I often walk a fine line between honoring who my son is and teaching him the skills required to live a meaningful life.⠀
I first became aware of this tug of war when dealing with my son’s sensory aversions. He has a strong objection to the texture of playdough. The sight of it makes him gag heavily. Disappointed, I worked on desensitizing* him. I found myself further discouraged as his physical reactions were so severe, that he sometimes dry-heaved.⠀
How far should I push my son to build skills others deem necessary?⠀
* “Desensitizing” a child, a common therapy practice dating back to the late 1800s, is no longer considered a healthy, safe, or moral practice. Many self-advocates in the neurodivergent and disabled communities consider this practice abuse.
Strict corrective interventions have never felt right to me.
Schools are good at being “fixer factories” where problems in kids are identified and often given a code, then corrected so that they conform to a set of standards outlined by some far-removed team of “experts.”
The history of schools as correctional institutions is rooted in white supremacy, colonialism, capitalism, and ableism. A child’s weaknesses are at the forefront of lessons, evaluations, and reports. There is little regard for a child’s unique qualities because the system is set up for standardization.⠀
Fixing children to fit a mould stems from systemic ableism that runs rampant in schools.
I wasn’t aware of my internalized ableism until I was on the outside. Because the history of the school system is rarely discussed, and because we are socialized to achieve set goals, when learners deviate from the “norm,” they are quickly punished and/or made to remediate.
Schools were created for the average** learner.
Accommodations are difficult to implement, buildings are highly inaccessible (hint: a ramp does not fix all), and objectives are often set for the student. The end goal is to make a child more like other children.⠀
I believe all people should be given every opportunity to thrive.
And I don’t want my son to thrive for others. I don’t want him to change so that society will accept him.
** Recommended reading: The End of Average by Todd Rose.
I foster his passions, not fix his “issues.”
This is how we approach home education.⠀
We are in continuous search of that “just-right” spot.
At all times, I follow my son’s lead.