Incidental Learning

Those of us that have therapists in our homes and/ or have had our children in the educational system for any amount of time understand what incidental learning is all about. Basically, it defines the type of learning that happens when we aren’t trying to teach anything. It includes good things, like our children putting their dishes in the sink because we did. It also can include not-so-good things like those curse words that slip out while we stub our toe, or get a surprise bill in the mail.

One of the first things I learned about having a child with a visual impairment was that incidental learning is almost a lost cause. He isn’t going to learn how to do the dishes simply by being around somebody else doing the dishes. He needs to get his hands in the sink and be operating the scrubber. Every step of every procedure needed hands-on training. This is the most crucial when pushing him towards independence.

I’ve learned that he can’t pick out his own clothes until he learns what purpose clothes serve, where the clothes come from, how the clothes get clean, and why clean underwear is a must. Does he have these things down? No. Will he someday? I like to think so. For now, it is just important that I know he needs that brickwork laid before we can get to the bigger issues in life.

To my delight, I was surprised to find this morning that there is indeed incidental learning taking place in our house. We often forget that Eddie isn’t the only kid around here that needs an education. We focus so much on his independence and working towards him doing things for himself, that our daughters are overlooked. We hope every day that they are learning in a variety of ways that don’t take our complete undivided attention.

Lucky for us, our daughters are learning incidentally. Apparently, our oldest has spent so much time watching us push Eddie to do things for himself that she has learned to grow some wings of her own. Molly greeted us this morning, before we were out of bed, at 5:45 am. She proudly stated, “I’m ready for school. I’m all dressed, my hair and teeth are brushed, and I already ate breakfast.” Well, OK then. Yes, it was too early for sure, but I was so proud. I turned to her Dad and stated, “Next stop…college.”