Helping Nathan communicate his wants to other people:
I know Nathan loves it when I echo what he says. Sometimes I think he believes all he as to do is look at me or touch my mouth/chin and automatically, I know to echo him to his delight.
But always doing what he wants me to, will not teach him to communicate his needs to other people. So this is what I have been doing:
1. Get into the game:
I don’t challenge him right away. He looks/gestures then I do what he wants you to: echo his crazy language, like “Do it Tita Ika”…Don’t ask me what that means. It’s the equivalent of our tongue twisters. I’ll do this about 3 times until he’s laughing so loud.
2. Build a step at a time:
Before the 4the round, I model “Say ‘do it Tita Ika please.’ ” Then pause to give him time to respond.
3. Reward any attempt.
Sometimes he will just answer ” ‘Ika’ please.” Without the “say ‘Ika’ please”. Nevertheless, I give him the pleasure of listening to my echo.
This keeps him on the game and prolongs attention span instead of making him turned off at the challenge.
4. Try again.
Remember to keep being in the fun game. I continue to model a longer request, “Mama say ‘Ika’ please.”
5. Celebrate every step
When he does achieve the biggest request “Mama say … please” I echo his words in a bigger and funnier way than thank him for asking Mama.
6. Let go of the outcome
If in the end he did not achieve saying the whole request, at least the bigger priority was done: building the relationship!
Have fun son-rising!
Last Monday, Nathan was crying in his session with Tita Aldhel. Aldhel handled the crying very well:
1. She was really calm thus, not rewarding/reinforcing the crying.
2. She was a good detective, based on what preceded the crying, her best guess was that Nathan wanted to share an experience about riding the air plane, smilie faces in the mirror, etc. but cried when he could not express more.
3. She presented many alternatives to Nathan like sensory squeezes, toys or a glass water.
To add to the list, we were given more tips on crying and whining at the SR Intensive:
1. Move SLOWLY. Just as Aldhel was very clam, don’t make the crying/whining move you.
2. Yet, maintain the “YES” attitude. We always want to be user-friendly in order to continuously build the relationship. For example, you can express, “I really want to help you but you know what? I cannot understand you want when you whine. If you use your words I can understand you better and I can get you what you need right away!”
3. ACT LIKE A DUMMY. Example, you can offer “Nathan when you’re whining, I can’t understand what you want. I really want to help. Is it a glass of water that you want?… Maybe you want to squeeze?…”
4. Use a lot of EXPLANATIONS and PAUSE to give Nathan time to process what you said. Explain and believe that Nathan can understand what kids his age are told. I believe he can. The child facilitators noticed that it took 8 seconds before Nathan responded to their requests.
5. As soon as Nathan uses words or shows a good attempt, move FAST! Let him know that his words are very effective and can get him his needs fast while whining is less effective.
Nathan has sudden bursts of pinching, maybe biting, and soon as it starts, it’s over.
I just realized this is his way of communicating, “Stop that!” or “No!” This happens when Amor cries or shouts, or when Ian walks in to get my loud attention while I’m son-rising Nathan, or when he asks me nicely to go in the kitchen and I can’t say “yes”, etc.
So it’s very timely that we are targeting that he verbalizes his not wants.
I recall when they were toddlers, Amor could come over, hit him and walk away while Nathan couldn’t move. Kids hit because they can’t verbalize that they don’t want of they are frustrated. But soon as Nathan learned to proper forward by crawling, he would go over and bite her whenever she did something to him. It wasn’t an issue with me because I knew it was an adaptation to his communication needs and physical abilities.
Tantrums/crying/giggle is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact it’s a good indication that you are taking Nathan to the next level.
If Nathan was always happy with you that could imply that yes, you are building a wonderful relationship (and that’s great!) but he could be remaining at status quo in the other areas of development.
When you build upon his game or initiate a brand new game for him to participate, you are challenging Nathan’s limits. That’s A LOT of effort for a child with autism. Many kids simply walk away indicating that that have had enough and want to take a break in “their world.” Since Nathan cannot walk away, his best adaptation is to cry, tantrum or giggle to let you know, “Stop please! give me a break.”
After seeing signs of a tantrum coming, many if not all of you, simply give Nathan space and time. That helps him.
Here’s a photo of Tito Buddie swaying with Nathan to settle his tantrum. As usual, Nathan is singing the “I love you song.”
Tito Buddie is magnificent when coming up with games for Nathan. The tantrum? Probably Nathan’s just saying, “I’ve been on this next level long enough (about 45mins into the session)…can I back down?”
As I write this, Nathan is now settled and in fact laughing as Tito Buddie tickles him and crocodile bites his feet 😀
When Tita Aldhel Adique was looking for a book and when she dropped a book, Nathan said, “It’s ok.” We were both wondering if this was intentional speech or echolalia (or somewhere between intentional speech and echolalia)
My recommendations: Next time you hear Nathan say something accurately, reward him. Reward even if you’re not sure if it’s intentional speech or not. Actually reward him ESPECIALLY WHEN you think it’s echolalia but is coincidentally used accurately. Example say (and feel):
“‘It’s ok’ , thank you, that makes me feel better!” Or
“…thank you so kind of you!” Or whatever comes naturally or authentically for you.
Nathan has always had language processing issues. Echolalia is a tool kids with autism use to acquire new words. Sooner or later, echolalia always helps Nathan learn to use new words properly. We can make the process of learning faster by highlighting/celebrating/rewarding the times when he uses words (or expressions) appropriately.
I hope this is helpful.
For this month I did not target Nathan asking or answering questions because I didn’t see a current motivation that can be used to propel learning.
However, progress is fast 😉
I’ve noticed Nathan’s new ism is asking and answering:
– What did Ate Juliet Say?
– Edna Mode (the character from Mr. Incredible)
If he does say this in your session, please use it as an opportunity to practice asking and answering questions.
So first, forget that Nathan’s words don’t seem to have purpose or function (for you), and join him. I’m sure if you echo what he says, he will laugh. So build the relationship first and keep joining this verbal ism of his and enjoy his laughter.
Then try slight alterations. First you ask and he answers. Then try waiting for him to ask and you answer. Keep switching and see which he prefers.
Then try a bigger alteration. Ask something like:
“What did (your name) say?”
If he does not respond or look irritated, go back to the original lines. Build relationship again, get him to laugh again by simply joining.
Then challenge again. Wait for him to think about wether he will accept the alteration or not.
Also try changing the answer like:
“What did Ate Juliet say?”
“Eat na mode” (or anything that rhymes or has the same number of syllables or just anything different).
Very early on, we were aware of Amor’s motor issues (stiff muscles) and were aware that she would be delayed in ability to draw and write. In fact, I was even worried about how far she would get with writing.
But Amor is fighter. She loves to doodle with her crayons. Like an ism, we feel that her drawing is a way of “healing” herself and overcoming motor challenges.
In a day, all her drawings would be no different from the previous. Yet with every new drawing we give her a “good job!” It indeed is a good job to be able to draw something recognizable when your muscles don’t move fluidly like other kids.
With pride, we post her work (with Ian’s) on the wall. We don’t get tired of telling her that her new creation is better than the previous!
All the “good job!” said is worth it! Amor, on her own, has finally written her name with no assistance whatsoever! I would never have imagined that this milestone would come this early.
So, for Nathan’s case, we don’t get tired of telling him good job in so many ways:
Thank you for looking at me!
I like your smile!
Thank you for asking!
I love it when you look at me!
Each “good job” will help him find his way out of autism.
Pick a toy and identify simply games you can play using it.
1. When Nathan says he wants to go inside. Role play that you are climbing a mountain. Start with offering your hand to step on…oops that doesn’t work. Then ask Nathan if he wants a chair (or table) to step on. If he does not respond go ahead and get one. If he does and still has his green lights on, invite him to help you pull the chair. Back to role playing, climb the mountain cheering with every effort made, “Nathan is climbing *UP* woohoo!” Give a big cheer when he gets to the top and waive his conquering flag-the wedding gown!
2. Once on top, play hide-n-seek. Close he door and say, “Nathan, where are you?” As you find him, “there you are *IN* the cabinet!” Close the door again and do variations. “Oh no, Nathan is missing…I wonder if he’s *IN* the cabinet?” …..”I found you!”
Another variation, open the door which he is not behind and pretend you still cannot find him.
Next variation, turn your hand into a searching snake, open the door slightly so snake can peek in, maybe snake can even take a closer look and tickle Nathan while at it.
3. Play peek-a-boo.
Close the door and quickly get your props: wig, glasses, scarfs, swimming cap, etc.
Put on an item and knock on the door. Give clues about who’s knocking on the door and change voices ever time you change identifies. Like put on the swimming cap, pinch your nose then say, “Hey, there’s a penguin *OUT SIDE* Knock, knock, penguin wants to come *IN*…open the door please.” As he (or you, if he does not respond) opens the door, do a peek-a-boo gesture. Remember to watch his reaction and adjust your peek-a-boo celebration if Nathan thinks its too loud or too fast and surprising.
This is something I should always remind myself.
We spend a lot if time correcting our kids. But what do we do when our kids get it right?
Do an experiment. In a day, tally every time you correct your child (or mom or friend or office mate or subordinate, etc.) versus every time you celebrated that right things he did. Which list is the longest?
Why not spend more time celebrating what they are doing right than correcting what they are doing wrong?
As I watched Eric with Nathan, I noticed Eric stopped correcting Nathan’s “W” sitting position to “Indian sit” position. The “W” sit is really bad for his knees. Eric did this to simply be more of a “friend” and gain Nathan’s trust…not a bad decision considering how he assessed the situation. However, I also saw Nathan independently do the “Indian sit” at least 3 times during the session.
Why not celebrate what he did right? Eye’s wide open (like you just saw a rare treasure), with big body gestures say something like, “Oh my gosh! You did an Indian sit all by yourself! Amazing!”….or whatever celebration comes naturally to you.
Kids, or everyone for that matter, become more motivated when they are told they got it right, rather than when they keep on feeling they got it wrong.
Thanks Eric, your session was an eye-opener for me.