Thursday, January 14, 2010

Teaching Pamela to Tie Her Shoe in Ten Minutes or Less!

In RDI, we focus on process, not product. Rather than zooming in on a discrete life skill like tying shoes, we work on social milestones that children need to learn from other people and to form relationships. Today, the goal is to give Pamela opportunities to observe me tying a shoe while she ties the other shoe so that she can compare her actions to mine. If you think about it, "watch and do" (a phrase coined by my consultant) enables children to succeed in small groups. Although Pamela is not in any groups right now because she is not ready, we are working on what she needs to feel competent and resilient in them.

The point of RDI is to help Pamela redo gaps in her social development. The theory is that she can tap into the social parts of her brain by going back to infant milestones and build up. We could have not done "watch and do" three years ago. Pamela had to master other abilities first:
  • Read my body language
  • Pay attention to my sounds
  • Track the movement of people with her eyes
  • Shift eye gaze from one object to another
  • Trust my role as guide
  • Persevere when a task is hard
  • Accept variation
  • Notice the differences between two things
  • Reposition to make two things the same
  • Stay calm and neutral
I had to change the way I interacted too:
  • Slow down
  • Emphasize nonverbal communication
  • Keep verbal communication ("I am the leader" not "Do what I do")
  • Keep Pamela calm and neutral: calm, challenge, calm, challenge, etc.
  • Stay calm and neutral when she is flustered
  • Wait for her to process and think
  • Trust that Pamela is doing her best

The side benefit of RDI is that Pamela ends up learning life skills that I use to frame her social goals. For "watch and do", Pamela and I have the same stuff (we each have a shoe or dishcloth or shirt). We have clearly defined roles: I am the leader and she is the follower. She watches what I do (one step at a time) and tries to copy it exactly. I have been thinking about ordinary things from daily life:
  • Tying shoes
  • Folding clothes
  • Putting together a chicken recipe in the crockpot
  • Building something with Legos
  • Putting away dishes
  • Setting the table
  • Drawing a flower for nature study

Since crocs, slip-on shoes, and velcro are prolific, we have not taught Pamela to tie her shoes. She rarely wears her sneakers. To scaffold her, I colored half of each lace with green permanent marker. It helped her to see exactly how I had positioned the laces. At first, Pamela focused on doing a mirror image rather than using the same hand. It might be because of our difference in hand preference. She also wanted to anticipate me and guess the action before I took the next step. She responded to my nonverbal cues. A couple of times I had to tell her that I was the leader and she was the follower. By the end she was following me well.

AND Pamela tied her shoe.

If you have time to watch in detail, here are some things I kept in mind while trying to adjust my scaffolding:
  • Slow down and be deliberate, even slamming the table helps
  • Make nonverbals when something is not right
  • Fade nonverbals as she grew more confident
  • Do steps slightly differently so she must pay attention
  • Put my hands in my lap for a clear starting point
  • Do something totally unexpected to keep her alert
  • Vary the starting hand because of our hand preferences


Happy Elf Mom (Christine) said...

YES! I'm going to have to do something like this with Elfie and Emperor! And I will pop back and watch the videos later. (It's late LOL!)

Phyllis said...

I love this post. It is very step-by-step for us, too! Sometimes we need that, too.