Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Literature as Therapy

In our struggle to find ways to engage Boo's mind and improve his long and short term memory we've tried many different approaches. The first was using several photocopied pages of slightly weird paragraphs that I read to Boo and asked him about twelve to twenty-four hours later. That didn't work. The paragraphs were ridiculous and inane. Why even bother to try to remember nonsense, especially when Boo was recovering from a stroke and there was so much to relearn? We liked the basic concept though. It was easy to implement, easy to evaluate effectiveness and it was definitely a natural for us. We were used to reading and discussing articles and books.

Searching for something that would enhance his memory and work naturally into our lives, I remembered Charlotte Mason's educational method. After an online search, I located several sites that were dedicated to her methodology. The one that I've found most useful for us is Ambleside Online. Charlotte Mason's students read living books, instead of textbooks, slowly over the course of a semester. Her students regularly narrated the selections that they read---oral or written, depending on age and ability. Because of the length of time spent on each book, the student became more intimately aquainted with the story line. They also retained more information. (Think quality as opposed to quantity.) That seemed like a program tailor made to enhance long and short term memory and language skills.

We've modified the AO program to fit us. Boo and I are slowly reading or listening to several books. We read small chunks at a time. It might be a chapter or part of a chapter. In some cases, it's just a page or two. It all depends on the complexity of the material and Boo's state of mind. Later that day, we'll discuss the passage we read. Waiting more than a few hours for a first discussion, simply doesn't work for Boo. He can't remember enough about the passage to do anything except frustrate him. A few days later,when we read the next chunk, Boo narrates the previous passage first to “set the stage” for that day's reading.

For us this is a simple, enjoyable way to routinely practice memory and verbalization skills. This method has shown its effectiveness in Boo's increasing ability to follow short news stories on TV and to follow conversations. In addition to enhancing memory and verbalization, Boo has begun to make connections between the readings and things he encounters in other contexts. This unexpected increase in his logic and analytical skills is a nice bonus.

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