Normal is not about conforming to any standard, but rather normal is about the ability to function within society, and to be happy. And this is something that I think everyone has the ability to learn to do and accomplish. Though some of our kids might need some supports to do this – some more and some less – and many might not need them at all. But if we look at ourselves, can we ever say that never need support from someone else? Can we ever say that we always conform to a societal norm? The answer is clearly “no”, and so how can we expect that from our kids? We have learned to be happy in our lives, and to function within the societal norm, despite our differences from it. And, we can teach our kids to do the same. They may have more differences, but just like anyone else, they can still learn – and so we just need to find a way to teach them. Through the various therapies out there, children of all ages and types can learn and grow into functionally developed people and live in society. Therapies such as ABA (applied behavior analysis) use the functions of behaviors – the reasons why people do things – to help show our children when and how to act based on the events happening around them, and then through the principles of behavior, such as reinforcement– the children learn when their behavior results in positive or negative outcomes. This is the same way we learn. We typically continue to do things that result in positive outcomes, and refrain from doing things that result in negative outcomes, and though our children might need to learn this in a more intense setting, they can still learn it. And therefore, they can also learn to be “normal.” They can learn to be happy, and function within the societal norms. They can still lead productive lives. חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ גַּם כִּי יַזְקִין לֹא יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה – Train a child according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it. (Translation from Chabad.org) They can learn – we should teach them."/>
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Our therapists answer your child development questions

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Q

Will my child ever be perceived as “normal”?

This is a question that is asked by many caregivers in one form or another. Even if a parent has not actually expressed to a therapist, they are most likely thinking it. The question is of course not limited to parents and direct caregivers, but also family and friends; people that are close with the family always wonder if their lives will ever change so that they can function like any other “normal” family. So, when someone, anyone, asks this question, what do we tell them?

A

Answered by

Moshe Katz MA, BCBA Behavior Specialist, Encore and Hadran Academy

I think the first thing we have to do is ask the question, what is “normal”? If you would look this up in any dictionary, many definitions would define it as conforming to some norm, or standard. In regards to development, the definition relates to being on par with some average standard of development, possibly even connected to a standardized test and a score. And these definitions are pretty much the line of thinking that most people have when it comes to the development of their child. Will my child ever be able to conform to societal norms, and be “just like everybody else?”

What we have to think about though, is that in fact true? Do our children need to be, “just like everybody else?” Whether a child has Autism, Down Syndrom, Fragile X, or any other disability, or even if a child has no disability whatsoever, who says that any one person is required to conform to a societal norm?

I had a classmate in college, that relayed over to us a story of a friend of hers who has a brother that still lives in his parent’s house, plays on the computer, and has very few friends. At first glance this seems like a sad story, but the story continues that although this is his life, it is actually a very productive life as his use of the computer is not just something of leisure, but rather he has a job in computers, something that he can do from home, and though his few friends might be just as socially awkward as he is, they are all FRIENDS even though they are few. He lives a very productive life, is happy, and functions within the societal norm.

And I think this brings us to what I believe is the behavior analytic perspective on what is considered to be “normal.”

Normal is not about conforming to any standard, but rather normal is about the ability to function within society, and to be happy.

And this is something that I think everyone has the ability to learn to do and accomplish. Though some of our kids might need some supports to do this – some more and some less – and many might not need them at all. But if we look at ourselves, can we ever say that never need support from someone else? Can we ever say that we always conform to a societal norm? The answer is clearly “no”, and so how can we expect that from our kids? We have learned to be happy in our lives, and to function within the societal norm, despite our differences from it. And, we can teach our kids to do the same. They may have more differences, but just like anyone else, they can still learn – and so we just need to find a way to teach them. Through the various therapies out there, children of all ages and types can learn and grow into functionally developed people and live in society.

Therapies such as ABA (applied behavior analysis) use the functions of behaviors – the reasons why people do things – to help show our children when and how to act based on the events happening around them, and then through the principles of behavior, such as reinforcement– the children learn when their behavior results in positive or negative outcomes. This is the same way we learn. We typically continue to do things that result in positive outcomes, and refrain from doing things that result in negative outcomes, and though our children might need to learn this in a more intense setting, they can still learn it. And therefore, they can also learn to be “normal.” They can learn to be happy, and function within the societal norms. They can still lead productive lives.

חֲנֹךְ לַנַּעַר עַל פִּי דַרְכּוֹ גַּם כִּי יַזְקִין לֹא יָסוּר מִמֶּנָּה – Train a child according to his way; even when he grows old, he will not turn away from it. (Translation from Chabad.org)

They can learn – we should teach them.

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  • Behavior Modification DIR/Floortime™

  • Social Skills & Social Thinkin

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  • Speech-Language Therapies

  • Multi-Sensory Math & Reading Instruction

  • Brain Gym™ & Physio-neurotherapy

  • Hebrew Reading Skill (Kriah) Training

  • Hands-On Music Therapy

  • Neuropsychological, Nutritional & Behavioral Evaluations

learn more

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    Each week, Ami Magazine features a “Let's Talk” post, with a question or inquiry commonly posed by Encore parents.

    Here is the response from one of our Encore Therapists.

    Let us know what you think!