FROM BECKY: The beauty of cliff-hangers! When we our helping our special children with conversational skills, we want to inspire them to be curious and interested in other people so that they will actually want to talk to us.
To strike up a conversation with someone, you have to be motivated and curious in the other person to start with. Our children need a little help with this because they spend a lot of time in their own worlds where they have found things that stimulate them without the need of other people. Therefore, they will not always know how to have an interactive conversation.
Working at The Autism Treatment Center of America I have had many experiences where it’s easier for our children to talk about what they are motivated for, but when it comes to being interested in what we have to say, they have more of a challenge.
Using anticipation and cliff-hangers, will be a beautiful way to help your child with that particular piece of the conversation and also be a more indirect and subtle way of helping them to participate and prolong the conversation.
Below is an example of using cliff-hangers in a conversation. I have highlighted the cliff hangers in bold so you can distinguish where they are.
Child: There were pot bellied pigs and roosters at Dapplewood farm.
Facilitator: That’s very cool, Pot bellied pigs are so funny.
Child: There were also goats and little baby lambs, there were lots and lots of horses.
Facilitator: Thanks for sharing that with me, I once rode a horse on the beach in Portugal.
Child: I rode the horse at Dapplewood farm, it was near the pot bellied pigs and roosters.
Facilitator: Wow, you rode a horse too? You are a great friend for telling me that! Ooh, you know what happened when I galloped on the horse on the beach?
Child: What happened?
Facilitator: I was galloping and galloping and it was going a little fast and then my riding hat started to slip over my face so I couldn’t see.
Facilitator: You will never guess what happened next!
Child: You fell off?
Facilitator: I love that you asked, no, I didn’t fall off!
Child: Then what?
Facilitator, I shouted “Help” to the instructor and he had to come and show me how to slow the horse down so I could see.
Have fun experimenting with cliff-hangers. Remember to always celebrate any efforts your child makes toward the conversation and relate your cliff-hangers to your child’s area of interest in the conversation. Use the cliff-hangers along with some questions and lots of space for your child to participate and you are well on your way to inspiring longer conversations.