Friday, December 21, 2012

The Basics

     Processing disorder, oversensitivity, problems with organization...Those words almost put me to sleep, and I know what they mean! Imagine how parents must feel the first time a label is being considered for their child when they do not understand the teacher-talk floating around the conference room table.
     I'm going to explain and give examples of oversensitivity, one of my favorites.  It simply means someone is highly affected by light, sounds or another stimulus. If a doctor says, "Jose is oversensitive to sound," he means Jose hears sounds in a way that is louder, deeper...more than what the rest of us experience.
     This word can apply to anyone but often is used to describe children who are on the autism spectrum. Anyone familiar with the scratchiness of a new tag against her skin knows how some children with autism feel every time they get dressed.
     We spend so much time trying to fix children with labels that sometimes we overlook the strengths hidden beneath their differences. Even not-so-hidden strengths are hard to find when parents and teachers are consumed with the basics. I always manage to find them when allowed to spend enough time with a child.
     Some years, I discovered a student or two who was more in tune to others' feelings than my coworkers seemed to notice. If I came in with a worried expression, it was that child who noticed first and asked if I was okay. 
     Maybe he was alerted by my facial expression, tone of voice or something you and I are unable to detect. (Wouldn't that make us undersensitive?) Or maybe we are in such a hurry to meet every standard and IEP goal that no one notices or appreciates kindness in the classroom.
    While a nonverbal child is reading and humming a tune at his desk, another may be having a meltdown. The person trying to calm down the second child is so consumed in the task she forgets about the quiet child, which is probably okay with him. It is beyond her limited thinking to consider looking past the label to the sweet, thinking person underneath.
     But he is there, a child with feelings and dreams. Why didn't anyone take the time to ask what he wants to be when he grows up...and stick around to hear the answer?
     I want to dedicate this post to children everywhere who are silent but never miss a thing that happens.
Some of us really do want to listen. I miss dancing around the room with you, giggling our way up the down side of the stairs and hiding those Krabby Patty wrappers!

After tonight, the sun begins to stretch for summer...