5 Ways To Sharpen Your Focus And Enhance Your Autistic Child’s Learning
The Indian Epic Mahabharata contains a legendary tale about shooting a wooden bird.
The renowned Guru- Dronacharya wanted his disciples to shoot this suspended, wooden bird.
When he asked Yudhisthira (the eldest of the Pandava brothers) what he saw as he aimed at the bird, Yudhisthira replied he could see the bird on the branch of a tree.
Bhima (the second eldest brother) said he could see the bird on a branch of a mango tree.
When Arjuna (the third brother) was asked what he could see, he responded, ‘ I see only the eye of the bird, nothing else.’
Only Arjuna was able to hit his target.
His focus and concentration made him the greatest archer.
What has this got to do with autism?
You, the parent are your child’s greatest guide.
To be successful, you have to focus on the right things.
Have you found yourself in a situation where your child doesn’t enjoy what you’re teaching him?
He is not motivated. You could be trying your best, but he doesn’t want to engage.
You feel like pulling your hair out.
Later on it feels like a waste of time. You tried, but you couldn’t get him to learn anything.
And you’re left with that empty feeling- yet again.
I know the feeling. It’s not nice but thankfully the situation can change.
Ask yourself one question, “how focused am I?”
The questions below will help you determine this.
1. Are you clear about your objective?
What exactly are you working on?
Let’s think about 2 objectives.
a) Skill of cutting vegetables
b) Social referencing- while cutting vegetables
When you work on the skill of cutting vegetables- you would teach your child to hold the knife properly, cut into small pieces- preferably the same size.
But if you’re working on your child’s social referencing (his ability to check with you when he’s uncertain)- you will be more concerned about the connection between you both.
In the case of social referencing, you will set up a situation where your child doesn’t know which vegetable to cut next or where the vegetables are.
You will set up uncertainty in the framework- so that your child checks with you by looking at you.
On the other hand, if you’re teaching the skill of cutting, your focus will not be on your child’s eye gaze.
Clarity is Epic!
2. Have you cleared the clutter?
Clean up the environment. Only have what you need, in sight.
Note what your child is distracted by.
For example- Mohit loves remote controls. He also loves gadgets with buttons.
If I need him to think and problem solve a situation, I keep all remote controls and his ipad away. Else it proves to be a huge distraction.
Clearing the clutter helps in another way too.
It makes the task clear for your child, thereby reducing the need for extra instructions.
If you have just a table with some vegetables, a chopping board, knife and peeler in sight- your child will know what he’s supposed to do.
On the other hand, if you have magazines, books, toys plus the vegetables around- the situation may not be very clear for your child.
Dr Sheely, Co founder of RDIConnect uses a nice catch phrase. “Let the environment do the prompting.”
For this to happen it has to be a fuss free, clear environment.
3. Do you talk too much?
If you speak too much, your child will focus his energies on processing what you’re saying rather than problem solving and focusing on the task at hand.
For example, if you’re playing ball with your child- then play ball.
Don’t give instructions such as, ‘catch’, ‘throw’, ‘stand there’ etc.
Speak sparingly. Speak only when necessary. Remember, less is more.
4. Have you planned the activity?
Go through the activity in your mind before implementing it.
What is your role, what is your child’s role?
What actions will you take? What are the probable actions your child could take?
How close will you stand or sit by each other?
What limits will you set on your child?
Which distractions will you remove?
Allocate time for planning.
5. Are you in the ‘guide’ frame of mind?
If you have a thousand thoughts running through your mind or are preoccupied, you cannot be in a ‘guiding state.’
Guiding involves being fully present in the moment so you can study your child second by second.
Clear your mind. Be in a calm state while interacting with your child.
You won’t get it right all the time.
I still fumble with this one. But I’ve learned to recognize it when it shows up.
If I have too much going on in my head, I become instructive with Mohit. He picks up on my vibe immediately.
So I excuse myself for a few minutes by saying, ‘I’m going to get some water.’ Or I give him something to do independently, so I don’t have to guide him.
Take care of yourself first.
Use these 5 points to develop crystal clear thinking to guide and teach your child.
If you, the guide are focused- your child will be focused too.
Teaching will not longer be a chore to be completed.
You will look forward to spending quality time with your child.
Not only will your child learn, but you’ll build a beautiful bond with him.
Guiding your child should be a beautiful experience.
Develop the focus and clarity of Arjuna, dear friend.
Watch your child blossom.
“The sun’s energy warms the world. But when you focus it through a magnifying glass it can start a fire. Focus is so powerful!” Alan Pariser
If you would like a copy of a planning sheet we use at SAI Connections, simply send an email at firstname.lastname@example.org