You are Worried your Child Will Want to Lead but Not Learn.
Some parents expressed their concerns with me regarding letting the child lead rather than follow during therapy sessions.
- By letting the child lead, wouldn’t he choose not to follow instructions and thus not be able to learn instead?
- Does following the child’s interests mean giving in to his every whim?
- Wouldn’t the child be hard to control if we let him have his way all the time?
But your Child Will Learn Better When He's Allowed to Lead.
A child will refuse to learn as along as he is not motivated regardless of whether he is leading in the class or not. Children are usually inquisitive by nature and thus enjoy play. Play allows them to find out about things that they are capable of doing and motivate them to want to learn more about things. Even children who are repetitive in their play – they are motivated by the sensation that they can do this repeated action over again and again, allowing them control over what they can do instead of being reminded of what they cannot do. By allowing the child to lead, we are assuring the child that he is able and capable and we are interested to know what he can do. We are giving him the attention that he needs. He will enjoy the attention as all children do and when he is hooked on getting your attention, he will be motivated to learn from you because he wants that same good feeling he gets whenever you are pleased with him.
When we are talking about letting the child take the lead, it does not mean letting the child have what he wants all the time. It just means allowing the child to show you what he enjoys doing. In other words, play with the child and observe his interests and strengths. It means getting to know the child and teach him according to his level instead of teaching him based on what you think he should be able to do. Play is an informal tool that allows the child to express himself without the worries of being overwhelmed by unrealistic expectations. What worked for you as a child or what worked for his siblings might not be the case for your child who is on the spectrum. Thus use play to allow the child to lead you into understanding what he is like and to build a rapport with him based on your understanding of his personality. Once he is comfortable playing and interacting with you, then you can gradually lead more by carrying out your lesson plans.
- Remember that ‘control’ is never a goal. We want to educate the child so that he can learn and improve his quality of life. When you have that aim to control your child so as to teach him, you most probably will fail to teach him well and he most probably will not learn well due to stress. Teaching and learning is very much like interaction. You cannot get your idea across to one another if only one person is taking command over the whole interaction. On the other hand, you also do not want to be too permissive when educating your child because without proper rules and structure, he will also adopt the behaviour of task avoidance and tardiness. Thus it is important to strike a balance and this is where the back and forth exchange of leading the class is involved. Find opportunities to observe and learn more about your child by creating instances for him to play and lead, then form rules for him to follow in order to learn from you and to get what he wants or likes. You can be firm without being controlling. You can still be the fun parent while being the pedantic teacher!
Become a Team with Your Child to Forge a Meaningful, Lasting Learning Relationship.
You most probably have not been yielding much anticipated results the demanding and authoritarian way because your child or student is most probably too stressed out to learn properly. Put yourself in this position – will you be able to do your work well in an environment that causes you to feel fearful?
When your lesson plans are more sensitive to your child’s learning needs and level, you will find that he will usually achieve what are being set to him. Thus you gradually will find that nobody is leading in this class but rather a team of parent (or professional) and child is being built, bringing the relationship to a whole new level of trust and success. Also, while tasks might be broken down into small, achievable steps, you will also find that more things get done over time leading to better results reaped by your child.
Finally, understand that letting your child lead is not being permissive to their every request. Rather, it is to create opportunities for you to understand and learn about him better so that you can design rules and lesson plans that are sensitive to his needs and level in order to facilitate his development and growth for a better future and higher quality of life.
Whoever says being the teacher does not include you learning at the same time?