Last week when Ben walked into the Kumon waiting room with a volunteer she was all smiles.
“Flawless!” she exlaimed, holding up a book of sums adding 4 that Ben had just finished.
Ben and I grinned and I could imagine his chest filling with pride.
Every child needs to feel successful and I’m grateful that Ben is having this opportunity – even if it’s totally out of whack with the typical learning trajectory of kids.
At the same time, I remind myself that less than a year ago Ben couldn’t even write – much less sit focused and add numbers.
I’m doing a presentation for some medical and research students and I keep coming back to how my conceptions of disability (intellectual and physical) before having my son were wrong. WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. So far off the mark.
And how conventional ways of measuring success can never come close to capturing the complexity, richness and essence of a human being.
Right now Ben is enamored with the Mr. Men series of 49 children’s books. You know – Mr. Greedy, Mr. Brave, Mr. Daydream, Mr. Dizzy, Mr. Bump.
I remember these books as a child. Apparently they were created by British author/illustrator Roger Hargreaves after his son Adam asked: “What does a tickle look like?”
Ben doesn’t want me to read these books with him. He wants to enjoy them himself. There's something about the characters and how their names match their appearance and personalities that Ben finds humorous. Being so petite himself, perhaps he's also drawn to the little square format of the books and the little characters. Who knows, maybe he sees himself as Mr. Ben.
Back to my presentation. We don’t need to make disabled kids ‘normal.’ We need to open people’s minds to see youth with disabilities as full human beings with their own rich worlds.