One of my favorite authors is Jane Healy who writes about thinking and learning. (I think her book, Endangered Minds is a must-read for parents.) I was pleased to discover this book she wrote back in 1992 that I hadn't seen before. The subtitle is, "how to have intelligent and creative conversations with your kids". I don't normally think I have difficulty in talking with my children, but trust Ms. Healy for useful insights so I picked it up. Half the book discusses higher order brain functions and how language helps develop this ability. The other half is filled with open ended questions to help stimulate family discussions and help improve creative thinking.
I was particularly struck with the section on the executive functions of the brain. This is not an in-depth treatment on the subject, but what I've learned here intrigues me. Ms. Healy uses an example of a little girl who was very impulsive and would often get into trouble because she acted before she thought. Using 'verbal mediation', Ms. Healy helped the child learn a four-step procedure that consisted of 1. Stop and think 2. Talk about the problem 3. Talk about your plan 4. Follow your plan. (p. 27) My most impulsive child also is the child who struggles most with using language for anything other than functionality. Talking about feelings is very difficult because he can't put what's going on in his head into words. I also discovered a year ago that telling a story back to me was next to impossible for him. (We have been working on this and he has improved significantly in this area.) Even just working with words is a struggle. Yesterday I asked him to copy a sentence from a book and he couldn't do it without leaving out parts of the sentence. Today, he was to take word cards and lay them out to match the sentence that was already written out. He could do it, but it took quite a while; it wasn't easy.
I want to do more research on language and the executive functioning of the brain. My gut has always told me that some of this child's difficulties lay in his inability to use language. Well, use language in useful ways...he uses language all the time, nearly constantly, in fact. So, I'm trusting my gut and we're working on labelling his world, not with nouns and vocabulary, but with processes and ideas.
**Note to Ann at Crazy for Kids...I'm still reading our book. Really, I am! I just got a little side-tracked this week. (We're having our own little book group together and I'm working on finishing one of the two books we're going to discuss, Map of Love. I've already finished The Help.)