There’s a lot of buzz these days about 15 year old Greta Thunberg from Sweden and her finger wagging at all the grown-ups about climate change. Out of the mouths of babes. I am proud of her, future facing and identifying an issue that we must pay attention to now if we want to make a difference. I love that in her speech to the United Nations references her 75th birthday and wonders what she can say to her children ask her why we didn’t do what we could when we could do it. I have to say, environment matters and of course, I’m also talking about for twice exceptional children.
In no way do I want to detract from Greta’s message. Our planet’s welfare is an important issue and we all have to do our parts to address climate change. But what I want to write about today is another environment that is also important to keep healthy – the classroom, home and clinician’s office serving twice exceptional learners.
Borrowing from Greta’s wise words, “we cannot change a crisis until we treat it like a crisis.” This is true for our 2e learners as well. When will adults stop trying to change the child when what needs to change is the environment? When will we understand the waste, we create by not addressing the strengths and talents of these incredible minds? How will we answer our children and grandchildren in the future, if they too suffer through what should be hours of engagement, but is agonizingly tedious?
I frequently say, the first step is to understand – we have to come to our 2e children, learners and clients with a benefit of the doubt. So often assumptions are made before our kids even walk through the classroom door. When our children come home, we brace ourselves for what went wrong in their day or how they will behave. In the clinician’s office we make assertions – do this and that will go away. We do these things all before understanding what the issue is. We react rather than respond.
Again, as Greta said, “If solutions with this system are so impossible to find, then maybe we should change the system itself.” If what you are doing doesn’t get you the result you are looking for; peace, cooperation, calm – then you aren’t doing the right thing. And the right thing isn’t always something to change the child, it might be to change yourself, change the room, change the relationship.
So much in this world depends on personal connection and the crux to a solid relationship is trust. If we make assumptions about our kids – about what they can or cannot do – we erode the trust. The pressure is too great to succeed or to fail. So, here are ten things that just might help improve the environment in your home, classroom or office.
- Kids are kids – some of the things they do are annoying, loud, or mischievous. But if it isn’t hurting someone or something, maybe you can turn the other way, or walk away.
- Kids want to please you. When a child seems to be going down the path toward an action or behavior you don’t like, engage them in something. Ask them to do something for you or with you that shows responsibility.
- It might not have anything to do with you. When a child goes off the rails, think about their experience, not how the behavior is affecting you. Ask what’s going on. Think about what they’ve just been through (from being at school all day, navigating tough social situations on the playground, or dealing with other challenging issues). Then treat them as though their feelings matter the most – even more than yours.
- Be curious. Don’t ever make assumptions. Always ask the why, what, where, when, how questions.
- Become a detective. If it isn’t apparent what has preceded unwanted behavior, record data, and see if you can identify patterns or make connections.
- Respond rather than react. Take the information you’ve gathered and put it into efforts that address the challenges. Create a sensory space in your home or school to address those issues. Create time for cool downs, brain breaks and check-ins to take the child’s emotional temperature.
- If you are headed down a path, even if it’s part of the plan, and you see it’s agitating to the child, stop. Don’t go to that dinner or party. Pivot to allow the child to rest before going to that class or that field trip.
- Ask what they need. Give space for the child to identify what she needs in that moment.
- Avoid the middle. The rage bell curve tells us that learning happens before or after an incident. Don’t try to address, teach or lecture during a meltdown. Have a conversation afterwards.
- Role model. Treat your children, students and clients as you want them to treat others, as you want others to treat them and as you want them to treat their own children.
The environment matters – in all cases. We must not only take care of it for those of us here and now, but for those of us to come. Every day and every moment is an opportunity to change the climate in your home, your classroom or your office and to make the world a better place for your child, student or client.