Guidance for Independence

Goal of the Guidance

We adults are unaware of our daily behavior. We don't even remember that we were once told how to achieve them. Without knowing we have learned these behaviors and now it is almost automatic practice for us.

It is really hard to teach something that we think we have learned naturally. Some might think that a child would also learn naturally one day, like we did.

"Independence" for most of the people is something like that. Compared to this the memories that we have from school of learning to "read, write and calculate" or of exercises like "vaulting horse, climbing on the horizontal bar or jumping rope" seem far more difficult.

As a matter of fact, we encounter "independence" very early in our lives. It is not that we didn't learn it but that we have learned it but do not remember.

A child's first lesson in life is the "independence" which becomes the base of their whole life.

For example, this boy is smiling because he has just succeeded to do up a button. By this experience, he is acquiring many abilities such as

1) "confidence" that he could do it,
2) "a finger skill" for picking up a button,
3) "feel" of a button and a button hole,
4) "recognition of the space" between a button and a hole,
5) "understanding of the process and the rule" of pushing a button into a the hole, and
6) "paying attention" to the hands of a teacher and "mimicking" their movement.

It is also a step of liberating himself from "the dependance of needing someone" to "the freedom of independence". It is only a button, but it means a lot. There are lots of chances around us for nurturing a child's basic ability for life, if we carefully look around. "OK, if daily activities are so effective, I will teach them to the child." But when you try, it is not so easy. Are you feeling frustrated?

<1> "No I am not frustrated. My child cannot do it because he/she has a handicap."

Even with a handicap, we hope that each child will explore all the abilities he/she has and live in their community.

Children with an impairment of positive learning have characteristics of needing special guidance. If you think that the child will start learning,
"One day…"
"Once he/she starts to understand…."
then they will be hope in vain and will not help those children to improve. They are the children that can learn and will achieve when they are guided. So we want to start teaching them when they are still small.

There would be things that they cannot do even when they are grown up, but when a child is trying hard, it is easy for others to help.

<2> "But my child does not listen to me. If I try to ask him/her to sit down on the toilet, it will cause a big fuss!"

From their experiences, Adults tend to quit something after he/she has tried it a couple of times with unpleasant results. It causes tremendous stress when a child cries and shouts, so he/she tends to stop because "My child really hates this".

However, there are lots of things that children should learn even if they do not like it. We are not saying that the parents should endure the crying child day after day. But there should be some techniques for reducing the level of reluctance.

"Little by little"
You can add or reduce the amount, time, or movement.
"With comfort"
Change warmth, coldness, feel or object to give comfort to the child.
"With ease"
Set the little goal that will be easily achieved and will make a big success!

In this example, some parents are reaching the goal by warming the toilet and letting the child play with a favorite toy while he/she is sitting on it.

<3> "No matter how many times I tied, my child cannot make it. It is the same thing every day."

 If a child is 2-3 years old, some goals are hard to achieve as he/she is not physically strong enough or its senses are still undeveloped. If a child is older, each has characteristic "weakness" which becomes the causes of failure. In any case, we can think up something to counteract these weaknesses.

If a child is not good at finger manipulation, change the object into easier shape. If a child cannot understand the process, point out the places that can guide them. If he/she cannot understand the guidance, teach them with the body movement. It is also important to have persistence in teaching how much force should be used for that purpose. When "persistence and inventive devices" work together with the condition of the child, the possibility for improvement will become much higher.

Believe in the child, and let's make a step.

■From monthly journal "The Developmental Education"
Hideo Muto, Clinical Psychologist,
The Association of Remedial Teaching for People with Developmental Handicaps