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Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Philosophy of Lettuce Planting

"When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don't blame the lettuce.
You look for reasons it is not doing well.
It may need fertilizer, or more water, or less sun.
You never blame the lettuce.
Yet if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person.
But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce.
Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and arguments.
That is my experience.
No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding."

~ Thich Nhat Hahn

Today I discussed Asperger's Syndrome with my son's teacher. She has a new child coming into the school who thinks it is "cool" to curse a lot, and she asked me how I dealt with that issue with my son, who doesn't curse at all.

Among other things, I mentioned my philosophy of what works with raising an Autistic child. To correct him, I use what is called a "neutral no." Its a "No" or a correction delivered in a way that a computer might say it. Not personalised. No blame, no shame, no guilt. No additional emotion.

Autistics are not socially motivated. Well, they are, but it isn't in the typical way. The social indications of others, their impulses and responses often get crossed and mixed up and lost and confuse the Autistic, and so, the confused information tends to get tuned out as being like emotional "noise." Particularly since as normal people mature, the social nuances become ever more subtle and complex, and often normal people say and do the opposite of what they "really mean" using body language to reverse the words spoken (which is the essence of sarcasm.) To a normal person, this is less boring as being direct and honest, and is considered playful and interesting. To an Autistic it is puzzling and frustrating. To us they are a puzzle, yet we are just seeing what they are feeling and mirroring to us...puzzled.

The extra emotion doesn't help make the point with a person who is not socially motivated. It only tends to escalate the anxiety of the person without helping them to manage their behavior better.

The thing is, often they are already too emotional, anxious, stressed. And adding more emotion to it doesn't help if they are already out of control emotionally or at the brink of control.

Yet the feedback, the simple information, stripped of the emotion designed to influence the ego of the normal person, helps the Autistic to think more clearly about his/her behavior.

So don't blame the lettuce.

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