Last week T-Bear and I attended Pump Prep Class at our Ped Endo’s office. He’s not often in a group/classroom type of setting, so when we do go to something like this class, because of his APD I generally try to prepare T-Bear, giving him an idea what to expect, what will be talked about, asking questions to probe his own understanding of the topic at hand, etc. And, I position myself to quietly answer questions if he doesn’t understand something. Particularly in this case, I was concerned he might not understand the specialized vocabulary and technical terminology associated with Type 1 Diabetes and its management, even though I have made a conscious effort to use proper terminology with him from day one. I was very pleasantly surprised to see him in class, fully engaged and seemingly understanding almost all of what was said and discussed. I think the slide presentation helped, allowing him to read the pertinent points at the same time the presenter was talking. But, clearly, his APD is not holding him back.
The other thing I noticed, which I had not been really watching for, is the way he interacted with the instructor and the group in general. I suppose I should preface by saying the group consisted of parents and children ages about four to teen. All but a few of the adults sat and listened attentively without contributing or asking questions. The questions mostly came from the same two adults; myself and one other mom with two little boys. Only one young adult asked a question specific to her own activities, the rest remaining silent the entire time. Except for T-Bear. He was eager to ask questions (mostly about the topic at hand) and to pipe up with his own experiences. His hand went up a dozen times during the one-hour program. And, of course, being the socially hyper-conscious person that I am, I kept trying to field his questions and comments so he wouldn’t “bother” the instructor and the rest of the class. This, he resented. He deeply resented not being treated as a full-fledged member of the group. He resented not being given the same opportunities and freedom to speak as the adults in the room. Thankfully, the instructor was polite and patient, calling on him frequently when he raised his hand (probably because most of her clients are children).
So, this experience led me to ask why so many children are not permitted (or do not feel they are permitted) the same freedom to participate as the adults in a mixed setting (particularly a setting, such as this one, where the children were welcomed and encouraged to attend). Or, are the children simply not that interested in what is being discussed, even though it relates directly to them? And, what of the adults who simply sit and listen, without once asking a question or offering input? What’s the deal there? Are we, culturally, so well trained to sit in our chairs (or at our little desks) in class with our mouths shut and our minds just empty buckets in which the instructor is to dump unexamined data, thoughts, ideas? Or am I just being too cynical?
I used to be one of the silent, very attentive, well-trained students. I sat quietly, I seldom asked questions in class, I never volunteered information, and I rarely raised my hand to answer a question unless I was absolutely positive I knew the correct answer. I did very well in school, but I must say I must not have been very interesting. I certainly was not engaging.
I am far more comfortable now in a group setting, probably because I am so much more comfortable with myself. I can ask questions and contribute without my heart racing and my voice cracking. I can approach our CDE and ask her to look at T-Bear’s numbers without feeling like I’m intruding on her time, and I can exchange a few words with other parents in the room without feeling like I’m pushing myself on them. I am, in sum, free to open my mouth and speak as I see fit.
Homeschooling has been good for me, I think.