My new RDI goal for the next two weeks or so is to “become aware of and eliminate any unconscious ways that you…have been assuming too much communicative responsibility for the student”. I do this all the time. I started talking for Ellen when she was smaller because her speaking voice wasn’t very clear and people found her difficult to understand. Now however, it’s become a bad habit and Ellen often looks at me to talk for her and I do it without even thinking. This is a biggy. Ellen’s speaking voice is much clearer now and she understands so much more herself – so why do I continue to do it? As well as habit I also think I often speak for her out of embarrassment for myself and for other people. What if Ellen ignores them? Takes too long to answer? My new resolution is to think – so what?
I had two activities today to test this out on. Firstly, we were back on shop duty after a couple of weeks off, where Ellen needs to occasionally interact with other shop volunteers. Secondly Ellen was going to be ordering her own McDonalds at the inevitable lunch-time pit-stop.
At the shop all the talk was of the flooding which occurred in the village the day before. For five hours a group of local residents used brooms to sweep the huge swathes of water away from the houses until the fire brigade arrived. Naturally everyone wanted to talk about this – everyone of course except Ellen – who has now got into a routine of finding items to put on the shelves and went through the task mechanically. As far as competent shelf-stacking goes, it was a successful activity, but it didn’t require any communication on her part at all. To top it off I prompted her to say goodbye as we left!
McDonalds was far more successful, mainly due to the fact that Ellen has far more motivation – she has to talk else she doesn’t get her food! Instead of videoing the interaction (I’m not quite thick-skinned enough for that!), I attempted for the first time to use the ‘voice record’ function on my iphone. Ellen placed her order correctly if a little quietly and quickly. The server woman checked every item with Ellen and she nodded. On the voice record I can be heard saying ‘yep’ after each item (probably wasn’t necessary). ‘Do you want ketchup?’ the woman asked. I repeated the question to Ellen and she replied ‘no’. ‘Eat in or takeaway?’ was the next question. ‘Takeaway’ Ellen replied, a little too quietly, the woman didn’t hear so I repeated it. (smack wrist). Ellen wasn’t interested in finding the right money, as by this time her attention had been grabbed by the fact that one of the bottles of water was slightly squashed in at the top. ‘It’s not right’ she said looking at it quizzically. Still plenty to work on from my point of view!
Last port of call was the garden centre, where Ellen’s task was to pick a present for Grandad’s birthday. Her budget was £10 and it took quite a bit of browsing for her to find the right item (a massive jigsaw of a train and an indoor watering can had to be returned to the shelves as they were over budget). Luckily they had a massive sale on so she managed to get something quite substantial for her money – I’m sure Grandad will be thrilled!
Ellen helped wrap and label the present and then we put it safely out of the way so the dog didn’t tread on it. Wouldn’t want it to get ruined….