Image by Freepik
Lights, Camera, Memory: Embracing Neurodiversity in Education
Meet a remarkable young man who can astound you with his knowledge of certain animated movies. I hesitate to mention them because of copyright law but think of some of the most successful movies for children, and he knows when they came out, the directors, and the actors in those movies. When he was my student, I would be constantly amazed at his seemingly endless bank of knowledge. He was a kind and thoughtful middle school boy who always seemed like an old soul to me. When I was one of the drama directors in our school, I was thrilled to have him in the cast. Now, as an adult, he continues to soar as he currently is in a program at Kent State University that is called the “Career and Community Studies Program.” The mission of this program is to create meaningful experiences for students with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It equips them to become self-determined adults and has a curriculum designed to develop independent living and personal social skills.
During the previous semester, this exceptional individual completed an internship at the KSU library, demonstrating both enthusiasm and outstanding performance. His goals are to find a job he enjoys, eventually live on his own, and hopefully learn to drive. He has always been a very hard-working person, and I can see him succeed in his endeavors.
Q: What is one thing you wish teachers know about your child that is not on the IEP?
A: He is very kind, funny, quiet, sensitive, and has a bit of anxiety now that he’s older & dealing with
social issues. He is comfortable with people older than him (teachers, parents’ friends) but becomes
anxious & quiet with his peers (his mind goes blank; he doesn’t know what to say).
Q: Scores on tests do not define the child. What is something your child is really good at that is not
reflected on tests?
A: Knowing/memorizing subjects that are of high interest to him (like Disney/Pixar/old movies; he knows years, directors, actors, etc.).
Q: How important is homework for your child? Is it just a burden, or is it a helpful learning tool?
A: I think it’s helpful in that it teaches discipline and responsibility, especially beginning in middle school. It sets a standard as to how the “real world” works in that certain things are expected of adults in jobs.
Q: How old was your child when you first knew he/she had special needs?
A: Age 3-1/2, diagnosed around age 4.
Q: What is one piece of advice you have for someone who has a newly diagnosed child?
A: Stay active in learning how to deal with a child with special needs; learn all you can about how to teach them, how they learn, and how they interact with people. Attend parent meetings, try to find other parents to bounce ideas off of, and volunteer at preschool/school to see how your child learns/acts with both teachers & peers. Teach them how they learn best. Find what it is that makes them respond to you in a positive manner & run with it!
Q: What is one meal that everyone in your family likes to eat?
A: Besides pizza? Ha. My son loves spaghetti. All my kids love it when I make salmon, noodles, & peas. Plus we all love dessert! 😉
Q: What advice do you have for interacting with children with special needs?
A: Try to develop a connection with the child, observe how they respond, treat them kindly, and keep a good sense of humor.
Q: What activities do you recommend to other parents to foster self-care?
A: Take time for yourself. Have a date night, go out with friends, get a massage, go for a walk. Everyone needs a little time for themselves to recharge.
Q: Are there any support groups that you recommend for parents or children?
A: I had a great support group that was held by an intervention specialist when my child was 5 or 6 years old (held through the school). I met many other parents in the same situation as I was as a parent of a child with special needs. It was extremely helpful to know I wasn’t alone as well as to bounce ideas off of each other & find out about services offered for our children.
Q: What are your favorite family activities?
A: Going for walks, playing board games, hiking, traveling to new places, watching movies, eating meals together, and best of all – sharing our lives together.