If you’ve come to Growing Kids Therapy Center in the last year for an out-of-town series of sessions, you’ve probably worked with me. Out-of-towns are actually one of my favorite things to do for a number of reasons. I love walking into a room on a Monday morning and not knowing what to expect, for one! Starting new spellers and getting the chance to educate parents on why we are doing what we do with S2C is a passion of mine, and I love the conversations I get to have with new families. I also LOVE coaching parents to get on the board for the first time and finding ways to instill confidence as you take on the challenge of becoming a Communication and Regulation Partner (CRP).
CRP Best Practices
It has been through those out-of-town sessions that I have really refined how I coach and teach parents before putting them on the boards. I’ve learned a lot from all of them, and I have seen a lot of patterns and things that I have wanted to share with a broader audience. I’ve tried to make this something relevant for CRPs regardless of whether you’ve never been on the board or if you’ve been on the board for years!
Prompt, prompt, prompt…and then FADE!
The first thing I want to talk about is PROMPTING! Prompting is IMPORTANT and NECESSARY when it comes to S2C. A detailed explanation of why we prompt and the types of prompts is something all new families receive when they work with me. I won’t go through all the types of prompts, but I do want to talk about WHY we prompt and talk about just how important it is. One common thing I see with individuals who are starting out who are not making progress is that they actually aren’t prompting ENOUGH, and I can understand it! As a parent, you want to see your speller going directly to those letters on their own…you’re ready for the “proof,” so to speak. However, with apraxia, we know the motor needs support, and that’s why we use prompts. Not prompting enough is like taking your child to a piano lesson and waiting for them to figure it out without any instruction from the piano teacher! They might know what the notes are and what the song is by heart, but they need their motor coached to learn how to play the song, just like our students need their motor coached to poke accurately! So it’s important to remember WHY we prompt!
We prompt to coach the motor! Our students know what they want their bodies to do – we are helping get the body moving and pointing accurately through our prompting. As these motor pathways develop and become myelinated and automatic, we are able to fade and later eliminate our prompts. We give direct prompting to the body “Lift your arm,” “Reach for it,” or “Shift your eyes.” These are actionable prompts, and we want to avoid things like “scanning for it,” “reaching for it,” “quiet hands,” and so on.
We prompt to compete with internal and external stimuli! External distractions are all around us…the lights, nearby noises, smells, itchy clothing, or a tapping foot. We also have internal distractions – our racing thoughts, our busy minds (What am I going to make for dinner? Did I lock the door?) Some of our spellers have VERY busy internal thoughts – scripting lines from movies, asking questions, etc. We are competing with this internal and external stimulation by keeping our own voices going – continually prompting, keeping our spellers focused on the task at hand, which is learning the skills for Spelling to Communicate!
We prompt to provide feedback! Our sensory system acts as a guide for the motor system; you cannot separate the two. Our clients do not always receive helpful sensory feedback (it might be too much or too little, and that can change from moment to moment), so WE give that feedback in the form of prompts as they are acquiring their skills. As they become more fluent, they need less feedback from the CRP. When they begin typing, the monitor/screen becomes the feedback mechanism, and we are able to reduce our role as CRP even more! But our prompts to give them feedback is what eventually allows them to spell more and more accurately without the prompts! When we think about the process of making purposeful motor (in this case, working on accuracy on a letterboard) become automatic, where now you have the accuracy, and you don’t have to put so much mental energy into getting it right, I like to think of it in terms of basketball. WE DON’T GET GOOD AT SOMETHING BY GETTING IT WRONG – and what we practice, regardless of whether it is good or bad, will become permanent. What that says to me is PROMPT, PROMPT, PROMPT. If I look at Steph Curry, the best shooter the NBA has ever had, he didn’t get good by missing. He got that good because I’m certain in practice he makes basket after basket after basket. And then, in a game situation, where there’s a little more pressure, and the environment is different, he has an extremely high success rate because he’s made those baskets in those positions so many times!
So don’t be afraid to prompt! Every time we support our speller in getting successfully to their intended letter, we are helping them make the pathway automatic, and they will be more likely to do it on their own. This is why we reset the board, making “straight to the letter” automatic instead of poking down the row. Does someone with apraxia need more repetition than we would as neurotypicals? Absolutely. But you will see quicker progress if you are giving the right amount of support when the motor is a challenge! No one has ever become prompt dependent, and you will be able to fade your prompts when your speller no longer needs them, but the way to no longer need them is to give them in the first place!
Kelly Berg lives in Herndon, Virginia, after spending nearly a decade overseas. In 2017, she was introduced to neighbors with a nonspeaking son and became aware of spelling as communication, as well as a friend of the local spelling community. After her daughter started full-time school, wanting to get back into the workforce and having a background in Communication Sciences and Disorders, she spent merely a few hours at Growing Kids Therapy Center and knew that she had found her home. Kelly is an S2C Practitioner who is not only passionate about helping her clients build their communication skills but also about creating social events outside of scheduled clinic visits in which spellers can enjoy the company of other spellers as well as their neurotypical peers. Kelly spent years in the not-for-profit sector and is excited to merge this experience with her clinical expertise in her role as a member of the I-ASC Leadership Cadre. Kelly adds, “Having a daughter, I think the thing that motivates me the most is that I want every parent to truly know their child the way that I know my own. I want to help my nonspeaking clients build their communication skills so that this is possible, but I also want to ensure that every nonspeaker, in every corner of the world, has access to an effective method of communication.”