(this blog entry was originally posted August 2, 2010)
We were just finishing our speech session when my office phone rang. Recognizing the extension as belonging to the school secretary (AKA “Guardian of All that is Critical and Necessary”), I understood it was imperative to take this call.
“Okay kiddos, good work today. You can play a quick round of UNO for the last 5 minutes.” My kiddos LOVE UNO, so I of course withhold the cards unless I see terrific effort and excellent adherence to my “Speech Rules.” A great bunch of kiddos, this articulation group was fun fun FUN and had very good pragmatic skills to boot.
While attending to details over the phone about the ETA for my printer cartridge replacement (with an impending IEP at 2:30, I was starting to sweat), I simultaneously listened to the shuffling of cards and general chatter.
“No way! Finn belongs with Rachel. Quinn’s mean!”
Like a bear to honey, a cat to unscathed furniture, a 7-year-old to Pokemon cards, my attention was completely and instantaneously drawn to the kiddos’ conversation…GLEE! They were talking about GLEE. [ This is probably the point in my blog where I come out as a full-fledged GLEEK.]
Then I heard “Still there?” and realized that the Guardian had detected my inattention. “Yeah, thanks so much for calling. I’ll stop by at lunch,” I mumbled and hung up.
Transfixed I did not wish to disturb this wonderful social interaction.
“He’s a football player so he goes with the cheerleader.” Green Two
“Nuh-uh. My cousin’s boyfriend’s a football player, and she’s in band.” Red Two
“Well Rachel’s nose is big.” Red Draw Two
“You’re mean. That’s why you like Quinn. I change it to Blue” Wild Card
“Okay kiddos, time for you to go back to class. See you next Thursday.” I figured it was time to stop this before the hair pulling started.
Throughout the day, my thoughts kept returning to this exchange. The back and forth of the conversation mirrored the turn-taking in laying down the cards. I had used UNO with kiddos on the autistic spectrum as a non-verbal approach to teaching basic turn-taking and matching skills, but had not considered its use in teaching higher level social skills and concepts. Hmm…
SIDE NOTE: I just love the “Ah-Ha” moment, that giddy lightheaded rush of clarity is incomparable. And the details seem to write themselves effortlessly. During the great Ah-Ha, I am one with Creator and creation itself… Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration, but I WAS really really excited when the notion of Conversation OO-NO© hit me.
Conversation OO-NO© is a structured conversation activity which can be used with kiddos or adults who have a mental age of 7+ years to address topic maintenance, formulating comments and questions, introducing a new topic, and expanding a topic. It can be played with 2 or more players (one of which may include the clinician or parent) and may be adapted in terms of complexity and level of topic specificity, depending on the cognitive level and pragmatic skills of the client. All you need is a deck (any deck) of cards, such as UNO (Mattel, Inc.) or crazy eights.
Here’s my 3rd well-worn deck:
Deal cards and play the game according to the rules included with the deck. The twist is this…
1. Prior to the first turn, select a topic. This can be selected by the clinician, client, or by group consensus. Using my previous example, the topic can be general (e.g., “TV shows”), somewhat specific (e.g., “GLEE”), or very specific (e.g., “Who Finn should date”). Make sure everyone is clear about the topic before starting. We’ll be using the topic of “GLEE” for this demonstration.
2. Whenever a player puts down a card of a matching color he/she makes a comment about the topic (e.g., “GLEE is the best show on TV”).
NOTE: The clinician can offer real-time feedback to the client regarding the appropriateness of the comment or model possible comments the client could make to expand the topic.
3. When a player puts down a matching number/symbol (in the case of reverse and skip cards), he/she asks a question of the next player regarding the topic (e.g., “What do you like about GLEE?”).
NOTE: When the next player places a matching color card down, the comment should be in reference to the question that was just asked. However, if the next player uses a matching number, then encourage that player to answer the question before formulating one of their own.
4. When a Draw 2 or Draw 4 card is played, the player must make 2 or 4 comments about the topic (e.g., for the card pictured above “I really like the musical numbers. And Sue Sylvester is hilarious.”)
5. A Wild Card (or the “8” in crazy eights) enables the player to change the topic. This is a great opportunity to work on how to bridge from the existing topic to another (e.g., “You may like GLEE, but I really like Star Wars Clone Wars, so that’s the new topic. I change the color to red.”).
6. The Wild Draw 4 card is special, in that the player must make 4 comments about the existing topic before introducing a new topic (e.g., “1. I’ve never seen GLEE. 2. I don’t understand why you could possible like it. 3. I really don’t like when people break out in song at random moments. 4. Musical shows like GLEE don’t belong on TV. So I’m changing the topic to an awesome show called Star Wars Clone Wars and changing the color to blue.”).
Since developing Conversation OO-NO©, I’ve realized that it can be used for many other therapy targets at the level of structured conversation, such as fluency, semantics (select vocabulary targets as the topics), grammar (change the rules so that comments or questions reflect a particular targeted form), and articulation. As such, it’s a great activity to use with groups of clients who have different goals.
I’d love to hear how Conversation OO-NO© works for you!