...similarly questions are the same for him.
A few days ago, I had asked him a question as to why he likes Indian cars more than US cars. That put him in a spin. He started talking through his thinking and was not really clear why I had asked him that question. Did I mean that he should not like Indian cars ? Did I mean that he should know more about US cars ?
We actually discussed through that like part of it - what could be the reason; he had spent more parts of his life in India ? There were new cars every year in India and he could incrementally learn ? Always the first like is a lasting like ? etc etc...
But to us, it gave us a model... There are three types of questions:
- Learning Questions - the questions people ask him, when they do not know something. Like when he is asked directions
- Thought Questions - the questions people ask him, when they want to get his opinion or his reasoning - things that make him think about the topic or himself. There are no right and wrong, but its very subjective
- Test Questions - the questions people ask him, when they want to know what he knows.
- We worked on the comprehension. We have a guide who comes home for 2hrs/week and works on stories with him. Try to structure his imagination to a cogent set of thoughts. Some of the key words we have used are: "What is the central idea" ? "Central theme" ? "What is peripheral ?" etc.
- We worked on "structured Chaos" - Take an unknown situation, like assembling railway-model and then "try" it. The key-words we used were: "Lets try", "Lets make a guess, even if it is wrong", "lets take 3 guesses"
- Focus on the "effort" and not "result". I believe this has resonated with DS. Basically, in any thing, we want him to try; and we rated him on his "effort" in the scale of 1 to 10; and not made a big deal of result. So, when he does something, we used to say, "your effort today was "10", and the result was "7", but when you did the same thing a week ago, your effort was "10", but result was only "3". The intent being, if he puts in an honest effort, the results would improve. I think he has understood this.
- We focused on physical activity (with a physical trainer - Master Jay - see the link here - the write-up on the last para); Master Jay comes home and trains with DS twice a week - not just physical exercise that helps him in his posture, but also inter-hemispheric integration and proprioceptive awareness. We believe it has helped DS stay with a conversation, make him more perseverant and be present to the situation. Needless to say, when I work with him on rest of the days, I always have used the 'effort' and 'result' grading !
- We worked on his independence - ability to plan his time, calendar and finish per calendar. This is in rudimentary stage :-).
We would love to find some "magic" on the motivation part. When he likes something, he goes all the way - not just with the cars (surprise !), but also his learning comes through clearly, in areas when he wants to apply. For example, he doesn't like math very much - my view is that, that is because, in math one is either right or wrong; and he doesn't like being wrong. So learning math is always stressful for him; he wants to check-mark it and finish whatever is in front of him in the paper. Thats the background.
His mother has instituted a process with him, where he earns money and spends money. The way he earns money is by doing things faster than the assigned time. So, if he has 20 minutes to do something, he finishes it in 15, he is 5m early - this will earn twice that - so he earns 10c. He uses this money to spend on what he likes - watching movies, taking breaks, chicken etc.
Few days ago, he was short on cash; he owed his mother some 18c, by end of the day. So, before he went to bed, he declared that he would do one of his chores in 14minutes (which has the allocated time of 20min) and will get the another chore done in 7 minutes (assigned time of 10min). That does take care of the 20c he owed. I was really surprised that he worked this out mentally - the equation I saw was 18 = (12 = [20-14] x 2) + (6 = [10 - 7] x 2)... This has mental addition, multiplication and subtraction...
So where does this motivation come from ? How do we leverage this ? Ideas ?
We went back and checked our notes (thanks to DW, who diligently keeps diary of each and every day of his food habits, his behaviour etc for the past several years), and we found similar impact/benefit earlier too.
Talked to the doctor here and he said he has heard similar stories from other parents.
Of course, during illness he is also on a very strict GFCFSF (sugar-free) diet, since he just eats Rice-dosa and rasam-rice... (but because of his dehydration, we did give him salt+sugar water).
Wonder if there is a connection between AB and being in the moment !
DS just had a flu and came out of it - He seem to have come out of the chrysalis phase suddenly ! Wonder if this is due to the Antibiotics, but more on that later..
Another incident: usually he goes to Gym in the morning with his mom. Few days ago, he was holding the door for DW and her friend to come out. The friend of surprised at the chivalry - his response: I was holding the door for both of you like a gentleman. Additionally, he also remembered and thanked our friend for a very good chicken curry when he met her at the gym - the curry, the friend had shared the day before. He told her that the food was very good !
To crown this all (can there be anything more ?), DS is very scared of the vacuum cleaner noise, such that we use it at home when he is not around. At DS's school, they were trying to make the kids learn to use vacuum, but DS was so scared of it. However, in a class discussion, he had set a goal for himself that he'd use the vacuum and will overcome the fear of vacuum cleaner noise. Two days after that resolution, he spilled cheese by mistake. When the teacher asked" how are we going to clean", expecting DS to say, "I will pickup". To the teacher's surprise, DS said, "I will use the vacuum to clean" and went ahead to do so. His teacher was blown away...he immediately called home to let us know. Now DS feels very proud about overcoming his fear!!!
We are crossing our fingers and toes. DS seems to have gone to the next level of self-awareness and self-regulation. He understands what could offend and is building concentric circles of social behaviour - what is acceptable within home isn't acceptable with his cousins; and what is with them will not be acceptable outside of them.
Will keep you all posted.
Regarding DS, he has moved on from the middle school (where he had really settled and doing well) into high school. In US, going to high school implies, one physically shifts school. For both, DW and I, this was one of trepidation. As expected, DS had enormous challenges in settling in the school. We started with resource classes and special day classes. He seemed to have hard time coping with difficulty quotient that he had become disruptive in the class; and we had complaints frequently. So we had to pull him off these resource class (and replace it with work at home - more of that later). Also, the school resource specialist have worked with the class teacher for certain techniques. Since the past couple of months, DS seems to have settled down very well at school and he now says he loves the school and the teachers in his class* (* see note at the end of this post).
Re his development, physically he has grown very tall - taller than 5'10" (and just hit 14) and stronger, helps me carry grocery bags from the car, including 20-25 pound rice bags. He continues to go to Karate & Tennis class. Over the summer, he has learned to swim the breadth of the pool without keeping his foot down and breathing between strokes. He now goes to once a week swim class, where the teacher says he is quite a natural in his back-stroke. As the soccer season got over, the basket ball started. He wants and is very excited to go to the basket-ball practices.
On the emotional intelligence side: he has become quite flexible - the techniques we learned at Pace Place has helped in getting him to break most of his inflexible rules - so much so that his mother can drive a car (but he would not sit with her - knowing how she drives, even I dont :-) ). He has learned to be in the grey area - or the understanding of it. He has begun rating his experience from 0 to 10 - so its always not black or white as it was before. It was a moment of revelation for us, when he rated two bad experience in negative. And articulated that -3 was worser than -1. He has pretty much on his own on the computer these days - surfing to check for cars, researching about maruti and see helicopter crashes... Sometime, I do wish he surfs the normal ;-) sites that teenagers of his age do !!
Socially, he is more in the group. During our annual winter pilgrimage to India, he was sitting with the group whenever we visited our friends. He also attempted and succeeded quite well in asking return questions to keep the conversation going. The biggest change we saw this time, he didn't try to remove himself from the group setting, but continued to sit with all of us.
On the learning side: His comprehension is improving; we are looking using Linda-Mood Bell of visualizing for reading comprehension. Somehow we believe the time has come where he is ready for higher level of comprehension, that may aid his learning. DW is reading a book on that (link here). We have also effectively used the captive-attention time, via long drives: we typically take a long drive through the suburbs in the sparse weekend traffic, during which we have a very fruitful and productive engagement. Stories (that he makes up) have become an effective way for him to communicate his thoughts and experiences. We believe, through the stories, he is not only getting the intellectual understanding, but also internalizing the message.
In the mindmap model I had posted earlier (link here), I believe, DS has made progress in the flexibility, problem solving, perspective taking, understanding the gray areas and some level of independence. He is also begun to accept failures, which implies he is no longer worried about being wrong and hence not attempting. Simply, DW instituted a simple approach - during the long drives, she will ask a question and DS has to attempt 5 answers including 4 wrong answers. Being ok with wrong, we believe, will in turn reduce some of his anxiety.
So, here we go ! 2011 will be the year of 20++ :-) That is how I want to look at this after the 2010...
* After all the tribulations of settling down in the high school, DS was one of the 3 students awarded for making the greatest progress since joining ! P....r....o....u.....d !! Of the effort he has made to get here.