Being a parent with special needs children, I struggle with trying to find the best way for them to go back and learn, or re-learn for that matter, areas of development that are glaringly absent. I’ll use the example of social situations: My one son has been diagnosed as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). He has delays such as Severe Expressive/Receptive Language Disorder, Sensory Issues and other weaknesses in areas that are vital for success in this world.
I love studying the work of Maria Montessori. In my own opinion, the Montessori method is the very best way to “teach” a child. You see, in Montessori it takes the whole child into account and the “material” meets the child where they are at – not the child meeting the material and then struggling with it to “learn”. The term “material” is also relevant to what is actually being taught.
As I stated above, right now my children are really lagging is the area of social skills. They aren’t overtly rude, or wild and screaming at the top of their lungs. Both struggle with communication and auditory processing issues. So, rather than truly having a give/take conversation with you, it is more on the “talking at” you level. There are lots of skills that go into the art of conversation and for children with these types of issues, it is especially hard to learn. Patience and opportunity is the utmost of importance for them. If not, then you can almost guarantee behavioral issues to start appearing and then you have two big areas that need to be addressed.
I enjoyed this video because it is a good example of children learning the process of communication and the advancement of skill level that happens with proper support and encouragement. If you watch the video, you will also notice that the adults are very, very subtle in their instruction/direction/interaction with the children. They step back and observe the situation and when needed, gently step in and guide. They say it is good for children to struggle with learning, but not to the point of frustration.
This makes for a good point: Struggling while learning isn’t such a bad or horrible thing. ALL of us struggle with learning new things. Some of us just take longer or a more creative approach to learn the material presented. I believe the key to being able to freely struggle is that you have supports in place to help guide you in a positive and encouraging way, along with patience and understanding.
Take a look at the video and notice the overall tone in the classroom: Life is going on, it is buzzing with activity, everything isn’t perfect. However, the children are solving problems together, taking the time to be patient with each other and most of all supporting each other with kindness and respect. Those skills just don’t happen, then are nurtured and struggled with. They are exemplified by the adults teaching or guiding. It isn’t rushed and the lessons aren’t driving the children for an end goal that day. Rather, the lesson is being brought to each individual child and received right where that particular child is at in that moment. It allows for true learning at their own pace and understanding in their own timing.