Presuming competence means that – no matter what the external appearance of the child suggests – we always assume that he or she is capable of learning and is intelligent.
- We give students age-appropriate material and talk to them in an age appropriate manner.
- We believe our students want to and can learn.
- We do not address disruptive behavior directly or punitively.
- We believe that their behavior serves a purpose and expect the student to be able to describe why he/she does what he/she does.
- It means we teach the children self-awareness, to understand themselves and to see themselves as a competent person.
Presuming competence is not just as it refers to academics. We also presume they can manage their everyday affairs. In the sense of self help, self-care, etc. It means that we never dismiss any behavior as the child being lazy or stubborn (those are taboo words to us). If one views a child as being lazy or stubborn, it absolves you of looking for alternative ways of reaching the child.
“Assuming incompetence is the biggest barrier to growth. Bilking autism is impossible if people think you are incompetent.”
Radhisha (name changed) was eight years old when he came to us. Significantly affected by cerebral palsy, he had been in a special education unit in a government school but had no means of communication and even his parents thought he was not intelligent. We started him on our communication program based on whole word recognition. Today he is able to communicate his needs and wants and hold a brief conversation as well as correctly answer most questions on academic lessons.
Rashmi (name changed) came to us at 12 years as a hyperactive, severely autistic child. Her mother described her as “insane” (pissu) and later revealed she thought we were crazy to think that her daughter was capable of communicating with words. She was disengaged from her family, would not make eye contact, and appeared completely in her own world. Within a couple of weeks, Rashmi was communicating basic needs by pointing to whole words. Now her hyperactivity has reduced remarkably, and she is a contributing member of her home and family unit. Much to our delight, she is also developing speech.