A Review of “Beyond F.A.T. City”

by PammyMcB

Lavoie, R.  (Writer), Allen, D.; Vettel, N. (Producer). (2005). Beyond F.A.T. City. [Motion Picture]. United States: PBS Video.

The purpose of this video was to reinforce what the viewers of the F.A.T. city video and the participants of the F.A.T. City workshop learned. This video also served as a tool to teach about the changes in special education since the late 1980s. Although the first video was designed to “create sensitivity” and to “make teachers to want to know how to help these kids.”

It is important to know that children with learning disabilities need to be treated fairly. As Mr. Lavoie stated, “There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” It may seem that children with learning disabilities get special treatment. However that is because children with learning disabilities need special treatment. Most often these children are asked to do schoolwork that they are not ready for. This leads to tension and conflict between remedial and compensatory education. In remedial education, the children work on and are taught skills that they do not have. In compensatory education, their work is modified to where they can understand it better. Both types of education are good, but they should work in tandem with one another. For instance, making modifications so the information is accessible to the student only treats a symptom of a bigger problem. With books on tape, the student may be listening to and understanding the tape; however, they still cannot read. Children with learning disabilities are not lazy they want to learn, but do not believe that they can do it; therefore, they give up.

As educators, it is important for us to remember several things about students with learning disabilities. You should never make assumptions about your students. They often get confused because they do not have any background information on the task that they are having difficulty with. Children with learning disabilities may seem that they have behavioral problems; however, they may just have a need for attention. If you feel that the child is acting up for attention, then give them the attention. Children with learning disabilities also have a hidden handicap. The rest of the world has great difficulty understanding that an attractive looking, well-groomed individual may have a learning disability. When an educator is dealing with an adolescent, adolescence is the most difficult time of these children’s for various reasons. First, as a teen, students are expected to succeed in several different areas. Second, this is the only time in a person’s life that “different=bad.” Third, this is the first time in life that people realize that they will never be much different than they are at this point in their lives.

Children with learning disabilities struggle in many areas that were not previously discussed. Due to research, more is known about learning disabilities than ever before. These children often have difficulty with social contracts. There is a direct correlation between the comprehension of reading and math skills and the comprehension of social skills. Their inability to develop social skills leaves the children with many social struggles such as isolation, rejection, and ridicule. Normally children with learning disabilities consider anyone who does not make fun of them their friends.  Another area children with learning disabilities struggle in is that of performance inconsistency. This means that they may be able to complete a task one day, but unable to complete the task the next. Kinetic melodies are usually not developed for children with learning disabilities. Although they are walked through a task every single day, it is like they are doing the task for the first time.

 “When elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled” (African Proverb). As an educator, it is very important to remember families of children with learning disabilities are constantly in crisis mode. The disabilities affect everyone in the family, even the siblings. The parents of these children may agree on everything, but the child with learning disabilities. They may feel that it is them “against the world.” It is also important to change the multidisciplinary teams to trans disciplinary teams, where all points are taken into consideration and woven together. When addressing behavioral problems, it is important to remember that children with learning disabilities rarely respond to punishment, and they may not understand how their voices and body languages change the message of what is being said.

Each child with learning disabilities is different from the next; they are different from children without learning disabilities as well. Therefore, there are different approaches to teaching these children, as well as different ways to reach them. There are about 100 different symptoms to learning disabilities. One child can have anywhere from eight to twelve different symptoms. Not all children have the same cluster of learning disabilities; therefore, there is no set way to teach a child with learning disabilities. Though competition is often looked at a positive way to motivate children, it will not motivate a child with learning disabilities. After all, only children who believe that they have a chance of winning will compete. These children also need to believe that it is okay to take risks. Even if they do not succeed, it is okay, and we need to be sure to teach them this. It is important to recognize that these children are often the victims of bullies. Many children with learning disabilities have been picked on their entire lives. These children are normally happy children until they enter school. Once they enter school, their spirits are crushed. School is where children spend the most of their days.

I liked this video because it touched on ground that was not touched on in F.A.T. city did not touch. This was due to the first video being almost twenty years old. There has been a great deal of research on learning disabilities in the last couple of decades. Today, we know a lot more about children with learning disabilities. It was interesting to hear him speak of a technique that I use with my son. However, I never thought to use pictures to get him to clean his room. We use it for other routines, such as morning grooming routines, making toast, etc. I also noticed that the way that Lavoie spoke about children with learning disabilities in this video differed from the prior. Instead of calling the children learning disabled, he referred to them as children with learning disabilities. He also stressed that it is not “the child is a problem,” but it is “the child has a problem.”

This video will help me to better understand how to help these children. I always need to remember that I will never know what is like to be a person with a learning disability. I will never know the hardships and obstacles children with learning disabilities must overcome every day. However, I know I can relate to the parents of children with learning disabilities. I should also give them room and listen to them, because every learning disability is different. What may work for Damien may or may not work for another child with learning disabilities. These two videos have opened my eyes and given me more insight into the lives of people with learning disabilities.

Beyond F.A.T. City
Exec producer – Niki Vettel, Dennis Allen
Washington D.C. production
Boston, MA production
Director – Bob Comiskey
Date – 2005
Editor – Scot Broderic

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