Let me set the scene – it’s the day after kindy and we’re at home when Harry’s speechie (Aussie slang for Speech Pathologist) arrives for their session. She sits down opposite him on the floor and he immediately starts chatting…
Note: Mary (not her real name) is Harry’s support worker at kindy.
H📱: rude Mary
SP: Was Mary rude or was someone rude to Mary?
H☝️: (points to himself)
Our SP models ‘I was rude’ on H’s device and he nods in agreement and presses the message bar window so his talker speaks the words. This is H’s way of saying that what you have modeled is what he wants to say, along with nodding in agreement. She then clears the message to model the pathway again for H and he instead chooses to say…
H📱: I was noisy (Side note: I was actually at a meeting at his kindy at the time and whilst I was in the office and not in the same room, I could definitely hear the cacophony coming from H!)
SP: Do you understand why you got into trouble for that?
H📱: I understand
And they moved on to chatting about other things…
Throughout that chat I was just bursting with pride – my boy was noisy, understood that he was being rude and consequently got told about it. How wonderfully, boringly typical for a child at kindy.
It can be very easy to make excuses for challenging behaviour from our kids with additional needs – they need more sensory input, they don’t understand the social complexities, they’re frustrated, they can’t fully express themselves – all of which are totally valid and could certainly relate to H when he’s acting like, well, a 5 year old and being pretty challenging. And they’re all also part of the bigger picture when choosing the best strategy of how to deal with challenging behaviour.
But I want H to be included in his world, and I don’t mean special-day-program-at-a-special-centre included. I mean out-in-the-every-day-world included with him, his voice and opinions valued. And in order to be included, he needs to understand the expected social norms and etiquette no matter how boring we may think them. And in order to understand, he needs to be taught. And in order to be taught, we ALL need to believe that he can learn all that he needs to.
Harry being noisy, learning that he was rude and consequently understanding that that behaviour at that moment wasn’t okay are all steps in the right direction. But, as an AAC mum, I’m pretty chuffed that my boy was a little trouble-maker for being noisy!