Thursday, January 31, 2008


“Normal” is one of those words that haunts you when you work with children. Every form that is filled out, every issue that arises begs the question how does this child compare to other children. I find myself straddled between two worlds, that of the so-called ‘normal’ child and that of the child with special needs or the ‘not normal’ child. Children who are not normal are often lumped together, although their differences are broad. The children have attachment issues, sensory processing problems, language delays, and emotional trauma. Each new ‘issue’ that I learn about is in theory supposed to enhance my education of what is not normal and what is a child with special needs.

The more I learn about each issue I continue to work in schools with typically developing, or normal, children. I find the issues still apply. In these normal children I still see sensory processing disorders, attachment issues, and a variety of problems that would normally be kept in the vault for descriptions of children with special needs.

Does this mean that all children aren’t normal? When I try to define what normal is I simply come up with a variety of answers of what normal is not. It is much easier to look at how people deviate from a so-called normative state than define what the term is itself. But I find as I continue to try there is no definition of normal. Yes, children in typical preschools do not generally need multiple types of therapy multiple days of the week as children in the therapeutic schools might. There is less intensity to the issues in ‘normal’ children. This does not mean that parents should not be aware. Once the label of normal is placed on a child parents run away from any therapy that might be needed. Yes, a child with a small sensory processing issue, say for example a child who does not like the touchy of sticky gooey substances will be able to survive and perhaps grow by themselves in the real world.

But I raise the question, why would you not bring the ‘normal’ child for occupational therapy one day a week if you might be able to enhance their state of living just a little bit, make them happier. This is not to confuse parents with over diagnosis and trendy disorders, not every child who doesn’t focus has ADHD. The task becomes in pinpointing the exact issue, or deviation from the normal that might exist in each and every child. This is a job for teachers, principals, doctors, and parents alike. It involves a heightened state of awareness of the current trends and theory in psychology, education, and medicine. It is a daunting task. But only by understanding what is not normal, or what could possibly be changed to enhance the child’s life, can the child truly be helped. The term ‘normal’ means nothing. Each child is an individual with individual needs. Normal is not static, but it is a spectrum that all children are placed on, and there is no center point and certainly no children that are truly ‘normal’.

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