Learning Through Observation

The sad truth is that I didn’t observe Robert carefully enough to list all the things he learned by observing other people’s actions.  But still,  quite a few things I remember vividly.

1. He learned to pour water for a neighbor’s cat, Louis.  The cat kept on crossing a dangerous parking lot with a road passing right through it, to visit our townhouse.  Once, I gave the cat a bowl of water.  The next time Louis came for the visit, three years old Robert immediately placed a dish filled with water in front of Louis.

2.Somehow, by the time he was 10 years old, he knew where to put the dishes from the dishwater or  in which closet or chest’s drawer he should place  clean laundry.

3.  As he observed our house, Robert came to his own conclusions about where many items should be kept. No matter where I left the car keys, Robert always put them in my purse.  The cordless phone and, later, cell phones were always in the same places as Robert made it his job to carry them to the locations he chose for them.

However, he never bothered with placing his sister’s items in  specific places.  Since Amanda always left her keys, wallets, and phones in completely different locations,  there was no way for Robert to learn a proper way of managing this chaos and finding a way to establish order.  So, as of today, neither Robert’s dad nor I have to look for our keys or phones.  Amanda, however, has to search the house almost daily in the most distressing circumstances to find needed items.

3. After assisting me with preparation of  his favorite food:  poblano peppers stuffed with cheese or  eggplant parmeasano, Robert learned to do most of the cooking of the pepper and all the cooking for eggplant. I didn’t have to teach him.  He observed.

So yes, children with autism do learn through observation. It is possible that they learn differently.  It is a pity, however,  that we do not observe them closely enough to learn how they observe and how they learn from their observations.