Parents of children with difficulties developing speech will be enlightened and encouraged by Communicating Partners by Dr. James D. MacDonald, Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University and director of the Communicating Partners Center in Columbus. This practical guide details some thirty years of research and the expertise gained after working with a thousand language-impaired kids and their parents.
In a society in which academics are being introduced to children at increasingly early ages, parents are feeling the push make their children into little geniuses. MacDonald describes how parents of children with communication difficulties, under increased stress, tend to take on a directive role - too often dwelling on the things their children are not doing or are unable to do and creating a lose-lose situation. When confronted with constant pressure to perform, a child who is already socially isolated retreats further into his or her own world, increasing the parent's frustration, hampering learning, and putting further strain on the parent-child relationship, which should be enjoyed by all involved.
The cornerstone of the Communicating Partners program is the development of social relationships. MacDonald sees "children's social relationships as the critical process for cognitive learning." In other words, when the focus is on communicating and having fun, children will open up, become more receptive, and the academics will more easily follow. MacDonald stresses the need for parents to enter their childrenıs activities, matching verbal and nonverbal actions, sharing control and taking equal turns, responding to all interactions, and making a gradual effort to lengthen them. Many examples of conversation routines are presented and testimonials from the parents who have used his program are included, as well as the research used to develop the program.
While MacDonald acknowledges the desire to have children with strong academic skills, he stresses that emotional intelligence is paramount. The chapter on civil behavior encourages parents with children who are very bright to refuse to tolerate any tendency to be condescending or lack empathy. He drives home his point with examples of extremely intelligent adults who are unaware of how to treat other people, donıt have good relationships, and are consequently very unhappy.
MacDonaldıs overall message is most refreshing: relax, have fun, be silly, and enjoy your kids everyone involved will be the better for it.