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!