Making It Visible: Inclusion in the Early Years – Conference Summary Part 2 of 4
I must apologize for the sincere delay in getting the rest of this series up on the blog. December was not a kind month to my family! My husband fell and broke his ankle, required surgery for it, my basement flooded badly (thanks to some squirrels and pine cones) and my daughter got sick and I had to take her to ER (mystery ailment we’re still trying to get to the bottom of). Oh and it was also only Christmas season, so it’s not like there was anything new or different or any kind of change of routine taking place to begin with. Doesn’t it just sound like the best month ever, oh wait, no that’s a special kind of hell on earth I would not even wish on my worst enemy. So that’s my reason(s) for not getting the posts up in a more timely manner. I do hope you forgive me.
Without further ado, here’s post two in this series by guest poster Kayla Wilcox on the first of two workshops she attended. This one was all about Communication, and there are some great tips and even something handy to print out. Enjoy!
For a refresher of Part 1 – click here
The first of two workshops I attended was called “Communication: Building Bridges to Children”. The presenter was a passionate lady name Kelly Naish who is an Early Learning Inclusion Facilitator with NBACL.
Ms. Naish listed a variety of ways we can better understand our children that will help us get through to them. Take interaction style. A calm interaction style is better suited for an over-sensitive child, whereas an exciting style is a good match for an under-sensitive child. I had never thought about mine versus my kids’ interaction styles before. I tend to be calm and more reserved, whereas my children are very animated and energetic to the point that I occasionally get sensory overload. I reflected on the positive effect of this clash in interaction styles; I think they bring out the funny, silly, active side of me, and perhaps I can balance their strong need to run, jump, and climb all day long with reading, building, and craft activities, and we can all benefit.
Ms. Naish said that a responsive style, one where the educator lets the child take the lead in what to play and talk about, is the most effective style for learning. Observing how our children learn will help us reflect on how we can use the skills they currently have to build more skills. But in order to help our children learn, we need to know their learning style. You can print a learning styles charts here.
When planning activities for your child(ren), keep their learning style in mind and it will help you get the most out of the interaction. Ms. Naish had a brilliant suggestion for a game for a kinesthetic learner where you tape the alphabet to the wall and have the child swat letters with a fly swatter. She also recommended that we examine if our children learn in chunks, say they repeat words (echolalia), which can be replaced with spontaneous speech later on; or if they learn by memorization and will attach meanings and sounds to words eventually. Body language must be taken into account; there is a lot we can say without words. Behaviours send messages as they are a form of communication.
As an autism mom, I paid particular attention to the sensory processing portion of Ms. Naish’s presentation. She noted that children who experience sensory processing difficulties can often have their cues misunderstood as behaviour. Our senses play a huge part in helping us understand the world, but that understanding can be halted if our senses become overwhelmed. Children with autism who have sensory processing issues may shut down or melt down as a result, or exhibit a host of behaviours like hitting, biting, spitting, chewing on clothing, or dumping bins of toys. I was provided with a sensory checklist similar to this one. Knowing in which areas your child is over- or under-sensitive will be useful in helping you understand how they communicate their needs/feelings. There are also a variety of sensory activities that help us connect with our children, things that can calm them or motivate them to become more active. Ms. Naish displayed a Dollar Store bath mat for an over-active child to sit on, to help them sit still, and a finger light for a less active child to help stimulate them. For more ideas, read the SpectrumWarriors post on Sensory Breaks and Bins.
Bridging the communication gap by better understanding our children builds on Ms. Kolada’s point that children will get the most out of their education if they are included. In order to include them, we have to understand how to reach them. Ms Naish suggested strategies for building bridges to children, such as being descriptive, open-ended questions for more advanced learners, cause-effect activities, monitoring how fast we speak, giving children time to respond, modelling and imitating; we can pair children with peers who have more skills in a particular area; and we should join in play and have fun.
There was a slide on prompting responses that I will directly quote as I think it will be particularly useful for those with children with intellectual disabilities. The steps she outlined were:
- Get face to face
- Do something unexpected….then wait
- Give things to your child a little bit at a time…then wait
- Let things go wrong…then wait
- Make mistakes on purpose…then wait
- Say or do something about your child’s interests…then wait
It’s not only important to tune into our children, it’s important to help our children tune into others. Ms. Naish advised that we talk to children about how others think differently and why, and how others feel. We can also encourage them to take turns and help them practice social skills.
Stay Tuned for Part 3 which will focus on the Transition for Inclusion workshop
Happy New Year to all our readers!