Who Decides How Smart You Are? | Vaishnavi Sarathy | TEDxColumbusCircle

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Music applause. This is sid sid is 11 years old has multiple disabilities. Including down down syndrome and autism.
Hes non speaking and has never spoken in his life struggles a little with his vision and struggles a lot with fine motor skills so much so that even today at 11. He cant draw a straight line. I would like to request one thing of you can you take a few seconds to take a quick intellectual snapshot mentally of this child and you can raise your hands and feel free to be honest.
If you observe any one of these things for example. Do you see a child with a low iq. A child with cognitive challenges.
A child with learning disabilities. Or even a child. Who should you know focus on learning functional life skills as opposed to academics any of these no judgment you can raise your hands okay.
Some of you and maybe some of you are shy in suspect that this is a trick question well well sid does happen to be my son. So yes sort of but the more interesting part is this a couple of months ago. I asked said if he would write and by right i mean spell on his alphabet board two lines of advice for new parents of children with similar disabilities.
And this is what he wrote i quote have faith you can teach her baby. How irrational square roots form society. Only imposes harder irrational rules.
So teach them all you can and code. And how many of you didnt quite get that well for those of you who didnt the word irrational refers to numbers that in math that cannot be written as the ratio of two numbers like pi some square roots and so on anyway. This child this child just made a mathematical pun that many people dont get go ahead and refer back to that snapshot he just took mentally reassess despite what we what our family now knows about said as being you know having a complex analytical mind.
He was diagnosed in his early years to be intellectually among point one percentile of his peers. Just think about that number point. One percentile doctor.
After teacher after educator.

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who decides what is taught in public schools-0

Repeatedly told us how low functioning. He was how he didnt get his numbers. His alphabet or even understand the world around him in fact when he was born we were told to have expectations of severe intellectual delay and this was just based on one diagnosis right down syndrome at the time.
He accumulated a few se group. But just based on that we were told to expect severe intellectual delay and of course. There was a problem.
I didnt quite believe them you see i was raised to have a very high opinion of my own intellect and there was no way. I was going to believe any doctor. Who said the same was not possible for my son down syndrome or not but cut to three years along the way.
With no speech. No science minimal eye contact floppy muscles and little acknowledgment of the world around him. I didnt need convincing anymore.
It was obvious to me that not only was sid dillon. He was severely delayed and i used this phrase often and that everyone severe delay and so we slid into the roles of you know good parents of a child with low cognition. What did we do we taught him the alphabet day after day for years.
We spoke about him in front of him and we were sure he didnt understand and when we did speak to him we used baby voice. So it was a number of years of said ball. And said come with exaggerated.
Signs and exaggerated voices. Until finally. The gods could take it no more and fate intervened.
So when cid was six and a half. We were trying to get him enrolled in the second grade in an online public school and this school required that we take a math placement test. Generally given to regular second graders.
What we were appalled.

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who decides what is taught in public schools-1

There was no way. I was going to let him um. There was no way my son could even think my severely delayed son.
Could. Even think about taking such a test. The school gently insisted and said that just take the test.
The results dont matter and i am thankful to them for that every day and as i had always been led to believe since my ninth grade. It was indeed a multiple choice question that changed our lives. It was a kind of question that has progressive visual patterns and sid had to predict the forth pattern from a choice of four and i remember gingerly placing these patterns in front of him with little hope of anything.
Except a blank look or maybe. You know i thought he might even look away sid couldnt point at the time. He didnt have the muscle control to isolate one finger.
So he promptly batted at the right response. My mind was instantly and irrevocably blown. I mean like some of you are thinking did i think it might be a fluke of course.
I did i didnt dare test him again because i desperately wanted to savor that moment and with the strength of just a very few of those moments. We jumped from repeated parroting of numbers into the brave world of addition keep in mind that this was in the absence of any output from sip. Though the output came as along with our journey as we kept going and when sid looked bored.
We did multiplication and when he looked bored. We did exponents and because we kept going a couple of years ago. Sid learned to move between binary numbers and decimal and back my son has a laundry list of disabilities.
Including down syndrome. Including intellectual delay including a lot more he cant squat. He cant run.
He cant jump.

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who decides what is taught in public schools-2

He can travel between numbers systems. How did that happen is it magic is he a genius is he an exception am. I just plain crazy.
I see a couple of my friends trying to raise their hands here. But no for all of it no i think this happened because we assumed competence sid was already competent as i believed as every child in this world. We simply got out of the way now this assuming intelligence.
Assuming competence might seem like an easy thing to do. But its hard it takes courage and it takes vulnerability because in the face of overwhelming evidence that a person cannot think that in the face of overwhelming evidence that a person is incapable. When you assume that they can think when you get out of the way the world of all possibilities opens up for the two of you magic happens.
And this magic happened in our lives and yet we struggle to give said an age appropriate education as to hundreds of children around the world. Why well as with every problem there are probably multiple reasons that this happens. But im going to focus on one is it because of the way that as a society.
We perceive and measure intelligence intelligence. Is measured officially through iq tests and similar other tests that psychiatrists deem appropriate and administer on your child. Many of you have perhaps heard that its increasingly being known that these tests can sometimes be inaccurate for some people.
Acclaimed. Author ido. Keller.
Who is also artistic and non speaking. This to say about his experience of iq tests. And i quote.
I am. Administering. An iq test to you your hands are in baseball mitts your mouth is taped shut and the room distracts with a laser lightshow good luck.
And if you dont do well.

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who decides what is taught in public schools-3

Ill assume your iq is 52 unofficially. We perceive intelligence based on response. Based on speech based on science based on eye contact based on subtle factors.
Like a child whose tongue sticks out of his mouth and less subtle factors like a face shaped by down syndrome. But these are all external factors. They are how you look.
It is like saying that a broken display means that a computer doesnt work because if our tests are biased. If our perceptions are flawed then how do we know how smart we are how do we know how smart our children are how do we know how smart anybody is and im i am here to say that we dont know now i want to invite you to step into this unknown with courage with a little bit of vulnerability and just assume intelligence. Because to rephrase one of my favorite books who in this world is smart enough to know how smart you are and dont answer that its not that kind of a question who in this world is smart enough to know how smart you are and that is the learning of my journey.
With said assumption of intelligence reveals intelligence assumption of ability reveals ability why should you care. Why is this assumption of intelligence. So important couple of months ago.
There was a series of articles about isolation and restraint of children with disabilities. What i consider abusive behavior actually children with disabilities in public schools in oregon and washington. Though this is by no means restrained to oregon and wash.
And its all over i remember the day that i walked into my son who was then all of six into his classroom. And i saw him passively strapped to a chair for no reason just cause. How many of you think that this treatment has at least in part to do with an intrinsic lack of respect for the child assumption of intelligence brings respect whether that intelligence is on display or not im going to say that second phrase.
Again whether that intelligence is on display or not assumption of intelligence brings. Respect and respect brings dignity. How many of you have the courage to assume intelligence in yourself in your child in others to drop cognitive labels that other people have placed upon you that other people have placed upon your child.
But maybe you have placed yourself. Because no one knows how smart we are not even us and in the absence of this knowledge. Lets be bold lets be respectful and lets create a world in turn that is bold respectful competent kind and just dignified right because that that is an idea worth sharing and that is a world worth living in thank you applause.

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who decides what is taught in public schools-4

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