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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Men Versus Women

In recent weeks, we've become more and more certain of something we'd guessed at for a long time: Tommy almost always learns better from men than from women.

My theory is that women are much more focused than men on building a relationship. So they work hard to figure out what makes Tommy happy ... and they work equally hard at making sure they don' t upset him. Tommy, no dummy, has figured out how to work that to his advantage. He opens his big brown eyes with the long long lashes and says "does this mean you're ANGRY with me?" To which the wonderful, supportive women in his life say "oh NO, Tommy, I'm not angry with you" - and they immediately back off.

Tom is delighted, since he's not being challenged or pushed. Everyone is happy. But Tommy has learned very little except how to "manage" yet another teacher.

Men, on the other hand, seem more focused on getting across an idea, a skill, or a technique. Rathering than gazing deeply into Tommy's eyes, they simply say "okay, let's go!" And Tom rises to the challenge. So far, he's done far better with male therapists (with the sole exception of our present wonderful - female - therapist!), male swim teachers, male camp counselors, male music teachers. Of course, like most young children, he's never had a male school teacher, so I can't speak to that.

This week, though, we finally decided he'd snowed his lovely (female) piano teacher enough. We're sticking with clarinet and the very straightforward male teacher we've chosen - who has already pushed Tom to do much more than we'd hoped for. We're sticking with the jazz ensemble, where the band leader really doesn't care whether Tom is autistic or not - so long as he keeps up with the group (so far so good). And we're "trying out" a male math tutor this coming week.

Maybe I have the wrong idea about gender differences. After all, in general women really are more pragmatic than men. But in the case of Tom and his autism, it seems that gentle, kind, careful instruction just doesn't cut it - he needs high expectations and - it seems - very little attention paid to his so-called "disabilities."


Anonymous said...

Interesting. it sounds like maybe its the structured approach with the focus on the task he is what he is responding to. we certainly had some female therapists who were pretty business like and focused on the task/skill and they were great with my son. good for you for raising the bar. rosemary

Lisa Jo Rudy said...

Hi, Rosemary! ABSOLUTELY I am sure you're right. I'm really seeing clearly how direct instruction is the key.

For years I've been thinking "kinesthetic" "visual" and so forth - but honestly, I think direct instruction is the key. A

nd it certainly is possible to find warm yet business-like women therapists (we've found one right now!) - but in my experience, women who go into education are usually very interested (and should be, in general!) in developing positive relationships. In all the literature, it seems "relationship development" is stressed - yet I hate to see abilities sacrificed to social skills (if that makes any sense!).

PS - thanks for commenting!