We learned about Dr. James D. MacDonald and his approach to helping children learn to talk from one of Jack’s speech therapists last summer. We began applying the things we learned but didn’t really truly “get it” until after we joined his Yahoo Communicating group and a similar Yahoo group called Natural Late Talkers. I combed through the resources of their file section and dove headfirst into Dr. MacDonald’s book Play to Talk. It changed the way we began to think of not only Jack’s speech therapy but all of his therapy. It made us remember that every person has to go through stages of development. You can’t leap through development. You go through each part before you get to the next. I can post more on that later….
Anyway, we’ve put Dr. MacDonald’s ideas into practice and Jack’s speech continues to flourish. Here’s a little sample of Jack and I having a communicating partners-style conversation at the park. In this video, our conversation does happen to be with words but you can interact with your child non-verbally before words and even after words begin to build a foundation for a child to learn to stay with people, to enjoy people, and to be interested in people.
I’ve included a transcript here of our conversation since some of it is difficult to understand.
M: You gonna swing? (Great vocab, Mom!)
M: (laughs) Whee!
J: Highlights from 5 symphonies (sometimes he smooshes lots of words together. I recognize what he says because it comes from the beginning of Baby Beethoven). Hamster. Hamster (When he thinks of his favorite videos, he thinks of his favorite parts and Baby Beethoven has a hamster that spins on a wheel. These days anything that spins reminds him of the hamster.)
J: Doo doo doo doo (more Beethoven)
M: Doo doo doo doo
(Notice we continued to do the “musical exchanges”. These may not be real words but Jack enjoys interacting back and forth this way. See how many “turns” he takes with this?)
J: Hey shhhh….Hey hey swing
M: Push? (I was suggesting that he stay on the swing and I push him some more. Since he was using one word phrases, I did too.)
J: Stop stop stop
M: Stop yes? (This is a little bit of a technique called recasting. We are trying to get Jack to learn to answer yes instead of just repeating what he wants.)
J: yes (He’ll answer yes but right now it usually requires prompting. He’ll get there.)
J: Swing. Push.
J: All done get out (again smooshing of the words)
M: All done?
J: Da (that could have been stop but sometimes he goes Russian on us and says Da instead of yes.) All done.
J: Stop. Irish. (It’s his lovey—a green basketball with “Luck of the Irish” on it for those of you who aren’t familiar with Irish.)
M: Now what?
J: Searching. (Jack has visual difficulties and used to just ask us to bring him stuff he wanted. I began encouraging him to help me look by walking around with him saying, “Searching, searching, searching for _____”. It stuck and now whenever Jack wants to look for something he says “Searching”)
M: We didn’t bring Irish.
J: Go go. (There are certain words and phrases he tends to repeat. Go is usually go go and sit down is usually sit down sit down.)
M: You want to go? (Sometimes he’ll actually say “I want _____”)
J: Irish. Please (we were kind of overlapping here at the end)
M: Go get Irish?
J: Please. (Instead of saying yes he will either repeat what you say or say please.)