This I Believe

Marta - Arlington, Virginia
Entered on September 16, 2007

Children … Given the chance, they will all choose to succeed.

How is it still possible to believe that when children perform poorly at school, is to purposely fail, or to defy their parents? I feel and I know that “No child will choose to fail when given or having the chance to succeed”; this I believe.

I believe we are born with particular genetic baggage to which congenital and environmental factors are added to complete our individual makeup. And even though that genetic baggage cannot be altered (at least up until now), many congenital and most environmental factors can be controlled.

I know that the adrenaline produced by the body of a stressed mother during pregnancy will have an unwanted impact on the developing fetus, but what impact do environmental factors have? What is the effect of constant reminders about appropriate behavior made to a child who cannot control his or her restlessness? Or the effect of recriminating words and disappointed looks in a parent’s face when the grades brought home are not those expected of an intelligent child? What will that feeling of failure do to a child throughout his or her forming years? I know because I was there; I was that disappointed parent, making my children feel undeserving and unworthy.

I’m aware that genetic vs. environmental is a controversial issue that has been used to manipulate many agendas and different interests. But my strong belief of the complementarities of both arises from observing and finally understanding my children’s plight and that of their peers, who are both “gifted” and who learn differently.

In my particular case, I have been blessed with four wonderful children, all bright, temperamental, and with great potential; it is through them, through their difficulties and their pain, through our struggles and heartbreaks, as well as through their achievements, that I have developed my belief in the innate desire of children to succeed in spite of the obstacles they may face.

I know that I’ve hurt my children by not understanding that we were trying to fit square pegs, beautifully polished and made of strong wood, into the round holes that we (their parents and the school system) expected them to fit. Fortunately, the ongoing advances in the field of brain development are alerting us as to the new wiring and changes of the brain, and it’s consequences.

I understand now that the slightest imbalance in brain chemistry will impact a child’s learning style and his or her academic achievement. Unless these differences are detected early, the child will undergo years of self- doubt and humiliation, which will eventually translate in the giving up of their dreams.

I have recently retired and it is my wish to dedicate the rest of my working years in raising awareness about the plight of these “twice-special children”, who are of above average potential, but who learn differently and are in need of special education.

This is what I believe, and this is what I will fight for.

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