Wednesday 16 March 2011

Folding towels

Hello again - I seem to have been ridiculously busy...have been neglecting my blog but now have a short window to catch us up a bit!

With our current objective, Philip has to compare his actions to mine, to make sure that the accuracy and care of his actions matches mine. 

If you think about what it takes to be part of a team – let’s say, at work – you know that each member of the team has to take an equal responsibility for keeping the activity/interaction/project on track.  If team members don’t all take an equal responsibility, there is likely to be either project/activity breakdown and/or generation of resentment.  If someone doesn’t pull their weight, you don’t want to work with them again.  If you’re an employer, you might be having second thoughts about having employed them.

In this clip, we are folding towels and my objective is to see whether Philip folds his towels carefully and neatly.  If I have done my job in practicing this objective in different settings with different activities, Philip will complete the towel-folding with care, referencing me along the way to make sure that his actions are matching the accuracy of my actions.  If he doesn’t complete the job with care, I will gently spotlight this for him so that he can repair his action. 

Our folding of towels is kind of a metaphor for teamwork – taking joint and equal responsibility to get to a common goal.

In the event, I don’t need to do any spotlighting as he is taking total responsibility for the care and accuracy of his part of the joint task J J That’s my boy!! 

In the past, we have done earlier prototypes of this objective, which focus more intensely on getting the co-regulation of our interaction firmly in place.  Now that we have got co-regulation firmly underpinning everything we are doing, we can elaborate the prototype to include a focus on care and attention.

The other thing that happens in this clip that I think must’ve been happening for a little while, is that Philip is beginning to spotlight key moments for himself.  You don’t really notice these small moments in everyday interaction – it’s only when you’ve filmed something and you play it back that you can really concentrate on your child’s responses to what is happening in an interaction. 

Here we see Philip spotlighting his own mistakes and actually laughing at himself.  Now that sort of thing is run of the mill for people without autism, but for people with autism who struggle to cope when something unexpected happens – something that wasn’t in the script or in the picture that they had of themselves in their head….it feels to me like a huge leap forwards. It means Philip is internalising a process (spotlighting) that we (parents) have previously had to do for him.  You'll remember from a previous post that spotlighting supports the capture of episodic memories - the memories of competently resolving something that lead eventually to the development of resilience.

We all need to be able to laugh off mistakes in order not to be overwhelmed by feelings of incompetence when something goes wrong.  Otherwise, why would we ever have another go at something?

Here is what happened:

P checks in (references me) to make sure he is doing what I am doing at 0.17; 0.24; 0.30; 0.48; 0.55; 0.58.

With the second set of towels, P references at 1.57; 1.59; 2.06 and then whilst I am shaking a crease out, he gets confused with his folding but doesn’t let this bother him.

 In fact, @ 2.24 he makes a great joke out of his mistake, laughingly saying that he has created a ‘nappy’ ('diaper' for our US cousins).  At 2.33 he is not at all bothered about starting again – he just takes it in his stride.  Previously, this mishap (the folding not being perfect first time) would have thrown him off kilter completely, possibly precipitating a withdrawal from the activity.

He references @ 2.39; 2.43 and then at 2.45 he is struggling a bit with where to pick up the fold so I non-verbally model how to grasp the middle of the towel by exaggerating bringing my arm around.

At 2.46 there is a fleeting smile of recognition on P’s face as he realises how he should have done it. Our Consultant pointed out to me that this is another self-spotlight. Yay!

At 2.47 I spotlight his competence.

You can see how carefully he folded the towels without me having to ask or prompt him to do so e.g. 2.56 – 3.00.

Remember Philip's response to the collapse of the pizza base in previous blog footage?  Now we also have self-spotlighting.  You are watching the development of resilience.  How fabulous is that?


  1. Wow Zoe........ this is the boy who used to give you a hard time?!! He is delightful; and yes it did look like a giant nappy!! :D

  2. Hi Di

    Thanks for your feedback :) Yes Philip is full of personality - it's really coming through more now that RDI has increased his confidence in himself and in his ability to participate more fully in family life.

    We've got a long way to go still - there is still a lot of rigidity in certain situations but its nowhere near as difficult (or as often) as it used to be.