For those of you who know me, you're more than aware of the fact that math is not my forte. I believe this is part of the reason my heart is with teaching at the youngest age possible. Skills like identification, sorting, grouping, classifying and counting are definitely my speed....just ask Betty from the GREs. Who is Betty you ask? Betty is the bane of my very existence and the woman who stood between me and my Quantatative Scores of the GREs. Betty isn't real, ya know. She's the subject of a word problem that caused major distress for me (and my poor husband) over the course of many nights. Well, okay. It's been two years, and Betty clearly still irritates me. You see, math isn't where I excel. In fact, I don't even know how I made it through any of my math classes in high school or college because I struggle that much with anything other than basic mathematic concepts. Math creates stress, frustration, anxiety and down-right anger at times. No matter how hard I try, I just cannot do it on an advanced level even though I should be able to based on my IQ. Quite frankly, I'd rather stick a hot fork in my eye than work on an algebraic equation or a word problem about some lady named Betty. Give me a laptop and a thought in my head, though... Well now you're singing my song, and I can't be stopped. Here's about the extent of my mathematical abilities: Math + Me = Square peg ---> round hole. How's that for an equation?? Whew...my head hurts. I need a break.
Simply put, square pegs do not fit into round holes no matter how hard you try to make them. I know this first hand and so does Zachary. Zachary is a walking, talking square peg desperately trying to fit in a round hole we call life. He wakes up with a headache and needs lots of breaks. Everyday. Unfortunately, not everybody who comes into contact with Zachary recognizes that because based on his IQ, he, too, should be able to accomplish things that he simply cannot without a lot of support. When I stress-out about math, people tell me I can really do it but have a mental block. I'm a fairly intelligent woman and capable of doing it, so why can't i? It must be me, but it's not. Just like it's not Zachary. It's his disability. Wouldn't life be easier for all of us if this was "just Zachary" and he didn't have a disability?
For years, before Zachary starting a school program at Eden, we had contended with being told, yes, Zachary has special needs BUT... Zachary is capable of doing xyz, BUT Zachary is so smart, BUT Zachary knows what he's doing, BUT Zachary just doesn't want to, BUT Zachary, BUT Zachary, BUT Zachary...if I had a dollar for every time I heard this about my poor kid, I would've been able to pay for private OT 1x per week in cash. A long time ago during an IEP meeting, I heard this one time too many times and very pointedly asked Zachary's case manager, who I really do like and happens to be a lovely woman, "If this is just a behavioral issue, then where exactly do you find being a pain-in-the-ass making you eligible for services in Code?" True story. I really do try to follow the mantra "advocate without emotion", but there's only so many times you can hear people tell you that your square peg is actually round.
Yesterday, for the first time in years, I was confronted with the reality that people continue to confuse Zachary's cognitive ability and tremendous potential with what he is and is not capable of doing. I, of course, don't know any better because I'm just his mother. How dare I. I mean, really. What have I been thinking all of these years? Zachary walks, talks, can play(ish), laughs, cries, understands body language, has empathy and does all sorts of "typical" stuff; surely he can deal with demands and accept directions in a stressful situation from an unfamiliar person with ease. He just doesn't "want to". For the first time in years, I was presented with needing to protect my square peg from the big bad round hole of life. I'm back to having a headache and needing a break. Ugh.
Zachary had a really strong start at Circus Place, but what started out as a great experience ended on a really bad note because somebody, admittedly, tried to fit Zachary's square peg into their round hole of structure and demands. They made the fatal mistake that many have made before them and have failed miserably as a result. Mr. Craig made the fatal mistake of having completely unrealistic expectations of Zachary because "....he's capable." Truly, I haven't contended with this since Zachary has been at Eden, so I was nothing short of floored when I had someone pointedly tell me that if we continued to do what we were doing as in working in small increments, giving environmental control and allowing for breaks, Zachary would never reach his fullest potential because "he can." Floored. I'd be lying if I told you I didn't want to come across the waiting room and take somebody down. Maybe that's the PMS talking, but I was taken back never-the-less. My momma warrior began to rise from within. "Three minutes" is unrealistic Mr. Craig incredulously asks as I explain my son's needs? My son will never move past where he's at if we don't push him past working in small increments and frequent breaks he "explains" to ME???!!! Yeah, I don't think so... After explaining to Mr. Craig, with whom I am also very fond of, that, yes, Zachary is extremely capable, and yes, Zachary is extremely bright, and, yes, Zachary "can", the short answer to this situation gone bad was a resounding NO when it comes to Zachary being able to manage the completely unrealistic expectations he set for Zachary. Square pegs don't fit into round holes.
On the flip-side, I have nothing but absolute respect and true appreciation for Circus Places' mantra of acceptance, tolerance and all kids deserving a chance. I really do. They want this to be a great place for our kids...ALL kids... to play and learn, and it is! It's a wonderful program, and we couldn't be happier to have found it! Zachary loves it, too, which is an added plus and half the battle. Having said that, there needs to be reciprocity in terms of respect to make any relationship work. It's so important that teachers/providers working with a child with special needs show this respect to their parents. You can learn so much about a student/child if you just listen to their parents and move past your preconceived notions of what you think a child should be able to do and capitalize on what they actually can do as they are two very different things.
The PS to this situation gone bad is that Zachary still WANTS to go back despite the bad experience. If this doesn't show growth on his part, and the fact that he loves this place I don't know what will. There's almost no margin for error with Zachary in these types of situations, so a bad experience typically equates to "the first and last experience." Although Mr. Craig and I did not see eye to eye at the on-set yesterday, he is incredibly motivated to help Zachary and WANTS to learn HOW to effectively work with him. YES! After hearing my perspective, he was incredibly willing to CHANGE his approach and make it work for Zachary anyway he can. YES! He's going to work 1:1 with Zachary on Sunday because there's "no time limit" and he wants to take his time. YES, Mr. Craig! You're already half way there! :) Mr. Craig is certainly in a little over his head with a kid as unique as Zachary. I can pretty much guarantee there hasn't been another child like Zachary walk into Circus Place. However, Mr. Craig's heart is in the right place, and he is a genuine person which will only add to to his success. Time, patience and desire.
Kristy's Lesson of the Day: Zachary is the quintessential square peg. Working with him as you would with any other child is no different than trying to force a square peg into a round hole...the peg will slowly splinter around the edges until it complete breaks apart from too much pressure. Picking up the splintered the pieces is never fun.
(I think I may steal this analogy from myself and add it to the profile I've created for Zachary to give to people who are new to him. BTW, creating a personal profile for Zachary is something I learned from a parent of one of my students a long time ago. Karma.... Hmmmm. I think I've already blogged about that!) Zach and Twinkie: 4 Paws of Luv