Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Don't Forget To Breath

Last weekend we discovered an unlikely teaching tool for our kids. As you know, Number One Son has Asperger's and must learn most social cues and rules. This aspect of Asperger's can often make Aspies easy targets for bullies. Luckily, we have only had a few minor instances in which N1S was able to learn from a run in with a bully.

This weekend we rented a movie that does a good job illustrating what works and what doesn't when dealing with bullies. We rented The Karate Kid. For those who aren't familiar, The Karate Kid is a story about a youth that moves to California, gets picked on by the karate club in town, learns to 'paint a fence' and earns respect from the bullies by winning the karate tournament. Sorry for the spoiler but the movie is over twenty years old.

Movies like this are just right for our 6 and 10 year olds. It has a little adult language but only enough to remind our kids of what words we don't use. This movie is also good in that it clearly defines the bullies from the good guys. This distinction is often difficult for Aspies to work out for themselves in the real world. So we used this story to illustrate what happens when certain choices are made. N1S figured out most of the subtleties of the characters, but he still needed a little bit of direction at times. Like when Danny's girlfriend was mad at him. N1S asked me why she was mad. I safely deferred to Lady Di for the answer.

When Danny gets baited into a fight with the stronger and more experienced karate gang, it ends poorly for Danny. Some situations are good to walk away from. Later, when Danny sees an opportunity to play a joke on the head bully in the bathroom, he chooses to spray him with a hose. Again, it ends poorly for Danny.

However, we don't want N1S to look for every opportunity to walk away. We want him to recognize the signs of trouble brewing and not get baited into making bad choices.

The movie also illustrates the good choices Danny made. Such as not letting the bullies affect his relationships with others. He didn't let the bullies turn him into one of them. It also showed how Danny chose to do something about his situation and not just give up. He worked hard and trained and eventually earned the respect from the bullies.
This was a movie I enjoyed when I was in high school. The kids were amazed that I had actually seen this in the theatre.

The fun part about this movie is that we can now reference it to many other teaching situations. Now when I want the kids to do something, all I have to do is use my gruff, limited English, Mr Miyagi voice.

"N1S-san! Show me 'practice piano!'" "Breath in through nose, out through mouth."

"Sweet Pea-san!" Show me 'clean room!'" And then she answers, "Most important. Don't forget to breath."

Kidding aside, The Karate Kid is a pretty good movie to teach simple lessons about social interactions. Even though real life is one hundred times more complex, N1S will still need to be introduced to as many social situations as possible to learn the tools needed to make correct choices. Movies that involve good guys and bad guys are a safe way to instruct without N1S actually encountering a real bully. Don't miss an opportunity to plant the seed of learning.

We will have to search the 'Oldies' section of our video store again for another blast from the past that may help through another social situation. Maybe we can rent Teen Wolf for next time to learn how to react when our changing bodies grow fur and fangs. Any other suggestions from the eighties?

So now my kids, hopefully, will 'paint the fence', 'sand the floor' , 'wax on, wax off', and 'vacuum the carpet' without question, thinking that I may just be training them for the next big karate tournament.


James said...

Nice post. I loved KK growing up and reading this reminded me of all the other great things I don't normally remember from it.

Now you can also teach them a lesson about how bad sequels can be.

Dad Stuff said...

James: I didn't mind KKII too much, but III probably won't make the cut.

OhCaptain said...

I'd pass on III as well. Lots of good lessons in in the other two.

Casdok said...

Great teaching tool!
You cant beat some of those old films!

DJ Kirkby said...

This is a great idea for social skills learning, I'll use for N3S when he is a bit older. He would have waaaaaay too many questions that no one could answer at the moment. Speaking of which, there will be a N3S random comments post over at Chez Aspie this Sunday and I came over today to say that Chopper chose you as this week's wordless Wednesday winner.

Julie L. said...

Found you through Faces of Autism. Loved the Karate Kid and had a crush on Ralph Macchio--20 years ago or so!!

Most of the 80s movies I can think of probably should be PG 13 or so. The Breakfast Club is my absolulte fave...

Good luck with the wax on, wax off thing! ; )

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I'm a 40 year old dad of two. My wonderful wife, Lady Di, and I try to keep the kids from blowing things up here in central Minnesota.