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Awakening 1
Running head: AWWW! Awakening the Passion
AWWW! Awakening the Passion Inside of a Blossoming First Grader
Vanessa Graves Foster
ont!lair "tate #niversit$
AWWW! Awakening %
AWWW! Awakening the Passion Inside of a Blossoming First Grader
I em&arked u'on this 'ro(e!t not )uite knowing what to e*'e!t+ &ut knowing ver$ well
what !hild and famil$ I wanted to work with: ,-. ,- is a first grade student at ,oli'o'
/lementar$ in 0ewark+ 0-. 1e is one student in a !lass of %2 diverse learners+ and he is one of 3
&eing served &$ an Individuali4ed /du!ational Plan 5I/P6.
,- was first diagnosed as having a s'ee!h dela$ in 'res!hool+ and &egan re!eiving s'ee!h
servi!es from 0ewark Pu&li! "!hool. 1is 'res!hool and kindergarten e*'erien!es took 'la!e in
a !harter s!hool environment+ &ut that !harter s!hool has sin!e &een shuttered for failing to meet
ade)uate $earl$ 'rogress with student a!hievement. 1is I/P re'orts his kindergarten tea!her as
finding ,- to &e emotionall$ volatile+ disengaged+ and )ui!k to !r$ or !om'lain when !lasswork
seemed too hard. While ,- did not meet kindergarten a!ademi! or develo'mental &en!hmarks+
this alone was not enough to )ualif$ him for s'e!ial edu!ational servi!es+ &e$ond his alread$
identified s'ee!h needs. As a student in a failing s!hool in a failing distri!t+ his learning
diffi!ulties were not found to &e 're!isel$ linked to an intrinsi! need for s'e!iali4ed learning
o''ortunities+ &ut were instead generali4ed as resulting from an inade)uate edu!ational
environment. 7his alone is not enough to !lassif$ a student 8 if it were+ entire student &odies in
failing s!hool distri!ts !ould &e !lassified 8 and so the de!ision was made to move ,- to a more
edu!ationall$ rigorous mainstream environment+ with no additional su''orts di!tated &e$ond
ongoing s'ee!h thera'$.
From the time of m$ initial meeting with ,-+ it has &een m$ desire to in!rease his interest in
a!ademi! 'ursuits+ to en!ourage him to see s!hool as a 'la!e where learning is fun+ and to hel'
him engage 'rodu!tivel$ with his 'eers without rea!ting in an emotionall$ ina''ro'riate manner.
I &e!ame enamored with ,-9s famil$ when the$ first !ame to 'arent tea!her !onferen!es in
AWWW! Awakening :
0ovem&er. ,olli'o' "!hool in the "outh Ward of 0ewark does not histori!all$ have a high
'er!entage of 'arental involvement in s!hool a!tivities+ and $et ,-9s entire famil$ !ame out in
stride. At this initial meeting+ I met ;-+ or om+ 1;+ or "te'<=ad+ and A-+ or older sister. Both
,- and A- ha''il$ ho''ed on a game on the "AR7Board while om and "te'<=ad settled in
to talk to m$self and m$ mentor tea!her. 7he !onversation was ver$ one dire!tional+ with &oth
om and "te'<=ad anti!i'ating a tea!her<dire!ted and dominated intera!tion. 7he$ deferred to
us as e*'erts+ and took a 'assive a''roa!h to 'lotting the &est edu!ational 'ath for ,-. When I
initiall$ asked for om to share her ho'es and dreams for ,- with me+ she looked &lank for a
moment and said >well+ that he won9t &other me so mu!h I guess?. Both om and "te'<=ad
a''eared ha''$ with the gains ,- had made so far in our !lassroom environment+ related to
'honemi! awareness and num&er sense. I wel!omed this 'erson<!entered 'lanning assignment
as an o''ortunit$ to ta' into the desires and dreams that ,- shared with his famil$+ and to hel'
them arti!ulate and reali4e their wants and needs in an attaina&le+ individuali4ed and 'ersonal
Initial Famil$ eeting
Although I have had four formal meetings with ,-9s entire famil$ related to his a!ademi!
'rogress+ it was onl$ 'ossi&le for one additional meeting to &e s!heduled dire!tl$ related to this
'ro(e!t. Initiall$+ om and I 'lanned to go for 'i44a with ,- and his sister A-. 1owever+ this
&e!ame an im'ossi&ilit$ &e!ause of work and trans'ortation needs. om was willing to take the
da$ off from her (o& 8 hourl$ work at a distant retail lo!ation 8 so that she !ould kee' her
a''ointment with me. @n!e I learned this+ I felt that this would negativel$ im'a!t their famil$
&$ de'riving them of mu!h needed finan!ial resour!es. ,- is alread$ a 'arti!i'ant in an
afters!hool 'rogram at ,olli'o' /lementar$+ and is often not done with s!hool until A::B'm. We
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de!ided to meet in m$ !lassroom at the end of a s!hool da$+ when om had alread$ &een for!ed
to leave her (o& earl$ for an unrelated 5and unwel!omed6 reason. We made use of this e*'anded
s!hool da$ to make our meeting 'ur'oseful+ &ut as minimall$ disru'tive to their regular famil$
rh$thm as 'ossi&le.
$ !onversation with om and ,- was mu!h less one<dire!tional than 'revious
e*'erien!es. @ur relationshi' has !ontinued to develo'+ and &$ dis'la$ing !onsistent and sin!ere
interest in their entire famil$+ &arriers to trust and true teamwork have !ontinued to dissi'ate.
om was a&le to s'eak !andidl$ a&out her e*'erien!es at home with her entire famil$. I learned
of their e*tended famil$+ their leisure and re!reational a!tivities+ their favorite foods+ their
favorite shared famil$ moments+ 'ersistent !onfli!t that the$ e*'erien!e as a famil$+ and the
!hallenges that om feels navigating her different relationshi's with famil$ mem&ers. I got ,-9s
'ers'e!tive on his home life+ his si&ling intera!tions+ his 'referred a!tivities+ and his ho'es for
the future. 7his was an unhurried and 'leasura&le meeting+ and I am grateful to have had the
o''ortunit$ for a less >formulai!? intera!tion with these famil$ mem&ers. #nlike the do!tors
with whom =orean initiall$ intera!ted+ m$ mentor tea!her and I have alwa$s en!ouraged ,-9s
famil$ to &e a!tivel$ involved in his edu!ationalDtreatment 'ath. 1owever+ I e*'erien!ed an
initial hesitation from om to full$ ste' into the role of >'artner.? I noti!ed a !onne!tion to the
=orean arti!le+ in that our relationshi' has 'rogressed &e!ause of the develo'ment of mutual trust
and 'arti!i'ation 5=orean+ 1EEE6.
Famil$ Roles+ /*'erien!es+ and Pers'e!tives in ,-9s /du!ational Path
,-9s immediate famil$ is !om'rised of om+ "te'<=ad and "ister. 7he$ are all Afri!an<
Ameri!an. 1is &iologi!al father is a non<fa!tor in his life+ and was not addressed in an$ wa$
&$ an$ famil$ mem&er. 1is famil$ e*tends to two aunts who live in !lose 'ro*imit$ and are
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a !onstant 'resen!e in his life+ and several !ousins with whom he also has !onsistent
,-9s entire famil$ is !urrentl$ of a low so!ioe!onomi! status+ with e!onomi! insta&ilit$
'ositioned as a ver$ real and looming threat. While &oth om and "te'<=ad are em'lo$ed
5whi!h is somewhat of a rarit$ in this area of "outh 0ewark6+ neither have a!!ess to a !ar and
rel$ on 'u&li! trans'ortation to get to work. 7his takes a great deal of time and !areful 'lanning.
In order to &e a!tivel$ involved in ,- and his A-9s s!hool lives+ om and "te' =ad have made a
!ons!ious de!ision to take time off from work as needed for !onferen!es and s!hool events.
1owever+ a!!ording to om+ if ,- and A- did not 'arti!i'ate in the afters!hool 'rogram on a da$
to da$ &asis+ finding afters!hool !hild!are would &e >real hard for me?.
As 'reviousl$ stated+ ,- is !urrentl$ &eing servi!ed under a s'ee!h I/P. Further
!lassifi!ation with a s'e!ifi! learning disa&ilit$ is a fear for om and "te'<=ad. 7he$ do not
want an$thing to &e >wrong? with ,-. 7he$ would 'refer him to re'eat his !urrent grade if he is
still not making ne!essar$ 'rogress+ as this is seen as a less e*treme measure. >1e9s a &a&$+?
om sa$s. 1is a!ademi! struggles are seen as a result of his emotional immaturit$+ and there is
a &elief that he will grow out of this 'hase. 7his relates to the Gallagher arti!le ver$ dire!tl$.
Initiall$+ I was )ui!k to reason that ,- would &e &est served &$ an additional !lassifi!ation. I
viewed the initial hesitan!$ from his 'arent9s as denial of the real issues. I am now a&le to
!riti!all$ e*amine m$ own assum'tions while holding the dreams+ ho'es+ and &eliefs of the
famil$ in full view 5Gallagher+ Fialka+ Rhodes+ F Ar!eneau*+ %BB%6.
7he title of this 'a'er was sele!ted &e!ause+ whenever he is asked to engage in an a!tivit$
that he does not want to do+ from moving to another 'la!e on the rug to writing a senten!e+ ,-
res'onds in the e*a!t same manner: >AWWWWWW!!? 1is fa!e shrivels. 1is hands start to
AWWW! Awakening A
flail. 7ears &egin to fall. 1is dissatisfa!tion is loud and all en!om'assing+ and it !an take some
time for him to return &a!k to a 'la!e where he is a&le to engage in the lesson at all. In this
meeting+ it &e!ame !lear that ,-9s disengagement e*tends &e$ond the !lassroom. 1e dis'la$s
similar emotional volatilit$ at home. It emerged that his favorite a!tivit$ is l$ing on his &ed
wat!hing 7V. When I asked om what her rea!tion usuall$ is when he rea!ts to not getting
what he wants in a given moment+ she stated >I let him sulk in his room. I sa$ Ggo on then!9H I
(ust leave him &e.?
=uring this meeting+ it emerged that ,- and A- 5who is one $ear older6 &i!ker a great deal.
,- !om'lained that she is alwa$s drinking his soda+ and om stated that the$ do not know how
to share. It seems that the$ fight over resour!es in the home. ,- stated >I (ust hate her!? and
would not &end from this statement. A- is not !urrentl$ e*'erien!ing the same a!ademi!+ s'ee!h
or so!ial<emotional !on!erns as ,-.
om is !lose to her two sisters+ who 'rovide additional sta&ilit$ and se!urit$ for their
famil$ network. "he states that there were more o''ortunities for their entire famil$ to s'end
time together. Both she and ,- refle!ted on times s'ent at the 'ark and &owling+ and said that
these were some of their most valued famil$ memories. "hared mealtime is also a s'e!ial treat
that is not readil$ a!!essi&le. Both om and ,- en(o$ s'aghetti and meat&alls with their nu!lear
and e*tended famil$+ and &oth stated that it was not 'ossi&le to have these moments often
Famil$ "trengths and Resour!es
=es'ite the &arriers 'resented &$ e!onomi! insta&ilit$+ s!heduling and trans'ortation
!on!erns+ and the a''arent si&ling &i!kering+ this is a famil$ with ver$ ri!h strengths and
resour!es+ and with a ver$ real !ommitment to their !hildren9s edu!ation. As stated &$ 7urn&ull+
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>7he theor$ that families at lower "/" levels ma$ &e less interested in edu!ational 'artnershi's
ma$ hold true for some families. But for others+ the theor$ sim'l$ does not a''l$Inor should it.
In our e*'erien!e+ a famil$9s "/" is not a relia&le indi!ator of its motivation or knowledgeDskills
to develo' famil$<'rofessional 'artnershi's. Jour role as a 'rofessional is to en!ourage
'redi!ta&le+ non(udgmental+ and trusting 'artnershi's that !onve$ to all families regardless of
"/" that $ou res'e!t them and re!ogni4e their strengths.? 57urn&ull+ 7urn&ull+ /rwin+ "oodak+ F
"hogren+ %B116.
7his is a famil$ that dis'la$s as'e!ts of &alan!ed !ohesion 57urn&ull et. al+ %B116.
Although the$ ma$ s'end e*!essive time a'art+ and ma$ rea!t to emotional out&ursts in a wa$
that !auses further distan!ing+ the value of their dire!t involvement in a!ademi! 'ursuits !annot
&e overstated. 7he$ are a!tivel$ attuned and !ommitted to their !hildren9s edu!ational
develo'ment. 7he$ s'end leisure time together when given the o''ortunit$. 7he$ have an
e*tended famil$ network. 7he$ are em'lo$ed+ and the$ have a!!ess to transit o'tions. /ven
though &oth work long hours+ this is a dual<'arent household with s'ousal and 'arental relational
,- stated that he wants to &owl more often. om stated that she would like ,- to sto'
getting so u'set and s'end less time wat!hing 7V. Both want to have more time together as a
famil$. ,- wants to learn to read and write+ and om agrees. An e*tended goal would &e for
om and "te' =ad to work fewer hours and get a !ar. ,- stated that he would like to learn how
to !ook+ and om !hu!kled. om stated that she wishes ,- and A- !ould sto' fighting so mu!h.
After this !onversation+ we agreed that I should !ommit to hel'ing ,-9s famil$ identif$
o''ortunities for regular leisure a!tivities that are low<!ost+ a!!essi&le via 'u&li! trans'ortation+
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and that will fit within their tight work and s!hool s!hedules. Be!ause of their love for &owling+
I will fo!us s'e!ifi!all$ on this+ &ut will e*'and m$ sear!h to other s'orting a!tivities as
ne!essitated &$ what is availa&le. We further agreed that I !ould !ommit to hel'ing to identif$
o''ortunities for ,- and A- to 'ra!ti!e !onfli!t resolution in a non<aggressive manner. I
suggested a martial arts !lass+ and this idea was re!eived with intrigue. Again+ I will additionall$
resear!h what is availa&le in the area and will 'resent all o''ortunities that !an 'otentiall$ hel'
with this identified need. I look forward to our !ontinued work toward these goals+ and I am
anti!i'ating a great ne*t ste' for this famil$.
AWWW! Awakening E
Dorean, J.R. (1999). Im an RN, respiratory therapist and surgeon. Exceptional Parent,
July/August, 20-27.
Gallagher, P. A., Fialka, J., Rhodes C., & Arceneaux, C. (2002). Working with families:
Rethinking denial. Young Exceptional Children, 5(2), 11-17.
Turnbull, A. P., Turnbull, H. R., Erwin, E., & Soodak, L., Shogren, K. (2011). Families,
professionals, and exceptionality: Positive outcomes through partnerships and trust (6
ed.). Columbus: Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall Publishing Company.

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