Special Skill–Could You Do This?

Go to http://www.stumbleupon.com/su/2MBBxU and watch how an autistic man uses his skill in art to show that he has a nearly perfect photographic memory.  It’s an amazing piece about a unique person’s ability to capture the world around him on paper.

Top this off with a few minutes of meditation about your own special skills/abilities.  If your smile is contagious (or your yawn), you can have a ripple effect upon your world.  Go ahead, try it!  And on that note, think how you and what you must deal with might be inspiring to others…because you just KNOW you inspire somebody nearly every day.  Think about how it happens and use that awareness to help you make your way.

Did You Offer a Compliment Today?

Good Afternoon, Parents!

Today is like any other day.  It’s on a calendar.  You woke up and started doing things and at bedtime you will quit doing things so you can recharge yourself for tomorrow.  But will you take time today to make it unlike any other day by making someone else feel good about himself or herself?  As parents, we are all coaches for our children.  Good coaches take time to make their charges grow by improving their self-esteem and clarifying their personal view of their own abilities.  Does that sound a bit too technical and you think you don’t know how to do that, maybe?  NOT!

Bet every pancake and bottom dollar in the house you can do it!  Try this:

♥  WOW ♥ WAY TO GO ♥ SUPER♥ YOU’RE SPECIAL♥ OUTSTANDING ♥ EXCELLENT ♥ GREAT ♥ GOOD ♥ NOTHING CAN TOP THAT ♥ WELL DONE ♥ REMARKABLE ♥ I KNEW YOU COULD DO IT ♥ I’M PROUD OF YOU ♥ FANTASTIC ♥ SUPER STAR ♥ NICE WORK ♥ LOOKING GOOD ♥ YOU’RE ON TOP OF IT ♥ BEAUTIFUL ♥  NOW YOU’RE FLYING ♥ YOU’RE CATCHING ON ♥ NOW YOU’VE GOT IT ♥ YOU’RE INCREDIBLE ♥ BRAVO ♥ YOU’RE FANTASTIC ♥ HURRAY FOR YOU ♥ YOU’RE ON TARGET ♥ YOU’RE ON YOUR WAY ♥ HOW NICE ♥ HOW SMART ♥ GOOD JOB ♥ THAT’S INCREDIBLE ♥ HOT DOG ♥ DYNAMITE ♥ YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL ♥ YOU’RE UNIQUE ♥ NOTHING CAN STOP YOU NOW ♥ GOOD FOR YOU ♥ I LIKE YOU ♥ YOU’RE A WINNER ♥ REMARKABLE JOB ♥ BEAUTIFUL WORK ♥ SPECTACULAR ♥ YOU’RE SPECTACULAR ♥ YOU’RE DARLING ♥ YOU’RE PRECIOUS ♥ GREAT DISCOVERY ♥ YOU’VE DISCOVERED THE SECRET ♥ YOU FIGURED IT OUT ♥ FANTASTIC JOB ♥ HIP, HIP HURRAY ♥ MAGNIFICENT ♥ MARVELOUS ♥ TERRIFIC ♥ YOU’RE IMPORTANT ♥PHENOMENAL ♥ YOU’RE SENSATIONAL ♥ SUPER WORK ♥ CREATIVE JOB ♥ SUPER JOB ♥ FANTASTIC JOB ♥ EXCEPTIONAL PERFORMANCE ♥ YOU’RE A REAL TROOPER ♥ YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE ♥ YOU ARE EXCITING ♥ YOU LEARNED IT RIGHT ♥ WHAT AN IMAGINATION ♥ WHAT A GOOD LISTENER ♥ YOU ARE FUN ♥ YOU’RE GROWING UP ♥ YOU TRIED HARD ♥ YOU CARE ♥ BEAUTIFUL HUG ♥ A BIG KISS ♥ I REALLY LOVE YOU! ♥ SHARING ♥ OUTSTANDING PERFORMANCE ♥ YOU’RE A GOOD FRIEND ♥I TRUST YOU ♥ YOU’RE IMPORTANT ♥ YOU MEAN A LOT TO ME ♥

See?  Positive strokes are positively easy!  How many more can you add to the list?  I have a list that stops at 121, but that’s only because that’s where the bottom of the page is.  You just know there are more ways to say something good!

Say these for your children, for each other, for teachers, neighbors, friends.  Say them to yourself, for good-to-yourself sake, already.

There’s no day like today to start another really great habit!

No Denial of SpEd Services or Accommodations Due to Good Grades

Hello, Parents!

For the entire existence of special education law, some school districts have sought to deny special education to students whose grades averaged C’s or above.  This left learning disabled students who struggle still struggling, sometimes against impossible odds.  This practice drove students out of school, out of classrooms, and into depression.  It still does if parents don’t know what the law actually contains.

During the last round of amendments to IDEA, the Statement of Managers was read to Congress.  It said, “ . . . it is critical to reject the assumption that an individual who has performed well academically cannot be substantially limited in activities such as learning, reading writing, thinking or speaking.” Well, finally They killed the bush we’ve been beating around for 40 years!

Students who are gifted can be learning disabled and require accommodations and special education services to learn.  One of my former clients is now studying for her Master’s degree.  However, in high school, her school district sought to deny her the diploma because the State of Florida failed to understand her need for accommodations in order to pass the FCAT.  She was in a gifted curriculum….and she was not the only student in this position.

Many students have been denied special education services because as school administrators said, “Grades like these don’t indicate any need for help.”  But when the student’s struggle to learn eliminates every other aspect of a normal life, there is no balance that permits proper maturation in other areas of living…and under IDEA it is the disability, not the grades, that is the true indicator of need.

ADHD and Risk of Alcohol and Substance Abuse

In her dissertation study of how ADHD might pose an increased risk of alcohol and substance abuse, Anne Carol Banks found that a child who has ADHD but is not diagnosed or is not treated for it is at increased risk of developing substance abuse.  She also found that children whose ADHD was identified and being treated have a reduced risk for developing alcohol or substance abuse.

ADHD is invisible, and to many parents, seems like willful disobedience instead of the manifestation of a neurological condition the child can’t control without help.  The impulsivity causes children to interrupt the conversations and activities of others; combined with poor social skills for how to smooth these events over, children find themselves swiftly rejected by their peers.  They find their inattentiveness causes them to miss important social cues for which no one could ever invent an excuse, they miss details of instructions and school assignments and conversations.  The instant emotional response to irritations or differences of opinions causes additional problems for those who have this symptom in place. Socializing then becomes uncomfortable and  unpredictably bad, worse, too awful to talk about for many children with ADHD.  Parenting for these children without the diagnosis that gives clues to proper actions and remedies becomes an “adventure” in mistakes, maladaptation, and misunderstanding on all sides.  Often both the child and parents would like some relief.

Those who have tried various drugs and alcohol tell us that there is a window of time when their brains function more normally and they have sought to reach that point through illicit drugs when their diagnosis was unknown and/or treatment was not given.  The dangers of addiction and overdosing, not to mention the illegality of drug abuse, seems less important to these people because it is in the world of “What If.”  Their daily frustrations are in the here and now, very real, and very frustrating.  Relief, no matter where they find it, is highly desirable.  They do whatever they can to find some normality, even for short periods of time.

This is one study that highlights the importance of early identification and early intervention.  Do you know the signs of ADD/ADHD?  You can Google “symptoms of ADD and ADHD”.  If you know a child who fits the description but has not been diagnosed and is not being treated but who is struggling in school, please suggest to parents that there is help.

Parents who have decided not to give their child medication for ADD/ADHD without having tried any must continuously re-evaluate their parenting strategies. They need to be sure they are providing enough training in compensatory strategies to avoid constant confusion, opportunities and perhaps clinical support to learn strong social skills.  There must also be enough mental and emotional support to avoid depression and anxiety so their child will never feel the need for any external relief assistance.

You can read Banks’ dissertation and see how she determined the risk of substance abuse for many other social factors including male, African-American, Caucasian, students of low income households, students suspended for anti-social behaviors, poor decisions, disruptive or aggressive behaviors, truancy or delinquency, low grades, and high number of absences and approximately when that substance abuse might begin.  Banks, Anne Carol.   An Early Risk Assessment Model for Alcohol and Substance Abuse Using ADHD Predictors of Risk .   Dissertation Abstracts International, A: The Humanities and Social Sciences, vol. 66, no. 4, pp. 1498-A, Oct 2005.

Resources for Parents and Schools on Bullying

Hello Parents and Guardians,

This information is valuable for parents and school staff alike.  Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is involved in issues such as bullying when the bullying is directed at someone with disabilities.  Go to http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/index.html?src=rt for the latest of OCR’s policy letters about bullying in our nation’s schools.

This letter is to “Dear Colleagues”–the governors and authority figures in the states’ education departments.  The information about resources on bullying is universally of value, so OCR included links to some good resources.  It is up to each state to determine what its laws and regulations regarding bullying will be, but as this letter makes clear, bullying is not acceptable behavior, it can destroy good learning environments, and it should not be tolerated.  Local school districts are expected to follow the laws and regulations made by the state.  If that doesn’t happen, sometimes acting locally will get the change needed.  If it doesn’t, a formal complaint to OCR might help.

Yes, there are bullies of all ages at our nation’s public schools.  This includes students AND staff!

Yes, bullying affects the person at whom it is directed, but it doesn’t end there.  Other students are equally terrorized by the meanness and the threat and come to feel threatened as well.

Yes, we can all learn appropriate ways of responding to bullying being done to those around us.

Yes, you have been bullied at some time, and don’t you roll your eyes at me–if you have a sibling, it happened.  If you didn’t have a sibling, it happened somewhere, and that’s final.  The only question is how severe the bullying got and how long it lasted.  (So little?  No wonder you forgot.)  Do you still hurt at the memory of it?

Yes, bullying can leave permanent emotional damage.

Yes, bullying can be stopped.

Go to http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/secletter/101215.html for a free, valuable bullying resource.  While you’re there, print a copy of that page and take it to your child’s school principal as an FYI item.  When you hand it to your principal, thank him/her for everything he does today to help our students with disabilities.  You can gently suggest “This might be another resource for you about bullying and schools.  It has some good information and links, and I thought you might like to be aware of it.”

The truth is that when these policy letters come out, they are sent everywhere–to the 50 states.  Few private individuals ever receive them.  Now you have.

Read it.  If your school falls short of what is described there, call and ask to talk with special education staff or regular education staff who are supervising this experience and share the letter with them.  In this way you are a resource, not the adversary, but you have expressed your desire for change.  If you want to become active in helping bring change, say so.  (If you’re just griping, don’t say so.  The letter is enough.)

Vocabulary Can Cause Stress

Hello, Parents!

It is not easy to learn the vocabulary of other professions or vocational fields when you don’t work in them.  The stress comes because when you’re in school meetings and doctors’ offices, people are using words you don’t know and you don’t understand what professionals are saying about your child.  You know now that ignorance is NOT bliss! As a parent, you must learn these words and terms in order to use them so you will know what education and medical professionals are trying to tell you and so these professionals will know what you want to say to them.

This is where the Internet becomes incredibly useful.  Parents can go online and do research about their child’s disability in the fields of medicine and education and learn a large part of the vocabulary the professionals will be using.  Other parents you meet at school and in support groups will share what they know with you, so ask them what some of these words and terms mean.  The words we don’t understand in a meeting can be explained if we ask, “I’m sorry, you just used a word that went over my head.  What does XXX mean?”  The more often you ask this in a meeting, the more it signals the professionals that you intend to understand what is going on as well as they do.  This is exactly what parents need to do and exactly what most parents don’t do because they are embarrassed.

However, if you do ask, there will be a day when you no longer have to ask and you will be talking with these professionals as a member of a team where all parties are informed and therefore are capable of making real progress in helping your child become a more independent, more functional adult.  On that day, give yourself ten gold stars for doing a great job of being a GREAT parent!

Organized or Not?

People who don’t live with someone who is chronically disorganized have no perception of what it is or what it means to be organizationally challenged or to have executive function impairment. Einstein had to be reminded to shower and change his clothes, comb his hair, wash his dishes, what meetings to go to, what his class schedule was for teaching, etc.  Einstein’s brain had room for nothing but physics! His professor friends and research buddies met regularly after his wife died to set up a schedule to help keep him on track. Imagine–a world-level genius needed help. Edison would have missed half the deadlines in his life had he not had people who reminded him of everything. Rockefeller had to be reminded of his meetings, deadlines, commitments, etc. John J. Audubon once showed up for a meeting with the president of the U.S. the day after it should have taken place. He missed a ship sailing for England because he forgot what day of the week it was. (He was in his 30’s when this happened.) There were many people around these individuals who had no perception of their needs and who were highly critical of their deficits. Those who perceived the need were assistive and were critical to these individuals’ success.

We can’t keep thinking that all people are alike, that everyone will learn everything at the same time. With disability, some things can never be learned. Who seriously thinks a person with a math disability will be able to learn higher math? How? Just by insisting? Something in the brain is different, and insistence doesn’t change brains. Neurological disabilities are what they are. With a disability that carries with it a component of disorganization as ADD/ADHD does, it is unrealistic to think we can expect a child or an adult with the disability to grow up “no longer disabled.”  Something in the brain is different, and insistence doesn’t change brains–and often growing up doesn’t, either. Therefore, we are the ones who must alter our expectations to accommodate the reality of the disability. To do otherwise is just as unrealistic as asking a person born with a short leg to “just grow it to the same size as the other one.”