Friday, November 30, 2012

Ways I'm not smart, ways Janey is

Janey's recent testing has led me to think a good deal about what "smart" means.  You can take smart as something a test can measure.  If you do that, well, I would test smart.  I am good at the skill of taking the tests that have been chosen by a lot of educators to define what they have chosen to define as smart.  However, over the years, I've had many occasions to realize that doing well on those tests means---doing well on those tests.  Not a lot else.  If you look at my life in terms of financial success, or major academic success, or artistic success, or a lot of other measures of success, I would not test very high at all.  The tests don't predict much, except that you will probably do well on future tests of the same kind.  There are a lot of ways I'm not smart at all.

I learned quite a few of these ways during high school.  I'm hopeless at foreign languages.  Everyone around me was learning vocabulary right and left, and I just couldn't.  This is also a problem with me for learning names.  I don't have a good memory at all for verbal words.  Janey is extremely good at this, obviously.  She seems to store every word she's ever heard someplace in her brain, and when she wants to, she can recite them back.  I also could not for the life of me remember the names of various parts of things, like in biology.  I remember studying for a test on the parts of a fetal pig.  My friends seemed to be to be able to glance at the pig and know all the parts.  I truly worked hard at trying to learn them, but failed miserably.  I also learned, well before high school, that I am about the worst athlete on earth.  The horrible memory of a relay race in gym that involved my team not being able to move along until I got a basket still burns.  The WHOLE TIME OF THE CLASS was me trying to get the basket, with about 20 girls around me snickering.  When I see Janey run or climb, I am always stunned by her natural grace.  It goes without saying I can't dance or do aerobics type stuff, while Janey seems able to learn a dance routine she sees after one view.

I also don't have the gift of being able to push myself to work very hard.  My school grades were good, but they could have been much better.  I see how William works at his homework, and I know I never put in a tenth of that effort.  When Janey wants to do something, she doesn't give up.  I'm a giver-upper.

I remember very plainly the moment I realized I was just not musical.  I had been playing the trumpet for 7 years at that point.  I was the worst trumpeter in the band.  Most of the time, I was just faking it, not playing at all.  It struck me like a ton of bricks "I am just not good at this.  No matter what, I'm not musical"  It was actually a relief.  I believe in that kind of realism in life.  Not everyone is good at everything.  Janey doesn't play instruments, but she can instinctively sing in tune.  She appreciates good music, and knows the difference between that and bad music.  She has the musical gift.  I don't.

I am also the messiest person on earth.  I've always been that way, and I probably always will be.  It's an area where no matter how hard I try, and off and on I HAVE tried, I just can't keep things neat.  This was the case with my desk in elementary school, this was the case with my locker in high school and this is the case with my house.  I don't see the mess well.  I don't know how to keep things organized.

There are things I'm good at.   I'm one of the fastest readers you are likely to meet.  People tell me I'm a pretty fair writer.  I'm not bad at trivia.  But overall, the ability to score as a "gifted" child on IQ tests has done very, very little for me in life.  And I need to keep that in mind.  I believe in reality.  I'm not going to dismiss the fact that Janey will most likely not learn to read well, not graduate from high school, not hold a job.  But none of that means she doesn't have areas where she is very, very smart, smarter than I'll ever be.


Sophie's Trains said...

Forgive me for constant commenting but your posts strike a chord, especially these last ones. What fool would say Janey is not smart! I was just thinking, and I know you are probably way ahead of me, but does Janey do anything like learning through music? Maybe I sound silly, but what if you would sing whatever she was to be learning to her? I know she likes to repeat things which she finds pleasant to her ears. Also, given her memory and seeming ability to "sight read" maybe she can learn by memorizing instead of the phonic-type reading style? Maybe flash cards or a PECS system?
Sorry if my suggestions are not wanted but to me it sounds like Janey definitely has gifts in certain areas, maybe she could learn through those channels...

Jess said...

It's hard for me to see Ciena's smart areas at this point in our relationship. All I tend to see is her down syndrome and all the things she can't do, or the things she won't do, and the things I was doing when I we here age that she isn't doing now.

I don't see the things does well, such as making friends. Following directions (simple ones). Following a routine (unless she finds cake on the kitchen counter.) See, I am not even able to praise her without some sort of a disclaimer. But day by day, I'll be learning.

Thanks for writing.

Suzanne said...

I love the commenting---never apologize for it! And those are great suggestions. Sight reading is something I've thought might be the way to get Janey reading. I know phonics just won't work for her, and I've read that the "look-see" method usually works best for kids with autism. It's hard to find programs that use that, because phonics has pretty much taken over. I don't read phonictically at all---I couldn't if I tried. I do the singing-teaching a little. It seems like if I give Janey a jingle to memorize about situations that keep coming up, it helps a little. She used to constantly ask for foods in the car like ice cream or bacon, just not foods I can whip up in the car! I started singing "It's impossible-da-da-da-to have ice cream in the car" or whatever the food was. She liked the song and seemed to get it a little. I should try doing a lot more of that.

Suzanne said...

Jess, there are days I don't see Janey's smart areas a bit. The days when she has been crying all day, when she tosses food on the floor, when she uses the floor for a bathroom---I don't think a lot those days about ways she is smart. I think about how she's 8 years old and can't do things a 2 year old should be able to do. So I certainly get what you are saying! And I get how times when I try to be just positive, disclaimers sneak in for me too. I feel like I can't force the positive thinking. When I see blogs that try to be all positive, it just makes me all negative. And I think sometimes just letting yourself see the bad and not trying to fight that makes the good stand out more, as a contrast. I'm getting philosophical here---it's early!