Who do you consider "smart?" Is it someone with at least average intelligence? Is it someone who makes good grades? Is it someone who can simply learn anything? What's the measure for you?
I've been thinking about this lately because someone called Jaycee "smart." There are times when it comes up naturally in conversations. A teacher may say Jaycee is smart because she did a specific task or displayed a new skill. It's a compliment, and it's a natural thing for someone to say. It feels good.
There are times when it doesn't come up so natural.
I think because Jaycee doesn't speak, due to childhood apraxia of speech, that people assume she can't do anything. There are some things that are difficult for her, but there are some areas that she is good in. Before she was 3, she was signing colors, identifying shapes, and starting to recognize letters. She knew hundreds of signs as a toddler. I saw potential in her at a very young age. I knew she was capable of learning and that she was, in fact, smart.
Other people aren't around her all the time. They don't see what I see. They see a girl who looks different. They don't hear words coming out of her mouth. They don't see much of anything in her just from appearances.
But then, she'll get out her computerized communication device and say something on her talker. Sometimes it's something as simple as Jaycee requesting a food on her talker --"pizza please." Sometimes, it's her saying something cute like her meal prayer. Then, they will change their minds about Jaycee. They will say, "She's smart!" But it's in that tone of complete surprise. Like, they were expecting her to do nothing.
I'm glad Jaycee can change people's minds. But I wish people wouldn't have such low expectations either. Jaycee has many challenges but she has many strengths too. She has a personality. She has likes and dislikes. I wish people could understand that. She is not a zombie walking around through life doing whatever she's told to do. She is a spunky, sometimes stubborn, girl who loves movies, music, and her family.
I wish when someone saw a person with a disability they would assume that they had a special talent, interests, or were just in general "capable." I wish people would assume a person with a disability was "smart" (whatever that means) until proven otherwise.
Most people don't feel that way so Jaycee & I will just keep working on that, one person at a time.