I knew my son was ‘special’ even before we adopted him from Ukraine. He was 5 1/2 yo. I saw him playing mischievously with two other boys online in a video posted on a Ukrainian website. I saw a beautiful, confident and strong boy with a huge smile who was socialized and compassionate to the two younger boys who were in the video with him. As far as ‘learning disorders’ or ‘attention deficits’ were concerned, I saw them as potential hurdles we could conquer once he came home to live with our family. We didn’t assume he would have them but we knew there was the potential after living in an orphanage his entire life . Within 6 months of being home, he had full command of speaking English. He was fascinated with cars. He had to touch everything he saw. He was ‘bouncy’ and rocked incessantly to soothe himself. The most impressive attributes of Alec were his confidence and over-the-top positivity. In spite of being without a family his entire life, Alec knows that he is destined for great things.
Alec cruised through kindergarten in spite of the language barrier and all of the newness of being relocated into a family and having to adjust to an entirely new culture with a new set of rules. Alec equally became on task in grades 1st,2nd and 3rd grades. At the end of 3rd grade and as a student in the Florida school system (a system that has mandatory 3rd grade retention if a student does not pass the FSA test at the end of the year), Alec was told he would not be promoted to 4th grade due to his being 1 point off of the reading portion of the test. Alec’s grades were average and above average all year. In the end, Alec sacrificed his precious summer play time for summers school, was given the test again, took time, learned some new test taking techniques and is now in 4th grade.
Now we are putting together a 504 plan and teachers are suggesting attention issues and focus issues. This whole process has brought us into a whole new paradigm of thinking. I will be writing MANY posts on this subject. My initial frustration is that most schools do not know how to really educate ‘special’ kids. And children are made to conform to an archaic ‘sit and learn’ system of learning rather than administrators making proper adjustments to the child’s specific special learning style. Yes, we can choose to homeschool and may with Alec in the future. But this still doesn’t solve the fact that millions of children every single year are attending public schools that have made little progress in really appreciating what it means to be ‘special.’ And there is little understanding in how ‘GENIUS’ is often birthed from these ‘special’ tendencies if given the proper redirection and respect.
✔️Alexander Graham Bell had trouble reading or writing. His invention of the telephone due to his sharp ability to problem solve was an asset. He would have been held back in 3rd grade in Florida due to his difficulty with reading.
✔️Thomas Edison couldn’t sit still in school and was considered hyperactive and difficult. After frustrating many educators, he discovered a way to learn on his own terms. Now everyday in classrooms around the world a film is being shown or a lightbulb is used as the result of a hyperactive and difficult student.
✔️Pablo Picasso said he tried very hard to learn in schools but couldn’t. His father encouraged him to use his ability to view things in a unique way to create invaluable masterpieces.
✔️Agatha Christie had dysgraphia..
The list of geniuses who were labeled as special needs with learning issues is long and extensive.
I wonder though about the children without the ‘I can do anything’ attitude like Alec. I wonder about kids with low self esteem who are held back, labeled as a failure or retained due to 1 point or one portion on a test. I wonder about students that have no support system or encouraging words that show them how many people with their ‘special’ disability have changed the world. I wonder why and how they are even labeled as such. I am upset and frustrated that they exasperate many administrators.
Genius often comes from those who think differently and have a problem conforming to illogical or dated rules or systems. Geniuses think out of the box and often wander out of classrooms or daydream out of windows during lectures that disinterest them.
If you are a frustrated parent with kids in public schools and are at a loss of how to handle the conferences or visits to the guidance counselor, please consider that your child could be the next Steven Spielberg, Daniel Radcliffe or Michael Phelps. They may need to have their gifts identified and redirected. But please understand that the likelihood of that gift being identified in a standardized test is slim. Do not allow your child to believe anything other than the awesome potential that exists in the world for them. Speak life and truth into them. Be their best advocate…..
In the meantime, the sad truth is that today there are many children sitting in third grade classrooms for the second time that may only see their ‘special needs’ label as being a huge lifelong disadvantage to them. It is time to change our perception and applaud these children and let their imaginations run wild. Who knows what amazing new inventions could be produced if we only promoted all that was special about them?