Friday 30 October 2015

Conversing about broken gingerbread men

We don't really do Halloween in our house.  If you've read 'Rocky reality: Autism and imagination' then you would understand at least one good reason why trick or treating is not a great idea. No, the closest I'll come is decapitating and chopping the legs off gingerbread men for David.

David is a very cunning little boy.  If you didn't know any better, you'd think that he didn't know very much at all.  After all, if you ask him to point to his head, he'll probably ignore you and continue playing with his cars.  But that doesn't mean he doesn't know what you are saying or know where his head is.

There are various reasons why any child, but particularly ones like David who have ASD, won't follow directions.  They may lack the skills to carry out certain tasks, have difficulty processing words or quite often in David's case, lack motivation.  As following instructions is fairly important in terms of functioning in society, being able to do as you are asked is considered a life skill. 

Getting a child with autism to learn this can be difficult.  Some people advocate Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programmes or methods for children with autism.  We have found that David responds well to motivation and in this case, gingerbread.

Truth is I'm not chopping up gingerbread men as some strange Halloween ritual but as a way of interacting with David.  It wasn't long after we had gingerbread men in the house that David learned he could use Makaton and his single syllable words to request a 'biscuit man'.  Using PECS have really helped David with sentence formation too.  A few days ago when I pulled out a broken one I offered him a pair of gingerbread legs and he signed 'I want' and pointed to his legs. 

Offer David any other broken biscuit and you are likely to get a crying child. The biscuit is not right. It's broken, it's just wrong. But this seems different.  And it's wonderful that David is able to recognise the parts of a gingerbread man. It means he's using his imagination.  

And it's always good to find another thing that David will communicate with us about. So mostly, I'm going to spend Halloween offering a few legs, arms, heads and possibly bellies to David in exchange for him signing which he wants. I might even munch a few myself. 

External Links included
The Makaton Charity Homepage - Makaton uses signs and symbols to help people communicate. 
Communication Matters - PECS (Picture Exchange Comunication System)

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