Thursday, October 12, 2006

Angels and Algebra

I am tutoring two students in Algebra II and dreamed up a terrific payment plan. At the end of every session, they spend 15 minutes practicing conversation skills with Pamela. This is one homeschooler's way of sneaking positive autism awareness into the school system!

As a child, Pamela struggled to converse due to syntactic aphasia. We tried Teach Me Language, but the book assumes that visual cues, drilling, and practice will develop social language. Such activities frustrated Pamela because she tripped over little words like articles, conjunctions, helping verbs, and prepositions, not to mention word order and tense. Clearly something more than autism affected her capacity for language.

Back in 2003, Steve's parents told us about an ABC segment featuring the association method. This very structured, highly sequential, multisensory way of teaching syntax is the key to helping Pamela learn syntax!

Teachers write stories targeting specific language objectives. Right now, we are covering personal description stories (see page 14) that focus on personal pronouns he and she. When I started tutoring the first student, whom I will call Amy, I wrote a personal description story, imported a picture of Amy, and treated it like a Social Story to provide Pamela information about Amy:
This is Amy. She is a musician. She can play a tambourine. She can sing. She can draw. She can go to school in Smalltown. Amy is sixteen-years old. She had a summer birthday. It was July 17. She has green eyes and black hair. She has short, straight hair. Amy can read. She likes Little House books and The Chronicles of Narnia. She likes animals. She likes lions, tigers, and cats. She likes elephants. She likes horses and dogs.
Another student, whom I will call Betsy, came to her first session last Monday. This time, I made up simple question cards written with syntax already mastered to assist Pamela in asking questions for a new acquaintance. I instructed Betsy to answer the question and repeat it back to Pamela, and they went back and forth. Pamela could understand Betsy and answer her with some prompting, but not as much as I had anticipated. Pamela did a fantastic job because this is the second time she had ever seen Betsy. She finds it difficult tuning into acquaintances.

During this conversation, I recorded Betsy's answers and wrote a story about Betsy and included a picture:
This is Betsy. She is an artist. She can shop. She can buy some paint and art supplies. She can ride horses. She can go to Smalltown High School. Betsy is fifteen-years old. She has a birthday next April. It will be April 4. She has blue eyes and red hair. She has thin hair. She has long, wavy hair. Betsy can read. She likes Oliver-Twist. Betsy likes animals. She likes cows and dogs. She likes horses.

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