What if as parents and teachers, we invested our time in finding our children’s innate abilities and natural talents instead of detecting their problems? Every child has a place in which they are in their “element.” A place in which things come easily for them and they are in a state of flow. When we nurture and encourage these natural talents, our children can blossom and recognize that they have something unique within themselves to contribute to society. Rachel’s story is a perfect example of this.

Rachel is a beautiful young woman. However, for much of her life she was defined mostly by her diagnoses of severe intellectual and physical impairment. She used a wheelchair and communicated through her facial expressions (she is not able to speak verbally). She also did not interact much with others.

During a training I led on finding students’ natural talents, I asked teachers to think about their students’ gifts. Every one of Rachel’s teachers and therapists said “Rachel is beautiful.” This simple observation of Rachel’s natural beauty led to discovering from her mother that Rachel always loved to get dressed up and look pretty.

This led to the idea of Rachel being a model which led to Rachel having a professional photo shoot. The results were stunning! Rachel looked like a Vogue model. In every photo she naturally posed as if she were a professional. The photographer said it often takes days to get these kinds of photos with professional models, but Rachel didn’t need to try, she just naturally posed in beautiful ways so within one afternoon she had many stunning photos.

There was another unexpected result of this shift in perspective: Rachel came ALIVE! She fed herself lunch after the photo shoot and actively engaged in her physical therapy walking session. Clearly, modeling is a natural self-expression for Rachel. This idea was inconceivable while we were only seeing her as intellectually and physically disabled and focusing on goals based on things she couldn’t do. A whole new world opened up for Rachel once we started thinking about Rachel’s natural abilities and gifts!

The story of Clint Pulver is another example of the power of looking through the lens of talent versus problems. Clint describes himself as a kid who could not stop moving his hands, he constantly felt the urge to tap on his desk during class. This resulted in Clint getting in trouble a lot because it was distracting for other kids.

Eventually, he got sent to the principal’s office who advised him to try sitting on his hands. Clint tried this which he said worked for about five seconds. One day a teacher named Mr. Jensen asked Clint to stay after class. Clint was afraid he was in big trouble this time however to his surprise Mr. Jensen said to him “You are not a problem, I think you are a drummer!” Mr. Jensen pulled out a pair of drum sticks from his desk and gave them to Clint.

Clint said from that day on he never put those drum sticks down. He went on to become a professional drummer, an Emmy Award-winning, motivational keynote speaker and author. Clint says that he believes that moment changed his life. When Mr. Jensen chose to see the beauty and potential in who Clint naturally was instead of trying to change him or fix the “problem”, he changed Clint’s life.

Story retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4p5286T_kn0

Imagine spending your time looking for where your child or student’s shine and what they are naturally drawn to? How would that feel for you? How would that feel for your child or student? When you look for children’s innate gifts and natural talents, that is when you will see their true potential!