Tag Archives: potential

Potential – What’s your maximum?

She has so much potential.  He’s not living up to his potential.  With work they can reach their maximum potential.  All common in the vernacular of our current world.  I heard it (and said it) in my work life as a manager.  And I hear it in the context of my children all the time.  Adjudicators at dance say it.  Avi’s choir director says it.  It’s something people say frequently to either indicate that someone is not doing as well as expected but could improve with work (this is usually meant to be encouraging), or to indicate that they are doing as well as could possibly be expected, (usually with a negative connotation in that the expectations are kind of low).

Potential is defined by Cambridge as:

1. possible when the necessary conditions exist

2. someone’s or something’s ability to develop, achieve, or succeed.

When I think about potential of a human (or lack thereof), I like to combine these two.  Someone’s or something’s ability to develop, achieve, or succeed is possible when the necessary conditions exist.  Take Berrik for example.  (I know, I always take Berrik for example). The more I learn about Berrik and put the necessary conditions in place, his ability to develop, achieve AND succeed increases.  This can be applied to any human, neurotypical, learning disabled, physically disabled, cognitively disabled or otherwise. Incredibly gifted athletes make the Olympics because they and their parents sacrifice many other things to create the ‘necessary conditions’ in the form of diet, training, etc. For some the ‘necessary conditions’ may be more complex than others, but generally speaking, this is how it works.  For all of us.  Even bacteria or viruses develop and succeed when the necessary conditions are in place.  Remove those ‘conditions’ either through medication, diet, or other means, and the bacteria or viruses fail to thrive.  Mold…another good example.  My sourdough bread develops and succeeds if I put the necessary conditions in place.  I could go on.  (and I usually do.)

If you google “quotes about potential” you will find a large number of quotes referring to ‘maximum potential’.  I don’t care for these quotes.  I would argue that there is no such thing as maximum potential, because that suggests there is a limit, and that somehow we can predict it.  Having a child with learning disabilities magnifies this idea of ‘maximum potential’ and the risks associated with putting a limit on potential.  More than once in Berrik’s short school career, someone has put a limit on his potential, either verbally or in writing.  I believe that labels contribute to this tendency toward predicting and limiting potential.  It’s not the only factor, but it can provide a catalyst in a system that is not well resourced for kids who don’t have an easy time in a classroom environment.

Nothing makes me more frustrated than someone assuming a child (particularly MY child) has limited potential.  And if I worried about Berrik’s potential in the past, I worry much less now.  The gains he has made this past 10 months have been mind blowing. I wouldn’t have expected so much growth in such a short amount of time.  And despite a major shift in my own expectations, he continues to surprise me.  And I continue to shift my expectations upward.  Most importantly, I believe his potential has no limits.

Sir Winston Churchill once said:

Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence – is the key to unlocking our potential.

I love this quote.  I love that it doesn’t talk about maximums.  I love that it reminds us that success (however that looks for each individual) takes continuous effort.

As I type this, Berrik is writing a story and is on his third page.  In January he started ‘journal writing’ with one simple sentence.  Today he is using a planning template to plan a story using topic sentences, details, transitional language and powerful endings, and is writing; willingly, albeit slowly at times.  I believed we would get to this point eventually.  In January I would not have believed we’d be here already in April.

img_8508So often, particularly with kids with differently wired brains, learning disabilities, or any other disability, we are quick to focus on what they cannot do.  Often teachers/therapists will talk about strengths, but the system (and sometimes the imposed limitations on perceived potential) result in lack of ability or desire to truly build on those strengths.  I have said this so frequently I feel like a broken record, but despite the fact that we have had many positive (and negative) experiences with teachers, speech therapists etc., the people at Sound Connections are the first to truly believe that there is no limit to Berrik’s potential.  There is no discussion of labels.  It’s not relevant.  Each week we look at where Berrik is at and then we move forward based on that.  I am frequently consulted on what I think Berrik needs.  And Annette uses her considerable experience and expertise to determine what to do next, how fast to go, when to circle back.  Having had years and years of experience working with 100s and 100s, possibly 1000s of kids, she knows that ALL children have potential.  She believes it and you can see it in her program, in her approach.  As a mom who believes this of her child, I can’t tell you how critical it has been to know that someone else believes it too.  Sound Connections, homeschooling, diet, exercise….these are some of the ‘necessary conditions’ that I am putting in place so Berrik can continue to develop, achieve and succeed.  And that has been potentially (see what I did there?) life changing.

 

Word of the Day: Potential

Word of the day.  Word of the year.  Word of a lifetime.  On Friday we received some assessment results for Berrik.  I believe I have waxed on about these assessments and how I feel about them, but they are a means to an end in terms of accessing resources, and perhaps (kinda, sorta, not really) even offering a few ideas of things to work on.  Even though intellectually, I can (and usually do) reconcile these assessments as more a reflection of Berrik’s ability to be tested, rather than his ACTUAL abilities, it is still difficult to hear that your child struggles ‘severely’ in some areas.  Severe is such a severe word.  It connotes negativity and extremism.  It makes my heart sink, and my stomach turn, and takes my hope and optimism and slams it into the ground, stomps on it, grinds a stiletto heel into it and then spits on it.  These are the moments I feel overwhelmed.  I think to myself, oh my goodness (except considerably more x-rated), what will ever become of this boy?  How will he manage junior high, high school, adolescence, getting a job, meeting a girl who will love him for all his most amazing qualities, raising his own children etc. etc.   These panicked (and let’s face it, totally irrational) thoughts race in circles inside my head like trick ‘r treaters hopped up on candy at bedtime, screaming and bouncing off the walls and each other until I want to crawl under the covers with that go-cup of wine and grind my teeth into powder.

And then I take a breath. Or maybe 10 breaths.  My apple watch tells me to breathe and then actually coaches me through a full minute of deep breathing. It congratulates me on taking a ‘breather’ each time I do it, and if I forget, it reminds me.  A few deep breaths  (thank you apple watch) and a conversation with someone who knows what she’s talking about are all I need to get it back into perspective.  “The test results are what they are, but they say nothing about his POTENTIAL.”  Sigh.  Of course!  I know this.  Why is it that I panic from time to time?  Berrik has progressed dramatically since June.  He continues to surprise me regularly with how much he is absorbing and is able to apply.  He’s reading like a rock star.  He’s loving science.  He’s doing well in math.  He’s on the cusp of story writing.  These are things I witness daily, and yet still can get pulled into panic mode by a test result.

The great thing about potential is that everyone has it.  And it’s always a goal; something in the future; the result of hard work and determination.  We often use the expression ‘reaching one’s full potential’ but I believe this doesn’t make a lot of sense.  We never reach our full potential…we always have more potential right up until the last breaths leave our lungs and our hearts contract for the final time.  Potential is what you make of it.  Potential is relative.  And one always has potential.

This panicked little 15 minutes happened for me on Friday afternoon.  And then true to form Berrik showed me in about a dozen different ways why I have nothing to worry about, anymore than either of my other children, anymore than any parent anywhere.  His potential is unlimited.  I’m starting to think that his ability to teach me about life might help me keep reaching for MY full potential.