Thursday, October 12, 2006

Navigating Questions & Answers

I am tailoring Navigating the Social World to guide activities for conversational practice. The focus is on communication and social skills (Section Two), namely basic conversational responses. At home, Pamela is adept at asking and answering questions about her enthusiasms (calendars, The Hoober-Bloob Highway, and Mario and Luigi Superstar Saga). She can ask and answer simple questions already mastered at her present level in personal description stories (see page 14) with people in the family. She needs to work on following up a statement (with either a statement or question).

I want Pamela to leave each session flush with success and joy, so I limit conversations to her interests and sentence structures she can easily do: answer and ask yes-no questions. The first time Pamela and Amy took turns asking each other what states they had visited, "Did you see Alaska?" I noticed that Pamela struggled with following up her answer by asking question. She needed prompting to continue the conversation even though it was a repetition of the same question. Clearly she had difficulties switching roles.

The second time I turned the conversation into a riddle game to simplify the conversation structure. Amy would pick a year, and Pamela would ask questions like "Is it a leap year?" or "Does it start Monday?" until she guessed the year. Then we reversed the tables: Pamela would pick a year and Amy asked her questions. Amy and I both needed a cheat sheet I made in Excel as a crutch. Pamela sees the calendar in her head and needs no crutch. When reading history books, she will often tell us the day of the week an event occurred. Pamela reveled playing a calendar game with another teen, and Amy was amazed at Pamela's savant skill.
Years Cheat Sheet
The third time we played the riddle game, but focused on the topic of animals. Both Amy and Pamela share an interest in animals. Pamela was highly animated, and her face lit up whenever she or Amy solved the riddle. Clearly, she succeeds at Q/A/Q/A types of conversations in which one person always asks the question and one person always answers it. She has no problem being either the questioner or answerer as long as it is consistent during the conversation. At home, I plan to vary the conversations to get her used to A-Q/A-Q so that the person answering a question continues with a new question.

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