Little Professor at it Again

(Aidan had another teaching gig recently with physical therapy students. This is a repost from his gig last year. To read more about Decision Wheelchair check out my turn in a chair, thoughts about the manual chair, and power chair and why even have a wheelchair?)

“Gather round and listen up kids.”

A few weeks ago Aidan had another teaching gig with a class of physical therapy students. They were learning how to administer a motor function test. Aidan had to attempt a variety of tasks (lying down, sitting, reaching, crawling, walking etc) while they gave him an appropriate score. They have to be really exact as to how much assistance he had.

They had never met Aidan before so they didn’t know what he’s capable of. It was really amusing to watch. They very politely asked him to do all these motor tasks. They politely encouraged him. He politely looked at them like they were crazy. “Why would I do that? What’s in it for me?” or “That’s too dang hard and I just don’t want to.” And therein lies the trick – motivation and purpose. Aidan doesn’t do ANYTHING just because someone wants him to.

“Man to man now, we gotta talk about this whole tricking people into doing what you want business.”

This picture was taken after a very kind student asked Aidan to lie down, a sort of scary task for a kid who doesn’t like to be off-balance. This student wisely got on his own tummy to encourage Aidan. He tripped up by asking, “Aidan, will you lie down?” instead of, “Aidan, I need you to lie down now.” Do you see the difference? The first request got a definitive shake of the head, but it hadn’t really meant to be a request. This very polite student asked several more times, realizing each time that he was unintentionally giving Aidan the freedom to say no…which he did. If I recall, someone else intervened and said, “Aidan, I’m helping you get down now.”

There is just so much to learn. Motor movements, testing, communication with patients and families. It takes time and practice and I’m glad they had the opportunity to interact with Aidan, stubborn though he may be. They got one of the most important things right…the least dangerous assumption…just because someone can’t speak doesn’t mean they can’t understand or think. They talked to him and treated him like the smarty pants that he is.

3 thoughts on “Little Professor at it Again

  1. Love your reflections on the experience! I am also secretly pleased that I was not the PT in mention for a change! Aidan DID teach them a great deal – things that they can’t learn from books or videos or by just observing.

    Please thank my favorite smarty-pants, looks-great-in-a-tie, little professor, and you, for making the effort to share your story with our future therapists.

  2. This is such a wonderful gift you and Aidan provided! I love to see people provide care takers and medical staff-in-training with real life examples of what they will be working with. I try to offer this whenever possible. It is a fun thought imagining their reaction to Aidan’s responses.

    You have also offered the world a very important training lesson with just this one thought: “…just because someone can’t speak doesn’t mean they can’t understand or think.” I wish everyone took time to learn this. Thank you for being so willing to teach us all great life lessons.

  3. It’s refreshing to hear your story. One of the things I objected to so greatly was when the school board required Troy to succumb to a pyschological test. A stranger who has never met him before visited for an hour and completed an entire assessment of him. I was very much bothered by this because Troy is not a trained seal. He is not like the pack of normal children. Telling him a certain way, will result in better responses. Provide the right incentive and he will. That report disgusted me then and still disgusts me.
    Another time we were getting his eyes tested at a University, who had students training. They had Ernie from Sesame Street and they were bopping this thing back and forth and Troy was completed disinterested. I sat by and watched how they assessed him. Once completed, the doctor was listening to the findings of his students. I grabbed “Barney” and did the exact same actions they did. Troy’s responses were much different and clearly he had strong peripheral vision and what he needed was an entirely different prescription.
    I think this is such an important story to share and thank you for doing so.

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