Final Thoughts on Learning Challenges: Learning Challenges (Part 15)
I have probably said all I wanted to say about special needs or the learning challenged, yet I thought that this topic was so important it deserved to be summed up in a dedicated conclusion.
First, I think that it is important to acknowledge that learning challenges are real. God’s creation encompasses a wide range of physical and mental abilities, all of which are important to Him and therefore should be important to us.
I do not, in any way, want to disparage or minimize the fact that there are people (children) who have been born with characteristics making them different from the “norm.” However, I do want to point out that what is normal is not really a measurable standard, but more of a sliding scale based on subjective expectations.
What I am saying is that a number of what is perceived as learning challenges are in fact rooted in a faulty ideology that insists on conformity without true regard for the diversity of differences that exist. When we accept these systemic measures, we simply adopt the wrong measuring stick for determining what is an actual issue with what the school system tells us is an issue.
Again, not wanting to minimize the importance of truly ministering to the needs of all students, it is critically important that we understand that a number of education related learning challenges are school based rather than student based.
A singular system based on a faulty premise of origins and intent on conformity cannot properly address students who learn differently and/or at differing times than the school can accommodate. When these types of students arise, they become special needs because the school cannot actually meet their specific needs in the normal way.
These students’ learning challenges seem to disappear when they are removed from the system wanting to standardize them into something that they cannot fit. Home education can and has solved these types of challenges as they were more a systemic problem than individual in nature.
A case in point would be the often diagnosed Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). This “disorder” is simply a matter of a child having an abundance of energy that cannot be controlled by a single teacher in a room full of students.
Bring that student home, let him/her run off some of that pent up energy before sitting him /her down to do “school work” and the problem goes away without having to use drugs.
As mentioned more than once in this series, this category of learning challenges is not fixed simply by bringing the child home, but by leaving the school behind. Playing school at home is actually more detrimental to these children as the parents are now the ones forcing the children to fit rather than being in school where there is ability to escape at the end of the day.
Trying to fix children as schools do clearly makes them anomalies rather than the individuals God created.
A second group of learning challenged students is indeed learning challenged. That is, they find learning difficult or sometimes impossible. There is no easy formula to address these needs as they are all rather individual even though some may be loosely grouped, such as dyslexics.
Again, the best solution is to bring the child home where ongoing observation and experimentation allows the parents to find what works best.
I personally take issue with the idea of testing for learning disabilities. First and most importantly, children are immediately challenged with the notion that something is wrong with them.
Secondly, in order to get a proper diagnosis there has to be a standard. What is that standard? The “standard” is often what is expected of students in a classroom, that’s what. Usually, the only real advantage to testing is that parents now have a name (or excuse) for the problem they perceive the child to have.
The most challenging group of children to teach are those who are truly disabled in some way. Here, I have to admit, I have no real solution as I have no personal experience. I have witnessed dozens of families with severely disabled children and marvel at the love and attention these parents exhibit and the seemingly intuitive knowledge of how to best minister to the child.
Never have I heard a single complaint from a parent regarding what the world would see as the burden of caring for such children. In fact, parents of severely disabled children do not see them as burdens at all. This is a lesson every person needs to learn.
Aside from the fact that every human being has special needs, those children who find learning difficult for whatever reason will bring cause for concern to their parents, but we all need to clearly understand the importance of working with what God has provided and not to try to fix what some may perceive as God’s mistake.
Let’s end with four points:
The first point has to be our point of reference. Are we focusing on what God has created or on what man expects of God’s creation?
The second point is that we have largely adopted a problem created by a system that while largely unable to solve it, can still use it for monetary gain. Therefore, reverting back to and/or normalizing what the school system promotes hardly addresses the problem at hand.
Parents should avoid echoing the school system. It gives children the message that they need to be something other than who they are in order to be accepted.
Point three is that once we have returned to trusting God rather than putting our confidence in man, we need to seriously look into what is causing the frustration. Is it a parental frustration being projected on the child? If not, what exactly is the problem?
Simple observation is usually the best approach. Testing should be seen as a last resort. Once clearly identified, do what you can to minimize the effect of the “handicap.” Teach the children to manage their weaknesses and to fly with their strengths while avoiding the temptation to put in what God has left out.
The fourth point is, most of the discouragement respecting learning challenges comes from those who would have us be something other than who we are. Nobody can meet someone else’s expectations for who or what they should be.
Simply put on a personal note, I cannot be who you want me to be. All I can do is be me and with God’s grace, be the best me that I can be.
Avoid at all cost the normalization of man’s attempt to standardize children by making those who are different “special needs.” Let’s celebrate what God has created regardless of what the world may think. Remember, everyone is special and everyone’s needs are special too.
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