I was part of the following conversation yesterday. It was between myself and someone that I had just met.
Her: “Oh yeah, I’ve been working with high school kids for years and years, and I tell ya… If they haven’t figured it out now, they probably never will.”
Me: “well, that’s kind of negative don’t you think?”
Her: I guess so, but you can’t change them, you know? But maybe you can modify them a little.”
This conversation was about high school special needs kids sitting alone or in a cluster at lunch, but no words being exchanged to one another. I’m sure to any onlooker, it looks lonely, or better yet, strange. But when you live in a world with very little control and a world that doesn’t bend the way you’d like it to, it may seem different. But not to me. To me… it made perfect sense.
Sometimes you just want to be left alone, but being an open minded person, I could see what she was saying… but her comment got to me. In that moment, I had a major flash forward. I imagined my son sitting alone at the lunch table in high school, anxious beyond belief, because he needed some quiet time. He needed some time where he wasn’t made to be social by some obnoxious TA who was getting his/her degree, and was trying to run a social group, or something along those lines. He was just being himself; quiet, antisocial perhaps. But definitely not modified.
Return to reality
When a child enters into the public school system, the parents and team members all sit together and make an individualized education plan (IEP) for that child. And through the years, it’ll be tweaked to fit the child’s needs as they mature. Social skills are usually imbedded into an IEP when they start elementary school, and this may include lunch groups, social groups, after school groups, etc. led by a facilitator. Here, they teach children at a young age how to be “typically” social.
How do they do this you may ask?
Through role playing, scripts, community outings, social stories, games, and lots of repetition. These skills (if practiced constantly) will become rote and hopefully natural to the student. Yay!!! But some students just don’t want to be a part of it, and that’s okay, although it’s part of their IEP, so they have to care, make progress, and produce at least 80% of conscious effort, so he/she can move forward in their IEP goals. YIKES!
“You can’t change who they are, but you can modify them a little.
When I look at my own son, I see both sides. I see the social side (which is very immature but totally awesome), and the loner side that, well, wants to be left alone. Where does he fit in? I’m not exactly sure, but I’m hoping that it’s right on the middle. Maybe a little modification isn’t too far off, but reading and listening to his signs always comes first and foremost. Just respect him.