NLA Stage 5
This introduction to Stage 5 was written with two different groups of people in mind: the first group is made up of those of you whose child/client is moving from Stage 4 to Stage 5. Congratulations! It’s an exciting time to be looking at the more advanced grammar at Stage 5 and looking ahead to Stage 6 to see where your child will go.
If you are a parent, you might want to partner with an SLP/SLT/SP at this point, because advanced grammar can get a little tricky to put into natural conversation, and ensure it sounds authentic and meaningful. We don’t ever want to slip into ‘teaching’ any language as a ‘skill,’ especially with our GLPs, because they still acquire language best through modeling, meaning, emotional content, and context. So as we’ve said before, we’re never going to be satisfied with a sentence strip or some kind of sentence diagram. Our GLPs acquire grammar because it’s about meaning, and it matters!
The second group of people we are addressing with this introduction is those of you who are simply looking ahead so you can see how the gestalt language process comes together in its entirety. This is a very wise move on your part, as we don’t want to fall into any little traps at an earlier stage, by modeling language that is so advanced it becomes a ‘stuck gestalt.’ The most common example is when we think a child is old and mature enough to use, “Can I have…?” instead of “I want…” Neither should be taught, of course, but the question form, “Can I have…?” becomes just as ‘stuck’ as ‘I want’ because it’s a Stage 5 construction. And even when a child is at Stage 5, development of the question form must be preceded by “I can have…,” or we risk or we risk it being a ‘stuck’ form.
Developmental Sentence Scoring (DSS) remains your companion at Stages 5-6, and the highlights include more advanced pronouns, verb forms, negatives, Wh question words, and, especially the conjunctions ‘but,’ ‘so,’ ‘or,’ ‘if,’ and ‘because.’ By the end of Stage 5, GLPs can say sentences such as: “When we couldn’t find the money for ice cream, we called our mom who brought enough for all of us.” Pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Supports: Stage 5
One might think that supports at Stage 5 would be no different from supports at Stage 4, but with more complex grammar. On the surface, that’s true, since we’re continuing to model grammatical structures within natural conversations. But remember that our GLPs are still GLPs, so it’s not like it was for ALPs, when a little grammar automatically beget more grammar which beget even more grammar.
We have to remember that Stage 1 gestalts and Stage 2 mitigations are in our kids’ heads — maybe in the other hemisphere, but they may be what a child can retrieve, especially at times of dysregulation — and if/when the original emotion reoccurs. That’s to be expected, but we do want to keep our GLPs moving forward into and through Stage 6. Then they will have access to ‘it all,’ and can access the language they want, and depending on regulation, whenever they want it. They may go back to an old, favorite former gestalt, but it’s not a gestalt any more. It’s a favorite expression, because now it’s ‘analyzable.’ We get to pick and choose our language now, and even to ‘code switch’ back and forth depending on the situation.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Right now, let’s look at why we need to keep supporting our GLPs forward through Stages 5 and 6!
GLPs have had just a short time with vocabulary and grammar. Compared with ALPs of the same age, GLPs are ‘delayed,’ and will likely need a longer time at each DSS level, as compared with ALPs. So we should not be surprised when our kids at Stages 4 and 5 lose easy access to their brand new grammar and retreat to Stage 1 or 2 to take a breather. That’s natural, and it’s not ‘regression’ at all. Stage 5 is hard work, and it’s challenging not only to language development, but language retrieval. Please read the article, “Finding the Words…When They’re in There Somewhere” to understand how considerations and strategies for language retrieval are important at Stage 5.
As always at Stages 4-6, the DST and DSS charts are highly important. Interestingly, DST is still important whenever a child is having grammar challenges, because those challenges are very often at the pre-sentence grammar level. Thus the DST. Relationships among concepts are easier to play with within two and three-word phrases than long sentences, so please use DST to introduce and practice concepts and grammar at an easier level than long sentences.
Supports at Stage 5 include these:
- Be a good grammar model. Know Stage 5 grammar yourself. Practice it. Take a Stage 4 sentence and follow it with a Stage 5 expansion. Live Stage 5 yourself!
- Grab a partner and practice Stage 4-5 conversations. At Stage 4, we can say, ‘Dogs and cats are friends.’ At Stage 5, we can ask, ‘Do you think dogs and cats can be friends?’ At Stage 6, we can ponder, “I wonder when and how dogs and cats might be friends.” At one level, we call this ‘grammar,’ but at another level, we realize how much more can be expressed when more grammatical elements are available. Can we shortcut any of this? No…not with any child. But with GLPs, the risk is not worth it, because a child who has a gestalt propensity might acquire a language ‘chunk’ more readily than an ALP. We never want to inadvertently nudge a child back to Stage 2. They’ve come so far that we would be doing them a great disservice if we unthinkingly allowed that to happen.
- Please look at another example of Stage 4-5 progress. At Stage 4 a child can self-generate, “I gotta find my backpack right now!” You realize from the DSS that ‘I gotta’ is an early way of saying ‘I’ve got to’ which a Stage 4 child is not ready for. But at Stage 5, they are. Not just that particular utterance, but others like it.
- Realize the importance of DSS. It shows that everything at a particular level develops at roughly the same time. It’s not just about one construction, but all the constructions at a particular level. That’s the beauty of development over skill learning: everything a child is ready for develops at roughly the same time, in multiple situations. No drilling at the table because using natural conversation makes it all real and usable.
- Here’s how the NLA Stages fit in with DSS: all the structures at DSS 1-3 develop at about the same time (Stage 4), the structures at DSS 4-6 develop at about the same time (Stage 5), and the structures at DSS 7-8 develop at about the same time (Stage 6). It’s all very logical — because it’s natural language acquisition!
- Recast your child’s grammar. That’s partly what a conversational model is and what communication partners can do. We should never sound like we’re correcting grammar or being the ‘grammar police.’ But we can be our child’s ‘grammar check.’ Temple Grandin used a video in her head of her parents using grammar as hers. Be that video.
- Introduce conversations, or steer conversations, into the grammatical realms your child might benefit from. For example, if your child never seems to talk about the past, figure out ways to make that fun and entertaining. e.g. ‘Let’s make a book about our trip to show Uncle Ed when he visits. I remember that we went to the beach the first day we got there. Then…oh I remember, we got ice cream right away…or no, that’s not right…first we… (etc)’
- Consider making a case for your child to remain on your SLP’s caseload at school. When we point out with our language samples that students are at Stage 4, but not yet at Stage 6, we can try to make a case for the language development yet to come. There is the risk at Stage 4 and even Stage 5, that our GLPs will be considered ok enough to go it alone. It’s possible that some are able to do this, but as we know, progress in language development is always smoother, happier, and more complete the more people who understand where a child came from and where they are going.
- So, continuing language development at Stages 5 and 6 usually means that someone is available to be a partner. As we continue with our stories about Stages 5 and 6, we’ll talk more about the specifics, and role-play some grammar conversations that you can use with your own child. They will use the same format that we used all along: not imposing anything on a child, but making sure that our conversational turns are useful in language development!
It may seem pretty complicated, but honestly if we stop and think about the words we say, we can teach ourselves a lot about grammar. I hope this whets your appetite for more, because the more we all learn together, the more natural language our kids will be able to develop — naturally!