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Declarative Communication and Carving Pumpkins

Have you ever examined your communication style that you use with your child with autism? Sometimes parents fall into a trap of trying to ask their kids lots of questions. Your underlying motivator is rooted in a desire to have meaningful conversation with your kiddo. You may even realize that this question asking falls short? It’s is a pseudo conversation that doesn’t leave you feeling any more connected to your child.

RDI teaches that to help kids to develop meaningful spontaneous reciprocal conversation that they most and should speak to their children in a way that models this. NOT with tons of drilling and question asking, where only one response – the right response – is acceptable. Only the “right” response is reinforced. This style of communication is a deviant form of communication. It teaches autistic individuals that human relationships are a demand and response situation. Who would want to deal with that all day?

declarative communication with pumpkin carving

It also robs autistics with the opportunity to gain experience about other people’s thoughts, feelings, ideas, hopes, dreams, personal experiences, stories, personalities…

Isn’t that what communication is about?

Therefore, doesn’t it make sense to adjust our communication style to one that would be more motivating and inviting to our kids.

How motivated to communicate with others would you be if you were drilled with questions all day long?

Considering the season, I decided to give you some ideas of declarative or experience sharing types of comments that we might make while doing a classic fall activity such as carving pumpkins!

Declarative Communication is Experience Sharing

Declarative/Experience Sharing Communication

Sharing emotional reactions

“That one is my favorite” (smile)
“Oh! that one is scary!” (Amplify scared face)

“This feels yucky to me! (Amplify yucky face) “but you like squishing it!”

Comparing/contrasting attributes

“That pumpkin has more warts than the other!”

“This is pumpkin is huge, and here is a tiny pumpkin”
“These are about the same size or shape”
“Let’s find pumpkins with a long stem”

Exploring ideas and trying one or more (experimenting)

“Let me think about how we can carve the pumpkin” (demonstrate your thinking about a few ideas, leave space for your child to initiate their own ideas)
“Let’s try this scooper to see if it works better than this one” (let your child try out both scoopers to see which one they like)
“Let’s see what side to draw the design on the pumpkin – this side or this side” (pause wait and see if your child chooses a side)

Planning future experiences

“Tonight, we can light it up with a candle”
“I can’t wait to see other people’s pumpkins”

“I wonder where we should put this outside?”

Joint Reminiscing

“Remember our pumpkins from last year…”

“I liked the design you picked out yesterday”
“Last year you wouldn’t even touch the slimy stuff!”
“I like making things with you, like that craft last week

Increasing coordination

“1,2,3… scoop and plop, 1,2,3… scoop and plop, 1,2,3… scoop and plop” (removing seeds together at same time or turn taking sequentially)
“Uh Oh too Fast! … slower ……. “(Carrying heavy pumpkins together)

Good enough thinking / best fit decisions

“Oops, that didn’t turn out as great as the picture, but it is good enough! I like it!”
“I think we took out enough of the gooey stuff – that is good enough”
“This pumpkin might not be perfect, but I think it’s a decent shape and size”

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