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That's funny.

Sonia Waterman tried repeatedly to tell her son's doctor that every time Carter pulled on his left ear it meant he was beginning to become constipated. "That's funny," said Dr. Clampton, as he withdrew the otoscope from Carter's left ear. "Funny, I don't see anything, especially the connection."

Isaac Asimov, one of America's most celebrated science (both hard science and science fiction) writers hit it head on when he remarked, "The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' but 'That's funny...'"

Throughout history scientists and physicians from Archimedes ("That's funny; when I climb into this tub, all this water runs over the sides.") to Semmelweiss ("That's funny; when I scrub my hands with soap, less of my patients die giving birth.") to Jenner ("That's funny; when I injected this pus from an infected milkmaid with cowpox into this eight-year-old boy, he didn't get smallpox like everyone else in the village.") have had moments when they put several events together and came up with something neat, something that raised their eyebrows, something "funny." Not funny in a thigh slapping manner, but "funny" in a sense that they thought maybe they were onto something. Of course, the first thing they did (after calling their agent to see if they could get the phenomenon named after themselves) was to repeat it. Seems that these "funny" things aren't so "funny" if you can't repeat them. In fact, the key component of taking something from "uhhummm" to "that's funny" is the ability to repeat it again and again and again--like Carter pulling on his left ear to signal the onset of constipation.

One of the first recorded "that's funny" moments in special education is attributed to the time when Madame Guerin, the woman who took care of Victor, the feral wild boy of Aveyron, realized that if she let him feel the temperature of boiling water, he would use a spoon to remove the potatoes from the pot without using his bare hands. "That's funny," she thought, "before that he would simply reach his hand into the pot of boiling water." She finally appreciated that even feral boys were sensitive to hot and cold. She used the "that's funny" connection to introduce him to countless other opportunities in experiencing the world outside the forest.

That some interconnected phenomena are actually interconnected is no surprise to exceptional parents. They have been respecting, appreciating, and rejoicing in these realizations for years. Probably from the first time they figured out that some children with autism who sit quietly by themselves will (the reader is asked to plug in some action verb here) themselves until you add a (the reader is asked to plug in a noun here) within arms reach, the exceptional parent was bound to have mused, "Now that's funny." And, of course, they repeated it. After it was repeated, they made it part of their repertoire, and if they were really exceptional, they used it to explore other settings, environments, and encounters. When exceptional parents put their arms around a collection of "that's funny" connections, they have single-handedly created their own IEP. It might be a lesson for special educators that they should begin all IEPs with: "The following 'that's funny' connections have been repeatedly demonstrated by Jonathan, and, thus, the following goals and objectives should be considered..." Now that's a return to what is special about special education.

Exceptional parents also utter "that's funny" at other times as well. They have been known to exclaim "that's funny" when they hear that some government-funded medical program will provide a sex change operation for someone but not provide ongoing physical therapy for their child with cerebral palsy. They probably also have been known to scream "that's funny" when they learn that a multimillion dollar bridge to nowhere is being constructed while learning that there are no funds for long overdue dental care for their 23-year-old daughter with Williams syndrome. The world of the exceptional parent is filled with confrontations that necessitate yelling "that's funny" instead of the bloodletting that often seems the more logical response.

That exceptional parents have been able to do so much has by-and-large been a result of their ability to appreciate how certain things are not only connected or linked, but orchestrated. The ability to see, hear, and feel things in tandem that reveal great insights and demonstrate valuable couplets and pairs should be as well-respected by policy makers and bean counters. Things--funny things--like how a healthy person has a better chance of showing up for work. Things--crazy things--like how a person with their own space will venture out into other spaces. Things--ridiculous things--like how a person made to feel valued will, in effect, bring you value. That's probably why, despite popular belief, exceptional parents have a glow all their own. A glow that comes from knowing, saying, and appreciating why "that's funny."

Rick Rader,

MD, Editor-in-Chief

Director, Morton J. Kent

Habilitation Center

Orange Grove Center,

Chattanooga, TN

Ancora Imparo

In his 87th year, the artist Michelangelo (1475 -1564) is believed to have said, "Ancora imparo"--"I am still learning." Hence, the name for my monthly observations and comments.

--Rick Rader, MD, Editor in Chief, EP Magazine
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Article Details
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Author:Rader, Rick
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2007
Previous Article:Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in adults: review of an article.
Next Article:Executive Skills in Children and Adolescents: A Practical Guide to Assessment and Intervention.

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