Yesterday was the last day of Soma Mukhopadhyay‘s 4-day training. I wrote about it ‘here‘, ‘here‘, and ‘here‘. Soma packs an enormous amount of information into four days. She discussed everything from neural pathways of the brain to which parts of the brain are used during specific activities, to how to devise lesson plans and ways to physically position oneself in relation to the student. There were so many surprising moments, but one that I never could have anticipated, was how helpful it was to learn about the actual brain function during moments that are emotionally charged or OCD. Learning some of the basics in brain function demystified a great many things in a way I hadn’t before considered.
Given what we now know, and granted it isn’t much comparatively speaking, but is so much more than we knew even twenty years ago, it is astonishing that certain older therapies continue to be popular and used for autism. Two of the most destructive phrases used with an Autistic person are the dreaded, “Look at me!” and “Use your words!” I cannot list how many times Emma has been instructed to “use your words” only to do so and be ignored. It seems those who say “use your words” really mean, “use the words I want to hear”. Add to that the insistence that an Autistic student have “quiet hands” and not stim because it is believed learning cannot take place while stimming even though by removing the stim no learning can or will take place because we’ve just taken away the one thing that was allowing the student to stay focused and attend, even if it did not “look” that way to us. We non Autistics have a tough time understanding anything or anyone who is vaguely different from ourselves. Before we start calling ourselves “experts” in Autism, we might want to become “experts” in our own neurology first, at least we’d have a better handle on our own limitations and see how those can so easily dovetail into how we are interpreting what we’ve decided is “the truth” about someone else.
I have written about methodologies before on this blog. There are some that I find more troubling than others, but in the end, the thing I care about more than anything else is: is it helping my child? Is she learning? Is she safe? Will the short-term gains be at the cost of long-term pain and even trauma? What is this doing to her self-esteem? Is respectful interaction being modeled? Is she being humiliated, shamed, made to feel badly for the way her brain processes information? Is she being taught by people who believe in her ability to learn? Are her teachers believing her capable and giving her the tools she needs to flourish and be all that she can be? Is she assumed to be competent or is she being forced to prove her competence? Is she being taught the same equation, story, concept and terms over and over? Is she seen as a human being with the same rights as any other person? Would YOU want to be treated the way you are treating and teaching this person?
I don’t care what the methodology is, who created it or how many people believe in its efficacy, if it isn’t taking these questions into account, I am not interested in it. I do not care what others believe, I don’t care what the “experts” say, I don’t care how many letters a person has after their name or who created the methodology or the various papers and/or books the person has written, if the methodology is not attempting to consider these other ideas, I am not interested in it. I, as a parent, am not invested in any particular methodology unlike so many schools. And for that reason I have far more leeway than most schools do, to keep trying different things until we (I’m including my wonderful husband) find the thing or a combination of things that will best help our daughter learn, grow and become all that she can be. In the end that is what we care about more than anything.
This weekend I will create a lesson plan for my daughter with age appropriate materials for next week’s RPM session. I am hoping I will be able to demonstrate, at least some of what I’ve learned, to Emma’s therapist and her teacher. But I also know I will make mistakes, I do not expect that after four days of an intensive training I will do Soma’s method well, but I think I have a fairly good understanding of the basics so that I can start, at least, trying.
Wish me luck!
Soma Mukhopadhyay – March, 2013