Lesson #8: Reciting a rule or principle doesn’t mean that it is understood.
I was very surprised when I realized that my son’s ability to recite a rule or principle didn’t necessarily mean that he understood the rule or principle, could recall it in context, or apply it in a situation. I would often wonder why he would repeat phrases I had uttered but not follow through with the appropriate action. I started asking him what he thought the rules meant, and more often than not, his reply would be “I don’t know.”
I stopped just uttering “lessons for life,” and I started showing him as much as possible; I used everything around us as a tool: television programs, trips to the grocery store, walks in the mall, conversations I heard from people we passed, signs in home improvement stores, and even signs in the park. Our world has become our school, and I have used everything imaginable to “drive my verbal lessons home.”
I have had to search for ways to teach him that are concrete, explicit, and rule-based. He’s good at First-Then sequences, so I use lots of case statements and visuals. He likes video-based instruction, so I’ve enlisted his cousins as his “peer actors.” They love to try to teach him new things, because I reward them when they succeed. I’ve retrained him using puppets, and demonstrations. I constantly remind myself that the lessons are not easy for him to learn, because what is natural and implicit for me has to be taught to him in a way that makes sense to him.
It’s really a challenge, but we’re making progress. If I keep the lessons short and engaging and repeat them enough, I can say, “Wow, he’s got it now!”
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