Sunday, April 18, 2010

Collaboration - How do we learn to collaborate?

I have not written about our journey much lately. One reason is that I'm tired and overwhelmed - and am behind and playing catch-up. Since my son began exhibiting symptoms of H1N1 flu on halloween, we've battled all sorts of illnesses at my house. Since our mid-winter vacation week in early February, we've been especially hard hit with illness. The school-building-school kids brought home sore throats and stomach bugs and colds. I had an upper respiratory something in late February that kicked my rear for almost two weeks. Then, there was a biomedical conference, a homeschool convention, an auto accident that prompted us to do nothing but relax for a few days, and the mouse that chewed through two seat belts that sucked up some energy, time, $ at the dealership.

For my daughter, my homeschooled and skating princess, illness brings with it dysregulation, resistance, upset. Focusing on our latest objective within relationship development is not our main priority when she's ill.

There's another reason I've not written much (although the sick and busy winter is the main factor):

I'm in a mode of pondering,
a studying response of sorts.

We saw our "autism consultant" in February. The assessment we complete every six months showed some positive growth, and revealed an important objective that is holding us back. It's a collaboration piece.

The assessment of Mom & daughter revealed that my girl senses no experience of collaborating with another person from scratch, from nothing.

She can join me in an existing activity and she is able to collaborate. I don't mean she can follow my prompts. I mean, she *collaborates* when the process is already in motion.

I can join her in an activity-in-progress, and begin to collaborate with her and she with me. I don't mean she can lead me through an activity. A lot of Floortime kids can lead but not collaborate - that's not what I mean, I mean she can collaborate, not only lead while we only follow. She can give up her own agenda and *collaborate* with someone who joins her in her play or activity.

But to begin with an idea and nothing else and develop something together from nothing - my daughter needs experience in that kind of collaboration.

Who knew that collaboration is so involved?

I understand how some observers might call her "non-compliant" or "strong-willed". I am so thankful for the way the assessment/eval/observation is structured, because that allowed us to see the pieces that are clearly in place and the piece that is not. Inexperience is very different from non-compliance.

As I think about it, I see very clearly how this inexperience is holding us back, is creating obstacles for us.

I have become a master at "guided demonstration". I know how to set up an activity in a way that my daughter can observe me in action, where I can offer her opportunities to join me, at her pace, in her time.

Having her observe and join was a necessary step in her development. It lowered her frustration and anxiety. It gave me a door into teaching her, not direct teaching, but teaching through games and activities, which is a positive move. But I'm weary of having to modify *everything* for a guided demonstration approach. I'd like to use some homeschool resources as they are intended, out of the box.

I've used "guided demonstration" to a point where it's a big part of her experience. Now I have to learn to use myself differently to give her new experiences with collaboration. We learn by doing - so we've got to "do".

Her anxiety in some settings is, I believe (as I ponder), related to this inexperience in this particular area of collaboration. Sunday School is one example. Sibling interaction. Homeschool work, lessons, learning. Homeschool co-op classes, maybe. (There are other factors at play - I know that - and yet, I see where having confidence and competence in this kind of "from scratch" collaboration would be an asset there, and probably reduce anxiety and frustration.)

She can't sit down with me for a lesson unless I set it up in a "game" (via "guided demonstration"). So, I modify. Some modification is okay. I don't want to have to modify everything. And I wanted an answer for why she is unable to join me without my starting everything without her. Now I have it. Makes sense, too.

A lot of learning is experiential, and as long as I can approach her learning in a hands-on way, in context, she is learning. But we inch closer and closer, developmentally speaking, to the point where she is going to need to be able to sit down with me, side by side, for some "work" and instruction. And it's that joining me without a demonstration that shoots her anxiety soaring. I never thought about it being related to a collaboration experience piece until February. Now, it makes sense to me - and yes, it's holding us back.

I googled "teaching collaboration in autism" - I got a lot of hits about teacher collaboration, not how children learn to collaborate. A search for "how do children learn to collaborate?" yielded only slightly better hits. (THIS was my favorite., although it's a rabbit trail and not directly related to my thinking about collaboration.) Where do we go to learn about how children learn to collaborate through experience?

I return to the resources that have been the most helpful through this journey. I'm pondering about the progression that Piaget described, the one that Ruth Beechick outlined for me so beautifully. Our collaboration objective must be rich in "manipulative mode". That's where experiential learning begins. And there must be many opportunities to learn.

As I think about it, maybe collaborating with me in an activity in progress or allowing me to join her activity in progress for collaboration ARE the "manipulative modes" for collaborating from nothing. Collaborating from nothing requires some joint attention on something not visible and concrete, on a thought or idea, mental image mode. Perhaps we are bridging the gap between manipulative and mental in the area of collaboration.

How are we going to begin? How do I use myself in a new way to offer her experience at this kind of collaboration, without trying to "get" something from her? Hmmmmm. Making lunch together from nothing, no offering her a choice as a starter (that's an activity-in-progress), maybe. I've got some ideas, thanks to our excellent consultant.

How did you help your child experience all the different faces of collaboration?


poohder said...

My dd needs this piece too! Rhonda

Chef Penny said...

So you can frame it and she will join but she doesn't know how to join in if it's not framed? I want to be sure that I am thinking the same as you before I offer what worked for us. The concepts get tougher as they get higher up, huh? ((((hugs)))))

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