Monday, June 2, 2014

BUILDING effective Communicators: Personal Narratives and the one who needs to be interrogated

One of the things that many of my clients struggle with is being able to share a simple story or information about what they have done during their day.   If I ask them what they did or what they ate for lunch, they simply shrug and say, "I don't know."  These same clients struggle when I ask them to tell their caregivers what we JUST did in therapy.  "Um, I don't know" they say as they look down at their feet.  My response to this is always, "Oh no-nothing stuck!  Sorry mom/dad-we are going to have to go back and redo this session."  Usually this gets a giggle out of the child and they are able to  at least come up with a single word answer or something that they did.  

I'm a story teller by nature.  I know that I tell more stories than my friends-and I'm sure sometimes it gets a little annoying.  I fill my blog with silly little stories.  Story telling is how we connect with other people.  It is the basis of communication and conversation.  Take time and think about the conversations you are having with people at your school or clinic.  Are you sharing stories about your weekend, something your pet did or a cute thing your toddler did?  It's how we strengthen our relationships with our friends and acquaintances.  Remember that time when I went out to throw out the trash and got trapped inside the dumpster?  

I find my clients tend to fall into four categories:
  • The child who responds with "I don't know" or give single word answers.  
  • The child who shares too much information.  Usually I have to cut them off.  
  • The child who give me information but it starts in the middle and jumps all over the place.  
  • The child who uses non specific vocabulary.  
Today I'm talking about the first type of client: the one who needs to be interrogated.   
This is the client who only gives me little bits and or pieces of information.  If I ask them what they did over the weekend, they probably say, "I don't know."  Or they will tell me one little piece of information.  "Zoo."  or "Played a game."  I am forced to ask a variety of questions to try to figure out what they did.

I know there are many more reasons why these clients are just giving me a little bit of information.  Here are a few things that I look at and some treatment activities that I use:
  • Limited Perspective Taking Skills:  Do they understand that I have different thoughts than they do?  Or do they think that I just know what's in their brain?  I want them to understand that I only really know what they tell me.  Barrier games are a great way to help them understand that you only know what they tell you.  When we are looking at our pictures to see if they are the same, I make comments like "Oh I remember you said to put it on the page-I didn't know you wanted me to put at the TOP of the page.  
  • Syntax disorders:  Some children struggle to formulate sentences for their thoughts.  Instead they speak primarily in 1-2 word utterances.  I usually start working on noun-verb-object sentences and continue to expand their sentences.  Modeling longer utterances can be helpful.  For readers, I might write out their responses and then see what information we can add to expand the sentence.  
  • Poor time conceptualization or memory issues:  Some children have a really hard time remembering what happened yesterday or relating it to a certain time.  They might tell me a story but when I ask the parents about it, it turns out to be an event that happened 4 years ago.  Some kids may not remember what they had for breakfast.  I can't remember what I worked on with my first hour group if I don't write it down right away!  Calendars can be an effective tool for helping the child improve their understanding of time as well as being able to relay information about specific events.  
  • Organizational challenges:  What information is important to include?  What do people want to know? Visuals and graphic organizers can be really helpful to provide a structure for what they should include.  I think organizers focusing on the 5 W's (who, what, where, when and why) can be a great start for what information to share.  
What strategies or activities do you use with students who need to be prodded for information?  Share your stories and successes below.  If you liked this post, please consider sharing it with others by pinning or sharing this post on Pinterest or Facebook.  Check back here on Thursday to read about the one who gives a monologue.  

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