Develop Your Children’s Ability To Detect And Understand “Same But Different”

Over the next 2-3 months, we want to try and support your children to understand the important developmental concept of ‘same but different’.

This concept is very important because it helps children make sense of their world.

It is very important that your children learn to quickly recognize sameness in activities that look very different.


  • Being able to recognize the ‘sameness’ in different activities reduces the degree of unpredictability that a child needs to manage.
  • The ability to quickly ‘see’ and ‘recognize’ similar elements or details in an activity helps children understand the main idea of the activity.
  • The ability to recognize ‘sameness’ allows a child to experience continuity and ‘figure out the big idea’ embedded in the activity even when you change up less important details or elements in the activity.
  • A child who cannot see sameness amongst variation will not feel comfortable engaging with novelty or challenge.

Why The Motivation To Engage With Novelty and Challenge Is So Important

  • Novelty and challenge are both characterized by unpredictability
  • A child who finds unpredictability threatening will not engage with novelty or be interested in new challenges.
  • A child who finds novelty and unpredictability threatening and who tried to avoid novelty and unpredictability will not become a growth seeker.  
  • This creates a tremendous obstacle in child development.
  • When the child does not possess growth-seeking motivation the parent’s ability to guide their child’s development is impaired.
  • The parent cannot engage with their child in the expected joint parent – child interactions that naturally support growth.

Develop And Build Increased Emotional Attunement With Your Children

What Is Attunement And How Does It Typically Develop?

  • Typically developing infants, from a very early age, are instinctively attracted to the parent’s face and aware of the parent’s emotional facial expression or ‘affect’.
  • During the first six months of development, this natural instinct allows parents and infants to engage in a lot of face-to-face interaction with one another.
  • This face-to-face interaction supports the development of parent and child attunement.
  • The naturally tendency of the parent and child to engage in face-to-face interactions allows the parent and child to form and naturally engage in a mutual and dynamic affect sharing (emotional relationship) with one another.
  • The child smiles at the parent and the parent smiles back at the child. The parent and child learn to match their emotional states to one another in a supportive manner.
  • Infants and parents are wired to participate in this affect-sharing relationship with one another.
  • We call this process ‘emotional attunement’.
  • The vulnerabilities associated with ASD hinder the development of parent child attunement.

Why Developing Attunement Is Important

  • The development of attunement between the parent and the child begins to develop the child’s understanding of ‘we”.
  • Attunement is a dynamic and mutual process. The parent notices and adapts to the child’s affect and the child notices and adapts to the parent’s affect.
  • The attunement process is mutual because the parent’s response affects the child’s response and the child’s response affects the parent’s response.
  • The attunement process is dynamic because neither parent nor child can predict the response of the other.
  • Through joint participation in emotional and pleasurable activities that support facial gazing, the child and the parent learn to synchronize or match their emotional states to each other.
  • The feeling of being ‘in emotional synchrony’ strengthens and builds the parent-child relationship.
  • Attunement builds the relationship by enhancing the functioning of the brain.
  • The emotional gaze that the parent and child share releases important chemicals in the brain that create the desire for social relationship.
  • It is in moments of attunement that both parent and child are most likely to release oxytocin and to feel ‘in sync’ with one another.
  • Oxytocin supports the desire for continued attunement and shared emotional and synchronized gaze.
  • Attunement helps the child handle and recover from the many social breakdowns that they naturally encounter as they begin to lean about social relationships and engage in joint interactions with others.

Your Assignment:

Support Your Child To See “Sameness” In Related But Different Role Activities

Think about some activities that you can do with your child that will enable them to see same and different in these three role frameworks.

Sender- Receiver 

You and your child engage in different actions, but they are coordinated and related to one another.

Examples of Activities

  • I pass you a cup of water and you put the water in the pot.
  • I spray water on the counter and you wipe it up with a towel.
  • I pass you an apple and you put it in the bowl.

I Do – You Do (Like Turn Taking)

You and your child engage in the same role action. You model and demonstrate vs. ‘tell’.

Examples of Activities

  • I pour water in the pot. I pass to you and you pour water in the pot.
  • I add a block to the tower and then you add a block to the tower.

We Do At The Same Time

You and your child engage in the same action at the same time.

This is not about exact coordination.

NOTE: I would not start with this role framework.

Support Your Child To See “Sameness” In One Activity Framework Done In Different Ways

Example Of Activity: Block Building (The challenges become bigger as you move down the list of activities below. I would start with the variations at the top of the list.)

  • Use the same blocks.
  • Build sender-receiver style.
  • Take turns.
  • Build with the same blocks in a different place.
  • Use different blocks.
  • Build high towers
  • Build long roads
  • Combine towers and roads.
  • Build with other materials: toilet paper rolls, cans, and boxes.
  • Build towers of one color only