Misguided Attempts at Compassion
I am concerned when people refuse to expect, or even demand, greatness from special-needs children. This comes from a misguided attempt to be compassionate. We can’t fault others when they haven’t traveled this road and don’t understand. They want to be helpful, but don’t know how. As parents who know our kids’ abilities, we often have to give people direction.
“No, It’s Not Okay.”
My son Kyle has always attended church with our family. During individual class time, volunteer members teach the children. One Sunday, I entered the room where the kids were singing and receiving instruction. I was surprised to observe Kyle wandering aimlessly around the classroom, muttering things. I looked at the adult leaders. They seemed to go about their business, making presentations to the other seated children, ignoring Kyle’s obvious misbehavior.
Kyle eyed me and I motioned for him to sit down. He instantly did so. I approached him, whispering in his ear, “Kyle, you need to stay in your seat.” He disappointedly twiddled his fingers, but he knew exactly what I was saying.
After the children were excused to individual classes, I pulled one of the adults aside. “I notice Kyle is wandering around the room,” I said. “Does this happen every Sunday?”
The answer was, with a compassionate smile, “Don’t worry about it; he’s fine. It’s okay.”
And MY response was, “No, it’s not okay. Kyle needs to be taught to sit in his seat like all the other children.” The woman looked at me, somewhat taken aback. I softened a little. “He will do exactly what he is allowed to get away with. So if he gets out of his seat, please tell him to sit down. And if you have problems, I’ll be happy to come and help.”
I was also alarmed to learn that similar things occasionally happened at Kyle’s school. Kyle is currently in a self-contained unit with specialized instruction for the majority of the day. However, he attends a few regular classes where he is mainstreamed with other children. When I met with his art teacher (not his regular teacher) for Parent-Teacher Conferences, she showed me Kyle’s work. “He mostly doodles. Here are some things he’s doodled during class.”
I was shocked. “Doesn’t he do the same art assignments the other students are doing?”
“No, but it’s okay. I understand Kyle’s situation.”
Apparently she didn’t. Kyle is a rather gifted artist. With a little prodding, he could produce some amazing work. But by assuming he wasn’t capable, she missed her opportunity to discover this. And Kyle missed the opportunity to stretch himself. He had spent countless hours in her classroom, wasting his time.
Don’t Underestimate My Child!
My thinking is, if you allow my child to misbehave, or refuse to push him to achieve like other children his age, you are depriving him. Ultimately the special needs child must function in society just like the rest of us. He must learn the same social rules and boundaries. He must learn to adapt, as best as possible, to normal life. The more that is reasonably expected from him, the more he is likely to accomplish. Adjustments? Sure, we make them as needed. But as parents, we have to teach others not to underestimate our kids.