The Other Side of Communication: Not

It is important to be able to communicate well. You can probably think of plenty of cases where miscommunication caused trouble. Someone said something unclear, untactful, ambiguous, or, or, or. Someone did something.

Another way to get into trouble with communication is by not recognising when one should not communicate.

I tutor a high-functioning autistic boy in mathematics. He had learned how to game the special needs aides. They are so eager to get a result that they will accept practically anything and can be tricked into doing the work for the student. (Lower the bar, lower the bar, lower the bar, bury it so no one will trip over it.)

That technique does not work too well on me. I operate on a different basis. When I set him to work on some exercises, I break contact. It is up to him to do the work. I keep an eye out in case he gets into deep trouble, but I let him fight his way through little difficulties. In fact, I insist on it by not answering very many questions. To ensure that I break contact, I often read the newspaper, glancing over at intervals.

It has been over a year, and I am still fighting efforts by him to draw me in, but I have largely broken him of this. The result is that he is doing much better: he has more confidence and can do things by himself. After all, the idea of tutoring is that eventually, the student does not need the help of the tutor.

Sometimes, it is better to keep quiet.