Thursday, July 16, 2015

The importance of NOT doing!



I was in the middle of an interview with a really sweet young woman (let's call her Emma). Nick was present and seemed very taken with her. At one point he interrupted our conversation to request some help retrieving an item from the fridge.

Emma jumped up from her chair and went over to the fridge. She then proceeded to 'do' everything for Nick. She repeatedly asked him questions and when there was no immediate response from Nick, she made up her own mind on what he would like. At no point did she pause her action and wait for Nick. There was no space given between a question and her next response.

Obviously, Emma realized that Nick was an intellectually challenged young man and unfortunately she assumed that he was unable to fend for himself. It is only natural that she put herself into a caring role and wanted to help him. However, Emma didn't realise that by removing the challenge Nick was facing, she was actually disempowering him. He quickly became passive and stood back from the fridge, waiting to see what would happen.

I intervened by saying..... "Don't worry, Emma. Nick can figure it out"

Emma stepped back and Nick rushed over to the fridge. He rummaged around to find what he wanted and removed it from the fridge.

I see this type of scenario again and again. Children who need extra processing time don't get it. Children who are given too many commands and not enough opportunity to process/think for themselves. Adults over compensating when children don't react fast enough. Adults doing the 'thinking' for the child. Children not being offered the chance to experience self-made success or even failure.

I do understand that people want to help and make life easier for our children. However, in order to empower our children, we need to........ "Learn to provide opportunities for children to think, decide and wonder".

Screen shot from Dr Gutstein's introduction to the RDI Program



My Nick has many challenges and the severity of his disability means that he will need lifelong care. Nevertheless he continues to be empowered because I am aware of the importance of NOT doing everything for him.




8 comments:

  1. When you have a child that is physically disabled too, it can be even more tempting to do everything for them, and often quicker than helping them to help themselves. I do try and as a result my daughter is still slowly learning new skills and we celebrate every one. I just need to remember this more often when I cam dealing with autism-related challenges.

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    1. Huge apologies for the late reply! So much easier to do for our kids, although so rewarding to see them succeed.

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  2. Very important post. You are so right. You made me relate it to kids in mainstream school who are verbal and can do a lot for themselves but have auditory processing disorder.....teachers don't give them enough time to process the question so that they can answer on the spot. Or give them enough time to give an explanation that might get them out of trouble...and out of detention! xx

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    1. A little bit of extra time makes all the difference in the world. Why is it always rush rush rush? Nuts.

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  3. I wondered today, how my son's pedaling has increased so much this summer on our tricycle trips. He even pedals the long uphills. Nowadays, that I understand his body language better, he gets to decide where we go. Of course.

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    1. Well there you go.... he is motivated because he has chosen the route. How lovely.

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