Friday, October 7, 2016

It was an...Accident

Occasionally there are 'happy accidents', like bumping into some you haven't seen in a very long time at Disneyland. But more often than not 'accidents' are unfortunate incidents that you rather wish would not have happened. They make us irritated, angry, disappointed or worse.

We can't rid the world of accidents, but what we can do is turn them into teachable moments. A teachable moment is one that requires the "teacher" to offer compassion instead of anger, and be calm rather than be frustrated with the situation. A teachable moment allows the "teacher" the opportunity to illustrate a life lesson that really can best be taught by experience.

So what do we do when our child comes to us and says, "I'm sorry, it was an accident"? No matter whether it was a window, a family heirloom, or a bumper, we must seize the opportunity to help them learn from their mistake. With many people, and that includes those on the autism spectrum, a life experience is often a much better teacher than words alone.

I believe that the more senses and emotions we use during an experience, the greater memory, impact and effect it has on our future. If we experience something through sight, hearing, and touch our understanding is deeper. So when we learn through an experience, like an accident, the chances of us making the same mistake again are significantly less. We call this learning from our mistakes.

What is the lesson to be taught after an accident? Reviewing the moments prior to the event and considering alternative options will help our children make different choices in the future. Maybe we don't play baseball with our friend’s back to the kitchen window, rather we practice a bit further away, or shift the direction that the ball is headed. Maybe we don't play fetch with the dog in the living room; rather we walk in to the backyard where everyone gets fresh air. Maybe we don't touch the radio while driving, rather we pick a station and let it play until we are parked. Hindsight is a great tool. What could we have done differently?

After an accident we “teachers” have the incredible opportunity to offer not one but two lessons. The first thing we teach is that there are options that can help reduce the risk of an accident, and each requires a little prior planning. The second and equally important lesson we teach is that accidents, or problems can be handled with calm tones and clear heads.  We are not only teaching with our words but with our actions as well.