Dr. James MacDonald 332 Mimring Columbus, Ohio 43202 Phone/Fax 614 447-0768 macdonaldj86@gmail.com

Communicating Partners

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Allow The Child Success

We hope you will come to appreciate that a success for your child at this time is simply staying with you in play. Your friendly response is his reward. He will not need you to say things like "good boy" or "good talking." In fact, responses like this easily become rote and artificial and often put a stop to any interaction you have going. Your job is to keep the interaction going.

Your child will know he is succeeding if you simply accept what he does and show him respect by doing something like it. Success for your child has probably been doing what he can do independently, but now he needs successes with people. To grow, a child need not learn to do anything new with people until he can do in people play what he already knows as he plays alone. And why do we care if your child has successes with people? Because successes with people help him feel safe and good, and most important, competent. Unfortunately, for many delayed children, chances to feel competent are few and far between. A child who feels competent will try more so that successes increase the likelihood that a delayed child will stay with people and make a habit of it. On the other hand, failures, as when a child cannot answer your question or comply with your command, may discourage him staying or starting up with new people.

The point here is that you have your child's successes in your control. There is no avoiding it-- you either give him successes or you don't. If you simply respond sensitively to his little actions and any new surprising things, you will soon learn what he needs to do next and how you can encourage him to do it. Just remember: When a child is learning to be social, a success is any behavior he does with people and any new behaviors.

Avoid Corrections or Discouraging Feedback

Tied closely to helping a child have successes, this recommendation is simply a warning that, for a child with a long history of failures, corrections or any feedback suggesting what he did was wrong may drive him away from the necessary person-to-person contacts he needs. Of course, you certainly do not intend to drive him away from people when you get him to do it "right" or otherwise let him know that what he did was not enough. Nevertheless, be aware that you may be doing just that very effectively in spite of your motives. Until your child has developed a strong habit of social play, it is successes, not failures, that will get him into that habit.

Avoid Testing or Focus on Right and Wrong

When getting your child into a habit of people play, forget about "right" and "wrong" except for unsafe or socially abusive actions. Rather than saying "Is he right or wrong?" get into the habit of saying "Is he doing it with people?" Think of your exciting job now as helping your child begin to do with people all the things he can already do by himself. This change alone would be a major developmental step toward communicating. Once he is a social person, you will have many opportunites to show him the right steps to new things. What is more, only if he becomes a social person will you have those opportunities. ("Becoming Partners with Children: From Play to Conversation" -- pages 83, 84, Dr. Jim MacDonald, 1989)

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Dr. James MacDonald 332 Mimring Columbus, Ohio 43202 Phone/Fax (614)447-0768 macdonaldj86@gmail.com