Dream Come True (Learning)

(Chronicled by DM)
One day DS came from school very excited, handing me  some brochures and stating, "I get to go in a stretch limo, if I do this". It was a school program for school children to recruit subscribers for magazines; who gets the most, gets to go by stretch Limo for school dance. DS wasn't quiet sure about what needs to be done, but he was filled with enthusiasm and very optimistic that he will sell more so he could enjoy the experience of going in stretch Limo. This is quiet unusual of DS, first sharing about something that happened in school and secondly showing a great motivation!!!

At that time (about 2 years ago), I was very thrilled we have a good external motivator as DS was resisting to learn anything new, we came with an plan of learning to do 16 (his favorite number) new different things; and named it Stretch Limo Project, wrote the list in the white board (9th Jan 2010). DS was very excited at the idea and was eagerly looking forward to go in Stretch Limo. I thought he would learn the 16 things which will create a bank of successful learning memories for him. We planned,  we would start learning from the list during weekends. After initial few weeks,there was resistance and avoidance. It dawned on me that DS is not feeling competent to learn as there were many gaps in his learning process and also negative memories associated with learning, as a result he is shutting down, just finishing that is minimally required or just plain avoidance. 

In order to activate the learning process for DS, the main things were
  • ability to accept novelty/new 
  • ability to tolerate uncertainty 
  • replace old negative memories associated to new positive memories
I wanted to facilitate to regulate his emotions, creating experiences, increase his awareness while learning, gradually reducing the guidance, making him independent. I understood the regulating DS emotions was key to reduce his learning anxiety, which I learnt from PACE place. I spotlighted the following which evolved over a year responding to DS needs.
  • Encourage DS to ask for help if he doesn't know. It is ok, if DS doesn't know - it can be learned; but it is also a process which takes time. Somethings can be learnt quickly, something takes hours to days.
  • Let him observe, show and share how we learn when we don't know: Experience of looking for unknown things at  Fry's, Best Buy - they were good places to role model.
  • Give DS easy work (which he has learnt) Vs New.
  • Ask DS to rate how he felt his learning experience from 10-difficult to 10-easy. Every experience starts as 10-difficult, over a period of time becomes 10-easy.
  • It is ok to make mistakes, which are part of learning - Share about the mistakes we and others make.
  • Make guesses without worrying if the answer is right or wrong.
  • Trying again and again, same and different ways.
  • Positive learning attitude for learning giving our best; not just finishing.
  • Change his ingrained thoughts to positive ones. DS thinks he is not good if he makes mistakes or doesn't know.
DS ability to learn, try new things and tolerate uncertainty had increased to great extent. DS is able to reflect some negative memories, figuring out how to change them to good episodic memories.

One week we decided to work only on Limo Project, which made him realise that if he does everyday, more than one, he could learn faster. During last summer holidays (in 2011), DS decided to work on two things everyday, so he could finish all the 16 which he did (20th Aug 2011).  However, unfortunately, we could not hire the limo soon after for variety of reasons - school, non-availability, time-change etc.

So this year, as DS enjoys when the weather is warm, we planned to hire a stretch-limo during Spring break.  With DD's niece/her husband, we set up an elaborate plan, saying that we were all going out in their car, that was parked in the visitor's parking. Getting to their car, we just walked past the limo ! 

As we did that, DD  surprised DS by revealing we are going in streach limo. A great suprise for DS, and his dream has come true. The Stretch limo project has created a postive learning experience, which I feel is our foundation for future learning.