In many respects, having a child is comparable to playing the lottery. There are multiple variables at work. Rather than dealing in numbers, we deal in genes. Such genes are frequently labeled as “favorable” or “unfavorable” and society has set the qualification standards in place. I like to call this measuring tool the “F-F Scale”—for “Fame” and “Fortune.” If the genetic stars do not align along either of those two paths, then a less desirable “F” may come into play—FAILURE!
In the “Fame” category, we often think of Hollywood movie stars, right? They are blessed with attributes such as charisma, wit, and above all—super human social skills. Among the “common” folk, these strong social skills may lead to increased popularity in school, which often progresses into an ability to “network” effectively—a generally useful tool for climbing the corporate ladder.
Within the “Fortune” category, social skills are not necessarily a prerequisite. Those who are more adept at analytical thinking may find themselves earning top dollars as software engineers, where communication skills may be beneficial… but not essential.
Parents… what do we do when we suspect our children may have the “Failure” gene? Is there a “Failure” gene? Well, I thought so and was convinced that my second son had it! I went through the following three stages when grappling over this matter:
My eldest son was labeled as “Gifted” based on a combination of academic performance and standardized test scores. Neither I nor my husband ever really had to help him in school. He just got it! Everything sort of came naturally to him—easy as that!
While everything came easily to my first son, I could certainly not say the same for my second! No matter how much I tried to help him, things just didn’t sink in! Out of complete frustration and a bit of resignation, I found myself asking, “could nature have dealt my son a “failure” gene?”
While I was willing to chalk up many things to nature, this simply wasn’t one of them! Despite my unwavering determination, timing couldn’t have been worse for me. At the height of my son’s academic woes, I was at the height of exhaustion. Not only was I working full-time in my Occupational Therapy (OT) practice, but I was pursuing my Doctoral degree as well. Despite all this, the well-being of my child remained top priority.
As a Pediatric OT residing in one of the top educational communities in the Chicago area, I knew that it was only a matter of time before I would uncover a solution. Several months later, not only was my exhaustion at peak capacity, but I had seemingly exhausted all the options my community had to offer.
As hopeless as things appeared at the time, there was one thing I had on my side—resilience! A mother’s love for her child was unfaltering, and I was prepared to do whatever possible for his well-being.
One evening, I was assigned to listen to a guest lecturer who spoke about a concept called Precision Teaching. Her words began to inspire a tone of divine intervention. The program she described was precisely what my son needed! I phoned her the next morning to inquire further, although I was basically sold before she picked up the phone. She indicated that I would need to bring my son to their learning lab in New York. Within a few short weeks of that conversation, we were on a flight!
After seeing the program in action, I knew it was the solution! While I fully expected the miraculous results it had on my son, I wasn’t exactly prepared for the effect it would have on me. The moment I experienced it, I knew I had to bring this revolutionary concept back home.
I truly believe it to have been a spiritual calling and one that would alter my career forever. I now had the ability to offer a program to my community that could advance children 1 to 2 grade levels in just 40 hours of instruction. I thought to myself… “How amazing is that?”
While nature is certainly a powerful force, it is not the only force at play. As parents, we wield an equally powerful sword—one comprised of undying devotion and endless love for our children. There is no such thing as a “failure” gene, but instead our world has an educational system that does not serve all children equally.
In other words, every child learns at different speeds and through different means. As a result, many students will develop learning gaps along the way. Once those gaps are identified and filled, only then can students begin that rewarding journey toward academic recovery.