Saturday, February 13, 2010

Sometimes It Doesn't Matter What the Data Says

Jonathan Levy makes an important point about forcing eye contact using gentle force in this Psychology Today blog entry:

Reminds me of a post I wrote about how professionals who are "autism trained" usually treat my daughter like she's autistic.

Here's a quote from the Levy blog entry:

"There is a something that is much greater than getting eye contact/interaction from a child with autism: building a relationship based on trust and predictability. It is from this relationship that eye contact, listening, communication, physical contact all emanate from. "

I was impressed enough w/ Levy's blog post to do a little digging. A Google search yielded this video. Levy makes some great suggestions in terms of positioning yourself, making referencing easier for the child. But he is still teaching eye contact as a discreet skill, not as part of a contunuous process model and dynamic information processing.

He misses the point that I learned through RDI(r), that referencing isn't a discreet skill to be rewarded in little increments in an extrinsic way. Instead, we reference in uncertainty as part of interaction and relationships, it is part of intersubjectivity. We gather information by referencing for meaning. "Eye contact" isn't eye contact at all, it's monitoring the reactions of your communicating partner so that you may monitor the communication pathway and make repairs during breakdowns and make course corrections when appropriate.

The Michigan Department of Education words it this way in the English Language Arts Vision Statement, from Standard 7. Skills and Processes: Effective communication depends upon our ability to recognize when attempts to construct and convey meaning work well and when they have broken down. We must monitor, reflect, and adjust our communication processes for clarity, correctness, purpose, and audience. We need multiple strategies for constructing and conveying meaning in written, spoken and visual texts.

Referencing (NOT eye contact) is an important part of effective communication, recognizing when meaning works well and when meaning has broken down.

Praising a child w/ autism for eye contact outside of meaning is empty, instrumental. Children with autism need to feel "meaning making" from the inside out within relationships with others, and that involves dynamic referencing and reciprocity grown intrinsically.

Be careful not to teach eye contact extrinsically as an instrumental skill.

1 comment:

The Glasers said...

Thanks for digging deeper. If you have an agenda that you feel driven to accomplish, then you are thinking instrumentally.

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