F.A.T. City Workshop: How Difficult Can This Be?

At Brock I had the opportunity to watch this amazing video in my Special Education class. In the video, Spec Ed guru Richard Lavoie facilitates a program that allows viewers to experience frustration, anxiety and tension (F.A.T) similar to that which a child with a learning disability experiences in their daily lives. While this program was developed in 1989, it is still a fantastic resource and had a huge impact on my conceptions of what it means to be LD and the ways in which I, as an educator, can help my students with learning disabilities learn and grow. My Spec Ed teacher Sharron Stasuik not only showed our class the video, but also put us in the position of those in the workshop by pausing the film and allowing us to experience Lavoie’s exercises ourselves. We re-enacted several of the exercises in order to have a first hand experience with the challenges that come with being LD. One of these exercises involved looking at a picture that was difficult to perceive and trying to determine what the image was to give us an idea of what it feels to be a child with perception difficulties. Lavoie highlights how as teachers we often tell children who are struggling with perception to “look at the picture harder” or attempt to motivate them by bribing them with rewards. Lavoie explains that motivation only enables children to do the things that they are capable of doing and that what the LD child needs is an educator that, with direct instruction, teaches the child how to see and perceive.

Another exercise we did was one that allowed us to get an idea of what it feels like to have dsynomia, a word finding problem that happens to the LD child hundreds of times a day. We were instructed by both Lavoie and Sharron to contribute one sentence to a round robin story without using any words that contained the letter “N”. Needless to say, the exercise was very difficult because we were going through a process similar to the LD child where we were having difficulty retrieving the proper information from our storage and communicating it. It was embarrassing to be put on the spot and forced to articulate ideas immediately. I can only imagine what it feels like to experience this kind of anxiety everyday. As Lavoie explains, this round robin activity allowed all of us in the class to simultaneously have difficulty, while the real experience of being LD is being the only person that cannot do something. It would be extremely scary to be isolated in this position and Lavoie goes onto explain that it is in this way that we, as teachers, knock the risk-taking out of LD children at a young age as they are afraid to participate and contribute to the class. He explains that in order to be fair to everyone we have to treat the LD child differently. Fairness does not mean that everyone gets the same thing, but rather that everyone gets what they need.

I highly recommend this video to any educator as it is an eye-opening, interactive experience that will change the way you think and feel about learning disabilities and your own teaching practice. 

Watch it online: http://digital.films.com

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like an incredible video and an incredible experience too. I love how it really made you reflect on how students with learning disabilities would feel in your classroom.