Sunday, November 13, 2011

Functionality in School-Aged Children

Question from Ireland: What in your opinion are the critical functional outcomes that apply generally to school-age children and their families?  

For children and youth with disabilities, I believe the core outcomes of engagement, independence, and social relationships (EISR) still apply—as well as quality of life for their families. My so-called expertise is limited to young children but I am the father of a person with disabilities, and other outcomes people mention for older children and adults (e.g., self-determination, feelings of belonging or membership, quality of life) in my experience are all tied to the big three. Of course, that might just be me, seeing everything through that lens.

For school-aged children, academic success is also important, but I see EISR as precursors to the ability to learn academic content. It’s just that we can’t stop at EISR. We have to ask what they will be useful for—self-fulfilment, becoming an interesting person and therefore having friends, getting a job, and so on.

I do think that self-determined satisfaction with one’s life is huge, within reason. You and I might share some common ideas about what should be a satisfactory life, based on our shared ability level and possibly some shared interests, but that doesn’t qualify us to determine what a satisfactory life is for someone else. On the other hand, we might have a responsibility to protect people. If a person likes sitting in front of a video game hour after hour, we might think this is a shallow, empty existence. The individual might think it’s a rich, interesting, exciting existence. If the person’s hours in front of the video game are during recreation time, that’s one thing. If the person doesn’t hold down a job, because of his or her obsession with video gaming, that’s another thing. We would presumably try to protect the person from penury by teaching him or her that that the decision to forego employment in favor of the video game is a bad one. A tricky issue. But the point I began with is that the variety of ways people with disabilities define their quality of life might be even bigger than the variety of definitions held by people without disabilities.

1 comment:

Maureen said...

I concur with your description Robin. And I look forward to more schools taking EISR into account, as the parent of a child with a disability who spends 80%+ in the typical classroom, I think often the focus is on academics solely. Since my child has special healthcare needs sometimes I think we need to focus on the social relationships as a way to insure the academic success.