Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Not there YET!

Often times I share success stories about students I work with - the girl with Rett Syndrome who is reading, the boy with Cerebral Palsy and multiple disabilites who writes stories with his communication book, the teenager with Angelman Syndrome who received a speech device a year ago and saw a massive decrease in agressive behaviors.  These stories, true and meant to inspire and illustrate often have a very different result.  One result I commonly hear is educators, therapists and parents who think that there is something exceptional about the child in the story. Some gift or ability that their student with a similar disability does not posess.  This leads the educators, therapists and parents to believe that their student, client or child can't possibly achieve the literacy, communication, self-regulation or other skill examined in the story.

The problem is that the comparison being drawn is often between a child who has had specfic intervention and a child who has not.  This is like comparing a "before" makeover picture of one person with the "after" makeover picture of another.  The girl with Rett Syndrome, while wonderful and smart, did not suddenly begin reading because she has something others with Rett Syndrome don't have.  She learned to read because of a concerted long term effort by her TEAM. This included not only excellent instruction by a multi-disclinary TEAM but also faith that even if we never got to independent reading with comprehension our efforts were worth it. The boy with CP and other disabilities who writes stories (usually about superheros) with his PODD communication book isn't an exception he is simply a child who's family decided to focus on what he can do,  to set high expectations and to hire homebased TEAM members to teach him the communication and literacy skill he needs to learn at grade level in school. The teenager who finally got a communication system at 13 and learned to use it to help regulate her anxiety and behavior doesn't  have the genetic mutation that leads to a less challenging form of her diagnosis, there is nothing that makes what she can do somehow singular or  or "higher functioning". The reason she has those skills is a year of intensive three to five hours a week of specific intervention to teach her how to do those things with family follow through at home.

All of this is to say that when we hear about children similar to our students, clients or own children who are doing things our kids aren't,  we shouldn't  assume that our kids will never get there... Or that the other child possess something ours doesn't.  We should realize they just aren't there YET!

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