I love conversations with my six year old. Our topics range from progressive astrophysics, to monsters, superheroes, never ending why questions, and occasionally we hit upon a teaching moment where I get to contribute to how he views life.
Last night as we left my Aikido class, we were talking about a comment one of my classmates made. His daughter had been on stage with a magician who made her “disappear.” I couldn’t resist asking her how she had come back from disappearing and she laughed a little, still l trying to figure out if I was being serious. Her dad commented that he wasn’t a very good magician and that his daughter’s arm and leg were only missing for a few weeks.
This must have stuck with Oliver, who asked me shortly after we got in the car, “daddy, what if someone were missing an arm and a leg, they couldn’t dance at all.” he laughed at his joke. Oliver had no malice in what he was saying. He’s never met an amputee and maybe hasn’t even seen someone like that.
I asked him, “how do you know they couldn’t dance.” he thought about this and decided that they just couldn’t dance. I asked him to reconsider and told him one of the world’s fastest people was a double amputee. His prosthetics were deemed too much of a competitive advantage to allow him to participate in the Olympics. I concluded by asking him not to consider people that have these challenges as less than completely capable….and you know, I think it made a difference.
Recently, our four year old had a speech assessment. He has never dealt well with tests, dentists, eye doctors, etc. if you know my four year old, he is all energy and action, the combination of both means trouble. We didn’t get any definite diagnosis from this, but we did get lots of recommendations for follow ups. He is to have speech therapy sessions, hearing tests, behavioral evaluations, and and evaluation for special needs pre-school.
My first reaction was, oh man, my kid acted up and drove the tester crazy. Knowing that the cooperation you get from Nolan is very mercurial, I thought, he just wasn’t ready for this kind of test. I resolved to help get everything set up, follow through, but was certain he was just a late bloomer. Nolan is very smart, you can see the intelligence in his eyes, he can solve matching puzzles easily on Diana’s iPhone, he knows his letters and his sounds.
Then I read the assessment from the tester, he’s been diagnosed with mixed expressive-reflective language disorder. After doing some research, I found that the symptoms matched up with some of the more “frustrating” aspects of his character. I haven’t completely bought in to this diagnosis, but I have been trying to adjust to this possibility. One thing I have noticed is that if I interact with Nolan as my son with a developmental delay, I no longer get frustrated with his behavior. I have a lot more patience for him. I see his responses and actions as the responses and actions of a sweet little guy that is struggling to communicate…and this also makes a difference.
While seemingly contradictory these two stories have one thing in common. When you separate the interpretation of what you think a person is capable of from who they really are, your ability to relate to them and understand them increases greatly.