When you ‘see’ something on another child – do you mention it? Does it make a difference if the family are struggling or not?
“She won’t speak to anyone … or even make eye contact” my friend confided in me “she behaves well at school – but when she comes home, her rages are unbelievable”.
So what do I say? I take a breath. They are distressed and I should be brave. I tell them my stories. Explain that I have no qualification to armchair-diagnose – but that our story ended up titled ‘autism’.
My friend listened politely. Very politely. Sympathised with the painful parts of our journey. The conversation was never referred to again.
I wanted to reach out to my friend to not withhold information, but in her eyes I saw a flicker of … lost innocence in our friendship. That she felt judged and watched on her kids behaviour, when before she’d been able to believe it didn’t see because there was nothing to see. When she left, I went straight to see my daughter. My own conscience wasn’t easy. I had to ask her if she minded me sharing her story with people who were strangers to her over coffee morning chit chat.
Did I do the right thing to speak?
Sheep 3: “There it is”
That’s just made our Christmas! So chuffed the teachers trusted her to have a speaking part.
(Actually – it was
Sheep 2: “Where is the star”
*pause* *pause* *finger-twist* *pause* *pause*
Sheep 3: “There it is”
Next year’s nativity, I think the lesson learnt is to practice listening to the play and understanding it – not just saying her lines.)
This is what chicken noodle soup looks like here!
The recipe is basically all of the above in a chicken broth. Which I would eat alone.
New plan: they fill their bowls with their choice of trimmings, and then I pour over hot chicken stock (vegetable stock for the veggies).
The carrots are parboiled with a blast in the microwave and I fried the mushrooms. I might sneak a prawn or two from the freezer for my portion!
Funeral Etiqutte on What to Do:
1. Go. Attend the funeral in person. Miss weddings and baby showers if you must but attend the funerals. People never forget that you attended a funeral and you will bring them comfort and care even if you stay a little while.
2. Wear strictly black
3. Express your sincere condolences directly to the immediate family.
4. Share a story or a memory with the close family. You will be adding to their treasure “box” of memories.
5. Be on your best behavior. Take along your best manners of greeting and conversing.
6. Contribute to the charity or foundation of their wishes or else take flowers. The amount does not matter. It matters that you do not show up empty-handed.
7. Follow the wishes and traditions of the family. I am not religious but for weddings and funerals of those that I care about, I would gladly spend any necessary time in their house of worship.
8. Perform any favors that is asked of you, be it to sing, to read a poem, to fulfill any other action to fulfill their wishes.
Funeral Etiqutte on What Not to Do:
1. Wear flip-flops.
2. Bring up sensitive issues
3. Laugh unnecessarily loud or God forbid, tell jokes.
4. Discuss your body aches and pains
5. Draw attention to yourself. Change the conversation if you must, especially when you don’t want the attention.
6. Say much if you have nothing useful to say. Words, once outside the mouth, cannot be taken back.
Adapted from Prolific Living
This is the list that I edited for my autistic teenager. I find it works best if I explain behaviour expectations very clearly, particularly given that funerals are formal and don't happen very often.
She seemed to appreciate the list and coped well with the day. In hindsight, I would have maybe built in a break and a recap of the rules half way through the day. Right after the service, the body language became more dramatic, and we sat in the car for half an hour so as to not be a distraction while people grieved.
The instruction that she found the hardest was to share a story about the deceased. She just did not feel confident in being able to judge the correct tone. She chose to just be largely silent for the entire afternoon, which was fine.
Squid has done marvellously well. ‘Just outside the range of normal’ for understanding, grammar and language. Her NHS speech therapist wants to move her onto only speech sound targets for the next block.
Apart from ‘just outside the range of normal’ means that on every test they administer she scores between 5% and 10% less than lower bound of the very wide range of normal for a child her age. And she still struggles. So I think it would be wrong to consider this the end of language intereventions. But possibly it might be the right point to view her as receiving support ‘in context’ – i.e. parents and school.
I copied the below from http://www.asha.org. Does anyone have any other thoughts to add for a good flight-plan to support a language disordered primary school aged child?
Intervention For Elementary School Children (Ages 5–10)
The focus of language intervention for elementary school children with language difficulties is to help the child acquire the language skills needed to learn and succeed in a classroom environment. Interventions are curriculum-based, that is, goals address language needs within the context of the curriculum where these skills are needed.
Interventions may also address literacy skills (e.g., improving decoding, reading comprehension, and narrative and expository writing), as well as metacognitive and metalinguistic skills (e.g., increasing awareness of rules and principles for use of various language forms, improving the ability to self-monitor and self-regulate) that are critical for the development of higher-level language skills. See the treatment section of the Written Language Disorders Practice Portal page.
For children who speak a language other than English in the home, it may be necessary to use the home language as a mechanism for transitioning the child to using the language of the school. Planning and implementing an effective language intervention program is often a coordinated effort involving the SLP, classroom teacher(s), and other school specialists.
Areas targeted for this population typically include
- enhancing phonological awareness skills,
- eliminating any residual phonological processes.
- improving knowledge of vocabulary, including knowledge of curriculum-related vocabulary,
- improving depth of vocabulary understanding and use, including
- subtle differences in meaning,
- changes in meaning with context,
- abstract vocabulary,
- figures of speech;
- understanding figurative language and recognizing ambiguities in language (e.g., words with multiple meanings and ambiguous sentence structures);
- monitoring comprehension, requesting clarification;
- paraphrasing information.
morphology and syntax
- increasing the use of more advanced morphology (e.g., monster/monstrous, medicine/medical, school/scholastic);
- increasing the ability to analyze morphologically complex words (e.g., prefixes, suffixes);
- improving morphosyntactic skills (e.g., use of morphemes in simple and complex clauses, declarative versus questions, tag questions and relative clauses);
- improving the ability to understand and formulate more complex sentence structures (e.g., compound sentences; complex sentences containing dependent clauses);
- judging the correctness of grammar and morphological word forms and being able to correct errors.
- using language in various contexts to convey politeness, persuasiveness, clarification;
- increasing discourse-level knowledge and skills, including
- academic discourse,
- social interaction discourse,
- narrative discourse,
- expository discourse,
- use of cohesive devices in discourse;
- improving the ability to make relevant contributions to classroom discussions;
- improving the ability to repair conversational breakdowns;
- learning what to say and what not to say;
- learning when to talk and when not to talk.”
Feverish and nauseous? A clumsy idiot.
We backtrack and ask firstborn to apologise; to desist; to understand that this really isn’t the right time to swipe at a sibling. An hour later, and ‘backtracking’ is more like ‘reversing back along the whole bleeding lane’.
We’ve had the attitude, we’ve had the wisecracks and it’s becoming clear that actually she’s finding it very hard to put into words how someone with ‘flu (or any other illness) would be feeling and would like to be spoken to.
My husband took the lead on the chat listing the kids’ ideas for ‘do-s and don’t-s’ on how to speak to an ill person. It got a good conversation going, but firstborn was clearly finding it hard work.
I googled furiously hoping for resources to ‘break it down into bite size chunks’. I didn’t find any resources – so here is a description of how I approached it. (At some point I should learn SEO so that someone else might find this when they are googling furiously trying to think of a plan!).
I asked firstborn (a young teen) to brainstorm three sheets. The first sheet was different illnesses she knew, and how they might make you feel. The second was to answer the question of ‘Why do we treat ill people differently, and what happens if we don’t’. The third sheet was again asking for ‘do and don’t’ ideas, with explanations, that I wanted to make into a palm sized reference flick book for future use.
It was a bit of a struggle – very slow going – she didn’t have a lot of experience to draw on (thankfully being healthy). I’ve asked her to read ‘The Fault In Our Stars’ – and I might try to steer the next discussion into a bit of a book club kind of chat about the feelings of the characters arising from their illness.
I’d love any other ideas in the meantime for how to coach teens on the right things to say around illness. Ironically – she actually is good around seriously ill people – takes time for them, doesn’t flap and is appreciated. But she equally can come out with outrageously rude and insensitive statements that can cause serious offence.
Truthfully, though, I’m not sure any of us empathise with illness. We can be socially conditioned to behave correctly – but that is all it is. Pain is only remembered in reflection and only understood in experience.
Baby Sid came to play today. Squid as Baby Sid wears a babygrow and does the craziest things. He climbs on the table. He pours sand in his hair. He sucks pennies. He likes to be settled down in a cot with a bottle of warm milk. Most of all – Squid as Baby Sid doesn’t talk. Baby Sid comes to play most days after school.
Fido the doggie also comes to play. Squid as Fido eats from the floor and walks on a leash. Squid as Fido also doesn’t talk. Sometimes we get a cat to visit. Squid as a cat likes to be stroked and drinks milk from a saucer. Squid as a cat also doesn’t talk. Cats don’t talk (of course).
They’re quite fun – but I don’t think you have to be a psychologist to observe how hard she must be working at her speech every day.
Squid doesn’t talk; her brother doesn’t listen. I suspect they are showing sides of the same traits – somehow those brain connections that register words seem to form more slowly and be more fragile than the average.
I found an interesting article by Nina Kraus In Nature Neuroscience Reviews studying the effect of music training on listening skills. There is a logical link that the authors describe: “At the acoustic level, music and speech use pitch, timing and timbre cues to convey information. At a cognitive level, music and speech processing require similar memory and attention skills.”. They substantiate it with convincing arguments about how longterm focussed music training changes the structure of the brain and its responsiveness to sounds.
A paragraph that I found to be particularly relevant for us was the claim that music training improved the ability to discriminate speech in a noisy environment. The argument is that musicians are trained to be tuned into discriminating accurately between ‘regular’ and ‘irregular’ parts of their soundscape. So the skill for the conductor to hear one dud note in an orchestra is closely related to the skill of picking out the words of your friends against the background regular drone of a party.
The context of the article seems to mainly be classical music training. The same principles should apply to any focused musical development including singing and guitar. The results were much better if music training began before the age of seven and sustained over a long time in a focussed way.
Squids do music lessons. One benefit I’ve seen for sure is the verbal-lite social activity of sharing music with others. I’m thinking of the big kids in the orchestra – but I’m also remembering little Squid in her first year at school. Stuck for words and struggling to engage; dancing, twirling and bubbling as soon as the music came on.