Monday, July 20, 2009

Who is in charge?

This is a re post from January 2008 but i have been referring folks to it..and it is on my blog that is now private. I will 're-do' this with our current some point... but this is basically how we schedule now.


Continuing on with the series of Masterly Inactivity articles posted on Simply Charlotte Mason...."Good Humor" to me draws a distinction between Floortime and RDI. In Floortime and P.L.A.Y. we are to follow our child's lead in order to engage with them. In RDI it is parent driven. To be honest I have never 'quite' gotten the parent driven thing from the standpoint that you have to START somewhere. And even with RDI I think it can START by engaging where the child is at.....but this is about the adult making that choice to make it child chosen (in RDI) vs. just entering the child's activity.

I try and make our day a bit of both....child and parent driven. This means really that it is 100% parent driven (theoretically) because I choose when it is child driven. Our daily schedule does not label each subject; rather it gives 'work sessions.' I do this so that I, the TEACHER can decide how much, and what we will do during a given work session. Our day starts out with 'wake up' and 'fool around.' I know that many say first work then play; however after trying this for some time, and seeing how it did NOT work, I decided consciously to PLAY first, then work. Even a few minutes of play will put Andrew in the mind to work as he has had a taste of 'fun' and then knows he will get it again if he works his best for the next session. The reason I don't put down the subjects to be studied during each session is simple. If it is going well, we may do extra and if it isn't going so hot, I require Andrew to give his 'current' best and then we go to break. If I make this MY decision I do not consider this giving in as we all have 'off' days. Andrew is thankful for this and so is his mom! And I often thank him at the end of each session- long or short- if he has tried his level best.

Our schedule changes every day of the week as you can see. On Monday we go to "Friendship Circle, Wednesday is gymnastics and on Friday we go to the homeschool co-op where we have an engineering and hip-hop class. We will also be adding a recycle art class on Tuesday. As you can see, this isn't 'fancy' and there are no Velcro tabs to move from one side to the other. The velcro schedule is a big behavioral tool for schools especially in preschool. The problem for a kid like Andrew is that you have to do EVERYTHING on the list. I look at our schedule as a template. The teachers, bless their hearts, try so hard with the tools given but I honestly think a lot of the 'behavior' tools actually hurt the students. Life is why put it in a box like that...make it a mystery. That way I can choose good humor and a treat every now and then.

The same goes for rewards. I DO rewards...but i do them 'after the fact.' I also change my mind. Just tonight Andrew was being very disrespectful and not completing his writing and math the way I wanted. There are times that he can be creative and times when he has to do what I ask EXACTLY as I ask and I make those times clear. He took it just a BIT to far so he lost his PS2 play time. I wanted him to have his PS 2 time!! So I had him do extra work to get himself out of the pit he had gotten into. And funny thing, he did it quickly, quietly, correctly and respectfully. And since I cemented this as an episodic memory (I hope) we will be able to draw on it in the future.

So how does all this tie back into Masterly Inactivity and Good Humor. I think the key is being mindful and following through. Doing what a child wants is not 'giving in' as long as it isn't a 'way out' for you or for them.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Assumption NO. 9.....

Assumption No. 9: Do not assume ....that a fidgety kid is not listening.

This seems like a no-brainer to me but apparently it is not something that everyone knows! A very quick google search will produce an array of resources. I loved the comment on an article entitled Kids with ADHD need to fidget. The comment was, "Duh!"
You can do your own googling for research if you don't believe me! I decided to make this a resource page.

Below are some great websites for fidgets. Make sure that you choose quiet ones for learning time.
Therapy Shop
Heads Up

There is even a web page devoted to many links for this topic; Fidget to Focus.

You can address this issue with fidgets and also with sensory integration. I think when I began this journey the Kranowitz books were the primary resources. Now there are oodles of books and I probably own about half of them. Here are just a few:

The Aspergers book is my favorite for a simple resource on targeting specific exercises. We have a mini trampoline and a 'crash pad' made from a duvet cover and foam scrap from a foam store. I wish I had a door frame for a swing! That would be a welcome addition. Chewy candy can be a great item for a kid to have in class. I remember a parapro telling a child to throw out their gum. I mentioned that I thought the mom asked that she be able to chew it in class. There are plenty of dye, corn syrup and gluten free chewy treat options out there! (Costco sells several. If you want specific ideas, let me know.) Weighted blankets and vests are wonderful too. I bought several heavy bean bag animals at a craft fair for a song! They are quite expensive in catalogs so keep your eyes peeled for things that can be stand in for the more expensive 'therapy' items. As you can see in the picture..the ball is a wonderful tool as well. I also have a Balametrics Program that I am going to begin in the fall and am looking into HANDLE. When a child's senses are integrated, it is so much easier for them to sit and learn!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

It's not whether you win or lose....

Andrew is in camp this week. I am suppose to drop him off but of course I can not. The director is fantastic and she 'gets' Andrew but I have run across old assumptions by others...why don't you use behavioral? you think he has these outbursts because of too much attention at home? you use sign? They get board games out at the end of the day. Today Andrew said, "these are bored games. Get it mom? B-O-R-E-D." Part of this is that you have to follow all the rules and then there is that losing thing. We once had a social worker at the house that tried to teach Andrew to lose by winning and saying, "you are suppose to be nice when you lose." And many a 'helper' or therapist has been known to say, "this is how you play." And then they proceed with the 20 point rule book. But you can't START with ALL 20 rules nor can you start with, "I win I win. Now be nice."

First on the rules: One thing I do here is make it simple. The first couple of times with Chutes and Ladders (which was played for the first time this year) we simply roll the dice and it is a bit of a free for all. Then we gradually moved toward all the rules. You can start any game with just ONE player and make it a fun imagination time. Maybe you start with just the ladders, then add the chutes the next time around. If a kiddo doesn't like board games you start with a QUICK one. Today at camp I told Andrew, 'two more turns." There is no need to be 'particular' on the rules if the kids playing are just 'learning to play' versus learning to win. And you don't NEED to finish the game although you should finish on the 'guides' timetable.

Now onto winning. You do NOT teach winning by winning yourself or even by demonstrating losing gracefully' although that is helpful at some point. I have done many 'mini-games' with Andrew and started by having him win! High fives all around!! Then I move to a game where there are many 'rounds.' Just tonight after bath we played "thumb wars." I can win a 'round' but not the whole thing and demonstrate being 'bummed' or being happy. At one point I pulled one of his tricks and said, "Hey look! a bird." He looked! And I took out his thumb. He called me on it and told me I lost a point for cheating. Then he did the same thing! So of course I had to call him on it, but he had that immediate memory of calling me out. There are so many games where you can play rounds.

When teaching game playing, rules and winning / losing ...simple is better.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Assumption No. 10...The Visual Cliff

Last week I blogged the top 10 assumptions made of those with hearing impairments and autism. I want to elaborate more on each one. I'll start with number 10.

10) Do not assume...that behavioral techniques work well with all children.

Everywhere we go, there is a behavioral model. Be good...and you get a sticker. Do this and you get a reward. That is fine for some kids. However it is not a good model for general learning and it doesn't work at all for many children. First, a behavioral model assumes you can TEACH every skill and this is a false assumption. Children learn primarily by observing others and if a child does not reference others for information then they won't learn all they need to know. Teaching numbers, letters, and even reading is relatively easy to but to learn social skills, one must reference. This is where Guided Participation (GP) comes in for us. The autism therapy that follows this model is RDI (Relationship Development Intervention) however the term GP has been around for a long time in the psychology world. In guided participation you go back to child development. Instead of filling in splinter skills you build from the ground up.

A typical one year old will reference their mom for information. There is a facinating experiment called the Visual Cliff. The floor is set up to look as if there is a drop off when in fact it is clear glass. But a child who references will look back to their mom for information to see if it is OK to continue. This is not something you can teach. It is something that is learned. An 18 month will do this well but older kids on the spectrum and with ADHD don't do this. RDI and guided participation set up situations so that a child has to reference their partner for information. It may start out very one sided and the 'master' (mom) will guide the 'apprentice' (child) very directly but GRADUALLY over time the 'scaffolding' is removed so that the child needs to reference their guide for more information to be successful. (You can read a PDF on the visual cliff here.)

So why are behavioral models employed everywhere? Primarly because they are an easy way to herd the masses. A teacher in school with 20 to 30 students must have a way to make order. These techniques WORK...for the class...and the teacher....but they are not effective for the child to learn. They are static. I have written before about trick-or-treating. It is easy to use a behavioral model, social stories, or play therapy to teach the 'rules' of trick-or-treating. However, in the 'real world, every house is different. Some houses give you candy, some let you take it from the bowl, some leave a bowl on the porch. Some give you one candy and the elderly neighbor next door always gives you a handful. How do you role play that with each scenario? If a child is uncertain, they need to look to an 'expert' for guidance. If a child learns to follow a guide they can then do that in social circles as well. (Hopefully NOT to deviant behavior! Hopefully they will then go to expert parents to guide them. The key is for the parent and God to be the primary reference point!)

The bevhaioral model does have data on it's side. But that data has not been followed through to 'real life.' It has been said that a brilliant child can make his way all the way through Harvard and never hold down a job. Even college is very static. You study, follow the rules, do the tests, read the books, get an A. But most jobs are never that way. Even task oriented jobs require interaction with others, following the lead of co-workers or a boss, and inner-subjectivity.

So the next time you are setting up your VBS, Sunday School, or even classroom, consider that not all kids work well with the behavioral model. Parents MUST be involved to make GP successful. It can not happen when all the onus is put on the school or church classrooms. But most parents who follow this philosophy love to be involved... Talk to the parents, branch our your thinking. And above all..don't assume!

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