Sunday, June 1, 2008

Thinking about thinking about thinking

... or meta-metacognition if prefer, is what we been engaged in lately.

MK started talking late (sentences at around age six, basic level conversation that could be fairly easily understood by strangers at around ten) but he has been making up for lost time. It's not just a matter of vocabulary. It's all about how easily he accesses and manipulates references and mental constructs. It's a very odd thing to be a part of. It's an alternate route to linguistic competence, but it's also, necessarily, an alternate route to understanding the world. I'd love to be able to describe what I see, but it is simply too complex.

Anyhow, all this linguistic power has made it possible for MK to communicate increasingly sophisticated ideas (and a whole bunch of exceptionally silly stuff too -- you'd never know he was a latecomer to humor). One of the things we are discovering is that MK is exceptionally self-aware. He can now tell us exactly what is bothering him (This aide is giving me too much help. She makes me feel like I'm doing things wrong. When she asks me if I'm OK, it means she thinks I'm not OK.) . More recently, he can tell us what things feel like. MK tells us not only what it feels like to be startled, thanks to an over-responsive nervous system, but the frustration of having had his body overreact when, intellectually, he knows that the startling thing (sudden noise, sudden movement, ball in the air, shift in tone of voice, etc.) is no big deal. He also talks about his own rushing thoughts ("like a hurricane in my head") when he get anxious.

This is, of course, painful for me to hear. But, though MK faces more difficulty with some things than his peers, I'm sure there is not a child out there who has not felt the same things on smaller scales, and there are many who feel as much distress or more, but who are unable to observe the processes in play, much less describe them. People who are unable to analyze their unpleasant experiences generally respond in the form of action, sometimes useful, and sometimes not. Our guy is lucky in that, being able to define it, he can choose how to respond to it, and can talk it through and get input.

I should mention that MK is generally a very happy guy. Dancing with joy and falling down laughing are a part of just about every day, and it would be unusual for more than a few hours to go by without some experience being labeled as the best xxx ever! Anyone who has spent any time with him would describe him as having sunny disposition. He's just hyper responsive.

So recently we are talking and about how we think about our own thoughts. In my own life, I have had quite a bit of success in controlling my own often unrully mind by applying techniques such as REBT. I also take meditation instruction and have learned a few tricks there, such as pausing and distancing ("Wait a minute, let me think.") and objectifying ("What am I thinking?" and "What do I want?"). We toss around these and many other ideas for dealing with thoughts and reactions. Then MK tries them out at school. Then we talk about how they worked and what might work better.

It amazing the things that one can talk about when talking gets easy.


Niksmom said...

I had forgotten the backstory of MK's linguistic background/development. It makes THIS post all the more inspiring to me to understand how far he has come in a fairly short span. I mean, relatively speaking.

As I see tremendous leaps forward with my own son, I find not only things to celebrate aboutyour son in this post but real hope that we, too, will eventually get there in some fashion.

VAB said...

I've been noticing Nik's leaps and bounds. It's pretty exciting stuff! We've always assumed MK would get it in time.

Sometimes I meet parents who are tearing their hair out because their child is four and doesn't speak in sentences yet, and I just can't share their panic because I know that things go along at their own pace (with a couple hundred hours or speech therapy thrown in for good measure :-))

Marla said...

MK is incredible. I am glad he is doing so well. M was very late to humor as well. It has only been recently that she has allowed us to tease her and she is beginning to tease us. I love it!

How great that he can describe things so well in regards to his feelings. M has been pretty good about that too. She has said since little, "My brain is noisy!" We know when that happens that she needs some major wind down time. She describes it as being painful too. We are very fortunate our kids have the ability to communicate this. M used to communicate mostly through outbursts. That was so much more difficult.