I am working with a particular little boy, Peter aged 4years 11 months. who just can't understand language which is anything but concrete and in the 'here and now'. It hasn't been too big a problem until now he's in the third term in reception. He knows he should say something but when its his turn to answer a question he will just say anything that pops into his head. This is of course causing much hilarity among his peers and mixed reactions from staff. Is he doing it deliberatley, is he trying to wind them up? They really don't know how they should be responding. The NHS SLT and I had been working on 'Why-because' activities especially those from Black Sheep press.
Last week, I was delighted to discover the Test of Abstract Language by Elks and McLachlan and used it yesterday to identify where Peter's specific difficulties lie.
There are 4 levels as identified by Blank, Rose and Berlin in 1978.
1. Matching perception e.g. where's the lorry? Find me the train
2. Selective analysis of perception e.g. finding object by function which on flies, putting pictures of related objects together, recall info from a statement Such as who, what, where,
3. Level 3 following direction e.g. do this, planning and giving directions, formulate a story which links pictures, describe events and predict, assume the role of another e.g. what could he say, identify similarities, differences
4. Level 4 requires abstract verbal problem solving e.g. why, inference, cause, explain why something can't happen
On the assessment Peter. struggled with some level 2 i.e. recalling who, what, where from a story.
For level 3 he could not formulate a story from pictures, describe and predict. Therefore he is between level 2 and 3. The ‘why because’ comes in level 4
Therefore, we need to rethink what we're doing and take it to the right level for him.
One of the things that occurred to me while I was reading the work by Blanc is that when something goes wrong especially bad behaviour in nursery and reception, we always ask children, ‘tell me what happened’ and ‘why did you do that’. These are both concepts beyond many young children especially when they're anxious. At this time their understanding will be blocked further (weakest link phenomenon).
We’d already been looking at what goes together and what doesn’t belong so we can keep doing that. We need to do more stories with questions and putting pictures into sequences/talking about them. I’ve got some lovely things on a narrative programme (Black Sheep press) that I will take into school and leave for them too.
See:http://www.elklan.co.uk/ for accredited courses we can deliver from Small Talk and http://www.blacksheeppress.co.uk/