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"gestalt" style of learning language - how to break it down - any experiences/tips?

(28 Posts)
lingle Sun 12-Jul-09 22:38:45

About 99% of DS2's ongoing problem is that he tends to hear language in chunks of melody, so goes on facial expression/context/tone of voice and whatever words he picks out and therefore frequently fails to understand what is said to him, particularly when said by other children.

I play "Simon Says" a lot (he can do three steps, sometimes with each one having a combined element eg "touch curtains then jump on sofa then crawl on the rug" and we talk a lot about "first X then Y". When he is the Simon Says questionmaster he'll give me four steps and frankly I struggle to remember them but he always does. So he must be capable of analytical sequential reasoning relating to transient phenomena, surely?

But Ds2 is only just starting to understand questions like "what are you wearing on your feet?". Today I said "what's your brother called?" and he said "DS2" and we had to go through identifying his friends' brothers then asking again for his own brother's name.

Please can someone give me a magic pill to make it go away? no? ok then, please can you give me some of your own games/tips or more specific reading instructions to break up the tedium a bit?

You know, tonight I just want some speech therapist to turn up at my door and say "it's fine, you go back to being a lawyer. I'll fix his receptive language within the next year". sorry, mustn't grumble and all that and am grateful for his progress this year.

manyhands Mon 13-Jul-09 07:08:33

No expert here and think I might be stating the obvious but choose a few words sentences every day and introduce them in context, e'g Here is your car? The car is red. At least 9 times per word. Having a context is the key to them understanding I've found with DS.

cyberseraphim Mon 13-Jul-09 09:49:00

DS1 is like this too - He will pick out key words and have a stab at an answer. To be honest (and in his case) he is learning a foreign language and so reacts in the same way we would in a foreign country. You can use ABA/VB language approaches to narrow down what the key part of the language is that you want him to learn and hope that he will generalise it later

HelensMelons Mon 13-Jul-09 10:21:09

Hi lingle

Not sure that I am picking you up right but would inferences help? I have been looking through one of DS2's speech books and he has stuff like (you could use a book or a magazine for pictures)- for example

Picture of a Hen sitting on her nest:

What is the hen doing?
- taking a bath
- sleeping
- sitting in a nest

Is it to do with difficulties with the what, where, why questions?

Sorry, not good with the technical words!

lingle Mon 13-Jul-09 10:48:28

thanks for your replies guys. gosh I was grumpy last night wasn't I?

Cyber, do you have any "real life" games that work well? I'm after something that might be a bit more fun for both of us or we could even play with other children.

Simon says is fun for the first 1000 or so times......

yes, it's trouble with what/where/why/when questions, though we are now 100% there with "what's that?" and "where's X?".

lingle Mon 13-Jul-09 10:58:29

the real title of the thread should have been "gosh I'm a bit bored of my current language games please give me some more!"

TotalChaos Mon 13-Jul-09 11:07:50

the sort of things I do (or ahem ought to do when it comes to visuals)

1. simplify language in questions - e.g. what's on your feet/what have you got on your feet, what's your brother's name.

2. visuals - either signs or pictures for all the question words.


1.for question words - have a pile of little piccies say for day and night time activities, and say "when do you do X" - day or night - shove into correct pile. or have a pile of piccies with Xmas stuff and summer holiday stuff on and again "when do you do this"? and sort.

2.expressively - one game that worked marvellously with DS was to get a few of his favourite toys and take one each and do "my toy can...." and get him to say something his toy can. Originally it started with just running through some verbs with a lot of prompting, then it develops
ed into more elaborate scenarios with getting the bus to town, going shopping and going to a cafe.

and sympathies with feeling of wanting a professional to come and take over - it can be draining to think that despite being "in the system" 99% of the buck stops with us, and if you're lucky, school.

TotalChaos Mon 13-Jul-09 11:12:14

oh some more ideas from a useful handout from private SALT (god I love that woman):-

make a small book (say about your holiday) with photos/drawings. Then you ask questions - who went on holiday, where did you go?

cut pictures from books/magazines. Then get your child to sort things - e.g. so a picture of a man would go into the Who pile, and an apple into the What pile. (useful to have a pictogram for Who and What ime for this sort of exercise).

ask WH questions during and after reading stories. and encourage your child to ask questions about the sory.

cut pictures out and ask your child to ask you a question about it

TotalChaos Mon 13-Jul-09 11:14:06

btw the visuals for question words used in SALT group were:-

picture of a question mark next to a face for WHO
picture of a sign post for WHERE
picture of a clock for WHEN

lingle Mon 13-Jul-09 15:08:36

thank you so much total I thought I replied earlier but the Internet ate it.

I've stuck your replies up on the wall next to my computer for when the adrenaline gets back to normal levels.

sc13 Wed 15-Jul-09 10:06:50

Perhaps there's something useful in that Winslow catalogue? They had so much stuff in terms of games or even books apparently packed with ideas. I find some of the Orchard games really good - we've also found a lot of mileage in those sticker/activity books you get from the airport newsagent's, to keep them entertained on the plane.

RaggedRobin Wed 15-Jul-09 21:03:11

oh, i like those question visuals, totalchaos. thanks for those.

lingle Thu 06-Aug-09 09:32:08

Just bumping this to say thanks again. I have called the Airedale Child development centre where my SALT is based and they are sending me pictograms for all the "wh" questions. I think he's in the zone for this so it's very exciting. I'm a lot less grumpy now blush as he has discovered that board games are 90% visual and is really into them.

Still feel silly about the incomprehensible thread title. Here is an explanation of his learning style for anyone who suspects their child may be similar:

"There is a group of students who learn language differently. They do not follow the normal patterns for interpreting the speech of others or acquiring expressive speech. To them, language occurs in pieces or chunks for certain purposes but they lack the ability to effectively understand more specific word and grammatical differences. For example: when someone asks "How are you?" the student answers "fine". If the questions changes to "how old are you?" the student response to that may also be "fine". If it is a routine to point to his empty milk carton and "put it in the wastebasket" he will follow that direction. If your direction changes to "put it on the counter" when you point to it, the carton could end up in the wastebastet. These students are gestalt learners. They learn big "Chunks". They do not adequately analyze those big chunks into smaller pieces". (Linda A Hodgdon: "Visual Strategies for Improving Communication")

This describes DS2's learning style precisely though he is fast figuring out how to break language down now.

Sphil and others is this how your DS is too?

moondog Thu 06-Aug-09 09:36:40

I think you lot may know that Headsprout shortly to release online programme which tackles 'Wh' questions. I went to exclusive preview when in ABA conference in Phoenix in May.

God it is bloody fantastic.

[Glad you are finding that book useful Lingle. Did you read my little thing elsewhere on fab new find, the language 'Fun Decks' from

cyberseraphim Thu 06-Aug-09 09:37:40

They mention Gestalt learning ( of language and other skills) in Hanen - I would say DS1 is in this category to some extent although he would manage different uses of 'put' now. I think VB has helped to break down the 'chunked' language.

lingle Thu 06-Aug-09 09:53:28

I really really like the book Moondog thanks so much for the recommendation. It's hugely optimistic which is a prerequisite for me. But what I like best is that it really focusses on how the teacher/parent has to integrate the visuals into normal classroom life and take ownership of them. This is my challenge for school next September- we/they have tended to see "the visuals" as this external "thing" that the speech therapist brings in........... I like the way the author is sensitive to issues like a parent's unwillingness to put pictograms all over the kitchen walls and works with that - the way she works with people as they are not as they should be.

cyber yes in More than Words they mention that if your child has this style then your job is to break it down I think don't they?

I knew from observation that I had to get DS2 away from music and rhyme and it's been nice to find out why that is... (not that all gestalt learners have to avoid music of course).

lingle Thu 06-Aug-09 10:03:38

.... will look up fundecks asap moondog.

cyberseraphim Thu 06-Aug-09 10:07:32

I think 'taking ownership' is key . Visuals can be used with almost all language delayed children but there can be problems when they are not introduced in the right way ( I am definitely in the 'No Hieroglyphics in my Kitchen' camp) However if you ensure that the visual strategy has some function and is not just a schedule for the sake of having a schedule then you can achieve breakthroughs.

lingle Thu 06-Aug-09 10:17:16

I think I'm going to write your message on my hand cyber for when I see my headmistress in September about this.....I'd been looking for my one-sentence summary of what I want from her.....

moondog Thu 06-Aug-09 10:45:42

Exactly Cyber.
I go into many places where there are pictures and schedules all over the place.Looks great but 9/10 they aren't used properly.Mostly people lack the necessary discipline ot use themday in and day out and then fade them when understanding is firm.

It becomes a vicious circle

The staff don't use them
The kids don't get them
The staff use them less
The kids use them less

[or adults of course as I deal with them too.]

I have seen so many failed systems but where people use them properly andconsistently, they work bloody wonders.

moondog Thu 06-Aug-09 10:52:20

Superduper is an American S/LT resource company [or SL/P as they call it there].

The Fun decks come in a groovy little tin a bit bigger than acigarette box. They each have about 50 cards in them and about 6/7 different game ideas. I love them and everyone [parents, kids, teaching staff] I have trialled them on loves them. Easy to use [no complicated instructions], target specific language concepts, nicely made and very portable.

I bought 14 for myself.About a tenner each. They came with me to Bangladesh and have just gone in my suitcase to go with me to Malaysia. We do a pack a night and practice until concept soild. Takes 10-15 mins.

sc13 Fri 07-Aug-09 12:52:19

Just ordered three Fun Deck packs!!! Including, in a frenzy of wild optimism, the 'Cause and effect' ones!

lingle Fri 07-Aug-09 13:10:47

is the postage high?

Am really using talkability by the way.

sc13 Fri 07-Aug-09 14:32:45

They don't work it out straight away (shipping charges to be added). There is a box you can tick if you want to be warned about how much the shipping is before finalizing the order. I couldn't be bothered - let's hope it's not 100 dollars... The Winslow catalogue has some of them individually, but mostly as one big order which costs too much.
Glad you're making use of Talkability! I think here we're just slowly pushing DS from the 'More than Words' Early communicator to the Partner stage.

cyberseraphim Fri 07-Aug-09 14:36:41

That's interesting sc13 - I think we are hoping to get to Partner stage too - we are much higher up Early Communicator than when we started Hanen. He's in between. EC seems quite basic now but Partner maybe a bit further on. I'll have to re read the book now I'm not sure.

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