Monday, November 8, 2010

Building a life around Strength

Here is a reposting of the Hopeful Parents post I wrote on Friday - so I can have all my posts in one place and I know some of you find it tiresome to be asked to  go to links

Do you remember the subject that you were worst at in School?
The one you dreaded
For me, it was Chemistry
When High school ended, it was such a relief to know that never again would I encounter Chemistry
I could move on to the things I was good at 
Things I enjoyed
When I chose my career – I chose a career where my strengths were myadvantage
And so, even though , I am not  a person of great gifts or any brilliance
 I play from my strength and I do pretty okay
However there are people who will be evaluated on their weaknesses all their lives
These are our auties
They are continually evaluated on verbal strength – frequently their great weaknesses
 ( Think about it - even when its unintentional - the game of life is verbal. For most  of the ways in which we measure Intelligence – are tests that areadministered verbally, require the child  to think verbally and often answer verbally. What a huge disadvantage this puts on a person that may think inpictures not words )
I would argue that our entire school curriculum is created for the verbal thinker
Auties  are continuously coached on social skills
If you think about it, they spend all their day doing things they are bad in
The curriculum and life that has been created for Auties is what my life would be – if the world centred around chemistry ( shudder!!! )
It seems we go one step further – we take their gifts and find a way to disparage them
We call them Splinter skills
One more symptom of a disorder
 “So what if he can read at 3 … everybody can read eventually “ we say sadly 
( never thinking that the same argument  is also true of speaking )
Parents of auties hold “becoming indistinguishable” as the highest goal
Just like everyone else" we sigh
Why ?
What if we  changed our mindset ?
What if we became okay with them looking odd and different ?
What if we  taught them enough social skills to navigate the world, but did not make it the fulcrum of their success and the core of their curriculum?
What If we focused on their strengths?
And help them build a life around that strength
“Don’t try to de-geek the geek “ says Dr Temple Grandin
For degeeking the geek is not only impossible, its ultimately cruel
No no no, I am not getting into the debate of autism being a good thing or a bad thing
Some of you may think Autism is simply a different way of being and some of you may think it’s a crippling disability
But whether we  think the former or the  latter – all I am saying is that –we can think of our child in terms of how they can build a life around strength
Rather than building a life around deficit compensation
We can find creative ways to harness their passion and turn it into a career.
 "I always sold my work, not myself"- says Dr Grandin in a conference I went to recently, "I always got in through the back door... I never passed an interview in my life "
When the game and rules of that game are so obviously loaded against  thedeficits of the children we love so deeply
Then there is only one  thing to do
Instead of just focusing on changing the child
We need to change the game 


Anonymous said...

I love this. You are so right on.

And I too would be lost in a world that expected Chemistry of me.

Dani G said...

I love this post!! Yes, we know all about splinter skills. I think it comes with the territory!

Oh, and that's one of my favorite quotes by Temple Grandin!

Rachel said...

You have written so beautifully about this. And how I wish we could all apply these to all of our kids and ourselves and the world would be a happier and much less unappreciative place.

(So true about the world being so VERBAL based... it can be hard oftentimes)

robin said...

Totally agree with you. :)

Tanya @ TeenAutism said...

"build a life around strength
rather than building a life around deficit compensation" - simply brilliant. This has affected me deeply.

Anonymous said...

So right about how we're judged on the verbal thing everywhere! That explains why smooth-talkers who have very little brain power get so far in life (like many of the hosts on The View, haha).

Lynn said...

I always sold myself based on my work too, and I'm not even on the spectrum. I think society has changed towards more of the "selling of the self" and that definitely does give advantage to our kids. I hope that we can walk the fine line of helping to give them the necessary skills to function independently in society without making them feel deficient in any way!

Brenda Rothman (Mama Be Good) said...

I am SO with you, K. SO WITH YOU!!

Lisa said...

Well said K!
I concur.

Anonymous said...

oh dear. I'm glad you wrote this post. It is yet another reminder that I need to be open to accepting other ways of communication. I AM, don't get me wrong, but it's so easy to push and strive after the speech because that's what I understand. wow, this one struck a nerve- I absolutely hated science and math....I wouldn't want to be forcing all the hard stuff on Daniel all the time if it feels the same for him! Thanks for giving me something more to think about!!!

Mr. Daddy said...

Can I just say that I heart you????

This is such beautiful post.

there is just such wisdom and true meaning in it.

The simple truths that you speak of here are so applicable to all our lives..

Thanks for sharing....

Anonymous said...

YES. you write this so well, you explain it perfectly. this is a post i'm sure i will refer back to often.

there's only one part in which i beg to differ. you are brilliant and have great gifts - in your mothering, your writing, your ability to help us celebrate our children.

danette said...


In the areas auties are strong they tend to be way beyond the capabilities of most NT folks so why not help them work on maximizing those abilities?

Just added this to my "recommended reading" list :)

Another random week in 2020

 Everything that I could say about 2020 has probably been said.  On the whole,  its not as bad as it could have been because I am with my tw...