I spent the past few days talking about tips and methods for teaching emerging verbal skills and responding to questions. This is a secret, weird obsession of mine. Teaching question answering. I told you. It’s weird. But honestly I could have a whole separate blog dedicated to teaching questions answering. Wouldn’t that be even weirder. It’s one of those obsessions that makes you know you are in the right field. The title of my thesis for grad school is Using Multiple Exemplar Training and a Transfer of Stimulus Control Procedure to Teach Question Answering to Children with Autism. That’s a mouthful. Sometimes when friends or family members outside of the field ask me what my thesis is on I just rattle off the entire title and watch their dumbfounded face. I know, such a jerky move. I just like sounding really intense and complicated … even though I’m really not…
My question answering obsession obviously makes sense since I work with children with autism who by definition have significant impairments in language and social skills. Well – question answering = language + social skills. Over the past few years I have realized how vitally important question answering is. It’s how we make friends, it’s how we are assessed, it’s how we get what we want. It’s a safety concern. It’s a functional independence concern. It’s an academic concern. Have I convinced you? It’s everything.
I have spent many hours of my life watching my beloved babies struggle answering questions. Sometimes they remind me of those bing.com commercials that were always on tv a few years ago. I ask them ‘who’s birthday it is tomorrow?’ and they say Tuesday… cupcakes… ice cream… chocolate frosting… sing… November… song… party… vanilla frosting… You get the point. They are trying so hard to answer the question but cannot discriminate what is being asked of them. The language processing challenges take over. Children with autism have such difficulty identifying exactly what is being asked of them.
Okay – I was totally not intending to go on this tirade. Thanks for bearing with me…
Anyways – one type of question that is critically important to answer are personal information questions. You need to be able to identify yourself and other important aspects about your life. We work on answering personal information questions all the time in my class. This will lead to increased functional independence and improved friendship making capabilities.
We use these visual personal information questions during our social skills time in morning group. I like having them written out with a visual cue because it helps my students ask each other these questions and provides a nice prompt to answering a question that can be difficult.
Get these questions for free – Personal Information Questions Packet and make sure your students can answer questions about themselves.
Here is a little sneaky tip if you are going to use these. I had a hard time using these when I would ask my students what their address, phone number, or birthday was. Because they would answer and I would have not freaken idea if they were right or not. If you are able to memorize all your students’ information – I’m impressed. I am no that impressive. So I made a little sneaky cheat sheet that I laminated and velcroed right near my morning group area So now I know when my kiddos are right or wrong.