In the book Neurodiversity in the Classroom: Strength-Based Strategies to Help Students with Special Needs Succeed in School and Life Thomas Armstrong asks us to reimagine disability as a natural part of the human condition. His message is not unlike so many others. The first time I came across the view was probably shortly after I adopted my son and discovered Kathy Snow's book and website Diability is Natural. Thomas Armstrong takes the idea of disability being a natural way of being a step futher and speaks to the celebration of the diversity of the human person. He digs in to strengths that are often associated with specific "disability" labels and talks to how we should be capitalizing and focusing on these strenghts rather than focusing on the deficit inherit to a given disability.
This stuff speaks to my heart. We all have strengths in this world and I believe it is our job as educators to work with students to discover and nurture these gifts and strengths. As we come to understand gifts and strengths we can co-create a path to excellence with our students. When it comes to the students on my caseload, strengths give us a window in to the things we can do to break down barriers to social, academic and routine participation and learning. If we don't profile a student's strengths, we will be less equipped to support that student's learning.
But it is not our job to do it for our students. It is our job to help our students discover it in themselves. And sometimes that means stepping back. In the end, our job is not unlike the folks that run the butterfly circus in the following video. I often try to explain the difference between supporting and helping and can't quite find the words. This video speaks very eloquently to this idea.