Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Progress Not Perfection

It's never going to be perfect.

As a profession, I consult major and minor league sports teams on a variety of disciplines - ticket and sponsorship sales, game operations, staffing, etc.

I was in a meeting last week with one client and we were talking about game operations and the mistakes that are made throughout a two and a half hour block of time, where there are many variables to the "show". It's not like a Disney show, or another traveling performance that does the same thing, night in and night out for 150 dates in 60 different cities. The professional sports experience - if it's a good one - changes from game to game, and every night there is a mistake made.

The key to a successful event is - do the fans notice?

I shared with this team that there would never be a "perfect show". It might be as simple as a member of the dance teams misses a step, or something as dramatic as a microphone not working or the lights not coming back on after introductions.

The idea is to make progress every night- the next show is better than the last, we learn from our experiences and build upon them for success.

The same goes for my two boys.

I mentioned in my previous post that I felt the teachers were holding Chandler back. They were giving him milestones to hit, and when he would accomplish those goals, he would not be met with reward, but rather more objectives.

During subsequent conversations with the school staff, they conveyed to me that they were looking for Chandler to accomplish these tasks perfectly (or close to it), and he was not meeting those expectations, and thus they were slowing his integration.

There are many problems with this stance, but the most important thing to note here is none of the issues were academic, but rather they were more about social interaction.

Chandler does much better in social situations when he is around children who are well behaved. He tends to follow before he leads, so when he sees bad behavior, he emulates it. When others are being good, he follows suit there too.

Since he was not being integrated, he continued to emulate the behavior of the other kids in the B.D. room. One time, another kid hit Chandler, and when Chandler responded in kind, he was punished, and he could not understand why.

I shared with them that with children on the Autism spectrum, we needed to strive for progress every day, but to never expect perfection. Chandler is and emotional but driven young man. He wants more than anything to be integrated full time into his general education classroom, and he doesn't feel like he is getting a chance.

With Autistic children, if you give them a goal and they achieve it - you MUST then give them the promised reward, or they feel as if they had failed in some way.

I am not an educator, but I am an expert in Chandler. I know that he is making progress every day - but that if I expect perfection, and try to make Chandler live up to that standard, ultimately we will be disappointed.

I also think it's important to share that while in first grade, we successfully integrated Chandler into his general education classroom for 90% of the day, but because of his IEP, he was required to start this school year in the behavioral disorder room. We were promised this transition would take only two weeks, and it's now January, and we still struggle with getting him time with his regular teacher.

As a lesson, when you have your IEP review at the end of the school year, think ahead. Think about the progress you have made with your child and how that will impact the following school year.

More importantly - celebrate the progress, each and every day. We are taking little steps, but they are steps, and I am a better Father because I live in Chandler and Spencers world.

Cory Howerton


  1. My son's autism consultant told the team, "4 strokes for every poke." All kids need positive reinforcement, and we need to realize that kids with autism are hearing so many more prompts and corrections than other kids, so they need EVEN more thumbs ups and atta boys.

    We actually had an SDI at one point that the teacher would give 3 "thumbs ups" in each class session, even if they had to work really hard to find something to praise. It helped a lot with his motivation and behavior.

  2. Thank you! We had a meeting with his teachers today and came away with some very serious concerns.

    Your comments here have helped!