One of the greatest gifts Wright School gave me is a unit coordinator who told me stories. I stop in from time to time to hear a new one. On my recent visit, Pete didn’t disappoint and had a new story waiting.
It’s about a tired man who has walked around barefooted for many years. Finally he goes to a wise and holy man complaining that his feet hurt. The holy man closes his eyes and thinks for a very long time. Finally he says, “I know—let’s cover the whole world in soft, supple leather to protect your feet.” The man protests that, while that would help, it really isn’t very practical. Again the holy man thinks and then says, “How about just covering the paths you take and WILL take with leather?” Irritated, the man protests once again and says that there is no way to know where he will go. Then the holy man says, “Then why don’t we just make shoes for you?”
The temptation to cover the world in leather for our children, to soften their experiences, is huge. Who doesn’t want to protect their child? And our kids have already had more than their fair share of knocks. But that benevolent longing to give our kids a frustration-free environment does them no favors. It is not a practical wish to cover their world nor their path in leather. By doing so, we limit where they can go and what they can experience.
At JRA, our hope is to pull together the best cobblers we can to cover each child’s feet with the protective covering that lets them go where they want and achieve what they can. An occupational therapist may help a child write smoothly and move with coordination. A speech and language pathologist teaches one child to enunciate and another to use words to get what he wants rather than to make people mad. We directly teach social skills and require our students to use them. We remediate in the academic areas that need it and push in areas of strength. “I can’t” is regularly met with “Yes you can. I’ll help you.” We regularly call upon them to be flexible while respecting their need for structure.
In doing so, we hope to give our students the tools to go where they want to go and achieve all they’re capable of achieving. There is a lot of untapped brilliance at JRA and I think you’ll be seeing great things from some of these kids. They just need the shoes to get there.