Category: Reading

The Do’s and Don’ts of Engaging the Rabbit Trail

By Rachel Betzen, M.S., CCC/SLP

At one time or another the children that we work with will inevitably veer off course from the direct activity they are doing, to ask a related (or unrelated) question, or to tell us about something they are reminded of.  I personally get a little excited when this happens, though I realize that this is probably not the initial reaction of most clinicians.  There are some “rabbit trails” that we can use to further engage the student, and reignite their love of learning.  Other kinds of “rabbit trails” disengage the child from therapy tasks, and it is more effective to redirect them back to their work.

Determining which kind of rabbit trail the child is leading us down will help determine whether we go along for the ride- vs. redirecting.  If the child is asking a relevant or related question, it’s ok to stop and talk about that.  I like being near a computer, so I can search for images related to the topic.  Sometimes we need to give more background info and the computer is a good tool to use.  We have two laptops that are available, and taking them into the therapy office to your PC is ok too.

Sometimes with tangentially related rabbit trails, I take advantage of them as a “compare and contrast” learning opportunity.  If the child can explain how the topic is related and how it differs from the information we are using with them, that deepens their understanding.  If this is too distracting or taking too much time, it’s also ok to tell the child how their question is similar and different to their topic, and then re-direct back to their work.

Fist Bump for a Job well done in Speech Therapy
Fist Bump for a Job well done in Speech Therapy

For redirections, I often tell kids to put their distraction “in the back of their attention”, and they respond “put this in the front”.  A quick reminder to “put it in the back” is sometimes all they need to re-focus.  One of our highly distracted students is beginning to remind himself “ok, I’ll put that in the back and my work in the front”!

The Socratic learning process encourages students to discover the right answer or a deeper understanding through us asking the right questions.  Using this method is bound to lead us through multiple rabbit trails.  When a student is doing a “stinking thinking rabbit trail” we need to stop whatever we are doing and redirect them back to the positive.  The socratic method is a powerful tool as students learn to see their “mistakes” as a way to focus more on where they need additional learning.  This helps us lessen their emotional response to “failure” and empowers them to become more independent learners.

 

Following Your Child’s Lead

Following Your Child’s Lead 

By McKenna Jackson, M.S., CCC/SLP

mckenna

When we witness a child struggling with learning of any kind, our first inclination, as adults, is to step in and teach the child the correct way of doing things. We lead the child through instructing them in the proper way as we see it. When the task at hand is learning to talk, parents may talk for the child, finish the words for them, or use controlling language, like commands and questions, while correcting their speech.

However, it is essential that the child develop the confidence to take an active role and an eagerness to express themselves independently. Follow the child’s lead in observing their interests and level of communication. When your response is appropriate for these levels, learning to talk will come more naturally and comfortably for the child.

Steps to Take:

  • Wait, Observe, and Listen – In this way, the child’s communication methods may be observed. These may include pointing, eye gazing, gestures, grunts and crying.
  • Give Your Child a Chance – Instead of anticipating the child’s every need, allow them to have the time to express themselves. For instance, wait to serve juice until the child makes a request for it. When the doorbell rings, wait for the child to respond before answering the door.
  • Know What to Expect – After observing the child’s interests and desires along with their methods for expressing them, communication is achieved whether it be verbal, pointing, nodding, or using signs or picture boards. This is the starting level for communication — do not expect more or less. If you expect too much, you may never recognize the child’s current method of communication. If you expect too little, for instance a grunt instead of using a word the child has used before, the quality of the initiations will not improve.
  • Be at the Same Physical Level – Sit together on the sofa or on the floor where eye contact can be reached with no distractions. Verbal and non-verbal methods will be more recognizable. Your responses and facial expressions will work to encourage your child’s communication skills.

In the News

December 2, 2015

“Health Media Now” – Rachel Betzen Radio Talk Show Interview

Our very own Rachel Betzen was the expert guest on the Internet Radio Talk Show “Health Media Now” hosted by award-winning author Denise Messenger.

Rachel discussed how reading and language relate to each other and what parents need to know about their child’s reading and language development.

To listen to the archived radio interview, click the link above.

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