There’s a cool graphic that’s pretty popular in education circles. It’s particularly popular in inclusive education circles. It’s meant to demonstrate that different kids require different types and amounts of support to succeed in school (and in life but let’s keep the focus on school, for the moment). There are different versions of it, but here’s the one I’m most familiar with:
I’ve seen this graphic many, many times… but ever since the first time I saw it, I always have the same reaction. When I see the graphic, I see three kids who have the same goal. Let’s watch a baseball game together! The only problem is that, in the picture on the left, the two big guys are busy enjoying the game while the only thing the little kid can see is a fence.
When I see this graphic, it makes me so happy that the kids have figured out how to solve the problem. Cool! We have enough boxes!! All we need to do is transfer a box from the big guy to the little guy. Now we can all see!! Look at that the Red Sox just scored a home run!!!
However, I’ve learned through painful experience, that not everyone sees this graphic the same way that I do. Some people look at the graphic and experience a sense of loss. Why does the big guy have to give up his box? True, the big guy can already see over the fence without the box but aren’t we holding him back by taking the box away? Couldn’t we push his development by giving him some more boxes?
Well, I’m here to let you in on a little secret. ALL I WANT IS FOR MY KID NOT TO NEED THOSE RIDICULOUS BOXES
Just to demystify a little bit let me tell you a bit about what’s inside my kid’s boxes. Our first boxes were delivered when my son, Gabriel, was just nine months old. He wasn’t meeting his physical benchmarks, so he started working with a physical therapist. We added speech therapy and occupational therapy when he was two. Later, we added behavioral therapy and a play skills group. Did I mention we had received all these boxes before he was even three years old?
I remember bursting into tears one day when Gabriel was five. We were just wrapping up a two-hour session with our behavioral therapist. I was saying good-bye to her in the driveway, and I happened to look across the street. Our neighbor and her five-year-old daughter were just returning home from kindergarten soccer. It was a beautiful spring day, and the little girl’s soccer uniform was practically glistening in the sun. Moments earlier, I had been on top of the world, thinking about the amazing progress Gabriel had made that day with his therapist. My high spirits came crashing down when I started thinking about what he was missing out on.
After three years with the behavioral therapist, we finally made the decision that Gabriel had made enough progress to “graduate.” While he still needs many other supports, he had acquired the specific set of skills she had to offer. Nothing makes me happier than to get rid of one of those boxes.
Back to the graphic, I think it’s a natural reaction to want the best for your kid. And maybe, when you see that someone else’s kid got two boxes, while your kid has none, it might raise some questions about the boxes. What I’m asking is to please, think for a moment about what might be inside those boxes.
Those boxes represent ramps that make buildings handicap accessible. Those boxes represent assisted listening devices for kids who can’t hear. Those boxes represent hours of phonics instruction for kids who can’t hear the difference in the sound of a “p” versus the sound of a “d.” Those boxes represent aides who can support students in overcoming the obstacles they face due to autism, ADHD, anxiety, or a billion other disabilities. Those boxes represent whatever a kid needs so they can see the ballgame instead of the fence.
So again, I ask you…. let’s keep our focus on our goals as a school community. Heck, let’s keep our focus on our goals as a society. At the end of the day, it’s not about how many boxes you have. It’s about working together to make sure everybody can see the game.