Last month, I wrote about “Children-With-a-Diagnosis,” and or development diagnosis given to a child. The disadvantages I described related to how the disability can become a part of a child’s identity of themselves. We forget sometimes, that children (even very young children) are thinking beings, actively working out for themselves a sense of themselves and whether they are “good enough” as they are. Children going through testing and therapy or other support services struggle to figure out what this experience means to them. I once talked with a little boy who had recently begun speech therapy for help improving his pronunciation of certain sounds. His speech was understandable, but speech therapy was recommended to help him learn how to make new sounds so that, for instance, he could say “lego” instead of “wego.”
No one knew that this little boy felt secretly ashamed about going to speech therapy, not because he mispronounced r’s and l’s, but because he believed that going to speech therapy meant that “something was wrong with him,” and his parents “didn’t like the way he talked.” When he revealed his secret to me, he burst into tears. But his admission opened up the opportunity for us to have a very useful conversation and work out a more positive understanding about what speech therapy meant to him and his parents.
It is so easy for any child to reach the same kind of conclusion that this little boy did—that the focus on testing and therapy or other special services are because the child isn’t good enough in some way. Anyone, young or older, is likely to less confident and even ashamed when they believe that there is something wrong with them.
This is why I believe so fervently that kids with any kind of special challenge need extra opportunities to grow their courage bigger. Even the disability or difference itself can become an incentive to overcome obstacles. Every now and then, we hear stories of individuals who accomplish amazing feats to prove to themselves and others that their disabilities do not determine their limits.
So, maybe a child with a learning difference won’t eventually earn a Ph.D. and find the cure to cancer—but maybe they will. Who knows? Let’s give every child, whatever their gifts or challenges, the benefit of believing in them that they can take whatever gifts and challenges they have, and make the most of them.