I’m halfway through a four-day training with Soma and I have filled more than half a legal sized notepad with notes. Yesterday we covered Mental Mapping/ the different stages of RPM and Implementation. I told Soma about my encounter with the child who didn’t want to work and immediately hit themselves. I described how I’d had them spell “hitting” on the letter board and how this had immediately diffused the situation. Soma then gave me more terrific suggestions on how to devise a lesson plan around an action such as hitting. An example of this is (I”m making this up) “I would like to know more about hitting. What else can you hit? Do you hit the sky or a ball?” Soma spoke of how when emotions are running high, switching to numbers and math, which have no emotion can be helpful during emotional outbursts. “How many times can you hit the ball? Here let’s count. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. You hit 5 times and if you hit once more, that would be 87 times or 6 times?”
We spent a great deal of time discussing the ways in which one can learn about a student through their preferences, stims, what they’ve been exposed to, skill levels and abilities, tolerance levels, acquired knowledge and defenses. Soma then covered how one goes about implementing all of this through lesson plans. Each step of the way one presumes competence in the student’s ability to learn and be taught without presuming that they already know how to read, write, add and subtract. Through the various activities it quickly becomes clear whether the student needs to be shown how to spell a word such as “hitting” or whether they already know the word. On the first day one of the students, whom Soma had never met before, sat down and after working with her for fifteen minutes or so, was asked what his favorite color was. She had him choose from one of two stencil boards for the first letter. From that board he chose the letter “r”. He then proceeded to type ‘r’, ‘e’, ‘d’. The following day a number of the people taking the training expressed skepticism that the student actually could read or write. One suggested that red may not have been his favorite color.
When asked how they knew that he couldn’t read or write, they weren’t able to give specific reasons, it seems many just assumed he could not. It reminded me of the years and years I spent believing a whole variety of things about my own child, which turned out to be untrue. I had no proof that the things I thought were actually true, I had just assumed and then behaved toward her as though it were fact. Perhaps one of the single most destructive things we can do to our children, students, the people we meet is to make assumptions about their intelligence and abilities. Beliefs based in nothing other than unfounded assumptions and our own biases of those who look or seem to us as not being capable. These assumptions are dangerous and can do real harm. As I’ve said before ~ to presume competence and be wrong will do no harm, to presume incompetence and be wrong can and will do tremendous damage.
Soma – 2013
My daughter uses red as a code word for anger.
Oh that’s interesting. I’ve never asked Emma what her favorite color is. I intend to ask her.
Two of my favorite mantras: “Presume competence” (from Doug Biklen) and the “Least dangerous assumption” (from Anne Donnellan). Kids will be so much better off if we can switch our thinking in that direction!
Love those too!
Thank you so much for taking us along for this journey Ariane, I am learning so much.
She is a wealth of information and experience. It’s been just incredible!
Enjoying your training and the feedback you are sharing.
Please tell Jenn we all say hello! *Hugs* to you both.
We’ve had more than a few of our school bus drivers who have been dismissed for innapropriate conversations in the presence of our non-verbal students. They failed to realize that tho a student may not speak, so many are more than capable of communication by other means. Presumed incompetence is an idea/belief we continuously train against. It crystallizes for our employees when a child goes home and types or signs to their parent.. “My bus driver said his girlfriend……”
They begin to understand and change. 🙂
Jesse – can we figure out a way to clone you please and have one of your clones live in New York City?
I also made a post on competence presumption. Because when we presume incompetence, we become too politically correct to help a person with a disability modify an inappropriate behavior (and I am talking about things that actually get in the way of friendships, not harmless stimming).
Would you elaborate a bit more what you mean?
When autistics do things such as text someone 100 times day, obviously people will be really annoyed. But they may also be reluctant to tell the person to stop, because they assume that the person incapable of understanding why the behavior is inappropriate. So there is no point in hurting his feelings.
Ah, yes… I understand. This is such a great point. I really appreciate your adding the link as I tried to find your blog yesterday and kept getting an error message. (Putting you on the blog roll!)
I liked your last two posts.
Facilitated communication has given me a voice. I’m mostly non-verbal, and rely on typing. I’ve heard of Soma before.
So happy to hear this, Candi!
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