Tuesday, October 26, 2010

What are your kid's special strengths?


Last night, as I was getting Max ready for bed, he said "Nooooooooo."

I had all of the necessary bedtime accoutrements in place (see above), so I was puzzled. "What's wrong, Max?" I asked.

"Noooooooo," Max said, again, only this time he was pointing to something on the side of the bed. I leaned over. It's a fire-engine bed he's had for years; I had never noticed the "No. 7" on the side.

But Max did. And he was reading the word "No." Yes, R-E-A-D-I-N-G.

When I sit with Max and go over the school reading words of the week, he knows them—he's got "the" and "and" and "I" down pat, among several others. But other than noticing his name when we go out (it's everywhere, given all the "max height" type of wording on signs), Max had never before spontaneously read a word to me.

"That's right! It says 'no!'" I told Max, who had the biggest grin on his face.

I spend a lot of time trying to help Max move past (and move around) his challenges. I don't give his strengths nearly enough due, which I'm guessing isn't uncommon among parents of kids with disabilities. We are so focused on their special needs, we forget to celebrate their special strengths. And Max has an amazing one: He has an exceptional visual memory. It's why he can point out every single Toyota Sienna on the road (even ones in the distance or in the dark), and remember how to get back to a car wash we haven't been to in forever, and recognize faces of people he's only met once. It's a strength that is obviously going to come in handy for reading, among many other things. And it's really kicking in.

Max has plenty of other strengths: His spirit and determination, his curiosity, his ability to focus (not something he did well when he was very young), his speed at picking up new ideas, his sense of humor, his social-butterfly tendencies (he is practically the mayor of his class), his uncanny knack for knowing just how to get under his sister's skin.

What are your child's special strengths?

33 comments:

  1. Is annoying one's sister a strength? Please have Max let me know when he discovers how to make it a marketable skill because I am (to this day!) quite good at it!

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  2. "special" strength?!?!?! SERIOUSLY?!?!?! A fantastic visual memory isn't "special" It's one of the 4 learning styles I thought everyone knew about: auditory, visual, tactile/kinestetic, & mixed. It's not special, it's Max's learning style, plain and simple. Which, as you mentioned, is FANTASTIC to know and tap into.

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    1. It is special because people do not see it.

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  3. That is so freaking awesome! Way to go Max!
    It is so nice to get surprised by something GOOD!
    PS - I'll have to send Max a picture of Bertrand's new fully modified Sienna. He may get a kick out of it. :)

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  4. Reading is definitely a strength of my daughter's. She started reading at 4, and she was able to read books upside down. Now that she's in first grade, she was assessed to have an almost 5th grade reading level (the top in her class).

    I think she also has a photographic memory. When she was 5, she was in a play. We read the script once and her lines were memorized.

    She loves anything in the science field and is a voracious reader. She soaks up anything and everything (this is probably pretty typical for someone with Asperger's, but still). She can tell you where lightening comes from, what the 3 mesozoic periods dinosaurs came from, etc. She's scary.

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  5. Noah is shockingly intuitive about other people's emotions---he even was as a baby.

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  6. Cheryl D and Melanie, that's great. Cristina, you didn't talk about Bertrand! And Cheryl, yes, it's a strength AND a learning style. It's semantics. Either way, it's great.

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  7. Firstly, !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Congratulations.

    Can you imagine all the stuff he's noticing that he may not have the words to get out yet? I bet you find out one day.

    And Cheryl, yes, visual memory is a learning style. But some kids have it crazy strong. My son, too- he could find a tiny Fisher Price logo across a room at age two, and remembered directions after going somewhere once. He also has my credit card number memeorized. I completely hear what Ellen is saying about Max, and it's a tremendous asset, not only for 'catching up' to grade level, but in general as a person.

    My kid is also a reader, but more than anything, he has such a tremendous will that when motivated, he can bring himself to do pretty much anything, no matter how much he ahtes it. I wish I could do that.

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  8. My kids have this fortitude... Lizzy certainly shows it through everything she's been through, and Will shows it through everything Lizzy has been through... they are tough and resilient and I love them so much.

    I am thrilled about Max's progression; thank you for sharing. It gives me hope... wonder if the cord blood's at work...

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  9. I still think those stem cells are doing their magic!!!

    My oldest's special strength is STRENGTH, plain and simple--he's a strong 'un for his age and stage. He loves to help his grandfather at the woodpile, stacking, and he'll do it for an hour or more at a crack. My youngest is relentlessly creative... with an overactive imagination! Not sure if that is always a strength but it makes for interesting days!

    Geez, Cheryl, a fantastic visual memory IS "special" to someone who doesn't have one. I can never remember where I left my car keys, I could use Max's talent when I'm late for work. Which I am. Right now!!!

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  10. Cheryl, not sure what you're getting cranked about. I'm a professional writer, and I have an insane memory for things I've read. I can remember obscure books I read thirty years ago in detail (even though I can't remember where I left my keys). That's a special strength and a learning style at the same time.

    As for my son, he's a social butterfly and charms the hell out of teachers, classmates and neighbors. We have no idea where he gets this from because my husband and I are semi-hermits, but we love it. I'm really kind of in awe that my son has this strength because despite his apraxia and SPD, he manages to have friends and communicate what he needs.

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  11. My 9-year-old daughter has Sensory Processing Disorder and much of her life is consumed by her challenges - at school, at home, on the long twice-weekly drives to therapy. It is is easy to overlook her strengths - some of which are probably even the RESULT of her disorder. She is hypersensitive to noise, for instance, but she also has an amazing ability to replicate pitch. Her singing is beautiful.

    She reads quickly and absorbs information, and is particularly adept at analyzing content and making insightful connections. She knows all the U.S. Presidents in order and can talk about each one. She is a beautiful writer - although her motor skills can make it hard to to read her handwriting.

    These things are sometimes eclipsed by her challenges. We had a particularly tough morning today, so I'm grateful to you, Ellen, for this wonderful reminder about strengths. Thank you!

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  12. Ellen, that is so awesome! So amazing that he recognized the word, "no." Max has a LOT of strengths!

    As for my little rockstar, Elijah is super social and flirtatious. Is flirting a strength? I think so! He's also ultra tuned-in to any sounds, things that I wouldn't notice otherwise.

    Our kids are pretty much the best kids ever, right?!!! :)

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  13. Faith has an amazing auditory memory. When she meets someone for the first time and hears their name, she knows it for life. Oftentimes I have to ask her, "what's that lady's name again?" Sure enough she'll know! She also memorized whole books and songs and can recite them back word for word. Another strength is she exudes joy wherever she goes!

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  14. Ooh, ooh! So excited for Max! And guess what? Jack started out identifying minivans, then all the kinds of minivans, now he can "read" every car logo there is! It's amazing what these kids can teach themselves.

    Though ... Cheryl, I am very politely, and very quietly, disagreeing. It is special. Given our kids' challenges. It is very special.

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  15. That is an amazing special strength, Ellen! For my daughter Ruby, it's audio processing. The girl can remember a song after hearing it one time! And she has completely memorized every word of her Elmo DVDs and created arm movements to go with all of the segments. She also had a knack for deciphering different sounds -- she can tell the difference between me washing dishes and washing my hands. It's so fun to watch our kids further develop their special strengths!

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  16. Wow, Ellen! That's amazing! I'm so proud of Max!

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  17. Ashley is another flirt. He homes in on women who are (coughs nervously) erm, well endowed (?) shall we say. At parties he cruises amongst the Mums and always ends up with ladies of a certain shape, usually on their laps, head resting on their "pillows". He is very sociable which is odd because we aren't! He also has a great memory for faces which is all the more remarkable because he's registered partially sighted!

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  18. I needed this post this morning, thanks! My son has been awake 3 hours and already had an epic meltdown and 2 smaller tantrums, because his patterning with his blocks got interrupted. I've been feeling a little overwhelmed.

    My son does have some awesome strengths though! He is a problem-solver and just learned that he can take my cake box and use it to reach the cans on the pantry, or anything else he might want. He learned how to plug in cords to the wall at 10 months old and at 20 months can work the TV. When my husband brings home groceries, our son unloads them all one by one. He puts the cans on the shelf himself and everything else he gives to my husband to put away. He can recognize cats anywhere (yesterday he learned to say ca-ca for cat: his second word!!!!) and has a beautiful social smile, which I know is a little less usual for kids with ASD.

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  19. OK, that is the coolest bed I have ever seen! I'm also very happy to hear about Max's reading abilities. Maybe he'll be blogging one day. ;)
    Monkey Boy makes up very creative stories. Not only that, but they are really detailed. He writes chapters of long, Harry Potter - type tales and loves to tell them to anyone who will listen. He may not ever be a professional athlete, but at six years old, he could give JK Rowling a run for her money.
    Aside from that, Monkey has a knack for taking things apart to see how they work and for making up jokes involving butts and poop.

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  20. As for Cheryl, I am going to disagree. Having a strong learning style IS a special strength. What you are gaining by trying to downplay Max's area of strength is beyond me, and more than just a tad rude.
    I, for one, am very happy and proud to hear about Max's special strength/talent/awesomeness.

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  21. I LOVE this post!
    We are slowly discovering that Tyler may have some form of autistic spectrum. But his strengths are amazing! At 18 months, he new his alphabet and numbers to 20. He's obsessed with numbers and letters, and now colors and shapes too! At 3, he's just starting to speak (other than letters and numbers and "NO!") and is coming up with all sorts of things I've forgotten myself. Like trapezoid and aquamarine. Nothing's cuter than a tiny little voice saying "Aquamarine!" or "ninety-seven!"

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  22. yay for Max! what a kid! I love his bed - my JD has a pillow pet too! the ladybug!
    my T-man strengths are that he is just a happy boy - his mood is catching. He lights up a room! I know, I am slightly biased, but I can't help it!
    Kristen

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  23. That is awesome! Way to go Max!

    My daughter also has the social butterfly strength, which we think is pretty special since both of her parents are introverts!

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  24. I second the 'age appropriate' sight reading!!

    maybe in the near future people-kids and adults- will be more tuned in to the similarities....GO MAX

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  25. Go Max go!!! Great job reading! Also you have the coolest bed ever!

    Allie's special strengths are her love of the alphabet that has gotten her reading and getting great scores on her spelling tests....also she knows when someone has difficulties and is extra sweet to them (i.e. her EI PT who had a stroke and Allie didn't even notice and treats her just like nothing is going on or my dad who has trouble walking - she always holds his had and waits....)

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  26. my daughter's super power is tenacity. She will not give up, EVER. This stubborn streak is what has gotten her this far in her life, and will continue to bolster her throughout her life. I will admit that sometimes, that stubborn streak is a bit hard to live with, especially now that's she's 15. But I applaud her strength and ability to prove everyone wrong. "Who said I'll never learn to walk? I'll show them!"

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  27. So happy for you & Max, Ellen! Personally, I think that it is indeed to special to have such a great visual memory. Oh how I've wished that I posessed such a skill when I have repeatedly forgetten where I parked my car at the mall. :) Like many kids with DS, my son is a visual learner as well. My little guy has already demonstrated a great ability to memorize all of the flashcards & sign language DVD's that we have been exposing him to since he was very young. My son is also very in tune with my emotions. One of the many things that I love him about him. :)

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  28. I am going to keep coming back here and re-reading all of these. It is so wonderful to hear about your kids' strengths! And I do think knowing how to torment your sibling is a skill!!! Maybe that's one to leave off the resume, though.

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  29. I am so proud of Max! I know I suggested that you label everything in your house ("bed", "table", "window", etc), but I forgot to tell you that you should also read lots of signs when you are out and about. It will make Max curious about what these signs say and also he will begin to recognize some of the signs (ie "STOP"). I know he'll get it! He always works so hard to accomplish what he sets out to do!

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  30. Every time that you mention Max's love of Sienna minivans I think of the youtube video clips of the "Worlds Greatest Parents"

    I just saw this last night too and I chuckled the entire way through. Not sure if Max will like it or not (the Sienna is featured the entire video though!) but I bet you(mom) will smile.

    "Swagger Wagon" by Sienna

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ql-N3F1FhW4


    Mindy

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  31. To Cheryl, we have to celebrate all of our kids strengths as special because they are special kids! Part of having a special kid I think anyway. My son is a flirt, very social. We were at our state fair over the weekend he was in his stroller and he reached out with his pointer finger and poked a lady in line ahead of us! He will flirt with anyone but especially girls!

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  32. To all who think those things are"special" here is my response. Even "normal" children have excellent visual/audio memory and a learning style as well. That is how common those things are. I'm NOT trying to undermine Max, no I'm just saying learning styles are more common/less special then you think. Same goes for visual/audio memory. I'm genuinely surprised you don't know the first thing about learning styles/memory strengths.

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Thanks for sharing!