Inferencing can be defined as the act of making an educated guess based on any of the following:
Children begin to understand and make inferences between the ages of 4 and 6. Typically, children learn to make inferences through real-life experiences. Some children, such as those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), must be taught this skill through direct purposeful lessons.
As nero-typical children develop, they use the background knowledge that is stored in their long-term memory to make inferences. Without such knowledge, acquiring this skill naturally becomes much more difficult. This deficit can exist for any of several reasons.
It is not uncommon for children to have difficulty with inferencing. In my years of teaching, I have come across so many students who lack this skill.
When a child struggles to predict what will happen next, he or she wil stumble through life in a sense, hitting and missing decisions on appropriate reactions in a variety of situations. If they can predict the most likely outcome of a situation, they can better control their reactions to those events.
When someone cannot predict what will likely happen next throughout their day, they are more likely to be stressed out, afraid, and more likely to display inappropriate behavior to those unknowns. What I have just described is a number of kids who walk through my classroom door every year.
In the context of Speech Kingdom's What Happened Next game, students practice inferencing as they guess the content of a missing picture in a sequence of three by looking at a bank of up to six possible candidates.
I use What Happened Next with my ASD students and continue to do so until I am confident that they have mastered the game. I also use the game with my foster youth students and students that I believe have had limited life experiences. In situations where I see negative behaviors or other signs of anxiety throughout a student's day I also introduce What Happened Next.
I have used What Happened Next to eliminate the possibility that a student lacks the ability to make inferences. In cases where a student can make inferences but still displays negative behaviors, signs of stress or misunderstands situations, I begin looking for other underlying reasons for these behaviors.
For my students, the lack of the ability to predict what will happen next in a given situation is, more often than not, a sign of an underlying issue.
Through the utilization of three images, Speech Kingdom uses the first-next-last-sequence to teach What Happened Next.
Speech Kingdom offers three flavors of What Happened Next:
Depending on which mode I choose, I can work on different skills. Regardless, I always have the opportunity to choose the number of sets I would like presented in the game. I always begin with 5, increase to 10, and continue to work up from there as a student is able to sustain longer periods of attention. You will be able to make this decision based on the performance of your student(s).
The Expressive Language choice features a setting called Interactive Startup, or Therapist Mode. The game starts with the student clicking on the bouncing card labeled "1." The card turns and reveals the first picture in the sequence. A sentence describing the picture is displayed and read aloud as each word is highlighted.
I use Therapist Mode to encourage expressive language. Either my student or I re-read the sentence, pause, and discuss the picture. This is especially useful for ASD students and those with Apraxia of Speech. Once I dismiss the picture, the next card, labeled "2," begins to animate. I repeat the procedure as with card #1.
Note from Speech Kingdom: There is an in-depth discussion of Therapist Mode on our Help page, under Speech Kingdom Games, What Happened Next - Interactive Startup / Therapist Mode.
My screen now shows picture #1, picture #2 and a blank card (picture #3). Below my pictures is a bank of more pictures (I can control the quantity). The student must now make an educated guess as to which of the pictures in the bank is the missing 3rd picture and drag it to the blank card.
I use the Expressive Language / Therapist Mode with students who need additional support and practice with sequencing events. I also use this mode when I want to focus on language acquisition and expressive language because it promotes deeper conversations about the sequence of events as compared to the Language Modeling mode.
The Language Modeling choice is actually a subset of the Expressive Language option. Within this option, Interactive Startup is turned off and the game begins with the three cards, displaying their contents (one of them is blank). Game play continues just as it does in the Expressive Language mode.
I tend to use this mode when I am working toward independence with a student. I skip Interactive Startup and start by asking my student to provide the sentence for the first and second cards. If appropriate I will also ask them to guess the sentence for the third (missing) card.
Sometimes, I let my students to use this mode on their own, and I check their scores upon completion. It is very important to note that I consistently check in on them. I never use Speech Kingdom as a babysitter.
Regardless of which mode I select, once I start the game, I have access to a variety of customization options. The first two modes, Expressive Language and Language Modeling are what Speech Kingdom refers to as "templates." Templates are a series of presets of Speech Kingdom's many options and settings that are designed for a particular purpose, as I have described above. Some of the template settings lock certain customization options, while others hide them altogether. The Set Up a Custom Game mode allows me complete access to all of the options and settings, and there are hundreds of combinations!