There is a new series on A&E called Born This Way. It is about a group of young adults with Down Syndrome. I feel this is a must watch for all adults who come in contact with children/students with disabilities, of which Down Syndrome is just one. Despite all the talk about the advances in awareness and methods of intervention to help people with disabilities, I have personally seen too many instances of under expectations for children with Down Syndrome and other disabilities. In our society at the present time 70% of individuals with disabilities of working age can’t find employment.
I feel that expectant parents should watch this to counter the talk about individuals with Down Syndrome being unable to be a part of society, unable to be independent in any way. Yes, they may need more support than a typically developing child, but now days even typically developing children are needing more support for extended periods of time due to the economy and the cost of a liberal arts education. Even my children are needing some support due to job hours limitations due to the employers need to provide health insurance for employees working more than 28 hours per week.
I have patients in my practice who have Down Syndrome in their 20’s. Their parents were told to either abort, or if it was not known until delivery, to put their newborn baby into an institution because they would always need total support, would not be able to learn, etc. Born This Way, goes a long way to show that these predictions are so limiting. My patients were discriminated early on regarding educational expectations. I, along with others, helped their parents learn to advocate for more in school or to seek it out on their own. Great strides were made by this advocacy. A young man with Down Syndrome, who also inherited his mother’s dyslexia, received appropriate tutoring for dyslexia and went from not reading at all to reading at 2nd grade level in one year. A young man with mild intellectual development disorder, who also had dyslexia, who went from not reading to reading at 4th grade level in less than 2 years.
Let’s make 2016 the year that we learn from individuals with disabilities, like the cast of Born This Way. Let’s vow to see everyone as having potential to be explored, not limitations to be enforced.
This is such a moving tale of not just a teacher but an entire educational community which saw their mission as one of supporting students in social and emotional growth, not just academics. What a wonderful shout out to them.
At my triplets 4th birthday party our middle triplet got a tummy ache. She was standing in the middle of our living room when she got “the look”. It was all coming up. As she began to throw up, her preschool teacher flew across the room (seriously, I think she had a super hero cape on) and actually caught my daughters vomit in her hands.
“Um, did you just catch my daughters vomit?”
“Yes, what was I else was I supposed to do?”
She then spent the next few minutes helping me clean up what made its way to the floor and what made its way on to my daughter.
That was my first experience with one of my children’s teachers going way beyond their job description.It wasn’t my last and I can bet that there will be many more.
Below is the link to an article written by a relatively new teacher (about 5 years in the classroom) who lists all the things that she has done for her students and all the struggles they have experienced during her tenure. She is strongly considering quitting the profession but wants the policy makers to understand why.
This burnout is not just occurring in the schools. If you ask any of the professionals whose passion is helping children and adolescents, you will year the same issues, the same frustrations, and the same hopelessness about how we, as a society, are letting down our youth.
Please start a conversation here or among your colleagues about what she has said and what we can do, both at the grassroots level and at the policy level to turn this around. One thing is certain, we need our “in the trenches” professionals to be part of the conversation and solution, not just the ones who have to live with the “wisdom” of others.
In a general population the prevalence of sensory processing disorders is 1 in 20 according to literature by Lucy Miller OT. When you talk about the autism spectrum disorders, this number goes to much higher levels although an actual prevalence rate has not been determined due to the controversy about the reality of the disorder.
While not everyone believes in a sensory processing disorder (also known as a sensory integration disorder), their is belief that there can be significant sensory processing deficits for individuals in the autism spectrum and ADHD. This is important because sensory issues can and do affect how well these children and adolescents tolerate their environments. The more overwhelmed they feel, the less they will be able to interact with their environment. Some may run away, some may lash out, and others will just shut down where they are.
When I talk about Never Assume, like in my book, I am referencing the need to really find out what is behind the behaviors we notice. We need to take the time to think about various possible reasons that are triggering a fight or flight response in the child or adolescent. By truly understanding the source(s) of the behaviors, we can begin to develop empathy and interventions to improve the quality of life for him.
Next time you find yourself getting upset at a child for inappropriate behavior, please take a moment to consider a why other than “Because he is a brat” or “He is just trying to ruin my day.” You will be surprised by what you come up with and how that changes your response/reaction.
Have you ever come upon someone who needed help that you didn’t know? Or even someone you knew but felt was somehow different? Did you stop to help? Or did you avert your eyes as you veered away?
This video shows what happened as a social experiment using two individuals: What would you do? One looked like a businessman who fell while trying to use his crutches along a busy street. The other was a homeless man who also fell while trying to use his crutches on a busy street. How did it make you feel to see the difference?
Did you know that this same type of scenario occurs in schools every day with students who are seen as lazy, unmotivated, disrespectful, etc. Having talked with over 3000 of these students in the last 30 years, I have heard their frustration of feeling like they are not being listened to. That they are discounted by teachers and sometimes parents because they are judged on appearances. They feel that no one actually tries to understand how they are struggling, how they are trying but not succeeding academically, socially, or in everything they try to do.
Next time you see a child, adolescent, or student not achieving, will you take a minute to just stop and ask how you can help. Assume that they don’t want to fail, but rather need support to succeed.
I have worked with approximately 3000 children and adolescents over the last 30 years. The vast majority experience anxiety and depressed moods due to their struggles and challenges with development, learning and behavior.
I have found that using imagination to help them see their emotions in a more concrete and literal way helps them to begin the journey to self empowerment and understanding.
I want to share a YouTube video that demonstrates this concept. I have seen it a few times since it came out and it has never ceased to resonate with me in how parents and children/teens could feel less overwhelmed if they could envision their emotions in a way that would allow others to help them.
I always enjoying reading Robert Whipple’s blogs because our views on how to lead are so similar. And those that know me know that I refer to Detective Columbo frequently as a model of how to work with children and adolescents, rather than the way today’s TV cops interrogate suspects. So much more information is gained by softly leading others to insights, than by trying to ram it down their throats. And believe it or not, sometimes others, including our children and adolescents do have good reasons and ideas.
In his famous program, “Effective Negotiating,” Chester A. Karrass, makes the observation that, in negotiations, often appearing dumb is a great strategy.
The idea is that acting naïve causes the other party to fill in some blanks with information that may ultimately be helpful to you in the negotiation.
Conversely, acting as if you know everything is usually a bad strategy, because you end up supplying too much information too early in the conversation. This habit gives your opponent in the negotiation a significant advantage.
As I work with leaders in organizations of all sizes, a similar observation could be made about leadership. Being dumb is sometimes smart, and being too smart is often dumb. Let’s examine some examples of why this dichotomy is a helpful concept.
To make enlightened decisions, leaders need good information. It sounds simple, but in the chaos of every day organizational issues, it is sometimes…