People who are learning how to invite and extend conversations with autistic kids through adding variety to speech. Celebrating (cheering, showing appreciation, reacting positively) is the more important, effective and fundamental way to extend conversations, but the adding variety angle is the very next thing to do once you have the child taking an interest in you because of the celebrating. So here is stuff to brainstorm about that will help you work with your child to entice more speech and interaction.
Throwback photo of Anna from 2013 with of our long-standing participants, S.M., who has once moved on (sniff!)
(1) Make a list of everything your child most talks about - you know, all the things your child says or talks about over and over again). Break down that conversation into its component parts. Write 3 things that each thing that relate to any or all of the component parts. If there's ever a comment that you don't do something the child loves, mention in detail why; it helps the child learn and helps bring you together rather than apart. If you don't eat ice cream, why not? If you stopped watching Arthur, why did you? It changes over time, but right now my child is interested in and talking about, so I wrote this out with examples at the moment:
My little pony:
Components: TV show (cartoon), about ponies, ponies can fly, various show episode story lines she's interested in
Related things to possibly mention: did you used to watch arthur and if so what did you like? why did you stop watching or continue to like to this day? Did you used to like other books/shows about ponies and what about them?
Components: TV show (cartoon), about reality for adolescent and younger children, PBS, Themes related to school and growing up portrayed realistically but with humor
Related things to possibly mention: Do/did you watch Arthur? What episode(s) do you remember and why? Do you watch any other cartoons, and if so which? If you don't watch any cartoons what do you prefer to watch and why?
Components: food, dessert, dairy, vanilla or chocolate vs. other flavors, Haagen Dazs vs. other brands
Related things to possibly mention: Do/did you eat ice cream and if so what brands and/or flavors do/did you like or dislike? If you don't, why? Do you prefer soft-serve vs. regular ice cream? Can you eat dairy, if no why not?
How we used to go to Planet Fitness to see the trainer
Components: trainer, Planet Fitness, gym, exercising
Related things to possibly mention: Do you have a trainer and/or go go Planet Fitness? Do you like other kinds of exercise? What do you do to exercise or if you don't why not?
Throwback photo of Anna from 2013 with one of our ex's C.J., having dressed up her favorite stork doll in clothes she brought. Still hoping you can do a few sessions here or there, C.!
(2) Make a list of what you do during a typical week in priority order of time spent per activity. Think about what it is about that activity the child can relate to, which includes, as in part (1), breaking the activity into component parts. Write something you could say to the child in an open moment when the child is interested in hearing about you, and where the conversation could go next. For example, I currently:
Walk/run by the waterfront or at the downtown YMCA track if it's after dark and/or cold. I might mention what it was like last time I was at the downtown YMCA - there wasn't hardly anyone there. The track was spongy like jogging on rubber and I felt great afterward. Where this could go: plan a trip to go there together after dark or when it's cold.
Read books. I might mention how I was reading about how firemen decide how to respond to a fire, since I was reading about that yesterday. Where to go: Plan a trip to our library to get books, and/or to half-priced books to swap for new books, and/or try to write a book with her.
Like to talk to my best friend. I might mention how I like to explore how I feel about something that happened recently. Where to go: talk to her about my best friend (Michelle!) is planning to move to New Zealand, get the globe out and look at the map, etc.
Am trying out Asian restaurants every week to find a good one. I could tell her about the ones I've tried and what kind of food I ordered, such as the time I ordered "Pho" soup with sprouts and cilantro in it, and the chairs and tables were duper comfortable and I stayed there and worked a while before bringing it home. Where to go: have us search on google and plan the next place we try out the next time (probably the next weekend).
Am looking to hire new Son-Rise participants. I might tell her about the different people applying, like someone who has an autistic teenager her age, a participant's (K.'s) sister, and a professional dancer. Where to go: pull out the resumes and and talk about what they are like in more detail, their names.
Throwback photo from 2013 with A.M., who like the others has moved on (sniff!).
- One of the biggest tips is that the key to feeding the fire of a great conversation is continued adding of information from your life, experience, beliefs, wants, hopes, likes or dislikes, etc. Turning it into a quiz where the child is being asked a stream of questions you don't adequately comment on will kill the conversation.
- Make sure your comments include specificity - who watches TV with you? What shows do you watch and why? What instrument did you used to plan in band or if you never did, what did you prefer to do instead and why? What kind of dog exactly do you own and what did he/she did that you might want to share? If you can't draw a mental picture like it's on a TV screen of what is going on, it's too vague and neither can your audience, and they won't know what to do with your comments. Examples: Don't say "I watch shows with my family" (who? what show?), say "I watch the Simpson's with my dad". Don't say "I wish I had played an instrument but never did" (none can picture a "not"), say "I wished I had played an instrument but never could decide which, and then my father said he didn't want to pay for it, so I decided to play soccer instead", for example.
Good luck and have fun!