A F.A.T. Free Class!

I want a F.A.T. free classroom. Well, what does that mean? It all has to do with special education expert Rick Lavoie (pronounced lavoy).


During my boot camp at B.N.U., I watched a film of one of his workshops that deals with F.A.T. (which I will explain momentarily). In it, he takes the participants through what the Learning Disabled (LD) child goes through. The seminar, held in a small room with a small group, is filled with people from all walks of life: a special education teacher, a school counselor, a behavior specialist, an engineer, a couple of parents and two LD kids. Some of you may already know what F.A.T. stands for, but for those of you who don’t, I will tell you. F.A.T. stands for:

F- fear

A- anxiety

T- tension

These are all the things that a person with a Learning Disability goes through during class.

I want a classroom free of fear, anxiety, and tension. I want the children in my classroom to feel comfortable from day one. I want them to be free to express themselves respectfully. My classroom will be a safe haven.

Mr. Lavoie teaches at a very fast, almost insane, pace. He let the participants experience first hand what the LD child goes through. He say such silly phrases as: “Look harder,” or maybe you’re not trying hard enough, “Try harder”. When he’s saying these things, it puts everything into perspective. Those phrases sound downright silly, because you know what, they are silly. He lets the participants feel for themselves how it feels when everyone is staring at you because you can’t quite get it. He breaks it down even further when he explains what takes an LD child so long to respond to a question.

For example, if an LD child were asked who George Washington was. First they have to decipher the question. Let’s see the teacher said who, so it must be a person. George…George who??? George Washington? Who is that? Meanwhile, the other children have gone on to answer the question leaving the LD child behind in confusion because they have just deciphered the question. They haven’t even thought about the answer.

He also addresses the horrible practice of tearing up a child’s paper which I am ashamed to say that I have done when a child was doing something other than what they were supposed to be doing. I know. I know. That is horrible. I will never, ever, ever, ever do that again. It is so mean, no matter what the reason. Can there ever really be a reason to destroy a child’s property/creation/hard work right in front of them besides trying to humiliate them? Whether they were on task or not, that is simply not an acceptable response.

My classroom will indeed be Fear, Anxiety, and Tension free as possible. This is what, in addition to improved test scores, will make my classroom a success to me. I know how it feels to experience all of these. Hopefully seeing this film will make others more sensitive to what children with LD go through.


I give this film *****/***** stars because of the way that Mr. Lavoie makes it clear exactly what the LD child goes through. This film is a must-see. It is about 2o minutes long. For those of you wanting to see it, here’s the link:


***P.S.- I looked around on his website, but the only things that I found was ways to purchase the video. I have contacted Mr. Lavoie and am waiting for his answer on how to find it for free. Once I receive the answer, I will post it. In the meantime, check out his website. He’s an excellent educator.***