Tuesday, April 06, 2010

A new behavioral intervention: adding calendaring

It's easy to persuade someone who can reason about past and future, and who can connect actions and consequences.

It's much harder to influence someone when reward or consequences must instantly follow action, where the past is forgotten and the future is inconceivable.

So we would like to make the future more real, more tangible. Something that he can interact with. We need to do it in a way that leverages his skills.

How do we do that?

We know that despite a quite low IQ he has a relative talent for devices and computers. They are natural to him, more comfortable and familiar than forest or water or rock. He struggles with many things, but not with software. Plan iMac has been successful. He's done well with his mobile phone, and texting seems to have advanced his writing skills.

So I've added a Google Calendar to his Gmail account - both on our family (free) Google Apps domain. He can view his parent's free/busy time and subscribe to other calendars of interest to him. I've populated his calendar with school events, and "invited" him from our calendars for events of interest. By necessity we have to plan a long way out, so he can see major events coming from many months away. He's awaiting the arrival of a Wii game -- I've put the estimated arrival time on his calendar.

My goal is that he interact with time through the calendar, that he begin to have a sense of future and past. I expect he will add his own events. Calendar items send SMS reminders to his phone (default 30 minute warning).

If he can develop a sense of time, then maybe we can return to teaching about deferred rewards, and then have more ways to change his behavior.

Update 5/26/10: We ran into a calendaring problem. We can't give my son unlimited Google access since his Google Image searches are not necessarily family friendly. We can't, however, using OS X parental controls, block Google Image search without also blocking calendar access. So this plan is on hold for the moment.

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