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Let’s Be Honest With Ourselves

“Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.”    

Thomas Jefferson

In 1979, I was an undergraduate learning about a fairly new law Public Law 94-142 that was enacted in 1975.  The kids I grew up with did not have this law to support them and their families in procuring services for disabilities.  I remember the “special ed” kids in my K-12 career – those that were taught in a separate classroom and whom we did not see often in the halls unless they were heading somewhere as a group.  The physical manifestations of their disability were obvious.  I don’t remember knowing any kids with identified learning disabilities, but I do remember boys who were especially antsy and ill tempered and others who struggled with school-related tasks.  They were ‘controlled’ with discipline and punishment.

The Gerber, Ginsberg and Reiff study found that “control is the key to success for adults with learning disabilities” and that “control meant making conscious decision to take charge of one’s life (internal decisions), and adapting and shaping oneself in order to move ahead (external manifestations).”  The subjects of this study all went through school before PL 94-142.  Let’s be honest – is their success due to being forced in some ways to control themselves in school?  Have the past three generations of students who grew up under the law become progressively less capable or more capable of taking charge of one’s life?  When I was a teacher-in-training, I was taught about the protections afforded by PL94-142, not the effect of decisions and resulting behaviors.  I was trained in the law as it related to children, not in ensuring student success in adulthood.

Gerber, Ginsberg and Reiff also state that “success for adults with learning disabilities is an evolving process that spans numerous years, but that process must commence with a conscious set of decisions”  and that “those who teach, parent, or counsel people with LD should be mindful of the power or their comments and the influence of their guidance.”  Let’s be honest – if an adult has not revealed their learning disability how do I know the importance of my potential influence as I interact with them?

Perhaps a better way for me think about this is to consider all adults as working through the cycle of translating internal decisions into success-oriented external behaviors.  Don’t we all have the desire to succeed, of being goal oriented, and don’t we all in a way need to reframe our learning experiences in a positive and productive way?   Don’t we all find creative ways of being adaptable and coping, strive for goodness of fit, and tend to create a social ecology of personal support designed to facilitate our success in any given endeavor?  I need to consider this as I participate in work teams; I need to consider this as I interact with friends and family – with a focus on the evolving over the years part; I need to consider this particularly as I develop online instruction.   Can I become the “critical incident” that effects decision making for others?

Let’s be honest–

we can all benefit from this type of insight and support.

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