Monday, March 14, 2011

Different, not less

The title is a quote from the made for TV movie, Temple Grandin.  I picked it up at the library after seeing part of the Academy Awards.  There was a woman hugging the star of the movie.  Later, I found out that was the woman the movie was about.  The woman wore a cowboy type shirt.  The moment seemed a little different than what is normally shown on those award shows. The movie won quite a few awards.

My daughter watched it first and said it was good.  I later watched it with her.  I agree.  Through the movie and some further looking around on her website, etc., I discovered Ms. Grandin is autistic.  However, she is also a strong visual thinker and.....a PhD.  She thinks in pictures.  She was picked on mercilessly in school.  One of the things she would tell people is she was different, not less.  This is definitely true of Autism and other mental differences, but also for anyone.  We are each different from each other, but no one should be made to feel any less worthy than someone else.

I have the pleasure of serving on the parent advisory committee (PAC) for special education from our school district.  Many people don't even know there is such a thing.  I didn't.  I have learned a lot about special education....and the children they serve.  There are many misconceptions regarding special education and the children it is meant to serve. Pictures of the short bus or seperate classrooms may have flashed across your mind just from the mention of special ed.

As a parent, it is intimidating to go to a meeting where there are many school people there that seem to know more about your child than you do because of tests they have done.  Teachers and staff usually have numerous meetings in a day where it can be easy to forget that each parent needs to hear the same spiel they gave the last parents.   There is almost always an attempt to "mainstream" the special ed student.  This can be a good thing, however, it seems that we are trying to make that child conform to the "normal" way of thinking instead of learning more about how he/she learns best.  Sometimes it is just realizing that they may need to have things slowed down some to keep up.  It is difficult to watch children struggle or get picked on for something they cannot change.

I went to a conference that was aimed more at teachers, but also applied to parents.  There is an incredible number of hoops and reporting requirements that special ed teachers have to jump through.  I gained a whole new respect for the staff at our school and all schools.

If you have a special needs child or are a concerned parent, I urge you to remember that they may be different.  However, they deserve no less than our best when we work things out with school, home or trying to hit the ever  moving target of  "normal".  Normal is overrated. 

1  Corinthians 12:14  (The Message) I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn't just a single part blown up into something huge. It's all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together.

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