Monday, April 10, 2006

Shoelace Tying Teacher...

perhaps that should be what I should say I am.

Yesterday, while eating a sandwich at the park in front of my local library I watched the children on their bicycles across the street and the dogs that were with their owners in the park and I must have been smiling. Everyone walking past me said “hello” and I remember thinking how lovely people are. A grown man who was chronically about forty years old, but developmentally quite younger passed me by and I said “hello” and then walked perhaps fifty yards or so, passing several other people along the way, before turning around, walking back to me and asked me “can you tie my knots?” “Sure” I told him as I noticed that one of his shoelaces was rather long and coming untied, so as I bent down to retie his shoelaces for him, I asked him who tied them for him when he put them on “I did” he told me. The knots on both of his shoes were rather interesting, as was the was the laces had been thread through the holes of the shoes, randomly looped through different holes, and tied with several loops on each shoe. I double tied him per his requested and suggested that if he gets another pair of shoes anytime, he might consider getting something that had Velcro or he could slip on the next time. “Yes”, he told me. Then he asked me to show him how to unite the knots, so I demonstrated where to pull in order to untie the shoe. He then asked me how to get his foot out, so I asked him if he wore these shoes often and he told me that he did “just on the weekends”. So I showed him how to loosen the laces so that he could pull his foot out, before retying his shoe yet again. “How do I get my foot out?” He asked. “Can you show me one more time?” “You know what,” I told him “I bet you can do it. Why don’t you try it once while I’m here so that you can be sure you will know how to do it when you get home?” He sat down next to me and I talked him through untying his shoe and loosening his laces and then prompted him to push down on the back of his shoe and pull his foot out, which he did. W He put his shoe back on with verbal instructions and I retied it, in the exact same why I had tied it earlier in order to insure that he would be able to untie it when he got home…which he told me was near there. “When do I take off the shoe?” He asked me. “Whenever you would like when you get home.” I told him. “How long do I have to push on the back of the shoe?” he asked me. I told him that until the his foot was loose enough to come out of the shoe. “You can do it…if you have trouble you can come back to the library and find someone who can help you, but I’m sure you’ll be able to do it.” “Thank you” he told me. “Nice to see you”, I told him.

And after he left, I began to think about why, among the several people he passed on his way from the library to his home, he asked me? I have taught many of my students how to tie, put on and take off their shoes. I am sure the man knew how, but judging by the way he carefully studied the way I tied and untied the laces, and the way the lace was tied, triple looped and uneven on his other shoe (perhaps I should have helped him with that one now that I think about it), it was a skill that he was not confident using on the weekends when he wore his shoes with laces. Was I somehow unknowingly wearing a special “teacher’s uniform”? Was there something about me that said, “this woman has taught many people how to tie their shoes, so ask her”? And clearly he must not have known about my controversial “ABA consultant” title, as I am sure that if he had, he would have ran away from me as fast as he could for fear that I might try to “change” him…

I have been to workshops and seminars on assertiveness training courses where they teach you how not to look like a “victim”. I have never been a “victim” or in any position where I feared being a “victim” and I have certainly walked on a street or in a parking lot alone, more than I perhaps should. I don’t think I look like a “victim” and I certainly don’t walk around being fearful…much to the dismay of people who wished I exhibited a little more caution. So is it possible that there could be something in someone’s demeanor that makes them look like a “teacher”? Is there something about me that looks like I might be a good person to ask to help them do or learn something? I mean this was not an exclusive event. It happens to me a lot, and quite often by small children or those that are “differently abled”. It’s as if I’m singled out by them as one who knows how to help them with whatever they need help with, and they are usually right. I usually not only know how to help, but am rather willing to do so. So what is it about ones expression, demeanor, posture, facial expressions that make others intuitively understand whether or not you look like a “victim” or a “teacher” or a “willing helper” or (fill-in-the blank here)?

The interesting thing is that I was going to the library to check out a book by A.H. Maslow titled “The Farthest Reaches of Human Nature”, in which he talks about the advancement of technology and how we are so concerned on improving technology, which is happening so quickly, yet we are forgetting to focus on creating better people whom will have access to that technology. I’ve read the book before and like to re-read it anytime I am tempted to get caught up in the whole “better” services, treatments, teaching, (fill-in-the blank here), as I have in the past, but usually try to avoid them altogether, because I believe, similar to Maslow’s feelings about technology, that it is a waste of time to focus on, develop, start a new, research or “improve” services, treatment and teaching for children with ASD if we are forgetting about the part where we need to focus on creating more kind, loving, compassionate, creative, open-minded people to “treat”, “teach” or “serve” children. Our focus turns away from developing a more loving and inclusive society to blaming or hating a “treatment”. As Maslow hypothesizes about Hitler having access to the technology that exists today, noting that we spend all ofour energy, time, research and study into technology, yet are not worrying about creating better people (Of course the term “better” people is subjective, but Maslow defines his definition of “better people” with more concrete terms, which I encourage everyone to research if interested). We have a tendency to blame a particular treatment, creating an alternatively labeled treatment, leading to more contravery, all the while ignoring the fact that we are focusing on the wrong things. If it is about “teaching”, then who is going to “teach”? Shouldn’t we stop putting time, energy, money and argument into what service or treatment is bad or doesn’t work and more time and energy into teaching the communities around us to be more loving, accepting, open and kind towards one another? Perhaps we need to look within. Perhaps society is not at the place where complete inclusion, integration and acceptance is the norm. Perhaps we should all begin to put our focus on teaching these things. Perhaps we should start with ourselves.

5 Comments:

Blogger Minka said...

Hmmm...maybe you were teh only one that said "Hello" to him, you smiled and probably looked content. It is easy to approach such a person.
Whenever you walk into a room at a party where you know few people, that is what we do subconciously...we wanna make ourselves secure and check our environment. A sliling, content looking young woman standing alone might be the person we would decide on speaking to first.

10:07 AM  
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Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Some people just have that "I understand aura." Some of them have (more than fortunately for Charlie) walked in through our door.

And some he has yet to meet, but what peace it gives a parent to know that so much kindness, caring and compassion are out there!

4:33 PM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Some people just have that "I understand aura." Some of them have (more than fortunately for Charlie) walked in through our door.

And some he has yet to meet, but what peace it gives a parent to know that so much kindness, caring and compassion are out there!

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