Thursday, January 12, 2012

Strengths, Not Deficits, or How Legos Help

Education is big into deficits. When a kid shows up at school, educators look to see where they are weak and tend to focus on that, ignoring strengths and talents.

Students who are twice-exceptional (2e) get the short end of this stick frequently; a 2e student is one who is gifted but also diagnosed with a learning challenge, anything from clinical ADHD to dyslexia to Asperger's or autism. Most gifted programs are not equipped (in personnel, money or time) to address a significant learning issue, and many 2e students end up being removed from the programs because they cannot keep up with the pace of the program or they need additional help to physically complete the work. The 2e student is then returned to the regular classroom where only their deficit is addressed and their gift remains undeveloped.

That is why I liked this article on a student with Asperger's who is using Legos to help him cope and develop. He is homeschooled, which gives him more flexibility, but the goal is to move into a public high school in the fall. An alternative approach such as this is generally frowned upon in most school settings; would a district evaluator be thrilled to walk into a classroom and see a student building a Lego replica of a movie pirate ship? Probably not, but the student is building spatial awareness and design skills as he does it; he is problem-solving and building mathematical understanding of patterns and repetition. Additionally, this student is building computers from parts cobbled together on craigslist. Does this remind you of anybody? Like maybe the co-founder of one of the most successful computer companies in the world?

Deficit thinking limits success and restrains creativity. Perhaps it's time to think different.

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