Sunday, April 1, 2012

when a rock is not a stone

I am currently looking for ideas and teaching materials to help me teach Tate figurative language: idioms, synonyms, antonyms, metaphors, and analogies. I am hitting this hard right now as I have just come from a conference about social communication and it has made me more determined than ever to help Tate with the nuts and bolts of everyday language.  Sometimes I target a specific area or lesson and work on it harder than anything else.  I always work on language but I am specifically going to work hard on figurative language over the summer.

Children with autism have to be taught things systematically.  They do not absorb things from their environment, as do typically developing children.   We have to teach Tate that one word can mean multiple things, different words can stand for the same thing and different words can have opposite meanings.  I've actually been working on these things for years. 

One of the first discrete trial programs we did with Tate in early intervention was teaching "categories."  He had to be taught language very systematically.  We had pictures of animals and pictures of clothing, as well as other categories.  He had to sort these things into the correct piles, thus teaching him that pants and shirts were both items of clothing, and dogs, squirrels and cows were all called animals.  This was a hard concept for him.  He didn't mind matching cows to cows or dogs to dogs, no matter what the breed or color.  That made sense to him.  But when we tried to get him to put the dogs and cows and rodents all into the same pile, he balked.  He finally gave in and did what we asked but he then changed his word for "cow" to "animal" because if a cow wasn't just a cow then it was an animal.  It could not be both.  In his mind, each animal had its own category and he couldn't see the bigger  picture.  We have run into this over and over throughout the years.  We've had discrete trial programs that taught him that an insect could also be called a bug and a stick was also called a twig.  He memorizes these things and retains them eventually with repetitive teaching.  

We no longer do discrete trial at a table and the teaching methods are not as rigid as they were when he was a preschooler.  Now we do a lot of our teaching incidentally, throughout the day.  Example:  a few days ago I used the word stone and could tell he drew a blank.  I said "a stone is like a rock.  You can use either word when you are talking about a rock."  His reply was "Rocky is not a stone."  People who  know Tate will know exactly what that meant.  Tate has a rock; a pet rock, named Rocky.  He has had Rocky for about 3 years I think.  I have no real memory of where Rocky came from but one day... there was Rocky.  He is about the size of a baseball and he is a member of the family.  He sits on the shelf at the head of  Tate's bed. We go for periods of time without hearing anything about Rocky but we also have days that he is right here with us, watching and participating in our activities.  I personally think that Rocky has autism.  He is awfully quiet.  haha  Tate always seems to know what Rocky is thinking though.  One morning, a year or two ago, Tate announced at the breakfast table that it was Rocky's birthday.  Rocky expected a cake that evening for dinner.  Of course, I could not disappoint the guy.  We had cake and Tate blew out the candles.  Tate had also expected Rocky to get a new dvd for his birthday but I had no idea so there were no gifts.  Luckily, Tate and Rocky were forgiving.  

Last week, one of Tate's siblings went into his room and Tate was sitting on the bed with an umbrella open and he and Rocky were huddled under it.  Tate was pretending.  Pretending is always celebrated as Tate's imagination is very limited.  Tonight, as Shawn was putting Tate to bed, Tate was holding Rocky.  Shawn told Tate that we hadn't been seeing much of Rocky lately.  Tate's reply?  "Rocky does not like being called a stone."  Apparently, I have hurt Rocky's feelings by trying to teach a synonym for the word "rock" a few days ago.  ha!  I love my boy.

Rocky's birthday: 
Rocky is the one on the table. 
Tate is the one in the chair.

1 comment:

  1. I love your boy too, Lisa. He's an amazing young man with one amazing mama.