Dr. Rydell’s Philosophy
I often tell parents and professionals that you will never be able to teach your kids all of the skills that they need to learn….it’s impossible and you can’t place that burden on your shoulders. But, you can teach them how to learn so that they can be responsible for their own learning….genuine learning. There are many cues in the environment (e.g., social, communication, visual, structural, group expectations, etc.) to help our kids understand what to do, how to do it and when to do it. But, if your kids are not able to “look up and look around” in order to learn and take advantage of these cues, then they will miss out on so many learning opportunities. As parents and professionals, you might feel pressured to step in and prompt your kids to respond in an appropriate manner, but, then we ask the question, “Who is doing the thinking?” If you do the thinking for your kids (with the best of intentions), then they do not have to do the thinking. In addition, if we teach our kids in a prompt-dependent way, then they most likely will remain prompt-dependent learners and not become the independent decision-makers and flexible social partners that we all hope our kids will become.
Our children with ASD are often referred to as “behavior problems”. We do not necessarily see it that way. Anxiety and emotional dysregulation play a big role in what is commonly referred to as “behavior problems”. Sure, we all ask the question such as, “where do our typical 5 year old’s behaviors end and where does ASD begin….and what do we do about it?” But, we also need to ask, “Are our kids doing more coping and less learning?” Our kids will be happy to stay in their comfort zone with familiar objects, activities, agendas and preferences, but what happens when a) someone interferes with that agenda, b) the kids have to follow someone else’s lead, or c) someone asks our kids to interact in a flexible manner? What happens when our kids miss social cues and get into trouble for it? Do our kids have the ability to maintain social interactions that are so important for making friends and having conversations? Can our kids use their own spontaneous language to tell others how they feel or to “glue” themselves together with others? Can our kids only complete and demonstrate rotely-learned skills and scripted language that have been prompted by adults? Or, are they able to engage and maintain interactions during activities that are new and different? Can our kids develop and complete daily activities or homework or do they need someone to prompt them through every step of the way? What about learning at a distance in large groups or classrooms and complete transitions without issue?
It’s all about how you define learning….how do you know when our kids are actually learning? Are they learning on their own…across persons, places and circumstances. To say it in a slightly different way….”the more time spent learning is less time spent coping”. Anxiety and emotional dysregulation often times are the result of coping and not the result of intentional bad behavior. Our mission is to try and understand what does and does not make sense to our kids and how to make a proactive plan for next time. Can our kids “look up, look around and try to become part of what we are doing?” Are they learning to be successful by understanding the environmental cues and acting on them in an appropriate manner without being told what to do? Do our kids’ learning style, environment and instruction support this happening?
- Being on the floor with the kids for over 40 years teaches you what is really important.
- Experience Matters!
- In developing a sense of trust with kids, families and professionals
- In creating an intervention plan then talking about what you know, not what you think.
- In collaboration with existing staff and team and not “playing the expert card”
- In stimulating new ways of approaching old problems through the Learning Style Profile
- In coaching and mentoring parents and professionals and not telling others what to do
- In offering creative ideas and solutions to foster our kids’ independent thinking
- In understanding what is good for the child is good for the family, but also what is good for the family is good for the child
- In using common sense