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Teaching body language and non-verbal communication skills -Moondog et al

(54 Posts)
inappropriatelyemployed Sun 10-Feb-13 08:59:30

Ay suggestions for good sources for introducing body language and non verbal communication skills?

moondog Sun 10-Feb-13 10:24:31

No, because all the manuals and guides (and there are scores) are far too general.Successful intervention would need someone on situ observing child's individual responses and body language to get an accurate baseline.

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 10-Feb-13 10:36:08

Thanks Moondog but I am trying to do this myself in the absence if any other identifiable source of help. I've twice tried to get an ABA therapist to look at these sort if issues but, as I've posted ad nauseam, this has been diverted into whether he should be allowed to sit on a chair when the class sit on the carpet once a week.

Any advice about working on small target areas I can identify myself would help.

TumbleWeeds Sun 10-Feb-13 10:42:10

Very interested by that one.
Moodog, any idea on how you can teach that sort of things then?

At home, I have tried to point to ds2 how ds1 is )and looks like) and pointing out to him he was upset/happy/teasing etc... so he can get an idea of what is what. PLus a lot about how tine of voice, your face says more than your words (eg repeating the same sentence in 2 different tones and explain how one actually says X when the other says Y).
But this is just working on gut feeling. A method would have been nice.

moondog Sun 10-Feb-13 10:47:50

I do teach this sort of thing a lot but I can't go into specific details here as it wouldn't be ethical. Even if I could, I'm not able to write the extended essay it would need to explain what we did and moreover a trip to IKEA beckons-having my bathrooms redone.

A lot of MNers ask me about this so we (fellow trainer and I) will be going into some detail about the interventions we carry out in these areas on our London training day.

TumbleWeeds Sun 10-Feb-13 10:56:50

moondog I have messaged you re your training.

moondog Sun 10-Feb-13 11:00:45

I've answered.
Look out for the red dot in your in box. smile

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 10-Feb-13 11:09:37

OK, as I can't go to your training session and I can't find an ABA therapist with the slightest clue about this, despite spending over £1000 on it, I will just have to do it myself and make it up as I go along.

moondog Sun 10-Feb-13 11:16:46

Alex Kelly is very highly regarded in s/lt circles ofr her work on social skills training with a wide variety of different client groups.

I haven't used her materials for a long time and she is not of course a behaviour analyst so if I did use it again, my first thought would be on ways to measure change.

She is a lovely person and has a great reputation.
Could be useful?!

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 10-Feb-13 11:53:50

Thanks. She is not too far away. I will have a look.

I just tire of involving so many different people and getting no furthest forward but when I do stuff myself, I make the greatest progress with him.

moondog Sun 10-Feb-13 12:08:26

Yes, I feel the same.
If I want things to change, I do it myself.
I recognise I am fortunate in doing this stuff for a living.
My advice to all parents is to limit the peopel involved with your child.
The more there are, the more pointless paper shuffling, meeting and generally telling everyone else what to do goes on.
If peope aren't doing stuff,stuff that is measurable I'm not interested in them.

PolterGoose Sun 10-Feb-13 12:36:02

It is obviously not a method, but ds has learned a lot about body language and non-verbal cues since getting out latest cat who is very expressive. For ds it isn't just that he can't read human non-verbal communications, he is totally oblivious to it as a way of communicating. So the cat provides a really good example to practise reading behaviour and leads to conversations about how humans might express themselves. TBH adopting an Attenborough method to learning about people has been the most effective approach here grin

inappropriatelyemployed Sun 10-Feb-13 12:39:53

Interesting. I suppose because animals can't speak, we have to watch what they do!

MareeyaDolores Sun 10-Feb-13 12:45:38

'Limit the people involved with your child'.

What all our dc really need is just one competent person with time to plan and take the lead, plus a willingness from others to follow that plan (or challenge it constructively when necessary)

Add in some genuinely expert advisors available to that 'lead', and some flexibility about how resources and school rules are applied

You could perhaps call the lead expert 'mum'. Or 'senco'. Or 'keyworker'. Or even 'statementing officer'... and give every child really good, effective, targeted SEN input for less than the current spend.

On the other hand, you could concentrate on keeping things as they've always been, labelling dc as 'naughty' or 'special', and blaming parents (if right-wing)/ society (if left-wing) for anything more complex.

You could call

MareeyaDolores Sun 10-Feb-13 12:47:41

blush Ghostbusters and get better social skills input than the make-it-up-as-you-go, keep-the-troublemakers-busy sessions some schools run.

MareeyaDolores Sun 10-Feb-13 12:50:11
oodlesofdoodles Sun 10-Feb-13 22:09:02

We worked on this recently with 'silent suppers'. Whatever DS wants he has to point for, then he has to look at us to see whether we have seen his point. Once he's glanced at us, he gets what he's asking for.
Anything that's offered (like a drink) we make quick eye contact, then turn and look at the jug. He has to pass his cup/plate to be poured water or gravy or whatever.
It also helps if the gestures are really exaggerated.
At first I wasn't giving him anything - getting him to point for his plate, then his cutlery, then food. As time has gone on we've 'renormalised' (is that a word?) dinner time.
I've not been keeping detailed aba type data, but this sort of thing has really helped expand the repertoire of gestures he can read.

Interesting about the dogs Mareeya. Dogs are one of the few animals that can follow gaze. This is another thing we have been teaching DS. So when he wants something, eg "mum where's my hat?" "I'm looking at it DS, my nose is pointing at it." Again, (I feel that) he's made big improvements on gaze following. The other day we were outside a shop and I made a point of looking at the door, DS followed my gaze and went to hold the door open for me with the buggy! (This doesn't happen every day mind)

It's a bit of a tome, but this is an interesting book that breaks down the component parts of non verbal communication: www.amazon.co.uk/Not-Just-Talking-Communication-Difficulties/dp/0863888496

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 09:10:11

That's really interesting Oodles and a perfect example of how these skills can and should be worked on in real life. I don't like the common perception that they can only be addressed in clinics or by specialists or in workshops. (Actually, workshops are ok as long as you leave with a concrete action plan that you can implement straight away. I do about 40 different workshops/training sessions a year for parents and educational staff and with all this is my criteria).

You could take simple data on that actually. Wear a tally counter on your belt and click it every time he makes eye contact within a given period.
That would make a great school project actually.
<mind clunks into action>

'You could call Ghostbusters and get better social skills input than the make-it-up-as-you-go, keep-the-troublemakers-busy sessions some schools run.'

rofl

' I don't like the common perception that they can only be addressed in clinics or by specialists or in workshops.'

I just had a (competent) person to objectively assess the witching hour in our house (after school) and she's going to give some structured things for us to do, but the most profound thing she said was 'talk to your child'. lol

What she meant was involve him in the chores by making them fun and generally just keep him engaged in the social world instead of his own. Go back to the NT toddler years and have a giggle over daddy's smelly socks etc. Keep a language-rich environment and label things and comment on things without too many demands, unless and until I can see that ds is motivated enough to put up with one.

It's a tad embarassing to be told something like that, but on the otherhand she is right that it is cheap and effective, moreso than a clinic intervention to achieve the same.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 10:15:00

Ahh Moonie, it is a very good idea but we don't have someone in school that could do that even with a full time TA. Our SLT is helpful and very open to new ideas but not ABA trained - hence my question about your course and bringing her.

This type of approach is very new to very many in the SEN industry and even to find an open mind is rare.

moosemama Mon 11-Feb-13 10:19:36

I find the animal/dog thing really interesting, because it's something that's come up with ds1 recently.

I used to be a dog trainer pre dcs and was really interesting in canine communication, body language etc. I often play with my dogs by emulating their body language as best I can - for a bi-ped. wink

Ds1 was watching me goading my lurcher to play by averting my eyes and play-bowing and was fascinated - mainly because the bonkers dog was having a complete mad one, charging around the room and play-bowing back - cue much hilarity from all three dcs.

Suddenly ds1 said "Why is he doing that Mum? What's making him do it." I explained that it was me that was making him do it and he said "But how? You aren't doing anything."

I explained to him that I was copying the dog's own body language and that if a dog wants another to play they avert their eyes, so that they don't seem threatening, then lower the front end of their body onto their elbows. Ds watched me for a few more minutes, then pointed out that I was sitting on the sofa and not lowering myself onto my elbows, so how did the dog know what I meant. I explained that all I had to do was avert my eyes, extend my hands, lower them and dip my head for our pup to understand what I meant - the movement was subtle, but clear enough. The more I wanted to wind the pup up, the bolder I had to make the body language. So I sat on the floor and bounced on my arms - at which point the loopy great lump of a dog completely lost the plot and jumped on my head. hmm grin

We then had a really good talk about why dogs need clear body language because they don't have much in the way of verbal communication skills and that people use both, verbal and non-verbal communication skills.

Ds is now noticing some non-verbal stuff, but pretty much always gets it's meaning wrong. So, say I am concentrating on something - he will ask why I am cross or if I am thinking/pondering about something - he will ask me why I am sad. However this is progress, having come from place where he didn't even seem to notice non-verbal signs.

This is the inherent problem isn't it?

Parents spend all hours finding out what works for their kids. The success of which is dependent on the willingness of school staff a)acknowldging to themselves and the parent that the parent knows more and b)undertaking the necessary training.

Not in our education system......

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 10:32:55

DS stopped on his way into school and looked towards our receptionist and said 'good morning'. He then reported back to me how he thought she looked in response - startled and pleased!

He usually mumble morning , head down, not waiting or looking for a response.

Big praise all round and a very happy DS.

But this was working with me not the TA. Have a feeling it might all fall apart if we passed it over to her, even if she were willing. It would end up as 'DS look at people when you speak to them'. Cue DS shutting down and not wanting to do it ever again.

I'm already thinking of trying to go in for an hour a week to follow a basic Tony Attwood CBT course with him. He would just never do it with the TA and he has enough piled up at home.

It gets ridiculous but when a child is older and they want him in lessons being taught, it is hard for them to see the reason to factor some of this stuff in.

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 10:46:00

' we don't have someone in school that could do that even with a full time TA'

Do what?
Press a tally counter?

This is the inherent insanity of pur present system. Oodles of money nad a cast of thousands but mysteriously people can't find the time to address the issues at hand. Starnge however that there is plenty of time to attend meeting after meeting after meeting and compile fat files of useless information.

This stuff isn't a big ask. The perfectly ordinary LSAs I work with knock off SAFMEDS, Numicon, Headsprout, Language for Thinking, social skills programmes, tally counts of all sorts, art, craft, PE, and plenty of time to realx in a day's work without breaking into a sweat or whinging or complainig.

When you talk about ABA to old timers they look perplexed and tell you it sounds like what they did (minus the cruel punishments that were a horrid part of education in times gone by). Yes! It's all pretty bloody obvious! I agree completely!

The main reason I allied myself with the ABA camp was that they were the only folk who did anything! The analogy I use os of the problem being a lake. Everyone else just kept on walking aronud it and commenting on it. The ABA lot waded straight in, right up to their necks. At last! Some action!

The naimal issues are very interesting too. Someone who is posting on this thread and I met on a TAGteach course which was full of animal trainers. Theri greatest advantage was that they used language very very carefully. I would gladly have worked with all of them in a class and I guarantee we would have seen great results. Another attendee (who also MNs I think!) is doing a PhD in equine therapy. Not the lets all whirl around in purple tye dye type therapy, but full on data driven stuff.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 10:51:44

DS stopped on his way into school and looked towards our receptionist and said 'good morning'. He then reported back to me how he thought she looked in response - startled and pleased!

He usually mumble morning , head down, not waiting or looking for a response.

Big praise all round and a very happy DS.

But this was working with me not the TA. Have a feeling it might all fall apart if we passed it over to her, even if she were willing. It would end up as 'DS look at people when you speak to them'. Cue DS shutting down and not wanting to do it ever again.

I'm already thinking of trying to go in for an hour a week to follow a basic Tony Attwood CBT course with him. He would just never do it with the TA and he has enough piled up at home.

It gets ridiculous but when a child is older and they want him in lessons being taught, it is hard for them to see the reason to factor some of this stuff in.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 10:57:21

Sorry double post!

I think Moondog it is not feeling confident in doing something different and having a clear plan to guide this and not having a 'professional' to set it all out for them.

Our SLT is not trained in ABA but she is willing to try things. The ABA therapist seemed keen to focus on issues which were of no particular use to anyone but were probably more easy to address.

I have his bill to pay yet and school are probably sick of people coming in professing to be able to work on these things,

My best hope is our open minded SLT. And, of course, me! But we are working in the dark

Yes, pressing a tally counter was too much for ds' TA.

The HT looked me in the eye and told me that she was far too busy to press a tally counter every time ds did something.

How? How could she be too busy?

Well I'll tell you how. She was rarely even working with ds, despite his statement saying she should be. She was 'too busy' setting up the classroom for the next lesson, covering TAs in other classes, preparing for snack time. That is how.

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 11:26:27

It's bloody criminal.
I've just turned down a request from IPSEA to interview my child as part of an 'awareness of need' project after reading the frankly embarrassing questionnaire they have drawn up which will do nothing for anyone other than fill another file.

I see 21 year old LSAs who voluntarily and eagerly take data on all sorts of things every day-PECS exchanges, trips to the loo, head hitting, verbalistations.

I don't even have to ask them to do it. They know they can't be effective unless they use these approaches.

Grrrrrrrrr.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 11:32:04

I think school would be up for this - if there was a clear plan. But how do I achieve that? Do I try ABA again? It's cost me about a grand already and school are now a bit cheesed off.

Do I try and get our SLT to develop ABA type approaches - ABA lite? How? Moondog, you should consult on these things!

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 12:44:47

That's what I do already in scores of classrooms.
It's my full time job!

The MN day is an attempt to share what we are able to achieve with some basic science and organisation.

But Moondog, it really does depend on the TAs being used as they are supposed to be.

A tally-taking job actually requires the TA to dedicate their time to the child they are charged with, at least for a period of time, instead of the more common ignoring the child until they become a pita for the CT then remove them.

I don't know how this can be changed with schools used to sharing out their TAs in this way and having got used to the budgets being used in this way.

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 13:32:26

I failt to see the point of a 1:1 unless they are working with that child alone. By all means, join in and when it can be dawn, withdraw (this being the whole point-to fade prompts).

If a 1:1 in an m/s class told me thay had 'no time' to take very simple data, I would be calling a meeting with the head and talking to the parents (assuming that they could be bothered-many aren't. MN parents are not representative of parents as a whole. That is very obvious to me.)

IA If your ds can cope with it, many of the programmes on CBeebies have people with very exaggerated expressions and simple storylines that won't make the expressions complicated iyswim.

I'm thinking more 'Grandpa In My Pocket' than 'In the Night Garden' though.

There was no point Moondog which is why my ds is now in a special school.

DS' IEP targets had to be something along the lines of 'do 10 mins language work first thing (TA there to observed by parent first thing), sit sensibly at snack time (TA comes in anyway to cover teacher break), and 'put coat on sensibly at hometime' (TA there to be observed by parent).

Illusion of TA being there all day with child, but actually in another classroom supporting a different child who the school believes 'really' need the support rather than the one who has the pushy and deluded parent.

Eventually, ds would have got a proper fulltime 1:1, because it was only a matter of time before he self-imploded, but I'm pretty sure it would have been of the babysitting variety.

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 14:51:42

sad
I'll show you our new developments in the diary system which guarantee you that the person with your child really is with your child and doing what they are supposed to.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 15:04:36

With DS, the trouble is also that he can fade so well into the background of the class that it can be difficult to see how much work people need to do with him.

If a child is getting on with their work, it is hard to see they need help with specific skills away from academics until something goes wrong, so it is all reactive. This is always the problem with him as it seems once a child is in the class and academically able, schools can think 'job done' no matter what is on the statement. Then, problems develop and everyone notices his difficulties.

But school are willing to work on what needs working on and I am going to concentrate on refocussing at his AR but I am also conscious that we need guidance on how to break his difficulties down and teach skills individually.

For example, one of the big problems is that DS just does not look around him and take in information so teaching that will be a first step alongside teaching the importance of noting body language and non-verbal communication. But, whereas I can do that naturally at home, this seems complicated at school when you don't want to make a 10 year old look different.

It means removal from class and a very clear plan of what you want to achieve and how.

I don't think that is easy for people who haven't access to professionals like yourself and your team.

It's been recommended that no-one asks ds yes or no questions in class, because 85% of the time the correct answer is 'yes' and ds has learn this as a default response to make the questioner go away.

By changing the way questions are asked, the CT can get a proper feel for how much ds is understanding.

Simple things like this cost NOTHING!

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 15:15:45

Good idea. But you need someone to recommend these things - otherwise you are just a mum asking for stuff.

School are pretty good about that generally!

Although ds has got more sophisticated in his yes/no responses as he has cottoned on fast that he needs to:

Do you love daddy? - yes
Do you love Mummy? - Not particularly

hmm

Ask him what the question was and he hasn't a clue.

Yes IA You have to PAY for someone to come in and make a recommendation that you could have made yourself, with a small percentage chance that the school might take a bit of it on board.

I don't know the answer. It's good you have a relationship I could have only dreamed of with the school, but even so, I see the struggles you are faced with and despair!

Sorry, that's probably not helpful.

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 15:42:59

It's bloody ridiculous, having consultant upon consultant upon consultant.
That's why i see red when people bleat about SN needing more £££ and more people. Complete nonsense. The field needs paring back to the bone so that only the useful remain. The rest just add to the problem-certainly don't address it.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 15:46:14

I agree with you both. But where to find the help needed?

I think a very proactive engaged TA would make a big difference, but so many see TA'ing as the easy option.

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 15:49:14

Well by default you keep returning to the original issue which is that you have no faith in your TA so in that cas,e you won't be able to get change to occur.

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 16:00:51

Yes, she is on the move though, so we can but hope!

phew!

Not sure if that is the solution IA but let's hope.

Though what on EARTH is happening in your school. HT leaving, CT leaving and TA leaving?

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 16:09:03

TA not leaving but moving sideways hopefully.

Big changes I know but CT was NQT and I think has decided its not for her.

It will be interesting to see if dynamic changes once TA is working alongside a more experienced teacher. Both teachers so far have been NQT.

TA not becoming CT for a term?

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 16:13:10

I think though it will be necessary to have a very clear plan of action for whoever TA's DS and that is what is lacking at the moment.

It's hard to insist on things being done without a clear plan for what needs to be done.

I know Moondog is right but the reality is most of us don't have access to people like her!

inappropriatelyemployed Mon 11-Feb-13 16:13:46

TA not becoming CT for a term?

Noooooooooo.........

moondog Mon 11-Feb-13 20:56:53

Excellent article
I was sadly all too aware of this.
'It found that pupils who received intensive help from assistants made less academic progress than their peers in the core subjects of English, maths and science, calling into question the rapid expansion in TA numbers: there were 79,000 full-time equivalents in 2000, rising to almost 220,000 in November 2011.'

However don't then assume that all will improve magically when a teacher is involved. It won't. Most have terrifyingly scant knowledge of how to teach a child who is having difficulty learning.

oodlesofdoodles Tue 12-Feb-13 09:35:32

I.A. the therapist who wrote the book above has worked with DS. This has given us:
=direct therapy
=homework suggestions from her
=opened our minds to what non verbal communication really is and which parts DS needs to work on
=our own ideas to promote it at home
=school have been in contact with her and it helped open their minds, which I felt was better than nothing.

PM me if you want

Agree with moosemama - you can communicate a huge amount without verbal language. The special relationship between humans and dogs is a case in point. Deaf people communicating with each other is another. IMO the problem for verbal children is they (and their supporters) keep developing more and more verbiage while their non verbal skills atrophy.

inappropriatelyemployed Tue 12-Feb-13 10:42:38

Thanks Ooodles. Sorry what books was that? I will certainly PM you.

I absolutely agree with you about the problem with non-verbal skills failing to develop if you don't teach them specifically. In some ways, people might think this is a small problem, but it can have a massive impact on daily life.

DS has been brilliant the last two days going into school and just watching for people's reaction to his greeting. A very small step but it has made a big difference to his mood and to those of others.

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