You are currently browsing all posts tagged with 'what is'.
Displaying 1 - 2 of 2 entries.

Special Education: Ability vs. Behavior

  • Posted on April 23, 2012 at 8:00 AM

Recently, I’ve been talking with someone who has a different perspective when it comes to assessing what children with special needs can do.  In the context of what we’re doing and why we’re talking, those differences are part of the value.  By sharing them, explaining them, and discussing those differences in a safe, neutral environment, the hope is that we will be able to broaden each other’s understanding and, eventually, share those insights with others.

 As a parent, I concentrate on what my kids can do and why they can or cannot do something in a particular environment.  If something isn’t going well, I quickly assess the what and the how, and then I jump to the why.  My thinking is that if we understand why, we can address the situation in a way that has the desired results.  For example, it is very frustrating for me that we don’t know why Alex doesn’t talk.  Is it because of the autism?  Is it because of the brain cyst?  Is it because of something else that we know about, something that has importance we’ve failed to recognize?  Or it is because of something that we don’t even know about yet?  My thinking is that if we understood the why, then we might be able to change the circumstances surrounding the what to address the why, whether that would be triggering latent speech abilities or finding a successful alternative communication system.

The person with whom I’ve been speaking concentrates more on the what then the why.  The why is important, but in his mind understanding the what and the where—the behaviors and when and where they occur—thoroughly is an important step that shouldn’t be rushed.  A quick assessment isn’t enough, because the what and the where (as I understand what he was saying) help to reveal the why.

He concentrates on what kids actually do, and where they do it.  To him, starting where they’re at is about what they do.  But what if where they’re at and what they do doesn’t reflect what they can do, what they could be doing if we could address the why?

Alex can talk in clear sentences, at significant length, in those rare moments where—whatever it is that makes those moments possible.  The words are there.  I’ve heard them.  I’ve heard him speak paragraphs of words, structured in meaningful and appropriate sentences, with clear diction.  The behavior does exist, but it’s not really his behavior since this has happened maybe four times in the last five years.  Most of the time Alex’s vocalizations just come out as single, repeated syllables or his words—maybe a few times a day—come out as garbled fragments that sound as if they’ve been distorted through some audio equipment.  Occasionally, he’ll sing snippets of song lyrics which may or may not come out more clearly.

The ability to speak is there.  But there is some sort of interference.  (I think I’d love to sit down with Sam and see what insights he might be able to offer.)  The interference is the why, and if we could alleviate it, then we could have more of the what.  But the interference, in a way, is also the what.  And then it all gets tangled in my mind and I don’t know where to go from here.

From a strictly scholastic perspective, I get why knowing what Alex does (the behaviors themselves) is important.  But I still think knowing what he can do, what he could do more of if only…  That’s important too.

Being the Big Brother

  • Posted on April 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM

I had an awesome big brother growing up.  Pat fit the role of big brother perfectly.  He was the guy I wanted to tag along after.  He was the guy who was always willing to include me when we moved somewhere and I didn’t know how to get started making new friends.  He was always bigger, stronger, smarter, faster, braver, and surer of himself, and I was always pushing myself in a futile attempt to keep up.  At the same time, he didn’t set an impossible standard I could never hope to live up to.  He wasn’t the kind of big brother that made me feel like crap because he was so perfect.  He protected me when I felt threatened.  He would talk to me and he would take my thoughts, my dreams, and my fears seriously.  He was also willing to accept my help and came to me when I had something to offer.  He was a manly man on the outside—strong, tough, with enough of a violent streak to keep the bullies of the world in check, but not so much that he was a danger in himself.  He was also tender on the inside—a poet, a philosopher, a man willing and able to contemplate the universe and our small place within it.

While the purpose of this post is not an ode to my brother (which would be written in verse), I have to say that one important lesson my brother taught me is that hero worship isn’t worth the cost.  When I was a lot younger, still living with my parents, it was hard not to feel hero worship for my brother.  He was all those things I said, and he was athletic and creative, and he got along in society.  He fit in.  Then, after he became an adult but before I did, he made a mistake.  It was a big one.  The way he handled the fall-out made sure that I lost the hero worship without losing the respect and love I had for him.  It was a tremendously valuable lesson:  To look up to people, to love and respect them for all that they do, but not to set them on a pedestal from which they must inevitably fall.  (Having read Madeleine L’Engle’s A House Like a Lotus probably didn’t hurt, either.)

When I married Mark and “inherited” a step-son, I was glad that my children would have a big brother.  When Willy was born first, I was again glad that my younger children would have a big brother.  When it turned out that all my children were boys, I was still glad that they had big brothers.  In my mind, Brandon and Willy were each going to fill that role that my brother filled so perfectly (with all the necessary and wonderful imperfections), each in their turn.

Yeah, parents are known for their unreasonable, unsound expectations.  So, I let that go.  And that’s fine.  I don’t hold on to stuff like that.

Recently, though, I’ve been looking at my two big boys who are rapidly growing up (though, admittedly, not as rapidly as they like to think) and watching them be the big brothers that they are.  Brandon in the midst of his moody, teenage angst and boredom, taking the time to play Trouble with Willy, to engage with Alex in the silly ways that Alex loves, to pick Ben up and spin him around in ways that makes him squeal with delight.  Willy in the midst of his awkward, teenage rush to be older, trying to get Alex and Ben to behave in more appropriate, less antagonistic ways to each other, to show them things, to teach them things, and to defend them whenever anyone is too critical.  I see my boys redefining the role of big brother to suit themselves and our family, and it’s so good.  It works.  It fits.  And I’m so proud of them.