The dreaded “Djwanna” question as my friend Lorri will say. I will never forget a time when I worked in a clinic (Little Friends... EEK. This was probably 17-18 years ago) and I walked into the waiting room to find my little girl sitting under a chair. I asked, “Do you want to come back and play with Miss Tracy?” She shook her head “no”. Lesson learned! I remember the idea of NOT asking Yes/No questions being drilled into my head as an undergraduate. Sometimes I still slip.
The example of the little girl is also a reminder to respect a child’s answer. I mean, I did ask it. And, she let me know her answer. In that scenario I let her play for two minutes. Then, I changed my question to a statement: “It’s time to come play with Miss Tracy.” Looking back on this little girl she was probably a child with the most severe Childhood Apraxia of Speech that I have worked with. She groped to imitate oral motor movements and possessed significant delays in her speech production and within her language development. She had significant unintelligible speech. No wonder she didn’t want to come play with me! It was hard!
Asking a child “Do you want to (AKA “Djwanna”) go to bed is like asking me if I would like to eat some liver and onions. (No thanks mom!) So if it is time to go to bed don’t ask a question. Do not give them the chance to answer “No.” Give them a directive. “It’s time to go to bed”. Set your own self up for success. I believe we have to respect a child’s response when we ask the question. It builds trust. Giving directives let’s the child know that you are the parent and this is the expectation. When a child knows the expectation it can decrease some anxiety the child may have. Decreases battles. Sets boundaries.
Giving two choices provides an opportunity for the child to imitate a word. I often see kids who imitate words randomly and spontaneously but not necessarily on request. When you ask, “Do you want a cracker or a cookie?” you are providing an opportunity to imitate. You are also decreasing the guessing game of pulling every item out of your pantry because you have set the boundary of only having two choices. You are also providing an opportunity to learn the names of food items. It’s a win-win all around! Presenting choices vs. a Yes/No questions might feel empowering for a child as well because he has the opportunity to make a choice. The choice is based on your preselected items of course, but nonetheless you are giving the child options. Who doesn’t like options?!
What happens when you ask, “Do you want a cookie?” The child nods his head, right? You then proceed to say, “Say cookie”. This may work or it may lead to a power struggle. During those times I like to know the sign for a word. I can always take the child’s hand to help learn a new sign but I cannot make their mouths move! We would have written a book about it if that were the case! If the child is able to imitate sounds in isolation I might encourage the first sound or a vowel within the word paired with a visual cue. (I love Nancy Kaufman’s) We can shape the approximations from there! If your child is struggling to learn new words or to imitate on request I often tell my families that it is a dance. Sometimes you push and other times you don’t. Read your child’s cues. Think about their mood. Think about the time of day. If it is right before nap time it may not be the opportune time to push if speech is difficult.
P.S. I am not saying we never ask Yes/No questions. It is just something to consider when you think about the answer you may receive. And, considering what your goals are. Just a thought!
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