Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Structured vs. Unstructured Therapy

Ava is changing at the speed of light. Her willfulness seems directly linked to her language ability. As her language abilities increase, so does her desire to have her way. She can express herself better and she wants her commands to be followed. I suppose it could also be those “terrible twos” I’ve heard so much about. Michael never really did the terrible twos – at least not like this. (Is there such a phrase as the “whining threes”? If so, he’s definitely doing that!)

It’s actually more annoying than cute. I’m finding it difficult to get Ava to sit down for structured therapy sessions. She goes into complete refusal mode and bribery with food no longer works. I’m needing to be more indirect and incorporate small moments of therapy into all of our daily activities.

For example, Ava will run over to her communication board and point to the yogurt calling out "yo-yo, "yo-yo, peas". She loves yogurt and wants it for breakfast and for her after nap snack. She can’t produce a /g/ sound. If I ask her to repeat the word with a /g/ in the middle she’ll just say “yo-yo” again. If I ask her to say, “yo-dirt” (because she can make a /d/ and some consonant in the middle is better than none at all) she’ll say “yo-dur”. The entire exchange takes no more than 30 seconds and yet it is a tiny bit of therapy. Then, as she eats the yogurt I find a way to fit that word in several more times. I’ll ask her, “More yogurt?” and make sure she says, “yo-dur” instead of “yo-yo” in response.

I never push her or try to correct words that she’s doing her best on. I’m trying to improve her pronunciation of words that I know she can do a little better. They don’t have to be perfect. They just need to improve in one way. “Yo-dur” has a /d/ instead of a /g/ in the middle and is missing the final /t/, but it is still closer than “yo-yo” so it’s an improvement.

I liked direct therapy. It’s just so much more intense than the unstructured therapy moments that occur during the day. I get maybe 5-10 practices of “yogurt” during the 15 minute snack. I could get 10-20 during 3-4 minutes of a structured session. I’m not giving up on the structured therapy. I’m going to get a little more creative. I’m going to try to sit down with a game and see if I can get her to work with me if we’re “playing.” I’ll let you know how that goes.

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