Home School Life Journal

Home School Life Journal ........... painting by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Using the Association Method for Language Aquisition for Students with Autism and Other Language Impairment

I learned about the Association Method from Tammy. We have been working on Alex's language skills since he was a baby. With Katie's diagnosis of Autism at 3 years old, we were right on top of Alex's diagnosis. We had a whole team of people working with him using Applied Behavior Analysis, but we ended up reaching a point that he just could not pass. The public school system worked with him using one-on-one aides, speech therapy and various other methods, but he mostly just learned how to look like he was learning things instead of actually learning them. We brought him back home and I have been winging it ever since, just working with him as instinct takes me. He has a good memory for history and science facts, but I am never sure just what he understands. Then I stumbled upon Tammy's posts about the Association Method. Since it was written for aphasic children, it seemed to focus just on Alex's weaknesses. We have completed the Incidental Language exercises. He has not carried them over to his daily life, which, of course is the goal, but I am not sure anything will get him to. We seemed to have reached his limit when it comes to spontaneous language.
He will work with me on the Animal Stories; read them, memorize them, repeat them, write them, dictate them, etc. and he will enunciate fairly clearly, if I remind him to. I thought we were doing pretty well but when we came to the end of them I just didn't feel satisfied that he had the skills down, so I added in the concept of making three-way Venn diagrams, using all the information in the animal stories we had completed. Well, it became very clear that, although he had memorized the stories, he had no concept of what they meant. When using the sentence "Birds have feathers," as an introduction, I would as him if the other two randomly picked animals, such as horse and cat, have feathers, he would answer "yes." When I started calling him on his wrong "yes" answers, he switched to answering "no" to all the questions. When he answered that birds have four legs, I would ask him to count and point to their four legs. He pointed to the head, the wing and the two legs. Does this mean that he doesn't know what legs are, or does it mean that he doesn't want to bother to think about answering the question correctly? On other occasions when he given the task of pointing out the legs of various animals, he could do so correctly, so it appears that the structure of the language is the problem. When asked questions, he seems to go in a separate question-answering mode, in which the goal is to answer the question as effectively as possible, not to really think about what is being asked. After all, this method was pretty successful in public school. So much so they didn't even know what he was doing.
So, the question now remains, where should I go with this now? My plan right now is to go on with my Venn diagramming of the Animal Stories and to continue ahead with the next phase which is Inanimate Object Stories, being mindful that it is the question/language aspect that is most likely the problem for him.

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