17 September 2010

Help From School

 I've been having a hard time figuring out how to "work" with Woodjie.  He's getting bigger and more resistant to doing things he doesn't want to do.  Ordinarily I let my children have a fair bit of leeway in doing whatever they want in their free time.  But Woodjie simply needs a lot of extra work to approach anything even resembling being functional... even in our very controlled environment.  He needs to learn some communication skills and figure out how to deal with "not yours" or "hang on a minute" for an answer.  I'm not really sure how to work with him on these sorts of things.  I would imagine the first thing we need to learn is how to attend and follow simple directions when necessary.

So I asked Woodjie's teacher for a little help, to show me some practical ways I can work with him at home.  For now (to start with), we're doing a little program.  The teacher brought this BEAUTIFUL laminated green sheet and big velcro buttons.  She also brought some picture cards, but I have cut them smaller and laminated them because um, I like to give chocolate milk-free frosting, other foods or play-doh and that sort of thing as a reward for good work.

Want to read about what I do with Woodjie each weekday?  Ok.  A word of explanation.  Each of these cards has a symbol on the front.  For example, "eat" is shown here.  Another has an injured arm with an arrow for "boo boo."  We want Woodjie to do his best job repeating after Mom or Teacher.  If he can't say "boo boo," can he say "buh buh?"  If not, "boo" might be easier.  And so on down the list until you get to the simplest to say, "buh."  I've seen Rose's speech teacher use this approach as well, which I was highly surprised about.  You'd think teaching a child to say "yeh-yeh" instead of "yellow" if "yellow" is too hard would reinforce baby talk, but that's not the current thinking.  The current thinking is that you reinforce that she can make these words and improve on them as she develops more control.

The buttons up top are, of course, little tokens.  We start off with Woodjie only needing to earn one or two before he receives his "reward" for a few minutes (a timer can be used to limit the break, so you can get back to work with the next round).  Eventually, he will get through the whole stack of cards for a button, five times over.

Or better still, eventually he will speak so much that we will need more difficult cards.  The key is to find a reward that the child wants.  With Woodjie, this can literally change minute to minute (this has been remarked upon several times by school staff).  I am working to get together a small bin of rewards, but for right now, Woodjie thinks that chocolate frosting in a spray can is super-yum, even if was scary to see the frosting pop out at first.  Now, it's joyously wonderful!  Yay for frosting!  Yay for Woodjie!


  1. Mrs. C- I am just in awe of your patience, determination, and Mommy love that keeps you motivated and moving. You definitely have been blessed with your babies, and they in turn have been blessed with you.

    Good luck with Woodjie and in teaching him. Has anyone ever tried using either basic hand signals, or sign language with him? I have a cousin who is now in his 40's that is Autistic. Speech did not come until his late teens, and it's broken at best. Communicating with basic signs helped him when speaking was not yet a possibility. I don't know if this might help Woodjie, or not. I believe my cousin was about 7 or 8 when they began to utilize signs with him.

    Have a wonderful weekend.

  2. Thank you, Blondee. Usually speech therapists try to get the child to speak first. If that doesn't work, they usually still work on speech but incorporate SIGNS just as you wrote. Only after that doesn't work do they introduce PECS (picture exchange system). Woodjie almost never uses a sign but may very rarely sign "more."

    Hope your weekend is great, too!


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