“What’s LIKE Got to Do With Learning: Using a Child’s Preferences”
“Understanding what MOTIVATES a child can make or break an instructional program…”
Whether a child likes or prefers a certain toy may not seem all that important to you. Who’s got time to play when there are all those IEP goals to work on?
But–suppose one of his IEP goals is: “Take five steps with his walker.” What might happen if you put his favorite toy on a table where he can see it? Now he has a reason to move: to get to that toy and spin it.
IEP goal accomplished! He takes five steps without falling to the floor in a tantrum. With repetition, the concept of “walking” is linked to the enjoyment of playing with the preferred toy.
- Ask family members what their child does at home. How does she interact with household objects, siblings, pets, grandparents, friends? What does she spend time doing alone?
- Just as important, what objects or activities does he dislike?
- List the people, activities or objects on a “Likes/Dislikes” form to make sure you’ve asked about a variety of categories (not just foods or toys, for example).
- Think about how to use the child’s preferences in his daily schedule and routines. (Don’t forget to build in some fun, too. Children with deaf-blindness need down time!)
- If the student only likes toys with a certain quality, introduce one new thing. For example, if the child only likes soft cloth diapers, sew a jingle bell on one for her to discover.
- Use likes and dislikes for matching or sorting. Example: place three stuffed animals (child’s like) in a box. Add a metal bowl (child’s dislike). The child can take out the stuffed animals and leave the bowl. This is also a great way to start conversations. Start using the phrase with the child, “You like ____,” or, “You don’t like ___.”
- If the child enjoys a certain action such as bouncing or jumping, consider how that movement can be used to work toward accomplishing an objective such as counting: 1, 2, 3.
- See More Info to learn more about assessing a child’s areas of ability.
Getting to Goals
• When observing the student, watch for behavior that may show a LIKE or DISLIKE of the object, action, or activity introduced to him:
Change in breathing
Slight body movements
Muscle tension changes
More or louder vocalizations
Mouth opening or closing
Can he move his head, lips, a finger or a toe?
If the student constantly whines or frowns to show displeasure or discomfort, does that stop when presented with something novel, for example, a warm neck wrap? a resonant drum?
Start a list. Keep data on how often you’ve presented the activity, action, or item, and the student’s responses to each. Watch for very subtle responses (such as those listed in FAQ #1).
• Use a Hand Under Hand approach (your hands under his) to introduce new things.
• What about temperature? Does he prefer warmth? If so, try warming a washcloth, neck pack, or other object in the microwave and see if that makes it less aversive.
• Ask the person who has the most positive interactions with this student how they help the student accept objects or actions. With permission, videotape these positive interactions and observe carefully.
• Set up a schedule and follow it consistently so that the student can anticipate what will happen next.
• Know the student’s temperament. Some people are easy going and “go with the flow.” Some are “feisty” and protest often. Others may be less outwardly expressive, yet actually are enjoying an activity, action or object.
• A combination of strategies can allow a student to move from passive to active, from protesting to tolerating, and eventually to active participation. This process may take weeks, months or years, so keep data on each small success.
• Allow time for him to use the toothbrush when it is appropriate – for example, after lunch for toothbrushing.
First Things First: Early Communication for the Pre-Symbolic Child with Severe Disabilities
Develop a Routine that Incorporates One of Your Student’s “Likes”
Texas School for the Blind & Visually Impaired
Enriching Interactions with Children who Have Multiple Impairments Including Visual Impairment
By Sara Kitchen, Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired Outreach
(Educational consultant for students with visual impairment)
The Path to Symbolism
The Passive or Protesting Child
By Kathee Scoggin
“We can’t get him to DO anything.”
“We spend most of the day calming her down from tantrums that disrupt the whole class.”
If either of these sound familiar, consider that:
- 90% of learning depends on vision and hearing.
- Classrooms rarely allow enough time for a child with dual sensory loss to catch on to transitions, or to expectations related to an activity.
- People give deaf-blind children information in very different ways.
Lack of connection and consistency can lead children to develop a passive or protesting attitude toward just about everything.
- Passive: The class moves around her, but she’s not learning.
- Protesting: The day is spent in a cycle of tantrums and calming.
A combination of strategies can allow a student to move from passive to active, from protesting to tolerating, and eventually, to learning. These strategies include:
- Using Child Preferences
- Wait Time
- Hand Under Hand
- Consistent Routines
- Active Learning
Using a Child’s Preferences to Level the Playing Field for Assessment
By Kathee Scoggin
When informally assessing a child’s abilities, use something you know the child likes. He’s more likely to be interested and motivated. When using items unfamiliar to the child, the tester is no longer assessing the skill or knowledge, but how quickly the child can use both his intact and impacted senses (vision and hearing) to figure out what the object is and what to do with it.
(A reminder: generalizing from one setting to another can be a real challenge. Children with deaf-blindness have gaps in their concept development of things as familiar as cold, soft, long, longer.)
In order for the child to demonstrate what she knows, the assessment must include things she knows and likes. If she has a dog at home and loves dogs, does she know about feeding the dog? Does she know that dogs have eyes, ears, nose and mouth, just like people? The child has developed at least one concept around whatever she likes or dislikes. It might be a basic concept of “spin,” or “dog,” or “battery.” She may know that her favorite song is fast and another song is slow. Using concepts she already has as a bridge to new concepts leads to more meaningful and effective learning.
We can learn a lot about a child’s skills and cognition by watching how she engages with something or someone she knows and enjoys. We need to watch how she solves simple problems.
“Understanding a child’s interests and preferences is key to the assessment of his competencies…”
– Charity Rowland, Assessing Communication and Learning in Young Children Who are Deafblind or Who Have Multiple Disabilities