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The Third Leg of Wonderfully Wired Support Stool: COMPETENCY



Introduction

I'm convinced there are 3 things Wonderfully Wired kids need from the adults that care for them: unconditional connection, a sense of autonomy, and (the topic for this blog) growing competency.

Reviewing the First Two Legs

To support Wonderfully Wired kids, we need a balanced approach, much like a three-legged stool. Each leg is essential; without one, the stool cannot stand. Here's a quick recap of the first two legs:

  1. Unconditional Connection: We've discussed how crucial a sense of belonging is for Wonderfully Wired children. In my interview with Victoria Bagnell from Connections in Mind (Airing soon in Season 3) we emphasized the importance of belonging to create the psychological safety in the classroom that invites learning. Brene Brown's distinction between belonging and fitting in is key here. We need to tell Wonderfully Wired kids that they belong just as they are, without needing to change to fit in.

  2. A Sense of Autonomy: Once kids feel acceptance and belonging, the next step is to give them a sense of autonomy. We see Wonderfully Wired kids resist beneficial interventions if they don't feel they have a choice. But when kids are trusted to know what's good for them, it unlocks motivation, drive, and self-direction.

The Third Leg: Growing Competency

This brings us to the third component, where we offer support to grow competency in Wonderfully Wired children. A holistic response involves both unlocking strengths and supporting challenges.

Unlocking Strengths

To unlock strengths, we need to recognize the innate cognitive advantages within each child's profile. Dr. Liz Angoff from ExplainingBrains.com refers to these as "strength highways" in the brain. These are areas where things come relatively easily to the child, sometimes exceptionally so.

Why Unlocking Strengths is Crucial

  1. Identity and Motivation: Without recognizing and nurturing these strengths, Wonderfully Wired children may face a crisis of identity and lack motivation to work on their challenges.

  2. Contribution to the World: There's a significant loss in potential contributions from these children if their strengths are not developed.

How to Unlock Strengths

  1. Curious Questioning: Catch kids in the act of doing something well.

  2. Enthusiastic Support: Encourage interests and abilities.

  3. Opportunities for Growth: Look for ways to develop these innate talents into significant skills.

Example

Dean Bragonier from NoticeAbility.org compares this to having a natural talent for basketball. Even with natural talent, skills, training, and coaching are necessary to become a good player.

Supporting Challenges

Continuing Dr. Liz Angoff's metaphor of the brain as a city, it also has roads under construction. This is where we introduce children to the concept of a growth mindset and the neuroscience of neuroplasticity.

Growth Mindset

  1. Neuroplasticity: Brains can grow and learn, and challenges can improve with the right support.

  2. Building Roads: Strengthening connections between neurons through practice and support build those 'roads under construction'.

Remedial Teaching

  1. Academic Support: Provide support in areas of academic struggle as soon as possible.

Executive Functioning Skills

  1. Executive Skills Development: Focus on developing executive functioning skills, which are often delayed in Wonderfully Wired kids. According to Victoria Bagnall:

  2. Cognitive Flexibility: Is often a challenge for autistic kids.

  3. Working Memory: Is often weak in dyslexic children.

  4. Inhibition Control: Is often poor in those with ADHD profiles.

These delays lead to skill deficits. But skills are teachable! With explicit, deliberate coaching, we can help children grow these essential skills that often cause disadvantage.

Conclusion

A balanced approach is essential:

  1. Unconditional Connection: Create a sense of belonging.

  2. A Sense of Autonomy: Trust children to know what's good for them.

  3. Growing Competency: See and celebrate strengths and support challenges.

By focusing on these three areas, we can support Wonderfully Wired kids in a holistic and effective way.



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