Hanging with Hanen

Visit HERE to see the program I reference in this blog entry 
(Disclaimer-Please read this with the understanding that I did not attend an official Hanen program or become Hanen-certified. This was just a small workshop to focus on the basics for parents of children in the Early Intervention program)
Evan….is………………………..COMMUNICATING!
Many of you are probably thinking, well duh. He has been for a while, Erin.  Ok, so yes, I have been really excited about the times he has repeated “whee” and “mama” and how he has started to consistently complete parts of songs when we sing to him.   He has started to take turns when we play and will take our hand to “show” us when he needs help.  Until last night, I wasn’t really allowing myself to celebrate all the great ways that Evan communicates non-verbally.  I have been so hung up on helping him to use language spontaneously and use signs when he cannot tell us what he wants. 
But he HAS been communicating, just not in the way I thought he should be. 
Oh shoulda coulda woulda, right? Silliness. He already is!
My friend Karen signed Todd and me up for a Highlights of Hanen workshop through the Early Intervention program in our county. It is two nights, and free! Last night the speaker said we might even extend it to another night because there is so much valuable information to share. She likes for parents to be able to go away and process what they have learned and then come back after trying it out at home.  I borrowed the book by Hanen, “It Takes Two to Talk” from a WS Mama. I have read through most of it, and I had been doing a few of the things I had learned in the book but had not seen much progress with Evan. I am not sure if it was because I was not using it correctly or if Evan just wasn’t ready yet.  I knew the basic philosophy behind the program- that in order to help develop your child’s speech and language skills, you need to sloooooooooow down and really pay attention to your child. I had started to give more wait time and babble back to Evan using the sounds he was using. 
But I wasn’t really really paying attention to Evan’s attempts to communicate with me. I thought I was, but I know now that I can do a much better job.
In the first ten minutes of the in-service, I already felt myself beaming inside, while I thought of all the ways that Evan does communicate with us on a daily basis. Through eye contact, reaching, hand over hand showing us what he needs or wants, and using approximations of words, like “Ahh” for Dada and ooooo for go.  She talked of how it is possible for a child to be still developing their motor planning skills that are necessary for speech. And if that is the case, a child just might not be ready to say a word, even though you think he understands it and should be able to. I realized I have been waiting and waiting for Evan to clearly say Hi, but he has been, he just doesn’t say it in the clear way that I was waiting to hear. And in the meantime, he is using something like, “Ha!” which is just fine! It is more important to move in the direction of talking, I can’t pull a word out of him.
Here are some of the basics we learned (as interpreted by me):
  • Learn all the ways your child communicates with you already, nonverbal and verbally. Make sure to celebrate those ways.
  • Create opportunities for your child to communicate with you. Examples: put a loved toy out of reach, hide the cookie, give him or her an empty cup when he/she is expecting a full cup of milk.
  • Give choices
  • Repeat, repeat, repeat. Try to say a word 5 times before moving on if your child has not said it him or herself. “Wow, that is a funny duck. Did you see the duck? The duck quacks. Yellow duck! Squeeze Duck.”
  • Let your child lead: Observe their behavior, what are they looking at? Do they want something? 
  • Wait expectantly with wide eyes, leaning forward, showing interest. Count to ten internally. It is a loooong time, but children process at much different rates than we do. You might see the wheels turning during that wait time, and it is pretty great when you do. 
  •  Say less. This was big for me. If you haven’t noticed, I am a bit long winded. But children, especially littles- can only take in so much. You do not need to embellish. Your child drops their cup- “Uh oh! Cup on floor. Mama pick up cup.” 
  • Take breaks in between phrases and watch your child. Is he engaged? He might try to pipe in with something, do not interrupt him, let him speak!
  • Stress the important words. If you want your child to learn the word “big,” make sure to say it louder and longer than the other words being spoken. “Wow, that is a BIG ball. It is so BIG!
  • Speak using words that you want your child to use. Speak in the first person. If your child is crying, say, “I’m sad,” or “I’m drinking milk!” (this was a tough one for me to grasp but the speakers both said that children up until about age 3 or 4 hear our words as the ones that THEY want to say.)
  • Slooooooooow Doooooooown. Remember your child is hearing a lot of these words for the first time, and language is  still very new. They need time to process before they can begin to try to communicate in return.
Next week they are going to focus on book reading. One thing I started doing, which was much different from what I had done as a teacher, babysitter, and daycare provider; was to have Evan face me when we read a book. This way the reading experience is shared. He can see my facial expressions, and watch my mouth to learn positions for sounds. This way you can see what your child is interested in looking at as well. I didn’t realize how some pictures made him smile or cock his head to the side with interest. Those are opportunities to engage with him and see if he will communicate with me about the pages he likes. I still have him face out from me sometimes, because that is good snuggle time for us, and if he really likes the book read to him, he will lean against me and get really comfortable. I won’t give that up completely. 🙂 
So why was this morning so particularly amazing to me? Here are some highlights.
 I got him out of the crib, picked him up and he leaned on my shoulder, which he does most mornings. I said, “Awww, hug…..hug……I like hugs.” Then he looked at me and I said, “give mommy a hug?” and he did it again. This was not totally out of the ordinary but then when we got downstairs and sat on the couch together, he sat facing me and I said it again, and he leaned his head right against my chest. He has never done that before! I kissed him and he put his hand out and I kept saying kiss, and he would put his hand back up for another one. Then I tried the “give hug” again and he leaned his head against me again! So it wasn’t a fluke! I noticed he was staring up at the window where the light was coming in. So I watched him quietly for a bit. I said, “light?” And he got excited and looked at me and grunted. I pointed at the window and said, “light?” and he grunted with excitement again. Then (this is the exciting part) he took my hand, held it up to make me point again towards the window. I realized then, he wasn’t looking at the window. He was looking at the light switch on the swag. So I pointed, and said, “mommy turn light on?” and he started jumping in my lap in excitement. So I turned the light on and he squealed. I couldn’t believe it. I just couldn’t believe it. 
We had a whole conversation.
Without words of course, but I knew what he wanted, and he knew how to show me. 
Amazing.
I need to point more often. I think I have in my mind that children with WS talk first, point second- so I haven’t been pushing it. But it helps Evan to “show” me where he is looking. 
I apologize for the super long post, but I know a lot of my friends on the WS Support Board are looking to learn from the information we gathered at the workshop. 
Um so did I also mention that he will sing a little part of Bruno Mars, “Locked out of Heaven?” He and I danced together and he only held one of my hands. My heart was singing. I have my new friend, Kate Leong of Chasing Rainbows to thank for that. She posted a video of she and her sons dancing to the song and Evan (and I) could not get enough of it. Here is a little clip of E joining in with my Bruno jam.

3 Comments on Hanging with Hanen

  1. Rebekah
    February 21, 2013 at 10:27 pm (4 years ago)

    SO much good information! I’ll have to look for that book!

    Reply
  2. Todd Putman
    February 22, 2013 at 1:31 pm (4 years ago)

    In grad school, I would always use examples of my dysfunctional company to illustrate points the profs made by contrasting the “wrong” way to do something with the “proper” way they were teaching. As Erin’s husbo, I also attended the seminar. One mother was talking about how she gets really frustrated when her daughter wants to turn the pages of a book while she reads to her. Perhaps the biggest takeaway for me was how that mental image hit me. I’m sure she’s a good mom–she was attending a seminar to be even better, so that tells you what you need to know–but in this case, she was the contrasting example. OUR method of teaching our kids how to communicate is to do it our way–the way we learned is right. When it’s story time, we want to read the whole story sequentially because we enjoy the story, the rhyming, the pictures, etc. That’s the way a civilized person reads a book, right? I don’t want to enable the barbarism of non-sequential story reading! BUT our kids (in this case hers) have other interests like “Ooh, I remember there’s a picture somewhere in this book that I like and I haven’t seen it yet…where is that thing?.” OR “I want to see that other picture again.” OR (as the instructors pointed out) “Why is it that these ‘books’ and ‘pages’ bend in this way, but not that way…let’s make it ‘work’ by bending it back and forth.”

    I was 16 and started my first job as a lowly dishwasher at a resort pub/restaurant. I was the only dishwasher on staff. After a few weeks, they told me they had hired someone else. I was so glad. When I got to work, on the day I had to train the new guy, I learned he was deaf and dumb (oh, come on people, you know what I mean…he was quite bright, just couldn’t speak). After a few embarrassing instances of speaking with my back to him and asking questions in anticipation of a spoken answer, I learned that I needed to do it a different way–the way he would best understand and grasp. Sadly he quit after 2 days (I hope it was because washing dishes stinks and that it wasn’t me!), but the takeaway again is that we need to set aside our ways and teach to the level and abilities of the student.

    When we do that and let our kids lead, they tell us what is important to them and we can help by placing those things into context using the least words possible–one to two more than they are capable of saying. Good stuff!

    Reply

Leave a Reply