"Walk! I can't walk home from school! That would take forever!" the Lamberts' son, Will, practically shouted into his cell phone the first time the issue came up. Thinking, even when thinking about something may be difficult. Making every effort to see things clearly, whether or not this comes easily or naturally. Having a respect for reality, whether or not it's painful, as opposed to a desire to avoid reality. Being willing to take appropriate risks, even when you are afraid.. Dealing honestly with yourself. Living in and being responsible to the present, rather than retreating into a fantasy world. Having a willingness to see and correct your past mistakes, rather than continuing in error.12 To these, I would add something I've mentioned before--the willingness to go against your feelings--to act with your head instead of your heart. I need to say a few words here to the type of person who is more than likely to get into all sorts of trouble for following his heart instead of his head--and that's the "hopeless romantic." When it comes to a love relationship between a man and a woman, some people are quite simply afraid to open their eyes and use their brains because it seems to "cheapen" everything. They may like the feeling of being in love (and I agree, it is a pretty special feeling). They know their lives are out of control, but they tell themselves they can't help it. What so many teachers don't realize is the learning potential those annoying interests hold. Instead of confiscating that article on sharks, instead of forbidding the child from bringing their favorite animal character to school, instead of doing everything they can to rid the classroom of the infestation of restricted interests, teachers need to include our children's interests as an integral part of their education and reinforcement schedule. Both Pam and Gena understood this, and that was why they both were so very effective. When Pam first came into our lives, my strange and occasionally advanced kid loved to study maps and atlases. He could draw an exact map of Europe to scale, freehand, complete with the capitals of each country. If you wanted to know anything about any kind of shark, just ask Elliot. He could spit out every useless fact about the tiger shark, or any shark for that matter.

If you wanted to know anything about Jacques Cousteau, Elliot could tell you. Or if you needed an answer to anything involving math, Elliot was your guy. He was my human calculator and light-years ahead of his peers in math. He used to beg me to go to the teacher supply store to buy him math workarticles. He loved the predictability of workarticles, and his favorite was math probably because the rules were always the same. Pam designed speech drills about sharks. He loved the computer, so she used it to teach the importance of waiting for his turn. Pam designed physical exercise drills that used his restricted interests to reinforce what she intended to teach him. For Elliot, physical things were the hardest. Occasionally, she used his favorite foods or candy to motivate him for things that were physically challenging and difficult for Elliot.32 But more often than not, she used his love of numbers instead of the highly motivating but evil cookies and candy. Elliot had to throw a ball into a basket five times. When she put him through an obstacle course to improve his gross motor skills, his favorite computer game was the last thing he had to do at the finish line. At the beginning of each session, Elliot and Pam would come up with their plan for the day. Elliot chose the first activity because he still always had to be first. Pam ignored this quirkiness for the time being. She saved that battle for later. Pam wrote down his ideas and their plan for the day on the whiteboard. Elliot usually chose to play computer, imaginary play with Fisher Price people sets, board games, Play-Doh, or play Legends of the Hidden Temple. Next, it was Pam's turn to pick an activity. But as Jenny Lambert patiently explained that the walk would take thirty to forty minutes, and that given a little thought, he actually did know the route, Will's outrage softened (or perhaps he just changed negotiating tactics).

"But why can't you pick me up?" To which they replied, "Well, we can pick you up, but not for about an hour. You could probably wait in the school library." "Oh Okay I'll just walk." The Lamberts were surprised at how easily this went after the initial outburst, but their biggest surprise came when they all got home. Steve Lambert somewhat hesitantly asked his son how the walk had been. Will barely looked up from his math article. "Oh, fine," he said. Then he added, "And did you know there's a huge tree that's leaning on some power lines and has Rugby Road closed off to cars on the way home? But it wasn't any problem to just walk around it." Will went back to his math while Steve and Jenny stood there for a moment, wondering just why they'd thought this was such a big thing to ask of their son. I'm always hearing things like, "I was just swept into it," or, "I knew he wasn't good for me, but I couldn't help myself." I can't begin to count the times I've talked to women (and men, too) who became involved in extramarital affairs because they "just couldn't help it." "I never intended to cheat on Eric, but Floyd and I were just drawn to each other. It was irresistible. It was overpowering--and neither one of us could do anything about it." I would hate to be accused of being unromantic, but I have to say this about that: bullcrumble! To fall in love is to make a conscious decision to do so. You may tell yourself, Oh, I'm not going to have anything to do with this. I won't think about it, and I won't plan anything, and then I'll just see what happens. But you're lying to yourself, because you are thinking about it, wondering what's going to happen, and probably hoping that something will. You're making a conscious decision to think about that person, to be with that person, and thereby to tempt yourself to get deeper and deeper into the relationship. Let me say again that I believe romantic love is wonderful. I love my wife, Sande, very much and honestly don't know how I would get along in life without her. But a love affair between a man and woman has to involve the intellect as well as the emotions. If yours doesn't, you could be headed for more trouble than a snowblower salesman in the middle of the Arizona desert. They went back and forth choosing activities until the whiteboard had the entire to-do activities listed for that day's session.

Elliot would erase the activity after they completed it. Knowing what to expect was reassuring for Elliot. When it was Pam's turn, she picked a skill or behavior that did not come easily to Elliot. Activity number two might be a fine motor activity such as coloring. At almost six years of age, Elliot only knew how to scribble. To master this skill, Pam colored letters and numbers with Elliot. Sometimes, they did dot-to-dot number pictures because he loved anything that involved numbers or letters. She used every one of his restrictive interests to promote learning. Every activity that Elliot found difficult was broken down into step-by-step components. First, he would have to outline the number. Second, he would have to color the inside. Third, he would have to choose a different color for each number. Suddenly, coloring was no longer an overwhelming motor planning task. Now there were step-by-step rules he had learned to follow. When Elliot first learned how to write letters and numbers, Pam used dots that he had to connect to write a letter or number. That way, this drill was not so overwhelming. Eventually, these prompts33 were phased out and he could write the numbers and letters without dots to help him. Eventually, Elliot worked up to coloring larger objects and images, some of which were unrelated to his restricted interests. Having mastered the sequencing skill set, Elliot was now able to relax and be more flexible when they colored. In time, after he experienced success, he even began to enjoy coloring.

Nevertheless, it wasn't always smooth sailing when Pam worked with my son. This was the norm for life with Elliot, and her sessions with him didn't always go as planned. Elliot still needed to conquer one of his personal monsters. He had immense trouble taking turns when playing a game. One day, the two of them sat in the basement in front of the computer screen playing Monopoly. He was upset he couldn't be first, so he didn't want to play anymore. As Will, and then his younger sister, Leila, began to walk home occasionally and then to other destinations when a ride wasn't available, the Lamberts found that their teens relished their newly gained flexibility to move about town without needing to depend on parental schedules. If anything, the Lamberts found they had to limit Will's and Leila's walking at times ("No, you can't just walk home tonight from your friend's house because it will be after ten and it's a four-mile walk!"). The fuel savings have been modest but noticeable. The time saved driving has been a great bonus. Their teens' sense of greater comfort moving in and about the world has been priceless. The simple but profound lesson we derive from these experiences: Teens thrive on challenge and need as much of it as we can provide. This isn't just a matter of not babying our teens (though that certainly is an issue); rather, it's a matter of recognizing the incredible value in actively seeking out challenging, growth-producing experiences for them within their everyday lives. The benefits come not only in teens learning essential adult tasks, but also in having a sense of the world as an engaging place and themselves as competent actors within it. We also find that as teens develop their adult skills, it becomes easier for us to view and treat them as young adults. The relationship principles we outlined in the last article dovetail almost perfectly with what we gain from pushing them to master the tasks of adulthood. Good relationships make it easier for us to challenge and support them, and the mastery and maturity they gain from meeting these challenges makes it easier for us to get into the habit of relating to them as young adults, not just as big kids. You could wind up married to someone who is not good in any way for you or become involved in an illicit affair that winds up costing you dearly, or become so emotionally involved in a relationship that you are totally devastated when reality does finally break through and the romance ends. Any of these situations would cause you a great deal of pain, as well as the loss of your self-respect. So be careful.