Thursday, July 1, 2010

Book Review: Teaching Conversation to Children with Autism (Scripts and Scrpit Fading)

Book Title: Teaching Conversation Skills to Children with Autism (Scripts and Script Fading)
Authors: Lynn E. McClannanhan Ph. D. and Patricia J. Krantz, Ph. D.
Publisher: Woodbine House, 2005

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Audiocard reader Thought #1: I was very excited about some of the practical strategies that I could put in place while I reading this book.  When I came to my classroom four years ago, there were these two autido card readers along with a thousands of cards that the machine could read.  At first we used them as part of the reading program that a couple of the students were working on but they didn't seem to do any good in achieving the reading goals that had been set out.  Eventually I just packed them away in the closet and we haven't used them since.  I was excited to learn a new way to use these audio recorders as a way to encourage spontaneous social interactions.  For the non-verbal students that I'm working with this would intially mean that parts of the student's visual schedule will actually be placed on cards that can be used in this machine rather than just as pictures.  Instead of our regular routine of the student going to his schedule, taking the picture off and then heading to the place where the next activity takes place, the student would add in a step where he or she takes the picture from one of this pre-recorded cards, plays it on the audio recorder and then a social, verbal interaction occurs between the student and the teacher/learning assistant.  It seems so simple.  Although we are always looking for ways to have verbal interactions, I know many in the classroom don't do as much because it is so one sided.  This new addition of the other side will regenerate some of the drive to do this. 
 
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Thought #2: The introduction to the book speaks to how some of the strategies we use to teach children with autism actually stop them from developing conversation skills because we are unknowingly reinforcing a non-typical type of conversation. This has always been a struggle area for me when using a Discrete Trial Teaching method as it never seems overly natural and I wonder if we are inhibiting natural behaviours.  As I've read more and started to understand balance I realize that I can actually find a balance between different approaches to ensure that methods used enhance both learning and conversation skills.  This is just one more way to ensure that conversation skills are keeping the same level of importance as all the other learning.  This makes me happy :).  There are some great data sheets included in this book to ensure that data can still be taken at the same time as not formalizing it to the point of eliminating real interactions.  I will be using them as I still need to record progress towards goals/objectives.

Perhaps the best way to summarize is by the following statement made on page 38 of the book: "Questions and directions transform the activity from conversation to instruction and defeat the purpose of scripts and script fading procedures."  Wow!

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Thought #3: I'm very excited about this as a mother as I can see ways of encouraging my son to increase his uterance length by using scripts and script fading.  Mikey, my son who has DS+ASD (Down syndrome and Autism Spectrum Disorder) speaks mostly in single words and almost always for the purpose of getting something he wants.  At one point a couple of years ago we had him stringing 2 or 3 signs together to make phrases but he lost that skill over the past year which has been very frustrating.  Mikey has the ability to say many word approximations as he demonstrates when he is reading.  He can read and verbalize well over 200 words and yet only says a handful of words for purposeful interactions with others.

This book offered many great ideas in regards to setting up scripts with both visuals and written words that read to help to grow Mikey's abilities to initiate and continue conversations.  I'm excited about starting to build his skills in this area.  Added bonus is that Mikey will be in my classroom this fall so we can reinforce it all day long!  I'm sure I will post more about this as I get down to the details so stay tuned.

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Thought #4: Although I've read the book cover to cover I'm pretty sure its a book that I will have to digest as I go along an implement different parts of it.  Right now, the later chapters, although fascinating, are not relevant to where my students are at.  I'm excited to get to the day where we can try some of the other ideas in there but I'm going to start where I'm at.  I'm sure I will be coming back to topics and ideas from this book often in the next year as I'm seeing many ways to implement some of these strategies already.  Stay tuned for more as we get in to next school year.

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