Updated on 8/8/2011 9:47:00 AM.
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator Paul Yoder, Ph.D. (Special Education), recently conducted a week-long training on Prelinguistic Milieu Teaching at Ankara University in Turkey. He was invited to train a handpicked group of faculty, doctoral students, and professionals with specialties in psychology, special education, and speech/language pathology. Yoder recruited Kimberly Gilbert, Ph.D, from Hofstra University to co-lead the sessions.
“I was a bit unsure how the training would go,” said Yoder. “We were compressing what might occur over a 3-month period into one week. Also, when you are lecturing to people whose second or even third language is the language you are speaking, you’re not sure how much they are able to understand. I could see that some of what I was saying was not being understood and was actually quite discouraged after the first day. However, during the second day of training we all began to see that we were all engaging in an incredibly rich learning environment that just kept getting better as the week went on.”
Prelinguistic Milieu Teaching (PMT) is a method Yoder has incorporated into his research with children with intellectual disabilities or autism who have language delays. The method focuses on building motivation and awareness of the communication partner in order to encourage an increase in language usage.
After the initial day of lectures on the principles, theory, and data behind PMT, participants engaged directly with children putting the theory into practice. They worked in teams of two, one working directly with the child and the other videotaping the session for later viewing and critique. Yoder coached the adult interactor during the session, prompting and providing feedback through an earpiece.
“That was another challenge for the teams,” said Yoder. “They had a difficult job. They needed to interact with kids while listening to me speaking a second language and then had to use a method they were just learning about. I was really impressed. They did a great job and the interactive component worked very well. The coaching and feedback on use of a new method are often missing components in typical in-service workshops.”
Subsequent days allowed for critique and observation and also more opportunities to implement the method with children. Yoder was very impressed by the dedication and commitment on the part of the participants, especially considering that elements of PMT could be viewed as a direct conflict with typical Turkish adult/child interaction styles.
“There were distinct cultural differences at play,” said Yoder. “In Turkey, parenting interaction is much more authoritative. It is more about telling the kids what to do, so bringing a teaching method in that relies on following the child’s lead was interesting. So many of the early intervention approaches that we use in the United States involve being responsive to what the child is doing. We let the child choose what to play with, and I could tell many of them struggled with that.”
Despite time constraints and language and cultural challenges, Yoder says the workshop was highly successful and invigorating for all involved. There were rich discussions and potential for future directions in how training can be even more effective.
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