By the reckoning of some I am a failure. Why? Simply because I use accommodations in my every day life.
I use a Kindle Fire HD to read books to me, and a text to voice feature on my computer to read my email.
I take medication for my ADHD without which I’d be mentally exhausted as I struggled to focus while others were just hitting their stride.
Might not sound like a big deal to some but an increasing number of parents, teachers and those with challenges themselves would consider this failure.
The measure of success
I’ve met dozens of young adults on the autism spectrum and with other learning challenges who are angry at themselves when they are unable to succeed in class or in life the way, “everyone else does it.”
As I explore this thinking with them they recall messages heard throughout their lives that compel them to, “try harder,” “be more motivated,” “raise their standards” and other beliefs that lead them to believe that learning along the road less traveled is the path of a loser.
The intention of the least restrictive environment is to include those with special needs in the mainstream classroom alongside typical peers so they can feel included instead of feeling left out.
The problem is you don’t eliminate feelings of difference by putting two people side by side without teaching them how to appreciate each other’s differences.
Adults are really good at having meetings and passing legislation to improve the lives of children then failing to educate the children on how to do their part to accomplish the goals set for them.
They are then subjected to a classroom culture that emphasizes process over product. They are taught that it matters less what you accomplish than how you get there.
Sure there are exceptions to this, but they are few.
The sins of the system
We have teachers and peers alike who define success according to what’s normal, typical and indistinguishable from their peers.
We have otherwise competent young adults signing up for social security in droves because failure to measure up to this standard leaves them feeling like a failure who can never measure up.
Even worse are those with debilitating learning disabilities like mine who adopt an even more crippling denial of their challenges and the need for accommodations that are the doorway to success. They instead settle for failing one class after another rather than risk the ridicule of teachers and peers alike for being different, needing help and failing to overcome.
A better standard
If we are going to all be held to the standard of the way “everyone else does it” then let’s go all in.
I would like to see the 64% of Americans who wear eye glasses to throw them away, we wouldn’t want them to become a crutch now would we?
Throw off those shoes and walk barefoot like your ancestors did you wussies.
Then again, perhaps we can do something else.
What I would love to see is a classroom in which students were taught to be problems solvers instead of test takers.
Where they are encouraged to find as many different ways to accomplish a goal as possible. Where success is measured by innovation rather than assimilation.
It is in this area that students with special needs will become the role models. They are champions of resourcefulness and technical innovation as they actively utilize creative problem solving that their typical peers may have never considered.
They teach that although the shortest distance between two points is a straight line, it doesn’t contain as many lessons or as much adventure as a wavy line.
Thanks for being you.
About the Author:
As a cancer survivor, adult with Dyslexia, A.D.D., the father of three sons on the autism spectrum as well as someone who lives on the autism spectrum myself, I’ve learned something very critical. That success in life has nothing to do with circumstances but everything to do with strategies.
I’ve learned that Fear and Excitement are the same feeling, the difference being whether you decide the feeling means that “I can’t” or that “I’m ready!”
I’ve become a master of turning Problems into Possibilities and Obstacles into Opportunities and I’ve learned to teach my clients to do the same thing using what I refer to as “The Effective Factor.” A laser focused ability to make small shifts that create massive results in every area of your life.
I look forward to serving you,
Brian R. King LCSW