Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wait Time and Literalism

Ben's doing great with language, but of course there was a time when it was not at all clear that this would be the outcome, and even now we're cautiously optimistic and vigilant. So when you have such concerns about your kid, it's hard not to test him continuously -- "Ben, can you say your ABCs?" "Ben, I hear something -- what is that?" We try to restrain ourselves, and to keep things light and not pressure him to "perform."

An upside to all this is that we're constantly challenging him. We're not afraid to ask him questions that we're pretty sure he can't answer yet, and we make it very clear that it's perfectly okay not to know the answer to something, or not know how to do something. This is an important lesson on its own. Think about how many of us, even as adults, are so ashamed of ignorance on some topic that we try to hide it, thereby missing opportunities to remedy it. Also, it's shocking how many times he does manage to answer the question, even when we weren't expecting it. A very important habit to develop is Wait Time. Ask a question, wait awhile, rephrase it if it looks like he didn't understand it, wait some more, keep the pressure and anxiety level low, keep waiting. Often a minute or more will pass before Ben coughs up an answer, and we would miss that if we butted in too soon. If it becomes clear that he's just not there yet, we'll help him put an answer together, or model one for him.

We had a TOD (Teacher of the Deaf) coming to our house every week for about a year. Her intentions were good, but she wasn't able to do much with Ben, mainly because she just didn't get the Wait Time idea. If he didn't answer within two seconds, she would answer for him, and this just frustrated him to the point that he would cry or tune out.

One final observation: Ben is becoming a real literalist! Either that or he's seized on a great loophole for getting out of having to perform for us. Me: "Ben, can you say, 'Michelle, can I have the puzzle please?'" Ben: "Yes." Technically true, but not what I was looking for.


leah said...

He's answering "yes"- that's an important milestone (we haven't gotten that out of Nolan yet, primarily because of the mimic-rather-than-answer thing).

Waiting is SO important with these little guys. Sometimes it takes quite a while for them to process the question and come up with an answer.

We keep challenging Nolan, too. Our speech therapist asked him to "put the blue circle on top of the yellow square." Quite a complex set of directions- he couldn't do that one, so we modeled it and then backed it down one level.

"Put the yellow circle on the yellow square." He picked up the yellow circle and slid it right on top of the yellow square, without hesitation! He couldn't handle two colors and two shapes in his auditory memory, but he could handle two shapes and one color. We didn't realize he could do that, so now we're upping the ante for him, lol!

rouchi said...

It is important to challenge the child to know his capability and test him.He doing great and i think you r heading in the right direction.

Madeline said...

Hmmm...That literalism wouldn't happen to be a genetic trait, would it?? Seems to me we have relatives who make you specify the top half or bottom half if you ask for "half a cup of coffee." :)

Julia said...

Madeline, I grew up with my father responding to questions like "Is the capital of California Sacramento or Los Angeles?" with "Yes." And this from a man who claimed that he would disown me if I became a logician!

tammy said...

My AVT in Texas always said we should do the SEVEN Ling test ... oo, ah, e, s, sh, m and SILENCE or she also called it "The Power of Pause". I learned the importance of it in my teaching days, before Aiden. Some kiddos just need those extra seconds to process what was said and then come up with an answer. Sometimes they'd get frustrated as I continued to challenge them, but I always reminded them of where my expectations were (and they'd raise their hand high above their head), because kids will give exactly what you expect.

I'm constantly amazed by Ben. He's doing so well!

Elsie Wilson said...

Wait time is extremely important to ALL children in their development and processing ability.
It will be very important for teachers of children who have language needs of any sort to INSIST that teachers, caregivers, etc. be aware of the need for wait time. As a teacher and working with other staff members, even special ed. teacher (you'd expect them to know!) all too often I've observed that a child is expected to respond quickly.
This has been compounded for all children, recently, by the upserge in "Direct Instruction" teaching techniques that many school are putting i, on the "Leave No Child Behind" adgenda.
Also, it has been observed that wait time is often different for boys and girls in math classes! Mathematical processing should involve thinking through, problem solving, etc. Often boys are given time to think through things, while girls are give "help" if they seem to be taking longer!
In my early childhood training it was stressed that children's learning is more of a "breathing" process! They often take in, but do not "exhale" learning for days, weeks or even month later!
I have seen situations where there was "standardized achivement" tests given and when the child does not do well on skills and concepts recently taught, it is assumed the child does not "know" it!
Ok, Elsie, off the soapbox!
I'm Julia's MOM!