Joey loves books. Of course, he loves some books more than others (I’m looking at you, Pete the Cat), but I don’t think I have ever read a book with Joey that he did not like.
To build on this love, we use books as a foundation to teach Joey.
I was thrilled to introduce Joey to The Pigeon this week. For those of you not familiar with the Pigeon, he is a book character created by Mo Willems. The Pigeon is whiney and likes to argue when he does not get his way. He is fairly sneaky when he does not get his way, and he does his best to debate the rules. Kids love this rather scandalous behavior (they know they could never get away with the Pigeon’s antics!) The best thing about the Pigeon books though is that they start off by addressing the reader. Kids are expected to argue back with the Pigeon, telling him “No,” “Go to bed,” and “Take a bath.” The reader himself becomes the third character in the book, which is highly engaging for preschool students.
I was hoping that Joey would enjoy telling the Pigeon “no” as much as most three year olds do. I printed out icons that match Joey’s AAC device and put them on the pages. When I tape pictures into a picture book, I like to tape the image onto the post-it note. A child can pull the post-it note off the page without hurting the pages of the book. It also makes it easy to remove the visual cues for the next child who reads the book.
On each page where a child would naturally say “NO!” I inserted a post-it note with the ‘No’ icon to be a visual cue to Joey that he could use his device to talk. (This also serves as a visual cue to the adult reading the book that this is a great place to pause and prompt Joey to talk. Let’s be honest, we all forget sometimes, especially when we are engaged in the book.)
Joey seemed to love the book, and laughed at the simple pictures of the pigeon throwing a tantrum. He did not, however use the ‘no’ button on the AAC to interact with the story. I have noticed a pattern with Joey, and he rarely uses his talky when he is prompted. Instead, he’ll use it naturally in communication, but he is happy to wait you out if you tell him to communicate through the device. Having a three year old at home myself, this behavior does not surprise me.
I’d read the part of that pesky Pigeon, asking to skip his bath, and Joey would laugh. I asked Joey, “What do you say? Tell that Pigeon NO!” Joey would look at me and laugh, but not at the talky. Eventually, I modeled using the ‘no’ button myself, and went on to the next page, where we repeated the pattern again. Joey had no interest in telling the Pigeon ‘no’ with the talky.
What I did notice, however, was an increase in Joey using the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ buttons to communicate with me outside of the story. He had not used them with me yet, and so I was surprised when he started using them when we were reading another story. As always, it was slightly frustrating that Joey decided to take the lesson into his own hands, but in the end, the results are better than I planned. Our goal is for Joey to use the device to talk spontaneously, not just when prompted. Therefore, it seems perfect that the book modeled using the Yes/No buttons, and that Joey was able to correctly use them at a later lesson. He’s just constantly reminding me that yes, he is in charge of this show, and not me.