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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Gray Center SUN (Social Understanding Network) Newsletter

The Gray Centre promotes Social Understanding. After yesterday blogging about Australia Week and our desire to promote social understanding between global home school families, I today received my SUN newsletter from the Gray Center. Imagine my astonishment to find that the topic was promoting social understanding in the homes of children with autism (Boy has Asperger's - that's one of the reasons we home school).

I am so impressed with their simplicity of understanding around traditions that I am sharing it with you:

There is a well-known tale (with numerous creative and humorous variations) of a mother being scrutinized by her young child as she prepares a ham dinner. The child questions why Mom cuts the end off the ham before she cooks it. Mom pauses, and admits that she does it because that’s the way her mother always did it. Together they decide to ask Grandma why she always cuts the end off the ham before she cooks it. Grandma seems surprised by the question, as she replies, “I cut the end off because I’ve never had a pan large enough to accommodate the whole ham!”

We have many traditions, rules, and routines in our homes, schools, and workplaces. They exist for many reasons, including safety, pleasure, efficiency, custom, organization, etc. Often those with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) are the first to question the existence of these traditions, rules, and routines. Frequently, their questions of “why” are met with, “Because I said so,” or “Because that’s the way we do it,” or even, “Because that’s the rule!” While their questioning may appear impertinent, often they are not trying to be difficult, but genuinely desire more information as they struggle to make sense of their social environment. As we pause while seeking to provide a truthful response to their request, we may discover a valid explanation that satisfies both of us, or we may find, as the mother in the example of the ham dinner did, that we do not have a good reason for adhering to a particular tradition, rule, or routine.

Social understanding is not simply about getting others to understand what we want them to do. Sometimes it’s more about looking at ourselves and understanding why we do what we do, and whether it makes sense to do it that way. Sometimes our rather rigid means of carrying out tasks or responsibilities has more to do with the way we were taught (or our own learning style and what worked best for us) than it does about a true need to accomplish the task in a prescribed manner. Recognizing this may help us put the focus back on the end goal rather than struggling to control the process which gets us there. The resulting flexibility may open doors to greater creativity and productivity!

Best wishes as you continue to promote true social understanding!

Laurel Hoekman, Executive Director
The Gray Center for Social Learning and Understanding

We would love to hear of your traditions. They will be a great learning experience for Boy.

Note: Photo is of some local Aboriginal children performing corroboree during Child Protection Week 2006. Credit to Asta Naden from RAATSICC.

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This blog is no longer kept. I am instead blogging only to Imaginif Child Protection became Serious Business