A Product of Experiences

Last night Sweet G wanted to go out in the backyard and “RIDE” the swing. He said, “Mom, I haven’t rode my swing in a long time.” How could I resist such a sweet request. So, he and I headed to the swing set. As we were walking out there (it takes a LONG time for G to walk that far) we had a very interesting conversation. The first thing he said that I thought was funny was, “Mom, is that where Dad bar-b-ques?” I thought that was kind of a strange thing for him to say until I thought about it for a minute. I don’t think G has ever seen J use the grill.

Throughout my education classes I was continuously required to study different theories on learning. I have a unique perspective of children’s learning because I am a parent. That is one advantage I have over most of my fellow students. The fact that my oldest child is now considered an adult (don’t understand how 18 is considered legally adult) has allowed me to look back over his development and see the results of how he learned. Homeschooling also gave me a different and advantageous view of childhood development. Now the biggest advantage is G. His disability has made me slow down and by slowing down and thinking about how he is developing (while studying how children learn) has given me a distinctive view of childhood development. I can see how his experiences have shaped him. I have always known that G is smart. He has an amazing memory for certain things. But he always scores below (sometimes way below) where he should when he is evaluated in all areas. Speech is one of the areas and that has always blown my mind. I am grateful that he does score low enough to qualify because he does need to be followed by a Speech Pathologist for his oral motor deficits but the language thing just always confounds me.

My poor child has been evaluated every six months in Speech, fine motor skills and gross motor skills since he was about 8 or 9 months old. To him it is just another day at therapy. It is playing to him but to me it is another punch in the gut. It is hard to hear that your child of 7 has the motor skills of a 22 month old baby. It is what it is and those numbers don’t really mean anything but still it is hard to hear.

The speech evaluations have always ticked me off in a sense. He is given a scripted question in lots of instances and is expected to give a very precise answer. He is shown pictures and asked to identify the object in the picture. Well, you may say how hard is that? It is not hard but it is culturally biased. It is discriminatory toward people with physical disabilities and others who have not had certain experiences. Take a rake for example. The therapist shows G a picture of a rake or of someone raking leaves. Pretty easy huh, well what if you had never seen a rake or how it is used? Not so easy to identify something you haven’t experienced. Okay what about this. I will show you a picture and see if you can identify the object.

How about this one:
Or this:
See what I mean? You probably don’t know what the name of those items are or how to use them. You may have a vague idea of what they might be but you have no schema to fit that new and strange information into. You have no way of making a clear connection to the things you already know. You have been limited by your experiences. That is my Sweet G’s life. He lives a limited life because of his disability. I say this not to make you feel sorry for him (he really has a great life) but to help you to understand that we are each a product of our experiences. G has never handed his daddy a tool while working on the car. He has never helped us rake the yard or dig a hole with a shovel. He might know that a shovel is a tool just as you can probably figure out what those items I showed you might be used for. But to say specifically what they are and how they are used would not be likely. But I could show those photos to G and he would look at me like I had lost my mind and say: “A stander, a gait trainer, and a Lite Gait.”
So, back to the swing. We finally make it there and are happily swinging away in our six foot swing that has been hung on G’s swing set. He doesn’t like the yellow swing he tells me. He is afraid he will fall out of it. (I did push him out of it once) As we swing we talk and G asks, “Mom, what is that” as he points to our outbuilding. I say. “That is Daddy’s shop.” He wants to know if Hershall’s wife is in the shop. Hershall is the man who works on our cars. His wife died several weeks ago and G has been praying for them for the past two years. That was his first connection to shop. Hershall has a shop. Then I said, “No, G that is Daddy’s shop. Hershall’s wife is in Heaven.” G’s next connection was this, “Well, I need to go shop in Daddy’s shop sometime cause I never shopped there before.” God bless that sweet little boy. His schema for shop is Hershall’s Auto Repair Shop and shop as in go buy things. I do love that funny little boy. So, just remember that just because someone is not smart or experienced in one way doesn’t mean that they aren’t smart or gifted. We are a culmination of our individual experiences. That is what makes the world such an interesting place.
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