Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ramblings about creativity and plain old skills

The first time I heard of applied behavior analysis I felt a kind of repulsion. Mostly by the word behavior. The idea that behavior had to be modified. My kid is not behavior, he has spirit and emotions. He should be who he is. Whatever that is.
It took a while to overcome my first impression and figure out why I had I this feeling.
First I realized I had some vague ideas floating in my head about the human spirit and free happy children figuring things out by themselves, while they picked flowers and speculated on the cosmos. Playing and learning as well as creativity was in my mind all woven together in some fuzzy romantic idealism. Put that together with the the ideological child and hen try to fit it around an autistic child.
I does not add up.
I will give that to my son, that he has pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone.
Physically and ideologically.
So we are not all happy hippie children.
Some of us actually need structure to get the hang of living.
I could not let him be who he was. He was not happy and he definitely did not fit my profile of the free joyous spirit child. He was uninterested in most things, aloof and plainly had no idea of how and when he ought to do something, even things he actually liked. He seemed agitated and afraid.
When we went to the country side the car had always to be in his sight.
He did not like new swimming pools.
When winter came he would not change his coat or wear warmer shoes.
He mostly ate bread and bananas.
I could go on and on.
This just did not fit my idea of a happy life. I compensated and had to be very creative to figure out how to keep him calm and at the same time parent my other kids who wanted to do stuff and figure out hings for themselves.
I put my idealism aside and immersed myself in the behavior stuff. What I found out and should have learned long ago in my art studies is that creativity and flexibility has a lot do do with skills.
It is not seldom that I have had to put an excellent idea aside because I have not had the necessary skills to execute my idea. I am a lousy carpenter. I do not know how to work iron and I am barely adequate at making casts.
So my ideas tend to be linked with what I know how to do. I make collage and drawing and paintings I never photoshop because I am bad with computers. I put a lid on my creativity all by myself and refrain for pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone both because I am scared of doing badly and because i have no idea of how to do it, besides getting ideas in an area where you lack the necessary skills is quite impossible.
The know how leads your mind forward.
I taught Sturla to draw and in the process I saw that the reason his drawing were so immature was that he had not figured out that forms could be put together to make a new forms or figures. First we did only imitation.
Do this, do that.
follow dots. et cetere. Absolutely boring, and I needed to get him through the basics with treats.
Then we combine forms and that is more fun but sill imitation and do this and do that. The day I got the aha moment from him is a day to remember. The day he figured out that his lines and forms could make something from his own mind. The day he made a drawing that was not an imitation from me but an idea from himself. A car like he had learned to draw but with a steering wheel all his own idea and a figure in the car, his dad driving.
That is when he was capable of being creative. He was no longer stuck with his little stick figure made from only two dots and three lines.
When I was in school there was this strong postmodernist trend that art was all about ideas and there should be no boundaries between the departments and skills were out of fashion, the free flowing mind should, well flow freely.
I say that if the mind is a river. Skills are the river bed.
And as in nature one affects the other.

1 comment:

  1. I like the way you sum it up, the mind is a river and skills are the river bed. We teach our son through ABA and it has been hugely successful for him, but your words put it in a new light for me:) Thank you. Jen.