Time to Foster Change

I Have This Idea

A child has this uncanny ability to make a parent become acutely self aware of themselves. Nothing like a little one who readily relies on your every word and action to mirror back at you what you’re truly made of. I wasn’t aware I lacked patience or possessed any control issues, until of course, that reality hit me in the face after my first week of being a parent. Then again, I never knew I had the wherewithal and resolve to push through a world not exactly equipped to handle anyone who might be outside this imaginary standard of normal we are all measured against.

My child hasn’t had the easiest of lives. But in spite of all the adverse and unusual circumstances he has had to face in his young life he has been able to thrive in a society that is far more behind the times than it likes to think it is. Being able to thrive in this society hasn’t been without struggle. Most of these barriers have come from unwoke government systems that don’t or won’t recognize that his needs, as well as the needs of millions of other children don’t fit neatly into their definition of mainstream.

Learning disabilities; sensory issues; delays in physical, speech, cognitive, behavioral, and fine motor skills; mental and emotional health, anxiety and depression, these are all very real conditions residing in a majority of the children on this planet. But, for whatever reason, extra effort must always be taken to find these children appropriate health care and the right educational environment.

Children with learning disabilities or other special needs cannot flourish in today’s world without a constant advocate. What does that say about us as human beings? Does this world exist just for those who come standard-issue? We need to think outside the box and become progressive in our thinking so we can address the needs and support of all children, all individuals, especially those who may find themselves outside the definition of extraordinarily typical.

The hardest hill to climb throughout the years has been the education system. The education in this country has a “nothing out of the ordinary here” vibration to it. Public, private, charter, it doesn’t matter. The overall vibe that permeates through most of these schools is “please be normal.” It’s completely out of step with the come one, come all perception it attempts to exude. Education, along with so many other antiquated systems have become too rigid, inflexible, and fearful of change.

Society can change in the blink of an eye, human beings face very different challenges and circumstances then we did in the past, so we need to keep evolving. Change is not something we should fear, but continually welcome. As history has shown us over and over again, when we remain stuck in the past, content with the status quo, there is rarely ever more than a few that actually benefit.

In the last decade I have had a lot of time to contemplate on what would be an ideal learning experience for those children that cannot  flourish in today’s educational environment. In keeping in step with the idea of change, I would like to offer some viewpoints from the perspective of a parent who made every attempt to make it over that hill.

First of all, schools need to offer more than just education. Like it or not, mental and emotional health play a major factor in young people’s lives. We need professionals onsite that can assist with these issues. Child trauma is very real. How can we expect children to learn if they are constantly being plagued by other issues?  Some might think a child’s mental well-being is the responsibility of the parents, not the education system.

Let’s not forget it’s the parents of these children that are often the reason and the cause of this trauma. If we want to help these kids and therefore help society, there needs to be some assistance that is readily available for them. Secondly, we now live in a technical world. Not every child is going to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher. There needs to be classes other than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Coding, graphic arts, software and video game development…these are some areas that many children with development issues and special needs would excel at because there isn’t a need for social contact and one can work on their own at their own pace.

If I had the money to create the optimal inclusive learning environment it wouldn’t just include teachers. There would be specialized therapists in all areas of delayed development. Including, but not limited to, speech, occupational, physical, and behavioral. Instead of school counselors, there would be psychologists present to give attention to those in need of mental and emotional support.

Along with certified teachers, there would be technical professionals hired to cover areas of interest better suited for different types of intellect. I would include rooms outfitted to address sensory issues such as noise level, lightening, and room temperature. I would allow for frequent breaks and create a couple of chill-out rooms that included art supplies, sensory materials, musical instruments and sports equipment that would allow for any creative or physical outlet that a child would need at the time. And if I had any money left over I would hire a meditation instructor because emotional control is at times very difficult for some children and teaching a child the ability to calm themselves would be a wonderful lifetime skill to have.

This is the type of “education” I wish for my son. I would be elated if any wealthy investor or politician found this description and thought enough of it to implement the idea. Because as much as I would like to do this on my own, I know it will take more money than I have or some powerful government official willing to turn the educational system as we know it on its head. In the meantime, I’ll  keep on dreaming.