Thursday, September 18, 2008

Introducing More Abstract Language

When a parent first starts working with me, I spend a lot of time trying to help that parent use short, concrete sentences. I want the parent to say:

Sit down on the red chair and then, after the child is sitting Watch

Not

Mommy wants you to sit close by so I can show you how to play this new game.

The second sentence is long, complex, and full of abstract concepts as indicated by the words in red

But gradually, as we see that a child is able to comprehend longer, more complex and abstract sentences, we increase the complexity of the language we use and teach.

In this game, the little boy is asking his mom what toy she wants to use next. We use the words, question, guess, want and thinking all of which refer to internal states of mind. We teach these abstract words, though, in a very simple game context so that, hopefully, the meaning of the words will be clear. If you want to see more clips of this boy playing this Guess What I Want game, here are two other links to clips posted on You Tube. One Link. Second Link. If you watch these, notice that this little boy still has difficulty with language comprehension and this makes it hard for him to answer questions reliably.

video

Why, you might ask, is this boy sitting in a swing while doing this activity? Here is why. Swinging, like jumping (see previous post), is calming. He has learned this and over time, just sitting in a swing even if he is not moving has become calming. When I am asking him to participate in a really challenging language activities, like this one, he'd rather learn the new activity in the swing.

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