Thursday, March 24, 2011

Building language skills

It has been quite some time since I have blogged. Somebody recently asked me how often do you blog? I said probably 2-3 posts a month. But then I realized I have posted just one this month, I better buck up. My GFCF recipes have also dried up!! Am going thru a lean phase with nothing much I can think of adding. But just this. I recently attended a workshop by Dr. Yamini and Dr. Shiv Shankar from NIMHANS on language building and communication for our children, Sorry, I haven’t got the title right but what mattered was the content of the workshop.  I was looking forward to Dr. Yamini’s talk as I have interacted with her on earlier occasions but Dr. Shiv Shankar was also equally good.
 The first point he made was not to confuse language with speech therapy. What we want for our children is language therapy and not speech therapy. One spends time commuting to therapists, money on therapies all to no avail because language therapy is something one must to do 365 days 24*7.The therapy is on thru the waking hours of the child, it is not an intensive 8 hr therapy to be done  and be done with it. One doesn’t need a specialist to do that.
Secondly, when working on language for our children we need to focus on the semantics and pragmatics and the syntax …………. (Syntax -my son’s speech OOPS! language therapist added)The semantics is the meaning of words and phrases, while pragmatics is how to use these phrases, words to communicate appropriately in a social context. Syntax, of course is grammar, the tenses, verbs…
Thirdly, move form concrete to the abstract. Start with objects, who is this pointing to an object-to a picture to with whom did x go with..., which is a much higher level.
Fourthly, Breakdown the complex skills into the simplest steps, as there are no shortcuts, teach in a naturalistic teaching, ensure errorless teaching.
Fifthly, the presence of the third person in a therapy session, Dr.Yamini insisted is very important, because the third person models the behavior for the child. Posing the right questions, answers and behaviour. This is probably what my daughter Isha is doing.
Sixthly, encourage pretend play. Behaviors are systematically reinforced. She also dwelt on the theory of mind briefly to the end of the session.
Seventh, some simple activities, Dr. Yamini suggested like checking who is at the door. If the child looks at the person and runs back to you without telling anything the communication intent has been achieved. That would b the first step. Target generalizations. A simple, how are you question can be asked and acknowledged in different situations in different ways.
                                    To sum up, my therapist, corrects me every time, when I use the word vocalize. He says we are not trying to make Ramam vocalize rather we are trying to make him verbalize meaningful sentences. Phew, that is some semantics. (Am I right?)

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