Susan's Blog

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Physics of Developmental Delay

Today is Nat’s final IEP.  I feel very teary.  Kind of scared.  Also excited, because I just love his team and I always love to hear about Nat’s progress.  There are always surprises from the teachers and house staff, things I didn’t know he could do, lovely interactions I hadn’t heard about.  They all adore Nat, and are moved and delighted by him.  It has (nearly) always been this way, in all of his 17 years of school.  There was one terrible painful year, a really bad fit, a nightmare placement, but shouldn’t I put that behind me by now?  Otherwise, a clean, bright school record.

Nat loves learning.  He loves the whole structure of school.  He hates learning a brand new thing because he doesn’t know exactly what he is supposed to do with it.  As soon as he figures it out — and it is usually with lightning speed — he whips his way through it.  Sometimes they have to keep adjusting his goals.  Other goals have never been met, but have always been just what they’re called:  goals.  We will have to bear it, that some goals are not going to be met.  At least not during the school years.

There ought to be institutes of higher learning for the cognitively impaired.  I would bet that the large majority of these folks picked up on the joy of learning a bit later in life than the “normal.”  Why do you think it’s called a Developmental Delay?  Delay implies that there was a pause before the expected progress kicked in.  What if someone (like Nat) discovered the joy of learning at 15 or 17?  I think this is the case with Nat.  He learned that he could trust this school; he learned that he got satisfaction out of the new task, he learned that he could learn more about this crazy world if he learned yet another task (a lot of “learn” in this sentence, as is necessary).

He even learned that communication + people = acquisition of new knowledge, which = accumulated experience, which = greater comfort.  The more he learned, the happier he has been.  The more he understood, the more he could understand.  The world of education was an ever-widening outward spiral. I see him as a small star at first, rotating outward, colliding with all the detritus of the universe, accumulating mass and energy, exploding, reforming, until now:  he is a sun.  Warm, radiant, bright, beautiful.  Ready.

So now, in about 17 months, this particular mode of learning will come to an end for Nat.  I suddenly feel that the goal for both Nat and me will be to find him more goals, to continue to move his target — not too far as to frustrate, but just far enough to intrigue him.


I love that you compare him to a star! That is so true about the premise behind “developmental delay”. I am constantly retraining myself to look for different kinds of progress, the unexpected. It is a tough sell for a former educator… I can’t believe he is almost finished with school!

— added by kim mccafferty on Monday, June 14, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Check this out:
There just might be something like it in your area, or maybe you can get one started.

— added by Jo on Tuesday, June 15, 2010 at 9:40 pm

LOVE this–a small star expanding into a sun.

There are some college programs for people with developmental delays; check out this website In MA, you may want to look at the ACHIEVE Transition Program at the Cardinal Cushing Centers or the Transition Program at Middlesex CC.

You are so much further along in this journey than I am (my 3 sons are 8, almost 6, and 2, with my oldest pdd-nos), but I can already relate to your feelings, hopes, worries…

I work at a school in MA for children/ young adults with disabilities and have some knowledge and experience with transition into the adult world and adult services. I would be happy to talk with you anytime–just send me an email, and I can give you my contact info.

thanks for all your wonderful words!

— added by Jen on Friday, June 25, 2010 at 9:53 pm