3 Ways To Your Child’s Dream

Hello, everyone.

Today I want to talk about our children’s dreams for their future.  Whatever age a child is, he is aware that there is a future, and he assumes he will be in it.  Some children decide very early in life – age 8, 10, 12 – what their career will be, and that is what they achieve.  Some children have not decided later in life -28, 29, 30 – what career path to follow, and they are just taking whatever comes.  Life happens for both, but those who choose and contol their lives often feel they are more successful and have greater satisfaction.  We can nudge our children into a path of choosing a career by exposing them to  occupations, by helping them find hobbies, volunteer work doing things they love, and mentors whose careers pique their interest.

1.  I was a Girl Scout and earned over 100 badges.  Doing so introduced me to the basics of many occupations, various arts, sports, cultural aspects and affairs, study of what makes people and things “tick”, community involvement, and a variety of enjoyable things to do.  I can’t remember ever being bored, really, because my mind was always digging into something new or deeper into something intriguing.  Boy Scouts does the same for boys.  Many youth organizations achieve similar results.  All but one of the pastimes I love stem from those youth activities.  I frequently use something I learned back then.

Children with disabilities are often isolated from their peers by their differences at school, but parents who find these opportunities for them in the community help them develop a sense of belonging in their neighborhood, other people’s lives, and in their larger society.  It is this sense of belonging that will allow a child to reach out to build a supportive team at school and work so he can be successful at what he does.  This social participation sometimes creates the new advocates for our social needs–you know– the ones who keep reminding us that yes, we ARE our brother’s keeper.

2.  Volunteer work serves many purposes beyond helping other people or non-profit organizations.  Children who learn to enjoy volunteering also learn teamwork, selflessness, cooperation, empathy, social responsibility, improved social skills, and often, leadership.  Some find jobs this way.  It’s an excellent way to try a new work skill, expand a hobby, explore new ideas, make new friends. Some children who become fully engaged in a specific type of volunteer work they enjoy may use that experience as the springboard to their future career.

3.  Older children who have shown interest in specific vocations or careers can benefit from a mentor who is in the same field.  A child who is interested in accounting could be mentored by a bank employee, an accountant, a statistician, a software developer who specializes in the numbers of our lives and businesses.  A child who could sell you your own smelly socks would benefit from exposure to people in sales, retail, wholesale, and online, and if he’s good at writing, exposure to advertising and marketing people.  Is your child an animal lover?  Got a zoo?  Match!  Vet?  Match!  Animal breeder?  Match!  Biologist or biological industry?  Match!

You get the idea.  Our children’s job is to grown and learn.  Not all learning is done at school.  Parents’ job includes showing our children how to get out from under our wings.  Look around you.  It’s a big, wide world.  What does your child dream of doing in it?  What can you do to help him achieve it?

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The Long Haul

Today I read an article by Kym Grosso about her son who was asking if she wanted to “erase” his Asperger’s. I remembered a similar conversation with my own son who has an undetermined disability that affects him globally. His head shakes in a constant “no” and he can’t pick up his feet anymore. He struggles to walk and frequently falls even though he uses a walker. We had found an article in the newspaper about a 5 year old boy whose disability was very much like his at that age. I called the doctor from Kentucky who was managing the case through a treating doctor near us. She was definite–it certainly could be the same thing, or something similar, that was a metabolic disorder. If she could to discover this, perhaps a change in diet and supplements would be all he needs.

To this point, my son had only been treated by neurologists who had never mentioned a word about the possibility of metabolism disorders. Toxins created by metabolism disorders can poison the brain and cause a myriad of neurological symptoms–so why didn’t they mention that if they couldn’t solve the problems? We’ll never know, but I’m fairly certain it may involve time, which they don’t want to give useless cases…and profit, which they don’t get if they refer away.

The conversation yielded this. “Mom, I’ve never been normal and I don’t know how to live that way. It’s too scary. I can’t do that.” SHOCK! Why would anyone want to remain in his position? Because the fear of the unknown is greater than the fear of what is known. “I know how to be the way I am, and it’s okay.”

Children with disabilities don’t know what it is to be “normal” in our sense of normal. The way they are is their normal. As parents, we have to get used to that. When we want to teach them to do things, we want to teach then OUR way. When they can’t do it our way, we chafe and itch to guide them in our path. If they can’t do it our way, we label them disabled.

But think now. What if we let them know what needs to be done and leave them to discover how they will do it?  We will get a competent result. Each child will find out how HE must do something or he will discover he needs help to do it. Our job then is to help build the assistive teamwork around that child so he can discover how he does everything everyone else does, right up to when he has to ask for help to get it done. When is the last time you built the car you drive? Point. A child who can’t write his own homework can become a competent dictator. A child who can’t iron can trade what he can do for what he needs.

So here’s the point. Get out of the driver’s seat of your child’s “car.” Let your child suffer failure and discover it doesn’t kill, that in fact, a little failure creates greater pride when success comes, greater strength and resilience come in, and your child will find he is more willing and able to tackle new tasks because he knows he can find success. That is the attitude that will lead him to greater independence for the rest of his life.

The point for us as parents is this–we have accepted our child for what he is and who he is…without trying to force him into our mold of “normal.”

If you’re hoping your child will develop independence as an adult, he MUST fail sometimes as a child. Help your child fail with support so he knows failure is an acceptable part of growing and learning. He’ll thank you for it someday.

New Soft Skills Training Help From Dept. of Labor

Dear Parents and Guardians,

When our children graduate from high school with a lot of special education assistance, many of them have not had the good fortune to be able to hold part time jobs in addition to schoolwork. This means that when they have to compete with students who have had work experience, they are lacking in some work skills that many employers consider crucial. Soft skills. As opposed to “hard skills”, such as keyboarding speed, experience with the Office Suite, some carpentry or plumbing skills, or some car mechanic knowledge, which would open doors for many people, soft skills are what everyone must have–how to listen to instructions and apply them accurately, ability to understand how what you do fits with what others do, teamwork, cooperation, communication, proper manners for the situation or setting, workplace manners, etc. People skills are soft skills.

The majority of us pick most of it up just by being alive with tips from others here and there. When disabilities interfere with social skills or socialization, these skills are slow to develop or the student may require specific instruction to learn them.

At last, the Department of Labor has recognized this need and has put together a program of activities to address it. If your child will need to start working after graduation this Spring or is already bouncing from job to job due to lack of these skills, this program may be just what is needed.

Here is the announcement from the Department of Labor:

The U.S. Department of Labor has released “Skills to Pay the Bills: Mastering Soft Skills for Workplace Success,” a collection of career development exercises and activities to help sharpen the communication and other “soft skills” of young workers, including those with disabilities. The curriculum covers communication, networking, enthusiasm and attitude, teamwork, problem-solving, critical thinking and professionalism. It was based on a survey of businesses to figure out the most important skills for young workers.

For more resources on youth employment visit http://www.dol.gov/odep/topics/youth/softskills/Resources.pdf.

This announcement does not say where we can get this collection, so I will drag that out of them for you. Watch for it in my next posting–tomorrow.

I wish your child happy lEARNING!

The Busy-ness That Is Life

We have doctors’ visits, therapies, homework, jobs, cars that need washing, floors that need mopping, vacuuming, clothes that won’t iron themselves, shopping, cooking, and children who want more of our time than the daily chores of life will allow.  My children are grown and I still remember the look on their faces when the wanted my time and I couldn’t give it right then.  It’s hard to say no when they are young.  Later, it is they who will say no to us when we need their time, but that’s another story (or is it?)

How can we have more time with our children?  INCLUDE them in what we do.  Too many parents plop the kids in front of the TV and then fix dinner by themselves.  It’s American–so what’s wrong with it?  It excludes your child from all the learning and life skills that helping with dinner might provide and denies him/her the camaraderie of a family that works together, and ultimately, delays/denies development of teamwork skills.  It’s seemingly everywhere in the fabric of American life, and it shouldn’t be that way.

Children learn by imitation, and if we push them away from things we do that they could benefit from learning, we hurt them more in the long run than we do today.  We need to include them when they first ask to help–age 3, 4, 5–and recognize their efforts with praise.  We need to be patient with the mistakes they must make in order to learn, and we need to allow the time for their growth at our side.

We should not do their homework for them, but we must see that it is possible and that they have everything needed for them to do it.  If we do our household accounts, read the paper or books, journals, or magazines while they do homework, our stillness while they learn impresses upon them that we value their learning time and will do nothing to distract them from it.  By these two strategies, children learn that they are valued and capable, two things that help prevent future drug abuse, truancy, gang activity, and many irresponsible behaviors.

As parents, we must mentor our children into adulthood.  We foster that growth by keeping them at our side for everything possible so they learn to imitate our adult behaviors.  The time our children crave with us is there–we just need to recognize the ways our adult activities nurture our greatest imitators and bend ourselves a little to meet their needs.

This is especially crucial for children with learning difficulties.  They get slapped in the head and heart every day with things they can’t do or have great difficulty doing, and the grades on their papers are not nurturing their self-esteem or sense of competence.  The home, where you include them and help them develop homemaking and self-care capabilities, is a haven where they are respected for what they CAN do and for what they ARE learning.  As they become competent, they develop what psychiatrists call “islands of competence.”  These islands of competence are lifelines for children with disabilities.

Yes, we are short on time, and it feels like we don’t have time to wait for our child to learn to peel potatoes.  But we MUST, and we will soon find that if we give the time for them to learn, we can later give them the chore as their contribution to family life–and then we don’t have to peel potatoes at all, a 100% saving of our time for that chore.  If what your child gets out of it doesn’t stir you to be patient and give time for learning beside you, think what you’re going to get out of it, too.

Enough said.  Here, you peel this potato.