One day this past week, a staff person and I met to talk about strategies for working with one of our kiddos. They referred to their Autistic Spectrum diagnosis as their "disability" - as a starting point of the conversation. The reference pertained directly to the similar challenges they share. The child we were discussing exhibits behaviors consistent with ASD but does not have the official label.
The staff person's self-identification bothered me - they clearly see themselves as broken. I don't consider them disabled. I, however, do view them as a valuable contributing member of our team - with skills and talents that others of us do not have. They are someone who has immense potential working in a self-directed education environment.
I had another conversation with a staff person also diagnosed with ASD - later in the week. They adamantly refuse to be defined by their diagnosis. They simply think of themselves as a brilliantly creative person who happens to be on the Spectrum.
I don't know why one feels damaged, while the other feels empowered. Nonetheless, these conversations led me to think about the kids we work with and their convictions about themselves. Some are diagnosed with various disorders, and others are not. But - most have experienced mixed levels of trauma and believe they are defective in some way.
They don't recognize their charm, wit, genius, creativity, kindness, wisdom, or the other numerous positive traits I see. They can only experience their brokenness. And they adopt identities and behaviors that are consistent with their narrative, not their true nature.
At this point, my levels of frustration are boiling over. I want to help kids understand they aren't damaged goods, and whatever they have experienced in the past does not define them as human beings. Nevertheless, I have to remember it will take time and patience. I fully believe with unconditional love and support, accessible information, and most importantly, modeling, these kids will take back their stolen identities and embrace their superpowers.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We should know later today whether we can rent the new space we have identified for our DRC-East Center. Stay-tuned!
In other news, Nic, our DRC-East apprentice has taken the original DRC logo and created one using colors the kids chose, that represent many of their native heritage.