Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Dust Bunnies, Faceblindness and Other Stuff

Sow an act, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; a character, reap a destiny. Hat tip: Charlotte Mason
My ears perked up at Bible study today when Jennifer Rothschild shared these words, often quoted by Charlotte Mason. Charlotte Mason backed up a step on this popular quote in her day. "'Sow an act,' we are told, 'reap a habit.' 'Sow a habit, reap a character.' But we must go a step further back, we must sow the idea or notion which makes the act worth while." The role of parents--and all good teachers--is to sow ideas.

Last week, our seventeen-year-old son David gave me a great example. We left him home alone during our cruise. He wasn't truly alone for he had two dogs, a parakeet, and three fish to keep him company. When he wasn't caring for the menagerie, he was either attending school or checking in with my folks who live across the street. We left him with very few instructions: we asked him to take care of the pets and check in with his grandparents once a day. We gave him no curfew. We made no rules about illicit parties. Since he has never given us a reason to doubt his judgment, we thought it unnecessary.

He surprised us when we came home.

It took me about a day to figure out what he had been up to. We got home Tuesday night, and I spent Wednesday catching up and doing laundry. On Thursday, I cleaned the house to prepare for a visit from friends the next day. As I dusted, I noticed something very strange. THERE WAS NO DUST! None in the dining room, living room, or office. The downstairs bathroom looked suspiciously clean. I couldn't find any dust bunnies sleeping in the corners either.

Then, I realized what David had been doing when he wasn't getting screen time, studying, banging on the drums, or playing his guitar! We never told him to clean. We never offered to pay him. When he came home from school, I asked him why. He told me that he always sees me cleaning before Dad returns from a business trip. He knows it makes his dad feel comfortable . . .

Through RDI, we are doing the same thing with Pamela: sowing ideas, hoping some will take root, and waiting to see what sprouts. Today, I reaped a bumper crop of fruit.

Many people with autism struggle with face blindness. While she has no problem recognizing people she knows well, she struggles when she sees a familiar face in the wrong place. If she does not recognize someone right away, I usually let her know where we normally see the individual. Today, at watercolor class, the mother of the homeschooler gave me hope that Pamela is making progress on this front.

I usually sit up front with the choir during the first half of our church service. Last Sunday, my friend and her family sat in the same pew as my crew. Pamela slid into the pew next to her classmate, followed by David and Steve. She glanced over and the wheels began to turn. My friend, who understood that one of our goals is to let Pamela think for herself, waved and said, "Hi! Pamela!" She gave her absolutely no clue about where they usually see each other. Her daughter waved and greeted Pamela too.

Then, Pamela did the most amazing thing for someone who struggles with faceblindness. She waved back and said, "Hi, Abbie!" SHE REMEMBERED! I was almost in tears as my friend was relating this story to me.

Now, if that wasn't enough to fill my heart with treasure, five minutes later, Pamela wowed me again.

Her teacher introduced the new student in the class. She waved to us and said, "I'm Susan from G_____ville!" I could tell Pamela hadn't caught that. Knowing of her interest in towns that end in ville, I pointed to Susan and said, "This is Susan. She is from G_____ville." Again, the wheels began turning in Pamela's head. She suddenly realized she had no idea where anybody in the class lived. She pointed to Lisa very clearly and decisively and said, "Where do you live?" Lisa smiled and answered, "S_____ton." She pointed to Abbie, asked the same question, and got the same answer. Pamela turned to her teacher and repeated her query. Carrie said, "I live in S_____ton too. Where do you live?" Pamela told her.

What strikes me the most about both of these situations is Pamela's inner motivation. Often the emphasis in the autism world is to prompt ASD children into learning the social graces before people are on their radar screen. That seems backward to me. A child who is interested in people will need much less direct teaching and prompting because "the idea or notion which makes the act worth while" has already sprouted. In Pamela's case, she first became interested in paying attention to us with the help of RDI. As she began to understand us better, she became interested in paying attention to other people. As she begins to understand people better, she has the inner motivation to interact with others, ask meaningful questions, and have short conversations without being prodded.

One good Bible study leads to another. So, I will close with a quote from The Prodigal God by Tim Keller, a book that has rocked my world. Deepening our understanding, not rules, is what relationships are all about!
What makes you faithful or generous is not just a redoubled effort to follow moral rules. Rather, all change comes from deepening your understanding of the salvation of Christ and living out of the changes that understanding creates in your heart. Faith in the gospel restructures our motivations, our self-understanding, our identity, and our view of the world. Behavioral compliance to rules without heart-change will be superficial and fleeting.


Robin Sampson said...


I got excited to read about the Bible study: The Prodigal God by Tim Keller. This sounds like one of my favorites--The Dancing God by Baxter Kruger. Google it and you can download the book and audio free. Love this message about both sons.

For some reason I need to tell myself (probably from past church abuse)the Father ran and kissed and hugged the prodigal son even before he said he was sorry.

Thanks for the visit. I'm off to browse your blog.

walking said...

Thanks Robin! I'll have to check your favorites too.

Don't forget! He also went to the older, legalistic son and BEGGEd him to come and enjoy the feast!