In a previous blog post we discussed the signs of social communication difficulties, which can be present in children with or without Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). There are several forms of therapy that can help to improve social communication. Teaching families strategies that encourage meaningful language and communication interactions with their children is key to overcoming social difficulties.
Hanen’s program, More Than Words, is an excellent resource for parents with children with ASD or Social Communication difficulties.
More Than Words empowers parents
More Than Words empowers parents to learn strategies to help build their child’s social communication skills. More Than Words’ strategies teach parents how to adapt their communication style to encourage engagement and use of language for a variety of reasons such as, greeting, sharing interests, requesting objects/actions, requesting help, asking and answering questions, and begin to help build social language skills needed for communication.
Teaching children to R.O.C.K. out their social communication challenges
Out of all the strategies used in More Than Words, I personally think R.O.C.K© is the most beneficial because it incorporates a number of strategies found in the program. R.O.C.K© is a strategy that turns games, songs, and routines into a predictable sequence and helps the child participate in the activity. It stands for:
Repeat: Repeat what you SAY and DO each time you begin and end the activity.
Opportunities: Think about your child’s skills and ask yourself, “What will my child do during this activity to take a turn or to participate?” Can your child use eye gaze? Can your child vocalize? Can your child use two or more words? Can your child use gestures (pointing, actions)? You want to choose an expectation that is not below or above your child’s current communication skills.
Cue: What did you expect your child to do for this activity? If your child has difficulty participating the way you anticipated, then cues are what you will do to help them participate. Cues can be explicit and provide the most amount of help: hand-over hand, say the word/phrase for them etc. Cues can also be naturalistic: provide a longer wait time for your child to attempt to take a turn in the activity, use a facial expression that indicates it is their turn, get face-to-face with your child. I recommend using naturalistic cues more often compared to explicit cues.
Keep it going and Keep it fun: Choose something your child enjoys, make fun sounds, have a fun ending to the activity. For example, tickles, being picked up, or use of an exaggerated voice and intonation. Then…start it again!
When using R.O.C.K©, try to practice the activity every day. Exposing and practicing predictable activities is a great way to help children with social communication difficulties to understand language, understand your expectations, and encourages them to participate in an activity they love to do or resist doing! ROCK ON!
At 1to1 Therapy Services, we offer adapted More Than Words programs through Hanen and both the Toronto and York Region Preschool Speech and Language Programs. We have many certified More Than Words speech and language pathologists who would be happy to work with you and your child to help develop their USE of language and continue to improve their social interactions with others.
If you have concerns about your preschooler’s social communication skills, you can request an assessment through early intervention organizations, or preschool speech and language programs. If your child has difficulty with engaging with you or others, you can contact 1to1 Therapy directly for private therapy. A referral is not required.
About the Author
Joanna Ticker is a speech-language pathologist with expertise in the area of preschool and school aged language development. She has led several adapted More Than Words programs (a Hanen program for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder and social communication difficulties). She is certified with Hanen’s More Than Words and Talkability and she is PROMPT trained.