Interaction Series – Part 2 of 12
What assumptions have you already made from the title “Banish Boredom Forever”? Maybe you’re thinking “impossible!” or “I’m too busy to be bored.”
How to Drop Assumptions
Curiosity sets the stage for this month’s interaction idea. First, it will be necessary to simply admit that we are not always open to others. This is ESPECIALLY true when another person is acting in ways out of our comfort zones. We often shut down trying to understand, in order to preserve our own familiar standards, the comfort of the known.
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein
Confess and Let Go
You won’t really attempt to fully open your eyes (or heart) unless you become aware that they’ve been partially shut. We’re all guilty of this, in an innocent way. Possibilities explode once you realize that you can let go of old patterns by embracing new perspectives. The following story a professor shared in my language development courses illustrates the surprises often discovered when one is willing to look more closely while asking “what can I learn here?”
In order to improve teaching strategies, a classroom of severely handicapped children was videotaped. Some of the children were severely impaired with cerebral palsy and other physical complications. The teachers and aides had schedules in operation for individual work times. Approximately every 20 minutes they were also scheduled to re-position the children who had limited mobility.
Two children were placed on mats on the floor, propped with wedges and such, and toys were placed in their reach. Due to their significant challenges and total lack of language skills, the assumption was made that they had minimal social skills/abilities. The video camera was able to capture a very different scenario.
The camera caught the children clearly watching each other and making eye contact a few times. Eventually smiles were even exchanged. One child even physically rocked and maneuvered himself to move closer to the other child. The entire social exchange took place over a 20 minute period. At that point, it abruptly ended because a dutiful aide bustled by for “re-positioning” time. The child was turned and moved back as the aide exclaimed, “now how’d you get so far off your mat?!?”
Sometimes we think we know what’s best for another person. We forget to take into consideration what they think! Even when another person is not able to communicate his/her feelings verbally, we can open ourselves by asking “what can I learn?” or “what can I notice?” Observing without judgment is a great place to begin building trust and mutual respect.
As the possibilities explode into your awareness, you can begin to act on these. You step out of the familiar and embrace the unknown – the fun begins! When Jake begins an activity or behavior that seems odd to me, my attitude makes all the difference. When I am open it is amazing what I discover! Did you know that you can fill a rubber glove with water, and it can stretch and expand to enormous proportions?!? I had no idea it would get so big! While this may not seem like a “normal” way for a child to entertain himself, I am no longer so quick to determine it as “wrong” or “bad”. Instead I am eager to understand Jake on a deeper level, and explore ways I can demonstrate my interest in his behaviors.
Who’s the Judge?
So many programs focus on the importance of “appropriate” behaviors. Who can decide that for a child with severe challenges? We wouldn’t tell a child with a broken bone to quit crying. We wouldn’t tell a child sick and tired with a fever to stop being lazy. Why do we feel it’s in a child with autism’s best interest to act “appropriately”? Isn’t it time we teach ourselves and each other how to learn about each other instead of being afraid of behaviors we don’t understand?
“Love is not blind – it sees more, not less. But because it sees more, it is willing to see less.” — Rabbi Julius Gordon
The quality of our interactions can improve by us changing first. So often, we try to put that responsibility on the other person, including a child with special needs. The only real control we have is of ourselves. Why not start here? Asking, “How can we help each other?” can result in a huge amount of answers! Challenges in our relationships can be huge opportunities for growth and improving ourselves. Often the exact behaviors that scare us are our window to connect.
How to Grow Language Skills
Like seeds grow into plants, connections establish the roots from which verbal communication skills develop. When language is not developing easily, the mutual focus is often missing. We can focus energies on creating convergence first, which will be the topic for next month. Supporting language development is more than supporting the formation of words and sentences. It first must address the social disconnect that often occurs when the discomforts of differences get in the way.
Awareness, curiosity, and willingness to learn about another person are like planting the seeds for a beautiful communication garden. The surprises you’ll reap will blow away those same-old assumptions, so kiss boredom goodbye! You are now interested in learning about a humanbeing perceiving the world differently than you do.
“But!” “What About?” “How in the world?”
Yes, yes, I hear you! I didn’t say all parts of this would be EASY, now did I? Just saying the word bored will no longer describe how you feel if you are truly eager to open up and learn about another human being. No matter how different they seem. You’ll actually learn about yourself too. Next…”Deciding to Trust”