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Language & Talking Case Study

This example shows the approach to successfully accessing learning as explained in the short introductory section Access. The term perceivable is used specifically to mean perceivable through one, or more of the five senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell.

If something is not perceivable, particularly through sight and sound, then the person can have no awareness of it, and it isn't there for them.

Connor was seven and considered non-verbal.

Connor had no way to communicate, and no-one had ever suggested teaching him to talk until one day it was suggested that he could learn if only talking was made perceivable.

Why was language challenging for Connor?

  • Was language perceivable for Connor?

No. Connor processes slowly, and what might be considered a 'normal' talking speed is far to fast for Connor - it might sound a bit like this to him:

Video Link: https://www.youtu.be/IQg1WUzqWd0
  • Was language meaningful for Connor?

No. Talking is just random meaningless noise.

  • Was Connor motivated?

Not to learn, no.

However, in addition to being imperceivable and meaningless, it was also the cause of distractions, confusion and sometimes fear.

How was language made accessible for Connor?

  • How was language made perceivable for Connor?

The way each word was spoken was slowed down considerably, and only a single word was used (to being with). The pronunciation involved extending the consonants. This is explained in more detail in the section Language Development: A Parent's Approach.

Connor's mother also ensured the environment was free of other distractions, and chose quiet times when Connor was well and comfortable (not tired or hungry) and used known and uncluttered physical places.

  • How was language made meaningful for Connor?

The single word had to be connected with something Connor already knew and would be very easy for him to match. Connor liked to play with his mother's hands, and so the first word was simply 'hand' when he held her hand to play with it.

In the uncluttered quiet environment Connor tried to vocalise the word immediately, because he could understand, so it made sense to him.

  • Was Connor motivated?

Connor, although considered profoundly disabled, like all children, loves to learn. This challenge was clearly very difficult, and could only be achieved within certain carefully controlled environments, but he keeps on trying, demonstrating that he can learn and most importantly, wants to learn and it trying to learn.

3. The successful approach

The first step is an understanding of how Connor experiences the world, and with that understanding consider the reasons why he had never learnt to talk. Connor processes slowly, and the first consideration about how to make the experience of talking perceivable was to simply slow it down, but so that the whole word (not just the vowels, see Language Development: A Parent's Approach) was perceivable.

Connor's mother needed to create a 'match' (see previous section Access on how we learn) so that the word and experience could be remembered and recollected, over and over again, making the memory stronger, and eventually learning that the word and experience go together. Once this is remembered and the word is stored in Connor's temporal lobe, it becomes receptive language (words in his head, as opposed to expressive language which is spoken).

Connor can only attend to singular things. A single word was put to what he was actually attending to, (not what others wanted Connor to attend to). This let him make the link between his experience and the sound of the word.

Connor has many words he knows receptively, and daily tries to talk, sometimes very clearly, sometimes matching the number of syllables, so computer might sound like rom-roo-rer.

Connor's family only use language to communicate with him and are all tuned into his language, everyday getting clearer.

This particular challenge required two elements from Connor's mother:

  • 1) patience
  • 2) belief

The process is extremely slow and not everyone is able to see Connor's progress, this is where Connor's mother's belief in him is so important.

We are seeing over and over again, that where one gets this formula right, the child will remain engaged and motivated, and learn.

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At CVI Scotland we are devoted to helping people understand cerebral visual impairments, and together working towards developing the understanding of this complex condition.