“Our Mom wasn’t like other Moms.” a twenty-something daughter of my mentor recalled. “As kids, when we were doing something crazy, she wouldn’t yell. She would get so quiet.” “And she moved really slowly.” added the thirty-something sister. “We called it her strange calm.” “And I guess it worked because we were weirded out by […]
Why, when looking at helping children, do we focus on calling areas that they have yet to master as deficits and disorders, rather than areas for further growth with directed instruction? Why do we take a deficits-based approach rather than a strengths-based approach?
Whether a child would benefit from more reading instruction using a multisensory, structured, language-based approach to master reading and spelling, more instruction and support in the development of social emotional skills, or instruction to expand his vocabulary and language skills through verbal and nonverbal means, we need to frame these are areas for further growth to add to his list of strengths. We would increase the child’s self-image and confidence by focusing with the child on where his current strengths are and where are areas of future strengths, which can be developed through individual, focused instruction.
This would require us to not talk about having the student stop doing activities that showcase his strengths, such as art, music, or sports, which is a problem that many students have to live with. Instead, we need to focus on using the times already set in the curriculum for the skills training needed for future endeavors by providing smaller group and individual skill-building instruction. I know, we call this special education. But special education focuses on deficits. Special education has also lost its focus on remediation as policies have changed to look at most-inclusive classrooms, which for students in need of skill building, become more restrictive environments.
In the world of sports, and in many businesses, as this point, the emphasis has changed to coaching to focus on areas where strength building and skill development are the targets for advancement. A good coach doesn’t talk about where failures are. The focus is on what is the goal of the player or student. Then the objectives and resources are looked at to help the student reach his goal. Some goals are many years away, such as a 3rd grader who wants to be a firefighter some day. But the objectives can be very similar academically for many long-term goals. The resources may include one-on-one assistance/instruction to build a firm foundation for further growth. It may entail providing technology for accessing knowledge beyond where his current academic skill-set it. It may require providing more instruction on the hows and whys of social emotional interactions, along with support and feedback as he practices these skills.
Let’s develop a growth mindset when looking at providing support to children. Let’s stop focusing on defeats but on future endeavors with the supports for success.
Do you have dyslexia or another LD and are in or contemplating going to graduate school? This post is very practical and useful not only for grad students but undergrads too.
There is a new series on A&E called Born This Way. It is about a group of young adults with Down Syndrome. I feel this is a must watch for all adults who come in contact with children/students with disabilities, of which Down Syndrome is just one. Despite all the talk about the advances in awareness and methods of intervention to help people with disabilities, I have personally seen too many instances of under expectations for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. In our society at the present time 70% of individuals with disabilities of working age can’t find employment.
I feel that expectant parents should watch this to counter the talk about individuals with Down Syndrome being unable to be a part of society, unable to be independent in any way. Yes, they may need more support than a typically developing child, but now days even typically developing children are needing more support for extended periods of time due to the economy and the cost of a liberal arts education. Even my children are needing some support due to job hours limitations due to the employers need to provide health insurance for employees working more than 28 hours per week.
I have patients in my practice who have Down Syndrome in their 20’s. Their parents were told to either abort, or if it was not known until delivery, to put their newborn baby into an institution because they would always need total support, would not be able to learn, etc. Born This Way, goes a long way to show that these predictions are so limiting. My patients were discriminated early on regarding educational expectations. I, along with others, helped their parents learn to advocate for more in school or to seek it out on their own. Great strides were made by this advocacy. A young man with Down Syndrome, who also inherited his mother’s dyslexia, received appropriate tutoring for dyslexia and went from not reading at all to reading at 2nd grade level in one year. A young man with mild intellectual development disorder, who also had dyslexia, who went from not reading to reading at 4th grade level in less than 2 years.
Let’s make 2016 the year that we learn from individuals with disabilities, like the cast of Born This Way. Let’s vow to see everyone as having potential to be explored, not limitations to be enforced.
This is such a moving tale of not just a teacher but an entire educational community which saw their mission as one of supporting students in social and emotional growth, not just academics. What a wonderful shout out to them.
At my triplets 4th birthday party our middle triplet got a tummy ache. She was standing in the middle of our living room when she got “the look”. It was all coming up. As she began to throw up, her preschool teacher flew across the room (seriously, I think she had a super hero cape on) and actually caught my daughters vomit in her hands.
“Um, did you just catch my daughters vomit?”
“Yes, what was I else was I supposed to do?”
She then spent the next few minutes helping me clean up what made its way to the floor and what made its way on to my daughter.
That was my first experience with one of my children’s teachers going way beyond their job description.It wasn’t my last and I can bet that there will be many more.
A few weeks ago two of my teenaged daughter’s…
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Below is the link to an article written by a relatively new teacher (about 5 years in the classroom) who lists all the things that she has done for her students and all the struggles they have experienced during her tenure. She is strongly considering quitting the profession but wants the policy makers to understand why.
This burnout is not just occurring in the schools. If you ask any of the professionals whose passion is helping children and adolescents, you will year the same issues, the same frustrations, and the same hopelessness about how we, as a society, are letting down our youth.
Please start a conversation here or among your colleagues about what she has said and what we can do, both at the grassroots level and at the policy level to turn this around. One thing is certain, we need our “in the trenches” professionals to be part of the conversation and solution, not just the ones who have to live with the “wisdom” of others.
In a general population the prevalence of sensory processing disorders is 1 in 20 according to literature by Lucy Miller OT. When you talk about the autism spectrum disorders, this number goes to much higher levels although an actual prevalence rate has not been determined due to the controversy about the reality of the disorder.
While not everyone believes in a sensory processing disorder (also known as a sensory integration disorder), their is belief that there can be significant sensory processing deficits for individuals in the autism spectrum and ADHD. This is important because sensory issues can and do affect how well these children and adolescents tolerate their environments. The more overwhelmed they feel, the less they will be able to interact with their environment. Some may run away, some may lash out, and others will just shut down where they are.
I found this video on sensory overload that I think will help others “feel” for just a couple of minutes what it feels like to be in a situation where processing is impaired due to too much information coming in at once.
When I talk about Never Assume, like in my book, I am referencing the need to really find out what is behind the behaviors we notice. We need to take the time to think about various possible reasons that are triggering a fight or flight response in the child or adolescent. By truly understanding the source(s) of the behaviors, we can begin to develop empathy and interventions to improve the quality of life for him.
Next time you find yourself getting upset at a child for inappropriate behavior, please take a moment to consider a why other than “Because he is a brat” or “He is just trying to ruin my day.” You will be surprised by what you come up with and how that changes your response/reaction.