speed blogging

*

Ready …

Set  …

Go.

I have nine minutes.

Nine.

But I really, really want to tell you something.

So I’m going to give it my best shot.

In nine minutes.

Damn.

Make that eight and half.

OK, here goes …

The deficit model of education sucks.

The idea of focusing on what we – or our kiddos – can’t do.

It sucks.

Because there’s so very much that they CAN do.

And so often what they CAN do gets overshadowed, particularly in the classroom, by what they CAN’T do.

And we spend so much time trying to bolster their weaknesses, help them overcome their challenges, bring them up to speed in the areas in which they tend to fall behind, that we have none left to foster their talents, support exploration in their areas of interests, feed and water whatever it is in them that, with just a little sunlight and love and encouragement, might just blossom into something incredible.

Temple Grandin said it in this fabulous article on educating kids with autism a little while ago –

In my case, I was really good at art, but doing algebra made no sense. It is important to work on areas where a child is weak, but an emphasis on deficits should not get to the point where building the area of strength gets neglected.

Kids with autism often get fixated on one thing, and it is important to expand their fixations.

I heard about sad cases where a teacher forbids an elementary school child to draw pictures. If a teacher had stifled my art ability, I would have never become a designer of livestock equipment. Half the cattle in North America are handled in equipment I have designed for the meat plants. I think that this is a real accomplishment for a child that some people thought was mentally retarded.

Damn it, I have two more minutes.

Two.

Yikes.

OK, I’ll cut to the chase.

This time of year we spend a lot of time talking about our kids’ challenges. Team meetings, listening conferences, IEP reviews – they’re chock-full of discussion of what our kid’s can’t do. Where they struggle. Where they are behind their peers.

There needs to be more talk in those meetings about what they CAN do.

About what they are amazing at. Or what matters to them. Or what they seem to enjoy. Or what they could be amazing at someday with some help.

My kid struggles in math. And reading. And a whole lot of other stuff.

But …

She taught herself Spanish.

By watching her Nick Jr shows on Univision on Demand, she taught herself Spanish.

Dora, Blue – they’re never in English anymore.

Like seriously, the kid is speaking Spanish.

She walked out of her flip-flop the other day and shouted, “Esperate! Mi zapato!”

You know what we talked about in her parent-teacher meeting yesterday?

Languages.

French, Spanish, American Sign.

Her teacher speaks Greek. We asked if she’d teach her some.

She taught herself Spanish, people.

The kid who struggled so desperately to communicate – who had NO novel language for YEARS taught herself Spanish.

KInda ironic, ain’t it?

Yesterday, Landon Bryce reposted a really thought-provoking post entitled, Would the World Be a Better Place If Everyone were Like You? The post is worth reading for a lot of reasons, but the one that happened to strike me the most yesterday was this:

But once we have a complex society, we also have different roles that we need people to play.  We need people to be policemen.  We need people to be kindergarten teachers.  A good kindergarten teacher does not need to be able to be a cop in order to have value.

Yes, there are things our kids can’t do. Lots of them. There are also things that we can’t do. Lots of those too. But if we spend all of our time talking about what they can’t do, what happens to their self-esteem? Their sense of self-worth? And not for nuthin’, but what happens to what they *could* do?

Oh dear God, I forgot about the time.

Two minutes just became twelve and I seriously have to go. So much for washing my hair. I know. Ick.

I’ll leave you with the words of the immortal Albert Einstein.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

Amen.

Baseball caps are in, right?

32 thoughts on “speed blogging

  1. Baseball caps are totally cool! My girl has begun speaking German and has told her twin brother, who is taking Spanish I this year, that she doesn’t need that class cause she already knows Spanish. Yup, my 8th graders is now looking at her 2nd foreign language.
    On a side note, I started a blog a while back. I left it alone for a while cause I fell into “the dark place” for a while. I posted a new one yesterday (finally) and would love for you to read it! Thank you for inspiring me and teaching me that we can totally celebrate our kids’ amazing accomplishments and share our heartbrake. That we are not alone.
    xoxo!
    Becky

  2. Perfect! And I think I’ll join the baseball wearing club today too! Love the quote by Einstein, I think I’m “borrowing” it!

  3. Love it.
    You can imagine my distress last year when we sat in a funding meeting and the departmental person said “But is he good at ANYTHING? And the teachers said …..nothing.
    The entire focus was negative – I need to print this out and bring it to this year’s meeting.
    And one more thing, my kid who apparently isn’t good at anything, saw a poster with Hello written in 15 languages and when he came home that night, he wrote them all out and told me which country they were from, pronounced them all and then asked me how to write hello in Greek. I didn’t know so the next morning we asked the little Greek girl in his class and now he does. Again, the kid that spoke his own jibberjabber language for 4 years is able to read and write other languages…..
    Please let us find their strengths and use them, not only to give them something positive each day but most importantly to build all their skills.

  4. I LOVE this! Thank you for this , it is exactly what I needed today! I have been thinking a lot about what Ben will be like as an adult and if he will ever be able to be independant. He is 5 and is HFA and he just became potty trained, YAY! But it really has me thinking lately about how much he will struggle the rest of his life, but you are so right! I need to just stay focused on all of the wonderful things he CAN do and know that he WILL do great things!! THANK YOU!!

  5. 100% right. we are starting to discover some of Cymbie’s strengths. She loves writing letters, she loves coloring, painting, and making pictures. Thank you for this!

  6. My son taught himself to read at 3 years old, but didn’t really talk until after he was 4. In our case, the academics come easily, except for when he has to express himself with his own words. He is getting a little better there too. Our problem is getting him to sit still long enough to do the work.

  7. So true! I always open our back to school emails with the new teacher with my sons strengths then go on to what his weaker areas are.

  8. We are on the ground here in Chicago fighting with our lives for this very vision of education. The etymology of education is the latin verb ‘educare’, which means ‘to draw out of’. Historically, we’ve been so right. It’s only the latest years that the possibilities for this vision in schools has been driven out – all under the guise of best service. We want a society with spaces for everyone, not everyone competing for the same fewer and fewer spaces. I know the media is portraying us horribly. Please, please, please – for all the kids for whom we are advocating every day – don’t believe it. (In fact, if you have any questions about what’s happening here, I’d be happy to do my best to help.) If we ever stood a chance of moving back away from this deficit-framing of all the kids I’ve given my life to, this might just be it. I’m sorry to be tangential, but my Brookes need this fight.

  9. First, baseball caps are so in….I mean really in…..at least I hope that they are because this ma ma is sporting one just about every day.

    Focusing on what the child can’t do…..the question also becomes what impact does that have on the family unit? The parent’s self worth? The sibling’s self worth?

    What could be accomplished as a family if the focus was on what the child could do?…..How would the climate of the meeting change? How would the shift in that meeting impact the tempo of the child’s home? How would the parent’s marriage be impacted if we focused on what the child could do?What if we were able to share as my Mae Mae might say, “What he is really good at?”

    I think sometimes it is the siblings who get this idea more than grown ups. Here is a post that I wrote last summer. My Mae Mae shares what she thinks the counselors need to know about her brother before he attends camp. I think number 6 and 7 are spot on and show the brightness if we focus on what or kids can do.

    http://www.cheairsgraves.com/category/siblings/

    As always….thank you for your thought provoking post.

  10. Great info on Temple Grandin. I am a new blogger and already I can see how much time it takes to not only find the right blog, but also feel like I can be a part of a social media community. Yesterday on the Ricki Lake show she featured the entire show on social media, blogging and had the audience using technology to tweet,etc.

  11. I want to bring this to my son’s IEP meeting next month. It hits on so much of how I feel.

    It is interesting that Brooke watches her shows in Spanish. My son does that too. And in French. And Russian. Amazing that they do this. That they are open to it. My other sons cannot stand shows in a foreign language…hmmm.

    • Do you have any other suggestions of how I should prepare for my daughters IEP meeting?
      She is going from a private Aba therapy to public charter for autistic children and will be 4 yrs old the end of December. Any suggestions is appreciated as I am nervous for the change and want to be prepared. I know in time it will get easier with experience.

  12. ABSOLUTELY BRILLIANT! I am sending this to every single person who is involved on my son’s team. I couldn’t have said it better myself….we MUST find people’s strengths and build upon them…autism or not. And yes, baseball hats are just fine….wear them myself at least 2 times a week!

    • brilliant! I am turning on the CC tonight!! My daughter always appears to be reading the credits. I bet you money she will love the CC!! THANK YOU!

  13. I work for a software company and in close proximity to sales people, developers, testers, trainers and marketing people! We are all so drastically different and it is celebrated. It takes all of us to make and deliver our product. It brings me peace to see one of our very best developers in the breakroom- when she doesnt look up or appears completely uncomfortable by my presence I smile- inside! If Maddie grows up to work with a bunch of game playing, apple phone having, very quite developers- I will be OK! And so will she.

  14. As a teacher of ASD, NT, and other random Special Needs kids, I have found that they surprise me (and many others) by overcoming the “deficits” if we push their “strengths” by focusing on THOSE…by praising, by getting excited with (and for) them with every new achievement.

  15. Wish that Temple Grandin would see that even if she was mentally retarded (her words, not mine) that her life would have value and she could have created something wonderful and useful. Maybe I’m just sensitive because of my own child’s diagnosis but I am troubled by people using a mentally retarded diagnosis as something that wouldn’t have amounted to much.

  16. You are always so on point! I love reading your blog! It helps me esp when I’m feeling the most down! & ps you need to invest in some dry shampoo! It’s the best stuff ever! I was like shampoo in a can that I don’t wash out sign me up! I love it! I wash my hair every other day on the days I don’t I always use dry shampoo! It’s my go to if I’m running late! Witch is a lot! Lol!

  17. Totally agree, I think schools in general always focus on the cant(s),,,another reason why for my own kids, a parent based intervention gave them the chance to embrace both their strengths and obstacles…understand how we all have them…and not look at it all so negatively!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Kathy

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