I greatly value my independence. I am aware of my abilities as well as my limitations, but I want to do whatever I can for myself.
I believe that many of the students with special needs that we serve are never taught the value of independence and they don't have an accurate understanding of what they can do for themselves. This was evident to me this week.
I was working with a student who just completed her second year of community college, and she was having technical problems with her computer. I was working with her on learning two assistive software programs, but obviously if the computer is not working properly, the training can't go on.
She wrote me an email telling me about the problems she was having. I suggested that she contact tech support, and I gave her the phone number and the reference number to her case. She wrote back and told me that she was busy today but she would have her mom call. Right, a student who is transitioning into a 4 year school to finish her bachelor degree is going to have her mom call tech support. To be blunt, this really tweaked me. This student is very capable of picking up the phone, explaining what is wrong and finding out what options are available to her under her warranty.
I wrote her back and told her, in gentle terms, that she should be the one to call tech support, not her mother.
I wasn't sure what would happen, but it ends up that she took my suggestion and wrote me an email to give me an update on the status of the machine. I wrote her an email that I was happy she had contacted tech support and that she should be proud of herself for doing that.
I will be seeing her next week, so we will see what happens with the machine, but that really isn't the point. The point is that she was able to do something she either didn't think she could or didn't want to, but was able to step up to the task with a little prodding.
I think this is vitally important to teach our students skills that foster independence. Our goal should be, that at some point, the don't need us. That they are able to use the tools that we have given them or taught them to accomplish tasks. And that they are able to do what they can for themselves, and ask for help when they really need it.