Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Yes, I Can!

What does it take for you to persevere even through the most adverse circumstances? Have you even ever experienced what might be perceived as insurmountable obstacles? For some of us things have come easily - at least in comparison to others with whom we share this planet.

Whenever I teach future teachers about students with disabilities, one topic that seems to offer an "ah ha" moment is SELF DETERMINATION. As they sit together before class begins and I hear them complaining about how heavy their course load this semester and how everything seems to be due at the same time and how overwhelmed they are, I just smile to myself knowing that the challenges they face as upper level college students don't hold a candle to many of the students I've worked with over the years in the public schools.

Justin, seemingly "normal" on the outside, couldn't make sense of anything he tried to read. A simple paragraph in his reading book would look something like this -
The effort and energy it takes for Justin to make sense of text is daunting. You would think he would just give up.

Then there's Maddie. Her developmental disabilities make it difficult for her to connect socially. She doesn't understand how to interact "appropriately" in a way that she can build relationships. She doesn't know how to advocate for her own needs. But Maddie has a "best buddy" who helps her practice these all important social skills, which for Maddie are more important than her academic skills.
One trait that sets Justin and Maddie apart from many people I know is their self-determination. They have a strong desire to be a productive part of this world full of the able-bodied and able-minded. They have "stick-with-itness" that I rarely see in even my most gifted learners.

Self-determination is the child of adversity. Obstacles can spur us forward, not stop us from finding our place in this world. I encourage you to consider how insurmountable your obstacles really are before you walk away from the challenge before you.

Every year the Council for Exceptional Children hosts the YES, I CAN! awards for students with disabilities. To find out more about these awards and how you can be a part of the life of child with special needs, visit CEC online.