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Salaat, patterns and Co-regulation

Posted Jan 31 2010 12:00am
I have vaguely posted about self regulation and patterns before. I also did a post about what I thought was a pattern but was just absolute rubbish (Khaled throwing a ball back to dad).


We have tried various "patterned" activities with Khaled. The point is to do a physical, back and forth pattern (as NT kids do in very early childhood) that will help Khaled understand and internalize regulation and work up to more complex turn taking.

Self-regulation as I have learned, is not something you can teach on its own. It is always part of something else like a pattern or a game, shared experience, communication, joint attention and so on. So it is really important to make sure that whatever we are using to teach self regulation is developmentally appropriate and something the child understands. If I use baseball to teach Khaled self regulation, it is not going to work. I can use rocking, passing a ball back and forth while sitting very close together, taking a ride on the bus and so on.

We experience fleeting moments of joint attention with Khaled. Without joint attention there can be no teaching. It is I think a very important aspect of guided participation. For joint attention you need, some amount of ability to coregulate (be in tune with another person's emotional and physical state), and of course self regulation. You can't be taught anything if you are doing laps of the house or are a sprawling mess on the floor. If you cannot coregulate, how will you observe your environment and be able to collaborate with anyone on any task?

How we are trying to teach it

When we started RDI we identified that Khaled's main barrier to learning is self-regulation. He cannot regulate his emotional states in response to whatever stimulus. He is impulsive to the point of dysfunction and most of the time almost cannot control his physical movement, especially in a situation that he finds challenging (this could be anything as innocent as someone saying hello to him).

Somethings work, some miserably fail. I have hours of video of just passing a ball from my hand to Khaled's hand, sitting right in his face, and he would not, just would not, want to have anything to do with that pattern. He would throw the ball in my face, away from me to watch me get it, we had massive power struggles. So I stopped.

So we set about trying to teach, not really knowing what we were doing. We still don't know what we are doing most of the time, but I have at least started to identify more and more activities where I can find an opportunity to teach him these important things.

Salaat (prayer)

One such activity that has me very excited (for various reasons) is Salaat or prayer.

Obviously there is the highly reinforcing aspect of teaching your child about something that is important to you and has all this religious significance. It is virtually impossible, but I try (with no real degree of success) to separate my ideas about the meaning of prayer and just use the process of our salaat as an RDI activity. (Just so I don't get too excited and become too focused on teaching how to do. The focus needs to be how to learn).

If you think about it, salaat has opportunities for
  • coregulation (because when you pray with another person, you all have to go at the same pace)
  • self regulation (obvious)
  • joint attention (you need to pay attention to the one leading prayer and those around you)
  • shared experience
  • a very clear repetitive pattern

Other than the above, I also have control over the activity, as I am more skilled and I decide when we do what. The activity is authentic as Khaled has observed us praying all the time, his entire life. There is a lot of room for variations (pray out loud, pray in a mosque, pray in someone else's home, with your friends and so on). I use prayer as an instrument for mindful meditation and self soothing. The possibilities are exciting.

It took a lot of work to get to this point and adjustments have to be made constantly. I tried praying on a prayer mat for instance and the embroidery was too distracting for Khaled and he just wanted to crawl along the mat, so I removed it.

So here is my little apprentice, doing a really good job in my opinion. The idea is not to teach him to pray (he is much too young). The developmentally appropriate learning opportunity I suppose is imitation and paying attention to what mom is doing. We both obviously need a lot more practice.

(This is not an accurate representation of Muslim prayer. I am not dressed appropriately, I am looking everywhere and other things are wrong. This is just practice and RDI with my son).
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