Monday, December 03, 2012

Change Your Attitude - When Disability is Hard to See

There was a kid at school today who was having a tantrum.  They had him blockaded between a couple of the secure entrances so he couldn't get to anyone or anything to cause destruction or harm.  Before they had him blockaded, he threw a chair across the hall.

It's always sad to me, to see this happen to one of the students at my school.  When I was walking by, I heard the teaching assistant say to the kid, "You've got to calm down."

And the kid hollered back "I can't just calm down!"

A few years back I'd have thought he was just being a "bad kid."  Now I have children with behavioral problems, and I see things very differently.  I understand that very possibly, he's right.  Maybe he absolutely can't calm himself down.  Maybe he's not just being difficult.  Maybe he doesn't have the ability to settle himself down once he gets worked up.

I remember when I was a kid, getting mad about things that didn't go my way (because when you are a kid, you still believe it's all about you) and I can remember my dad saying "Change your attitude!"  And I remember thinking that was about the most ridiculous thing I'd ever heard, because no human could control their attitude, could they?  It just was what it was.  Wasn't it?  It wasn't like a faucet I could turn on and off.  I couldn't control it at all - actually just the opposite.  It felt like my feelings and my attitude controlled me.  And all that could calm it down was a little quality time, alone in my bedroom.

Growing up helped me get a handle on it - maturity taught me that I could control my feelings, at least to an extent.

This kid - he looks like an ordinary teenager.   He talks like he's fairly mature and intelligent.  But maybe his emotional maturity is stunted - stuck.  Maybe he feels like I did, as a kid.  Maybe he really can't control his attitude.

I've seen him fly off the handle before, and it surprised me.  At first (and second and third) glance, he seems pretty normal.  I guess those are the ones that have the most trouble, though.  The ones who seem like they might not need any help.  The ones who have to work (or their parents have to work) to prove they have some problems.  I really feel for those kids and their parents.  That's one thing we have never had to do - convince someone that our boys have a disability.  Theirs is readily apparent from the moment you encounter them.  I worry about these kids whose needs are more difficult to see.  They are the ones who will really struggle, and might fall through the cracks of the system.

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