I love lounging around in bed on Sunday mornings. However, this Sunday morning I didn’t have the luxury to do so.
We had a news channel crew coming over to record a segment about our children on the autism spectrum.
I was not happy about having to give my Sunday up.
Imagine the plight of Rishi, Paawan, Tanay and Mohit! Which teenager or young adult likes to ‘work’ on a Sunday?
The TV were scheduled to arrive at 11 AM but they arrived at 12.30 PM!
It was a little difficult for the boys, but they went for a car drive, played with their iPads and listened to music.
The teachers lovingly set up art and music activities. Bless them! They gave up their family time to be part of our Sunday ‘adventure’.
The shoot wrapped up in an hour. The boys cooperated and went through the motions. I was interviewed about autism and my aspirations for my students. The mothers were interviewed about their hopes and dreams for their children.
By the end of it, we were hungry and game for lunch. We landed up at a popular in Bandra for the Mughlai cuisine.
We were told that we would have to wait for 5 minutes. The wait extended beyond 15 minutes, but the young boys waited patiently.
When we finally got our tables, the service was slow. Again, the boys waited without complaining.
They went through each course and ended with dessert, calm and at peace with themselves.
We were surrounded by a noisy bunch of 4-5 year olds, who were prancing around the place, visibly enjoying their Sunday. We parents were worried that the noise they created would bother the boys, but were delighted to see that it didn’t.
We chatted, joked, and enjoyed a leisurely Sunday lunch.
Life is dynamic, and often chaotic.
I was pleasantly surprised to see how well the boys adjusted. The following points stood out:
1. They went with the flow
The situation was highly dynamic. But everyone went with the flow. None of us knew what to expect. We played it by the ear. And so did these youngsters.
2. They adapted
The situation called for many adaptations. Moving to different rooms, changes in activities, traveling by rickshaws and sitting at different tables are just some of the situations that we encountered.
I must say that the boys scored full marks!
3. They managed the uncertainty
We did not know how long we would have to wait. The ‘five minutes’ kept getting extended. But the boys did remarkably well despite the chaos which surrounded them.
4. They were open to the experience
Tanay and Paawan had never eaten at Caravan Serai before. They were not aware of the buffet system. And yet they were open to exploring the cuisine and the restaurant.
5. They understood the situation
Each one of them displayed an understanding of the situation. Whether it was during the shoot or at the restaurant, they played their part brilliantly.
The mothers were pleasantly surprised too.
I analyzed it from the view point of dynamic intelligence.
According to Dr Steven Gutstein, real world problem solving requires great skill in adapting to uncertainty and change.
Dynamic Intelligence involves-
- Continuous monitoring and regulation
- Relative thinking
- Good-enough thinking
You and I do this on a regular basis, don’t we? And we don’t even think twice about it.
Surely you’ve experienced times when you’re scheduled to leave for a meeting and suddenly something ‘urgent’ comes up at home. Or you are scheduled to present at a conference in an hour and your laptop crashes suddenly. Or even worse, its 8 pm and you’re just reaching home when your husband calls you and informs you that 4 friends will be coming over with him for dinner. And… you haven’t started cooking yet!
You and I manage these situations pretty well, don’t we (at least we hope we do)?
As parents of young adults on the autism spectrum we have hopes and dreams for our children.
We want them to-
- Become as independent as possible
- Enjoy real friendships and relationships
- Find suitable employment
The basic requirement to develop this is – yes – dynamic intelligence.
The young boys mentioned in this article have not developed dynamic intelligence by ‘magic’. It is a result of hard work by the parents, under the supervision of a qualified consultant.
My dear friend, the TV shoot and the restaurant scenario may be commonplace for you.
But ask a mom of a child on the Autism Spectrum.
This is huge and it spells massive progress. Especially if we keep in mind that each of these youngsters had a rough time under identical circumstances a couple of years ago.
At the end of it all, it was a Sunday well spent.
We left with a content heart and an overfull stomach!
And do you know what the best part was?
Not a single person ‘stared’ at the boys.
Goes to show how well behaved they were!
Priti’s (Tanay’s mom and RDI Consultant) smile said it all.
“Being a Sunday there was huge rush in the restaurant and there was noise everywhere, but Tanay could regulate himself,” she said. “Even physical touch with other kids did not bother him. He was looking at them but stayed calm. Secondly he was waiting to be served and also decided what to have after tasting the things. One aspect that bothers him while going out is using the washroom in unfamiliar places. This time he could overcome that uncertainty also and after using washroom there, he was relaxed and relished his lunch.”
Isn’t that amazing? What a way to be reminded of this important aspect of life!
Here are some steps that you can follow at home and begin experiencing this ‘magic’ of dynamic intelligence in your child:
1. Slow down
Slow your rate and volume of speech down. Be present in the moment with your child. Give him time to process what you are saying. Do not repeat instructions often.
2. Plan your engagements
Set up simple frameworks which have clear roles for you and your child.
These could be simple things that you do around the house. Drying clothes, washing dishes, putting things away and making your bed are good examples of frameworks that you can work with.
Planning these frameworks will ensure that you create the right mindset for yourself and set up adequate challenge for your child.
3. Create a mental challenge
Once your child understands his role, add ‘just noticeable differences’. Once he feels competent in it, add a ‘challenge’ – a small problem that your child has to solve. Success will lead to him feeling competent. And competence leads to intrinsic motivation.
For example – if you are hanging t-shirts on a hanger and if the hangers run out. What will the child do? There may be more than one right answer, but leave it to the child to come up with something appropriate.
4. Invest in your emotions
This is very important. Add emotions to the feedback loop. Share your joy and happiness. Use facial expressions. In focusing on getting tasks done, we forget to be in the moment and share our feelings.
All families who work with us implement these steps regularly with their children. Do try them with your children too. I’m confident that these steps will help jumpstart the development of dynamic intelligence.
Feel free to ask me any questions, either in comments or through email. I will be happy to help in your quest for an enhanced quality of life for your family.
Kamini Lakhani is a, RDI program consultant and the Director of SAI School (ABA Center) and SAI Connections (RDI Center). She has over 19 years of experience working with individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders and currently serves as the director of our RDI Professional Training Center in Mumbai. She is the Director of SAI School (ABA Center) and SAI Connections (RDI Center)