A Training with Soma Mukhopadhyay

I am taking a four-day training that Soma Mukhopadhyay is giving this week.  Yesterday was the first day and Soma covered the stages of development and different learning styles.  Throughout the entire day Soma demonstrated how one teaches while presuming competence, though she never said those two words or even mentioned this, it is, in fact, what she was doing.  She does not assume a person she’s never met will know how to read or write, but she does presume that the person can and will learn regardless of whether they speak or not.  Rapid Prompt Method teaches skills that create a strong foundation for all learning to take place.

Soma walked us through stims that are excitatory and calming and how to tell the difference.  She demonstrated how one can work with them and how they give us clues about whether the person is auditory, visual, tactile and kinesthetic.  I asked a great many questions about things such as, what do you do when the person you’re working with hits, bites, slaps or pinches themselves or you.  Later after the training had ended I had the opportunity to work with someone who almost immediately hit themselves in the chest and they shouted, “No hitting!”  Fresh from the day’s training, I grabbed a letter board and said, “Oh here.  Spell hitting.”  I held the letter board out and shoved a pencil in their hand.  Immediately they stopped hitting themselves and pointing to first the ‘h’ then the ‘i’ and so on until they’d spelled “hitting” at which point they were able and willing to move on to do some other things.

Afterwards I reflected on what had just happened and remembered something else Soma did when one of the children she was working with tried to bite her.  I am paraphrasing as I didn’t write down exactly what she said. In a very calm, matter of fact voice, she said something like ~ Oh you’re trying to bite my arm.  My arm is not lunch. What else can you bite?  No judgment, no scolding, shaming or anger, there was nothing in her voice to suggest she was speaking of anything out of the ordinary or that this was something to get upset about.

For years I have been baffled by how to respond or even if one should respond to such actions.  I have written about “self-injurious” actions ‘here‘, ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.  I’ve never completely known how to respond and have responded in a variety of different ways, but today… today was the first day I saw someone model a response in an academic setting that made sense to me.  It isn’t that this response will eradicate the need or desire to hit or bite, but it was the first time I’ve seen someone respond in a way that didn’t make it worse, either by scolding, shaming or reinforcing.  As was the case this afternoon, the child I was with, immediately stopped hitting themselves and we were able to get back to work without further comment.

Today is day 2 of the training and it’s very exciting!

10 responses to “A Training with Soma Mukhopadhyay

  1. This is fascinating because we have done something similar for preseverative speech. I am sending MSG. When you have time, please.

    • Running out for day 2 of the training, but will look later this afternoon. I have to tell you something else along similar lines! Also keep meaning to tell you how much I LOVED seeing the photo of beautiful Emma with Amy Sequenzia!

  2. I hope you’ll keep us posted on each day’s training. Enjoy!

  3. I love what I am reading here and especially the phrasing that describes what is happening and offering an alternative instead of forcing a stop! (i.e. “oh you are biting my arm, my arm is not lunch, what else can you bite on…”) love love love.

  4. If we are presuming competence, why is it okay to not correct biting of someone else’s body, even if it is a sensory issue? With all due respect, it seems as though you are promoting a bit of a double standard here.

    • Hi PJ your question is an excellent one and one that many of us asked in the training. What I did and what Soma demonstrated more than a few times was that when a student tries to bite, one keeps oneself safe, while continuing the lesson without scolding, shaming or saying “No!” which does more to reinforce the action than deter it.

  5. Of course you make sure you don’t get hurt, but learning ways to side-track the behavior is equally important

  6. Pingback: Our Amazing Adventure | Emma's Hope Book

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