Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Putting Pamela in the Driver's Seat

Because most of Pamela's gestures are imperative, our first objective is to teach Pamela how to use gestures declaratively. Since verbal language is such a challenge because of her aphasia, we decided to scaffold this by focusing on nonverbals first. We hope Pamela will transfer the discovery of declarative gestures to declarative language. We focused on three common gestures:
  • Pointing - Draws my attention to whatever she is sharing with me.
  • Nodding - Tells me I am getting what she is seeing.
  • Shaking her head - Tells me I am on the wrong track in what she is seeing.
We wanted to come up with an activity in which she would be the active person driving the conversation. We decided to go on data collection walks in which I am the recorder and Pamela is the observer. One side benefit is that I can turn the data into a math lesson!

Before our walk to a nearby playground, I told Pamela we were going to do a project about house colors in our neighborhood. I needed help figuring out what colors to use. Then, she told me a bunch of colors, and I typed them into a spreadsheet. I printed out the tally sheet, and we left.

At each house, I stopped and looked down at my feet as if I had shut down. It took a bit for Pamela to realize she had to activate me. She poked me! Then, I looked at her face, waiting for her to take action. Again, it took a bit for her to realize she had to point to draw my attention to the house she was describing. Then, I overemphasized turning and looking at the house, and I turned back to her to tell her a color. Sometimes, I would say the right color so she could nod her head. Sometimes, I would say the wrong color so she could shake her head. Then, I recorded the data. Occasionally, I looked at a building, like a church, library, or office. I left it for her to decide whether or not to count them in our study--she shook her head.

That activity could become very static, so, on the way home, we expanded it dynamically. I heard a siren and exclaimed, "An airplane!" I looked at Pamela, and she shook her head. I went through several guesses before I got it right. I waited to see if she would direct my attention to something; if not, I would point out something else, either correctly or incorrectly, so she could give her observation by nods or head shakes.

Because RDI is about lifestyle and not activities, I am finding ways to incorporate it into our daily life. For example, she can get my attention in several ways: shoulder-touch, poke, move in front of me, etc. During the day, I found times to "shut down" so she would have to do something active to "reboot" me.

The language is not the only component of our plan to put Pamela in the driver's seat. Some of Pamela's passive nature might be due to sensory under-responsivity, which I will address tomorrow. By the way, the math lesson I wrote based on our walk is pictured below!


momof3feistykids said...

Excellent activity -- I like the way you're integrating RDI seamlessly into your home schooling.

walking said...

It is wonderful to be able to weave RDI into more than 1 hour of X therapy three times a week. I am also glad to weave it into how we go on walks or shop, how we learn or play, etc. I would think RDI is much harder to implement when you have to convince people at an IEP meeting that slowing down, speaking declaratively, using nonverbals, etc. will pay off in the long run.

Prince Andrew and the Queen Mum said...

I'm so far behind on your blog - i'll probably get a chance to get caught up while your gone LOL! i love that you put the academics and RDI together..they fit naturally, don't they?! (or at least they can/should.) would you believe..and i'm sure you would...that in some AI classrooms if you poke someone to get their attentino it is not a good thing. they are told to 'touch back' and they actually feed into OCD that way. I get WHY they do that- so many kids w/ AI touch too much..but really.

walking said...

After I showed Pamela how to tug my sleeve, she started doing that. Next thing I can show her is to touch my back or shoulder.

LAA and Family said...

Wow! I find the lessons you post about amazing.. all as I am still so new to teaching an autistic child at home and am learning about RDI.