Tuesday, 27 June 2017
Storytelling As A Form Of Expression For Children With Special Needs
By Monisha Iswaran
Putting the effort into teaching your child with special needs how to engage with activities such as storytelling will benefit them considerably in the long run. It is one medium through which they can find an outlet for some much needed self expression. Understanding stories and learning how to retell them to an audience (even if that audience is only mum and dad sometimes), can help with reading, writing, self-confidence and numerous other skills that are essential as your little ones grow up.
The great thing about storytelling is that you are able to match the level of difficulty to your child’s ability. There are a wide number of children’s books available, which suit kids of different reading capabilities. You want to make sure you increase the difficulty of the books your little one reads by small increments - enough so that they are continually challenged and learning, but not so much that they feel discouraged and begin to resent reading as an activity. Once they have become familiar with the simple storyline, get them to retell the gist of it back to you. Similarly, you’ll want to increase the level of detail you expect from them bit by bit. When they first begin this activity, is likely they will only recap the story in a basic one line summary, or perhaps tell you a little about the main characters. That is totally fine! Although you may have to start out by asking them lots of prompting questions, the need to do so will slowly dissipate as they gain confidence, and hopefully begin to recall more from what they have read.
Another wonderful aspect of storytelling is that it is an activity you can engage in literally anytime, and anywhere. You don’t even really need a book present - you could have your little one practice by telling you a story about something that happened in school that day. If they are confident with the activity, they can even make something up and develop their imagination at the same time.
If it’s hard to convince your little ones to get excited about storytelling, combine it with an activity they already find fun! Swings are a great investment, as your kids will no doubt enjoy playing on them, but they are able to multitask while swinging back and forth. You could even make a game out of it, by saying “for each line of the story you tell me, I’ll give you one big push”, as they rock back and forth! Cots are extremely useful, as once you put your little one down for a nap or at their bedtime each night, you can recap the day’s happenings in storytelling form. If they are about to drift off to sleep, you can take a turn at reading to them or telling a story. That way they hear your version as an example, and we all know that’s how kids learn best.
The best thing about storytelling is that you can truly use it as a confidence-booster for kids. Particularly in the case of children with special needs or those with learning disabilities, issues such as self esteem and believing in their own capabilities are extremely important for their development. Activities that involve public speaking, language and can be adjusted to their current level of learning are perfect for doing so. Not to mention, getting lost in a love of reading and storytelling can be a fantastic form of self-expression and the perfect escape from the struggles of everyday life.
As a parent, encouraging your child to participate in such activities, especially in your household, outside of just school is particularly important such that your little ones start to identify storytelling as more than just something they have to do, but rather a hobby they can turn to when they feel down, or just need an emotional release. The benefits are numerous, it’s easy to implement and there aren’t any downsides - so what are you waiting for?
Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Engagement through reading occurs when caregivers can help children by using interpretive tools to select, connect and organise information int he text to construct real meaningful interpretations of their own lives. The context of reading and the culture of literacy on a family and social level can also influence engagement. Reading with your child, not to your child, is important on a cognitive, metacognitive and motivational level. Children who have been engaged in reading from a young age do better academically and are more attentive students. During organic engagement, attention and mental processes are focused on the book and the learner is completely absorbed in the task of reading and in a state of flow. Although a child may be looking directly at the pages in a book and may appear to be engaged, they may only be going through the motions. Engaging your child during reading means sustained and personal commitment to create understanding.
Children are more likely to be engaged in reading when they believe they are capable of understanding, when it is interesting and when they feel it is important to them. This is why, as I have mentioned before in my previous blogs, that engaging children with reading books must come after they have a firm grasp of the relevance of words and communication in their day to day lives. This will help them to self regulate their attention and effort, relate new information to existing knowledge and monitor their own comprehension, making them more likely to have the physical and mental ability to hold their attention long enough to be successful readers. It also makes it easier for them to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information, link familiar knowledge to incoming information and organise sequences from the story, making them critical and creative thinkers.
In order for engagement in reading to occur, caregivers must provide instructional conditions that support it. A family culture that provides for child interaction and caregiver modelling of cognitive processes promotes the notion of reading as a transactional process where meaning occurs as the child’s expectations and experiences are in transaction and content of the text. Reading should be viewed as an interpretive process rather than as an exercise in listening and sitting still. Children should be encouraged to use strategic comprehension processes such as predicting, relating to prior knowledge and asking questions about the text in a reader-response collaborative discussion.
Too often, children’s experience of human interaction emerges as an unpredictable negotiation between being an individual and being asked to fit in with the expectations of others. They are asked to be passive participants in their learning. To engage children in reading, a more active stance is required. Children should be encouraged to use their own individual interactions with the text as they attempt to make sense of it so they can craft their own interpretations. As caregivers model interpretive tools, children become accustomed to seeing them used to derive a meaning from the text and develops an inherent reflexivity in its use as a tool to nurture engagement.
If you have any other ideas on why you agree that reading is an integral part of developing critical and creative thinkers, I would love you to contact me or comment below.
Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Wednesday, 7 June 2017
Here are my top ten tips for Connecting with Your Little Ones.
• Build a foundation of communication and word structure for your child by helping them to become familiar with common sounds, words and language that you use throughout the day.
• Introduce them to the value of books by incorporating them into playtime as well as a bedtime routine.
• Talk about what you have read. Help your children understand that ideas need to be discussed and thought about critically and creatively. This will help show them that words can be communicated to other people in different ways to pass on the message. If you have read something you don’t agree with, discuss that as well. Children need to learn that everything this is written is not necessarily the truth.
• Find ways in everyday activities to spark your child’s imagination. Stimulate curiosity and help his brain development by using words creatively. Don’t be scared about using ‘big words’. Vocabulary is key to improving communication in young children.
• Use sounds in fun ways. Make silly made up sounds and vary your pitch and tone when talking, reading and singing songs together.
• Help your child learn the difference between ‘real’ and ‘make-believe’. Imaginative play with toys and books is a great way to switch from real life scenarios to make believe world building. Encourage made up stories but be clear about when the time is needed for truth.
• Picture books can be great tools for you to use to help your child understand change and new or frightening events, and also the strong emotions that can go along with them. The library is an amazing resource for finding diverse books.
• Stop and listen when your child is trying to tell you something. Maintain eye contact. Try to stay as still as you can. Your child will develop early literacy skills like the ability to listen to and understand words faster if they feel they themselves are being listened to and understood.
• Teach your child the importance of following simple instructions by writing shopping lists together and getting them involved with easy cooking recipes or reading aloud to them as you are cooking so they can see the importance of written words.
• Foster a sense of humour by sharing laughter every day. Laugh out loud at silly jokes, something accidental or unusual that happened or silly sounds. Learning to laugh is important for a child’s communication, literacy and emotional development. Best of all, the sound of your laughter will make them the happiest of all.
If you have some great top tips, I would love you to contact me.
Wednesday, 31 May 2017
Here are my top 5 tips to encourage young ASD children to fall in love with reading.
1.Let them pick what to read. Our local libraries love us. We almost always leave with 10 children's books. It works for us because it allows Tom to have a choice of what he wants to read based on whatever new obsession he has t hat week. I love the idea of teaching children to choose books on their own, regardless of their reading level. I love anything that encourages independence and I work with whatever motivated Tom to pick up that book, even if it is way above his comprehension level. Books are about so much more than words and pictures. They are about forming connections
2. Focus on sight words. Do everything you can to make them fun and playful but don't worry too much if they aren't picking it up straight away. This is a long term strategy for reading that needs to start early, way before they walk into a classroom. The more letters and words they recognise, the easier reading will be. It's not rocket science, it's repetition.
3. Make books available at play time, not just bedtime. We have books everywhere at our place. We keep them in in the playroom, in the kids’ bedroom and in the car. Bedtime is a lovely time to share stories but it is more about the senso ry stimulation they receive from being close to you than a learning experience. ASD kids respond well to using books as part of extending their play time by integrating literacy into their daily routine.
4. Read aloud. Even if it seems like they aren't listening, part of their brain is responding to the sounds of your voice. Varied tone, intonation and volume are important. Most importantly of all, it doesn’t have to be from a book. Read the paper, read the cereal packet, read the instructions on the packet meal for dinner. Get older siblings, grandparents or anyone who is willing to read aloud and then initiate a conversation with them about what they are reading. This encourages critical and creative thinking and associates books as a valued resource to facilitate easy conversation and connection with others.
5. Let them see you reading. ASD kids can be visual creatures who love to mimic others. If they see you reading, they a re more likely to do the same. Talk to them about what you are reading. Find a word they might recognise. Read varied books, magazines and online articles so they can see you use reading and books in your everyday life as an adult and they will grow to understand that even though reading might be difficult now, it will be a skill they will need when they get older so they will be more encouraged to stick with it.
If you would like to contact me, I would love to hear your top tips.
Tuesday, 30 May 2017
Thank so much to MyDeal.com.au for interviewing me on my best tips to connect with your children through reading together. You can find the full article here.
Thank you so much to MyDeal.com.au for sharing my tips on the importance of reading to kids. Check out their blog for more great reasons on why Art is Great for Kids.