by Julie F. Skolnick, M.A., J.D.
Your child is amazing. Your child is disrespectful.
Your child is bright. Your child cannot write.
Your child has such empathy.
Your child does not know how others feel.
Your child will change the world. Your child does not know how to behave.
A breath of fresh air. Annoying.
Out of the box. Black and white.
Parents of 2e children hear these adjectives simultaneously on any given day. Their kids know others think these things. The concern is that 2e kids doubt the positives and self-define as the negatives.
How is it possible such diametrically opposed descriptors are used to define the same person? Does the child change like a chameleon in different settings? Sort of. Does the child want to be “good” sometimes and want to be “bad” other times? Never. The child always wants to be liked, always wants to be “good.”
The child is the same, but in each setting (read classroom or activity) the child knows the perception of the adult in charge. Whether the adult exudes a positive or negative vibe directly affects the child’s behavior. There is an element of fulfilling the prophecy with bad behavior and making the experience less painful. In this vein, the 2e child, when he knows he’s perceived negatively, behaves in the way he thinks is expected. Like ripping a band aid off quickly, the 2e child gets the label stuck on his forehead as soon as possible. It’s too much pressure to wait and see. It’s too difficult to change his reputation. It’s easier to get it over with. Now he knows his role and will perform – it’s much less disappointing than trying to meet standards he thinks will likely result in failure. If he doesn’t try, he can’t fail. Sabotaging himself is much more comfortable then putting forth efforts to no avail.
But in a different atmosphere-where the 2e child is understood and especially when he is appreciated, the 2e child makes every effort to impress, comply, participate, and adds to the depth and breadth of the experience for everyone including the adult in the room.
Fathoming his struggles and embracing his efforts allows the child to believe that he can do what’s asked and expected.
Comprehending the marriage of ability and disability and the resultant frustration gives the child space to feel safe and take risks.
Happy. Angry. Helpful. Uncooperative. These adjectives fall under the categories of understood or misunderstood. Whose aim is it to change perception? Whose job is it to alter the environment; the frustrated child or the unenlightened adult?
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