Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Think Think Think--Notes on Think Time

Working every day with kids, specifically those with co-morbid diagnoses from SPD to PDD, I appreciate more than ever the importance of understanding each child's need for think-time. Let's start by decoding the term--think time, to me, it  is the time between issuing a demand and receiving and/or prompting a response.

Think-time varies per person and I would say it is safe to assume that kids in general, have a longer think time than adults who are essentially, better trained. Think-time is the amount of time it takes for each individual to consider a demand and act accordingly; "I say give me 5" you consider the phrase, and offer your hand.

Think of learning a new language; though you speak your native tongue fluently and can easily respond to questions in English, when someone asks you a question in French, it is natural to require a bit more think-time to decode each message. If I said "Donner moi cinque" it might take you a bit longer to figure out that I am asking for a high 5.

It brings me right back to grade 8, my friends and I used to talk so quickly at a speed faster than light; there is no way an ESL student, for example, would be able to keep up....

So what's the point of mentioning this? All too frequently I see teachers, therapists, special education professionals and so on... requiring an immediate response from their spectrum kids; it puts A LOT of pressure on the child, which when verbal behaviour is already not preferred for the child, is a recipe for performance anxiety. I am all for increasing response time, but let's do it by increasing fluency not by demanding a lesser think-time. Let's shape the behaviour and the think-time, and start by acknowledging where the child is starting from (in terms of the think-time needed for various tasks when  variables are introduced into the mix...like a class of kids, the fluorescent lights, the smell of the play doh, the colour of the bulletin board). I am frustrated by seeing therapists/teachers fail to provide a sufficient think time to account for the fact that verbal language is not the native tongue of many of our selectively verbal kids (not to mention if the child is Apraxic).

Maybe it is that teachers/therapists put too much pressure on themselves; they internalize a child not responding to their demand as a poor performance on their part and over compensate by coming down a little strong; they want to dig their heels in, and require a demand so they prompt it. Sometimes, the patience card is the best; dig your heels in by not giving up, not by prompting. When all else fails, wait it out; I cannot say enough how detrimental poor prompting procedures can be; give the kid a minute to think, and stop staring at him you're making him nervous! ;)   I have seen and intervened on meltdowns resulting from insufficient think-time and over prompting and it is soooo preventable. Make it happen :)

Don't get me wrong I am ABA-ALL-THE-WAY and I think prompting is essential for errorrless learning, however, you must be skilled and you must account for ALL the variables including THINK-TIME!

In the words of one of my students,
"Peeez Out"

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