes second nature after awhile!