Habits of Mind, developed by Arthur L. Costa and Bena Kallick, are “characteristics that are employed by successful people when they are confronted with problems.” Developing these 16 traits or skills can be particularly challenging for people with learning disabilities.
In my last blog post, I explored the habit of persisting. With the approach of Easter, Passover, Mother’s Day and other springtime occasions when families and friends gather together, I thought I would present the habit of thinking interdependently.
Thinking interdependently is a social habit. It is a skill to be able to work in a group, listen to others and speak so that others will listen to us. Working in groups requires students to present and then justify their ideas and then be willing to accept constructive feedback.
When children learn to interact with members of a group by listening, when they are able to give up an idea to work on someone else’s idea, when they are able to demonstrate empathy and compassion, they are developing the habit of thinking interdependently.
In support of our children who learn differently, we must keep in mind that situations that we find easy – such as sitting around the table enjoying a holiday dinner with extended family members – may in fact be much more complicated for our children. Thinking interdependently requires the mastery of complex social skills that can cause our children great anxiety and confusion. To help lessen your child’s anxiety and improve their ability to manage social situations, you may want to consider the following strategies:
- Whenever possible, script with your child in advance. Let them know who will be at the event; where you will be; approximately how long you will be there; and what people will likely be talking about.
- Provide your child with some advance cues regarding manners. For example, does your child know how to graciously accept a compliment; politely decline an offer of food or drink; or thank the host or hostess for their hospitality?
- Take good care to help your child prepare for the specific situation, whether it is a holiday gathering, birthday party or other special event. Talk about why you are going to the event; what the celebration or gathering will entail; if any travel will be involved; and, what will be on the menu. Fill them in on family rituals or traditions so they are not surprised by the unexpected.
- Help him or her to develop cooperative skills. Consider beforehand how your child can assist with the special day’s events. If children have an assigned task, or can contribute in a meaningful way (perhaps by preparing a recipe or helping to set the table), they learn how to work together and experience what it means to cooperate for the good of the group.
- Practice reciprocal (two-way) communication with your child. Children who insist on doing all the talking are having a one-way conversation. Encourage your child to pay attention to and really listen to what the other person is saying. He or she needs to learn to take turns in order to have a conversation.
Please know that we also support the mastery of complex social skills here at The Kingsbury Center — in the classroom, on the athletic field, at lunchtime, during Enrichment Clusters and at special school events. After all, Kingsbury’s mission is to provide a transformative educational and social experience for children and adults with learning differences. If we all work together to support the growth of thinking interdependently, we can place our children on the path to be confident and cooperative learners and, one day, adults.