When we found out our child had autism, one of the recommendations we got was to enroll the child in speech therapy to learn how to have a conversation instead of having a one-sided dialogue, as is typical with our child. The problem is that insurance does not cover that type of therapy. We were beyond blessed to be able to try an at home program, Color My Conversation by Northern Speech Services, designed to help teach youngsters, especially those on the autism spectrum, how to have a conversation. We found it to be just the program that we needed!
About Color My Conversation
This program is multi-sensory and designed to appeal to a large range of students. For younger students, there are songs that you can incorporate, but you can drop those with older students who may find them babyish.
The program contains colorful “Conversation Path” floor pads that help guide the student through the conversation. The yellow pads are for hellos and goodbyes; there is also a green pad for a conversation starter, a blue pad for conversation topics, and a red pad for a conversation stopper. These pads can be written on with dry erase marker so the child can look at the potential topics to talk about if they forget.
To help students keep up the pace with the conversation, they can toss a ball back and forth to the instructor as they say their parts of the conversation.
This program can be used at home, or it can be used in a classroom setting. If it is used in the classroom, there are letters to send home that are included as well as practice exercises the parents can do at home.
Our Experience Using Color My Conversation
This is not a completely open and go program. The instructor/parent will need to watch several getting started videos to learn how to use the program. In addition, there is a video to watch for each lesson. The instructor will have to prepare ahead of time for each lesson. There are instructional videos on the website as well as on the CD that comes with the program.
I was not sure how my child would do with this program, but the child was very receptive and eager to learn how to have a better conversation. I was surprised how difficult some of the activities were for our child. This child often has a stiff, stilted manner and prefers to be very formal in conversation, so learning some of the more relaxed ways of speaking were challenging. However, with repetition of the program, this child learned to relax a bit in conversation.
The suggested use of the program is for two 30 minute sessions or one 45 minute session per week. We found that we needed more repetition, so we actually opted for the two 30 minute sessions.
Our Thoughts on Color My Conversation
I loved this program, and I’d highly recommend it for parents who have kids with autism. However, even kids who don’t have autism can benefit. I was very shy as a kid, and I never knew what to say to have a conversation. This program would have helped me be less uncomfortable when talking with those I didn’t know. The program helps break down a conversation into meaningful parts. For example, for conversation starters, you can ask about four general topics:
- Asking how a person is doing
- Talking about the weather
- Asking about current activities
- Asking about family
Just knowing this “formula” to a conversation makes moving forward in the conversation much easier and less awkward.
While we weren’t able to complete the program during our review program (on average the program should take 14 to 16 weeks), we were able to make good progress, and I was able to see my child become more comfortable with having conversations. We will definitely continue this program until it is done.
Looking forward to the rest of the program, some of the topics we still need to cover are Topic Changers, Speaking Loud and Clear, and Topics of Conversation, just to name a few.
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