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Questions and Answers
Some frequently asked questions: click the index number to go to the relevant section

1: What’s the difference between language and social communication?

2: What are pragmatic language difficulties?

3: I’m keen to start using your teaching programmes but I’m having problems fitting everything in! There’s no more room on the timetable! What do you suggest?

4: Most of the teaching programmes you write take a long time to complete – at least an academic year. I’m peripatetic – how can I use them when I only spend about six weeks at a time in each school?

5: I’ve been using SULP, LaCAL and Language Choices for some years now and they’re great! I’d like to involve other members of staff in the school – what’s the best way of going about it?

6: Why do you use monster characters in some of your programmes?

7: The children in my group are doing well with SULP – but as soon as they go out the classroom quite a bit of what they learn goes out the window! How can I help them to generalise skills to other situations?

8: We use SULP and LaCAL in our school. They're going well but we heard that you run training courses to help professionals get the most out of your programmes. How can we find out more?

9: Will you come and train us in Birmingham...Manchester...Leeds...Kent...Belfast...Glasgow...!

10: Where do you get your ideas?!

 

1: What’s the difference between language and social communication?

I’d say that a good deal of language is social – as soon as one person starts talking to another, it gets social! So ‘social language’, ‘communication’ and ‘social communication’ mean the same – in communication you essentially need a sender (speaker or writer) and a receiver (listener or reader) – so all communication is social by definition. But there is a part of language that isn’t social – it’s the internal (for some people external!) verbalisation of thought – including conceptualisation of ideas, planning and problem solving. Obviously these skills are essential for learning across the curriculum.
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2: What are pragmatic language difficulties?

I think the word ‘pragmatic’ is probably used to emphasise the practical, social nature of these aspects of language. In a nutshell, 
much of what has been written about pragmatic language falls within one of three areas:
1. The comprehension bit (inference)
2. The expressive bit (selection and organisation)
3. The interactive bit (starting, turn-taking and stopping talking!)

1. The 'comprehension bit' is to do with understanding meaning implied by context. It requires you to draw inferences from the way something is said (non-verbal context), what else has or hasn’t been said (verbal context) and what is happening at the time (situational context). So you need to go beyond what is said to work out what is meant.

2. The 'expressive bit' is to do with making appropriate language choices in spoken and written communication – selecting ideas and information that are relevant to your listener and organising what you say so it’s coherent, of interest and easily understood. You only need to do this if you have a number of options to consider – but actually that’s true of a lot of communication! Say if someone asks you an open question like ‘What did you do at the weekend?’ or ‘what happened in Eastenders last night?’. There is much you could talk about, but there isn’t time to include it all, so you need to make a selection. 

The same applies to writing essays – you have to think about what information to include and in what order. So if a person has difficulties with this aspect of pragmatic language, what they say or write may be jumbled and difficult to follow or may include irrelevant detail whilst leaving out important information. Some people with these kinds of difficulties will say they don’t know the answer or can’t write the essay when in fact they do have the ideas – they just can’t communicate them. The problem isn’t one of memory because if you narrow down the choices, say by asking more specific questions (for example, ‘what did you do Saturday evening’ rather than ‘what did you do at the weekend’ or ‘what happened to Den in Eastenders last night’ rather than ‘what happened in Eastenders last night’) you will find that the person will be able to answer more easily.

3. The 'interactive bit' is the area of pragmatics that has been the most written about and researched so I won’t go on about it much here. It’s the two-way process of communication: the speaker-listener exchange. Children and adults who have problems here can mistime conversational turns so they end up continually interrupting the person they’re talking with. Some may also have difficulty letting go of the speaker role and may therefore tend to ‘hog’ the conversation – they are not aware of the importance of listening.

Everyone can experience these kind of problems, albeit to a lesser degree, under certain circumstances, usually when emotions are running high - in an argument for instance or when they are tired. In these circumstances it is quite easy to miss an implied meaning, to know what you want to say but be unable to 'get it out' coherently or find it hard to listen and initiate your turn appropriately! An important difference is that people who don't have pragmatic difficulties do have the skills to fall back on, if they can apply them. People with pragmatic difficulties have these problems whatever the circumstance.
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3: I’m keen to start using your teaching programmes but I’m having problems fitting everything in! There’s no more room on the timetable! What do you suggest?

I recommend that you timetable the programmes as part of a subject area. All of the programmes I’ve written contribute to the subjects listed below. I have seen only favourable reports where the use of the programmes has been inspected by government agencies, such as Ofsted, and therefore feel confident in recommending their use as part of these subjects. Issues of timetabling therefore shouldn’t arise.

Social Use of Language Programme (SULP)
 
- English (speaking & listening)
- PSE or Citizenship/ life skills

Language Choices - English (speaking & listening; literacy)
(note that the skills covered in Language Choices will assist with spoken and written activities across the curriculum but it relates most directly to English curriculum content)

Into Inference - English (spoken / reading comprehension)

Sound - English (speaking & listening; literacy)

Language Concepts to Access Learning (LaCAL) - Maths, Science and Geography

Developing Language - English (speaking & listening; literacy) early maths 
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4: Most of the teaching programmes you write take a long time to complete – at least an academic year. I’m peripatetic – how can I use them when I only spend about six weeks at a time in each school?

Most of the programmes take approximately one to three academic years to complete in their entirety. This is because they’re pretty big and cover a huge amount of ground! Obviously you will get the greatest effect by completing the whole programme – whichever you choose – but it is possible to complete just sections of a programme. Some sections can be completed over quite short periods of time, for example six to eight weeks. Others are conceptually linked (this is made clear in the text) - it is important to retain these links so these sections will take a bit longer. Another possibility is that you may wish to use the small amount of time you have in each school to help someone else set up a programme more fully. All the latest editions of the programmes can be used very flexibly, depending on the amount of time available and include guidance on how to select activity sequences if time is short.
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5: I’ve been using SULP, LaCAL and Language Choices for some years now and they’re great! I’d like to involve other members of staff in the school – what’s the best way of going about it?

I’ve found the most effective way of involving other staff is for them to sit in on well established groups to see the programmes being used. Alternatively, you could work with them in setting up a programme with their class group. I’ve always approached members of staff individually to see if they would be interested in working with me on a programme. Usually we set a ‘pilot’ period, say a term, so that we can review the effects  and iron out any teething problems. We plan lessons together incorporating the programme’s activity sequences. INSET sessions on the whole don’t work terribly well. One of the reasons I think is that it’s hard to give a full picture of any of the programmes, starting from scratch - and the potential – in just an hour, half a day or even a day. I think this is something you have to see for yourself over time. Plus there are issues of copyright concerning production of course material and presentation. If you have any doubts at all about copyright you should always request written permission from Wendy Rinaldi. 
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6: Why do you use monster characters in some of your programmes?

Monster-type characters appear in LaCAL and SULP-IP (infant/primary school version). I say ‘monster-type’ because these monsters are actually very human! You will see that they live in houses, go to school, enjoy a range of sports and leisure activities, have emotions and facial expressions, experience the same kinds of problems as a lot of children – and some are remarkably adept at sorting them out! The idea of these characters is that children can relate to them and at the same time enjoy them. They are always used at the beginning of an activity sequence to introduce a skill or behaviour strategy and some of the characters have to learn to deal with fairly sensitive issues. A number of children you work with will recognize the problems that the monsters face and I think that using these characters enables children to look at their own problems more objectively. I am aware that some teachers and therapists feel unsure about how the monsters will work for children with autism but I’ve found that they love them as much as other children. I find that, as long as I follow up the stories and pictures with the other activities listed in the programmes, they don’t have a problem making the link between strategies that work for the monsters and strategies that can work for them.
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7: The children in my group are doing well with SULP – but as soon as they go out the classroom quite a bit of what they learn goes out the window! How can I help them to generalise skills to other situations?

I’ve tried to tackle the generalisation of skills in the new editions of SULP and there is now a level called ‘carryover’ that concentrates specifically on this aspect of learning. Generalising skills will always be tricky for children with special needs – it’s hard for them to break habitual patterns – but there are two features of SULP that I think gives them a good chance of doing so. 

The first feature is the programme’s metacognitive approach. This enables children to understand precisely what they’re learning about and how this can help them. Therefore, be sure to include the pictures at the end of each game, model or story to remind the children of the main learning points. The second feature that assists generalisation is the cumulative nature of the framework. This allows the repetition of skills and strategies as well as the addition of new ones.
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8: We use SULP and LaCAL in our school. They're going well but we heard that you run training courses to help professionals get the most out of your programmes. How can we find out more?

All the programmes can be used without training but many teachers and therapists say that they find the training courses very helpful.
Please
click here for information.
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9: Will you come and train us in Birmingham...Manchester...Leeds...Kent...Belfast...Glasgow...!

I may be able to provide training at your school or health dept depending upon your location and my other work commitments. Something else to consider if you can't make the trip to Guildford is online training – please email orders@wendyrinaldi.com to enquire about either of these options.
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10: Where do you get your ideas?!


The short answer is that I really don’t know! Most of my ideas have come from trying to help children overcome one kind of problem or another. I’ve always loved drawing and acting so am naturally drawn to these mediums when I’m working with children. Plus I’m told I have a very logical brain, so maybe it’s when the creative and logical get together that I can come up with the goods!
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