Sunday, November 11, 2012

Relationships And Love

I've recently come to realize how little I understand when someone tells me about a "diagnosis," especially when it comes to something that influences behavior. I hear the words when they give me the list of symptoms to look for in kids, say, on the autism spectrum, or with ADHD, or sensory integration issues, but they are just words, or rather they are words that could also sometimes describe the behavior of any child who is tired or hungry or frightened or missing his mommy or just having a difficult 3-year-old moment.

I really don't understand when you send me to a website or have me read a chapter in your "bible" about how to deal with this or that behavior, with all those tips and strategies designed to help a theoretical child. Maybe, at best, it gives me a place to start, but it all just feels like throwing stuff against the wall. I sure as hell don't take any notes because the act of copying things down tends to cement them in my brain, putting them closer to being "knowledge" when, in fact, when it comes to the actual kids I'm getting to know, it's all just words and the knowledge that derives from them is mostly false.

Maybe it's simply because I'm much more adept at understanding the world through metaphor than dry facts. Maybe it's because most of my "schooling" as a teacher comes from 3 years of classroom apprenticeship rather than textbooks, lectures, and tests. Maybe it's because I'm not in this game to commit pedagogy or curriculum or even, at bottom, education; I'm here because I want to share the joy of childhood over and over and over with each one of the unique and wonderful children who come my way, to know them as friends, to find the things we like to do together, and to love them. Maybe that's why the words mean so little to me.

If I'm going to "handle" a child with behavioral issues -- and they all have them at one time or another -- I'm going to have to start by really knowing them and they are going to have to start by really knowing me, which from my side is a process indistinguishable from that of falling in love. This is where, for me, those edifying metaphors emerge. It's only by coming from this place of love that I can begin to construct empathy, to actually begin to feel what the child is feeling, to get a real understanding of what "triggers" this or that reaction, to know who they are, behavioral challenges and all.

Others may discover insight in the words and theories, from discussions of neuroscience and evolutionary biology, but not me. I find I can really only trust the knowledge about a child, or about anyone for that matter, when it comes to me through a loving relationships with them. It might sound strange, but I sometimes think the only true knowledge I have about anything is that which comes through relationships and love.

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amanda l. said...

I want to let you know that I really love reading your blog and admire you so much. I live in Richland, WA and wish often that we were in Seattle so that my 9 month old could attend your school when he's older. I hope we're able to find someone like you when he's ready for preschool!

Leslie said...


Sarah at Easyread said...

Well said! We help kids with a number of different diagnoses - dyslexia, auditory processing issues, ADD, autism - and sometimes more than one at once. Thought I'm sure that these labels help with getting proper help in the school setting, so often the kids are weighed down by them and living life stressed out.

Ron R. said...

Agree--I loved this blog post. I would say that sometimes a label/diagnosis CAN offer parents some reassurance by connecting them with other parents struggling with the same issues. And sometimes understanding a cause can help the parents (and child) develop coping strategies. But we are so influenced by our expectations that often the label robs the child of his or her individuality, or turns childhood into a checklist of milestones.