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A new skill for children on the Autism spectrum - THINKING

What was the last skill that you taught/are trying to teach your child who is on the Autism Spectrum? What did s/he do with this newly learned skill? Did s/he use the knowledge and applied it on his/her own in his life?

Think about it.

Do we realize that we are merely teaching children different skills or pieces of knowledge but aren’t bothered about focusing on teaching them to think about these skills/knowledge from their own perspective and apply it on their own in their life without prompting?

If you look at your own daily interactions and activities that you do are based on your ability to think and not just the skill. Similarly teaching children skills will have no use if they are not prepared to think and use it on their own. For instance, let’s say a child can learn social rules but these rules are only useful if the child understands why, where, when and how to apply these rules. The art where we decide how to use one’s knowledge is THINKING.

Thinking increases neural connections in the brain. Once more connections are made, the brain becomes more integrated and learning becomes smoother. In order to achieve smooth learning in children, we should first teach them the art of thinking. But we focus directly on learning and hence the child may become good in skills but he does not think when, where and how to apply it in daily life. Thinking builds motivation to learn. It is no wonder that children are not motivated to learn things beyond their interests and comfort. Instead of teaching them to be learners, first teach them to be thinkers. The main focus needs to be on transitioning importance from “what you know” to “how you use” what you know. How do you transition from teaching your child from learning skills directly to thinking first and then applying skills?

The RDI® Program provides guidance to parents in helping children (& adults!) with this process. In general, RDI® encourages one to give the practical application or meaning behind the learning. Instead of focusing on mastering skills, teach the importance of the skill. The Consultant guides parents to create opportunities for the child to think and solve problems on their own.

For example– A child has a habit of always pulling his mother's hand to give his toy to him without looking at the mother's face at all and the mother complies and gives him the toy immediately. After joining the RDI® Program: His mom has learned to pause and wait in that moment. Since his mother is not responding like before, the child seems confused. We can assume that the child is thinking in that moment– Why isn’t she responding? And then the child starts thinking I and looks over towards her face. WOW!

The child just had an opportunity to THINK in that small window of moments of Mom’s waiting time. Now the child has a moment of understanding– “it takes two to communicate”. His mom then responds to the child accordingly.

That small window of thinking given to the child helps in building neural pathways in his brain– a small start to gradually return to the normal process of development. START THINKING TODAY!

-Dr. Dhanashri Pawar

Inspired by Christine Chalmers-Manton

Dr. Dhanashri Pawar (MBBS, DPH ) is the director of Divyam Centre For Autism in Mumbai, India. She is herself a parent of a child on the Autism Spectrum. As a medical doctor, she studied many interventions across the world to help her child in the best possible way and to empower herself to guide her child. In this journey she came across the RDI program and started doing it with her child, she saw marked improvements with him and hence decided to help other families with Autism spectrum. She became a certified RDI consultant and started her own charitable centre for learning for kids with Autism in Mumbai called Divyam in Mumbai, India in 2017 Till now she continues to help families and children with Autism and build Awareness in the community.

Till now she continues to help families and children with autism and build awareness about Autism in the community.

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