“There needs to be a lot more emphasis on what a child can do instead of what he cannot do.” ~Dr. Temple Grandin
I use the above quote as my email signature, and for good reason. I believe with all my heart that we should spend our time focusing on strengths. I feel that we spend so much time focusing on deficits and flaws and what children need to get done that we lose sight of their strengths. How many times do you think the disabled child hears the words “Good job”? I can tell you that it probably depends on a few factors.
- Is the child cute?
- Does the child have a pleasant disposition?
- Does the child keep an organized notebook?
- How often did the child lose his/her homework?
- What kind of home life does the child have?
Let’s not pretend that numbers one and two don’t play a role in how people treat children. Number two has more to do with it than anything, though. I hear from people about how Johnny had a bad attitude and he didn’t get his work done, but no one thinks that maybe he had a bad attitude because he couldn’t do the work and didn’t have the coping skills to handle the stress. No, way. Johnny must just be disrespectful. “In my day, we just kicked kids that acted like that out of the classroom.” Yes. All children have the right to learn–except for the ones who can’t.
I’m grateful that my son possesses some qualities that allow people to see his strengths. He’s cute, he has a pleasant disposition, and he has supportive parents. We help keep him organized. Right now, we’re able to modify how the homework gets done. We’ll work on how the school sees strengths versus weaknesses, but at least they see the strengths now.
Every child has strengths. Every child can learn. Every child should have adults telling him or her that they can make it. After all, they have years left in their lives to grow and develop. They have so much unmet potential at this point in their lives. What do they need from us? They need someone standing beside them reminding them of their strengths. Let them see their worth.
What if your voice is the one that changes everything?