Recognizing Developmental Delays or Autism in a Child : Focus on Being, Not Just Doing

Recognizing Developmental Delays or Autism in a Child: Focus on Being, Not Just Doing

When we realize that a child has developmental delays or autism, our instinct is often to focus on teaching them skills or enabling them to perform certain tasks. We believe this will aid in their development. While knowing how to do something or having knowledge is a measure of development, there’s a difference between the results from these metrics and what we see in real life. It’s similar to the difference between knowledge for a test and practical knowledge for everyday use.

Development isn’t just about learning; it begins with experiences and observation. Observing the surroundings and engaging with others forms the foundational knowledge for development. These are activities the child chooses to do out of curiosity and interest. Experiences without motivation, will, or interest are not stored in the brain as meaningful data. Instead, they might be remembered negatively, and it might even be better if they weren’t remembered at all.

If you want to teach a child, focus on “being with” them rather than “doing with” them. This distinction, though subtle, is significant when it comes to relationships. Being with someone emphasizes presence and connection while doing with someone can occur without any relational basis.

Being with someone emphasizes existence and relationships. It means enjoying time together in the same space without necessarily engaging in specific activities. The emphasis is more on emotional or physical presence rather than actions.

Example: “Mom enjoys just being with you.” (Enjoying someone’s company regardless of what you’re doing) A child feels happy being with their mother. This creates a strong bond and trust, which becomes a lasting source of motivation and reason for any activity.

Doing with someone emphasizes participating in specific activities together. It focuses on shared experiences of the activity rather than on presence itself.

Example: “Let’s do a puzzle together.” (Engaging in the activity of solving puzzles)

“Let’s draw together.” (Participating in the drawing)

If the child enjoys the activity, they will focus on the task rather than the person they’re with. They may participate mechanically even if they don’t enjoy it, and the expected developmental benefits may not materialize.

Shared activities are important, but they become mechanical without a sense of presence and emotional connection. Humans are not machines. It’s essential to first instill in children the meaning of presence and emotional connection.

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