Sunday, April 5, 2009

a few random thoughts

A few weeks ago, I was listening to an Early Childhood Special Education (ECSE) guru lecture on a few different topics. I love listening to Dr. A. because he knows things. Lots of things pertaining to kids in general and to kids with special needs. Not only do I appreciate his vast knowledge base, but I feel as though we are very near kindred spirits because he has raised a child with special needs as well.

Anyway, as I said, a few weeks ago Dr. A. was lecturing on this thing called Anti-Bias Curriculum. At first, I thought 'what a drag' it was going to be. But then he and another gal opened their mouths and started to talk about Anti-Bias Curriculum (ABC) and I found myself hooked. Rivited. Amazed. and Motivated.

At first mention, Anti-bias curriculum sounds very clinical to me. Something that perhaps schools implement to teach kids how to not be biased toward other kids in regards to their race, religion, ethnicity, social status, etc. Ha. Not so. SOOO not so. Boy was I off base.

What I learned was that this anti-bias curriculum is NOT a curriculum program, but is an attitude that we can take on for ourselves. People who adopt the anti-bias curriculum (attitude) basically strive to minimize all types of biases in everyday activities no matter what the subject matter is. ABC addresses biases for all the typical basics- race, religion, etc.- and it also includes things such as gender biases (ex. "pink is for girls." or "only boys play with trucks") family dynamic differences, and individual differences such as kids with special needs. (This part was the main meat of the discussion).

The amazing thing I learned about ABC is that kids as young as two years old (TWO YEARS OLD!) begin to recognize individual differences between themselves and other kids, and can recognize a difference in a child with special needs. The manner in which they treat the child with the 'difference' comes from our (adults) reaction and treatment of the same individual.

Anyway, my "few random thoughts" pertaining to anti-bias curriculum:

1. We were driving to see Grandpa today and I noticed that my 2 1/2 year old boy would not share candy with Kanani. He was more than happy to give it to his older brother, but he REFUSED to share with her. Oh my goodness, he is already recognizing the differences between himself and Kanani. How the heck do I handle this? He's flippin' TWO!!!

2. While I do my best to enforce a no-tolerance policy for excluding and being mean to Kanani at our house, I find myself unable to coax my 6 year old son to go further and stick up for her when she is singled out.

3. I hate the fact that my own family- my folks and siblings- are unwilling to join my cause and help her to feel accepted. I hate the fact that my in-laws are reluctant to celebrate the differences as well and champion the underdog when its needed. I feel sad that the people whom I trust with my daughter's feelings are people who work with her- her school aide, respiratory therapist, SLP, OT, etc.

4. In relation to this whole ABC thing, I learned of some research that reported that kids who have a visible difference (facial features such as Down syndrome or wheel-chair bound) are more accepted and kids who look NORMAL but have special needs (translate: act differently) are tolerated less. This disparity in treatment is true for both children and adults with whom our kids interact with. How unfair is this?

5. I was doing even more research and came across an article that talked about READING DEVELOPMENT in kids with special needs. The researcher basically said that in general, reading skills are learned differently in kids with special needs because their parent-child interactions are different from typical kids... the article basically said that I, as a parent, am so preoccupied with getting medical issues taken care of, therapy appointments, etc. that I fail to do normal activities such as playing, reading, and whatnot with my special needs kiddo. I guess I don't play very many games with her. And I know that she has less toys than the other kids in my house... I feel like a jerk. So much for trying to be ABC in my own house.

Thank goodness tomorrow is a new day.


Melissa said...

Wow... that really hit home for me. I think I have been feeling some of the same things you described and feel like I need to do more. Both of my special needs kids 'look' normal and I get that alot... he doesn't 'look' different. Sigh.... it's so draining some days to keep going on. Thanks so much for your great inspiration! I think you are going to be a wonderful help to me!

tiptoe mama said...

I think you've articulated for something that I have known only on the inside. There's something about me that wants to put her in her wheelchair when we go to public places. It's always kind of bothered me. Part of me could explain that somehow I wanted people to understand that there's 'something wrong' or some type of issue to keep them from judging her harshly. But the other part of me wondered why I wanted the wheelchair, and secretly felt ashamed thinking that perhaps I was seeking attention on some level. What you said makes total sense. She is seen differently, treated differently, judged differently in her wheelchair rather than just a stroller.
She also doesn't have as many toys as her brother, and you're right, I don't read to her as often as I do him. I had never even thought of that before.....
So much to think about.

Katie said...

Yes, yes, yes! My son appears totally normal on the outside and people (even great grandparents) seem to expect that he act completely normal. Even just having a leg brace on him seems to almost help people to remember that he isn't like others.

I have to say he isn't lacking in the toy department (mostly because he is the only grandchild on one side) but I do feel like I should be teaching him more somehow. I see other kids his age singing the abc's and doing a little counting or whatever and I feel this huge need to catch up... which is REALLY ridiculous because he can't even talk... and he can't/won't sign more than a few words without prompting.

Thanks for writing about this! I am going to have to look up some more on him and this idea.

Luke and Erin said...

Thanks for this. I am in a little world of emotion right now. So much I am having a hard time trying to comment. This really answers a lot for me and there is so much to process. I am so grateful for this post and I will be researching it. Thank you again!

hayngrl101 said...

I worked as a developmental therapist for a girl with autism a long time ago and one day, I got in trouble with her mother because I allowed the girl to pick out her own clothes (they were terribly mismatched but I didn't want to fight with her over it). It was an eye opener for me because the mother cited a bunch of research she had done and told me that our kids are more likely to be forgiven of their quirkiness and outbursts if they were well groomed and dressed in clean, matching, well-fitted clothes. I never forgot that and have tried to be a little more diligent in my own child's appearance. (although I can't get her to keep her clothes and face clean while at school).