How do I explain that?

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Planning what you say – the next step in cognitive self-regulation

We’ve looked at strategies for helping children take in and integrate information. The know to work systematically, select and remember the most important information, and check that they understand.

Now it’s time to teach them how to plan what they say so others will understand. 

We give the children lists of key information to include when they describe objects, people, and events.
 
Here’s one for describing objects:


If we want the child to describe an apple, they’d say, “It’s small and round and red with some yellow and it’s in your fruit bowl.” The order of the words is typically the order used in English – “three big, round, orange balls are on the table.”
 
We add more features once children get used to describing with the first list of features. This is the list:

This list allows for more detail to be added, especially around events, The comparison feature can let children describe something even when they don’t have the vocabulary – “His nose is long and looks like a pickle.”

We use these features in games like I Spy and Hedbanz. 

I find that children really enjoy barrier games. They’re are a great way to work on describing. They involve having two players sit across from each other with a barrier between them. Each player is given the same picture but can’t see the other’s. It’s similar to the board game Battleship. Using the key features list, each person describes how to color the picture. For example, “Color the leaves on the big tree on the left side of the picture green.”  or “Color the dog that looks like a sausage brown.” After a turn or two, compare the pictures to see if the instructions were clear and if the other person was listening carefully. Any errors are noted and misunderstandings are cleared up before moving on. There are lots of coloring pages online that you can use. Here are a couple of options: http://www.coloring-book.info/coloring/ and
http://www.kidopo.com/coloring-pages/

All executive functions are needed when working on describing objects, people, and events:
Inhibitory control – making sure they take the time to plan their thoughts and don’t just blurt out whatever comes to their mind. 
Planning and organization – arranging ideas in an order that is understandable to other people. 
Working memory – keeping information in their working memory while they explain each feature.
Self-monitoring – checking to make sure they include all important information and the other person is understanding.
Cognitive flexibility – change what they’re saying or the order so as to help their listener.

You’ll learn much more about how to work on Cognitive Self-Regulation skills in The Autistic Child’s Guide books about spark* and spark*EL listed below.

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