Thursday 14 March 2013

Competence – a fundamental foundation block for child development

This afternoon at Bright Futures School H and I went to Tesco for some ingredients for flapjack.  In the store, I used declarative language, non-verbal communication and pausing to enable H to reference me.  Some of the store staff are getting used to me wandering round the place with one or other of our pupils giving non-verbal clues for treasure hunts!  H found the ingredients.
When he was helping me to check out at the till, he made a mistake and scanned one item in twice.  He immediately said, ‘Why am I so dumb?’  This particular pupil is extremely sensitive to any perceived failure.  It can set him off into a negative spiral where he can end up hitting himself around the head.  The tendency towards low resilience is one of the things I personally find very upsetting in autism.  It is very unpleasant to see any child being so down on themselves for the kind of error that we all make, day in, day out.
I responded that I didn’t think he was dumb, he had made a mistake and we all make mistakes.
In the car park, I pretended to have lost my car and spotlighted my own mistake.  H immediately had the idea of using the keys to find the car.  He pressed the keys and I saw the lights flash, so found the car.  I spotlighted how H had helped me when I’d made a mistake – what a good idea it was to use the keys to find the car.  On the journey back I spotlighted how good it was to have a helper with me and how much I enjoyed going shopping with H.  I wondered aloud (declarative language) how I would have managed if I hadn’t had my helper with me.  H joked that I would have been walking back to school and we both had a good laugh about it.
Back at school we made the flapjack together.  At one point, H said ‘I love school.  I wish I could stay at school all day.’  I thought it was probable that this positive experience-sharing was prompted by the feelings of competence he had gained when I had been spotlighting how helpful he was and how much difficulty I would have been in without him.
I said I thought it was great that he felt like that and that I had enjoyed my day at school too.


  1. Very, very inspiring! What a great moment to share with your student :)

  2. Thank you for sharing this. It is always helpful to learn about other children/teens and how they perceive and deal with challenges. I will be so interested to learn what his level of resilience will be in 6 months time!