Nutritionists advise diners to think about building a “balanced plate” of proteins, carbohydrates, fruits, and vegetables for every meal. Eating too much of one thing isn’t good for your health! An Auditory Verbal session can be imagined in the same way. Too much focus on one type of goal or activity doesn’t help children achieve the well-rounded communicative competence that we want them to have. So, how do you build a balanced plate in an AV session?
First, you want to make sure you are sampling goals from all domains:
Audition: auditory memory, auditory discrimination, listening skills
Speech: articulation, vocal quality
Language: vocabulary (semantics) and grammar (syntax)
Cognition: age-appropriate play skills, critical thinking, academic goals
Communication: pragmatic language, conversations, self-advocacy/conversational repair strategies
Now, this is not to say that you will have five different activities for each session, or that each goal will fit under only one domain. For example, asking clarification questions about an auditory misperception (“Did you say ‘cat’ or ‘cap’?”) might fall under both the audition and communication domains. [HERE are some tips for when to stack goals versus when to remember the “Just One Hurdle” strategy.] Balancing your “ASLCC” goals is a way to remember that, while AVT focuses on listening, the main emphasis is using listening as a natural gateway to developing all of the children’s skills (see “It’s All About Listening/It’s Not All About Listening” for more on this).
But just having balanced goals isn’t enough for a “healthy” session. You also must consider the Talk Time Triangle. Who are the participants in your session? If we think of a typical AV session as including a therapist, child, and caregiver(s), then each of these three “points” on our talk triangle should be equal, meaning that each participant contributes equally to the conversation and activities in the session. If you as the therapist are talking too much, or if the adults in the session (therapist and parents) talk the whole time, shutting out the child, this is not a productive session. Keep your triangle balanced, with equal opportunities for all members of the team to be active partners in the session. Everyone (you, too, parents and therapists!) needs a chance to listen and talk. Remember, you (the therapist) are not putting on a show here!
Is our plate balanced yet? Not quite. Just as nutritionists caution that healthy eating without exercise is not enough, our AV sessions need some movement, too. When we work with infants, toddlers, and young children, we must remember that they do not run on our clocks. We may schedule hour-long sessions because they fit with our calendar, but nobody told your two-year-old that! Sessions will be much more productive and enjoyable for everyone if they include a good mix of sedentary (sitting, reading a book) and movement (dancing, singing, throwing a ball) activities.
And the very last component of building a balanced plate is thinking about striking the right balance between review activities, “just right challenges,” and reach goals in each session. Keep things too easy, and the child will be bored and not make progress. On the flip side, a session consisting entirely of reach goals can be discouraging! We want children working at all levels over the course of a session: reviewing past accomplishments (perhaps in a more difficult context, like taking new words learned in sentences to the conversation level), working on new goals (just right challenges), and doing some probes to see if he is ready for the next level.