Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Working on Language through Dynamic Thinking

Yesterday, I covered some minutia about our language program. In light of recent conversations about verbal behavior and manding (about which I know very little) at Autism Remediation, I thought it might help to elaborate a bit. RDI focuses on dynamic intelligence (abilities required to succeed in managing ever-changing environments, i.e., the real world). We follow a model of interaction called guided participation, a term coined by Barbara Rogoff in her book Apprenticeship in Thinking. To guide Pamela in speaking more elaborately, I seek suitable opportunities and wing it. To keep the process dynamic, I do not always frame the same situations. Today, I did not frame laundry, shopping, and driving directions. This sample of interactions is how we worked in the moment:
  • Pamela had finished eating a snack while watching television. She said, "Take the bowl." I looked around confused, and she added, "The dirty bowl."
  • We picked up lunch for Pamela and I made a comment about the apple fries. She said, "Ew! The old fries." I knew she meant fries made from potatoes, so I added, "Oh, you like potato fries! I bet those apple fries are good, too."
  • Pamela first told me she wanted to do schoolwork "in the office." I looked at her incredulously and asked, "Do you mean Dad's office in Charletson?" She smiled and playfully said, "No, the office in the house."
  • Later, she wanted to work "outside." I looked walked to the living room which is outside of the office and asked, "The living room is outside of the office." She shook her head and said, "No, in the rocking chairs." I replied, "But, I don't know which porch?" She added, "On the back porch."
  • We sat on the rocking chairs and Pamela said, "I want math." I picked up her language arts notebook, and she said, "No, the math book." Then, I grabbed Grapes Of Math, which we use for thinking dynamically about counting, even though I knew she meant her math workbook. She laughed and said, "No, the red math book!"
I am avoiding teaching language in a static, deadly dull, drilled fashion because I want to give Pamela the opportunity to think. When I say or do the wrong things, Pamela has many options: repeat what she said mindlessly, laugh and call me names, grow frustrated and lash out, cry and run to her room, or say something more specific. Because I am communicating through many channels (facial expression, gestures, voice inflection, words), she is learning to pay attention to the entire package of expression. She has to appraise the entire situation and think about an appropriate way to respond. We enter a state of mutual contingency: what she does depends upon my action, and what I do depends on her move.

The neat thing is that Pamela communications in more thoughtful ways. I would like to close with some examples of experience sharing that are guaranteed to make you smile:
  • Pamela was watching King of the Hill (her brother's favorite show) and she said completely out of the blue and totally unprompted, "I love 'King of the Hill.'" I asked, "Why?" She replied, "Because it's funny!"
  • Steve wanted to use his laptop but Pamela was having difficulty relinquishing it. She was saying, "Please stand by," very loudly and obnoxiously in a high-pitched, whiny voice. I said to her, "Pamela, that was awfully loud." Then, I heard her whisper, "Please stand by."
  • Pamela told us she was going to bed, so I puckered up and made a kissing sound. She came over and kissed me on the cheek. Then, Steve said, "Good night!" and made a kissing noise, too. She gave him a kiss on the cheek. As she walked away, Steve whistled to recapture her attention, made a kissing noise, and pointed to Pamela's younger brother. She walked over and David, who is at that goofy teen stage in life, shook her hand. Pamela leaned over and kissed him on the head. He may be over six feet tall, but he is still her baby brother!
  • She is still learning to overcome her anxiety over Steve's predictable work schedule. When we got into the car to head to church at 5:45, Pamela remarked, "Dad's work is too long." I agreed and talked about how every day is different.
  • On our way home, I decided to spotlight Steve's schedule again. We were a block from the house, I said, "I don't know if Dad is home. He didn't tell me what time he was coming home." Then, Pamela said, "Just like Definitely, Maybe." I exclaimed, "You're right. Dad is definitely coming home. He maybe home right now or he may come home later!"
  • As we drove up to the house, I heightened her anticipation by slowing the car down and speaking dramatically, "I wonder if Dad's home!" When we could finally see the driveway, Pamela laughed and I said, "Oh, no!!!!! The red car is gone." Suddenly, I noticed the car behind me also turned into our driveway and it was Steve. Then, I quickly said, "Wait! I see some lights! It's Dad!" Pamela giggled with delight and was so excited, she bolted out of the car as soon as it stopped and ran for joy!


MasterpieceMom said...

I love the practical examples. Thanks!

Laughing Stars said...

I love the way you break things down and crystallize the salient points. I am struck by the fact that, among other things, Pamela is learning to think dynamically about language (the same words can have multiple meanings.) By the way is Definitely, Maybe a good movie? When I saw it linked to your blog I thought I might Netflix it. :-)

The Glasers said...

No clue on Definitely, Maybe. Pamela saw it advertised on cable and she likes the title. None of us have actually seen the movie! LOL! It definitely may be a good movie . . .