Friday, November 5, 2010

Building a life around strength

Do you remember the subject that you were worst at in School?

The one you dreaded

For me, it was Chemistry

When High school ended, it was such a relief to know that never again would I encounter Chemistry

I could move on to the things I was good at 

Things I enjoyed

When I chose my career – I chose a career where my strengths were my advantage

And so, even though , I am not  a person of great gifts or any brilliance

 I play from my strength and I do pretty okay

However there are people who will be evaluated on their weaknesses all their lives

These are our auties

They are continually evaluated on verbal strength – frequently their great weaknesses

 ( Think about it - even when its unintentional - the game of life is verbal. For most  of the ways in which we measure Intelligence – are tests that are administered verbally, require the child  to think verbally and often answer verbally. What a huge disadvantage this puts on a person that may think in pictures not words )

I would argue that our entire school curriculum is created for the verbal thinker

Auties  are continuously coached on social skills

If you think about it, they spend all their day doing things they are bad in

The curriculum and life that has been created for Auties is what my life would be – if the world centred around chemistry ( shudder!!! )

It seems we go one step further – we take their gifts and find a way to disparage them

We call them Splinter skills

One more symptom of a disorder

 “So what if he can read at 3 … everybody can read eventually “ we say sadly 

( never thinking that the same argument  is also true of speaking )

Parents of auties hold “becoming indistinguishable” as the highest goal

Just like everyone else" we sigh

Why ?

What if we  changed our mindset ?

What if we became okay with them looking odd and different ?

What if we  taught them enough social skills to navigate the world, but did not make it the fulcrum of their success and the core of their curriculum?

What If we focused on their strengths?

And help them build a life around that strength

“Don’t try to de-geek the geek “ says Dr Temple Grandin

For degeeking the geek is not only impossible, its ultimately cruel

No no no, I am not getting into the debate of autism being a good thing or a bad thing

Some of you may think Autism is simply a different way of being and some of you may think it’s a crippling disability

But whether we  think the former or the  latter – all I am saying is that –we can think of our child in terms of how they can build a life around strength

Rather than building a life around deficit compensation

We can find creative ways to harness their passion and turn it into a career.

 "I always sold my work, not myself"- says Dr Grandin in a conference I went to recently, "I always got in through the back door... I never passed an interview in my life "

When the game and rules of that game are so obviously loaded against  the deficits of the children we love so deeply

Then there is only one  thing to do

Instead of just focusing on changing the child

We need to change the game 

K is the mother of a charming 5 year old and blogs at Floortime Lite Mama 

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