I am excited to write this blog ( starting a series to help with strategies for the home and schoolroom) for so many reasons! By the end of this series I may have covered them all, but we will start off with the foundations for why I think this topic is incredibly important for the ASD community.
Tools of the mind is a book that takes a developmental approach for children…typical children, It is written for teachers, to give them tools in the classroom to help their students construct knowledge from their experience and memories. To help equip children with Mental tools as quoted in the Preface “ Mental tools are ideas we learn from others, modify and then pass on.” This is the link from Amazon about the book, http://www.amazon.com/Tools-Mind-Vygotskian-Childhood-Education/dp/0130278041/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1321685132&sr=8-1
and this is a link on a write up about the approach. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/27/magazine/27tools-t.html?pagewanted=4
This book does not reference children with ASD. So why, as a mom who has heard “your child has autism” twice… am I writing about the Vygotskian approach covered in this book? The reason is…I want to take you on my journey, with my own two children, on why I find it crucial to look at typical development for the answers in how to help children with Autism. I mean we all know this…our kids are not developing typically, and the gap widens with each year. We are told Autism is a developmental delay. We even know ASD children and adults struggle with executive function , social referencing, , relationships ,Experience seeking, perspective taking, etc . Only recently ( alittle over a decade) have we started to piece together, looking at typical development to help children with ASD. Before this, the philosophies of behaviorism were used for our children, even though behaviors were just the by product of what was lacking developmentally. Even with our children’s health, looking at typical development helps us to understand what health conditions may co exist with a child’s neurological delay. This is why supplements like Fish oils, Enzymes, and probiotics can be very helpful to children on the spectrum. They help to restore typically developing body chemistry in the health system of our children( Co occurring condition), so that the developmental gaps can be effectively addressed ( ASD).
Let’s back up 8 years ago…my older son was 7 ( Diagnosed at 3) and my younger son was 2 ( just diagnosed a few months before). As a parent, I felt like I was living this totally different life then my friends with their NT kids. At this point I had an older son who was not affected and then 2 sons diagnosed. I had to approach parenting very differently, contrary to how I always thought about my own parenting style in my head. I felt this huge disconnect…like I was running on this huge hamster wheel, reacting to everything but not going anywhere. I t would take the birth of my daughter..for me to be reacquainted with what a typical baby can actually do…and how much we really take for granted in terms of mental cognition. Of course any parent with a child with ASD no longer takes any mental state for granted!
As I watched my little girl, and then watched my two sons, it was like I was dealing with two different *species* of children. I kept saying to myself, why the disconnect..I mean, after all, they are all children. How do I give my boys, what my daughter has *naturally*? I realize this is the million dollar question! And I definitely realize that each child is unique. As I really delved into this question, attended seminars, conferences, etc, it became apparent to me some of the questions I chased after… And yes, vygotsky’s theory of development does have a role in my journey, along with other theorists.
So it makes sense now, my oldest son who was diagnosed on the spectrum is now almost 15 and my youngest son is 10…why I want to blog about Tools of the mind. They are both school age, with my one son a freshman in high schoo( Both no longer struggle with the core deficits of Autism). Schools today are struggling with helping children be good creative thinkers and problem solvers…but schools today for ASD? Yikes. I weep when I read stories about abuse in the school, on the bus, etc. it is far to commonplace. There is a lot I could comment on about this topic, and perhaps that will be for another day, but for now, I have to just state that I believe teachers want to teach, but our education system is so rigid on accumulating information that we have lost the art of helping children to think…I mean think, reflect, and make decisions. This will definitely be covered in more detail in some of the upcoming chapters. So if we, as a society, struggle to educate *typical* children, then how are we doing when it comes to children with ASD? THAT…is one of the goals of this series!
That first quote at the beginning of my post, “Mental tools are ideas we learn from others, modify and then pass on.” That is exactly what my own journey has been like. My mental tools in the world of Autism, and how I have come to modify what I have learned, and pass on.
Tools of the mind is not a book on Autism…but is a book on ALL children. I will also get into this more as we dive into the book, but the intervention I chose for my two sons ultimately was based on the very same premise…the information on how to HELP children with Autism is found in the world of Typical development. Taking the same plan, and *redoing* it because our kids missed out on those milestones the first time because of Autism. RDI ( Relationship development intervention) is based on many of the same principles of the work of different cognitive developmentalists, including Vygotsky. RDI applies this knowledge concerning typical development, to ASD…bridging that great divide and making, well at least for this mom, like all her children were following the same plan!
Next up…Chapter one of “tools of the mind”… I hope you will join me with this book, going over strategies for supporting our ASD children in their classrooms…working off of principles from the model of typical development!