Questions On Their Minds

Questions On Their Minds


It was an amazing day putting on a workshop at the Sari Hati Center in Ubud.

I have always believed that it is important that I ask what is needed at a center rather than tell someone what I think is needed.

I have always believed that it is important for me to observe, listen & ask many questions first to understand their children, their families & their teachers. It is also important to be flexible & to not be attached to what I may have planned.

I have tried very carefully to avoid judging, never to lie & never to destroy hope.

I have had the pleasure of getting to know the Sari Hati Center, with its heartfelt teachers & its caring founders. I deem it an honor to be asked each year to return to the center to answer questions, connect like minds & share my 40 years of experience building schools, supporting teams & finding answers to the complex learning challenges of children with special needs.

This trip the questions from Sari Hati reflected perfectly where they are & what they are ready to hear.

  1. What can we do with the materials we already have?
  2. How can we deal with behavior challenges?
  3. How can we keep activities Interesting?

I let them know that they have everything they need to teach their children right here at the Center. They just need their imagination, their creativity & to keep in mind that fun & meaningful can guide their choices.

I explained that all the activities that are needed to open, run & maintain the center can be used to teach & develop communication, motor planning, social, math & reading skills as well as respect, responsibility & independence to their children. (Washing windows, cleaning mats, wiping furniture, measuring objects, weeding, planting, counting students, teachers & modes of transportation)

I reminded them that they have yoga mats, drums, shakers, gamelans & art supplies that can develop motor skills, music & art skills, imitation & leadership & teach language concepts (fast, slow, loud, soft, high, low, first etc., counting & categories).

I modeled these activities for them with their drums & shakers & we practiced each being the leader & building imitation & language skills.

I explained how to set up a movie day, a talent show day & an art gallery day that could build social skills, presentation skills, communication skills & self-esteem in their children.

We discussed the need for the teachers to let go of taking care of everything for the children & to encourage them to acquire their own independence with guidance instead. (Meal preparation, cleaning up, getting materials they need for projects & hygiene)

We spoke about taking walks to increase communication understanding & communication expression. Naming trees & flowers or having them locate particular kinds of trees & flowers on the walks accomplishes this. I told them they might take pictures of these items & have the students talk about what they had seen on these walks when they returned to the Center. They could then draw them as well developing motor skills & art skills.

But the Questions Came!

What if the child does not want to join an activity? Should we make them?

What if the child won’t follow the directions for an activity & makes it hard for the project to be completed? Is it okay to tell them they may not participate?

What if they cannot tell us what they want?

What if they bite us or throw something or grab something?

Should we punish them if they will not take a shower?

Is it okay to teach them with an IPAD?

Then came my answers!

1)What if the child does not want to join an activity? Should we make them?

There are always more questions to ask before offering a solution. Here were mine.

Is the child shy or embarrassed to join?

Have they been taught the activity alone first to build confidence?

Is it too noisy in the room or too distractible in some way?

Are they afraid of something?

Is the session too long?

I explained that every child learns differently. Change is often hard for some. Not knowing the expectations can be anxiety provoking. Some do not want to fail. Others do not do group learning well.

Perhaps you might start teaching them in a smaller room, one on one, then one on two & help them succeed, I suggested Then gradually encourage their participation in a larger format.

If they still continue to resist perhaps finding something more aligned to their interest would be better first.

Have them do something fun first and the try something less preferred.

Then switch it around & ask them to do what is less preferred before something highly motivating.

The only time I believe we should force a child try or do something is if we feel it is key to their safety or development. If they must learn something in order to survive or be independent then a bit of kind insistence may be required.

2) What if a child will not follow the directions to complete a project the way it should be done & it is important for that project to be done in a particular manner. What if others have joined the project & then are following directions. Is it okay to tell the one child he may not participate? Is it okay that he is sad & I ignore that?

 I said It is very important to teach our children that there are rules & boundaries to respect. It is important that we teach our children to work together. As long as you have made sure the child clearly understands what is expected of the project & that you have given him warnings to follow rules, I feel it is okay to ask them to leave the activity & return when they feel they can follow the process. Perhaps it will have to be another day until they are ready to try. It is okay for them to be sad. It is a normal feeling & hopefully it will help them be more motivated to want to help in the right way next time.

3)What if a child cannot communicate with you? What if they hit, kick or grab?

All children communicate with you I said. They look at what they want. They reach for what they want, they may take your hand & show you want they want or they might point to what they want. That is communication. You must see it & acknowledge it & expand on it.

When a child looks at the cup of water, you say, “Oh you want water” & then have them point to it. Now you know what they want. Help them to  do this often & consistently.

You could take pictures of the water & have them match the water to the picture then learning that if they give you a picture of water they can also have the water they wish. Or you can show them the hand sign for water & have them imitate you & then you give them the water fter they sign it. This will take time & lots of practice to become a habit.

Then you will have to learn to wait. You will have to have patience. Once you know they can point, sign or give you a picture you must play dumb & say, (show me, tell me what you want). Waiting is hard but necessary if you want them to use communication.

Communication must be magical to them so they will be motivated to use it.

When a child throws something, grabs something, hits or kicks, they are communicating to you. I want attention, I am angry, I am bored, I don’t care about this etc.

You must be willing to use a caring "no" to them. They need to learn that what they are doing is not kind, nor safe & that it can hurt someone or something. They need yes feedback & no feedback to learn expected behaviors.

If they throw help them to retrieve & return it. If they grab from someone, let them know it is not theirs & help them return it. Hitting & kicking others should not be acceptable & they should be told to have safe, kind behavior & to stop. If they cannot, then helping them leave the area is a good idea.

They should receive your attention every time they are kind, cooperative & helpful but get very little attention for negative behaviors. Remain neutral. Do not laugh or have loud voices. Tell them “NO” & show them the positive behavior they should do. Guide them to do it.

4)Should we punish them if they will not take a shower?

Showering to me is a very private activity. It feels like this is a family discussion to have. Perhaps the center can meet with the family & discuss how this could happen at home in a timely manner each day. I would think we need to be sensitive to the feelings of our children when it comes to taking their clothes off, appearing naked & having cold water put on them. Perhaps teachers could start with smaller washings at the center (hands, feet, hands, arms, faces). Perhaps teachers could write stories with pictures for the children about being fresh & how that makes our teachers, families & friends happy to be with us.

5)Is it okay to just use an IPAD for teaching?

Some of our children seem to relate intensely to a computer device. They are motivated to work with it. So, why not use it, but not for all teaching & all day long. We must check for understanding when they are using devices. Do they really understand what they are reading or what they are watching? Do they understand the words they hear or see?

We must find education applications for the IPAD that teach subjects? We should help the child learn in a group as well & from real people. Children should learn by doing as well.

These were their questions today & it is my hope the answers helpful

Karen Kaplan
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