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.
We have now heard the story of Matthew from two perspectives, mine and Matthew’s parents. Now, we are going to hear from the man himself. Needless to say, Matthew has changed a lot since the day we first met him, so many years ago. Let’s take a look at how Matthew sees things, today:
I, Matthew and my wife Megan are blessed to have Léo & Faye in our lives. We are especially thankful for the many ways in which they have helped me through the struggles of getting an education. The love and care that they have shown me goes beyond what their job required of them. They have always encouraged me to always keep on and never give up.
I don’t have much to add to this account of my life, as what has already been said is sufficient.
I trust that you have found the Matthew story enlightening. However, there are always at least three sides to every story. In this case there are four.
After having documented my version of Matthew’s story, I sent it to Matthew’s parents to make sure that my perspective was not in conflict with the truth. I asked them to also pass it on to Matthew for his approval (or rejection) and invited both of them to write their side of the story. This proved to be very worthwhile, as you will see.
Today, I will provide you with what Matthew’s parents had to say about their experience:
My wife and I have been facilitating home education for three decades. Needless to say, we have seen a lot of students come and go with most completing their secondary education at home and transitioning into their adult post-secondary world.
While visiting with Matthew’s parents one day, we were discussing how we were getting a lot of invitations to weddings after being involved in so many lives over so long a time and how we had determined not to attend any as it would literally take up our entire summer and if we attended only some, it could be seen as showing favouritism.
Matthew had come to see us at his parent’s place and, having overheard our conversation, asked if we would make an exception and come to his wedding, if ever that should happen.
Matthew had now completed the Apprenticeship Entrance Exam, so he was proudly sponsored by his dad in the Automotive Service Technology Apprenticeship Program.
As is the case in every apprenticeship, hours in practicum had to be collected before Matthew could attend the institutional learning part of his program. I cannot claim to know how others felt about Matthew’s chances of success, but I can only assume there were more than a few who thought, “We’ll see how this goes”!
In any event, Matthew eventually applied and was accepted to take his first year apprenticeship training at NAIT, in Edmonton.
Once Matthew had passed his mock entrance exam, I instructed… no, I demanded that he immediately make an appointment to write the real thing at the nearest trades office.
The next day, when we returned from our day of facilitation, I did not even have time to remove my boots before Matthew informed me that he, Matthew, had booked a time to write his Apprenticeship Entrance Exam. This was seen as no small miracle!
I felt like a proud dad! Not that Matthew’s parents were not proud, but I think they were still in shock after having witnessed the amazing transformation of Matthew’s near morbid fear of failing into a never before seen “bring-it-on” attitude. I still get goose bumps thinking about the miraculous transition from the defeated Matthew to one so victorious it was contagious!
When we first met Matthew he was starting level five. By the time he completed his official home education program he had worked very hard to master… level 5.
Perhaps this is a bit of an exaggeration, but I want to make the point that despite the fact that he did not excel in academics, his home education program was not a waste of time, but rather a phenomenal success in that it prepared him for his life.
Matthew did excel in HIS studies. That is, he learned what he had to in keeping with who he was, and what he could and wanted to do. He learned enough to become an asset in his father’s shop, so we started talking about an apprenticeship.
I first met Matthew nearly twenty years ago. He is the youngest of a family of five, and had been born with “issues” that made him simply not fit the school system.
In fact, although I cannot say I know for sure, I imagine the school would have seen Matthew as unteachable and suspect it may have even made recommendation for home education, in spite of the fact that Matthew was worth a lot of money to them, if you know what I mean.
The first time we drove into the family’s yard, Matthew came bounding up with great enthusiasm to greet us as we got out of the car. Matthew’s walk was different. His talk was different. He looked different. He acted differently from what one would expect from a “normal” child. Matthew was unique.
My wife and I were discussing a passage in the Bible the other day, the one about teachers incurring a stricter judgement (James 3:1). This passage is quite easy to understand. Teachers, all teachers, not just “certificated” ones, will answer for how they behaved, influenced others and for what they taught those who found themselves in their care.
I have always been a bit nervous about this passage, knowing that as a lifelong teacher, I will render an account for how I “affected” or “infected” those who crossed my path.
Indeed, it is fair to say that everyone will be judged on the same basis, but it should also be obvious that one whose calling and career is teaching will have had opportunity to influence many more people and so have more to account for.
I love telling stories! I especially like telling real stories about real people that have happy endings or provide opportunity for learning lessons. As part of the education “industry” for over forty years, I have a lot of them to tell, but this time I am going to focus on a few stories that are very special to me because I was able to help parents of dyslexic children from my inside knowledge as a dyslexic.
I would like to start with a couple stories that involve reading, but before I do, let me share the common advice that I would give parents who were truly concerned about their child’s inability to read when “of age”!
Ready for this? Here goes! I would say “leave them alone!” Or “back off” or “stop telling them there is something wrong with them by your actions and by your words”! I felt for those students, because I am one of them.