I have a book at my bedside called The Cradle of Thought. Sami asked me the other day what the book was about and I told him it was about how people learn to think. Then he asked why I wanted to know how people think and I told him it was so I could learn to be a better teacher (that's how I explain my work to him). And when I really consider this I decide that teaching my autistic 6 year old son how to think isn't really that different from any kind of teaching. We provide the right amount of challenge, the right amount of support and we create situations that require thought. I do it with him everyday without even realizing it. This just happens to also be what RDI is all about. But with RDI a lot of thought and energy goes into the teaching process because without even realizing it I tend to underestimate and overcompensate for Oliver. I simplify things too much before testing to see how simple things really need to be. I remove obstacles that might get in the way of getting from point A to point B rather than helping Oliver navigate around them. And I don't involve Oliver enough in thinking about how to prepare for events and activities. As I heard a speaker recently explain: I'm robbing him of the opportunity to think.
I've been thinking about this a lot lately as I try to re-jigger how I approach homeschooling. Throughout the day there are just so many opportunities to teach thinking skills. For example, lately I've been giving Oliver a squirt bottle to use in the bathroom in an effort to avoid him going after all my cleaning supplies. A few days ago the bottle ran out of water and Oliver, frustrated, threw it into the bathtub and began to move on to another activity. Luckily, I was standing right there and so I commented to him that if he put more water in the bottle he could keep right on with the fun of squirting. Oliver hesitated for a minute then grabbed the bottle, turned on the faucet and thrust the bottle under the water. Since he hadn't removed the top it didn't fill up and realizing this, he threw it down again. "Oh," I said, "the water can't get in!" This was a bit too subtle for Oliver and he turned to leave, so I picked up the bottle and said: "I wonder how we could get this open?" Oliver hesitated for a minute, then took the bottle in his hands and played around with the screw top until he figured it out. Once he got the lid off he knew what to do, filled up the bottle, put the lid back on and was back in business.
I didn't tell him what to do but I gradually led him through the process of thinking about how to solve the problem. Sounds easy, right? And yes, it was, on a certain level. But the hard part is being the mother who is supposed to be supporting her son through these simple cognitive tasks but who is also standing there watching her son holding a closed bottle under the running water and thinking oh. my. God.
So yes, there is that. The overwhelmingly crushing realization of how something so simple is, well, not simple for my beautiful, wonderful, smiling boy. But on the other hand (after a bit of reflection) there is also the wonder that this same boy keeps on trying. That he is so incredibly persistent. And that he can learn. And that he keeps on smiling through it all.
So back to the homeschooling front. I mentioned in a previous post that I'm abandoning any kind of academic pretenses. RDI will be our curriculum. Thinking will be our curriculum. And I think I'm good with that.