What is on the agenda for this week? I am so glad you asked! Let’s talk balloons! And not just any type of balloon. Rocket balloons. As promised I will be sharing some of my favorite toys over the next couple of months, whether it be my favorite or the children’s favorites. Along with the toy I will discuss ways to work on joint attention, comprehension, vocabulary and nonverbal communication. If you are new to join me this is post 20 of my weekly posts. In each post you will find links to other resources because that is how I roll. I am doing the homework for you! This blog site is meant to be user and parent friendly so hopefully you can take something away from it or know someone who will benefit from the posts. Lots going on here this week so let’s get started!
What makes this inexpensive gadget so interesting? It makes sound! The balloon flies! It is off the beaten path of the ABC and 123 toys inundating the store shelves! Let’s talk verbal routines! As you remember, in my Toys and Tips to Encourage Language post regarding Elefun, these are consistent 1 word or short phrases that we use in the sequences of a toy/activity. The key is to remain consistent with the verbiage you use. I want to cover my ears when I hear, “Where does it go?” Can you show me where to put it?” “I know you know the answer,” in back to back utterances. Too much verbal stimuli. And, Eek! If you do not remember the pause you are not providing the child an opportunity to respond which is our primary goal.
Typically when I bring out a new toy I move a little quicker through the routine the first go around. Why? You do not want to lose the child’s interest, which then leaves you chasing the child. Then he is in charge. He is the leader and we are following. I try to structure my sessions to allow me to be the leader and to teach the child “something”. Many of the kids I see benefit from direct teaching and possess decreased nonverbal communication skills. I often work with children on the Autism Spectrum and those with suspected and/or diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech. Many times these children benefit from some sort of prompt (gestural, physical, etc) to complete the desired outcome/goal followed by a reinforcement. As the child progresses we work on decreasing the structure, fading the prompts, and increasing opportunities for spontaneous interactions and exchanges.
Once again, the difficulty lies in the child who moves on if their attention is not gained and maintained. We need the child to be a part of the “group”. We need the child to think about some of our ideas, not consistently vice versa. This is when the learning begins. I recently bought We Thinkers 1 and 2 volumes and I am a fan. One of my favorites is Body in the Group. The book visually depicts the expectation of the child to be in close proximity with the group members but not too close like a space invader. For our younger ones we can use actual toys to encourage being a part of the group…Hence, balloon rocket! Tempt the child with the reinforcer to stay with you and use that activity as a teaching moment. (Check out my post on Thinking Bubble Strategies for Kids too!)
Hold the balloon and the pump and ask, “What do we do?” (Answer: “On” or “Put on.”) The child may not be using words so the expectation may be a sign for “on”. The nonverbal expectation may be eye contact. Or, we may accept the child opening his/her mouth as if to make the sound for “ah”. Next the gadget requires the user to pump it up. We can ask the child “What is next?” with the expectation of “Pump” or “Pull” or “Push”. Might as well encourage action words too! Then, I might ask the child, “Where?” and point the rocket up. Teach the child that the expectation is to look up, to point up, or to verbalize an approximation of “up”. Teach by providing prompts as needed and fading those prompts. The expectation will depend on the child and his or her current skill set.
The balloon wildly flies everywhere. Sincerely, it is a hoot. What I love about this activity is that if the child loves it too, the child wants more. How do we get more? Go pick up the balloon and bring the balloon back: nonverbal communication. This is huge for our kiddos who do not ask for “help”; do not hand-lead you to desired items, and/or do not bring objects to you that require assistance.
Most times in my experience, children will move on to another activity because they do not have the nonverbal skill set to ask for help. Balloon rocket is one of those activities I have seen children learn quickly and naturally: “Hey, I want more of this and I need you to get it.” The child picks up the balloon and brings the balloon to you. Awesome! Afterall, a higher percentage of communication is nonverbal communication; not verbal. And, many times what we are initially seeking is that interaction, that learning opportunity, often provided by that communication temptation. It is not always about speech. It is not always about the child producing that word. Let’s find ways the child needs you and you have a purpose in the interaction.
Thank you for joining me this week! I am excited about having my first guest post in a couple of weeks and more exciting things to come. If the blog interests you consider signing up to receive my posts.