Whenever I hear the term special needs I always think of my own needs and wonder what is so special about them. We all have “special” needs and they are all very unique. None of us have needs that are exactly the same.
When it came to school, I did very well if you measure success in terms of the grades I received. One of my strengths was short term memory. As long as I studied for a test the night before, I preformed quite well – I was a good test taker. But ask me to comment or expand upon the same information a week or two later and I might be clueless.
I may have had a great short term memory but processing and storing information into usable and practical chunks of information was my shortfall. I was never labeled with a ‘learning disability’ because I performed well according to the common measuring stick employed at the time. I eventually learned how to compensate for my own “special needs” but I certainly could have benefited from the help of an observant adult along the way.
I'm sharing my personal educational journey and learning style with you to make a point that we all have our strengths and our weaknesses. I know you have heard that said before but what exactly does it mean in terms of special needs?
I like to call our unique set of special needs "individual necessities". Regardless of what you call them, they need to be detected and identified early on. Then they need to be addressed in ways that increase our ‘special’ chances for success.
Children with autism certainly have “special needs”. A few areas they typically struggle with are language development, social interactions, sensory issues and communication skills. Please raise your hand if you are blessed with perfection in all of these areas. Just as I thought – there is not one among us who wouldn’t benefit from extra practice in some of these areas.
Regardless of the labels we put on people I have always been a firm believer in Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s) for every child. Not in the formal sense of the word but as a mindful approach to parenting and education in general. Each chid requires a special approach when it comes to parenting and teaching. I work with parents to detect the ways in which their children excel – not just educationally, but socially, emotionally and spiritually as well – and the areas in which they may need extra assistance. Then we create roadmaps to use in meeting their "individual necessities".
When we take the time to really tap into a child’s way of being and study their unique attributes – their temperament, personality, learning style, etc – and adjust our interactions with them accordingly, it enables us to make quality connections that help them attain their optimal best. I see it as an efficient use of time, energy and resources that has a big pay-out for all.
I still struggle with memory issues but I have found ways to address my special need over time. Our children need us to help them do the same, whether on or off the autism spectrum. How do you help your child cope with or compensate for her ‘individual necessities’?