Sometimes as adults we do this “thing” where we make assumptions about what a child can or cannot do. The latter can lead to placing limitations on them that inhibit access to all sorts of opportunities. Let me give you an example.
(PLEASE NOTE: NAMES, AGES, AND SOME DETAILS ARE CHANGED FOR PRIVACY PURPOSES. ADDITIONALLY, IDENTITY-FIRST LANGUAGE IS USED- YOU CAN READ MORE ABOUT WHY IN THIS ARTICLE)
I used to see an autistic 6-year-old named Luke. Luke was sweet as can be and active with a capital “A.” It was very easy for us to get off track during our sessions. Usually, unless we were doing an activity involving his absolute favorite topic, The Nutty Professor, (the adorableness of his love for this movie will never stop making my heart burst) he was mostly uninterested in any activity I presented to him.
Well, this was several years ago now. At the time, I had just started a new line of resources for Speechy Things called Hide & Find games. One day, as soon as it was ready, I used the very first theme I created, Yetis, with every student on my caseload. The kids were having A TOTAL BLAST. Seriously. I hid the yetis for each student at the start of our session, turned off the lights, handed them a flashlight, and off they went hunting the yetis and match them to their goal page for practice. It was a hit with each and every one of them… but Luke was coming that afternoon. I was NOT confident that he could handle being so “free range,” particularly with the added excitement if we decided to turn the lights off.
I was torn- do we give it a go and risk our productivity? Or do we stick to the status quo and do an activity with The Nutty Professor? (My heart just burst again, by the way.)
I DECIDED WE SHOULD GIVE IT AGO.
We played yeti hunt… and I’m so glad we did.
The amount of engagement, focus, and smiles BEAMING from Luke was incredible to me. Here I was thinking he “couldn’t handle it.” But couldn’t handle WHAT exactly? Couldn’t handle fun??? Couldn’t handle gross motor? (Which, by the way, I’ve since learned can be incredibly important, especially for active students and their sensory systems.)
I almost kept Luke (and myself) from a wonderful, engaging session for absolutely no reason other than I thought he “couldn’t.” Since then, I’ve tried Hide & Find games with almost every student on my caseload and it’s been a hit every time.
THE MORAL OF THE STORY…
Give kids a chance to prove you wrong. This is important for every child, but maybe even more so for the kiddos we work with. Adults are gatekeepers to all sorts of incredible (and powerful) experiences and tools- fun games, enriching activities, communication opportunities, AAC, and the list goes on. A delay and/or disorder shouldn’t exempt children from privileges, high expectations, and achieving greatness.