Updated: Dec 30, 2020
Yesterday was better! It feels good when you can say that. Those days actually happen more often than not. After years of being detective, thinking in ways that anticipate his environmental difficulties – that and understanding basic behavior analysis principles – I was able to navigate a day that supported his weaknesses while heralding his strengths. Since I am one who loves a good analogy, it’s like guiding Stevie Wonder to a keyboard. He might need help getting there, but once he puts his fingers on the keys, all you hear is magic!
Essentially, that’s what teaching my son is like. Sometimes, it takes a lot of bells and whistles to figure out how to help him access a new concept. The thing is to keep trying. Some things work, and some things don’t. For example, his 5th grade curriculum presents 24 spelling words and 6 vocabulary words in one week. (Yes, I said one week!) When we – I say ‘we’ because I have a wonderful, dedicated and devoted behavior technician who works alongside me and my son. I am not alone – Thank you Jesus! (see my Helping Hands post).
When we tried to teach word definitions, he simply smiled at us and started his little humming sounds. This is his way of saying, “I’m not upset, but I have no idea what you want from me. So, I’m just going to keep humming until you get it together.” Over time, I have learned his nonverbal cues. I’ll share more as I continue to expose my layers.
Back to the situation at hand. How do I get him to understand these new word definitions? This is where an understanding of his strengths and weaknesses saves the day. Weakness: auditory processing. Simply talking to him about a concept, especially a new concept that I am trying to teach him is typically not going to work. Strength: visual learner with strong computer skills.
In the analogy of leading Stevie to the keyboard, I placed the computer keyboard in front of him. On the screen, I place a table of all the words, with each word inside it’s own box. I tell him to look up the word and find a picture for it. What fun! This is something he could do. He started clicking away at the keyboard, finding pictures for words like snarl (Gumball with a monster face and fangs), whimper (his favorite baby character from Super Why who is always crying), and my favorite, tranquility (a women siting underwater in a lotus position). These pictures provided a meaningful representation of the word definitions. Once he completed his picture flash cards, we went back to do the definition exercise. All I can say is, “Play, Stevie! Play!”