Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What do the Redwoods Want?

I've been working with kids with autism now for several years. The severity of the autism has varied from case to case. I've worked with kids who can communicate very well on a one to one basis, and I've worked with kids who can not speak at all. One particular child I will name David (his name is not really David for privacy reasons.) I've been working with this child for almost a year, he can not speak at all, only makes a few sounds here and there. My supervisor and I have had the hardest time teaching David anything, because we have not been able to find anything that motivates him. Its common for kids with autism to have unusual interests. It's also very common to have to alter your approach with each child. Compromise is almost crucial. In David's case, he does not care about toys, isn't motivated by food, hardly motivated by candy, doesn't seek out attention or affection that much. "What does he want?" I wondered. For all intents and purposes, he is very, very passive.

One day, I happened to observe that David really seemed to enjoy watching the credits roll at the end of a movie he showed no interest in. He started "stimming", which is a term used to describe when a child with autism becomes stimulated. David started flapping his arms, making noises, and seemed to really become happy watching those credits roll. I mentioned this to my supervisor, and we attempted to use the credits as a reward for following simple commands. Sure enough, for the first time in a year, David started responding to the commands as long as he was immediately rewarded with a couple minutes of credits to watch on TV. David started to come out of his autistic world, if ever so briefly.

Anyhow, I woke up in the middle of the night the last couple of nights and for some reason started thinking about the redwoods. Now that most of the old growth forest has been logged and the challenge now becomes how to manage the second and third and fourth generation redwoods, what is the best approach? How do we balance the need (or want) for quality lumber, with the health of the overall redwood ecosystem?

Is it possible that we can listen, and observe the redwood forest and fully understand what the redwoods want? Obviously water and sunlight are great motivators, but is there anything else? Redwoods also want to live and thrive, I have no doubt about that. Do they desire a greater habitat? Can we put their needs first and develop a symbiotic relationship where the redwoods can provide the lumber we desire along with helping them meet their ultimate desires? Is there a way we can encourage them to produce more wood for us, while we help them flourish and thrive at the same time? What do they need to help them do this?

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