I was working with a student today who asks a lot of questions. Let’s call him Bill. I estimate that approximately 80% of Bill’s utterances are in a question form and he is quite the talker, so do the math. One day, I had a headache and I gave Bill three ‘tickets’ that he had to turn in in order to get an actual answer to his questions, hoping he would prioritize them a bit.
Bill spent his tickets in 1 minute and 46 seconds. I’m pretty sure he would have spent them even more quickly, but I had to leave the room momentarily in order to re-enter and re-assess a strange odor that I detected in the classroom. Ah, the glamorous life of a special educator.
Well, in weeks since the failed ‘ticket’ strategy, I have been brainstorming other strategies to use in order to help Bill use his language more functionally. He repeats questions quite often and usually asks questions to which he already knows the answer. I posted a “Questions Bill Knows the Answer To” poster on the wall in order to gather feedback from other members of the team.
After a week or two, I had quite the list of questions that Bill ‘knew the answer to’. The questions were easy to categorize and it seemed obvious from looking at them that he was asking them because he was either anxious or trying to socialize and didn’t have anything else to say. Previous IEP goals showed evidence of speech goals centered on asking relevant questions. It seemed that he learned that questions are the ‘right’ things to say!
Today, I sat with him and we dissected some of the questions, trying to tease out what he actually felt and meant when he said them, and what he could do/say instead. Part of the chart we created looked like this:
He was amused when I repeated the questions to him and had him prompt me to do or say something else. Later, I tried to catch him in the act of asking the repeated questions and show him the chart, but he was preoccupied with singing the theme to Spiderman and trying to wink. You can’t win them all.
Stay tuned for a revelation I had about how staff, too, can re-frame what they are saying in order to best serve students!