Ready for School? Provide Film to Teachers
Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2012
Parents and therapists can help a child with a disability get off to a great start to the new school year by getting out their cameras or smart phones and “catching them doing it right”. First impressions are important in every business and social interaction. This truth also applies to the early interactions of a child with their teachers or classroom aides. The child with any type of neurologic disability is compromised in these first interactions as they often do not perform to their highest abilities when they are nervous, shy, or just overwhelmed by a host of new social contacts. It is all too easy for new people to only see the disability.
The answer is as simple as taking out your smart phone and documenting the child’s “best” performance. These photos, put into a simple scrapbook, effectively raise the bar on everybody’s expectations. It is well known that every human behavior has a range of performance. The standard deviation of a performance is a measure of consistency. The smaller the difference between best performance and worst performance, the more consistent the child is across different situations. The wider the variation is between different levels of performance, the higher the standard deviation.
In a previous post I have used the example of a child with a variation in his walking ability.
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The same variation in ability occurs in children with an expressive speech difficulty. These children characteristically have a very high standard deviation in their ability to speak. Speech can be quite normal at home when rested and relaxed. The same child’s speech abilities deteriorate rapidly when tired or stressed and particularly in an unfamiliar situation with strangers. The problem is pretty obvious. When new people, adults or children, meet this child for the first time and communication is difficult, the tendency is to avoid direct interaction as much as possible. Think how that first impression of a child would be changed if the new teachers and children could see them talking well on a short introductory talk, filmed at home, on a tablet. If they know how much better the child can speak sometimes, then they will realize how much of the current communication problem is nervousness, not inability.
Children with other disabilities can have a similar variation in their abilities to use their hands, an important skill in a classroom setting. This is where both parents and therapists can help by documenting best eating skills as well as coloring, drawing or writing. The confusion between what new people “think” a child can do and what they actually are able to do was brought home to me when I watched a young boy with athetoid cerebral palsy play with his iPad. At home, he could rapidly manipulate the controls of all his favorite games. At school, a stranger evaluated him for a communication aid in an unfamiliar classroom. This testing protocol was not designed to produce a good result. In this situation, he could not use his hands in a useful manner and the recommendation was he used an eye switch control unit. When his parents documented his “at home” skills, the school system agreed to let him use his iPad as his major communication device. This system worked better for everyone.