torsdag den 6. juni 2013

Inclusion: Failing Often Doesn’t Look Like like the Problem.

In many child cases, adults are nearby but have no idea the child is in trouble. As a mom I learnt very early on to be aware. See,

When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why. Silence is the awkward Pause before the real Drama starts.

The mom went to the teacher, and with determination she said it's time "we" address the problem. Having seen her child's underachievement before, she kept her eyes on her child and made an appointment to see her child's teacher. As a former nurse, she knew to keep her eyes on her child and headed straight for the teacher.

“I think she thinks you’re making a mistake,” the headmaster said to the teacher. The school had been spending hours working on a solution and now they were just "balancing things" they believed. “We’re fine; what is she doing?” the headmaster asked, more than a little annoyed. “We’re fine!” the teacher yelled, waving her off, but this mom just kept coming back. The child seemed fine to everybody around, just having more behavior problems - kind of expected with a mother like "her"!

Then one day she suddenly shouted ”Move!” as she pushed through between the stunned staff. Directly behind them, in the classroom, her 10-year-old scholar was failing she realized, now more than ever. She rescued him, and when he was safely in the arms of his Mom, he burst into tears, “Mommy, I really hate school”.

Later low test results accurately reflected the child's performances in school, a child that just 6 months previously loved school? A child with so much unleashed potential not performing? How did this mom know - not being a teacher - what the school could not recognize from all the meetings, while seeing the child everyday, frustrated by the child's behavior?

The answer lies in that failing is not something that happens suddenly and children do not ask for help as most people people expect them too. This mom was "unofficially" trained to recognize failure by remembering inputs of previous experts, and years of experience. The headmaster, on the other hand, had learned what failing looks like, accurately spotting the children that where labelled at-risk. Teachers expect fast solutions.
Remember this if you spend time in or near schools (hint: that’s all of us) then you can make sure that you and your team knows what to look for whenever children enter a school. You solve the child's problem by making sure trained people will notice and rescue them, before they are too exhausted to keep learning.
As a former nurse, the mom was not surprised at all - she acted instinctively. Failing is almost always a deceptively quiet event, it is much like becoming critically ill, where the sparkle of life is slowly overtaken by an certain "exhaustion" seen just before the patient falls over. The drama moment people watch Emergency Room for, but that is really very different in real life as nurses know! The mom, being a nurse had been "unofficially" trained to spot this similar pattern in her child. In the very same way children at school quietly fail - their Talents slowly fade with each failure - while they give up trying, too exhausted to keep learning.

The expectations that children ask for help and the belief that behavioral issues are self-inflicted are signs that educational conditioning prepares us to look for. These are rarely seen in real life school situations, unless you look carefully. Yet these beliefs are widely used to describe situations instead of talking about the actual evidence at hand.

Research suggest that failure can be traced: From complex interlocking factors made up of a large arrays filled with words such as underachievement, refusal to co operate, perfectionism, experimental teaching methods ect. What we often don't hear about is the real underlying meta causes, before the situation becomes a Drama. We also still only treat only popularized interlocking factors by selecting the least complex problem to solve - never really looking back - never fixing the underlying cause - just stopping the Drama.

A feminist called Leta Hollingworth wrote:

"that an age-graded curriculum poses enormous academic problems, which, unaddressed, sometimes spill over into the social arena".

This sentence can mean so much, depending on a readers backround. And here I am, writing it, while we are all battling with Inclusion vs. Special Schools vs. all day schools - so it might be seen as rather provocative. But, hold on. I am on to something here. Let's see Inklusion from Leta Hollingworths "perspective", is actually far less dramatic on paper than the real life story.

See actually, Leta Hollingworth had her very own understanding of Educational Research based on the experiences as a Pionere of her times, being born in 1886. A time when woman were rarely seen at work, she wrote articles describing what people "should do" to avoid actual or perceived failure in school. Her views can be best described in her efforts to provide gifted children with an enriched curriculum. I have an idea that analyzing how her work became viewed as undemocratic might actually help us solve some of the issues schools have today! See, we have the data today she did not have then to so explain why her school for Gifted Children was absolutely necessary - data that could in turn gives us some keys to improve learning in the future.

See, it was Leta Hollingworths that invented the much "loved as well as hated" term "Gifted Child", a label that 100 years later still kept causing quite a stir around chats about Gifted Children when we progressed to children as Gifted and Talented children. Very few people actually know that she had started out working with children labelled as mentally disabled. It was there she noticed that many institutionalized children were actually of average intelligence, but really suffered from "problems of adjustment".

A hundred years ago before testing was so hyped as it has become today! It was first when she used  the first IQ test she discovered The Gifted Child label. So this label was actually directly the result of her noticing how "misunderstanding" the behaviors of children can label them as mentally deficit. Labels, where we to this day use and still loose sight of the Talents children have.

How many people realise that the first IQ test, Alfred Binet Test, was commissioned to identify students "who needed educational assistance"? Know that Weschler tests are often used to assess children's current intellectual capabilities, in comparison with other children of their age among correlated abilities? Or have figured out that Gardner's theory of multiple intelligences states that human beings have several different ways of learning and processing information, we thus synthesise information from several disciplines? Yet, so many people use tests to Identify the Gifts a Child offers?

I cannot help but wonder what current school issues she would have solved, if she had enough time to write more about her work and her thoughts, while reading and listening too so many wonderful ideas truly inspired by her work. She was the true pioneer of discovering Talent, before we faced all the Drama associated with trying to figure out what Talent really entails. I can only understand how she became a true Pilgrim, never imagine how it must have felt explaining her observations that were so ahead of her time.

The seeds she sewed became more than her unfinished book. Mrs. Pilgrim's Progress is being finished for her by the very people that keep questioning how to "unleash the potential of children", the very people that keep the children as their focal point just like she did. People that realize children talk to us through their behavior - we just need simple frameworks to understand what children need - in order to develope a propper Frame of Reference for each individual child - developing childrens potetial.

As her work branches out, new perspectives appear, everyday - especially from a neurological perspective - and the use of IQ tests vs. developmental testing, impacting how we understand the needs of our children. Making it very complex when we need to define and explain "How to help Children to use their Gifts and Talents", while we keep the best interest of the child in mind.

And that brings me back to the fact that failing does not look like most people expect. In the beginning, where failure starts, there is actually none of the popularized interlocking factors we use to present an at-risk child. Children do not call for help of any kind. Yet a child failing is major Drama allround. Just ask any Politician, School or Family around such a child. To get an idea of just how quiet and undramatic failing can be, consider this:
Still today, children fail to learn to read in the best schools, yet they are often sent to a psychologist for "bad behavior" where it is discovered they cannot read. Right under the noses of vigilant parents and other adults that really act in the best interest of the child, children still fail to learn to read. In some of the histories, the adults actually watch the child fail, having no idea it is happening. In others the adults will be blamed for the child failures. And the Drama starts.
See, children failing in school does not look like we expect failing to look like - failure is the behaviors we notice. We need to go deeper, and look for causes keeping our eye on the child and actually hearing what the child tells us - we need to really hear what the child or adults around the child say, not what they are conditioned to say. About failure, note that:

1. Except in rare circumstances, failing children able to call out for help. They have to learn the concept of what it is to fail before they can ask for help. Children need things explained to them, so they can understand more about how things function in order to use their Talents.

2. Failing children learn sporadically, as they loose abilities since they are not able to keep up the pace long enough to learn and fall behind slowly, becoming exhausted. The right evaluation method can alert parents as well as teachers, and each evaluation should result in a plan of action, so the child learns to use their Talents.

3. Failing children do not ask for help, human nature instinctively suppresses that behavior with social conditioning. Often noticed too late and only once the behavioral problems start, often as camouflaged bullies - note: Bullies are often failing children hanging on learning from the environmental input they recieve.

4. Throughout the at-risk process failing children cannot be expected to physiologically learn like their potential predicts. Often these children are misunderstood and their exhaustion overseen - harming the child even more especially as the blaming process starts.

5. From beginning to end of the at-risk process the children seem to cope, but only a trained person will notice and rescue them, in time. Sadly, children are dependent on untrained parents and teachers since failure is actually a "complex game", and not many actually want to hack failure. A good child psychologist can be the key - if they keep the child in focus - and make the right connections in time.

This doesn’t mean that all children with behavioral problems risk becoming failures, often they are just asking for help  - or experiencing learning distress - the same learning distress that is needed for positive development. Although learning distress is not always present before the "at-risk label", we have to realize that this "learning distress period" often doesn’t last long before it becomes a Dramatic event or just subsides when children still naturally can assist in their own rescue, if they are given an opportunity to do so. . Unlike true failing children, that needs help.

All children can grab lifelines, provided they are being heard, in time.

So let's look for the other signs of failure when children are in the school. Parents hold some clues, behavior of their surroundings too, but most of all remember that a child depends on us to notice them, and we need to notice the child, and not wait for the signs of an allready failing child. When a team member (hint: that’s all of us) surrounding a child complains and everything looks OK - don’t be too sure. Sometimes the most common indication that a child is failing is that they don’t look like they’re failing - yet they are causing complaints. The whole team may look like they are coping while showing the tiring effects of a child in learning distress - long before the child's exhaustion becomes critical and learning just stops.

Ask the team members, “Are you all right?” If they can answer at all they probably are. If they return a blank stare, you may have get to them - fast. If you get an answer they are conditioned to give - you have failed the child when you don't recognize the difference. Start by trying a bit of Leta Hollingworths work while improving the education of each "individual" pupil:

1. Every child is different from all others.
2. Focus on ability rather than disability, building on the child's strengths
3. Use humor and strike a balance between work and play.
4. Offer friendship.
5. Learning approaches needed, may differ from the norm.

And parents - children learning in school make can't stop talking about their wonderfull day. When they get quiet, you get to them and find out why. Trust me that's the best parenting advice I will ever be able to give, besides making sure you take some time out for yourselves and stay rested.

Inspired via Jenny that posted about drowning:
And Gifted talk on Facebook - it's paying off. Who'd have thought?

Twice Exceptional Denmark

Twice Exceptional Denmark er lavet for dobbelt exceptionelle børn dvs. børn med særlige forudsætninger som samtidig har indlæringsvanskeligheder. Disse børn kan have opmærksomheds-, koncentrations- og kontakt- vanskeligheder som oftest er pga. Ordblindhed/ Dyslexi, ADHD, AS, PDD NOS, OCD, Tourette osv.

Det ofte set at Børn med særlige forudsætninger er af natur Asynkron Udviklet dvs. det halter med at deres emotionelle og sociale udvikling følger med det som ses ved jævnaldrende, samtidig med at de lærer lynhurtigt det emner de er motiveret for og ender således ofte foran jævnaldrende i disse oråder, uden sparringspartner. Børnene ender ofte meget ”misforstået” og en tværfagligindsats er nødvendig hvis sådan en situation skal kunne vendes.

Tværfaglighed bør bestå af en BMSF konsulent/psykolog og derudover specialister jvf. barnets specifikke diagnoser og andre problemer hver gang handleplaner udarbejdes, barnets evalueres osv. Men der er langt vej endnu, da BMSF ikke anerkendes i Kommunerne, og dermed overses det at barnet har behov for en ”særlig” forståelse og indsigt for at børnene kan få den rette hjælp jvf. Socialloven og Inklusion.

Men desværre ses disse børn i AKT forløb, heldagsskoler og kan ende i Udsatte grupper:

De unge, som kommer til opholdsstederne, har været vanskelige at placere i de kommunale tilbud, hvor hverken de unge, som kommer til opholdstederne eller de elever, der går i de kommunale tilbud, vil profitere af at være sammen.