Previously we have discussed Literacy and the connection or disconnection to speech in part 1.
In Part 2 we discussed Communication and Education with RPM and the letter board.
In Part 3 we discussed generalizing skills to other modalities than the letter board itself.
In Part 4 we discussed episodic memory and how to teach visual scanning and retrieval skills.
In Part 5 we will discuss episodic memory and how to teach auditory listening and retrieval skills
On page 26 of "the red book" (link to the book in next section below) Soma quotes researchers about autism coordination and integration of the brain areas is what autism is. This will help you understand why retrieval, generalizing and other difficulties manifest as they do in your child or student.
Mental Mapping and Assimilating + Accommodating
In this part I would like to discuss mental mapping a bit more because it should be helpful to understand what is happening. (This also applies to visual retrieval and scanning--really all situations as we do this all the time, but it is very apparent here). You can read in detail about mental mapping in chapter 8 of "Understanding Autism Through Rapid Prompting Method" which is available here and here.
We are going to take a look at the first few steps and how it applies here.
1-Encoding-when we go into a new situation or something new comes into a familiar situation we have to encode it. We encode different auditory, visual, tactile, kinesthetic components and different internal components such as feelings and thoughts. All of this helps us to handle situations well. When we are not able to filter through which components to make the focal point task and situations can become scary. Many students with autism are not able to filter through what the main components to take in are.
2-Affect-The encoding leads to affect or how we feel about the situation which influences our performance.
3-Expectancy- This leads to short term goals or expectancy.
(there are three more steps which are important but I will not discuss them for now.)
When we work on listening skills and auditory retrieval a student has to encode the new situation, which sets up the feelings and the short term goals.
When a student starts RPM, this happens too. Ever wonder why some students sound like you are killing them in there--this is why, the situation is being encoded. Ever wonder why your child will only work for the RPM teacher and not you? because your child has to encode you into this process. The only way to do that is for you to do it with your child. After your child has processed how to do RPM in this situation typically students become calmer during RPM. Now if we throw in a new dynamic then mental mapping has to take place.
In helping students learn to retrieve information you are not privy to, they must encode the new environmental aspects as they change. Students have already learned to listen and retrieve in lessons which is why you can have a discussion. For some this happened fast and for some this happened slowly.
Now your child has to learn to do this same thing when you are not in the room--usually requires a switch up of people, so the rhythm, movement, and other factors change. This changes affect and then expectancy...new goals.
Many also deal with extreme anxiety or perfectionism. Many students will project a very "concrete--I am taking your completely literally" performance (particularly if verbal), or look for all the rules instead of reasoning, hesitate and "self-destruct," give the last answer you said, or give vague answers in fear of missing, etc when you first began RPM. Some students it takes a long time to get over these. Many students will repeat this process when you work on this skill. Because you don't know everything they are seeing or hearing at times then it is harder to help them be successful as putting supports in place to aide in success can be critical at first for some. You must be patient with the process and be confident/believing in your child or student!
Please note you not knowing the information yourself isn't the reason that your child isn't getting it unless it is a confidence issue (your anxiety and disconnect and the student's anxiety and disconnect that are producing less accurate results than when you know). Have you ever had a conversation with someone and suddenly you felt he or she wasn't listening and suddenly you couldn't remember what you were saying and thinking--or your mind went blank? Connection is very helpful for communication.
When I do these task with students I sometimes know the information and the child doesn't get it correct. I will ask, "what is this picture of?" or "what word did they say?" and the student has still incorrectly retrieved the information in some cases. The JOINT ATTENTION is the big deal. The CONFIDENCE is too, but the joint attention seems to be the biggest difference--in typical RPM you have joint attention--when working on retrieval skills you don't always. You will see in the videos that in a case or so I did KNOW the information, but the child didn't retrieve still because the student still had to encode the "new" environment. The child is not "reading my mind."
Because the objects and task aren't totally foreign then assimilating and accommodating the new information and environment is a large part of this issue. This concept is discussed in all of Soma's books.
Ideas for working on auditory retrieval and listening skills
Each child is different and so the steps will be different for each child. These are just ideas. You might have better ones.
I start with one word. I ask a person to say a word, write it down and then I come back into the room (or the other person does). **Notice that I am setting it up similar to beginning RPM. I ask the student to spell out the word that was said. If the student doesn't, I have the person who said the word make ready three written choices which I then present to the child to pick from. In most cases the student will pick the correct choice. Again showing it is a retrieval issue brought about by the alternate environment.
For some students you would want to start with two choices. One mother suggested that in the beginning to just do choices--ask for no spelling--until the student is consistent with picking out the word from an array for 3 or 4 choices. Then have the child choose and spell it (again like beginning RPM). Later you can fade the choices. It all depends on the child. (Don't get worried if your child misses the choices. Each student has his or her level of anxiety and "retrieval skills clock.")
The next step would be to do phrases and then conversations.
A more natural way is to ask your child about things they might have heard somewhere. The trouble with this is you can't go back and visit an auditory environment so if your child selected a specific detail, it would be hard to know. So you might record an environment (where appropriate) and then ask about it. Also be aware that if the student is more visual the auditory retrieval can be attached to the visual retrieval so a revisit to the environment might be telling. Emotions in the air and other sensory information also influences encoding and retrieval (for all of us.)
Another way to work on this is to simply ask for any information about an event. From there you can see what your child focuses on. If your child is typically in an auditory mode then much of the visual won't be scanned unless it was mentioned verbally to the child. Many students "looking at pictures" are actually "hearing the picture" instead so they know the picture by what you said about it as you scanned. If you are having a hard time working on the visual retrieval task, this is a reason why. The child has to become less visually defensive so he or she can look and take it in without you telling what is in it. Again high anxiety can bring on higher levels of visual defensiveness so while your child might be able to read a certain amount of words in a book, he or she may struggle with visual defensiveness in these task--at first.
To work on listening, give meaning to the task. While at times you want just say the word you might say, "we are going to tell you some healthy food words. Listen carefully and tell (Ms. ____ ) what healthy food word I said and something else about it."
By doing this you attach some meaning to the word and it makes listening easier, then the student can tell the "healthy food word" and then something else about it once they have "retrieved" the word given to them.
When you watch Soumil's mom, she gives him some connection with the word in a few of the runs and then he connects with it before retrieving it for me when I came in. In some cases the extra verbal would get in the way, but most likely not as your child is intelligent and can understand instructions. (If your child can't retrieve with the extra words, that doesn't mean that he or she is not intelligent (it means he/she is right), just that there needs to be less auditory clutter initially to improve the skill in some cases--other cases you need more auditory input for the correct answer to emerge.)
Matteo (verbal) and Soumil (non-verbal) working on auditory retrieval
I am putting Matteo and Soumil side by side to help you see some of the difference between a verbal and non-verbal student. Please remember that Matteo doesn't represent all verbal students and Soumil doesn't represent all non-verbal students.
The big differences are Matteo can verbalize some of the words being presented and that sometimes helps him. He also is more able to visually attend. Soumils is very auditory and extremely selective visually. He doesn't attend to many visual components of the environment.
Note that while there is a pattern in how the task is run, we don't have strict guidelines as we are not testing the child. We are working on a skill. It is critical to minimize anxiety. Also, notice how each parent is in tune with her child. As a parent, when you educate yourselves on the techniques you are using, there is nothing more powerful!
It is perfectly acceptable to only work on the skill in completely natural environments (what did you eat for breakfast? What did your brother say to you when you were swimming?) if you find doing these task will be harmful to your child's self-concept and success.
If my child doesn't do well with this task does that mean he/she isn't able to listen?
Short answer is No.
Any RPM student can and will progress in any skill taught if it is practice and learner and teacher are working to understand which channels are open and closed in the instance of learning and how to best approach teaching and learning the skill.
Students are hearing. As you can see in the task above the students were listening. They were able to get the correct choice. Some students would be anxious enough that he or she would get the incorrect choice for a bit. Don't get worried if this happens. It doesn't mean your child doesn't listen it just means there is a struggle retrieving the information on demand.
As noted above and in last post, students are most accurate about retrieval when the retrieval comes on its own accord. For example, I told a student to write a message to the world at the end of a lesson. The student wrote something totally unrelated to the lesson but something I didn't know. I HATE SOCCER. Mom informed me that they had just signed him up for soccer and dad was the coach. I didn't ask for anything particular just that he write and he retrieved that and said it. I don't know if I would have received the same information if his mom hand said "Tell Lenae what we just signed up for." He would have known they signed up for soccer given the statement, but I don't know if he would have retrieved the information to tell me because the demand is so specific.
The information is in there if the student was listening but the student has to learn to get the information out when others ask for it and not just when it comes to the mind.
Many students as you work on this task will retrieve information from the last task. So for example, Soumil a number of times spelled words we had actually said but not as the one word. He was just retrieving them. So in one of the clips he spelled APPLE. I had said to his mom "do simple words for now like APPLE or CARROT, but not those ones" right before I walked out of the room before we started. That word popped up 7 minutes later. I don't think he thought that was the word, I think he was just searching...he did this with a few other color words.
Think of yourself..I have had times when someone asked me specifics about a class or conversation and I couldn't remember then to tell them. Then a few minutes later I realized I had been thinking about what they had asked me about and that I had really enjoyed the conversation or class, I just hadn't been able to retrieve the information to give to the person. It happens to all of us, just it is more extreme in Autism.
There are many skills you can work on with your child. Retrieval of different components in the environment are important, but each must decide the priorities of which skills to work on and when.
As with visual retrieval and scanning, these task should be worked on in an environment that is believing, patient, and positive as well AND when the student is able to do open ended communication with you with ease.
Each child needs "scaffolding" tailored to his or her needs to make the progress confidently through these retrieval task.
Just as transferring letter board skills to typing, handwriting and speech are possible, so is progress and success with retrieval.
There are many other retrieval task you can work on with smell or movement, etc, but I hope this gives you an idea of how to start even if you choose to work on these skills in a completely different way.
In the next part we will be discussing social skills and activities in group sessions.
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