Monday, May 14, 2012

Collaborative problem solving and values

It is important to convey to kids the values underlying words like CPS, talking, listening  and choices.

Kids often have difficulty in moving discussions in the direction of collaborative problem solving and not negotiation.  They will try to get the best bargain for themselves. So when it comes to sharing a computer with a sibling they will try to get the best deal - something close to a 100% access.  Anything less than a 100% is a compromise, it is giving up on what they would consider the optimal solution to address their needs.

When kids, parents, teachers and other care givers engage in collaborative problem solving they are also expressing values and beliefs.  It is a belief that we can consider the perspectives and concerns of all and try to address them  in a collaborative way by finding mutually satisfying solutions and work for the common good. Kids need to learn that best solutions are win-win , solutions that all can live with and not the  solution which that gives you the most. Successful negotiators know that they need to work towards a win-win but will try to first get as much for themselves as possible. Collaborative problem solving is different. We don't ignore our concerns , we just start with the concerns of others.

The problem also revolves on how we relate to ' choice'  -  individual choice or the choice of a people, friends or community . When we engage in cps, it seems clear that what must occasionally be restricted is not choice but individual choice. Cooperation opens up the way to so many more opportunities and choices despite the fact that individual choice may be compromised in some areas. We need to talk in the plural – we need to , or our problem , our choices.

Sometimes when we get stuck in the cps process, we need to show kids that the solution we offer does address their concerns in some way or at least elements of their concerns.  This helps them to be more flexible and adaptive.

Talking is more about sharing information rather than trying to get what you want. Listening is more about caring , giving the other person all your attention and empathy.  When try to address both our and the other's concerns by brainstorming mutually satisfying solutions or making a compromise – a bit of give and take we take caring a step further.

It is important to convey to kids the underlying values behind collaborative problem solving. If care givers just see it as technique that will help them get compliance or what they want , self centered values will be taught. But if talking is about sharing, listening is about caring , and solutions are worked out by collaborative problem solving and not negotiation we further reinforce the very values needed for CPS. We also need to reframe how we view choice – solutions and choices that further the goals of the family and it 's individual members or just individual choice.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Mindfulness for children 2

I have discussed Mindfulness for children here and shared especially the work of Susan Kaiser Greenland.

Here is article on mindfulness for children.

Mindfulness is for all children, but especially for challenging kids. Mindfulness helps kids become intrinsically motivated, by addressing their needs for autonomy, competence and relatedness.

 They become more   mindful of the present, more autonomous by helping them connect to their inner beings, more competent by being   attentive in an impartial, non-judgmental /emotional way. They learn to identify the concerns of others and their perspectives in a compassionate way which builds connection and belonging.

Instead of automatically giving medication for attention deficits (give kids the attention they are lacking?), why not actually teach kids the skills of being attentive; see clearly what is happening, as it is happening, without the emotional charge. Having the perspective of a friendly impartial spectator puts themselves in a position to respond with compassion.

 Mindfulness teaches kids calming skills to settle the mind and see things more clearly. They can use these skills to help them deal with upset, calm themselves before a test, deal with anxiety and help them soothe themselves to sleep. 

Mindfulness can also help kids on the autistic spectrum who have difficulty in making eye contact. In the Hello Game we start with the color of your eyes, a practice that helps kids really look at somebody else in a way that is not emotionally charged. When kids look at others closely they start to notice and identify what is happening in their minds and bodies.

I recommend taking a look at Susan's web site for updates. She has a Ted talk on the new ABCs of learning.

'When I was in elementary school teachers used "the ABCs" as a shorthand phrase for the alphabet, a fundamental building block of learning to read. While the traditional ABCs are as crucial as they ever were when it comes to reading, there is another set of ABCs which, in their own way, are equally important to learning: Attention, emotional-Balance and Compassion. 

A strong capacity to pay attention helps kids and teens stay on task and do well in school. But attention without a context is only part of what kids and teens need to flourish in our complex and ever changing world.

 They also need Balance and Compassion. Emotional balance allows children and teens to see what's happening in their inner and outer worlds clearly without an emotional charge, and compassion is the lens or perspective that allows kids to see both sides of an issue at home and in school. Thus, it's important our kids learn a new set of ABCs too -- one that draws upon the very old values of Attention, Balance and Compassion '

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Declarative language and questions – A CPS/RDI view

The CPS – collaborative problem solving approach's mantra is kids do well if they can and not 'kids do well if they want to'. Kids on the whole would prefer to be successful and adaptive. These kids are lacking crucial cognitive skills needed to help them be more flexible and adaptive – skills which would include executive functions, language processing, social skills, emotional regulation skills, and cognitive flexibility etc.

The way to learn how to teach these lagging skills is to ask how we teach  kids on the autistic spectrum these skills. The traditional ABA – applied behavior analysis approach focuses more on compensating kids for their missing skills rather than helping kids develop authentic communication and life skills ,  which is the goal of the RDI – Relationship Development intervention approach .

One of the ways RDI teaches skills is to use Declarative language with kids.

 Here is  an excerpt  from an  article by Linda Murphy  'Using declarative language with children on the Autistic spectrum '   . The whole article is worth reading.

'Declarative language, plain and simple, is stating out loud what one knows or thinks in the form of a comment. It may be used to share an opinion (I love spaghetti!); make a prediction (I think we are going to the movies tomorrow.); announce / celebrate (We had a great time today!); observe (I notice that your friend wants a turn.); reflect on past experience (Last time this stopped working we checked the batteries.); or problem solve (We need tape to fix it.). Declarative language does not require a verbal response. Rather, it invites experience-sharing, and provides an ideal social framework for later conversational interactions.'

'Unfortunately, however, when people talk to children with ASD they frequently use imperative language, which is in the form of questions or commands that require a particular response. For example, "What color is that?"; "What is your name?"; "Say: block;" and "Look at me", are all imperatives. The problem with this type of language is that it does not teach children how to become authentic communication partners, because its circumscribed nature does not invite experience-sharing, which is the basis for interactive language use. Indeed, when people primarily use imperative language with a child, he or she learns, incorrectly, that communication consists of right and wrong answers and questions and directive. It also teaches that the main purpose of communication is instrumental; that is, to "get" something from another person. In truth, authentic communication is primarily about experience-sharing. We communicate with others to share memories, gather information, learn about one another and the world, seek different opinions, and share emotions. While it is true that we sometimes need to communicate in order to "get" something, if children with ASD are to learn how to socially communicate with others, they need a linguistic environment that is rooted in declarative language input.'

The CPS approach teaches skills indirectly when care givers solve problems with kids in a collaborative way. Problem solving requires skills such as perspective taking, using hindsight and foresight, language processing , articulating concerns, being flexible , brainstorming solutions, consequential thinking etc . Successful cps relies on the caregiver's ability to ask the kid questions, to probe and drill down for information that will give them  a clear and accurate picture of the child's concerns. 

If the RDI approach is encouraging us to avoid asking questions and rather use ' declarative language it would seem that CPS and RDI differ when it comes to questions.

How can we reconcile the 2 approaches?

Declarative language gives kids a point of reference, some information to reflect on , a springboard to use ,so that the kid can respond and share some information , or an experience . Instead of asking questions, we should precede them with declarative language – first make an observation and then follow with a question.  

The ' empathy stage'  = the information gathering stage about the kid's concerns  in the cps process  starts with a neutral and specific observation ..  ' I have noticed that when you are watching TV and we need to go and have a bath , you are not so happy about it , what's up ? We first give information and then the question. When we use reflective listening and then follow with a question we provide information on which our question is based. This gives the kid a clear idea of what we are talking about and puts him in a position to share his input.

The type of questions used in CPS are not the imperative type, seeking the ' right answer ' from the kid , but rather an attempt to gather information about the kid's concerns, perspectives , and perceptions.  It is more about the kid's authentic thinking .

So in a nutshell , we use both Declarative language and information gathering/sharing questions in the CPS process.