Guiding children

raising children with love and respect

On understanding eachother

Let me show you the world through my eyes…

A friend of mine has an autistic child. He has recently participated in a Son-Rise program introductory training, to better understand and so be able to reach out to his son. Or rather to be able to come closer to him, to meet him “in his shell”, create contact were contact is possible, and rejoice in it there.
Apparently the program is working wonders for them so far. He has shared some of his experiences and the philosophy behind the program with me, which I am grateful for. Also, he recommended this video: In my language to better understand the world of an autistic person.
From what my friend told me, and from the autism treatment center homepage above, I can briefly summarize: The point is to make the child feel secure and accepted, to make it want to meet us, and enjoy the meeting. It’s important to find and go with the inner motivation of the child, to be positive and non-judgemental. They use a lot of enthusiasm in the interaction to inspire the child to participate, and keep it motivated. Also, they need to create a safe playing/learning environment with a reduction of distractive stimulation’s.
The thing is – it seems as wise as it is universal to me! Equally important for all parents, and possibly teachers, to recognize  Although it’s not easily achieved nor managed. Of course conditions are different with healthy children, but the primary needs are not.
Understanding as a basis for education is mentioned in this quote by Soren Kierkegaard, danish philosopher and writer (1813-1855)
“To be a teacher
does not mean simply to affirm that such a thing is so,
or to deliver a lecture, etc. 
No, to be a teacher in the right sense is to be a learner.
Instruction begins when you, the teacher, learn from the learner,
put yourself in his place
so that you may understand what he understands
and the way he understands it.”
Again and again we need to remind ourselves to see the world through the eyes of our fellow human beings, including our children. It is so easy to let ourselves go, whenever we feel we are right, that we have the solution, or the most important project, or the most prioritized schedule. Sometimes we are, of course, but not always.
Sometimes the child is curious about a noise, a ray of light, the spinning of a ball. Other times it may be interested in moving, using its body to its full strength. Again other times they might be hungry for body contact, a hug or some back scratching. They may enjoy reading, or looking at pictures. Or building blocks. Whatever it is, it’s important to them, at the time. We can use these interests to get to know our children better. We can use them as learning material, or just allow them to investigate this piece of the world in their own time, not disturbing.
On the subject of non-stressful learning and working environments, and basic needs for creativity and reflexion, here is a link to a wonderful TED talk by Susan Cain about the powers and needs of the introverts. That is, one in every 2 or 3 people (it’s a floating scale, we all have a bit of both extroversion and introversion in us). Where extroverts tend to seek out, and enjoy themselves in, highly stimulative environments – introverts prefer some peace and quiet to energize, and they like to socialize with a smaller number of friends at a time. (Please do not mistake introversion for shyness, anxiety or even being anti-social – those are separate things.) There is nothing wrong with being either kind, but the modern western community is shaped more for extroverted people, which makes a lot of people under appreciated  or just drowned out. We could all gain a lot from listening to the more softspoken reflective thoughts from the introverts, and give those parts of us – because no one is purely one or the other – a little more space and time to think.
Cain accentuates our fundamental need for some peace and quiet time for concentration, reflexion, and thought gathering. By doing so, we release potential creativity. Schools and workplaces should really focus more on the need for this, as apparently we all get distracted in a learning or working environment where we are surrounded by other people. We spend a lot of our energy focusing on the social processes going on, extroverts as well as introverts – and that’s just inefficient. Also, as we keep mirroring each other in groups. That makes true originality hard to develop.
Of course, to emphasize the need for contemplation doesn’t mean we should be locked up in our cubicles all the time either. To socialize and meet up with classmates or team members to discuss different topics – may it be the informal coffee break or the managed team sum-up for the week – is important to all of us. We need to interact, to face other peoples thoughts and opinions. This is how we get to know other new ideas, open our minds a bit to the influence of our coworkers or friends, but also to influence them. Collaboration can take place. Still, for those team processes to be efficient, there should be time for preparing work and gather thoughts alone.
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