Teaching Robert 2

I don’t know if any new mother or a mother to a freshly delivered child is consciously aware of the teaching curricula she supposed to pursue while bringing up her offspring.  There is an abundance of  songs, toys, nursery rhymes, and of  silly gestures and sounds the mother can choose from and she does so  haphazardly; more in accordance with her hormones (or heart if you prefer ) than with her analytical mind.  It is not that I consider caring for a newborn, toddler, or preschooler a brainless job. Yet it is an endeavor much more intuitive than for instance preparing your teenager for college by suggesting courses, helping with application, and paying for SAT preparation programs.

And so I too dipped into the bank of culturally established behaviors,  overused nursery rhymes and warehouse of colored, plastic toys.

And nothing seemed to work.

So I  looked to others for help, for instructions, definitions, explanations, and directions.  I search for specialists with expertise in rearing children like mine.

I have to leave that thread unfinished, promising to return to it later.  Finding specialists is much more complicated than it seems. That is a topic which requires not just its own paragraph, but its own chapter.

I approached Early Intervention Program in my town.  Once a week a young woman who reminded me of sloth with slow moving, sleepy approach to her work (and maybe her life as well) was coming for…. well, I really don’t know for what.

To help me find medical specialists in a state to which we just moved in?  Well, I found all of them and went to first appointments before she even took all the intake information.

To tickle my son?  Well, she did that.  And yes, he liked it.

I  don’t know if there was any other purpose in her visits.  Still, every time she came she brought the same toy with her. A plastic box with four holes on top surrounded by colorful rings.  With box came a hammer and four colorful balls.  As she was boring herself and me with these pointless visits my son was playing with the toy.  Banging the balls down with a plastic hammer.  On one of those tiresome visits he lost interest.  He was running aimlessly.  He was clearly irritated.  I cut the visit short.

As soon as this young woman left Robert and I went to an educational toy store and I bought the same toy.  After returning home we play with the toy for less than 15 minutes and in that time Robert learned to match by colors.  The strategy was simple.  Whenever he wanted to place red ball in differently colored ring i placed my hand over it and restricted the access.  Only if he matched ball and red ring he could use the hammer.  No more than fifteen minutes!  He generalized this skill to other colors by himself. He matched all four colors perfectly and he generalized this skills to other items and other colors.

It was so simple!  Just give a proper directions, simple cue and Robert learns.

So, why was that young woman unable to teach my son anything?  The simplest answer would be:  she didn’t care.

She was working for Early Intervention but she didn’t care.

And that again is a motive that will repeat itself through my son’s education.  People who do care and people who don’t.

Guess which kind crowds the planet?

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Teaching Robert

One day Robert, two years and six months old at that time, wanted a drink.  His small hands were too weak to tilt a full large bottle of Welch’s White Grape Juice to the side to pour the juice into a cup.  As Robert held the heavy bottle in his hands, he tried to move it in all directions.  He noticed that it was much easier to tilt bottle  toward his mouth.  So he did just that.  He pour the juice into his mouth and then discharged it INTO the cup.  After that he drank the juice from the cup.

He did this only once as he must have immediately discovered that he could simply drink straight from the bottle.

This episode happened more than 17 years ago. Yet it demonstrates better than anything else issues that impacted Robert’s development, his learning processes, and his difficulties in life.

Firstly, he solved his problems cleverly.  Because of that one event I always knew that he was smart and capable of learning and thinking.  No matter what his IQ was like and what I was told about his capacity for learning I knew he could learn.

Secondly, I knew that he went through all that trouble without asking for help because he couldn’t ask.  He couldn’t communicate.  I am not sure if  he even had an idea that we, his parents, could be asked to help…

Every day Robert demonstrates to me how much he can learn, how much he can do.

But he still  cannot explain himself.

So I am here to attempt explaining him.

He is unusual human being.  Very much worth knowing.

Maria Hrabowski

Digression

As I am writing this I am tempted to write everything at once.  Many things are connected; influencing each other in positive and negative ways.  This temptation to explain all the connections that span 20 years of my son’s life, can be a huge obstacle to writing.  It might affect clarity. It might end in an impossible to untangle knot. Those thoughts on writing  are there to put me back on track and organize my observations and interpretations of processes to complex to be described in, so called, linear writing.