My son has a Specific Language Impairment. I'm no expert on SLIs, because I felt I could have oversaturated myself in information and miss the most important part - the human I'm trying to support. I take advice from professionals about him and I try to understand what he's struggling with so that I can give him some strategies to get around it.
We've managed to get over various hurdles. But right now, I'm facing a hurdle so huge I'm having to put an enormous amount of building blocks together. It's kind of like engineering a crane powerful enough to move something heavy but small and oddly shaped into the exact right place in a puzzle that you can't even see.
The something is 'why'
I can make so many things clear to him. I can tell him why the sky is blue, how planes fly or how to mix the colour green. However if I have to find an answer to the question 'WHY?' I can be completely stumped.
There's various things that a person has to do. Like wake up in the morning, go to school or work, clear the table after a meal. The answers to those questions are usually 'just because' or 'because it's better than not doing it' but these answers aren't good enough for him. Sometimes he's not even saying 'why' but I can see he's struggling to get used to doing something when he doesn't understand the motivation. After a really long time failing to come up with compelling reasons, I've started to look at the problem with a different approach.
The Power of Routines
He has a great attitude towards a task if he has clear instructions in front of him. He can build complex Lego using their instructions. His behaviour as a toddler improved when he had a picture of what we were about to go and do. Since he's learned to read and write he's able to read and understand information put in front of him.
So I've started to split up every element of his life in to categories, and gotten the things he 'has' to do bundled up into five categories, as well as loads more that I'll concentrate on later.
Tasks - Jobs - Behaviour - Responsibilities - Chores
Tasks are things that he will need to do to improve his abilities. Like reading, drawing or building.
Jobs help him keep his world organised and tidy so it's easier to live. An example of this is putting his clothes away in the right drawers so it's easier to find clothes and get dressed in the morning.
Behaviour is where we track how good he is getting along with other people, from me to friends or strangers. All of the items here are set up in a positive way, such as 'asking questions rather than getting angry' instead of 'being angry.' Rather than him facing specific punishment for doing specific things, he is rewarded for getting through the day as a kind honest and understanding kid.
Responsibilities are things that are important to being a pupil in school, because his main responsibility is going to school, just like his dad's responsibility is going to work and my responsibility is providing a safe and happy home for everyone. Items are things like 'getting ready for school' 'emptying my school bag' 'having a safe journey to and from school.'
Chores are the age appropriate jobs he can do around the house to gain a little extra credit. He can do things like empty the dishwasher or help to put the food shopping away. These are less important than the other four categories, but if he does them on top of the others it shows he's playing his part in the family just like the rest of us.
The pay off
Hopefully we'll soon have a lot less push back for asking him to do the things he has to do. It's still in the early stages and all I've done is write down each category onto a different piece of paper and list items underneath, adding stickers for each accomplishment. I'll be adapting and perfecting this as we go, adding and removing things or making it more incentivised or colourful.