I recently discovered a new world. The world of podcasts. Maybe discovered isn’t the right word. I knew they were there, and I even downloaded a couple a few years ago to listen to on a very long road trip. They didn’t really keep my interest though, and that was pretty much my experience with them, until now.
One of my co-workers told me about a few podcasts she thought I would enjoy. We have lots of discussions about James, development, and the brain. It’s fascinating to me, especially the brain. She told me about a podcast called Invisibilia. The hosts of Invisibilia explore the “intangible forces that shape human behavior – things like ideas, beliefs, assumptions, and emotions.” Basically they are looking at how all of the things we can’t see help to shape who we are. Interesting premise. The first Invisibilia podcast I listened to was called, “The Secret History of Thoughts.” What do your thoughts say about who you really are? Can you change who you are by changing your thoughts? I listened, was interested, and went back for more.
The one I’ve found most intriguing until now is called, “How to Become Batman.” This one explores the effect of expectations on the people around us. Definitely worth listening to. Just a little peek – They discuss an experiment done with lab rats. Some rats were labeled with signs that said things like ‘really smart’ or ‘a fast learner.’ Others were labeled with signs that said things like ‘will need extra help’ or ‘won’t be able to do it.’ Students were then charged with getting the rats to complete a maze. The results are fascinating. And, they talk to a blind man who can ride a bike, live independently, and “see.” Really. Highly recommend listening to this one!
I’ve thought about this a lot. Not just the podcast, but about the effect of expectations and does it make a difference. I thought about it ECI when I worked with children with a whole variety of developmental delays. Children who, according to doctors, wouldn’t be able to do the things they were doing. I think about it in my current job with developmentally delayed adults. And, I think about it most of all as James’ mom. How do our expectations effect him?
I think I have high expectations of James. I’ve been conscious about that from very early on. My personal belief is that people will, in general, meet you where you expect them to. That makes it part of my job as his mom to have high expectations. I have to so James can reach his full potential. Then I think about the fact that he isn’t potty trained yet, he doesn’t feed himself yet, and he doesn’t fall asleep on his own or even sleep in his own bed (Yikes, I know!!!). I could write paragraphs justifying each one of those, but maybe my expectations aren’t that high? I do expect him to understand some basic rules, to follow directions, to use words when he wants/needs something. I expect him to get along with his peers, to interact appropriately, to learn to stay near us in public, to be in bed at a certain time each night. There are lots of things like that I expect of him.
We talked about expectations (goals) for school during his IEP meeting a couple of weeks ago. It gets a little tricky because there are many things he’s already doing at home, but not showing his teachers at school yet. So they’ll work on things like counting with one to one correspondence, knowing letter sounds, and reading some basic sight words. Fair enough. Not super challenging, but it’s a good start.
Then he shows us he can do more.
James loves surprise eggs. He likes us to put stuff, anything, inside eggs so he can open them up. We put little wooden letters inside, plastic snakes, little erasers, little wooden shapes, really anything small enough to fit. When he opens them we’ll ask him questions like, “Ooooh, what’s that?” It’s very exciting stuff! Over the weekend he opened an egg and said, “It’s a square.” So I asked him what color the square is – he knows all of his colors, but we still ask. Instead of telling me the color he spelled square. I was shocked, and I wondered what else he knows how to spell, so I started asking him to spell words. And he did. More shocked. It’s interesting to me that he even understand the concept of spelling – that he responds with letters when asked to spell a word. Even if they aren’t the right letters, he still responds with letters. He has quite a list of words he knows how to spell. He is also starting to read. He knows some sight words and can read color words, number words, and a bunch of others. Wow, who knew?
James began by memorizing his favorite books. He would “read” them to us a lot. We noticed though, that when he got a little lost, he looked at the words to find his place again. He was making connections between what he saw and what he said. It seems that it’s all sticking, and I can’t tell you how excited that makes me! He has always been interested in letters, words, and numbers, a little obsessed really. When it turned toward obsession we began to wonder whether we should encourage it or not. Should we distract him with other things? Will it ever be functional? After watching the movie Temple Grandin and listening to her speak, we decided we’re going to keep encouraging it. Expanding it, but encouraging it. She talks a little about obsessions here (just scroll down a bit), and how you can turn them into something positive.
So we’re encouraging and we’re raising our expectations. And yes, we need to work on some of those other things too – like potty training, feeding himself, and even sleeping in his own bed. Surely he’s showing us that he’s ready for big things!
Oh, and one more thing. If you’re new to podcasts, like me, I have one word for you. Serial. It’s become my obsession.