Thursday, June 19, 2014

What is "normal"?

Diving into what is "normal".  I looked up what the on-line Merriam-Webster dictionary defines normal as and it is normal is, “usual or ordinary: not strange, mentally and physically healthy”.

The first definition makes me think well who wants to be normal, sounds boring.  The second definition of being mentally and physically healthy I believe most people strive for something along those lines, but how does one determine what is healthy mentally and physically for all?  Isn’t it relative? 

My last day in the classroom was bittersweet.  The children recognize me like an old friend now.  
“Hey Ms. Arinn, wanna come play?”  
For others it is a smile or a nod, they recognize me too even though they can’t say it, I know. 
Souls connected.  My life has been changed.  The idea of what is normal has been floating in my head.  This comes partly from our readings and partly from my recent experiences in the classroom.  At the end of the day there is an incident between an abled mind/body child and one that isn’t as high functioning.  The abled bodied child, Lisa is playing with ALL the people in the block center, all the toy people.  She has them on top of a small table and they are engaging in an activity that she is the conductor for… and then Sarah comes over and she wants to play with just two of the people.  Lisa decides she is NOT sharing.  So she rips the toy people from Sarah.  Sarah falls apart.  Sarah’s mom has come to pick her up during this time and witnesses the entire thing.  Lisa won’t share and is ugly about it.  Sarah starts to cry uncontrollably. 
Her mom and the teacher start talking to the girls.  Lisa is told to apologize.  She walks towards Sarah who is still very upset.  Lisa reaches to hug Sarah and say sorry.  She hugs her but Sarah is so upset.  She is sobbing to the point that snot is running out of her nose and drool is coming out of her mouth.  
Lisa yells, “EEWWW, that is so GGGRROOSSS”.  Stop, drooling on me.” 
The mom says, “She was crying, it wasn’t drool.”  Well it was drool.  I saw it.  But Lisa was so rude and it was uncalled for. 

Later the teacher and I talk about what is normal for each of the girls.  We surmise that Lisa would get in trouble for drooling on her brothers at home. While Lisa would not.  She drools and does it especially when she is upset.  So drooling behavior and what is “normal” for each of the girls is different.  The teacher talks to Lisa about how Sarah couldn’t help it and it wasn’t polite to talk to her like that.  Lisa has been with disabled children her entire life at this school and knows that it is unacceptable to speak about the differences this way. 

Normal is relative for each member of this classroom.  It changes each day for some of the children.  They each do the best they can with what they have.  I especially like what Jason Kingsley says in his article What I’d Tell That Doctor, “People with disabilities can learn. (p. 107).  I also like what Thomas Hehir says in Toward Ending Ableism in Education.  He said, “Encourage disabled students to develop and use skills and modes of expression that are most effective and efficient for them.”(p.515)  I saw in this classroom, and this is good. 

No comments:

Post a Comment