The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Thursday, September 21, 2017

5 ways to deal with a professional who bullies and intimidates

Have you ever been in a meeting where someone behaved toward you in a bullying way with the intent to intimidate you?  

This may happen if you are working on trying to enlighten others to see a different perspective, you are challenging their confirmation bias, and/or you know more than the other person.  

We all have biases and we need to understand our own biases while also understanding the biases of others.  Click here's more about biases!  Sadly, many people are unaware of their biases and therefore make judgments and decisions that are skewed and/or inflexible.  

As a therapist and person with exceptionally high empathy, I tend to naturally spin the actions of others to look beyond their behaviors and emotions to the underlying reasons.  I do not often allow the negative behaviors to turn my behaviors and feelings negative.  This isn't always possible, especially after being personally attacked.  Since I am often in meetings being the voice of my clients I am frequently in situations where professionals do not act professionally. Other professionals (teachers, counselors, school psychs, administrators...) can use bullying and intimidation tactics instead of appropriate more professional forms of communication. This may happen as a response to the professionals picking up the anxiety, sadness, fear, and frustration from the parent of my client.  Parents of children with disabilities tend to have a lot of negative experiences as they work to getting their child appropriate services in an educational environment so they come into meetings bubbling with a lot of emotions.  The unprofessional bullying behaviors from professionals are also, at times, a reaction to me enlightening them to things they don't want to see or know. Sometimes it's because they realize that I know much more they do and they are feeling insecure. 

The problem with me being a therapist and person with exceptionally high empathy.... people think that they CAN intimidate and bully me!  Yes, I put up with a lot of crap from people because I can see that the person doing the bullying and intimidating is really insecure, afraid, less educated, weak, or has at least one 'ism' (racism, ableism, sexism...).  Because I don't bully or intimate back, the other person usually assumes they have won or "put me in my place."  

Don't ever assume that tolerance and empathy are weaknesses!  I am NOT weak!  I am more powerful because I don't attack back I work to create a better understanding for all.  I work to assure that everyone is felt validated.  This takes much more patience and skill to behave with integrity than "putting someone in their place" by bullying or intimidating.  

Here are 5 ways you too can be the better person when attacked by a professional using bullying and intimidation tactics.

1.)     The first thing you need to do is BREATHE!  You may or may not be shocked that a professional just used bullying intimidation tactics to attack you but either way, you will feel the punch in your gut so you must remember to breathe!  So right after it happens- take a deep breath in, all the way down to the bottom of your lungs and let it out slowly.  As you breathe in think similar words "I'm in control," "I'm better than this ASS," or "I will not be intimidated."  As you let your breath out think calm and relaxing thoughts.  You need to do this so you don't allow the ASS to win by pissing you off.

2.)    After you take a breath in and out--put a smile on your face.  Yes, this may seem passive aggressive but the bullying intimidator needs to know that you are not being "put in your place." This smile is there as evidence that YOU are the better person and gives the message that you cannot be attacked in this fashion.

3.)    This smile will also help you remember that professionals who use bullying and intimidation as a communication strategy are NOT being professional.  By keeping your cool, YOU are being the professional in the room!  Professionals do not attack even when attacked.  Professionals are mature adults that understand empathy and support.

4.)    Don't take anything the bullying intimidator says personally.  Their amygdala is out in control and they are in a lower level processing part of their brain -- think immature monkey.  They will do and say just about anything at this point & their goal is to squash you.  If they see you are taking it personally they will continue to attack.  When they see you are not bothered because you have a smile on your face they will be even more pissed off.  Do nothing back to the bullying intimidator but show as much kindness as you can muster.  It will make them even angrier and their true colors will be displayed in the meeting.  FYI be careful because retaliation will occur so you must document everything.  Parents of kids with disabilities & professionals who advocate for them are often the target of retaliation because we continue to fight battles the school districts often want us to give up on.  

5.)    Finally, reward yourself for not attacking back but standing your ground and letting the bullying intimidator know that you will not allow others to treat you this way.  Know that you were being the better person by not stooping to their level.  Don't let the behaviors of others stop you from fighting for yourself or your child.  

Key take-away:  Even when others act in an unprofessional manner continue to have integrity and behave in a manner that will make you feel pride.  People who bully and intimidate are lying to themselves if they feel proud of their behaviors or justify them by blaming others.  

(Image: photo of a brown dragonfly on a stem that also has a spiderweb attached both all covered with small drops of dew creating a dragonfly with stunning wings covered with small water beads and a cobweb enhanced by hundreds of tiny water drops and a quote from Karen Horney - “If you want to be proud of yourself, then do things in which you can take pride” )

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Depression in school-aged children especially those with disabilities

 Please share & here's a link about WHAT TO DO ABOUT SUICIDE!  

A true story about depression – this could be you:

A student, "Thomas." has a learning disability and an IEP (the type of LD doesn’t matter as any will fit here for this story).  He knows that he doesn’t learn like the other students, is often excluded by his peers (bullied as well), and feels overwhelmed in the school environment.  Over time Thomas became depressed, he refused to attend school, and eventually he contemplated suicide.  His parents have always been strong advocates for their son and contacted the school seeking help. The parents were surprised when instead of receiving support they were attacked and blamed for his current situation.  The school principal became defensive and stated that the parents are at fault and they “need to work with them, not against them.”  The guidance counselor also condemned the parents stating as a counselor she is too busy to address all the needs of the students and she has done nothing wrong waiting for over a day to return the phone call.  The parents got help for their son outside of the school district but were not able to obtain appropriate support at the school which was the source of the problem. 
The Facts:

September is Suicide Awareness week and October is Depression Awareness Month so I want to address an issue that is often brushed aside and minimized.  It is depression.  Depression is one of the most common mental disorders and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) 1 in 11 children will experience clinical depression before the age of 14.  Furthermore, the risk for depression increases as a child gets older and is the leading cause of disability among Americans ages 15-44 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Depression affects a person’s entire physical and mental well-being. 

Did you know that students with learning disabilities (LD) have statistically higher accounts of depressions than their peers without LD?  Having a disability makes attending school challenging.  Students with disabilities know that their lives are not under their control, they are painfully aware that they don’t fit in, have academic failures, and experience a number of social rejections. Unfortunately, depression is not addressed in schools (another forbidden “D” word).  Many if not all kids with learning disabilities experience Learned Helplessness and this does NOT mean the child is coddled by their parents! Read this article to educate yourself on Learned Helplessness!

One of the reasons depression is not discussed, is shame.  Parents already experience a number of emotions regarding having a child with a disability.  To make matters worse, teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and administrators often blame parents for the child’s academic struggles and behaviors.  I am frequently in meetings where school staff members give parenting advice and have blatantly stated that the child wouldn’t have these difficulties if the parents would only…“read with the child, help with homework, stop doing the child’s homework, discipline consistently, stop cuddling the child, reduce their social/sports schedule, increase their social/sports schedule”, and the list is endless.  When parents already feel responsible for their child’s struggles these comments only make the situation worse, not better.  This “blame the parents” approach makes it more difficult for the parents to bring up concerns about depression and the school staff perceiving the symptoms of depression as a parenting problem.

The second reason depression is not discussed is because people don’t know the symptoms of depression in children and adolescents, especially ones with a disability.  The symptoms of depression are often common signs for other problems and the severity of these symptoms is not taken seriously.    

The following are some symptoms of depression (these will be unique for each person):
  • Irritability, anger, angry outbursts  
  • Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness – feeling melancholy or sad most of the day
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Over clinging to parents
  • Feelings of anxiety, phobias
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection or criticism
  • Changes in appetite - either increased (weight gain) or decreased (weight loss)
  • Changes in sleep (sleeplessness, too much sleep)
  • Crying, temper tantrums, or sulking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue (tiredness) low or decreased energy
  • Physical Complaints or chronic pain (stomach aches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment (possible real physical problem or feigning illness)
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Reduced ability to function during activities at home or with friend, in school, extracurricular activities, and in hobbies or interests
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Getting into trouble, increased behavior problems
  • Inability to experience pleasure or excitement even when doing activities that were pleasurable
  • Mania or putting on a good front by being over happy
  • Experimentation with drugs or alcohol
  • Thoughts or talk of death or suicide
To get a direct perspective of what depression it is like for a popular non-learning disabled student watch this video of Kevin Breel (Confessions of a Depressed Comic):  Watch one of the two - sometimes phones do not allow a video to play so you have two options to choose from but they are the same video!

Embedded video 

What can be done:

Depression can be treated and children experiencing depression MUST be treated because if they do not get help it will only get worse.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) once a child experiences depression, the child is at risk of developing another depression within five years.  Eventually, the child may contemplate or attempt suicide.  Did you know that according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 5-15 year-olds?    

If we continue to minimize depression we risk losing children to suicide.  Is this a risk we want to take?  NO!

So, make sure you, as a parent know what to look for regarding depression.  Ask the school staff members to also be educated on depression and look for signs and symptoms in all children.  The earlier this is caught the easier it is to treat. 

(Image: black and white photo of a student sitting at a computer desk with books and a computer on the top of the desk and the student is sitting with his/her head down being held up by his/her hands with elbows resting on the desk.  Quote from Stephanie Sergent Daniel's article 'Reading Disabilities Put Students at Risk for Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours and Dropping out of School' - "In our study, poor readers were three times more likely than typical readers to consider or attempt suicide and six times more likely to drop out of school.  Educators and parents should be aware of the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adolescents with reading problems.")

(Image: a figure sitting with their hands clasped and their head down and the words "Did you know?  1 in 11 children will experience clinical depression before the age of 14 & suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 5-15 year-olds?  It's time to talk about depression")

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Why Bill Gates is a Part of the Educational Problem

There’s an article going around the internet posted by Huffington Post titled: Gates Says Fixing Education Toughest Challenge.  In this article Gates is quoted as saying: "And the one thing we have a lot of in the United States is unmotivated students.”

Wow, this is not reality.  We do not have UNMOTIVATED students we have students who have not been educated appropriately and therefore they have developed Learned Helplessness. I wrote an article on The Importance of Changing Learned Helplessness in Students with Disabilities and would love for Mr. & Mrs. Gates to understand the reality of why students are not being successful.  I know of many very intelligent students who dropped out or failed out because of this Learned Helplessness experience.  This article was very popular and I received a number of emails from people who wanted to tell me their story because this was exactly what they were/had experienced. 

I later received emails and phone calls from parents who were frustrated because they took the Learned Helplessness article (or emailed it) to the school and the staff often disregarded the student developed learned helplessness and continued to blame it on being unmotivated and unwilling.  This prompted me to write another article: Why We Should Help Studentswith Learning Disabilities. 

We need to admit that we as a nation are doing it wrong when it comes to education.  We are rewarding the wrong behaviors, setting kids up for consistent failures, and using an arbitrary grading system (Grades, ACT/SAT, and Standardized Tests).  In a more recent article I address this topic: Students don’t Fail, the Education System is failing our Students!

So, what can we do about this?  We can admit that it is uncomfortable to face reality.  To look at ourselves in the mirror and see the naked truth.  Our education system is the problem.  If Mr. & Mrs. Gates want to make the world a better place than they need to put money into education research.  We need to educate our children and stop letting so many of them fall through the cracks as if these kids don’t matter.  Mr. & Mrs. Gates could help financially support programs that are evidence based such as making sure all schools have systematic, explicit, and phonic based reading approaches/programs.  If a student is not progressing at grade level then this student is to receive one-to-one tutoring until they are at or above grade level.  We need to stop allowing teachers to just pass a student on or fail these students. 

We need to stop with the standardized testing and focus on educating these children.  A teacher can tell if a student is behind in the areas of reading, writing, and math.  We don’t need a standardized test to prove these students are behind.  Teachers should be allowed to identify these students so they can receive individualized support and the school district should pay for each student who is behind an individualized tutor until the student is at or above grade level.  Failure should NOT be an option.  We need to stop waiting until the standardized test scores come out to finally decide to help some of these students.  We need to stop waiting until the student is so far behind that it is almost impossible for them to catch up.  The school system is squishing the self-esteem of many children and causing students to develop learned helplessness. 

So here’s my final message to Mr. & Mrs. Gates.  Stop being a part of the problem.  Saying students are UNMOTIVATED is fueling the negative fire already in these children.  They are not UNWILLING they are UNABLE!  If I had the funds you have I would be making a difference in the way we educate our students, the way we motivate, and the way the culture & climates of the school are focused on competing against each other and not supporting each other for success.  I’d spend money educating the educators on EMPATHY because Empathy is the Antidote to bullying!  Honestly, education is not as challenging as Mr. & Mrs. Gates think, it will just take a while to see the positive changes once the discrimination stops.

Finally, if you want to know what discrimination does to a person watch: Dr. King &Lessons from A Class DividedPeople with dyslexia and other learning disabilities are often discriminated against in the educational system.  There are rumors that Bill Gates himself is dyslexic but I do not believe that it true.  I believe if he was dyslexic then he would have empathy and stop blaming our children (here’s a great article by Pam Wright: The Blame Game!  Are SchoolProblems the Kids’ Fault?).  I do not believe that Mr. Gates knows what it is like to struggle or be discriminated against.  If this opinion is not true, then Mr. Gates can enlighten me but in the meantime, I have no evidence to prove he understands what it is really like in the shoes of someone who struggles.

Here's a picture & quote from a child who experienced only a couple of days feeling bad about himself. Think about what our current education system is doing to children and then tell me that kids are UNMOTIVATED Mr. Gates!  

Sunday, August 6, 2017

How students with disabilities are discriminated against in schools - the problem: Ableism

This article is to help you understand that people with disabilities (visible & invisible) are discriminated against and it needs to STOP. 

The REAL problem with our education system isn’t the common core curriculum but ableism.  Ableism like any other “ism” is the belief that abled people are superior to disabled people and the only way to do things (learn, read, walk, see, hear…) is the non-disabled way.  Ableism is a form of prejudice that is not only overlooked but tolerated, condoned, and defended.  

Think about it - how often do schools teach and celebrate people with disabilities?  When schools address diversity they avoid or disregard the diversity of disabilities (actually a form of ableism). 

School districts proudly state they have a culture and climate that supports inclusion but this is not reality until we openly embrace people of all kinds of disabilities.  

I wrote this article to help you understand ableism in our schools.  Here is a great litmus test – if you replace a person’s color, religion, or gender with a disability in a situation you will come to realize that schools are discriminating against students with disabilities.

·        In order for a student with a disability to receive an appropriate education there must be proof he has a disability.  Race and gender are no longer allowed to be used to deny a student an education but if a student with a disability does not meet the school’s eligibility requirements then he is denied an education.
For example, Jane has dyslexia which makes it hard for her to decode and keep up with her peers in reading.  Jane did not qualify for special education services because she is passing her subjects and her standardized tests scores are “average.”  The school denies her an evidence based reading program (explicit, systematic, phonics based approach) and requires her to learn to read via programs conducive to only non-dyslexic peers.  Umm Ableism!

·        School systems and even some parents tend to focus on “fixing” the student with a disability instead of creating educational environments conducive for all students with disabilities.  The problem lies in the belief that something is wrong with the student with a disability because they do not fit into the ‘abled’ school or society setting. 
For example, Jack not only has learning disabilities but he also experiences anxiety (often this is a result of years of discrimination, being made to feel something is wrong with them, and not being educated appropriately).  Teachers (and other adults) believe that Jack should learn information in the way they are teaching and function like his non-disabled peers.  These assumptions cause teachers to focus on “fixing” Jack by forcing him to do things their way – be it eye-reading, handwriting assignments/test, speaking in front of others…  The goal is to create an all new Jack, one that looks, acts, and learns like his non-disabled peers.  Is this okay?  How would you feel if white teachers focused on teaching African American students how to look, act, and behave white so they would “fit in?” 

·        Referring to a person having a disability as just having a ‘difference’ is abilism.  Using the label of ‘difference’ does NOT take away the disability.  Instead of empowering a person by using the word ‘difference’ the person is actually being marginalized.  When students are told about their disability and it is acknowledged, they experience less shame.  Students with disabilities are well aware of how different they are from their non-disabled peers.  Minimizing their disabilities as just a ‘difference’ causes students with disabilities more difficulties.  Often it is a parent pushing for the label of ‘difference’ because the parent is struggling to come to terms with their child not being ‘normal.’  “See my child isn’t abnormal she is just different.”  The same can be said for the person who refers to themselves as not having a disability but only having a ‘difference.’  Denying the disability is the same as denying one’s gender or race – we are what we are! - Learn why the word disability is better!

·        School counselors and teachers tend to believe that a good way to include students with disabilities is to have a “Buddy” program where non-disabled students are paired up with students with disabilities.  Hmm, let’s put this program to the test- would it be appropriate to assign non-white students a white “buddy” so they can be included in the majority white mainstream culture?  NO, this would be racist! 

·        Anti-bullying programs are everywhere (which are actually counterproductive by the way – here’s what works better).  Sadly, students with disabilities are often the target in bullying situations and school staff members condone the behaviors of the bullies.  If the student being bullied does not fit in as ‘normal’ than these students are blamed for causing the problem.  Parents of students with Asperger’s or on the Autism Spectrum are often told by school counselors and teachers that the student would benefit from social skills counseling.  The goal here is to get the student with a disability to fit in so THEY no longer are the target to the bullying behaviors.  What if a student was being bullied because of his religion?  Would it be appropriate to tell the parents of a Jewish student they need to take their child to counseling so the child can learn ways to fit in with his Christian peers?  

·        School districts require students to learn a foreign language but most refuse to offer American Sign Language as an option.  Students with learning disabilities especially language processing disabilities and dyslexia struggle with learning the English language but are forced to participate in classes were they will not be successful and are informed that no accommodations or modifications can be provided (I’ve been told this one personally).  This is actually discrimination.  When parents request their child be provided a more appropriate course, parents are told they must find and pay for the course themselves.  What happened to free and appropriate education here?  Furthermore, isn’t the school supposed to be a safe environment for students?  By forcing students with disabilities that impede their ability to learn a foreign language to meet foreign language requirements the school district is causing unnecessary emotional distress. (Universities like Yale even exempt students with dyslexia from the foreign language requirement - taking foreign culture instead so why can't high schools?)

·        When teachers tell parents that Little Johnny would be doing much better in class if he could just stay focused is ablism.  Little Johnny has ADHD and he does not need cured with medication or more discipline.  What Little Johnny needs is understanding and accommodations.  Telling him to “just try harder” is discrimination.  Assuming he is lazy is abilism – he has a disability and yet he is expected to behave as if he is ‘normal.’   Negative comments like these are actually attacking Little Johnny’s self-esteem and in turn makes the ADHD worse.  Students with anxiety, depression, and other disabilities experience more negative judgments than their non-disabled peers.  Instead of embracing and understand the individual students, school staff members are discriminating against the students who don’t fit in or are more difficult to teach.  Hmm what if school staff members said these judgmental comments to students based on their race, gender, or religion?

Are you aware that inclusion is NOT really inclusion and here are some examples of students with disabilities being excluded:

Did you know that students with disabilities that require them to receive more individualized support for their disability are excluded from extracurricular classes such as art, gym, music, or even recess.  These classes and activities are a great way for students to interact with each other, build social skills, self-esteem, and feel included.  Research has shown that the social and emotional health of students with and without disabilities has a direct impact on their academic success. A school would never be allowed to use race, gender, or religion to exclude a student from classes and activities but do it daily to students with disabilities.

Furthermore, schools have a minimum GPA requirement for a student to participate in sports with no accommodation for students with disabilities. This is often a state rule but schools do have the power to make some adjustments based on the individual student.  Sometimes a student is trying exceptionally hard academically and they just can't meet the grade expectations so they are punished by not being allowed to participate in sports. Denying these students the opportunity to participate in sports because they are not successful academically is discrimination and ableism! The Department of Education agrees that students with disabilities should NOT be discriminated against and allowed to participate in sport. Furthermore even the NCAA understands that not all athletics will meet academic eligibility, here's an excerpt & link: "For academic eligibility purposes, the NCAA defines an education-impacting disability (EID) as a current impairment that has a substantial educational impact on a student's academic performance and requires accommodations." I have written frequently on how it is NOT okay for teachers and school districts to allow students to fail: Why are students failing if schools are required to provide a free and appropriate education? and Students don't fail, the education system is failing our students!

What you should be able to notice in this article is how able-entitlement is one of the problems.  When you are able – able to walk, read, talk, see… you assume that everyone else can do what you do and if they do things differently than they are doing them wrong.  You believe that your way is the best way despite research providing evidence to the contrary. 

School staff members must realize that ableism is a form of discrimination or prejudice against students with physical, mental, emotional, or intellectual disabilities.  Ableism is characterized by the belief that these students can be fixed, are not as capable as their non-disabled peers, and would be successful if they would only try harder, focus more, or learn in the way their peers are learning.

School districts boast that they are opening and accepting of all students, celebrate diversity, recognize multicultural concerns, and have a mission to facilitate maximum learning for every student.  Sadly students with disabilities are excluded in all ways.   

Finally, as a person who focuses on the positive and strength of the student I have no problem with the term disability but I prefer to use appropriate labels – Autism, Asperger’s, Anxiety, ADHD, Depression, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia….   Teach students to work to their strength and stop trying to make them all fit into a mold of ‘normal.’   When teaching about diversity include people with disabilities.  Remember excluding or ignoring students with disabilities IS ableism.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Dr. King & Lessons from A Class Divided

People really need to understand discrimination. RE-sharing this from past posts for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  

To start watch "A Class Divided" 

Yes, Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes is a powerful video on racism.  It gives insights in to the personal experiences of how we discriminate based on the attribute of the color of eyes or the color of one’s skin.  Let’s think outside of the box on this one and see how this is also a great lesson on how we treat people with learning disabilities (Dyslexia, ADHD, Dysgraphia, Asperger’s….) and other types of disabilities (physical, deaf, blind…) in school settings. 

To help you understand this I’m going to explain it as “Butterflies” vs. “Dragonflies.”  Butterflies are “typical” students who learn easily; have athletic and/or academic talents; and viewed by others as beautiful.  Dragonflies on the other hand are students with disabilities and challenges (with or without IEP/504’s); they struggle academically, athletically, socially, and/or emotionally; and are viewed by others as scary, not fitting in, and different.   In school environments it is often assumed that “Butterflies are better than Dragonflies.” 

The Butterflies are more likely to be given extra opportunities in school such as crossing guard or member of student council.  Teachers are concerned if they give Dragonflies positions of responsibilities they will not be able to handle the job so they can only be given to Butterflies.   

Butterflies are picked more often for awards and accolades because they are “easy to teach” and “well-liked by their teachers and peers.”   For more details on this check out my post on Stop the Shaming: why ceremonies and graduations need to change.  The Dragonflies are not often not given these awards and accolades because: they are so challenging to teach; they may be experiencing Learned Helplessness (explained in the linked post) from the years of discrimination, shame, and pain that they have just given up trying; they just don’t fit in socially.

Butterflies are given positive reinforcements in the classroom while the Dragonflies often receive negative reinforcements.  When you observe an elementary classroom room where a teacher has a Colored behavior chart more Dragonflies are on Yellow and Red than Butterflies.    The Butterflies are most likely on Green and get to run special errands for teachers or get to sit in special places in the room. 

As you can see the list of the differences can go on and on but the key point here is how Dragonflies are not just discriminated against by their teachers but this treatment is seen as acceptable to their peers as well since the students will model the behaviors of the teachers. 

So when thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. today think about how we still treat students who learn differently (academically or socially) as less than the students who are “Mainstream” learners.  Dragonflies are often excluded from classes that Butterflies receive automatically such as gym, art, and other electives because the Dragonflies need extra teacher support to learn. Schools require students to take these foreign language classes and although students with learning disabilities would benefit from Sign Language it is too much trouble to make this happen so they just have to struggle (causing emotional pain) or not participate (excluded from a class open to non-disabled peers).  For some reason it seems acceptable to the adults to take away opportunities from Dragonfly students using the reasoning that teachers can’t work beyond school hours, it would cost too much to provide the services, or they don't want to make a specific accommodation.  For more details on this visit the following post: Dr. King’s Legacy Regarding Discrimination in Education.

So here is my question to you: What are we really teaching our children in schools?  Are we teaching them empathy or are we teaching them discrimination?  By excluding the Dragonfly students from the events and opportunities that are freely given to Butterflies we are condoning discrimination.  I am often told that the Butterflies have “earned” these privileges but the Dragonflies have not so they do not deserve them.  So you really think that because Little Johnny can’t read that he should have to be pulled from gym, art, or recess so he can be taught to read?   By the way, maybe we should go back to teaching student using the Orton-Gillingham reading program- look for this scene in the movie!

Maybe you think it is safer to not have Little Sarah as the library helper because she has impulsive ADHD and may get lost in the hallway or forget what she was doing (or is it really because it would just be easier for you to not have to supervisor her so you will send the “responsible” student).   Then there’s the student who is socially awkward and wanted to be a “student leader” but you think that a different student would be a better role model (the 'popular' student).  By denying students these opportunities you are discrimination against them and perpetuating the belief that there really is something wrong with Dragonflies.  

We need to practice lessons we have learned from Dr. King:

Friday, July 28, 2017

What the 5 Monkey story can teach you about INSIGHT!

What is Insight?  Insight is "the capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or a thing."   This can mean having Insight into yourself or others.  

Today as the first day, I want you to gain insight into thinking about behaviors. 

Here's a psychology experiment that you must know about: 

The 5 Monkeys ~~

What this story teaches us is how we are sometimes a product of our environment and have no idea why we do what we do.  With insight we can make conscious changes not only in ourselves but also in the world.

Some of you may question if this was a true experiment and it wasn't but it is based on a true experiment (see below).  If we have insight we can see this happening in our daily lives.  I often hear in school meetings that something was done or going to be done because "it has always been done this way."  Geez that's really scary now if you think about it, right?  

"Stephenson (1967) trained adult male and female rhesus monkeys to avoid manipulating an object and then placed individual naïve animals in a cage with a trained individual of the same age and sex and the object in question. In one case, a trained male actually pulled his naïve partner away from the previously punished manipulandum during their period of interaction, whereas the other two trained males exhibited what were described as "threat facial expressions while in a fear posture" when a naïve animal approached the manipulandum. When placed alone in the cage with the novel object, naïve males that had been paired with trained males showed greatly reduced manipulation of the training object in comparison with controls. Unfortunately, training and testing were not carried out using a discrimination procedure so the nature of the transmitted information cannot be determined, but the data are of considerable interest."

Sources: Stephenson, G. R. (1967). Cultural acquisition of a specific learned response among rhesus monkeys. In: Starek, D., Schneider, R., and Kuhn, H. J. (eds.), Progress in Primatology, Stuttgart: Fischer, pp. 279-288.
Mentioned in: Galef, B. G., Jr. (1976). Social Transmission of Acquired Behavior: A Discussion of Tradition and Social Learning in Vertebrates. In: Rosenblatt, J.S., Hinde, R.A., Shaw, E. and Beer, C. (eds.), Advances in the study of behavior, Vol. 6, New York: Academic Press, pp. 87-88.

Friday, July 21, 2017

What you need to know about depression and suicide!

RIP Chester Bennington!  So sad to have lost you!

Everyone had difficulties and challenges that need to be faced.  People should not have to face these alone but often some have no choice.  Yes, people will say "talk to me," "what's wrong," or "I'm here for you, all you have to do is ask."  Well, some of us can't ask.  Some of us know that others do not want to really hear how bad things are because there is nothing that can be done.   We have to put on a smile and make the world a better place for others and we can't share the cold hard reality of what is happening.

Sometimes we do ask and no one takes the time to listen.  We can even cry and share our pain only to have the other person minimize what we are feeling or try to sugar coat things.  Well this only makes the person feel worse, not better.

So how do you convince someone that life is worth living?  You can't!  You can tell someone that you care and show them by listening to them unconditionally but that is only if they are willing to talk and chances are, the person may not be willing to share what exactly is going on.  Chances are no one can make things better.  Only the person who is dealing with the difficulties and challenges can actually make changes and make things better.  Often they just want to have someone listen to them, really listen with no judgment.  This is not an easy task for people to do- listen without judgment.

When a person commits suicide you often hear how shocked everyone was because the person who ended their life was always so happy and had everything going for them.  Why does this happen? This happens because no one really wants to face the reality that a person can be depressed, so depressed that they feel that life is no longer worth living.

Yes, the person thinking of suicide takes the feelings of others into consideration but what they know is that the relationship will still be there.  There will still be some good memories and the person contemplating suicide believes that they are saving their loved ones from more pain if they end their life because obviously they are such a burden to begin with or the loved ones would listen with empathy.  People often see the "signs" of depression and suicidal ideations after the fact but these signs were there long before they just didn't care enough to notice.  Maybe that sounds cruel, to blame the ones left behind but I believe that it is the society we live in that needs to carry the blame. We live in a society where it is not okay to talk about depression and suicide.  We live in a society that shames people for being different.

If you have a friend who is depressed and shared some dark thoughts then be there for them, push them to open up and discuss their feelings and thoughts without judgment.  Help them!  Stop ignoring them and pretending that everything is okay.  If you suspect that something is wrong and ask the person how they are and they say "fine" with a smile on their face-- push harder because chances are your instincts are correct.  If you think that a person would not commit suicide because they have everything going for them, then think again, many people put on a mask everyday and hide their pain. Don't accept an "I'm fine" from someone you suspect is NOT fine.  Seek them out and be there for them.  I promise you it will make a difference.  Sometime all a person needs is to know that their life does matter.

So, here's my final word on this - there will be some people that no matter what you say or do will make the choice to no longer live in pain.  You must forgive yourself if you know that you did all you could to make a difference in their life and prevent them from ending their own life - you did all you could do.  If you did not do all you could do.  If you were distant or avoided their dark side- all I can say is this is guilt you have to live with because people who are that depressed need support and you made the choice to not provide that support.

Take 11 minutes to listen to Kevin Breel talk about what it is like to be a person with depression and suicidal.  He could be someone you know!!!


Here's a song I sing often - from one of my favorite movies & TV shows - MASH:


I have written a few other articles about suicide and depression - check them out: My story is not over!Henry Rollins gives-adviceDepression in school-aged children; and many others.

(Image: photo of a brown and tan dragonfly and quote from Chester Bennington (frontman for the rock band Linkin Park)- "You're constantly trying to prove yourself, even after you've made it.")

(Image: blue and black dragonfly surrounded by blades of grass that are tinted grey and a quote from Orson Scott Card's book 'Ender's Shadow'- "In my view, suicide is not really a wish for life to end.' 'What is it then?' 'It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide.")