Sunday, September 25, 2011

Parent - teacher meetings and the paradigm shift

Parent – teacher meetings are often held in order to address challenging behavior a child may exhibit in the classroom. 

Unfortunately in most cases teachers use clichés to explain behavior  - he is being controlling , manipulative and attention seeking . Even if the kid has a dx- diagnosis which implies lagging skills like autism, there is a tendency to dismiss the dx and say that  the parent is using the dx as an excuse for bad behavior. Teachers expect a miracle – that the parents will motivate the kid and  impress on him that his behavior is unacceptable and then things will change.

The way to change the teacher's thinking and help them make the paradigm shift is to engage them with questions challenging the clichés used to explain behavior , let them start thinking about your child and explore the possibilities that his difficulties are due to lagging skills. Engaging teachers in the process of discovery helps them sink their teeth into the subject of lagging skills and unsolved problems getting in the way of the kid. It  leads to light bulb moments , changes in paradigm, regret on past strategies that may have made the situation worse , more compassion and resolve to try something new.

  Children do well if they can .   Would you not agree that kids would prefer to do well, be successful and fit in adaptively?

If kids are looking bad – hitting, screaming, yelling, throwing, biting etc is it logical to say that they prefer ' looking bad' to being successful and adaptive ? Attention seeking, trying to get what you want, or avoid doing things are but one explanation for their behavior. Don't we all seek attention, try and get what we want, or avoid certain things.  Would not the difference be that we have the skills to get attention, what we want and avoid things in an adaptive and appropriate way , whereas these kids don't have these skills , wouldn't this be a more accurate explanation ? Would not the words controlling and manipulative be more appropriate to a kid who had very sophisticated thinking skills?

 A kid looking bad happens when the demands placed upon him outstrip the skills he has -  I would appreciate help from you in thinking about his lagging skills and when , where etc they are mostly challenged. Here is a check list of lagging skills that behaviorally challenged kids display. Could you check off the list and describe the context where the lagging skill is exhibited.

   These are the questions we need to ask. -   who is he , what are his lagging skills, pile of unsolved problems , what is getting in his way and what does he need ? 

    The Collaborative problem solving process not only will solve actual problems  but the process itself will indirectly teach so many lagging cognitive skills. We need to see the kid as an ally in solving problems and  collaborate with him. He has to see us as allies who understand him and willing to address his concerns and help him become successful.

Even when teachers see that there are problems, their thinking is driven by what resources or solutions are available or rather where the kid should be – regular classroom or ED – emotionally disturbed classroom. This type of thinking and decision making leaves the most important questions about the kid left unanswered .

  We need to focus on - who is he , what are his lagging skills, pile of unsolved problems , what is getting in his way and what does he need ? 

  Then we can ask what would be the most suitable environment that can address his needs.


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