Thursday, May 26, 2016

Always Watching & Presumed Competence

This school year we've encountered a new problem with B. He has become a proficient curser.

His behavior specialist, Mr. Smith, was called the his music class one day.  B was distruptive and the teacher needed help.  Mr. Smith asked B what was going on.
"Music class is lame."
"Do you even know what lame means?"
"It means boring, son of a b*^%$!"
After picking his jaw up off the floor Mr. Smith asks B how he knows those words.
"Back to the Future"

Uh oh! That's on me.  Guilty as charged.  Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies.  And Biff Tannon says s.o.b. about a half a million times in the movie.  Many times, we 'd be watching the movie and B would be on the couch or in the kitchen playing on his tablet.  He seemed completely absorbed in what he was doing. He didn't seem to be paying one bit of attention to what we were watching. So we didn't worry about the words we thought he was not hearing.

How wrong I was!

Kids are like sponges.  They take in everything around them.  I knew this with my other boys.  Why did I forget this with B?  I'll tell you why...

Presumed Competence.  Douglas Bilken, who works to promote equity in education for persons with disabilities describes presumed competence this way:

Assume that a child has intellectual ability, provide opportunities to be exposed to learning, assume the child wants to learn and assert him or herself in the world. To not presume competence is to assume that some individual cannot learn, develop or participate in the world. 

I almost always presume the competence of my older boys but sometimes I forget about B.  I assumed that he was so into Angry Birds or whatever was on his tablet that he wasn't paying attention to anything else going on around him. I was so wrong.  His language told me the truth.

We forget that our older kids are still watching our actions...

Dad consistently belittles people at home but then is super friendly to their face.
His high school age son learns he doesn't have to be respectful all the time, just to people's faces.
Mom posts private details on social media.
Daughter learns that privacy isn't important, she can tell the world whatever she wants.  

It will serve us all well if we remember that kids are always learning from us.  If we presume competence of all our kids, young, older, special needs, neurotypical, ALL our kids! To paraphrase Roz from Monsters, Inc.  "I'm watching you.  Always watching"


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