Sunday, 21 October 2012

So Much Potential

This week a parent emailed me a youtube video showing a young girl with Autism singing with Katy Perry.  Jody DiPiazza was diagnosed with Autism at age two.  She did not speak until age four.  Her parents did not give up on her.  Her teachers did not give up on her.  And here she is. . .
 
What if the adults in her life thought she was too "out there" to do anything with; she was too "autistic" so nothing could be done?  She would not be doing what she is today: playing the piano and singing beautifully in front of hundreds of people.  While not every child with Autism will sing and perform in front of hundreds of celebrities, but how do we know what gift each child may possess.  What if Carly Fleishmann's parents settled for just getting by? She would not be sharing her experience with the world.  What if Temple Grandin's parents gave up and institutionalized her?  Agriculture would not be the same.
The point is, we do not know everything, therefore we must keep believing that there is more to a child with Autism.  Lana Rush puts it in the words of a parent talking about her daughter, Lily, and Carly Fleishman:
 
You want to know why I think kids like Lily and Carly can do things that most people think that nonverbal autistic people can't do?

Because we're talking about the brain.

One of the most mysterious organs in our bodies.

And we simply don't know everything these kids can and cannot do.

And we probably won't ever know all they can and cannot do.

Not everything in the world makes sense to us all the time.

We're not all as smart as we think we are.

Some people are criticizing Carly and saying all of her communication is completely prompted by her therapists. That her thoughts are not her own. That she thinks about the feelings of others and shows empathy, something autistic people are not supposed to be able to do.

Well, who said?

And who can really know that for sure?

I don't care what kind of degree you have or what level of expertise you've reached in your field or how many alphabet letters you have following your name, you simply can't know everything.

Nor do I.

So I'm willing to accept that Carly just might be able to show some empathy. Even though it's a recognized and accepted belief among the autism community that people with autism don't think about the feelings of others does not mean that it can't happen. It doesn't mean that every single person with autism is 100% unable to show empathy.

We just don't know. Because we don't know everything.

Again, I truly believe that the heart of the problem of autism rests in the brain. We can do all kinds of things to improve the symptoms of autism, but I believe it's similar to a brain injury. And that is the reason we are gathering up all of Lily's medical records and going to visit a doctor in California. We want to focus on the brain, not just treat the symptoms.

But that is my opinion of Lily's experience with autism.

It does not mean that I think this is what every person with autism in the world should be doing.

It may or may not work.

But if it doesn't work for Lily, that doesn't mean I'm going to write this California doctor off as a total quack who is trying to capitalize on desperate parents willing to do anything to "heal" their kids.

I'm not going to refer to his practice as a "hoax" and dedicate a blog to trying to discredit the man. If he helps one child with autism, then it's worth it.

We are all unique individuals. What works for one person may not work for someone else.
 
She is so right.  How can we decide what people can or cannot do?  We can merely be the ones who work to find the best a child can be, whether he or she has "special needs" or not.  As teachers we need to provide every single student with the best education we can; because we do not know what the future holds, but we do know that every child deserves our best! I recently had the good fortune to attend the Alberta Teachers' Association Special Education Conference and listened to Dr. Robin Gibb teach about the new research regarding the brain.  More and more is being discovered regarding the brain's neuroplasticity.  We simply must not settle for the lowest common denominator but strive for the most possible. Dr Gibb stated that brain development is prolonged (not static) and by giving more experiences, changes can be made.  There is simply too much potential to say, "that is all we can do."  Don't settle (for inspiration, click here)
 



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