by Dan Coulter, Coulter Video, June 14, 2004
For more articles like this
When's the last time you got frustrated because you told your
child not to do something, and two minutes later he or she is
doing it again?
I think of this as "Teflon Shelf Syndrome." If you consider the
brain as a storehouse with shelves, some kids seem to have some
shelves that are coated with Teflon - and are tilted so things
slide off easily.
So...maybe it's not your son's fault that his finger strays to
his nostril. It's not your daughter's fault she doesn't make eye
contact when you speak to her. Maybe itís the way their brains
But that doesn't mean you have to accept the status quo. There's
a tool you can use to overcome problem behaviors: practice.
It makes good basketball players into stars. It gives musicians
the ability to make a living doing something they love. It can
give your child key social survival skills.
What is practice? It's training the brain and muscles to respond
in certain ways. The brain is an amazing organ. People with
brain damage have been known to retrain another area of the
brain to take over the functions of the damaged area. If we
think of our kids as having a brain that's not damaged, but
maybe just wired a bit differently, there's a tremendous
opportunity to "rewire" it with appropriate behaviors. This is a
particular opportunity for kids with conditions such as Asperger
Syndrome, Attention Deficit Disorder, or Autism.
Of course, there's a catch. Practice takes discipline and
patience. And because these are not qualities normally
associated with a number of disabilities, you may have to supply
them for your child. And we're not talking about discipline in
the sense of punishment. We're talking about regularly making
time in a busy day to do something that doesn't produce
This "immediate results" thing is a real challenge. It's one
reason many of us are overweight. We all know eating right and
exercising could give us the buff bodies we see on TV. But it's
just so easy to get distracted from that diet and that exercise
when it takes weeks or months to see results.
Of course, it's different when you don't have any choice. Did
you know Franklin Roosevelt had what he proudly referred to as
"the arms of a wrestler" in spite of - or rather because of -
his polio? Because his legs didn't work, he was forced to lift
himself with his arms every time he got into or out of a chair,
or a bathtub, or anything. Through all these small lifts, he
developed tremendous upper body strength.
If you want your child to develop strength in social skills, you
need to help him exercise those skills regularly until he
masters them. Think of it as installing a rubber "gripper" strip
on that Teflon brain shelf.
So, how do you start?
Start by writing down what's important to you. What are your
overall social skills goals for your child? Now break those
goals down into specific behaviors: Having David learn to use a
handkerchief. Having Jennifer learn to wait her turn to speak
and not to interrupt people in mid-sentence. Having Scott learn
to answer a phone politely and take a message.
Set aside some time each day to work on a skill with your child.
Keep your sense of humor and make the sessions as fun as
possible. When one skill is mastered, start practicing another.
Reward good performance with lots of praise.
If you can keep your sessions up for just one week, they'll
become a part of your routine - and much easier to continue.
Think of how your child may describe the sessions years from
now, "My mom loved me so much she spent 10 minutes every day
helping me learn to hold a conversation." "My dad worked long
hours, but he made time every night to show me something about
how to act in public. It sometimes took me lots of sessions to
get one of his lessons, but he never got mad and he never gave
Sometimes the biggest accomplishments don't come from doing the
big impressive thing. They come from doing the little important
things -- everyday.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dan Coulter is the father of a son with
Asperger Syndrome and the writer/producer of the video: "MANNERS
FOR THE REAL WORLD: Basic Social Skills." You'll find more
articles and information on his website at:
Copyright 2004 Dan Coulter; Used by permission. All rights
back to the top ~
back to Breaking News
~ back to