Getting Beyond Imitation with Cynthia Cress at ASHA
By Samuel Charles Sennott
Dr. Cynthia Cress, from UNL, taught terrific lessons about how to engage children in play activities that can be some of the most powerful forums for teaching communication. What do you think about how to integrate using play or recreation in early childhood communication work?
Just, as I was starting to think this whole big, huge ASHA was a little over the top, I sneak my way into Dr. Cynthia Cress’ 8 AM session. I crawled over upset people and am sitting cross-legged on the floor in the front of the room with fifteen other people, all on the floor. This session is amazing. Dr. Cress, an early childhood AAC specialist from UNL is teaching the heck out of us.(fav. NC expression!) The concept she is teaching us is getting beyond imitation by using authentic experiences and in this case, play experiences to foster communication. There is this remarkable similarity to what Linda Burkhart teaches. There is something in me that intrinsicly connects to this message of active engagement for real reasons and I think it is because it is how I teach and what I desire to bring out in my students.
One of the excellent case studies is teaching about using AAC with a student with some language and she is telling about how using picture symbol communication is a great guide for facilitating speech. Dr. Cress says, “no kid in the world is going to give up on speech” What a great common sense interpretation of the research!
Another example is showing the power of student focused play activities that the speech work is naturally embedded in. This takes the pressure off the learner. There is a hilarious comparision of a young learner playing and vocalizing passionately and then another session of the therapist saying, “do this”. The child just looks at them like to say, “are you kidding?”
What comes out of this workshop is an excellent study in how we can work with children and their families in early childhood. One quick, very profound tip is to always provide a nonverbal way for turn taking in the play activity. What a great simple concept to teach a parent or to use when working with a child.
One classic quote that really made the group laugh was, “We are not real people: most people don’t pick up on all these communicative clues.” It made us laugh because she compared our hyper focused behavior to how people just play with their kids.
I missed her second session, but here is the handout: Age-Related Changes in Mastery Motivation for Children With Physical Impairments
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