I’ve been struggling, feeling very emotional in a “bad” sort of way. You know how when you’re weepy all the time for seemingly no good reason? Those times when you keep crying every time you hear sad music, and all music strikes you as sad, even really upbeat music, or when someone looks at you with a stern face, or uses a harsh tone, or if you read something sad, and everything you read seems really sad, and you keep having to wipe tears from your face and hope you remembered to bring tissues with you, but you never do? Yeah, sort of like that.
*Sigh* It’s been a tough few weeks. I have felt off-balance because I have been expecting myself to be able to do what I’ve seen a number of people do with my daughter, but that I have not been able to do. I returned from our trip to Texas and thought, after only a couple of sessions with my daughter, I’d be able to start asking her open-ended questions, just as I’d seen Soma Mukhopadhyay do. (Despite the fact that Soma advised me NOT to ask any open-ended questions in the beginning.) *Define beginning, I kept thinking. I HAVE begun. Surely now after the second or third day home I am beyond “beginning”! This thinking is akin to seeing a master jeweler create a beautiful ring and expecting that I should be able to create that same ring without having spent years practicing the craft as a bench jeweler, or hearing a Rachmaninoff piano concerto played at Carnegie Hall and then going home and thinking after a couple of piano lessons that I would be able to replicate that piano concerto. The point is, Soma is a master at RPM (rapid prompting method). She’s been doing RPM for close to two decades, first with her son Tito and later with hundreds of Autistic people.
But I so wanted to have the kind of conversations with my daughter that I saw her having with Soma. It was like catching a little glimpse of paradise, but not being able to find the bridge to actually get there. I kept trying to leap. I kept trying to find a short cut. And as I did this, each day, my distress grew. I felt frustrated and then angry and then beaten down. All because I was expecting myself to be able to do something without any practice. So when my suffering reached an all time high, when the occasional weeping, became more than occasional and my son, upon seeing me asked, “why are you always crying?” I realized I had to get help. I did what years of recovery from addiction has taught me – I reached out to another human being. I contacted someone I only know through the internet, but who has been working with her son for a number of years now.
She gave me wonderful tips. She sent me videos to watch. She listened to my distress. She told me it took months of practice and as I read everything she sent me, I kept thinking both how grateful I was to her for being so kind and generous in sharing her experience with me, but also was reminded that I need to practice and I need to start at the beginning. Everything takes practice. My expectations of myself were causing me tremendous pain. They were unrealistic. It isn’t that I can’t do this method with my child, it’s that I can, but I need to practice. And as I realized this, as I thought more about this, I saw the parallels to presuming competence in my child. I have written about what “presume competence” means, but in all the posts I’ve written on the topic there is one piece of this that I have neglected to mention and that is, presuming that we can and will be able to learn with appropriate accommodations and enough practice. I forgot to include myself in presuming competence. I need that presumption too. I need to remember that I can and do learn if I’m given instruction and give myself the opportunity and time to practice.
I had the proper instruction, but I haven’t been practicing long enough to get the results I wanted. So last night I wrote up a lesson plan, just as Soma had instructed during a previous four-day intensive workshop I took last spring. I made sure I followed her format of how to create a lesson plan. I made sure I began with choices and spelling key words. I even tried to embody her lovely, sing-song, calm, kind voice. I laid aside any expectations of what would or should happen. And you know what? It was a great session. I made a couple of mistakes, I had to refer to my notes often. I had to make some adjustments. I forgot a couple of key things, but I jotted down some comments to myself so I can remember to revise accordingly for our next session this afternoon and more importantly, we were both more relaxed than we have been since we returned home.
Practice. I hate the idea of having to practice. I want to go from never having done something, to immediate fluency. But once I begin practicing and let go of that desire and those expectations for immediate fluency, practicing can be incredibly enjoyable.
To Sue: This post is for you. Thank you.
Em practices jumping on her pogo stick. New all time record? 127.