I recently had someone ask me for advice on how to get their CI child to learn language. What therapy techniques should I use and work best? To which I had to answer, “I am not sure, I am not a speech therapist, but what do they need to learn?” But the question got me to thinking about Landon, what techniques do I use to help him learn language? I am not a speech therapist, but I am an educator, maybe I can help. Here was my answer in a nutshell.
The most contemporary view of why the active learning techniques work for Landon is because people, even infants, construct new knowledge based on what they already know and believe. There is a common misconception that if I perform a technique X number of times with Landon, he will understand and be able to apply the technique in different situations. What it really means is he will memorize (low order thinking), but fail to synthesis and adapt (higher orders of thinking) the knowledge to a given situation.
The most common problem we had with him was trying to get him to understand something was “on top”, “behind”, and “in-front.” The reason is because his learning was situated outside his social context and needs. It was a paper cardboard box and candy we were trying. He could only perceive the information within the context of what he already knew. So instead of using an artificial technique, try to setup a real life social context for the student to allow them to incorporate the new knowledge within their current knowledge. Want your child to learn about a barking dog, forget the picture and saying “woof”, “woof”. Situate them within a real life context of a barking dog. If the child, like Landon, is having problem with “on top”, “behind”, and “in-front”, situate him or her within a social context where the understanding of those terms has meaning and purpose. Once the connections are made, the knowledge base expands and the understanding is cemented.
Finally, as the child matures, have them take control of more of their own learning. This has been where mobile games and apps have truly helped Landon. He is in a world, he controls full of sounds and images. He is in control of his own learning; we just direct it via the games he is allowed to play. Then I like to have him teach me how to play the game, his language has exploded since I first tried to have him explain Plants versus Zombies to me. Its a real life context where he wants me to know and I am expressing a desire to know how to play Plants versus Zombies, and believe me learning was taking place on both sides of the aisle.