How Exposure, Opportunity, and Experience make a Difference in Teaching Concepts
I’m using this Saturday morning, taking a brief break from studying, and watching the movie “Hardball” with Keanu Reeves. It’s a story of redemption for Keanu as he is tasked to coach an inner city youth baseball team. True to life, he eventually learns that investment has a cost and the teaching-learning is reciprocal. In a memorable statement, he asks the team if they’ve ever been to a baseball game. The children reply “No”. Keanu states “Until you see a baseball team, you’ll never learn to be one”.
Isnt’ this what we know as therapist’s. ABA, Speech, Occupational Therapist. Especially those of us that work with children with autism. Being is Seeing.
When we want our client’s to BE…we essentially want them to learn the concept and the proof of learning is in the data. You know those pesky numbers that require us to show that what we are doing has social relevance, is working, and has generality.
But our client’s need to “see a baseball team”. How do we deeply want our clients to identify fruits, vegetables, foods when the the opportunity to go to the grocery store doesn’t happen, the experience of eating a select food item happens often, and the exposure to only what he will eat continues to exist. How then and what connection do our clients have with our learning tools and teaching stimuli? I was amazed in doing language therapy with a group of children last year that in discussing animals, none had ever visited a zoo; asking them about where to find books, few had visited the library. How do we as therapist’s get up this mountain of language lack and get to acquisition, fluency, and generalization of new concepts?
- WE MUST WANT TO.
First things first. The desire to get to know what our clients know has to be there. We must have the motivation to build our treatment around them, allowing the learning material and objects to be motivators. The connection to the learning tools is because of interest and the need to know more. Connect the small interest and expand on that. After all, project based learning such as Reggio Emilia does this with typical brain developers. How awesome is this to take this concept of interest and expansion into the world of discrete trial teaching and ABA therapy. For instance, if your client loves all things “red’. Why not start with red things, apples, candy, veggies, chips, crayons and use them to teach categories and smaller categories (i.e. fruit, snacks, shapes, colors, crayons, clothing, etc.).
2. DON’T ASSUME. GET TO KNOW YOUR CLIENT.
Here is where it’s not tricky at all, but this is where therapist’s get in their own way. This is the part we miss. I recently read a post on FB from an SLP who gave reasons why she no longer does home visits…”section 8 families never home, too busy to answer the door because of drugs, sex, and alcohol”. Because we live in a world of screen shots, I was flabbergasted. I also thought…this therapist could not have any true friends-colleagues to remind her that arrogance has no place in the heart work of therapy and to take that #$@# down! So the getting to know our clients is simply taking on each as an individual. Not all families who speak a second language are dysfluent in English, they can be fluent in both and have a great language rich home. A child of surgeons, can have poor opportunities and exposure because they may not fit the picture of what is imaged. Never assume. Get to know them, lay down your profiling and stereotypes, and MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
3. CREATE COMMUNITY RELATIONSHIPS.
You want your client’s to have social opportunities. You want them to experience the vocabulary and actually engage with the concepts and words you teach. Well this where the extra mile gets impactful. Make calls to your local library, supermarkets,museums, and arrange discounts or make it more autism friendly so that the loudness, etc. of the place doesn’t get in the way of them experiencing the target goal. And how about those supports coordinators for autism waivers and such…this is what they should really be doing to make the therapy work. So let’s help them be better at and more integral in coordinating and establishing those community relationships for you. It takes a village. Yes. And village creation is not magical. It takes reaching out, reaching across, and communication.
4. BE IMPACTFUL. MOVE AWAY FROM WORKSHEETS.
I don’t like worksheets for most things especially therapy homework. Circle the_____. Cross out the _____. Versus write down your dinner,circle the vegetable, the dairy. Look through this article on USA today or Time for Kids, make a video summary and tell me about what you read. In a world of SnapChat, Instagram, Facebook Live and all things to come…I don’t want my client on these platforms engaging in ways that look as if therapy were never part of his world. To be impactful in 2016 and beyond, today’s therapist will need to assign relevant homework with applicable outputs. The therapist will have to assign experiences and discuss them rather than the solitary worksheet that may support acquisition but will not readily yield fluency and out of touch generalization.
Seeing is Being. And on the flipside…how can a therapist assign a client to make an Instagram video and give a movie review (2 things you like and don’t like about a movie), if they themselves don’t use the tools. Going to the baseball game is a two part. The coach had already experienced this phenomena and studied it…he enjoyed it and saw the relevance and therefore exposed his apprentice. As people in this world, we experience life…and don’t bring the “baseball” game to the therapy room and we lack relationship with our families…never getting to know them beyond the surface. Time out for this! Life is not only short, but our time spent together must be impactful.
Therefore, my clients have no room for my assumptions about their life…I need to bring them to the baseball game…to frame the words from the Statue of Landria, SLP GURU
Bring me your behaviors. Food Aversions. Sarcastic say anything selves. Bring your spitting, bolting, and focused interests. Bring your inflexibility, large vocabulary and small experiences. Bring me your large experiences that you keep to yourself. Bring me your hitting. Bring your slang, defensiveness…I am your Autism Therapist…it is my job to accept you, broaden your world, and make you better for having known me…not from any pseudoscience, but from evidenced based practice, real world application, and data collection. Bring yourself. I bring myself. And let’s get to work! ~Landria Seals Green
We WILL THRIVE!!
~Landria Seals Green, SLP GURU