Thursday, August 15, 2013

They don't belong here...

I used to be one of those people who would encounter a difficult child and say " Oh they don't belong here!" They would be hard to handle, difficult children that made me question my ability to work with children. I had only been working with children a short time and had not even begun my pursuit of a CDA (Child Development Associates) or Early Childhood Degree. I didn't know much about Sensory Processing Disorder, auditory and speech impairments or even what challenging behaviors were. To me ti was a parent not doing their job and spoiling their child. Don't get me wrong I am well aware there are plenty of those running around so I am not naive to that!
My first three years I encountered both types of children yet I was green to the ways of handling them. I admit I didn't have the patients  I do now and I believe that has come with time in the field. My first real encounter with children who had developmental delays were real eye openers. It was a frustrating time, but in the end taught me so much.  They had their strength's and their weaknesses just like their typical peers. They might have been harder to work with and require much more time and attention but in the end it really did teach me a lot.
In last few years my encounters have grown and each time I learn a bit more and become much more patient and understanding. It was while working with one of my most severely behaviorally challenged child that I really began to see that we do give up hope on those children much to easily. This little boy was roughly three and a half years old, bi lingual, not potty trained, from a very unstable home, dad was incarcerated, step dad raised him while mom worked most of the time along with taking care of his other siblings. The deck was becoming stacked against this kid. Throw in some anger issues and speech delays some might say it was no wonder he was constantly given up on and moved from one care givers room to another.
Every teacher who, up until this point, had him had given up on him, treated him like an outcast and that he simply didn't belong here. He was very smart and very lovable when he was given the chance but he was in tune to those who casted him aside and so in return gave them nothing. If I called out of work they wold send him home because he would misbehave or the teachers simply didn't want to deal with him. I personally enjoyed having him in my class and learned quiet a bit from him. Children are not one size fits all they are unique and special. You have to treat them and work with them accordingly.
As time has gone on it has shown me that I really had a lot to learn when it comes to working with children. I found myself very occupied suddenly with school and training. I needed to be arming myself with more than I had been. Not long after that I found myself with a child who has special needs and my understanding and knowledge grew ten fold in that time. It really has heightened my sensitivity to how these children are treated.
It seems when you are more focused on a certain thing you become more aware of it in your surroundings. In this case I am focused on special needs and behavior. I guess the norm now a days is to kick them to the curb or blot them off when they don't fit our cookie cutter mold of the perfect child. How will they be what we want them to be if we constantly cast them off to the side and not give them the chance? How can we help them learn and grow when we shut them out? How can we get them to respect us when we  ourselves don't respect them? The answer is simple, we won't and we can't until we open ourselves up and really take the time to address these situations. If we are constantly passing the buck eventually we are going to come up broke, empty handed and guilty of not doing what we set out to do when we became an educator. We have not only failed the child but we have in turn failed ourselves also.
So I ask you to really think about the next time you say a child doesn't belong here, where do they belong? Why don't they belong? How can you fix it and get them to somehow belong?