Thursday, October 23, 2008

Special Ed

I have one student in my seminary class who is mentally challenged. It's always fun to have him surprise me with how much he can do, despite his challenges. One day, I had all of the students memorize a scripture, then pass it off to me. He did very well, and passed his off. Later, when I mentioned to his mother that I am having the kids memorize scriptures, she said, "Oh, it is virtually impossible for him to memorize. If you just have him read the scripture out loud, that is a big enough task for him." I think she's right, and I never intended to push him to memorize them, but he has proven that he has more abilities than we know at times.

This young man is very special, a very sweet natured person. I'm sure he knows that he is a little different from the other kids, but he loves the opportunity to socialize with them. He is friendly to them all, and especially loves to greet the guys in the class.

As far as class goes, it is difficult for him to participate. When he speaks, he is difficult to understand because of speech problems. But he is always willing to read scriptures out loud if I ask. I know it is a challenge for him, so I usually ask him to read only short verses. He feels good about participating, and if the other kids can't understand him, I figure they can just follow along in their own books. He is somewhat shy, and it is difficult for him to answer questions, but I can see in his eyes that he is listening and feeling the message. He may not understand everything that is said, I really don't know, but he does understand most, and has a good sense of what is right and what is wrong.

We all take turns giving opening and closing prayers, and sharing a scripture at the beginning of class. Whenever I ask him to give a scripture, he usually gives one about the resurrection. I think he's looking forward to that time when he will be free of any of his present challenges. When we first started our class, he would ask one of his friends to help him say the prayer. One day that friend wasn't in class when it was this young man's turn, so I helped him. Since then, he has been happy to have me help him.

He goes to a school in a neighboring town because their special ed program is better than the schools in town. Recently his school took a two week break, so his family took a vacation to Utah. I have to admit that even though he is usually quiet in class, we all missed him. When he came back, he was sitting in his chair and one of the girls passed by him. Suddenly she turned back and reached down and gave him a hug. I think that was representative of how we all feel about him. Special ed? Yup, he's special.


Becky said...

Isn't it neat the special spirit such people bring into our lives? We have a similar young man in our ward. Seminary's been wonderful for him. And I think it really helps the other students as well.

Nene said...

I had a special ed boy in my Seminary class also. He went to a special ed high school. He may not have been as severe as your student. This boy could say prayers, but they were usually only one or two sentences. When he had the devotional, he would read his scripture but then to comment he could never think of what to say except like: We need to be faithful. He also had difficulties memorizing, so at first I allowed him to pass his scriptures off to his parents. They would write me a note saying he had passed them off. After a while, he quit passing them off to his parents and would pass them off to me or my teaching partner. I had this boy for 2 years (junior year, and then we moved up with that class and taught them as seniors). The first year he only passed off about 10 of the scripture masteries. The second year he passed off all 25! I think he even surprised himself!

Bunc said...

I have worked with a lot of learning disabled youngsters over the years from the profoundly disabled through to youngsters who were mildly educationally challenged.

Downes syndrome youngsters are often particularly warm and lovable. The saddest situations were with some of the profoundly disabled youngsters whose parents couldn't cope or where they had got burned out. Some of these youngsters had almost no communication or self care ability and very little quality of life whatever was done for them.

People with learning disablities in general though have much greater access into ordinary day to day life than they used to and things have definitely improved over time.