5 Practical Tips For Effective Communication
We were at a loud, bustling airport. Yet, I couldn’t help but eavesdrop on the conversation.
The uncle handed her a Kit Kat bar, saying, “I bought this for you.”
The little girl who probably was 5 years old, was ecstatic. The gleam in her eyes was unmistakeable.
After examining the chocolate she asked her uncle, “where did you buy it from?”
“From a shop,” he said.
“Which shop?” she asked.
He mumbled something.
She did not relent. “Is the shop far?”
Uncle mumbled something again. The little girl’s reaction was priceless.
She looked at him with awe and asked, “You bought this for me?”
The intonation was amazing the look in her eyes, heart warming.
I shook my head in amazement.
I couldn’t get over the miracle of typical development!
I’ve spent 2 decades (or more) working on communication with autistic individuals.
How it happened so effortlessly with this family, just blew me away.
I broke down the conversation in my head.
The little girl’s questions, her intonation, the eye gaze, the thoughtfulness, the emotions, lingered in my mind.
I could teach my students ‘wh’ questions?
But it was much more than the questions.
What about the intonation and the real curiosity behind the questions?
I could teach ‘eye contact’, but what about the thoughtfulness behind the eye contact?
Most of all this interaction came from a place of emotions.
Could this be developed?
The answer is a resounding, ‘Yes.’
It can be developed by building the Guided Participation Relationship (GPR).
Dr Steven Gutstien of RDIConnect, talks extensively about it.
GPR is the back and forth interaction between parents and children. It develops naturally in typical development.
Unfortunately, it breaks down in autism.
As this slide by Dr Steve Gutstein suggests, this can be remediated.
Every family can avail of a second chance.
Here are some pointers to work on to develop GPR with your child.
1. Connect emotionally
Choose a time where you’re physically, mentally and emotionally available for your child. No distractions around, especially your cell phone.
Slow down. Choose an activity that would offer roles for both you and your child. Remember, you’re a co participant and not an instructor.
Be fully present with your child.
Step out of the ‘expectation mode.’
It’s not about your child doing something a certain way.
Participate and engage with each other – just for the sake of connection.
Walking hand in hand helps establish the connection.
Finger plays with songs is another way to do it.
3. Use experience sharing language
Use language sparingly.
If you need to use it, use declarative communication. Also known as experience sharing communication. The idea is to share not to elicit a response. If your child feels like, he will volunteer to share too. (hyperlink)
The ratio of declarative communication to instructions should be 70:30.
4. Play anticipation games
From the time babies are 6 months, they enjoy anticipation games such as ‘peek a boo.’
Walking together at the count of 3, jumping into beanbags together- all fall into the anticipation category.
Use an anticipation game to set up a pattern your child can see.
5. Work on problem solving
Once the pattern is established, stretch it by adding ‘just noticeable differences.
This will enable your child to understand this is something similar and yet it’s different.
Give the child something to think about. The mental challenge will increase neural connectivity.
This video consists of all the points I’ve written about.
The mother started off by singing songs and regulating the child.
Once he was connected, they jumped on the sofas to a count of 3.
This included anticipation and a pattern.
Note the shared joy and laughter.
While it was a fun activity, the little boy thought it was more fun to do it with his mother.
The mother didn’t instruct the child, but waited for him to join her.
He took full responsibility to coordinate with her.
I loved how natural this framework was.
And it included all the points mentioned above.
You can achieve this kind of connectedness with your child too, dear friend.
This will create the foundation for meaningful, dynamic conversations with your child.
It’s ironical. You need not work on speech to develop meaningful communication. But you definitely need to build a foundation.
If you feel your child does not generalize the language he picks up, uses rote language and does not have intonation in his voice, you probably need to work on building guided participation.
Pick simple ‘us’ frameworks. Become a co participant with your child.
Add the emotional quotient and have fun.
The sky is the limit. You’re eligible for a second chance. Don’t miss the opportunity.
Make it count.