Thursday, November 06, 2008
"Normal" is whatever you're used to
My daughter, Beth, has grown up with an older brother and younger sister who struggle with AD/HD, auditory processing, and sensory issues. Any outsider to our family in our younger days would have been able to see immediately that two of the children were not typical in many ways. To Beth, however, she's grown up with them and is used to the way they need to hear directions repeatedly and have tasks broken down into small steps. She's grown up seeing strategies in place to help her siblings keep track of school materials, shoes, and of course the elusive and frequently missing library books. She grew up pairing visual cues with auditory information to maximize retention and knows that without writing information down her siblings will not retain it. Beth has an in-depth understanding of the need her siblings have to be in motion, even while they are doing school work. She can list a dozen safe ways to meet the need for physical activity without it being too distracting to others or dependent on the weather. Beth is adept at redirecting a distractible child and helping them get back on track with their focus. Now a college student majoring in special education, Beth recently joined me at my part-time employer to be a substitute teacher in a preschool classroom. She thoroughly enjoyed her day with the children, and those working with her gave her rave reviews. They said she was a natural, and jumped right in without having to be told what to do with the kids. When I passed the compliments along to Beth, she was pleased but really didn't think what she did was a big deal at all. Beth's whole life has been part of her preparation, and to her she is truly doing what comes naturally. Her response to some of the challenges of special needs kids comes automatically, through years of practice and observation in her own home. Beth feels passionately about helping children who struggle, and her insight and experiences make her a natural in her interactions. Her responses reflect that "normal" doesn't necessarily mean "like everyone else". "Normal" can be whatever you are used to, and will vary from unusual person to person.