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Episode #107: The Importance of Comprehension Skills with Dr. Merrill Winston

As SLPs and BCBAs we are tasked with teaching comprehension to our learners, but do they really understand these skills? Dr. Merrill Winston joined me to discuss not only reading comprehension but comprehension in everyday life and the building block skills to be successful.

What is comprehension?

Whether you’re reading a book or listening to a statement, there are 3 markers for comprehension.

  • Repeat it.
  • Follow the Directions or Instructions within it.
  • Talk about it.

Dr. Winston and I get into the nitty gritty of that last marker and talk about it when it comes to comprehension of daily life. He says that a major prerequisite for reading comprehension is comprehending their day. You can check this by having your learner sequence, or “serieate” their day. (First I did this, then I did this, then we did that…) 

With this skill, students are pulling information from the past and making a time reference. You can practice by working in smaller increments, like the last hour even. This doesn’t have to be verbal, it can be in pictures or icons as well! But, the important thing is to ask those questions!! Students may not be able to serieate their day, simply because they aren’t being asked these questions.

We also talk about goal setting and realistic expectations. If you’re considering setting a comprehension goal for your learner, Dr. Winston says to be sure to ask: What is the end goal? Where is this skill going to take them? Every skill you spend time on should have a goal that extends across the lifespan and opens more doors and opportunities. He even goes as far as to say that working on a goal for too long without progress is careless! 

This was such a great chat with a leader in the field of ABA, and I hope you found it helpful!

#autism #speechtherapy

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Today’s Guest:

Dr. Winston received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida followed by his Master’s and Ph.D., in behavior analysis from Auburn University studying under Jim Johnston. He has spent his career working with individuals with severe challenging behavior. His areas of interest include the appropriate use of restraints with special populations, writing better, more functional behavior plans, analysis of how language is used for social control, gun violence, psychotropic medication usage, and racism. Dr. Winston is also an expert witness and provides assistance to attorneys in understanding key concepts in the use of restraints and behavior analysis with vulnerable populations. 

What’s Inside:

  • What does comprehension really mean?
  • How should providers be working on comprehension?
  • What is “seriating your day” and why is it important?
  • Determining functional goals for your learners.
  • How goals and skills build to reach larger goals.
  • Goals that will impact your learner’s life.

Mentioned In This Episode

Winston Behavioral Solutions 
ABASpeechByRose – Rose Griffin on Instagram
ABA Speech: Home
ABA SPEECH Your Autism Resource

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