The importance of Experience Books

13 February 2018

Experience Books are a huge part of Auditory-Verbal Therapy (AVT). They provide a great structure for parents to develop listening and spoken language at home.  

What is an experience book?

An Experience Book is a lot like a scrap book that contains things that are of interest to the child. It is contributed to by the child, family and therapist and is specifically designed to engage; an engaged child is a much better learner!

The Book can include many different types of things – their family members, achievements, important events, places, songs and anything else that sparks their interest. Over the years of a child’s AVT parents will often create quite a few experience books, which can become very special keep sakes!

How do they help?

At its core an Experience Book uses context to support listening and spoken language, particularly about things that have happened in the past. This is important as children initially are all about the here and now, and it’s only as they get older and begin to develop an understanding of the vocabulary, phrases and concepts that are needed to talk about the past.

Experience Books can also help children build a schema for a life event. A schema is knowledge of the sequence of actions for an event. For example if your child is about to start at childcare you can build images and text of how drop off will occur. A book for this schema might look something like: 

  • Photo of you both in the car: “We are going to drive to childcare”
  • Picture of the front door: “We will arrive at childcare”
  • Picture of their schoolbag: “We put my bag in my locker”
  • Picture of your child’s primary carer / educator: “I stay at childcare with Sophie”
  • Picture of mum saying goodbye: “I give mum a kiss and say goodbye. Mum goes to work and I stay and play with my friends”

By reading over this in the child’s Experience Book they gain an understanding of the process that will occur and some of the language around childcare.Depending on the content of the Book they also provide opportunities to practice the concepts, words and sounds on which a family are currently working.

Experience Books also help with early literacy development. They show how we read books and that the images are tied to specific words. They also show that books are organised and time sequenced.

As you can see Experience Books provide so much potential for learning and development in children. Although we are talking about them here in the context of hearing loss, any child could benefit from developing a book like this at home.

What do you put in an Experience Book?

Exactly how an Experience Book is put together varies depending on the individual child. Developmental stage plays an important factor in how the books are put together and what information is placed inside. Also, as children get older they become much more involved participants in the Books’ creation.

Babies

For children under one year of age Experience Books need to be simple and sturdy. Single clear images work best, based on the things babies like the most. Faces make a great book for little ones. Using small photo albums to slide pictures into dribble proof plastic covers is often helpful! Start with photos of themselves, important family members and photos of special toys.

Toddlers

For 1-2 year olds the addition of textures and moving parts will help a child be more engaged. This doesn’t have to be too tricky. For example, glue some sand onto a picture of the beach, use split pin fasteners to allow wheels to move or use different fabrics on clothes.

Once children hit 2 years old they typically begin to use 2 word phrases, so these need to be incorporated more into the books. Also, everyday activities and the child’s interests can start to be included. If you are feeling crafty, more detailed movement and openings are good for this age group – pockets, flaps etc. Writing a short description under the photo gives whoever is reading the book a starting point for language. They will be reinforcing the same concepts and language structures every time. Following this general discussion about the content and following the child’s interest will provide rich language experiences.

Here are a few pages from Hazel’s Experience Book from when she was a toddler. You can see that pages are quite simple and include words and activities from her day to day life.

Pre-Schoolers

Once children hit 3 the Experience Books tend to change a little and focus on events that happen less often in a child’s life – not the everyday activities.

Things like birthday parties, family holidays and even baking cupcakes make great additions to the Book. Souvenirs from these activities can be placed in the book, or put in bags that are attached to the pages. The key is to create something that really captures the essence of the event. At this age children will be eager to help create the Books and explain what is happening in each picture within it. At this stage parents can begin to model the proper sentencing that goes with the picture (after the child has explained) and write the words into the Book.

Stories like this can then be revisited over time, and language developed each time.

Going back to Hazel, who is now 4 years old, last year they created a wonderful book which focused on her family holiday to Western Australia. In addition to creating the pages for the Book, mum also added a page of words associated with each activity that they put into the Book.

As children get older, and closer to school age their books may actually become simpler and more focused on getting the child to retell events with limited support. talk in a more complex fashion. The child may only place a single item in the book, but they will be able to tell the whole story around that item.

For example, a leaf taped into a book may allow the child to tell a story of going for a walk with their family and collecting nature items to create a picture which was then hung up in the house. The single image sparks a variety of complex language and sequencing.

Something to remember

It’s is important to remember that an Experience Book is not read like a normal book. The books is designed to spark discussion, questions and lot of vocabulary. Every time you look at a page within the Book with your child the conversation will probably be different. Take the opportunity to present new language.

Now go create!

You probably have lots of ideas about creating your own Experience Book now, but if you haven’t already, why not start with creating a Book around your Christmas holiday experience. 


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