My name is Jennifer Poore and I am the mom of a teenage son with profound autism named Marston. I am also a certified teacher with a master's degree in Literacy Education. As Marston’s mother, I always "presume potential.” To presume potential is to believe that a learner can understand a concept even when there is currently not tangible evidence that this is the case. Time and time again Marston teaches me that there should be no limitations placed upon what he might be capable of understanding and enjoying. I have, therefore, strived to expose him to as many experiences and opportunities as possible.
In 1984 special education researcher Ann Donnellan coined an inclusive educational concept known as the Least Dangerous Assumption. Presuming potential is tied to this theory. The Least Dangerous Assumption approach suggests that when making assumptions about learners with special needs it is imperative that the decisions, if incorrect, would have the least dangerous effect on the individual. For example, my son uses very little verbal language. Because of his limited language, it could be assumed that he would never learn to read. The Least Dangerous Assumption, however, was to expose him to a literacy rich environment. It turns out, he LOVES to read! What a tragedy it would have been to assume he would never read.
The Least Dangerous Assumption was once beautifully described to me in this way: "Let's say you get invited to a dinner party, and the host asks you to bring a salad. A week before the party you bump into the host and talk briefly about the party. The day of the dinner party arrives and you're confused... Did the host still want you to bring the salad, or did she say she was all set? If you had no way to contact the host, what would you do? The Least Dangerous Assumption would be to bring the salad, of course! It would be fine to have two salads, but terrible to have none."
It is my belief that adopting a Least Dangerous Assumption mindset is absolutely critical for providing the best quality of life for special needs learners. For this reason, I am incredibly passionate about literacy education as fundamental right for all human beings. It is my great hope that the books I have written will help special needs individuals gain literacy skills. Additionally, it is my profound wish that the simply presented, yet rich content will spark new areas of interest and joy for special needs individuals.
Set no limits. Bring the salad.
Photo by: Courtenay Goff