May 22, 2012

Don’t tell me; show me!

In the hopes of teaching, we tend to “tell” kids what to do. We prompt, instruct, direct, and correct the child into learning. For most children on the spectrum, this creates strong anxiety and resistance. We become the “instructor” and they become the “doer”. This places strong task performance anxiety on them. They often freeze under pressure, when put on the spot, ...and resist as we increase the prompting. This instructional style of teaching is not very effective with children on the spectrum, although we do it all the time. We prompt, direct, correct, and then reinforce. We “tell” and they “do!”

We need to be mentors, or coaches, rather than “instructors.” We need to teach by doing it with them, right alongside them, scaffolding the activity to maximize success. Avoid standing back, instructing them every step of the way; making them do it, as we prompt and correct. When the child is doing with you, it takes the pressure off, and minimizes task performance anxiety. You let them “feel” how to do it, by doing it with you. They “follow your lead”, learning “through” you, by doing “with” you. They start by assisting you, while you scaffold the guidance so they feel themselves tackling the challenge. As the child becomes more competent you gradually transfer more and more responsibility to him. This “guided participation” lowers the anxiety, teaches by showing and doing, and maximizes success with skillful guidance. The child sees you as a “working partner” with them, and you become a “trusted guide” for them. Stop being and “instructor”, be a “mentor!”

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