I watched my father become frustrated with my brother-as if this could be fixed with better "parenting." I watched my brother as he talked about how the delay could be related to the fact that his son wasn't in Daycare or hadn't been exposed to other children. I watched as they insisted they didn't want their son to be "labeled."
When I finally started talking, I talked about birth to three programs and then 3-5 programs. I talked about outpatient therapy and the importance of early intervention. I talked about AAC. I talked about how it wasn't anyone's fault. I talked about how this beautiful boy could remember fine motor activities once he was shown one time. I talked about how engaged he was in people games like "tickle" and "chase." I talked about Apraxia and Autism, Cerebral palsy and genetic testing.
They finally got him into school and therapy when he was 7.
Now that he is in school, he is making some good but slow progress. He is saying a few words, and is making progress in his learning. My soapbox post isn't about parent denial or not getting your child into services. It's this statement his probably well meaning teacher said last year. "He is so smart. He could talk if he wants too but he is just stubborn."
I hear variations of this all the time:
- He could do the work if he wants to
- He can talk in sentences if he is motivated to do it but he chooses not to.
- Her language is fine she just chooses not to use it. She could talk if she wants to.
- He understands everything that I say. But He only follows directions if he wants to.
- She can pay attention in class when she decides too.
Just because we saw a student complete an activity one time, doesn't mean that this logic holds up. In fact, I bet you would be challenged to find a time when this logic holds true ever.
For example: You've seen me run a 5K. I've run several at a pace slightly faster than a leisurely jog.
You could make the argument that I can run-therefore I could run a marathon but I'm just too lazy. Why am I not motivated? Because running is HARD for me. I have a hard time breathing, my face gets bright red and my feet start to ache because I have plantar facitis. Technically I could run a marathon-but I don't because it is very difficult for me.
I think the same holds true for our students. If they could do it easily, they would.
Here's the problem I see with making these statements to parents. First, it may provide false hope. I've had parents cling to this idea that their child could talk if they would just make an effort. This makes it really difficult to move forward with things such as augmentative communication which could really prevent the child from falling further behind.
Second, since it puts the blame on the child, it makes it easier for US not to do our best job. It's not an issue of trying a new technique or seeing what will work for this individual child. It's their problem. They just choose not too learn.
Finally, it may prevent the parents from seeking additional services which could benefit their child. I'm a big believer that most-if not all-children benefit from both outpatient AND school services. We may not be able to recommend it, but we can avoid saying things that would discourage parents from seeking out these services. Again, I'm speaking more from experience here-my nephew could benefit from additional services. But they have now decided that he will just talk when he is ready. After all, he is just stubborn.
Is this a pet peeve of yours? What do you say when you hear colleagues or other professionals say things like this? I'm always looking for some good replies! If you found this post interesting-please consider sharing it by pressing on the Pinterest or Facebook buttons below.