By Monica Morela, behavioral aide at Connecting Dots
Many scholars within the field of disability studies illustrate the relationship between service providers and families by using different analogies. Yuen (2003) describes how having a child with a disability can be like embarking on a journey to space. Such a quest can be exciting at times, lonely, or scary; and asking for help along the way is always necessary. Alternatively, parents describe having a child with a disability as feeling like a spider sitting on a web (Yuen, 2003). Where weak strands are strengthened by connection, and where a ‘web’ of professionals are there to help. I think that Fialka (2001) beautifully illustrates the professional-family relationship by comparing this connection to a dance. In service provider relationships and in a dance, there is an element of forced intimacy. The nature of our circumstances brings us nose-to-nose with strangers in ways that can be awkward. Being aware of this awkwardness can help behavioral aides and therapists to think about how we can reduce the number of times we step on toes!
Another dimension of Fialka’s (2001) illustration that I found very poignant was the idea of who leads the dance of services. Many practitioners will refer to parents as the experts on their children. It might be more accurate to refer to parents as contributors. In a dance, each individual’s contribution can evolve and build on each other as we offer different perspectives about a child. Finally, in a dance, each partner listens to music that guides the movements of their dance. In the dance of services, ‘music’ can be an illustration of priorities. Priorities for parents and service providers can sometimes differ. This difference can lead to misunderstandings regarding the role and goal of services. When practitioners are willing to put on parents ‘headphones’ they will hear the experiences of parents and will be more effective in strengthening the parent-professional relationship.
Fialka, J. (2001). The dance of partnership. Young Exceptional Children, 4(2), 21–27. https://doi.org/10.1177/109625060100400204
Yuan, S. (2003). Seeing with new eyes: Metaphors of family experience. Mental Retardation, 41(3), 207-211. doi:10.1352/0047-6765(2003)412.0.co;2
By: Simran Saroya
I wanted to shine some light on a topic I am very passionate about and that is culturally diverse families and what opportunities look like for them. As we work with diverse families and diverse circumstances, we must acknowledge the culture in the homes vs. the culture we may be accustomed to. Western culture is what we base most of our observations and inferences on. What we must understand is that nonverbal and verbal communication looks different across all cultures. For example, eye contact may be an indicator to us that a child is paying attention although in other cultures it may be a sign of respect that they are not meeting eye to eye. It is very important for families, aides and therapists to talk about cultural norms and what that may look like in their household. Another example may be head-nodding for “yes” or “no” answers. In a western worldview, horizontal head-nodding means no, and vertical head-nodding means yes. In other cultures such as Bulgarian, this is completely the opposite. Although most children are accustomed to the western system, it is important to recognize that some may not be and this conversation is important. Lastly, I wanted to share an example of sharing feelings across cultures. As therapists and aides we encourage children to share feelings and express emotions openly while some cultures such as eastern cultures may not encourage speaking about feelings openly.
The biggest takeaway from this short blog post is that cultural norms are very important to understand especially when working with children from many different family backgrounds and dynamics. We definitely understand that all systems in a child’s life are connected and can impact them, but culture is one system that has a huge impact. By better understanding the roles in the home, the child’s needs, the child’s expectations in the house and the parents expectations, we are able to help the children much better.
I found some resources that can help us understand different cultures a bit better when working with children and their nonverbal vs. verbal responses. I will link them down below.
This one talks about eye contact and the differences across all cultures :
This one talks about head nodding and the differences across cultures around the world :
This one talks about emotions:
Prezi on Emotions: https://prezi.com/7uqz2kwlrp19/expressing-emotion-east-vs-west/
Nonverbal communication examples:
By: Asmaa Fellah
Starting school (including preschool and kindergarten) is a major transitional event in children’s lives. With transition comes change, and with change comes coping and adapting. For many children, coping with change can be very daunting and intimidating, especially when children have fears. Children are scared of being away from their parents in a new setting and environment. In addition, they are also scared of rejection, meeting new people, and failure.
In kindergarten, many children begin to feel separation anxiety and will start crying, yelling, screaming, and throwing temper tantrums, especially on the few first days. Children are attached to their parents, and therefore feel a sense of securement when their guardians are in their environment. Rather, when children are away from their guardians for the first time and for long periods of time, he or she feels lonely and scared. Not only do they feel scared, but their environment also is completely new to them and they feel lost and overwhelmed. Their sense of securement is instantly gone, leaving them with a sense of fear from their new environment. This is a commonly seen fear amongst kindergarteners.
As children continue in their schooling, expectations and accomplishments are expected from teachers and parents. Homework and assignments are expected to be completed, inside school grounds and outside school grounds. Fear of failure starts to arise as children may be overwhelmed with how much they need to get done, or maybe the difficulty of the tasks, or the pressure of parents and teachers. Fear of failure may prevent them from enjoying school as it will feel forced and unwanted. In addition, children may think that if they don’t meet these expectations and complete their work, a harsh consequence may be set.
The mentioned fears and concepts are applicable to how protentional feelings a child might feel prior to and during an in-home service. Remember, you are a complete stranger to this child and in their point of view, you might be invading their territory. In addition, that child doesn’t have other children around him or her, so they might feel more singled out leading to increased feelings of fear. Now how do we overcome this?
Time and patience. One must understand the difficulty that a child endures when trying to become comfortable and opening up to strangers. In a situation where an in-home aide only has 4 hours, this becomes exceptionally more difficult as it takes longer for the child to become comfortable and adapt.
Second, it is crucial to provide a therapeutic environment that includes the least restrictive environment is necessary for children’s growth and development. A least restrictive environment (LRE) is incorporated in a therapeutic environment. The more negative and unsafe environment, the more children are least likely to learn appropriate behavior to adapt to new environments and events. Proper educational and behavioral support includes an LRE that incorporates a therapeutic and engaging environment, allowing students to prosper and flourish intellectually, emotionally, and socially.
When a student feels safe, he or she is more likely to engage in actions and adventure outside of their confront zone. On the other hand, a student is more likely to present inappropriate actions such as not listening, and engage in inappropriate behavior if the safety component is not presented in their environment. Students use these tactics as a defense mechanism in order to create a sense of safety. A safe environment also creates a sense of welcome and is composed of mutual respect, no-judgment rule. When teachers engage in welcoming actions such as smiling at their students and asking how they’re doing, the students are less likely to be guarded and rather open up and show their true selves. Providing a no-judgment rule allows for students to feel safe to take new opportunities, experiment with new strategies, and engage in new appropriate behavior.
An LRE environment speaks about the accessibility to preferred activities for exceptional students which in turn increases responsiveness to new behavior. Much the same as adults, youngsters have interest and preference which makes them more inclined to complete a task when these are available. Students are also more likely to rebel against the teacher which results in inappropriate behavior if the task is too boring or too demanding. It is important to relate academic and non-academic tasks to the preferences of the exceptional student when possible. When tasks personally relate to the student, he or she is more like to be engaged in the activity. The accessibility to preferred activities also fosters creativity and active learning for these students. Realistically, not all tasks are relatable to different interests nor appeal to students, rather rewarding them after a completed task with an interest of theirs is also effective. For example, a reward for a student who enjoys reading could be ten extra minutes of preferred reading after finishing a math worksheet. Using these techniques increases the chances of responsiveness and participation for all students and can in turn lead to increased active learning.
To summarize, utilizing these strategies allows aides to create a sense of security and welcoming. We all must be patient in regards to children opening up. It is crucial to allow enough time, create a positive atmosphere and allow the child to engage in activities they love. These strategies not only benefit’ the aides but also allows students to take risks and new attempts without feeling embarrassed or afraid.
By: Crystal McNaughton
Does your child turn off the screen/IPad/tablet when you ask? How many times do you have to remind your child to turn it off? Maybe I’ll rephrase the question….how many times do you have to nag/yell at your child to turn off their tablet? (or does this just happen at my house?) Does your child kindly turn their screen off and easily move on to another activity? Oops, rephrase again…What does your child’s “tablet tantrum” look like?
If your child does easily turn off their screen and calmly refocus themselves on something else, can you please call me? Because I need to know your secret!
I have had many, many parents tell me about how hard it is to get their child to ‘transition from the tablet’ and explain how challenging their behaviors are after the tablet is gone. I’ve witnessed it myself when I tell (okay nag) my kids to turn off their tablets, sometimes ending up grabbing it from them. What usually happens is they scream, yell, or break down in tears. Next, they start fighting. The older one sits on the younger one. The younger one bites the older one. I’m left feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, as well as that good ol’ parent guilt for letting them watch their tablets too much. If this sounds familiar to you, please know, it’s not just you. It’s not just your child.
There’s a reason behind the ‘tablet tantrum.”
When kids are on a screen or tablet, it looks as if they are quiet, sitting, focused, and calm. Actually, what is happening in their brains at this time is the opposite. A number of neurochemicals are required to be in balance in our kid’s brains, and tablets and screen time can disrupt this balance. Video games or other gaming can create a release of dopamine, which feels good for kids, thus they always want MORE. There is never enough.
Next comes an adrenaline response, which is the ‘fright/flight/fight’ response. The brain releases adrenaline which prepares the body’s stress response. Psychological stress can also trigger an increase in cortisol; the stress hormone. Take away the ‘feel good’ dopamine and we see a ‘withdrawal’ effect.
So, we ask a child to turn off their tablet, and what we see is an angry person pumped full of ‘fight or flight’ energy. A tablet tantrum.
There are recommendations for screen time. I know things in this world are so stressful as it is, and I’ve definitely given my kids more screen time than I’d like to admit. But I’m trying. We’re all trying.
If you want to check-in and see what is a recommended amount of screen time for your kid, take a look here: https://www.aacap.org/AACAP/Families_and_Youth/Facts_for_Families/FFF-Guide/Children-And-Watching-TV-054.aspx
Taking away the tablet from your child will usually be hard. But setting limits is important, as there will never be enough screen time if it were up to our kids. Take a deep breath, and remind yourself, that you’re setting limits, you’re doing what’s best for your child by enforcing those limits and encouraging breaks from the screen. If you want to make some changes, your Connecting Dots therapists are there to help you along the way. Remember, we’re all here with you during those tablet tantrums.
By Christine Marchant
There many ways a child will show you that he or she doesn’t want to cooperate. There are many reasons the child isn’t cooperating. Although it may be difficult to figure out why a child is behaving a certain way, it may be counterproductive to make assumptions regarding the motives of his or her behaviour. In the previous post I described how I responded to the volatile child that verbally attacked a CDF (child development facilitator) with everything he had in his skill box. These are the children that are the hardest to love and accept. They tend to push away everyone, which is sad because they really are in need of the love, smiles, hugs, acceptance, and guidance from an adult. In this post, I will describe how I respond to the child that runs away, or darts and hides. These children are difficult to communicate with because they resist by removing themselves from what they see as a threat. These children will refuse to participate in activities and often will climb railings, shelves, counters, tables, etc. Taking these children outside is a HUGE danger!
Communicating with these types of children takes a lot of quiet body and patience. It looks like you are doing what the child wants, but that’s because you are! You need to guide the child to do what you want him to do, and you do this by guiding him towards what he is interested in. If you only provide the activities that you want the child to do, and it’s something that the child loves, you will be able to engage him.
Bringing activities that the child loves isn’t going to be enough for these children because this can lead to them becoming rigid and manipulating you into doing what he wants to do, the way he wants to do it. The point of being a CDF is to be the one in charge of bringing the child along and developing a relationship and maturity. I am always talking about meeting the child on his level. This means going to where the child is always running to. If it’s in his bed, have the session on his bed. If he’s running to the top floor landing overlooking the family living area, you go there. If it’s under the table, you go under the table. I once spent half a preschool morning under a table, lying on my belly, watching the class mates and the child I was with help my hand the entire time. I didn’t make any demands, or have any expectations of him. We laid there watching the other children playing. When you go to their safe place, you will see why he choses it and you will get a better feeling for the ‘why’ he’s doing what he’s doing.
If you are working with children, this is where you start the session. As a parent, you are always keeping this goal in mind. The goal is to keep the child regulated and engaged. You want to continue building a relationship with the child and slowly move him from his safe place to a more functional area. This is the fastest way with the least amount of stress and fuss. This can take thirty minutes up to a month. When I have this type of child, I bring my picnic blanket. I place it in the child’s safe place. This is a bridge between the safe place and the place you are going to be. Change only 1 thing at a time. Change is a stressor for these children. Keep the location and the activity, and change the bridge.
Once the child is comfortable and eager to sit and stay on the blanket doing the activities he enjoys, you start to drag the blanket towards the new spot. Some will drag the blanket back to the original spot. You just calmly say, “It’s ok. It’s only a couple of inches, leave it here.” The child will usually accept it. Once the child is comfortable here, you drag it a couple of inches towards the new spot, and you just calmly reassure him that it’s only a couple of inches and it’s ok. Just keep repeating this. Always keep the activities fun and do what the child is engaged in. Keep the blanket, but the only change is the dragging of the blanket to the new place.
When you are doing this, you must remember that the goal is not the activities. The goal is to keep the child calm, engaged, regulated, and moving to the targeted area. When you finally get to the target area, you change the goal. Now the goal is to move the child up to the next level of play, or maybe speech, or social thinking. At this point, the child is now calm, trusting, and has a relationship with you. Keep the blanket and change the activity. You can do occupational therapy, speech, or just play or read on the blanket. The blanket has now become their safe place.
When the child is now engaged in the targeted goals, you will be leaving the blanket more often for longer periods. Eventually, you will remove the blanket. Sometimes the child notices it, but if you time it correctly, he won’t even notice and eventually, you just stop bringing it. This can be the tricky part. With the blanket gone, you must keep the activities fun and the child engaged. Don’t introduce an undesired activity while the child is transitioning to the new place. Make sure that the child remains calm, which may mean that you drop your expectations or demands on the child. If the child does start to get escalated, it is a good idea to keep his favourite toy or book nearby. It’s also ok to be goofy and make silly faces or engage in a lighthearted way that makes the child feel more comfortable. Regardless of the behaviour, every child is still just a child.
By Christine Marchant
I have been a mother for over 30 years and I ran a private day home for 20 years. I was also a nanny, a child development facilitator for 6 years, and worked one to one with many therapists on many specialized teams for helping children. I have observed that there are many ways a child will show you that he doesn’t want to cooperate. There are many reasons the child isn’t cooperating. In this post, I will list a few ways the child may behave, and a few reasons why he may be using this tactic.
Sometimes an uncooperative attitude or behaviour is anxiety, attention seeking, stress, or previously learned behaviour. We don’t know what is happening inside the child, so we do need to be sensitive to the “why” and not just assume our own reasons for this behaviour. Too often, I hear adults say things like, “oh he’s being bad,” “He doesn’t like me,” “That kid is a BRAT!” or “He’s spoiled!” When an adult thinks these thoughts at the onset of the activity, it taints their approach and reaction to the child. These children tend to get a bad reputation because it’s very hard to work with a child who refuses to cooperate, especially when he is VERY LOUD and negative in this refusal. Some of their behaviours may include yelling, screaming, throwing things, hitting, running away, climbing railings, darting away, knocking things over, hiding, kicking, swearing, or being very passive and just laying there and staring at nothing, or closing his eyes, humming, reading a book, playing with toys and not acknowledging your existence. This is a child’s way of saying that they want you gone.
The child is a child, and he doesn’t even know that he is resisting to cooperate. Often his mouth is being disagreeable, while his brain is saying “What is happening?” This is the vital turning point of the session. When you find yourself locked into a battle with the child, you are at the critical point where it will calm down and go positive or it will completely fall apart. The way you handle the situation will set the tone not only for the session, but actually for the rest of the time you work with that child. You need to take control of the situation and set the tone right away. If you are finding yourself in this battle, drop all expectations. Put your lesson plan away, look at the child, stop talking and just wait. If you have just walked in, just stand silently at the door. If you are in the living room or at the kitchen table, just stop. Don’t put anything away, because this may be a trigger and set the child off. Just slow your breathing, and stand silent. Your body should be prepared for anything, but on the outside, you look calm and passive. Count to thirty and keep your eyes on him! He may throw a toy at you, or dash up, kick you or run away. Answer any questions the child may ask, in a calm quiet voice. Do not use an overly sweet voice because kids see right through it. Just answer normally with as few words as possible. It sounds silly and wrong, but just spend as long as needed in that spot. One day, I spent the whole session standing at the front door. The child threw a fit and ran away screaming every time I showed up. I just stood there, the mom chased the child, scolding and threatening and cajoling, and bribing etc, which just made it worse. When he didn’t get attention from me doing this, he’d greet me with a disdainful “what are you doing here?” This moved into a blatant swearing fest, and saying “I hate you”. I would just sit silent, and he would try to flip the table and throw toys. I continued to remain calm no matter what happened.
Eventually, he would desire my attention. When he reached this point, I knew he was ready for my input. I then printed out my expectations for the session. I also printed out the consequences for the ‘unexpected’ behaviours. This was an older child. He understood natural consequences and the token system. The approach I took with this child is not the same one I use with another child. When working with these children, we must ALWAYS remember that this is a child. A child is a child, and we should not put our life stories onto them. They are not inherently bad or bratty. We stay calm, and allow them to come to us. I honestly don’t know why these children behave this way. I’ve had many of these children in my day home, because these are children that were kicked out of all the other day homes, and the parents hear through word of mouth that Christine takes on the difficult kids. I took in every child, with every type of issue, and I just accepted each one the way they were, an each one was an amazing child. I was also a nanny for years. Now that’s a job! I’ve had a child who sat at the dinner table, looked me in the eyes and put her feet on the table and said “so, you’re the new nanny. I’ll tell you right now, you will not make it to the end of the month, we’ve had 4 nannies fired before you, DON’T unpack your bags” this was said by a beautiful, blond, blue eyed 9 year old girl. I worked there for a long time!
The point that I am making, is to meet the child at their level. This does not mean, that if the child swears, we swear, if he hits, we hit, or if he glares at us, we glare at him. It means that we put our lesson plans to the side, smile, and remain quiet and passive. I tend to do something while I wait. That one session I spent at the door, I literally did nothing. During another session with the same child, I sat at the table taking notes the whole session. I did not chase, follow, or try in any way to engage the child. I did not play with his toys in the hope that he would get curious and join me.
In the next post, I will share with you how I get the younger children who run away to cooperate. The one I described in this post was an older child, who was very volatile, verbally explosive, and aggressive. It took a long time but, my patience won the day. The child was such a little darling and sweetheart once he pushed through his block. The last time I saw him, he was a thoughtful, kind, and polite little boy. I was sad to move on.
By Tammy Cheng
Toilet training involves many steps (discussing, undressing, going, wiping, dressing, flushing, hand washing) and it is a big skill to learn for a child. The secret to success is timing and patience.
Is it time?
Toileting training success depends on physical, developmental and behavioural milestones, not age. Many children show signs of being ready for toilet training between ages 24 and 36 months. However, others might not be ready until they’re 4 years old. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to see if your child is ready:
- Can your child stay dry for up to two hours?
- Does your child seem uncomfortable with soiled or wet diapers?
- Can your child communicate when he or she needs to go?
- Can your child understand and follow basic directions?
- Can your child walk to and sit on a toilet for a few minutes?
- Does your child have regular and predictable bowel movements?
- Can your child pull down his or her pants and pull them up again?
- Does your child seem interested in using the toilet or ask to wear grown-up underwear?
If you answered mostly no, you might want to wait. If you answered mostly yes, your child might be ready.
Ready, set, go!
When it’s time to begin potty training, follow these steps:
- Get the equipment ready.Place a potty chair in the bathroom or, initially, wherever your child is spending most of his or her time. Make sure your child’s feet rest on the floor or a stool. Read story books with your child to teach them about potty. Use simple, positive language to talk about the toilet. Start with encouraging your child to sit on the potty in his/her clothes.
- Schedule potty time.Include toileting training into the daily routine. Have your child sit on the potty or toilet without a diaper for a few minutes first thing in the morning, before bedtime, right after naps, as well as every 2 hours throughout the day. Allow your child to get up if he or she wants. Offer praise for trying and remind your child that he or she can try again later. To maintain consistency, bring the potty chair with you when you’re away from home with your child (i.e. camping, road trip).
- Be ready any time!Keep your child in loose, easy-to-remove clothing. When you notice signs that your child might need to use the toilet (i.e. “pee dance”, squatting or holding the genital area), respond quickly. Stop what you child is doing, take him/her to the bathroom, help him/her undress, and sit on potty. Try not to push for immediate results. After a few minutes, help the child with the rest of the routine and give praise for the effort or any successes they had. Help your child become familiar with these signals, and praise your child for telling you when he or she has to go. Consider using a small reward immediately when your child actually voids in potty. It is more effective when your child is intrinsically motivated.
- Ditch the diapers.After a couple of weeks of successful potty times and remaining dry during the day, your child is ready for underwear! Celebrate the transition. Consider using a sticker or star chart for positive reinforcement.
Nap and night-time training typically take longer to achieve. It depends heavily on body functions, and it usually comes naturally as the child gets used to controlling the bladder throughout the day. Most children can stay dry at night between ages 5 and 7. In the meantime, use disposable training pants and waterproof mattress protector when your child sleeps.
- If your child resists using the potty chair or toilet or isn’t getting the hang of it within a few weeks, take a break. Chances are he or she isn’t ready yet. Try again in a few months.
- Accident happens. Never punish or shame your child for accidents. Stay calm, clean and change your child immediately. Be positive and reassuring that they will be successful.
- Never force your child to sit on the toilet against their will or for long periods of time if they do not want to. This could set up a power struggle and negative feeling towards toileting training.
- Plan toilet training for when you or a caregiver can devote the time and energy to be consistent on a daily basis for a few months.
- For boys, it’s often best to master urination sitting down, and then move to standing up after bowel training is complete.
- Toilet training may best be accomplished by starting at home first, and then at child care.
When to seek help
If you have questions about potty training or your child is having difficulties, talk to your child’s doctor or Occupational Therapist. He or she can give you guidance and check to see if there’s an underlying problem!
By Christine Marchant
If you have read my previous posts, you’ll notice that I have a system for teaching 5-W-H questions. Levels one through three deal with concrete who, what, where, when, why, and how questions, while level four is concerned with asking the child about what can happen in the future. It’s quite easy to teach the first two levels. When the child becomes more aware of their world, and isn’t easily entertained by the simple flash cards or photos, the teaching becomes more challenging. I find that they are now more interested in the games. I like to try plenty of new games to test the child’s interest and to see if the game will match the goal. We play the game at least three times with no target goals. This is how I build the interest and desire to play the game. The goal here is to create a strong desire to play the game. At this level, it’s the game and the interactions with the people that keep the child involved and wanting to cooperate. It doesn’t matter what the game is, as long as you explain to the child that the reason you are doing the sessions is to help the child achieve the targets. Hopefully, at this level, you’ve already created a relationship of trust and honesty. This is my favorite level of the relationship with the child because they are opened enough to actually understand why you are spending the time with them. They are usually enthusiastic about achieving their goals. I explain to the child that we play the game with no targets and then when we really enjoy the game we add the targets.
While playing the games, I use a LOT of WE, US, OUR, and TEAM WORK language to motivate the child and let her know that we are working together. The language you use will determine the attitude of the child. They LOVE to take ownership of their learning. By this level, they seldom resist doing their “work.” The games are now a fun way to make the sessions go faster. They may MOAN and GROAN or ROLL their eyes, and declare “you’re the meanest aide EVER!!” BUT, it’s all said in laughter and good cheer. If you have a good relationship with them, you play along, then say, “OK! Let’s get down to business, and get it done. ” If you don’t have a relationship with the child and are just jumping in, don’t start at this level!! If I were to start teaching the 5-W-H without knowing the child, I would ALWAYS start at a lower level and see where the child is, then move up the levels, in the same order, at the speed that matches the child. This level is based entirely on trust and a relationship with the child.
Teaching what happens after is the trickiest part for children because it requires abstract thinking. It’s been proven that we can envision the past easier than the future. The future is difficult because it can be any possibility. The past now seems more concrete than the future because it’s easier to prove. If you have one of those children that LOVE to argue and declare that a dragon has super powers and can possibly run for government in the future, LET IT GO!!!! Don’t argue with the child, but try to remember the goal! At this point, the goal is opening their minds to future possibilities, not to debate what the future actually can be (natural consequences will take care of that). Here is my method:
1) Find books and tons of photos that show a ton of details. I use books, flash cards, random photos, even advertisement photos.
2) Bring out their favorite game and lay the photos beside the game.
3) At this level, the child already knows the expectations.
4) Start the game. The first player looks at the picture and describes what she sees. This is important because this gives the story as they see it. It’s concrete, so use concrete language like “the people are in the boat”, “the dog is in the water”, or “the waves are huge”.
5) All the players look at the picture, then agree or disagree with the player’s description.
6) The player then says what the possible future may be. Using the language, “I think the waves will push the boat over”, “I think they will rescue the dog”, or “I think the people in the boat will be beamed up by aliens”. It doesn’t matter what the child says. The goal is not to correct the child’s idea of the future. The goal is to have the child be flexible in their thinking. If it’s dark, you can leave it, or have your version of the future when it’s your turn. Do NOT correct the child during their turn. It’s their turn and you can damage the relationship if you are constantly correcting the child on their turn. Save that for another goal, at another time.
7) When the child is finished predicting, the turn is over and they take their turn playing the game. Often by this level, the interest can be more into the predicting than playing the game. If the child wants to go on and on with their predictions, let them because the game is not the goal. This does not go on for hours. Whenever you choose to teach a target, you choose the system and how long it will last. You can set the expectation as an open ended game, which is with a timer, or closed ended one, which is with the number of turns.
8) I alternate between the open and closed ended. We seldom ever finish the game at this level, which is not a big deal.
9) Never let the game go for more than ten minutes for the very young, and fifteen for the older children. Put on the timer, and when it goes off, you say, “Do you want the game to be over?” or “Do you want to play for another ten or fifteen minutes?”.
10) If they choose game over, you can smile and say it was a fun game. If they choose to play, set the timer. If they want more, you tell them that you will play it at the next session, and then keep your word.
This is the end of sharing how I teach 5-W-H questions. In the future, I will share the different approaches I take. The system always stays the same, but the approach and materials change. As I said in earlier posts, I’m not a therapist or have formal education in teaching. I am a mom for thirty-one years and have lots of experience with children from parenting and running a private day home for twenty years. I was also a nanny in between and during doing those jobs. I have also been a child development facilitator for five years. I hope you enjoyed my posts, and found at least one tip to help you teach the 5-W-H questions!
By Christine Marchant
If you read my previous posts, you’d notice that I have a system to teaching the 5-W-H questions.
By the time the child has surpassed level two and is ready for level three, he is not impressed with the ‘preschool’ attempts. The magnetic fishing and the Caribou games no longer hold his interest. Using basic pictures will often bore him to death! There is no right or wrong way to teach, but the best way is to match your system to the child’s learning style. It is important to observe if the child is an active or passive learner. The active learner loves games and action. The passive learner prefers work sheets, scrabble and card games etc. I have watched many therapists teach the 5-W-H questions to children. Most of them are for younger children, I have had a few older children that are a bigger challenge. The little children are happy with ANY game you come up with, while the older ones are more tricky. With the older children, I find just saying: “this is our target—this is what we are doing and when we are finished, then you can play your game” is the more effective. We set up their favorite game, then we do “target” then your turn, “target” then your turn. My rules are that we do two cycles of “target’ games, then we do one game “free style” game. Free style is playing the game any way the child wants to. It’s ok if the child rigs it for them to win EVERY TIME! I don’t care! Just get the child hooked.
Teaching before and after is often a challenge. It’s vague and abstract thinking. It’s been proven that we can envision the past easier than the future. That’s why I teach “before” first.
1) Find books or photos that show a TON of details in each photo. I use books, flash cards, and random photos saved on to my Ipad.
2) I bring out their favorite game, then the photos.
3) At this level, the child is already hooked into the program. The first player looks at the photo, and describes what is in the photo, then says what he thinks might have happened just before this photo.
4) The other players can agree or disagree. This opens an interesting conversation.
5) Follow the same pattern that I shared in the previous posts:
What do you suppose happened before the girl fell off her bike?
Who do you suppose she was with?
Why do you suppose she fall off the bike?
Where do you suppose she was?
When do you suppose this happened?
How did we come up with the “before” information?
6) When all players are satisfied with the answers, the player takes their turn.
7) By providing their favorite game, the child is usually motivated to do the “work”.
8) Sometimes, at this level, the child finds it difficult and tries to avoid the “work”. If this happens, just sit quiet and say, first we do the “target” then you can play the game. The desire to play usually is enough.
I find it very rewarding to see the children go on this journey. I love seeing the look of amazement and understanding in their eyes as they become more aware of their world. I decided in high school that I wanted to work with children and I’ve enjoyed every year. I have one more post on this topic, which involves teaching “after” and then I move on to teaching other aspects of language.
By Christine Marchant
I am sharing my experiences as a mom for 30 years, a Day Home Provider for 20 years, and a Child Development Facilitator for 5 years. The first post in this series was sharing the first basic level of how to teach the 5-W-H questions, which are “who, what, where, when, why how” to a child. If you read my earlier post, you would have read one of the ways I taught the 5-W-H questions. There are MANY different ways to teach it. This is only one of the ways I found to be successful. If the child doesn’t have that basic level of understanding, trying to teach any higher level is possible, but is more difficult. Exposing the child to “social thinking” is a tricky thing to teach…. Ok, it actually isn’t. I was finding it complicated, until I realized that I’ve been doing it for years. Today, I have chosen one of the many ways. I decided to stay with the formula I wrote about previously.
Level two deals with more abstract ideas and requires a little more effort and preparing than level one. It is important to pick one system or formula and stay with it throughout the whole journey. Children like patterns and like to know what is expected and it’s more consistent. When choosing what approach you will take, you need to know what type of learner the child is and what will keep their attention. An active learner prefers games and action and a passive learner enjoys worksheets, using dry erase pens, etc. The next important step is to assess what level the child is. ALWAYS teach at the child’s level. The next step is to always teach responsibly. No one knows what someone else is feeling or thinking etc. This is why it drives me CRAZY when I see an adult saying, “what is the boy thinking?” or “What is he feeling?” or “where is the boy?”. The first level, you can do this. It’s concrete, and that the level the child is. After that, I prefer to say, “What do you suppose the person is thinking?” I try not to tell the child that a picture is a boy or girl. I try not to label the gender, but instead follow the lead of the child. If the child insists the child in a dress is a boy, I don’t correct him or try to convince him it is a girl. (I gloss over it) because It’s not my place to enforce my opinion on to the children. Keep the goal in mind!! We are teaching 5-W-H not genders.
I found looking at simple photos and asking the 5-W-H questions gets stale FAST! The child gets bored easily. They are very clever. Not all the 5-W-H questions are relevant to every photo. I prefer photos with LOTS of details and actions. Sometimes all questions are not applicable to every photo. My favorite way to teach is through books. I go to a thrift store and for $1, I buy books with a lot of expressions and emotions. I glue blank paper over ALL of the typing. YES! Deface that book! Then I look at each page and type out my own 5-W-H questions that are relevant to what the picture is showing. This sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn’t. I just glue on the level I’m currently teaching. I then add more questions as the child achieves their goals. I start one level at a time. You can use the same book for the entire journey. Don’t put all the levels at once. In level 2, we are exposing the child to “what is the person thinking” and “what is the person feeling.” You can use different books, every child has different interests. You can put your books in your tool box and pull out different books, as long as you stay with the same system. Keep the “thinking” questions to the left page and the “feeling” questions to the right page. Stay consistent. This comes in handy when you have an active learner. I will describe the games I use for my active learners at a later date.
Here is an example of the book I made this week for my older child:
I covered the original story, and I typed “thinking” questions on the left page.
What do you suppose the Mom is thinking?
What do you suppose the child is thinking ?
Why do you suppose the Mom is thinking?
Why do you suppose the child is thinking?
Who else may be thinking ?
Where do you suppose they are?
When do you suppose this is happening ?
How can you tell Mom is thinking?
How can you tell the child is thinking?
You can talk about their expressions, or how the body is showing what they may be thinking. Look! The Mom’s eyes are large and round, her hands are in the air, etc. What do you think she’s thinking about? Etc. Then on the right page, I typed “feeling” questions.
What do you think the Mom is feeling?
What do you think the child is feeling?
Who else may be feeling?
Why do you think the Mom is feeling?
Why do you think the child is feeling?
Where do you suppose this is happening ?
When do you suppose this is happening ?
How can you tell Mom is feeling?
How can you tell the child is feeling?
There are no right or wrong answers. I use this as a conversation starter and encourage a discussion or even debate about what the character is feeling. As we go along the journey, this easy going approach has the child feeling good and positive about sharing ideas and debating each person’s opinions etc. This teaches the child that other people have their own thoughts and feelings and they are sometimes different than what the child believes.
At the first glance, it looks like it isn’t teaching social thinking. “Ask your Mom, how are you.” “Ask your brother why he is crying,” etc. I found the child wasn’t able to do that in a genuine inquiry. They ask that because they are taught to ask those questions. You take a book, and you are ‘discovering’ these questions. There are no right or wrong questions and answers, but a genuine conversation happens. It is an exchange of ideas. The child’s awareness blooms and they are genuinely interested in the people and things around them.
The next post will be sharing my experiences in teaching the 5-W-H before and after the picture we are looking at. Exposing the child to an even deeper level of thinking about what could have happened earlier to cause this person to be thinking___ or feeling____.