Ever find yourself asking a question and not waiting long enough for a response? Occasionally I will have that oops moment when I start to talk and it is at the same moment my kiddo is willing or able to respond. I have worked hard on that pause button but it still happens. I sometimes catch myself in conversations with friends and other therapists too. I am onto the next question before that person has answered the last one. Oops! I think to self… “Let them answer”. One idea I have taken from my trainings and past work experience is to incorporate pauses into my sessions. Present a question, directive, command, etc; and then PAUSE (and “sshhh”, quiet) to see how the child responds and then determine what types of prompts he/she may need. Don’t get me wrong; I am not conducting my speech therapy sessions in a formal ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis). format but I do utilize short, consistent phrases and I do use prompts. (I tell my friend over at Autism Service Provider and Beyond, that she can keep writing the ABA goals and it is not something I envy). We build in prompts as needed and then fade the prompt. And, did you know that physical, gestural, and visual prompts are easier to fade than verbal prompts?
For the kiddo who has significant receptive language delays I would suggest NOT asking “Where is the ball?” “Can you find the ball?” “Go get the ball”. Too much information and the structure of the question/statement changed three times. Nothing makes my ears perk up more than when I hear “Do you want more?” “Tell me more.” “Show me more.” One right after another. How do you know if the child wants more or not if you don’t pause and wait for the child? How do you know if the child understood the message if you changed the message 3 times? I’m betting that child heard “WaWaWa” from Charlie Brown. Many moons ago I co-conducted speech/occupational therapy groups at Little Friends, Inc for the Birth through 3 population. We would ask the parents to remain quiet for 2 minutes while the children played and participated in structured tasks. It never failed…within 10 seconds someone was talking. I get it. It is hard! We are inclined to fill the silence. My understanding from my coursework and my experience in working with kids with Childhood Apraxia of Speech is sometimes I may need to PAUSE and wait to see if he/she can supply the answer. Kids with Apraxia may take longer to respond to a question or to imitate. Kids with word retrieval difficulties may take longer to respond. My experience in working with children who have auditory processing challenges is that I might need to PAUSE to give that child the time to determine what I said. My point is that before we go to repeat our directive, ask the child the same question in a different manner, or continually prompt the child, and lastly answer for the child, that we learn to put in a PAUSE. And, if that child has difficulty filtering out extraneous information like me at the end of the day standing at the gas pump, we will not truly know what that child understands if we keep talking without pausing to see how he/she responds. My hope is that whoever the reader may be… a parent, a therapist, etc. that you think about that pause when having conversations with others and with our kiddos. Ask the question once. Give the direction once and PAUSE. PAUSE and then determine what type of prompt the child needs. It may be verbal. It may be visual. It may be physical. It may be gestural. It may be that we just need to pause so the child can answer. Be careful not to build in prompts when the kiddo does not need the prompt. Whatever that prompt is, we will need to think about how to fade that prompt so the child does not become dependent on us either. I have parents say all of the time he/she can do the “task” or say the “sound” if I ask but not independently. We will go into depth with prompts on another date but for the time being think about giving the child response time; think about that PAUSE.
I feel the same way about gas pumps as some of the battery operated toys that keep going and going and going…but we will save that topic for the next post when we think about toy selection for some of our kiddos. To receive my weekly posts just enter your email and click sign me up. Wordpress will send you a confirmation email. Be sure to grab a cup of coffee and ask a friend to join!