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Lot’s daughters

October 27, 2012

 

A typical beginning PECS [Picture Exchange Communication System] user is a young individual who has not developed spoken communication and whose motivation to communicate is based on a preference for accessing tangible outcomes rather than social outcomes. In Phases 1 and 2, students learn to exchange a single picture with a communicative partner (CP) and to be persistent at getting and maintaining the CP’s attention.

the PECS user should be a persistent communicator in that she or he initiates the communicative interaction rather than waiting to be prompted to communicate and he or she persists in engaging the attention of a CP until the interaction is successful. ASHA

 

The unity and harmony, joined here with clear lines of authority and submission, defy the instincts of contemporary culture … Relations of authority and submission, lived out in unity and harmony – this is the model set for us by the Trinity Father, Son and Holy Spirit

 

Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’

“For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’”

And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” Luke 18

 

The action of the daughters of Lot was an act of love and faithfulness to their father and to the need to give life, an honorable, even heroic act. In the ancestor stories in Genesis, in which God explicitly controls the opening and closing of wombs, the pregnancy of the daughters of Lot and the birth of Ammon and Moab are a reward for their extraordinary actions. Frymer-Kensky

 

When working with children who are non-verbal, one must decide whether the model relationship is that of authority and submission, or that of request and response. Is the adult/teacher the one who initiates and engages obedience and conformity, OR is the adult/teacher the one who stands by and happens to have what the child wants. The child must initiate a request or demand spontaneously, without prompting by the adult. The adult then responds by providing the desired item or action. If the adult responds by meeting the request, the child then learns that the request was functional, it got her what she wanted. It works. The child then learns to persist.

Which model for human relations best honours the humanity of the child, authority and submission, or initiation and response? In the PECS system, it is not only “initiation and response” but it is also “persistence.” If the adult is not paying attention, or is at a distance, the child must learn to persist.

If we work on the premise of Frymer-Kensky that the narratives about women are not about women, but are “a paradigm for understanding powerlessness and subordination” then we can look at what women in the bible did and see if it models the relationship of authority and submission, or that of initiation and response. Therefore, each and every time that a woman initiated a plea to God for a child, and was able to bear a child, it displays the proper relationship of initiation and response. The powerless initiates a request spontaneously and without prompting, and the Almighty rewards the request. This is the fundamental relationship between two persons or entities of differing power, that of initiation and response, initiation of a request by the less powerful, and response and reward granted by the more powerful.

This week, I spent time with the grade 6’s discussing the discovery of a planet in the Alpha Centauri system, one on one time reading with a grade 1 student, time training a team of support workers, time developing our website, and downloading apps, time with the consultants, who drop in and out, AND I spend time lying on the floor playing with the train.

In this model, there is no task too low, no level to which the person in power will not descend, there is no staying off the floor. The floor is something which I experienced in a relationship of authority and submission, unwanted contact with the floor, but now it is the level to which I will descend to play with, to respond and to grant a request. Sometimes, I even break off from a meeting with a group of support workers and consultants to lie on the floor and sort out the track, to provide the right pieces and model different ways of assembling track. They laugh at me, why am I on the floor?

Note: For those working with non-verbal children, we do have a wide variety of activities for these children, ranging from equipment for physical activities, a shopping and cooking program, computers, iPads, games and puzzles, pets, and so on. The train set – the train set really is there, but when I write, the train set becomes the metaphor for my interaction with the children. In reality, we find out what they love, what is their desire, their taste, their choice and attempt to offer a stimulating and varied program. These children are integrated into a regular class in a regular school and my room, which is lined with books, is also equipped to appeal to the non-verbal. It really doesn’t matter to me whether the child has a two word vocabulary, or wants to know about the habitable zone around Alpha Centauri B. You still get to initiate the conversation.

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. October 27, 2012 7:35 pm

    Therefore, each and every time that a woman initiated a plea to God for a child, and was able to bear a child, it displays the proper relationship of initiation and response. The powerless initiates a request spontaneously and without prompting, and the Almighty rewards the request. This is the fundamental relationship between two persons or entities of differing power, that of initiation and response, initiation of a request by the less powerful, and response and reward granted by the more powerful.

    A. Very interesting!

    B. Okay… so then how do you read God initiating with Abram? with Mary of Nazareth?

  2. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    October 27, 2012 8:51 pm

    Yes, I did think of Abraham and of Mary. Naturally not every interaction will fit into one model. There are always times when you tell a child or someone else, to do something, in the interests of a greater goal.

    But if you look at all the children born in the Hebrew bible, doesn’t it seem that most of them were born because of an appeal by the woman. More in my next post on this topic.

    Ii am not saying that every child is born because of the plea of the mother, but simply that when a child is born in response to a plea from the mother, this demonstrates the relationship of initiating and response.

  3. October 27, 2012 9:14 pm

    I was thinking less about the children per se, and more about the relationship between power and initiation. Of course, it makes sense that not all interactions will have the same model, but it would be good if all the models fit into the same overarching framework.

    Your response that sometimes we “tell someone what to do” surprised me, because I don’t read either the Abram or Mary interactions as commands, but as offers of a great good gift. In both cases the offer is made by God, and the human has the real and meaningful choice of whether to accept or reject the gift, and everything that it implies.

    An overarching framework might be “how to be in authentic loving relationship, even in the presence of power imbalance.” Carrying on your analogy of relationship between adult and child, sometimes this requires the adult to consciously refrain, to pull back, in order to leave the child the space to be herself and discern her desires and ask for them. And sometimes it requires the adult to model initiation, and especially to model generosity and giving.

    What do you think?

  4. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    October 27, 2012 9:33 pm

    Thanks for more detail in your comment. Yes, there is also, to refer once again to the PECS program, the suggestion that the adult be like a grandmother, that is the adult provides ongoing “non-contigent reinforcers”, or goodies to the child without the child asking for them. The adult, or the person in power, initiates giving to the weaker individual, just because, not in response to a request. The adult is encouraged to take on this role with the child, always providing some pleasant treat or activity freely in the way that a “grandma” might (or a grandpa, of course).

    But the main communication exchange has to be something that the child asks for spontaneously, without prompting. It is about building a sense of agency or autonomy. Even if this agency is in a very limited sphere, that is the goal. The child must feel that he or she is making things happen. He thinks of what he wants, plans how to get it, and takes action, does something to get what he wants. He hands over a picture of what he wants, and then he gets it. It beats the negative behaviour that the child displays when he or she is unable to communicate.

    Here is another post that I wrote a while ago on this. http://powerscourt.blogspot.ca/2008/07/dignity-of-choice.html

    I am not too sure that I have an “overarching framework” just yet. I am still working on it, but perhaps your comments might push me towards one.

  5. John Radcliffe permalink
    October 30, 2012 10:45 am

    I was intrigued enough by the reference to the book “Father Son and Holy Spirit” to follow the link. I think the Amazon review I reproduce below says all that needs to be said. Unfortunately it was swamped out by rave reviews that said how the book made such difficult subject so clear. What a sad state of affairs indeed.

    * * * * * * *

    Bruce Ware’s ‘Father Son and Holy Spirit’ is no more about the Trinity than ‘Animal Farm’ is a book about agriculture, despite the ostensible topic. And so I was sad to see that another reviewer commented that this was the best book he had ever read on that topic. What a sorrow in the Evangelical church if this is the best we have to offer on the Triune God.

    I too was really excited to read this book (which I special ordered), but Ware’s book is in fact not a book about the Trinity; it is a book about authority and submission: in the home, in the church, and in every relationship. If you are hesitant (he uses the word ‘resist’) about male-only eldership he calls it ‘sinful’. He talks about how the submission of wives and church members is to be ‘absolute’, ‘always longing to do just what is asked or commanded of them’. Ware believes that everyone who works in the church is to give honor to the senior pastor who has ‘granted them the privilege and the training for their particular ministry’. And he allows no space for alternate views because, for Ware, these relationships are direct reflections of what the way that he (wrongly) conceives of the Son as eternally subordinate to the Father, both before and after his incarnation.

    I agree with Ware that role inequality does not mean value inequality, but Ware abandons all mediating positions and pushes right through to the extreme. I have not counted, but I would guess that the word ‘authority’ or ‘submission’ is on 90% of the pages of this book. It is not a book about the Trinity, it is a book that uses the Trinity as an outline to write a book reinforcing traditional authority roles in home, church, workplace, and world.

    Ware’s own sentence on p 97 sums up his own book best: ‘By this, the Son is shown to be under the Father, but over the Spirit.’ And therefore the wife or church member or worker is under the absolute authority of their male only leader in a way that cannot be questioned or challenged without sin. That is what this book is about. […]

    Ware’s ‘Father Son and Holy Spirit’ broke my heart because I had hoped for such good.

  6. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    November 3, 2012 2:37 pm

    John,

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I won’t go to read the rave reviews. It hurts to see people celebrating the subjugation of women, but its nice to know some are protesting.

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