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July 8th 2012 (day four)

mwz 1997

The Hanen Workshop - led by Janice Greenberg

The workshop was delivered by Janice Greenberg – Program Director at the Hanen Centre, a non-profit organisation in Toronto. Hanen was founded in the 70s. The main aim of the organisation is to support the child’s language development. What makes   The Hanen Centre different from other such organisations is that they work not with the children themselves but rather with their caregivers – parents and teachers – in order to provide the children with a language supporting environment in during natural everyday situations, not only during speech and langauge therapy sessions.
The Hanen Centre  provides training programs for everyone interacting with the child, including parents, teachers, educators, babysitters, and sometimes even school bus drivers. The Hanen Centre provides a variety of training programmes like: Target Words (for parents of late talkers), More Than Words (for parents of children with ASD), Learning Language and Loving It  (for early childhood educators), ABC and Beyond (designed for building emerging literacy in early childhood settings) and It Takes Two To Talk (for parents of children with language delays). The Hanen Centre collaborates with the University of Toronto to conduct studies to evaluate the validity of the method.
Hanen Programmes® focus on prevention, intervention and enrichment. The basis of all Hanen Programmes® is the belief that language is acquired in social contexts. Caregivers are the ones who can lead the interaction in a developmentally stimulating way. It is their responsiveness that motivates children to communicate with their environment.
There are two factors to be taken into account when communicating with children: interaction and information. Good interaction ensures that joint attention, intentionality and turn taking are developed over time. Giving children additional information within responsive interactions though language modelling and extending the topic is crucial to boosting their language and cognitive abilities. Short clips were presented illustrating basic mistakes caregivers make while communicating with children. At the end of the session, various roles teachers play were presented followed by a discussion of their impact on communication with children.  The role played by the educator is especially important in interactions with children whose language development is delayed or impaired. Research shows that children with language impairment are often ignored and are frequently unable to elicit responses to their nonverbal communication initiatives. Due to that, their opportunities for interaction and language learning  occur less frequently.
The second part of workshop began with a quick reminder of conversational styles. Janice Greenberg emphasized the importance of adjusting the teacher’s style of interaction to the child's communication style. Then, she reviewed the strategies taught in  Learning Languge and Loving It™ - The Hanen Programme® for Early Childhood Educators/Teachers. Some of the most important characteristics of the programme were: following child's lead, extending a conversation and asking in-depth questions that continue the conversation. The effects of the programme surprisingly extend to areas other than language. Educators also notice  improvements in children’s behaviour and their social skills. This change is  triggered by changes in  the educator’s interactions with  the children and the resulting impact on the children.
The final part of the workshop focused on how to work effectively with educators. The main goal of the program is to make educators aware of the importance of interactions with children and convince them to pay attention to the dynamics of these relationships.
Janice Greenberg supported her presentation with many valuable video examples of real (or enacted) conversations of caregivers interacting with children. To keep things  interesting, she even told a joke about a boy who just experienced his first day at school. He came back home and when his mother asked him if he liked school, he said: “Well, I didn’t enjoy it very much. I can’t read. I can’t write. And they wouldn’t let me talk”. Hanen Programs directly address this situation by teaching educators how to making talking and conversation an important part of the day and take advantage of these natural opportunities for fostering language development.

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