If you are the parent of a child on the spectrum you may have noticed your child has difficulty recalling and talking about events that happened in the past. If your child falls into this category don’t worry! There are things you can do at home to practice this skill.
In a lot of cases, the difficulty in talking about a non present is not related to a deficit in memory. The difficulty in discussing a non present is due to a lack of structure or referent. Think about the past. Nothing is concrete. This lack of salience, combined with the fact that events from the past are almost always unique and usually do not follow any kind of pattern makes this communication skill especially difficult for some children.
“My First Journal / Talk about bags” are a great way to practice this skill at home. They were developed by Carol Gray (in case you haven’t noticed I think she’s a genius). Here’s how practice with “Talk about bags” works:
1. Select a piece of garbage that represents something that you did. For example, let’s say you all went to MacDonald’s, so you take the MacDonald’s French fries wrapper, you put it into a little Ziploc bag, and you staple it to a page, a piece of paper, that is a part of what we call, “My First Journal”, which is simply a three-ring notebook.
2. Later that day or the following day take out that three-ring notebook open it and take out the French fry wrapper, and say, “Tell me about this”, and whatever the child says or does, write it down. So if your child were to say, “French fries”, and that’s it, write down just “French Fries”. If your daughter just smiles but doesn’t say anything, draw a smiling face.
What that does is demonstrate to a child that I am listening to you, and what listening means is that what you say comes into my ears, it travels through my body, and it comes out through this pen or pencil and it gets written right on this piece of paper.
3. This can also be used for things that happen at school, have the teacher take a representative piece of garbage from an activity, for example a crayon if they were coloring, etc. The teacher puts a crayon in the Ziploc bag and sends it home. You open up the booklet, and you say, “Tell me about this” and repeat the process of writing down what your child says.
According to Carol Gray “What we are finding is, and what we discovered, were these tangible bits of garbage or evidence from the school day or home really helped to provide some structure, some tangible structure, so the child could retrieve that memory and share with the parents what had happened during the school day.”
So next time you eat out or go to a store turn your trash into communication treasure with a talk about bag!