A Parent's View of the ECO Communication Program

Barbara Mitchell - Notes from Becoming Partners with Children: From Play to Conversation.

This paper highlights critical key guidelines to assisting a child in developing communicative relationships. Based on one parent's four-year program with her language delayed child - utilizing James MacDonald's Becoming Partners with Children: From Play to Conversation, available from Applied Symbolix, 1 (800) 676-7551.

Becoming Play Partners

  1. "Playing with adults is necessary for a child to learn to communicate." (People are more important than things!) p. 59.
  2. "Reward the child for even the smallest steps." (Don't expect too much!) p. 60.
  3. "Few children will involve adults in play in they realize those adults do not enjoy it." p. 61a.
  4. "Keep track of two things: how long he stays and new things he does. Make those your rewards!" p. 63g.
  5. "Regardless of the topic or activity a child chooses, there are ample opportunities to show a child how to be social and communicative about it." p. 66g.
  6. "To become social and communicative, children must learn that they can be successful and have some control over their people." p. 67.
  7. "If a child seems not to want to play, we look first to change what we are doing before we say he "can't" or "won't."" (Usually it's because adults are doing something too different or not interesting for the child.) p. 74b.
  8. "Think of a play activity as your child's first conversations, only without words." (Be sure to tell this to parents who are so eager for a child to talk!) p. 74b.
  9. "You have your child's success in your control." p. 83c.
  10. "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?'" p. 84e.

Becoming Turntaking Partners

  1. "What each person does on his turn is not necessarily important, as long as it is something related to what the other did and keeps the interactions going." p. 102.
  2. "Every action or sound of a child can become an interaction and a communication if others react as if it were. Consequently, be aware of your child's seemingly meaningless behaviors; with care your can make them interactive by gently showing how to do them with you." p. 114b (Teach this to parents!)
  3. "Enjoying people is more important for their child's communication than learning to make sounds and words correctly." p. 119e.
  4. "Matching is perhaps the most effective strategy you can use with your child regardless of his level." p. 126.
  5. "When adults fail to wait, their dominating behavior actually appears to suppress the child's attempts, even convincing him that no one values what he can do." p. 129.
  6. "Before you assume the attention problem lies in the child, consider that she may naturally go to things she finds most interesting and leave the boring ones. You need to be more interesting that the things that distract her." p. 130. (Children also have attention problems if things are too difficult for them - or they can show non compliant, inappropriate, or just "bad" behavior!)
  7. "Being relaxed and enjoyable works much more effectively than force to keep a child interacting and genuinely participating." p. 133e.

Becoming Communicating Partners

  1. "Avoid the rush to words!" p. 148.
  2. "Begin to see your child as a communicator whether or not he talks." p. 150.
  3. "Show your child that you expect something, but not necessarily something particular." p. 153.
  4. "A child will initiate interactions if he regularly has successes when he does so... If a delayed child is accustomed to being corrected or given more work when he initiates, he will do less." p. 157.
  5. "Children seem more likely to try to imitate others who do things they can already do, that is, that match their current abilities." p. 162.
  6. "The important thing for a beginning communicator is to do anything and do it frequently... For a child who is learning, any communication is important." p. 163.
  7. "Have an attitude: 'Am I understanding a little more?' rather than, 'Is he talking right?'" p. 167.
  8. "Adopt the habit of responding to anything the child does, as long as it is safe and inoffensive. Respond in a matched way... then wait silently for the child to communicate." p. 178.
  9. "Build a strong base of actions and sounds in a stable habit of interaction back and forth, and communications will evolve." p. 180.
  10. "When language fails, always return to the principle of nonverbal communication. Whenever your are in doubt, return to the simpler kinds of communication you have learned about. These will strengthen you with success and show you the language that is appropriate for your child." p. 182 (imitating and matching sounds, actions, and first words).

Becoming Language Partners

  1. "It is undeniably unfair to say a child does not have language or can not talk on the basis of failures to teach him words for things outside his knowledge, motivation, or practical use in communication." p. 197.
  2. "Let your experiences with your child lead you naturally to showing him new language in a matched way he can do." p. 202b.
  3. "Be very careful not to talk too much!" p. 204.
  4. "The child has to participate in order to learn and to stay motivated to become a genuine talker." p. 204.
  5. "We strongly urge parents and professionals to put aside their goals of teaching any new language until the child is in the habit of communicating his current language for social, friendly purposes." p. 201f.
  6. "When a child learns that words are an enjoyable extension of play, rather than a task at which he can fail, his words become extensions of his interests and experiences that are as natural for him as for any normal conversationalist. If he learns that talk is good, regardless of its correctness by adult standards, talking will be more likely to become a natural habit through which he can learn language in any interaction." p. 216c.
  7. "It is essential than you clearly show him you expect to talk." p. 216e.
  8. "Habitual communicative interactions must be firmly established before the child is pressured with language goals..." p. 219.
  9. "The more you use language that your child can use, the more likely his is to do so!" p. 221.
  10. "Focus more on the child's ideas than his way of communicating." p. 229.

Becoming Conversation Partners

  1. "The less work we make for a child in an interaction, the more he stays and the more he communicates." p. 246b.
  2. "Exchange words that describe your child's activity..." p. 251, "Say what you see and feel and keep him doing the same." p. 253.
  3. "Create social conversations out of children's instrumental communications, as for help or information... In this way, your child can learn that the reason to contact other people is not just to get needs met but also to give and take with a partner." p. 259.
  4. "(Tell this to mothers!) "Clinical researchers have found that mothers of children with the highest developmental scores were highly child-oriented and showed low degrees of control and stimulation. In other words, the parents with the more communicative children were those who acted like their child, followed their child's lead, and established an easy, conversational style rather than a directive, controlling one." p. 269.
  5. "Your child must have successes that motivate him, and both of you must stay for increasingly longer exchanges." p. 270.
  6. "Resist the temptation to fill in all the silences. If you don't resist, you will find you are having conversation with yourself." p. 273d.
  7. "Conversations appear to build to the extent that each partner can participate actively with his own ideas. We rarely see children pursuing conversations with partners who do not give them the freedom to develop their own ideas." 276c.
  8. "We need to allow children to express all the knowledge that is suppressed by adults who control conversations. Unless a child feels free of judgment and failure in an interaction, he is not likely to communicate much of what he knows." p. 278f.
  9. "Ask only real questions, questions you genuinely what answered and will wait silently for." p. 281a.
  10. "One test of whether the interaction is too stressful for the child is whether or not he stays with you." p. 283d.

  Revised: February 22, 1998.