First printed in ECAPSS Newsletter April 06.

Many people may believe that it is not possible to have a conversation with somebody who does not use or understand speech. However it is possible to have wordless conversations.
The following article describes one of the types of wordless conversations that can be had.

• “Pro-vocation”
1 prefix 1 favouring or supporting …. 3 forwards… 5 onwards.
vocation n. …. 2 a a person’s employment, esp. regarded as requiring dedication. (Employ 3 … keep (a person) occupied.)
provocation – provoke 1a rouse or incite … b incite to anger …. 2 call forth; instigate …. 3 tempt; allure. 4 cause, give rise to.
The Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary (4th ed.).(2004). New York: Oxford University Press.

It’s an interaction seen often between adults, children, and infants. We tease, we tempt, we joke, we encourage. We generate a response from another person. We bring forward (pro-) and a state of being occupied (vocation) in another person. We engage them. Sometimes we engage by asking questions, telling stories, sharing successes. Sometimes we engage by provocation. We may tempt a response from somebody or even incite a small anger.

Pro-vocation can be a valuable way to enhance communication and participation.
Consider the following scenarios:
Scenario 1
1. X shows an object to Y.
2. Y demonstrates an interest in the object.
3. X holds the object just outside Y’s reach.
4. Y demonstrates frustration and more effort to reach the object.
5. X grades the distance so Y can successfully reach the object.
Scenario 2
1. Y is enjoying an object.
2. X removes the object from Y.
3. Y demonstrates frustration or pleasure with the removal.
4. X tempts Y to reach for it.
5. Y reaches out for the object and successfully gets it.
Scenario 3
1. Y is enjoying an object.
2. X reaches towards it.
3. Y pulls the object away.
4. X grasps the object.
5. Y continues to pull the object toward themselves.
6. X pulls at the object with a little force, but not enough to remove it.
7. Y pulls to hold it.
8. X lets go.

There are lots of different names for these conversations. We could call it “tug-of-war”, “you can’t-get it”, or “ooh… ooh… ooh… you got it!”. These are all conversations that may be useful for adults who have early communication skills.
Two types of responses of the person may occur:
1. The person may demonstrate a behavioural (or emotional) response such as surprise, agitation, pleasure.
2. The person may be provoked into action towards you or the object, such as looking at you or reaching to the object.

There are some important rules in pro-vocation.
• Incitement of frustration must be used sensitively. Do not incite the person if you feel that they may become angry.
• Pro-vocation must be balanced with the feeling of success. Celebrate when the person successfully gets the object from you. “You’re so strong!”
• Balance pro-vocation with other interactions, like just quietly sitting together or playing unchallenged.
• Only use pro-vocation with people that you have built a trusting relationship with. An important feature of tease is that the person knows that it is play and that you are
conducting the interaction with respect and good faith.
• Do not do pro-vocation with ill-thought, or if you believe that the person may believe that you are doing it with ill thought. This is not encouraging participation.

Has this article pro-vocated you?

Sheridan Forster

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