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Encouraging Children to Thrive Beyond Weaknesses and Disabilities

Updated: Mar 31, 2021

Jimmie stumbled through his words like a blind man walking through a jungle. He was frustrated. So was I. I had my lines memorized, but Jimmie needed to get it together.


“Ya know, Ms. Patel, I just don’t thank that I’m good for this here job...I don’t like reading...I thought it would be cool to be on the morning announcements and all. I thank I’m just gonna go to the after-school program so I can play and have some fun. Is that Okay?”


“That’s just fine, honey. I want you to know I have seen improvement in your reading since you’ve been practicing. I talked to your speech therapist, Ms. Green, about you the other day...Jimmie, we all have things that we are naturally good at. Then there are other things that we can do, but they take more work. You are a very talented young man from what I have heard. I know that you do a lot of other things that some students might not be able to do.”

-Ms. Patel

Don’t Bring Me Bad News Pages 29-30

I empathize with Jimmie’s character so much. I believe most adults know what it’s like to have an opportunity that we are excited about, but at the same time may lack some of the necessary skills or knowledge to thrive in it. In Don’t Bring Me Bad News, Jimmie desired to join the news team as a news anchor, which was so brave especially since he struggled with reading. Unlike adults, children haven’t lived long enough to put a persistent challenge in a particular area into perspective.

In reality Jimmie’s teachers and parents would get to the real reason behind why he was having difficulty reading. I didn’t go into detail about specifics with his reading disorder because I want children who read the story and struggle in reading to be able to identify with him. In the quotes we see that Jimmie was frustrated, Lee wasn’t helping with his impatient criticism, and Ms. Patel’s comfort and truth were necessary. I think it’s important for adults to help children form identities that transcend struggles and aren’t limited by any weakness or disability.

At some point every student will be in Jimmie’s situation whether it’s in an art class, P.E., music, some outside extracurricular activity, or socially. Whenever a child is realizing they have a weakness or disability, they need support and encouragement. Children should be praised and affirmed in front of their peers. In the story, Jimmie’s classmates needed to know that he was gifted and talented in other areas. Jimmie also needed to be reminded in that moment. This protects Jimmie’s dignity and keeps his classmates from possibly looking down on him or being disrespectful.

I believe in supporting children to stay committed to activities in which they excel or just enjoy. As long as young children want to pursue an opportunity, if it’s possible, I think they should be allowed to explore an activity regardless of performance level. This leaves room for growth without pressure. It’s the responsibility of loving adults to point out to children their strengths and encourage them to embrace areas where they’re going to shine. Experiencing success is good for self-esteem and self-efficacy. Given time, some children will even master a disability or area where they were once struggling. What do you think about Jimmie leaving the news team? What would you tell a child about his decision?

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