How do you work on inferencing skills?
For children and adults, inferencing skills are needed everywhere. Whether it is interpreting the facial expression of a friend or partner, figuring out the motives behind a co-worker’s action, or interpreting your own reasons for doing something, we are constantly using inferencing in our daily lives.
Compound the daily use of this skill with the need for students to inference in listening and reading comprehension and the challenge is laid out for students as young as 2nd grade. When an adult suffers a brain injury, the difficulty can be in comprehending situations and furthermore, verbally expressing what is happening and “why.” In many ways, inferencing requires looking for “clues” and interpreting information based on background knowledge. Professionals in the field of education or adult rehabilitation might call this skill “reading between the lines.”
C.C. Spector said “For people who do not ‘read between the lines,’ a well-designed structure is needed to help them grasp inferences”. Inference Pics from Aptus achieves just that structure. While working through this app with both students and adults, I have found it to provide both structure from which to build a foundation for learning as well as an open ended structure that allows for development of expressive language.
Here are 5 takeaways from my time working in the app recently.
Foundation: This might be simple, but tap on the information button on the home screen. This part of the app struck me both as informative and guiding. New and experienced clinicians can benefit from the information here. A breakdown of each category allows you to write goals, organize therapy sessions, and give clear explanations to family and caregivers. It shouldn’t be overlooked!
Settings: Intervention materials should be flexible and adaptable to the needs of the clinician and client. Data collection that is built into an app not only streamlines data collection and reporting but allows for clinicians to focus their energy on engagement with the client instead of dealing with data collection materials.
Inference Pics meets both of those needs (picture of setting screen). Clinicians can store specific data for individual clients as well as adjust settings such as number of trials and the voice speed. Remember, the speed of information being presented to clients can sometimes mean the difference between success and additional challenges.
Visuals, visuals, visuals! My time as an SLP has shown me the power of visuals in many ways. When working on inferencing skills, it is necessary to present visuals to both students and adults to ensure that they can “find” the clues to explain their thoughts. While the eventual goal is to use inferencing when engaged in a reading passage or during an interaction with another person, the initial stages of learning are benefitted immensely from the use of visuals.
Inference Pics uses real photos which are more salient and accessible to both students and adults.
Cues, Cues, Cues! I have found that the multiple choice cues are one of the biggest benefits to this app. When presenting inferencing tasks to clients, I find that wait time is a good initial strategy to aid in organizing information. After some time, it is evident that some clients “need” language to help them take a step forward. Multiple choices cues achieve this need resoundingly. Also, I may be able to improvise on the fly in a session, but having cues at the ready is a big time saver as well as helps me to know that I can fall back on the materials as needed.
Saliency: When working on a skill that needs to generalize to the classroom or to “real life,” it is critical for intervention materials to be salient. Inference Pics meets this requirement on more than one level. The pictures used are real and can be applied to real life situations. It is more salient to look at facial expressions on real people than to figure them out from cartoons.
On a separate note, some of the pictures might be more applicable to adults as opposed to students. I also recommend that this app be used with upper elementary students. While inferencing skills are employed earlier and earlier, some of the pictures might be outside of the realm of experience for younger students. As always, a clinician should use the “skip” button on the app to move on to other items.
Another aspect of saliency that is seen in Inference Pics are the multiple categories of situations for inferencing. The categories of “What has happened?,” “Feelings,” “Conversations,” and “Thoughts” all stood out to me as functional and salient ways to support the growth of my clients.
There are a number of ways to support inferencing in your clients. Written materials can be useful as well as socially-based stories that require the client to “read between the lines” of the information being presented. There are materials that highlight sequencing or “guessing” items based on clues. These types of tasks are very helpful for young students who are still developing inferencing skills.
When working with older students or adults, Inference Pics is a fantastic solution that offers flexibility and ease of use. Data can be collected for individuals and stored. Settings can be adapted both to influence the amount of work and how the work is presented. Salient pictures and items are ready for use with limited up-front work. Multiple choices cues allow clinicians to scaffold learning for both children and adults. While there are many options for apps out there, this one stands out to help clients with important inferencing skills.
Dan Fitch is an SLP who works in school and private practice settings. He believes that all children can learn, they just do so at their own rate and in their own way. He is passionate about how technology can support learning and communication. You can follow him on Twitter @itsalllanguage. He writes on Medium and his blog;