Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Nature of Keyboard-ness

This is a piano.  

Wait...or is it a keyboard?

Or is this a keyboard?

What makes a piano a piano?  What makes a keyboard a keyboard? 
What gives something keyboard-ness?  Or piano-ness?

Pianos are:

* Often, but not always, made of wood.
* Tend to have legs, but not always.
* Have keys, black and white.
* Those keys make sounds and music.

In contrast, keyboards:

* Tend to be electronic.
* Have keys, but can have keys with letters, numbers, symbols, and or be black and white.
* Can be used to make sounds, play video games, amuse mommy on the Internet, make daddy be really serious on the phone or make music just like a piano.
So which word more accurately describes this object?  

One of the things I hate about ABA is that they seem to be as stuck and rigid in their protocols as some of the kids they are suppose to treat.   So, a little background on his program…
J-man is in an Applied Behavior Analysis-Verbal Behavior program with a "natural environment" component to it.  That means he spends a small portion of his day doing "table tasks" (i.e. discrete trial stuff) and the larger portion of his day playing in the natural environment and putting those skills to work. There are some benefits to discrete trial stuff, but I often have huge issues with it.  Indeed, I have been struggling with a love-hate relationship with ABA-VB.  Don't worry, I am working on a blog post... heck, probably a series.... about the pros and cons of ABA-VB.  But that is a major project... and I just want to vent about this one pet peeve.  Consider it a taste test of some future blogging moments.

Every day J-man has a little written note that comes home with him that documents what he did that day, things he is accomplishing in his program, and what he is still working on (or struggling with). 
 Lately, he has been stuck on the word "keyboard".  So here is the "problem" (and I use that term loosely).

During his 'table time' (ITT, or discrete trial time), he goes through various exercises that are fairly rote, not terribly interactive, and bent on teaching simple skills like labeling objects.  J-man typically kicks ass on all these tasks.  We are often told he masters tasks very fast, sometimes within a day or two of being introduced a task.  

He really isn't there because he can't learn, people.

Anyway, the last week or so we have been getting updates saying that he is getting stuck on the word "keyboard", and could we practice labeling it at home.  Our therapists explain that they show him a picture like this:

And instead of saying "keyboard", he says "piano".

And of course, because the curriculum calls it a keyboard, they have to get him to call it a keyboard.

Are you kidding me????

One of our (sweetest) therapists explained that if it was in the "natural environment" (NET), they would accept piano.  Well, of course they would!!!  Because in the real world if I called this a piano, you would probably agree with me.  In fact, you may even call it a piano too.  It may not even occur to you that it is also a keyboard because let's face it:

THIS is a keyboard for most of us.

This illustrates one of my biggest pet peeves about ABA.  There isn't an allowance for creative or critical thinking.  Piano doesn't count because it is during "table time"... and the curriculum says "keyboard"... he has to say keyboard to show he knows what it is.  

Are you fucking kidding me????
And at what stage, exactly, should a child developmentally be able to make this distinction?  Do they actually know this? And why exactly is it important??  It wasn't like he called it a flute, for crying out loud.  Or a pickle.  Jeeezz...
The meaning of words (semantics) is a language skill that develops over the first 10 years of  life.  The ability to understand that one object can have multiple names, and that those names are not always stand alone in the what they can mean, develops over time...and speech-language pathologists don’t even test for this skill until a child is over the age of 5.  So developmentally, the fact that J-man is selecting to use a word that frankly... in my opinion... is a more accurate description of the functionality of this object and is less confusing than the term keyboard to me seems.... I don't know... extremely appropriate.

But then what the hell do I know?

I am just a mom, right?

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