Monday, January 31, 2011


There's an internet discussion happening on the topic of compliance. One parent pulled from an unnamed state's definition of a successful kindergartner, "success is related to being able to follow directions, sit and attend, and raise his hand for teacher help".

Children with developmental delays often aren't able to follow directions, sit and attend, and raise his/her hand for teacher help.

And they're often labeled "non-compliant" or "lazy" or "maladaptive" or a "behavior problem". They considered "unsuccessful".

And teachers push for "compliant" in order to be "successful" without looking at the developmental foundations that are shaky, that need to be practiced and experienced and put into place. (And teachers don't often know that the skills mentioned are not discreet skills; they come from a place of continuous process. Use discreet trial for discreet skills. Use a continuous process, developmental model for functions of continuous process in a developmental fashion.)

Think about the level of joint attention needed for a child to interact with teacher, peers, and self in order to be "compliant". Here's just a little bit of it: He's got to be experienced at non-verbal turn-taking, interaction, and reciprocity. He's got to understand that the teacher's perspective and objective and goals in each moment are different from his own, and those goals and objectives are largely invisible, for example, that he is expected to face forward, keep himself still and quiet. He must simultaneously process the non-verbal communication of his teacher and the peers around him, managing his body in terms of personal space with the peers around him. He's got to be a really experienced attention shifter and attention sharer. He has to understand that the teacher DOES NOT KNOW what is in HIS mind in order for him to remember to raise his hand to ask a question. To follow directions, he must process non-verbal cues and spoken language, pitch, tone, context, remember past experiences, all simultaneously, a lot of it automatic and unconscious.

Skipping the developmental foundations and going straight for behavioral compliance misses the foundations and doesn't help the child. Support the developmental foundations (look at Dr Jim's ARM pr Dr Ross Green's ALSUP) and the"compliance" will come, except that it's not really "compliance", it's the ability to interact at higher levels, to participate with other(s) and self in a higher stage of joint attention. Success and compliance two different animals.

I've been thinking about this internet chat topic all day.

So, I went to the grocery store tonight. We have a big snowstorm coming- gotta go to the grocery, ya know. *wink*And I'm standing in line at the deli counter, waiting to place my order meat and cheese, and BOOM! it hits me. The same foundations of joint attention that I wrote about, that I described earlier today as foundations for "success" in kindergarten are EXACTLY.THE.SAME. that I need to place my order at the deli. I have to know the directions (I need to take a number) and follow them (wait my turn after I take a number); I must attend to listen for when they call my number; I must raise my hand or yell or answer in some way to let them know they called my number and I am ready to be helped, ready to tell them what I want to order.

At the deli tonight, I wasn't "compliant" with a list of rules I'd memorized with the help of discreet trial. I was a successful communicator on many levels, navigating my cart among other shoppers, maintaining self-regulation and self-control while waiting my turn, responding when called upon, etc. Those are the skills that kids are expected to have when they come to kindergarten, and when they arrive without them, teachers don't know how to remediate those skills in a developmental fashion. So, they go for "compliance" and memorization of rules, instead. That's one of the reasons I homeschool.

Teaching and rewarding "compliance" for the sake of "compliance" lasts for one situation. And autism isn't a lack of discreet skills. Giving a child experience with foundations of interaction in a dynamic way carry over to new settings, are flexible and changing in new situations.

We really need to be aware of this, to know it, to want it for our kids w/ developmental delays, to guard against someone who is trying to behaviorally shape "compliance" instead of building and growing the dynamic foundations that add up to success in many situations well beyond kindergarten.


Heather said...

I agree completely.

This applies to differences between the sexes and learning styles, too. I rememeber my oldest son really disliking his kindergarten teacher (I was still teaching in PS at that point), and essentially we figured out the reason was that SHE had a visible, palpable dislike for boys. They are notoriously less "compliant" than girls, especially at the younger ages, and have a tendency for a more active, changeable learning style (kinesthetic).

Once we began to homeschool our son (3rd grade) he became so much happier because we capitalized on his strengths and worked on developing the areas he needed work on, instead of highlighting the areas he was weakest in (sitting for long periods of time doing worksheets in absolute silence).

Homeschooling is such a blessing for all kinds of children. I am so glad we have that choice for our many kinds of learners.

walking said...

Yet one more reason why I did not put my strong-willed son in public school when he was little. He was so stubborn they would have had to break his spirit to get him to comply with some of the nit-picky stuff that is required.

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