Sunday, December 5, 2010

Never Say Splinter Skill

Last month on Hopeful Parents I had talked about how much I dislike the term “Splinter Skill”

Subsequently,  a few of my good friends and I had a thoughtful discussion about the term

First, what If the “skill” was surrounded by problem?  Example, a child had musical ability – however his sensory system was so oversensitive that he was is able to play on demand

In cases such as this, would we still consider the term  to be demeaning ?

Second, what if the skill was a useless one?

I see the points

But I disagree

My objections are many  

First, we never use the term  for anyone but children with special needs.

Only in Auties,  do we calculate the net present value of a skill .

When we cannot predict the future, how can we predict what will be of use  ur child  in the future

 Never in typically developing children

Consider the ability to spell.

In the days of computers and spell checks – surely an  unusual ability to spell can be seen as having limited value

But we deify this ability.  

An entire cloud of popular culture exists around the spelling bee.  It makes no sense that watching a child spell a word can be a spectator sport. But it is  and we do.

However when an autistic child has a special ability such as guessing the day of any date, a photographic memory etc – we shrug our shoulders and call it a useless “party trick” - a splinter skill

Consider sports.

Parents of neurotypical kids do not sigh and say “ she/he will probably have  a desk job  someday? Why bother?”

No!. Instead, they call themselves soccer moms and dads. They complain about their busy schedules ( but you know they are actually feeling proud  )

These parents see something instinctively, that eludes us parents of special needs kids.

They see that just the act of winning at something- anything , being in the limelight for even  a little while , being praised and feeling competent. These things are supremely nourishing

Its an act of  blossoming of your child’s spirit .

Second – when we don’t allow auties to have this feeling of competence, we are depriving the children that  need this nourishment most .

While all children need self esteem,  kids with special needs have a much  harder road in some ways and so need it most . When our children  face  the obstacles that life brings then , when they  see themselves through the eyes of others as weird, when the world seems  cruel and uncaring  – then the voice that comes from inside that tells them that they are good, competent,  successful, smart and beautiful  may be the only butress they have

The third  reason I get on my soapbox about this term, is because it is part of the climate of raising kids of special needs.

Everything is seen in the light of deficiency, part of a syndrome.

The word splinter sounds like a break, a wound, a mistake.

Fourth, this attitude if is part of our parenting perspective,   will inevitably compromise our  joy .

 For isn’t taking pride in your child, one of the primary rewards of child rearing

And so when DH and I notice that R is saying the numbers – backwards and in different foreign languages – we exchange glances of pride

( No we are not moving to these foreign countries and its certainly doubtful whether our ability to count in their language would prove to be of any use if we did go there  )

We beam with pleasure and sashay it as our status on Facebook.

We accept with alacrity all the lovely compliments that our good friends give us and think about the wonderful treasure we have

And  we are a little more happier than we were a while ago

We cannot control much in our  lives  

But we can control the words we use and the way we see things

And, so, this is why I will never use the term "splinter skill"

I will see it as a gift

And I will be grateful for it

K blogs at Floortime lite mama about her life and raising a charming 6 year old with Autism and Apraxia

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