Teaching Inferences & WH Questions to Kids with Autism
I get really nervous when behavior analysts try to program for kids that are past the VB MAPP or at the top of the VB MAPP because, when kids get into level three and beyond, I feel pretty strongly that you need to do Language for Learning. Teaching inferences is a higher level skill. You need to follow curriculum. Amy’s son is seven. So, if he’s still within the VB MAPP, that’s a four year old level, so there will still be significant delays and I would want to do Language for Learning when you get all of that done. And a lot of our kids need one to one pullouts for that.
So, I have a whole unit on Language for Learning in my Intermediate Learner Course. Those Language for Learning kits are expensive when new, but you might be able to go on eBay and get a kit for a couple hundred dollars. I would systematically go through the kits. And then once that’s done, do Language for Thinking, and then Language for Reasoning and Writing.
I would say that speech pathologists are better at teaching inferences than behavior analysts. I could assure you that’s the case, so I still would be concerned about teaching inferences in any rote manner. I would also highly recommend that you look at the book program.
Our member, Amy, said, “can you please give your thoughts on when and how to best introduce inferences? Our son is seven and has almost completed the VB MAPP.” Amy is also looking for her seven year old – who is ready for inferences – to compile a list of WH questions plus other questions that would relate to the material in the Language for Learning program. “Has anyone already compiled such a list?” She asks. “I would like to use a prompt for me for use during the reading program.”
I’m not sure if that means Amy has purchased or gotten the Language for Learning program or if her son’s school is doing it – which they can, and that should be part of his IEP. But you can’t, in my opinion, just get lists of questions, get list of inferences and teach it like you would teach opposites within a discrete trial intensive teaching setting. It would lead to some messed up language.
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Teaching Inferences in School
I’ve had a lot of success with Lauren, who’s in a lot of my intermediate learner course videos and the book program videos. I also had another little boy who was almost exactly her age and grade who is at a little bit of a different functioning level. I don’t have video permission or permission to even discuss his case, so I won’t.
I had the one child from the age of two on. I had Lauren from four or five on. They were both struggling in first grade to get through Language for Learning. They were also both in Language for Thinking. The boy actually ended up going much quicker and got into Language for Writing and Reasoning before I transferred. They ended up being my last two clients.
With a seven year old, we’re talking about inclusion if he’s in school. We’re also talking about reading and math. But the reading and math really should be based on the language. If you don’t fix the language now, that is going to have major implications.
The Importance of Autism Programs
I remember with the boy, I’ll call him Adam. He did another program called Fast Forward, which really helped him. I remember being in an IEP meeting when he was in first grade and they wanted to stop Language for Learning – or Language for Thinking, I’m not sure where he was at that moment. He was trying different computer programs and was having problems.
The school thought he was fine. They just wanted to include him and stop Language for Learning. They said Language for Learning didn’t seem very functional. I had Adam since he was two, he had gone from non-vocal to vocal with me. Now he’s sort of conversational, and Language for Learning was the most important part of his day. I told the school, listen, he can either go be a kid that ends up in college or he can be a kid that ends up in life skills and needs support for the rest of his life. That’s how strongly I felt at that point.
Intermediate Learner Courses
Of course, nobody has a crystal ball. It was probably even inappropriate that I said that, but I was just like, you cannot stop Language for Learning. The mom ended up getting an advocate and he ended up getting a one-to-one and he ended up flying through Fast Forward. It really helped it click for him and he was just doing so much better.
It’s very individualized what kids need when they get to the top of the VB MAPP. If you haven’t watched the whole intermediate learner course, I would definitely finish that first. Implement the book program, teach the school how to do the book program, if he’s in school, and take it from there.
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