Come to the Edge

26
Jan

Come to the Edge

Come to the Edge

“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t. We’re afraid.”
“Come to the edge.”
“We can’t. We will fall!”
“Come to the edge.”
And they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.

Guillaume Apollinaire, 1880-1918
French Poet, Philosopher

Every day, parents and teachers are coaxing children a little closer to the edge, until eventually they are ready to be pushed off. To build enough trust in another person to be willing to come to the edge, even when fearful, is the true foundation of a solid relationship. In the above quote, I think of the fearful responder as the child or apprentice, and the coaxer as the parent or guide.

The idea of guided participation or coaxing is a foundation of the CORE Approach program. Each parent is equipped with the ability to guide, encourage, scaffold and eventually “push” their child over the edge into independence. The scenario that is described in the quote is a very common occurrence for the families and children we see on a daily basis in our clinic. The child with an autism spectrum disorder frequently communicates, “I can’t. I’m afraid. I’ll fail.” This may not be communicated verbally, but can be seen in the child’s behavior or demeanor. When parents or teachers are able to provide the right amount of guidance, encouragement and scaffolding, the child begins to trust that the guide will not push them over the edge until they are ready to fly solo.

How do guides help the apprentice prepare for flying solo? Scaffolding is the best technique I know for working toward independence. Scaffolding requires that the guide provide just the right amount of support to ensure that the apprentice does not fail, but not so much support that s/he does not learn anything new. Scaffolding can be provided in several different ways, and the amount of scaffolding varies from task to task. A child that requires complete physical hand-over-hand scaffolding in one task may only require an occasional nonverbal prompt in others. It can be difficult at times to determine how much scaffolding is appropriate for a give situation; but my general rule of thumb for guides is that if you feel like you are doing all of the work and the child is just a passive participant, then you have provided too much scaffolding. On the other hand, if you are having breakdown after breakdown and the child and you walk away from the activity feeling like failures, then you probably have not provided enough scaffolding. This can sometimes be a fine line to walk; but with some practice it gets easier to determine what type of support an apprentice will need in a given situation. The goal is to be able to reduce the amount of scaffolding over time until the apprentice is ready to “fly solo.”

This may take a few days, a few weeks, a few months, or even a few years. Take it slow, and make sure you are building competence along the way. Bring the apprentice to the edge without fear and uncertainty; help them want to fly. This may be one of the best gifts that guides can give: enough scaffolding to build the competence to go it alone.

 

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