Need Help with Communicating with Preschooler

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jlym
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11 Oct 2012, 8:12 pm

Hi! I need some tips or insight from parents or educators experienced with this type of situation...

I work with a 4 year old boy in a private preschool. He speaks very few words, mostly just yes and no (which he often confuses, and uses interchangeably). On a good day he will appropriately use the the words/phrases: "yes," "no," "all done," "I want outside." Other days he doesn't use words at all. (He does a lot of self-talking, but it is all sounds and non-sense words.) I have tried using pictures with him (we have pictures of every activity, and classroom etc) but he either pays no attention to the pictures, throws them, or puts them in his mouth... I want to be able to communicate with him. Help teach him not to lick things, not to put things in his mouth and explain what we are doing in class. And I want him to be able to tell me that he needs to use the bathroom or that he wants to do something different.

Any advice??



MountainLaurel
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11 Oct 2012, 8:26 pm

I am sorry that you are in this situation without appropriate guidance from the child's parents and the administration of the preschool you work for. The situation you are in is way too common. What's up with that?



jlym
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11 Oct 2012, 8:35 pm

MountainLaurel wrote:
I am sorry that you are in this situation without appropriate guidance from the child's parents and the administration of the preschool you work for. The situation you are in is way too common. What's up with that?


I know it is unfortunate...

The preschool works with children with special needs but has had limited experience and resource available for children on the spectrum. I was told that they basically "didn't know what they were getting into" when they admitted him. The parent is supportive but is at a loss as well, I've been told that I am having better success with the child than the parent is.



MountainLaurel
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11 Oct 2012, 8:48 pm

Jlym, you must have a calm demeanor and clearly you care about the child. There are some parents on this forum who have some amazing experience, techniques and advise. I am not one of them. I hope some weigh in here for you. If not, re-post this in a couple days. All my best to you.



jlym
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11 Oct 2012, 9:02 pm

Thank you =)



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11 Oct 2012, 9:17 pm

PECS or the Picture Exchange Communication System (google it) is a common method of helping non-verbal kids communicate so you are on the right track with the pictures. You need to start small, though. You gave a list of things you want to teach him to do. My advice would be to pick one, the most important one, going to the bathroom perhaps, and work on just that one thing until he gets it. Don't be surprised if it takes weeks. MountainLaurel has a point though, a 4 yo who is basically non-verbal needs the assistance of a professional who is trained to help kids in these situations.

You can be a huge benefit to this child even if you don't have training in special education. If this child is autistic, one tactic you can use is to just engage with him on his terms. try to get him to accept you into his world by taking an interest in whatever he seems to be interested in. It may take some time but if you are patient, chances are he will start to accept you and you will have a better chance of starting to direct some of the play. Once you've gained his trust, you'll be able to make more progress with him.



jlym
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11 Oct 2012, 9:39 pm

Thanks Bombaloo...

I have been working with children on the spectrum, in the school setting, for the past two years. And I'm currently getting my degree in Special Education. I still have A LOT to learn, but I do have significant experience. I have been using PECS with him. I started with a choice board. I thought that he didn't understand the concept, but what I have discovered is that he does understand the concept, but he only makes choice when one of the choices is something he likes (which right now consists of 3 things: playdoh, theraputty and outside). I have also tried a visual schedule with him, that was a complete failure. He is very attached to me, and out of all the teachers and aides he listens to me most often.

I don't know if I should just keep at it with the choice board, or try a new approach? He doesn't yet understand the concept of "1st, then." All he sees is the "Then" and will tantrum or be non-compliant.His main teacher is supportive, and offers assistance whenever I need anything, but as far as insight and new techniques etc I am completely on my own. It seems that I am the most experienced out of the group with ASD kids. (Oh, p.s. this child is diagnosed with autism).

All the behaviors and mannerisms I am observing in this child are nothing new to me. I have worked with children who are a lot "worse" off than him, but he is the least verbal and least communicative child that I have worked with yet, so that's new territory for me.



helles
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12 Oct 2012, 1:30 am

jlym wrote:
...I have discovered is that he does understand the concept, but he only makes choice when one of the choices is something he likes (which right now consists of 3 things: playdoh, theraputty and outside).....


That is pretty smart :)

Sorry, I have no advice, my children are pretty easy (so was I :) ).

He probably like the textures of things he licks, or he is just trying the different feelings associated with licking different things. Can´t you make him a "lick Board" with different textures or tastes?


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zette
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12 Oct 2012, 3:00 am

If you're in CA, this child should be a Regional Center client and getting speech therapy from a specialist. Do you know why the parents placed him in this preschool rather than the special needs preschool operated by the local school district? I'm wondering if the parents are aware of the services he should qualify for...



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12 Oct 2012, 4:48 am

The licking is a sensory thing. He is oral seeking. Ideally an OT would pick out a chewy or something for him to use, so he is not licking everything in sight. My son doesn't lick things very often, but he chews on stuff especially when stressed or teething (grown up teeth coming in, mind you) You probably should not try to extinguish this, you want to redirect it, so that he can attend to his sensory needs (It is calming and helps them focus.) Does your staff have access to an OT?

Regarding the communication: Interchanging words is not uncommon. It requires practice and I think a light to come on in their heads. I would keep giving him incentives to communicate by providing choices with at least one option he likes. I am not an expert in this, but maybe you could occasionally try an option that says something like "None of these. More choices, please." (I know the language may be too complex - so you may need to simplify it) If he chooses this one, give him three different choices. You know, to try to get him to communicate when he wants to say, "none of the above."



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12 Oct 2012, 5:54 am

Hi,
Yes, he needs a chewy tube I think. My son wears one, absolutely needs it or he chews his clothes to pieces. Try and work out if he likes to chew soft or hard things, bumpy or smooth so you know which types he will probably like. You can attach it to a cord around his neck if it doesn't come on one. Make sure it has a quick release clasp on the cord/lanyard if you do this so he won't strangle himself. He will still want to chew/ lick other things until he gets used to that though so just keep redirecting him back to it, using the same language each time. Much more hygenic, for him and others, than chewing random things.
For the "first then...' you can try to keep the first thing very brief... have the card with the 2 activities. Make the first quick, lots of positive language when it's finished... even if he is upset and then quickly on to the next. He will learn the "first then..." schedule... but doesn't mean he will always like it! :wink: my son at 13 still gets upset if he has to do something first he doesn't want to.... but he does it, which he didn't used to. Try to make the second thing a thing he loves in the beginning. Eg. he won't really want to listen if you tell him "story then music time" if he hates both. As he gets better you add more steps and as he gets more able to handle it you can add more undesirable things as long as he gets his fun things too. Also we used a "finished" box or pocket, where he puts the card that represents the activity that has been completed. A visual for that ending and time to move on, especially helpful when it is time to finish a preferred activity. The finished symbol that was a black and white checked pattern, like the finished flag in a car race. You can carry some of these cards on a keyring with you, learn the signs to go with them, and use the cards at the same time you use the signs and speak the words. When my son was starting, we had "finished", "wait", "toilet", "help", that was it. If he wanted help, we would show the card, do the sign, say "help" then the words "you need help" or "I can help" and then assist. He may not seem to be looking, don't assume he isn't though. My son, and I've heard this from others too, has great peripheral vision. He can see those pics without looking directly at them, he can also see me sneaking the biscuit container out of the pantry when he appears to be not looking!
You sound like you have a really great starting knowledge, and you already have a connection with him which is great and you want to help... he sounds like a lucky boy. Keep pushing him gently and he hopefully will reach out even more.
I agree with the others, to push for help from outside... I don't know where you are but he should surely be eligible for help from O/T, speech at the very least. If I think of anything else that helped in our situation, or I saw helped others, I 'll post again. Good luck!



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12 Oct 2012, 10:21 am

zette wrote:
If you're in CA, this child should be a Regional Center client and getting speech therapy from a specialist. Do you know why the parents placed him in this preschool rather than the special needs preschool operated by the local school district? I'm wondering if the parents are aware of the services he should qualify for...

^^This. Do the parents know that there is specialized help out there?



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12 Oct 2012, 5:47 pm

Bombaloo wrote:
zette wrote:
If you're in CA, this child should be a Regional Center client and getting speech therapy from a specialist. Do you know why the parents placed him in this preschool rather than the special needs preschool operated by the local school district? I'm wondering if the parents are aware of the services he should qualify for...

^^This. Do the parents know that there is specialized help out there?

I was thinking this too, I find this post disturbing because it sounds like the parents were misled into thinking this school was appropriate for their child however your presence here (though you obviously have good intentions) indicates otherwise.



zette
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12 Oct 2012, 7:11 pm

In San Diego, the YMCA operates a program called YMCA Childcare Resource Services HealthLine, Healthy Development Services. They go into preschools and homes and help with suggestions until a diagnosis can be obtained. They helped my son's preschool set up structure for him while we were waiting for his appt to get a dx. You might see if the YMCA has something similar in your area.



Bombaloo
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12 Oct 2012, 8:11 pm

Nascaireacht just made a great post over in another thread that seems pretty applicable to this topic so thought I'd share:
http://www.wrongplanet.net/postt212408.html