Last Friday was a momentous occasion. My grade 3 guy who experiences significant exceptionalities went on his first field trip. Now this great guy has some serious sound sensitivies and huge anxieties in new situations. He has some big tics that include swears when he is anxious. But he has come sooooo far in the past year. When we finally figured out how to support him for success, things have been running so much more smoothly. G wears sound blockers for many activities and this helps a lot. He does fitness activities in the office (ride the stationary bike, work out on the exercise ball, carry the medicine ball, pushups on the wall, sit ups in my office or the meeting room; really whatever it takes to get him to sweat). He does not take music but works on reading or math instead. Assemblies are still hard, but he has been known to hang out by the door to hear the assemblies. He doesn't manage the lunchroom yet, but eats with a couple of buddies at a table close to the lunchroom.
A couple of weeks ago, the teachers from two classrooms decided to go to the Royal Alberta Museum to see the Creepy Crawlies Exhibit. There was a lengthy discussion about whether or not G could manage the trip. One of his teachers, who has embraced inclusion, was certain, with preparation, he would manage, BUT the grown-ups would have some work to do. Another teacher felt he would likely have a screaming meltdown and "what would we do if that happened?" First of all, two mindsets were evident and needed to be figured out. The growth mindset person knew that with preparation, G would manage. The fixed mindset said everything is "_____" way and will never change.
After discussion with mom, it was decided she would talk to him and give him choice. He would be in control of his own destiny to attend the museum fieldtrip or go to the YMCA for a playdate fieldtrip. "Either way," said mom, "he will be socializing." We agreed with her and then began to prep him for the big day. Talk about the bus, how he would manage if he was anxious, the fact that he could wear his headphones on the bus or listen to music that soothed him were all part of the discussion to prepare him. Staff laid out every step of the trip so he would know what was happening and reminded him that the final decision was his. But, they knew he would love the trip. Wednesday before the Friday trip, G chose to go to the Museum. Again, staff went over each step of the trip so he would be comfortable.
Was it worth it? Absolutely! Was it a bit of work? Sure! But G went on the trip and enjoyed every part of it. He didn't do each station set up, but attended to the parts of the museum other students would be seeing. He needed some breaks and articulated this need (another big breakthrough for him - no screaming his distress, but stating that he needed a break). Take a peek at the Animoto link at the top of the page to see his successes (shown with Mom's permission)!
Staff were celebrating this huge success with both G and his mom. Everyone was so proud. However, the fixed mindset statement was made that "he was only successful because he had so much support."
Yah, that is right! He had the necessary supports to be successful. NECESSARY. . . being the key word. We cannot expect students with challenges to be unsupported and go it alone, just because it won't be fair to the others. I mean, fair is not equal. Most of us know now that we have to focus on equity not equality if we want all students to be successful.
After all, no one would expect me to read anything on a far away page without my glasses, would they? My glasses are my support so why do people get grumpy when a student needs support that requires some work on our part. Word Q has become a support for many of our students lately. Teachers are beginning to see the positive results from using this support. Slowly, but surely our paradigm is shifting toward an environment of equity. And I am thankful that our exceptional kiddos will thrive in an environment that is becoming a learning environment for all!