Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Stop vs no!

Do any of these sound familiar...?

No! Don't hit your sister over the head with that car!

No! Don't run away! (Whilst giving chase)

No, don't climb up there! You don't want to fall!

Negatives are a difficult concept to teach and to grasp. To littlies, hearing the word "no" can be the end of their world. To others with more complex language needs, it can be just another word they hear, but don't fully understand.

When I worked in a special school for children with severe learning difficulties, one thing we were always reminding staff of was that the children needed telling what to do rather than what not to do. If a child was running in the corridor, the teaching staff would naturally shout "no running!" Which would often seem to make the child run faster!! Instead we (the SLT's) would suggest to call the child's name, and tell them what they should be doing "Johnny, good walking, please!". This of course didn't work every time but did give a much better success rate!

Q: What's red and invisible?
A: No tomatoes!

At home, in similar situations, I have found that a quicker reaction is generally always achieved with a simple "stop!". If a hand gesture is used at the same time, and no additional language, the effect is even more dramatic. This at least gives you time to catch up with your littlie... And then give a positive alternative for them to try. So, "No! Don't pull your sister's hair, she doesn't like it!" May become "STOP! [with a hand gesture or sign] gentle hands, stroke her hair" or similar. 

"Never, ever..."

When a toddler is told "no" they can think it means they will never be allowed. And this can lead to tantrums and upset. If you can tell your child what you want them to do instead, and that they can do their activity later, this can be reassuring to them. E.g. Instead of "no tv" you could say "dinner first, then tv". When a child has language difficulties, a 'now and next' board with pictures can also be really useful to demonstrate this expectation. (I will be doing a future post on use of pictures and symbols, so will cover this then in more detail). 

Of course, every child is different and whilst these thoughts may be relevant to one family they may not be so useful for another. One child may learn "no" as his first word, and another might smile sweetly when you say it, but carry on regardless. Indeed in my family, my eldest (now 5) responded beautifully to my strategies. However, try the same things with my 20month son, and things end in an entirely different way!

Advice for me, please!

So, if anyone can leave me a comment to suggest what to do when my littlest one says "no" to me and creates a stand off, I'd be very grateful!!!  

How did you teach "no"?  Did your child understand "no"?  Was it their first word?! I'd love to hear from you...


Monday, 13 May 2013

Singing bags

What's your favourite nursery rhyme? Do you remember one in particular from your childhood? 

Everybody loves music, right?

Babies and toddlers are no exception!  Nursery rhymes are fun and interactive and so many skills are learned and developed by singing them to, with, or at your little ones!  Go to any playgroup and there is usually a singing part.   It's important: music stimulates different neurones in the brain to speech alone.  It helps children tune in to the different pitches which relate to speech sounds and intonation of words.  It encourages your littlie to learn the important social skills, and listening skills they will later put into good use when they become competent communicators... Bet you didn't realise all of that... it's true, even if you are out of tune!!

Favourite songs

Some babies and special children may not have developed the shared attention skills they need to be able to follow what they can hear.  Maybe you've been working on listening (see my previous posts on tuning in for speech, Listen as you walk and Stop look listen) and are ready for the next stage.

Work out which songs your child likes and responds to; a smile, a pause, a stillness, or a laugh.  Those will be the ones to use to create a shared activity by then finding corresponding toys.

He's not interested

So, what can we do when the children do not seem to be listening and their attention leads them elsewhere? It may be that your special little one has a developmental delay, or a specific disorder.  In that case, how do you help them to understand that what you are singing is different from the song before, or that it has specific meaning and the words link to real life things?

Bag it up...

So, based on what my 19month old likes, I picked a monkey for "5 little monkeys jumping on the bed" a rabbit for "hop little bunnies", a fish for "1, 2, 3, 4, 5", a teapot for "I'm a little teapot", and a farmer for "Old Macdonald".  All very popular here in the UK!  I nearly ended up with half the toy box, but remembered my own advice and stuck to just a few (also I didn't have a big enough bag!).  

Next, find a bag, pop them in, and take turns pulling out the toy with your littlie. This will straight away turn the objects into a game, just with the anticipation of wondering what will be pulled out - amazing, no extra preparation needed! 

If your littlie starts to look at you, or the toy you're holding, then you've achieved 'shared attention', one of the very important pre-verbal skills, so well done!  

If your littlie grabs the bag from you and rummages for the toy representing their fave song, you have achieved communication, so doubly well done!!

I've used this activity with children who find it really difficult to do Makaton signing, or make a clear choice.  They very soon recognise the bag and that it means singing time, and can get quite excited! As the child recognises what each toy represents, we can move on to introducing pictures or symbols and ultimately set up choice boards.  You can also stick with one song and pull out e.g. different animals for each verse of "Old Macdonald".  

Have any of you used objects or toys in this way or similar? I'd love to hear from you! Please leave a comment below, join the discussions on my facebook page, or email me...

Thanks for stopping by!