Posted by: Kathryn Craig | February 2, 2009

The phone: curse or blessing?

A little over a week ago Connor and I sat in his annual CSE (committee on special ed) review meeting. This is a meeting in which past goals are reviewed, evaluated and developed for the coming year. It’s something I’ve done since Connor was… hmmm, pretty much, since he was born. Through early intervention, preschool, elementary school and now at high school level, I’ve taken a very active role in communicating and defining goals to help Connor grow into an independent adult.

One of those goals, beginning when he was in first grade involved helping Connor use a telephone. I have specified year after year that the goal be included in his IEP (individualized education plan.) Every year it has been. And every year I ask to add it to the IEP. To date, Connor hates to use the phone. He’s phone-a-phobic!

I’ve tried to get to the bottom of his fears and believe what might be the case:  Connor’s receptive language skills are more developed than his expressive language skills. He understands a lot more than he’s able to get out in a timely manner. It takes his brain longer to process the words. Face-to-face, Connor is fine and takes the time he needs to get his message across, using eye contact and body language as “filler” in the small gaps of silence while he processes his words and sentences. But the phone gives him a gap of silence that seems awkward and uncomfortable. He has told me, “My brain doesn’t work that fast.”

Nonetheless, phone skills are critical to any level of independence, be it allowing Connor to stay home while I run out for an errand, or enabling him to come home to an empty house and let himself in after school, or eventually live on his own. Therefore, I push the phone skills. And push. And push.

Well I think there’s been a wind of change. Connor’s teacher has taken this goal as seriously has I have. So to help Connor master and conquer his phobia, she encouraged the students to exchange phone numbers and call Connor. Our phone has been ringing ever since.

Now, I’ve come to the realization that within a special ed classroom, there are students who hate the phone. And there are students who love the phone. I mean, LOVE the phone. And dial it ten, twenty, thirty times in a row, even after completing an hour-long conversation.

I’m not so sure we’ll have to include phone skills in next year’s goal.

Repetition and familiarity is rapidly zapping the fear out of Connor.

Repetition and familiarity is driving the rest of us nuts. Truth be told, I’m questioning what I prayed for!

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