Communicating Partners, Winter 1997 Newsletter

Letter from Barbara
     When I became concerned about helping my son Mark's communication, I believed that I needed to act like a teacher and bathe him with nonstop language. I gave him little time to try to communicate on his own and I overstimulated him to the point of frequently losing his attention. I was hoping and searching for the signs of words and ignored many of the little things he could do. I showered him with questions and kept making demands of him to come into my world. And, saddest of all, Mark and I had very little fun together. I was too anxious to play with him in ways that made him want to stay with people. I was frustrated and Mark was frustrated and even seemed to be giving up on being with people actively.
     Then we began working with Com-municating Partners. Immediately, Dr. MacDonald encouraged me to enter Mark's world much more as a play partner than a teacher. Gradually, and with the help of the book Becoming Partners with Children, I began to learn to make the ACE strategies a natural and constant part of my interactions with Mark. The changes were often slow and difficult; I resisted giving up total control of the boy I thought I was so responsible for teaching. However, hard as it was to learn to be a play partner, the more I did it, the more Mark became social and communicative. I learned the "balance" strategy by waiting for Mark to take his turn and by reducing my over- stimulation of him. I learned the habit of "matching" by trying to act and communicate more in ways he could. I found that the more I matched Mark the more he stayed and communicated.
     Once I learn all the important things Mark needed to do before speech, I began using the "responsiveness" strategy by attending and supporting many of his little nonverbal behaviors that I had previously ignored. One of the hardest strategies to learn was "sharing control"; I had been in such a deep habit of questioning and commanding that it took me quite a while to learn that the less I controlled our interactions and tested him, the more he communicated. And, perhaps the happiest part of my learning was to find the absolute importance of having fun in a relaxed "emotionally attached" and playful way.
     These habits may seem normal and easy, but I can tell you that I had to really work on them and I still do. I began using the ACE strategies in our nonverbal play with actions and sounds. Now, that Mark is conversing in sentences, I am still using the same strategies but now to show him how to participate in near adult conversations. Once you learn to make ACE a habit with you, your relationships with your child will blossom and grow. Good luck and be sure to enjoy your time with your child.
Barbara Mitchell

  Revised: February 22, 1998.