I was just talking to a parent about the idea of immersion for language and thought It would make a helpful article, so here it is.
As we know, many children with autism have trouble speaking. First of all, it’s ok. It’s ok that they can’t speak, they can still be successful in life. This is just a way to offer them an opportunity to speak. If they can learn to speak or partially speak, then they can use this in life. Although speaking is not everything, it can be very difficult to carry around pictures, even when put on an Ipad. It can also be very difficult to use sign language, as very few people speak this language.
What is immersion in this context? We normally only talk about it when we are discussing the learning of foreign languages. With autism, it’s very similar, but it’s not a way of forcing speech on the child or the family. It’s only a way to say, “if we are going to teach language, let’s teach language!” Also, this is not a strategy to only be used with The Vogl Method, it’s a strategy that can be added to any. Immersion is giving your child the opportunity to speak all the time. It’s not meant to be painful, although learning something can be frustrating and that’s ok. In the Vogl Method, it’s meant be taught in a fun way and the more fun you are having, the better.
I just read an article written by a guy who now speaks 8 languages. He said before he became multilingual, he spent 3 years in Japan without learning Japanese. I speak about this because hearing a language, as we know with autism, is not enough. When we discuss immersion, we are not talking about subjecting your child to simply hearing spoken word all the time. To get concrete about it, your child has to speak and use this language. Your child needs to convert language into a useable resource. “Make it functional”, one person told me when they heard I was relearning Italian. What a simple but profound message that is so often overlooked, “can you actually use the language you are learning?”
So how can you make your child’s language functional, no matter how limited it is. They can even have no words at all and be working on approximations, but if they have a few, those few words need to be functional. If they ask for juice, they need to always ask for juice, even if they can only say “ju”. Language needs to be used to get stuff. It needs to be engaging and never about memorization or being quizzed. It should always have a purpose and be meeting needs. This is also for higher level language consisting of sharing information. Sharing information is a way to obtain attention and can be looked at the same way, especially when we talk about social skills (how do we initiate a conversation, join in, ask clarifying questions?). Here’s a video I made on teaching langauge.
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