Dr. James D. MacDonald's Website
Helping Parents Help Children. Programs for Parents, Therapists & Educators
When I became concerned about helping my son Mark's communication, I believed that I needed to act like a teacher and bathe him with nonstop language. I gave him little time to try to communicate on his own and I over stimulated him to the point of frequently loosing his attention. I was hoping and searching for the signs of words and ignored many of the little things he could do. I showered him with questions and kept making demands of him to come into my world. And the saddest of all, Mark and I had very little fun together. I was too anxious to play with him in ways that made him want to stay with people. I was frustrated and Mark was frustrated and even seemed to be giving up on being with people actively.
Then we began working with Communicating Partners. Immediately, Dr. MacDonald encouraged me to enter Mark's world much more as a play partner than a teacher. Gradually, and with the help of the book BECOMING PARTNERS WITH CHILDREN, I began to learn to make the ACE strategies a natural and constant part of my interactions with Mark. The changes were often slow and difficult; I resisted giving up total control of the boy I thought I was responsible for teaching. However, hard as it was to learn to be a play partner, the more I did it, the more Mark became social and communicative. I learned the "balanced" strategy by waiting for Mark to take his turn and by reducing my over stimulation of him. I learned the habit of "matching" by trying to act and communicate more in ways he could. I found that the more I matched Mark the more he stayed and communicated.
Once I learned all the important things Mark needed to do for speech, I began using the "responsiveness" strategy by attending and supporting many of his little nonverbal behaviors that I previously ignored. One of the hardest strategies to learn was "sharing control"; I had been in such a deep habit of questioning and commanding that it took me quite a while to learn that the less I controlled our interactions and tested him, the more he communicated. And perhaps the happiest part of my learning was to find the absolute importance of having fun in a relaxed "emotionally attached" and playful way.
These habits may seem normal and easy, but I can tell you I really had to work on them and I still do. I began using the ACE strategies in our nonverbal play with actions and sounds. Now, Mark is conversing in sentences, I am still using the same strategies but now show him how to participate in near adult conversations. Once you learn to make ACE a habit with you, your relationships with your child will blossom and grow. Good luck and be sure to enjoy your time with your child.