ABA Jargon: Receptive Language


So our term for today is Receptive Language. All right, let's take a look at what out actual definition is. Jargon of the day, Receptive Language. Actual definition, the process of attending to communication, spoken or nonvocal comprehending the communication and being able to react appropriately within a specified time parameter even when what is being conveyed contains multiple facets. What? This is where my receptive language starts to deteriorate. That is a lot of information right there. And I might come back to this. But let's take a look at what our working definition is.

Working definition for receptive language, the child or individual's ability to understand what is being said to them. But do you remember that receptive...you're receiving it. That's the way I like to think about it. Receptive is what you're receiving. And then sometimes language is not verbal. We communicate with our bodies. We communicate with our facial expressions. We don't just use language. So a child's ability to take all that in and be able to process it in a timely fashion. So if we were to go back to the actual definition, they need to be able to hear it, take it in, comprehend it, process it and be able to understand it in a timely fashion.

What we see sometimes is that some of our kids have processing disorders where they do it a little bit slower and we can work on that to speed it up. But in the beginning, we need to make sure that everything is working so that they can get that receptive language. This is fascinating to me as a teacher that a lot times, we misunderstand a child who is misbehaving or being abstinent and we just go, "Oh, they just don't want to listen." But sometimes, there is a problem in their receptive language abilities. And it can be in lots of different areas which is just fascinating to me.

There is something called phonemic awareness. That there are some phonemes which are sounds that go together that some kids have a hard time identifying because they sound like other sounds. And for whatever reason, we have to help them to wire their brain to recognize those sounds. It's fascinating to watch when you do catch a child that has phonemic awareness problems and you figure out which phonemes they're confusing and you sort it out for them with repetition. And lots of repetition and lots of reward. But what happens is that that child's processing speed picks up and they're able to learn things faster.

It's fascinating in a classroom setting to see that, to see a child who then starts to respond. It wasn't that they were being abstinent. It wasn't that they were being disobedient. They couldn't quite get it. I sometimes say to people that I feel like I'm on a tape delay with receptive language. I think mine is different because I'm thinking about something else. But somebody will say something to me and I'm still thinking about something. And then later on, I'll turn and go, "Oh, you just asked me about this." And I just heard it, because it's like on a waiting list like a printer if you know that. We're processing this one, then we'll take on that one.

Sometimes our kids have issues with that too. We can work on all of that. But we want to make sure that we strengthen receptive language. This is an area that quite frankly, personally I'm working on my ability to listen, comprehend and do it in a quick way. Receptive language, it's really fascinating. I'll give you a hint that on Thursday, we're going to talk about expressive language, the ability to communicate having it go that way and not just with sound, mind you. That's still facial expressions and body language and all of that.

Something that's really fabulous for me, I know we talk about skills all the time, but I think skills is remarkable. One of the things that you get with skills is an assessment that you can answer a bunch of questions about your child and it gives you a snapshot of where...it shows you on a graph where your child's receptive language is in relation to where it should be for their age, which is invaluable. But it also shows you where your child's expressive language is. And it's so interesting to see where those go because that, my friends, is an in into how to teach to an individual. If you know that somebody's expressive language is higher than their receptive language, you've got to shore this up that you can teach to their strengths. It's pretty fascinating.

I don't know any other way that a parent or a teacher could quickly get that kind of an assessment on their own and that's available on skills. But then not only does it give you the assessment, it says this is where the child is, but it also links to lessons like if you're thinking, "I've never heard of this phonemic awareness thing and I don't know where to find those lessons." They are in the academic curriculum of skills, it's all there.

I wish that every teacher had that for kindergarten first grade and second grade, especially. Because if we had phonemic awareness with those kids, we would get rid of some behavior problems later on, we really would. It's truly amazing. And I know this firsthand as a teacher. So receptive language, our jargon of the day. It's a good thing to know because you know that they're going to be talking with you in meetings about what someone's individual receptive language is. Great thing to strengthen for all of us.

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