Friday, 25 November 2011

Communication - a #SpecialSaturday post

Ineffectively met communication needs are triggers for challenging behaviours. We use communication strategies akin to those suggested by The Challenging Behaviour Foundation and Jill Bradshaw at the Tizard Centre, who both kindly allowed me to use their ideas in my book 'Bringing Up a Challenging Child at Home.'

Positive statements about what a child is going to do are much clearer than telling them what they're not going to do. For example, if we say to Chrissy 'You're not going in the car, she only hears 'Chrissy' and 'car,' and gets distressed when she realises she will have to walk. The message would have been clearer to her if we'd told her what she was going to do: "Chrissy, you're going for a walk."

Abstract concepts are particularly difficult to understand. If I ask Chrissy what she's been doing that day she can't tell me. If I ask her what colour top I'm wearing, particularly if I point to it, she answers me correctly. Her verbal communication is misleading. She is able to understand simple phrases and use learned 'parrot fashion' phrases in context - called social masking.

Much of Chrissy's communication is stream of consciousness observations. She was sitting next to me earlier and looking around the room. "It's a mirror," she observed. Then answered herself with: "It certainly is." She began to list what she saw. "It's a yellow flower and trainers and brown. Home. Brilliant." *Thumbs up sign* She then turned to Ian, my husband, and asked: "You fine Ian?" "Say yes!" *Sign for yes.*

Chrissy can follow simple instructions involving up to two named objects, ie 'put your cup on the table.' Her expressive communication is limited. She can’t tell you if she feels hot, cold, hungry or sad, and will use behaviour rather than words to express her emotional needs. We use a combination of verbal, basic Makaton sign language and symbol aids to help her move through her day. Using communication strategies are crucial to help her to stay calm and they have to be adapted according to her mood. It's draining when she repeats the same question endlessly, and demands a specfic response each time - but fantastically rewarding when she deviates from her learned phrases and makes a meaningful attempt to communicate with us.

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  1. I use some of these strategies with aspie boy, especially the positive statements: I think they work well with all children x

  2. I agree. Wish I'd known about these strategies when my children were little. Seems common sense now to use positive statements & only offer 2 choices etc! x

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