Don’t let life discourage you: Everyone who got where he is had to begin where he was. -Richard L Evans-
This really rang true for me in many ways, both personally and professionally. Personally, I remind myself that I am right where I need to be regardless of what others think. And right here is where I need to start and or continue following my dreams.
Professionally, it made me think of parents of children with special needs. I have seen how discouraged they sometimes become because there child isn’t up to grade level. Sometimes this discouragement leads to setting goals that are truly unattainable in the time allotted. This isn’t to say that the child will never reach that goal, on the contrary, it is to realize that we need to start where the child is and make reasonable goals so that they can succeed.
Children need to start right where they are regardless of where the standards think they should be, where other children happen to be, etc. If we do not recognize that exact point where each child is starting they are bound to miss important skills as we try to “catch them up”. This is evident when I hear a parent or professional say: “I want Johnny to be able to use a calculator for math effectively.” But Johnny doesn’t understand number concepts. He can’t show you 1 or 2 of something. Sure he may be able to match the numbers and symbols on a paper and punch the correct keys but what skill is he really learning? He doesn’t have a practical understanding of what numbers mean or how to use them in life. So as important, down the road, as a calculator may be for Johnny we need to start where he is. In this case he happens to be able to only identify numbers but has no concept of what they mean or how to use them. So take a step back and think to yourself “What skills does Johnny need in order to make using a calculator a usable skill?” Write down the skills needed and start there. Don’t cheat him out of that knowledge.
As a parent or professional, don’t be discouraged about where a child is starting. Be pro active on moving each child forward from wherever their starting point may be. There is no shame in starting at different places. There is only shame in forcing everyone to start in the same exact place when they may or may not already have the skills needed. We don’t want to hold back students because they already know the information. Nor do we want to leave students behind because we are starting somewhere far ahead of where their skills begin. This is why IEP’s are so important!
At IEP meetings it makes me sad when parents or professionals compare students to one another. The IEP is INDIVIDUALIZED! It should start from exactly where the child is NOW in the present moment. It should progress sequentially at a pace that is appropriate for the Individual child. It is important for everyone to keep this in mind. Yes keep setting the bar higher and higher for the child, help them when they need it. But remember, it is important that they can step on each and every rung on that ladder. Each rung is a step (skill) that is needed in order to get to the next step (skill).
Help your child or student climb that ladder, go and help them more when needed. Keep moving forward from their starting point. Not the starting point that the government, school board etc set. Let’s educate the child for life, give them all the skills needed to succeed, and give them the time they need as an Individual to truly master all the skills.