Monday, February 22, 2010

Folding washcloths, skills & relationships, a "personal attitude of competence"

Here's a true story from my journal that I wrote three or so years ago. My daughter would have been six or seven at the time, and we'd begun Relationship Development Intervention®. I thought it might be a helpful illustration for folks who are looking into a developmental approach like RDI®.


Last weekend, I was folding a huge basket of clean towels, washcloths, and dishtowels. My daughter joined me (no request or prompt from me, she joined me by her choice) and began to fold washcloths. This, in itself, is GIGANTIC. You see, when she was 2 or 3 years old, I asked our ABA consultant for a discreet skill/trial program to teach her how to fold washcloths. I wanted her to be able to JOIN THE FAMILY in this "together" task.

All we taught her was that folding washcloths by gross motor imitation is WORK, just like naming colors, letters, numbers, shapes, occupations, actions is work (and at the same time, she experienced n.o.t.h.i.n.g. about joining us) and she resisted in protest every time we tried to do this activity as a family. We made the mistake of teaching her a skill for the sake of the skill, and not for the "togetherness" I so desperately wanted. (See, I had RDI® in my head a long time ago! All the skills we dumped into her added up to n.o.t.h.i.n.g. in the joining and reciprocity department.) She resisted so loudly, so strongly, that the experience became absolutely aversive for her, and I stopped trying to include her in it long ago.

So, for her to JOIN me, and begin to fold alongside me, all of her own accord, was just huge!

She grabbed the corner of what she thought was a washcloth and yanked it from the basket, and she found rather quickly that she had pulled on a TOWEL. She said, "Look, mom, it's a BIIIIIIG washcloth!" And I told her, "No, it's a bath TOWEL." Was interesting to be able to talk to her, to teach her new labels in a setting like this, in context, with her interest.

I told her to give it to me, that I would fold it. My kids get really discouraged when they try to fold towels, because towels are so big, they don't turn out quite right. And I wanted to save her the struggle, and the discouragement.

She told me, no. And she folded the TOWEL, all by herself. And was so SO SO pleased with herself, shouting, "I DID IT! MOM I DID IT!" when she was finished.

Dr. Sheely of RDI® keeps reminding us parents that all children should have a "personal attitude of competence", and I think I'm seeing evidence of that.

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