Sunday, May 04, 2008

On cognitive responsibility, episodic memories, and lawn mowing

I've been thinking a lot recently about Austin's future. He will be a "middle schooler" this fall. It's natural to think about our goals and his goals and how to get there. It's too early yet to know if Austin will be able to go to college or not, so my plan of attack for him is really two-fold: 1. advance academically at his pace, as far as he is able to go; and 2. work on practical skills that will hopefully help him with independent living, including finding and keeping a job.

Today we worked on the latter with him, through lawn mowing. DH is in charge of this particular activity because I'm still a little nervous about the whole "my baby is mowing the grass" thing! :) Previously when Austin mowed the grass, DH worked with him closely, scaffolding the process so he would feel successful. Now, DH wanted to "transfer cognitive responsibility" over to Austin. That's a fancy term in Guided Participation Relationship Models for "getting him to think it through for himself as soon as he is able, rather than being prompted by us on what to do." So DH just told him to cut "his" side of the front yard, plus the back yard (We have one side of the front that has two low trees and it's difficult to mow over there so that's Daddy's part of the yard to mow). Then DH came inside for a drink of water.

After awhile, he went back out to check on Austin's progress. He noticed that Austin was mowing the lawn in his own pattern, not the one Daddy had shown him. DH asked about this and Austin said, "I do better when I mow it like this. It's easier for me." That is SO awesome... thinking about what he's doing, and how it works best for him! Also, DH noticed some patches Austin missed. He didn't say anything about them, but Austin went on, "I missed a couple of places. I'm going to go back over them at the end." He's evaluating his job... didn't get upset over not getting it perfect the first time, realized he can fix it, and that it will be good enough.

Austin came in for a drink of water after completing the front yard. He showed me a little cut he had on his leg. He told me, "A year ago, I would have been upset and cried and wanted a band-aid. But now that I'm older, I can handle it. I just looked at it and told myself that it's not really bleeding, and I turned the lawnmower back on!" I'm so glad he has the episodic memories of handling these smaller cuts now. Even the tiniest cut before used to result in a huge meltdown and screams for bandages. (And Reece is there right now, so it gives me hope for her as soon as she's progressed a bit more developmentally! LOL) I'm so glad that he can use "self-talk" (as I understand it from Awakening Children's Minds) to work through this now!

Then, he went to check in with Dad to make sure he understood what to do about the backyard. That's an RDI objective we've been working on! Nice to see it applied in everyday life! Dad told him to mow the tall grass (aka Fescue). He did it to completion... parked the lawnmower, and came in the house. He was tired, sore, thirsty, and full to the BRIM with confidence in himself! He talked with each of us a couple of times about the mowing and how tired he is. But it was just a few times, and not too over the top. I see it as encoding the positive episodic memories!

DH and I are really pleased with how it went today. It's going to be very important for me to remember that these sort of experiences and activities are every bit as important for Austin's future as academics are!


poohder said...

Amen to that last statement and BRAVO Austin! (and Dad and MOM)

Chef Penny said...

Awesome! What an important concept! You're right though these lessons are every bit as important as the academics. I struggle with it too!