© David Sponder, L.E.P., BCBA, Floortime C3c
Executive Director, Sponderworks Children’s Services

Guided Participation Teaching”

Guided Participation is a term coined by the famous Russian Psychologist of the mid-20th Century, Lev Vygotsky.  He used the term to describe the natural way of parenting for our species and the ways in which children learn from it.

Guided participation is seen as ideal and common to most families.   But it can also break down due to the presence of developmental obstacles.  Serious disabilities like Autism Spectrum Disorder, Reactive Attachment Disorder and other disorders of emotions, thinking and communicating and relating can cause a breakdown in the guided Participation relationship between adults and children, or, the capacity of an individual to benefit from Guided Participation teaching.

A history of lack of motivation and successful avoidance can make guiding or even participating in natural family routines and community activities together daunting if not impossible right now.  Guided participation or mindful parenting is a way that you can teach just about any type of skill within the context of a natural activity.

Being a Guide

Being the “Guide” is a role that you perform in a guided participation teaching moment.  Guides are just people that have the ability and the motivation to teach someone else something.   If they are good Guides, they teach a person how to learn by teaching not just the skills, but the “tools for learning.”   These tools have to do with learning how to think and adapt in dynamic (changing) life settings and to manage uncertainty.

Parents, Teachers, and other more experienced persons that cared for us engaged us in many different activities of life.  We learned from watching them and doing things with them.  Importantly, we learned that it was important to watch them.  We learned by watching them even when they weren’t trying to teach us something. And we didn’t just observe what they did, we started to form concepts of how and why they did what they were doing.

From that initial teaching of how lo learn, we learned to learn even more from watching everyone else.  Because we learned how to learn, we continue to learn from not only from our own trials, errors and successes, but also by watching what works or doesn’t work  for others.

Ultimately, what is most important is restoring your ability to use Guided Participation whenever and wherever you want.  In your role as Guide, the choice for dealing with problems with motivation is up to you.  Any of the above strategies can and do work in the right circumstances and hopefully for the right reasons.  We want you to be able to choose or refuse to use positive reinforcement or child lead.  We hope to able to help you learn how to make the decision.