The Social Origin Of Using Speech For Self-Regulation Of Motor Acts In Conductive Education

 

by Clare Cheng Yuk Kwan

 

  Introduction

  The origin of self regulation

  Adult-child interaction and the use of private speech

  Studies in the adult-child interactions in the use of private speech

    Early social interaction

    The adult's communicative style

    The content of the adult guiding speech

  Guidelines for Promoting the self-Regulation Role of Rhythmical Intention

  Measurement of Changes

  Summary

  References

 

 

Introduction

The ultimate aim of CE is to develop children with brain damage a positive personality with problem-solving abilities (Kozma, 1995). To reach this goal, CE stresses the active participation of the children in their whole process of learning and that the learning environment has to be facilitating rather than compromising to their disabilities.

Persons with brain damage are characterised by the cardinal signs of spasticity and uncoordinated movements. The normal sequencing of movements subservient to daily functions are impaired or replaced by stereotypic reactions. From the point of view of CE, such difficulties faced by persons with brain damage can only be overcome by arousing a conscious learning path-way to achieve active control. According to Vygotsky and later Luria, speech has not only a communicative function but also performs a regulatory role on volitional behaviour (Vygotsky, 1934/1962, 1987). Based on similar concept, Petö innovated the use of the semantic and rhythmic part of speech as a tool for children with brain damage to plan, intend and regulate their movements for carrying out motor functions. Rhythmical Intention is the term he used to describe this technique. In practice, Rhythmical Intention goes like this.

The adult defines the motor act to be learnt by verbalising the action in first person, such as “I stretch my arms up”. The children repeat the sentence and then carry out the action while counting out loud usually for five. The series of movements carried out in this way add up to achieve a functional goal which the children alone might not be able to achieve by their reflexive response. Hence, besides facilitating movements, Rhythmical Intention is thought to serve as the person’s mental preparation for overt behaviour as well as a means for problem solving. (Hátri, et al., 1984). In other words, Rhythmical Intention relates to self regulation of behaviour.

The principles of CE have been adopted in some special child care centres and special schools in Hong Kong for almost 20 years. Application of the practices of CE such as task series, rhythmical intention, daily schedules and integrated learning programmes has been incorporated in the system of these special education settings with certain degrees of success. However, personal observations have revealed that the self regulatory effect claimed by Rhythmical Intention is not always evident. This is demonstrated by some common incidences such as:

1.   Some children rarely repeat the intention after file adult in task series.

2.   Some children frequently remain silent and do not attempt to co-ordinate their movement with speech.

3.   Most children rarely generalise the use of speech regulation when they encounter difficulties in daily activities.

Based on the developmental stages of speech regulation, Jernqvist (1985) formulated the different linguistic structures of the intention to be repeated by children at different stages. Improvement in participating in the use of Rhythmical Intention during task series has been observed. However, there remains an unexplored area concerning the generalisation of the use of this strategy of self regulation beyond the adult-mediated learning sessions. Children seldom show spontaneous use of speech to guide their motor planning when they experience any difficulties in physical demand in daily lives.

As Rhythmical Intention was derived from Vygotsky’s concept on the regulatory role of speech, a review of literature on studies in this theoretical framework might give insight for improving the implementation of this important part of CE. The present paper attempted to derive some practical guidelines from the review to promote the participation of children with motor disability in using Rhythmical Intention during teaching sessions of motor tasks and the generalised use of verbal regulation of motor functions in daily activities.

 

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The origin of self regulation

As the use of Rhythmical Intention is proposed to aim at self regulation, understanding the origin of self regulation will be helpful for uncovering its underlying mechanism and hence ways for improvement.

According to Vygotsky, self regulation represents the transformation of basic, biologically determined processes into higher psychological functional processes such as volitional attention, memory and problem solving (Vygotsky, 1981). In the transformation, the child becomes less bound to and controlled by the concrete, immediate environmental stimuli but demonstrates the increasing role of self formulated plans and goals in the regulation of behaviour. Thus, self regulation is the child's capacities to plan, guide, and monitor his or her behaviour from within and flexibly according to changing circumstances.

According to Vygotsky's formulation, the regulation of behaviour begins as a social process and is seen to rely on the mediation with an auxiliary sign of shared meaning between the adult-child dyad within their sociocultural orientation. The sign serves to "break up the fusion of the sensory field and the motor system and thus makes new kinds of behaviour possible." (Vygotsky, 1978, 1935). Postulated by Vygotsky and elaborated by Luria (1960), speech is this sign for mediation.

Vygotsky formulated the developmental progression in the use of speech in this respect in three specific stages. First, the caregivers bring in speech and use it to help the child focus his or her attention on salient aspects of the physical social environment. In this stage, the child is not able to use speech all by him/herself but there is a close co-operation between the child and the adult though the child's behaviour is basically regulated by the adults' speech. Later, the child initiates to use his or her own speech to describe his or her ongoing activity. To differentiate speech from the communicative purpose, such speech-to the-self is coined private speech. In this stage, private speech accompanies the child's activity. There is interplay between the child's private speech and the adult's guiding speech in regulating the child's behaviour. It is noticed that very often the child's private speech mirrors the adult's guiding speech. The adult's speech augments the child's private speech. Gradually, private speech undergoes structural and temporal changes. It precedes the child's action and is not merely a description of the situation. It is more orienting, planning and guiding in nature. At this stage, private speech does not simply mirror adult's speech. It represents the child's verbal thought and arrives at the self regulatory function. Finally, private speech becomes inaudible utterances and "goes underground" as internal thought processes (Vygotsky, 1962). These internalised utterances would appear again as overt speech for problem-solving processes in situations of challenges.

The use of Rhythmical Intention in CE in the regulation of motor behaviour resembles the function of private speech in Vygotsky's concept on the development of higher cognitive processes. Examination of teaching strategies that promote children's use of private speech will thus give insights to the improvement in the use of Rhythmical Intention.

 

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Adult-child interaction and the use of private speech

From the above description, it can be seen that private speech as a vehicle for self regulation roots in the adult-child interaction. It begins as a shared act between the adult and the child. With the gradual withdrawal of the adult from the joint activity, the child takes over the regulatory role. Based on this central idea, it is logical to postulate that facilitating the use of private speech relates to the quality of the adult-child interaction in the shared act. The following sections will attempt to deduce some guidelines to improve the self regulatory function of Rhythmical Intention based on findings in studies relate to the adult-child interaction in promoting the use of private speech.

 

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Studies in the adult-child interactions in the use of private speech

Early social interaction

According to Vygotsky, before the child can use his or her own speech to regulate behaviour, the adult's speech exerts its regulatory role by channeling the child's focus at relevant features of the environment. It is often noticed that mothers of infants talk to their infants all the time, labelling the objects that the infants come across and describing the activities that they engage with their infants. Other researchers also noted that in the pre-language stage, the reciprocal patterns of "communication" and interaction between infants and their caregivers is the origin of the self initiated monitoring (Hubley & Trevarten, 1979; Ratner & Brunet, 1978). Through this reciprocal interaction, the effects and consequences of the caregivers' and the infants' own acts are brought to the infants' notice. Intuitively, it is reasonable to expect an awareness of behaviour is essential for later self initiation of regulation. This early experience of enriched language input and sensitive responses from caregiver forms a foundation for self regulation.

However, the early experience of social interaction and enriched environment with language is often overlooked in children with disabilities. Their atypical behaviour such abnormal movement patterns and delayed or apparently non-existent response to social or physical stimulation easily puts their parents off from handling them and initiating interaction. It is often quoted that in contrast to mothers of normal children, mothers of children with disabilities engage much less 'talking' with their infants in play and in the routine chores such as feeding and changing nappies.

As strategies to encourage the use of private speech, the early interaction between the caregivers and the child should be emphasised very early on. For children with disabilities, parents would need help to handling their children physically and at the same time interact effectively with them. The mother-and-baby group in CE serves this function. Mothers are encouraged to sing and repeat the Rhythmical Intention to their babies in task series. Further encouragement for the parents to talk to their babies should be emphasised in other natural situations.

 

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The adult's communicative style

When the child can initiate speech, private speech begins in the child as an imitation of the adult's guiding speech. In other words, the dialogic exchange that takes place between the adult and the child in face of a task is incorporated into the child's self directed utterances. This notion of social origin of private speech suggests that adult especially parental communicative style and child-rearing pattern is influential in promoting the use of private speech. Based on Baumrind's (1973) classification of parental child-rearing styles and Brunner's (1985) concept of scaffolding, Berk, et al. (1995) explored the relationship of maternal interaction to pre-schoolers' private speech and task performance by using both microanalytic measures of instruction and global ratings of the parental teaching style. The microanalytic assessments measure the moment-by-moment contingent shifting and maintenance of adult responses within the child's region of sensitivity.

Global ratings of parental teaching style give an overall measure of the parents' authoritativeness. In their findings few relationships were found between microanalytic measures of instruction and the use of private speech and task performance. On the other hand authoritative parenting appeared to be a broad and flexible predictor of age-appropriate private speech, and it was strongly correlated with overall task success and performance gain. Authoritative parental teaching behaviour is characterised as warmth, responsiveness, patience, and an appropriate degree of structure and control with verbal reasoning and rationale for their requests, commands, and directives. These findings suggest that the overall quality of a parent's teaching behaviour is crucial in promoting a transfer of cognitive strategies from adult to child. Positive, considerate and encouraging communicative style may energise children's motivation to make use of the adult's scaffolded intervention, that is, using the guiding speech as the adults do.

The social taboo of not talking out loud, whether to self or others, might discourage the use of private speech when the child becomes more aware of social rules (Frauenglass, et al., 1985). A permission to talk out loud in Frauenglass, et al. maximised the production of children's private speech. As adult-child interaction is the major part in promoting private speech, adults' demonstration of using their own private speech in labelling and describing their own activity and verbalising their plans and goals would encourage the children to use private speech.

Following the same line of thought, for an attempt to encourage children's participation in Rhythmical Intention, the way the adult conducts the session for learning motor tasks using Rhythmical Intention has to be considered in the first place. An encouraging attitude of the adults in the whole day management of the children with disabilities also counts in promoting a more active role of the children in regulating their behaviour.

 

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The content of the adult guiding speech

Private speech is proposed to evolve from the adult guiding speech in a joint activity. Training to use the adult guiding speech has been considered as a way to promote private speech and hence self regulation. A number of researchers have used modelling self instructional strategies in an attempt to train verbal self regulatory capacity in different types of childhood disorders including hyperactivity, impulsivity, learning disabilities and mental retardation(see Kendal, et al.. 1985). The common features of the strategies used are that the children are asked to repeat the adult speech while they are doing specific tasks. Diaz, et ai. (l990) criticised that the effect of such training can possibly claim to have is self control and not self regulation. They considered self control to be the child's compliance to an internalised adult directive or command in a specific situation. The behaviour is in a rigid stimulus-response manner. Self regulation, on the other hand, taps the child's capacity to plan, guide and monitor his or her behaviour from within and flexibly according to changing circumstances. Self control, in contrast to self regulation, is characterised by its lack of generalisation.

In using Rhythmical Intention, the child is modelled to use speech regulation by repeating the aduit instructions. According to Diaz, et al. this kind of training is far from achieving self regulation. Personal observation of the children's lack of generalisation of using speech to regulate their motor functions in situations other than the learning sessions seems to support this notion. However, the problem of uncoordinated movements inherent in brain damaged children entails the teaching of normal movement sequences as the background for self regulated motor behaviour. Breaking down the motor components of a motor function and learning step by step with verbalisation of each step serve to teach normal sequencing of movements. The problem here is how to transpose the control of movements to self regulatory mode of motor behaviour. The studies done by Diaz, et al. may give some clues to the solution.

In an attempt to examine parental teaching strategies that promote children's use of self regulatory language, Diaz, et al. classified maternal verbal teaching into nine categories: commands, directives, directive questions, perceptual questions, conceptual questions, praises, direct relinquishing, other speech and whispers/inaudible utterances. Their analysis of 51 mother-child dyads indicates that the use of praise and encouragement, conceptual questions and direct relinquishing statements promote the child's active participation in a teaching task and the gradual take-over of the self regulatory role. Praise and encouragement as a general parenting style promotes the child's willingness to adopt the adult's strategies in approaching a task as mentioned previously in this paper. It also communicates to the child his or her competence and mastery over his or her environment.

The use of direct relinquishing statements (such as "Now you show me how you do it.") places the child at the centre of the action and exerts a subtle pressure and demand for the child to take over responsibility for the task. Conceptual questions (such as "What goes next?") have the effect of taking the child to function at a cognitive level for plans and rules. This helps the child to think forward and detach from the immediate perceptual field. This is in line with Vygotsky's developmental concept of self regulation.

The use of direct relinquishing statements and conceptual questions to promote self regulation is an inspiring finding for the improvement of the use of Rhythmical Intention. To achieve the self regulatory role, Rhythmical Intention should be more than a mere recitation of a pre-planned movement sequences. The adult stating the functional goal before the verbalisation of movement sequence will direct the child to the conceptual level of the motor acts. Then instead of following through the verbalisation of the pre-planned sequence, relinquishing statements (such as “Now it's your turn to tell me what is next.”) or conceptual questions (such as "Can you roll over with your arms stuck under your chest like now? What would you do?) should be added after the child has been familiarised with the normal sequence of movements.

Diaz, et al. finding also shows a direct correlation between the withdrawal of adult physical assistance and the child's take-over of the regulatory role on the task. They found that maternal manipulation of the task materials, as an index of maternal intrusiveness and lack of withdrawal, discouraged the use of independent verbalisations of the child. This is particularly relevant to the teaching of motor functions to the child with disabilities. Too much assistance given to the child might directly reduce his or her need for self regulation. The gradual withdrawal of physical assistance, the use of relinquishing statements and conceptual questions all have the fundamental effect of demanding responsibility on the part of the child. Thus the promotion of self regulation entails the cultivation of a sense of responsibility in the child.

 

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Guidelines for Promoting the self-Regulation Role of Rhythmical Intention

Deduced from the above findings, the promotion of the self regulatory function of Rhythmical Intention can be, in part, achieved by:

1.   Early enriched parental verbal interaction with the child;

2.   Positive and encouraging attitude of the parents and adults;

3.   A permissive attitude to talk out loud;

4.   The appropriate withdrawal of physical assistance in learning a task or in daily activities and thus the fostering of self responsibility in the child;

5.   The use of direct relinquishing statements and conceptual questions in learning a task or in daily activities.

As these guidelines are derived from the adult-child interaction, effective implementation of these guidelines will entail the proper management of the whole day schedule and the consistent attitude and skills of the adults involved. Thus, implementation of these guidelines necessitates:

1.   Parent and staff education in the understanding of the use of self regulatory function of speech and the need for their positive attitude in their interaction with the children;

2.   Training of the staff and parents to use task-relevant speech in verbalising the plan and steps to accomplish a task or activity of everyday life as modelling for the children;

3.   Redesigning of the flow of motor task learning sessions (called task- series in CE terminology to incorporate challenges for the children to use their own speech as part of Rhythmical Intention.

 

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Measurement of Changes

The change is expected to happen in the children's more spontaneous use of speech in regulating their motor learning activities as well as in dealing with physical tasks in daily living, especially at times of challenges. However, the intervention mentioned above relies heavily on the compliance of the adults in contact with the children. Before ascertaining any changes in the children, assessment on the part of the adults have to be done. Peer and self evaluation of performance will be a causal way to evaluate the quality of interaction on the part of the adult. For the part of children, naturalistic observation of the response in the learning sessions as well as during daily routine has to be taken into account. Their response to any novel tasks or activities in the day will also indicate whether they generalise the use of speech for problem solving.

 

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Summary

The social origin of private speech stresses the role played by adults in promoting the children’s use of self regulation through speech. The affect as well as the content of the adult-child interaction in this respect influences the child's ability and tendency to employ this strategy in regulating their behaviour. This paper attempts to extract ideas from studies in private speech for the improvement of the use of Rhythmical Intention in CE. Rhythmical Intention is a technique based on the concept that speech also serves a regulatory role in motor behaviour. The idea is very similar to private speech in regulating higher cognitive functions. Thus to improve the use of Rhythmical Intention, the quality of adult-child interaction as in private speech is emphasized. The positive attitude, the appropriate withdrawal of adult assistance, the cultivation of a sense of responsibility in the child, the modelling of the use of task-relevant overt speech and the encouragement to talk out loud are the factors that are seen to improve the use of Rhythmical Intention in the self regulation of motor behaviour. The early experience of enriched language input from the caregiver forms a foundation for speech regulation.

 

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References

1.   Baumrind, D. (1973). The development of instrumental competence through socialization. In A.D. Pick (Ed.), Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

 

2.   Berk, L.E. & Spuhl, S.L. (1995). Maternal interaction, private speech, and task performance in preschool children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 10, 145-169.

 

3.   Brunner, J. (1985). Vygotsky: A historical and conceptual perspective. In J. Wertsch (Ed.), Culture, communication, and cognition: Vygotskian perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

4.   Diaz, R.M., Neal, C.J. & Amaya-Williams, M. (1990). The social origins of self regulation. In L.C. Moll (Ed.), Vygotsky and Education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

5.   Frauenglass, M.H., & Diaz, R.M. (1985). Self regulatory functions of children's private speech: A critical analysis of recent challenges to Vygotsky's theory. Developmental Psychology, 21, 357-364.

 

6.   Hari, M., & Tillemans, T. (1984). Conductive Education. In D. Scrutton (Ed.), Management of the Motor disorders of Children with Cerebral Palsy. London: Spastics International Medical Publications.

 

7.   Hubley, P., & Trevarthen, C. (1979). Sharing a task in Infancy. In LC. Uzgiris (Ed.), Social Interaction and Communication during infancy. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

 

8.   Kendall, P.C., & Braswell, L. (1985). Cognitive-behavioral Therapy for Impulsive Children. New York: Guildford Press.

 

9.   Jernqvist, L. (1985). Speech regulation of motor acts as used by cerebral palsied children. Goteborg Studies in Educational Sciences 54. Acta Universitats Gothoburgenesis Vaastadens Bokbinden, AB Goteborg.

 

10. Kozma, I. (1995). The basic principles and present practice of Conductive Education. European Journal of Special Needs Education, 10, 2, 111-123.

 

11. Luria, A.R. (1960). Verbal regulation of behavior. In M.A.B. Brazier (Ed.), The central nervous system and behavior: Transactions of the third conference February 21, 22, 23, and 24, 1960, Princeton, N.J. New York: Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation.

 

12. Luria, A.R. (1981). The development of the role of speech in mental processes: The regulative function of speech and its development. In J.V. Wertsch (Ed.), Language and Cognition. New York: John Wiley & Sons.

 

13. Ratner, N., & Bruner, J. (1978). Social exchange and the acquisition of language. Journal of Child Language, 5, 391-401.

 

14. Vygotsky, L.S. (1962). Thought and Language. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (Original work published in 1934)

 

15. Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. 16. Vygotsky, L.S. (1981). The genesis of higher mental functions. In J.V. Wertsch (Ed. & Trans.), The concept of activity in soviet psychology, pp 144-148. New York: Sharpe.

 

17. Vygotsky, L.S. (1987). Thinking and speech. In the collected work of L.S. Vygotsky: Vol. I. Problems of general psychology. (N. Minick, Trans.) New York: Plenum. (Original work published in 1934).

 

 

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