Sunday, September 26, 2010

Doing OK until...

Life does move on.  Every now and then, the wind gets knocked out of my day-to-day. 

I was simply adding things to my calendar.  Sending Outlook "invitations" for various dates.  In my list of invitations for Ignatius' Confirmation, it hits me that Marita would have been on that list.  Wham! 

I think Scott thinks I am nuts.  One minute OK, the next minute, melting down.  Yeesh! 

I know she'll "be there," but it's so difficult thinking of this being the first sacrament for my kids where she will be absent.  It's particularly hard because she so loved Ignatius. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Different, not less

I finally got Temple Grandin from Netflix this week, and I courageously watched it last night.  I had heard so many great things about it.  I must say, it was well-done.  Claire Danes, one of my favorite actresses, proved herself to be in the class of Dustin Hoffman and Cuba Gooding, Jr., in playing an individual with social-emotional challenges.

The performance that spoke to me most, mainly through tears, was that of Julia Ormond, who plays Temple's mother, Eustacia.  Alas, Temple was diagnosed with autism at a time when the most popular recommendation for children was institutionalization.  It was also the theory of the time that children who had autism had mothers who, at a crucial time of their development, in some way denied their children of the affection they needed.  Her fight as represented in the movie epitomizes the fight of all parents of children on the spectrum, regardless of the extreme of the diagnosis.  Still, in 2010, parents must advocate for their school districts to "do right" by their children.  More of the law is on the side of the parent than was true in the 1950s through the 1970s.  If more parents only knew their true power in an IEP meeting, no one would miss one.  My favorite line was when she emphasized that Temple was "different, not less."  That small line is the core of the battle for parents... to convince others to act on this belief.  At Max's IEP meeting last spring, my statement was that I wanted his teachers to, "believe he can rather than assume he can't."  That is a goal that continues to challenge us as he gets his education in a public school.

What was also inspiring to me was the role that David Strathairn portrayed as Temple's high school science teacher.  It takes a teacher or two to believe in the ability and potential of those who learn differently from the "norm."  Many times, these children have a lot to bring to the academic world, but alas a large portion of teachers see themselves as teachers to the "neurotypical," forgetting that children learn differently.  I have been guilty of this myself as a teacher, but the critical difference is I have changed my outlook and my practice.  The question I ask myself each day is, "For whom are you here to teach?"  It is also critically important for us to create accepting cultures in our classrooms.  When I saw the kids tormenting and making fun of Temple, openly laughing at her as she stood in front of her French class, I thought of the role of a teacher to create a community of support and not ridicule for students who have differences.  We can make our classrooms as tolerant or intolerant as we so choose.  May my children have at least one or two Professor Carlock's in their lives.  He observed Temple.  He listened to her.  He tried to convince colleagues of her brilliance and how she learned... and that she COULD learn.  He planned his lessons with her visual strengths in mind.

It was a tough movie to watch when you are in the midst of raising children on the spectrum.  Temple's experiences with not being able to understand people's faces and emotions, much less express her own emotions appropriately, reminded me of our constant reinforcement of societal "norms" with Ignatius.  Her mother's constant reminders of how you introduce yourself to others hit very close to home.  Also, when her mother took her to boarding school and saw her daughter in stark contrast to the other, "neurotypical," students there, and began a spiral of panic that she was making a mistake with Temple, that was spot on.

It was most definitely inspiring, as is the entire life of Dr. Temple Grandin.  I thank her and her family for their perseverance which laid the groundwork for my own children being able to reach their potentials.