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…

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday

"When asked what I tell other parents here's my response: Learn all you can about how the brain works, your child's disability, and teaching methods that work because it is YOU who will be teaching the teachers." 

"I'm stupid and there is nothing you say that will change my mind."  ** this was from an 8 year old this past week in a coaching session as we worked on preparing to go back to school.   

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Cartoon Saturday - Family Circus ADHD

*The character, Billy, in the comic The Family Circus is a great example of an ADHD mind.  Love these!!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday

"It has been so great to see my son's self-esteem approve over the summer since he doesn't have to be subjected to challenging school work all day long."

"I'm not looking forward to school starting up again because I hate going to school since reading is hard and teachers don't help me."

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What are movie theaters doing for people with disabilities?

Super excited that the new WOLVERINE movie is coming out this Friday.  I am so thrilled that I will be going to the first showing on Thursday night!  Yep, I am that kinda Dragonfly!  I love going to the movies! As an empathetic person I often think about the movie theater experiences of people with different types of disabilities.  I love that there are open areas where people in wheelchairs can sit next to their friends, although I honestly don't know from the perspective of a person in a wheelchair if these areas are really wheelchair friendly.  I do often think about my Dragonfly friends with sensory issues, impulsivity, deaf/hearing impaired, or who are blind/visually impaired.  

Here are some things you should know:

AMC has Sensory Friendly Films that are conducive to people with Autism, sensory issues, and their families.  Here's the link so you can check out times and locations in your area:  

AMC is also sponsoring special summer movies for only $3.00 where some of the proceeds go to the Autism Society - Check out to see where and when in your community:  Autism Society & AMC events.

It appears that AMC Theaters cares about people with disabilities. The company has what is called the Focus Program that hires people with disabilities to work at the theater.  I tried to link the video here so you can watch but I am computer challenged at times so here's the direct link to watch this heartwarming video of this program. AMC Focus Program.

Although these are great things AMC is doing, their employees need some empathy training (heck, I want to have empathy training programs in all schools & companies).  Recently a young couple with down syndrome was treated poorly by staff at an AMC here's the news video:

Regal Movie Theater appears to be getting ahead of the other theaters when it comes to providing access to movies for the deaf/hard of hearing and visually impaired.  

Check out these cool glasses: 

Although I hear from some of my Dragonfly friends that they don't like the glasses and I understand that because I dislike going to 3D movies because I don't like the glasses.  I would be fine if the movie displayed open captions right on the screen.  I often have the captions on at home.    
Just because YOU don't have a specific disability does not mean you can't advocate so everyone can enjoy the movie theater experience!   

Here's something you can do: A bill was introduced in March (S.555-Cinema Act) to make it a discriminatory practice to not provide movie access to people with visual and hearing disabilities.  Go here for more info: Senate Bill 555  

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Someone you should know: Nelson Mandela

Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela who turns 95 today-- July 18, 2013.  

Nelson Mandela is someone you should know!  

Did you know that the United States is not the only place where there is a racial divide?  The Apartheid in South Africa didn't end until 1994 so there are still many racial challenges to overcome. Sadly, many Americans do not understand the severe racial segregation of the apartheid.  For decades (even in the 1990's) black people were legally allowed to be treated inferior to the white people.  People were segregated based on the color of their skin in all areas of their lives: schools, housing, medical care, beaches, and so on.  

Nelson Mandela stood up for equality and against the apartheid which resulted in years of imprisonment.  He never gave up hope.  He kept his faith and eventually became the president of South Africa from 1994 - 1999.  He is a model of acceptance, freedom, equality, and empathy.  

Children around the world should be educated on the history of South Africa and Nelson Mandela.  We can only hope to make changes for a better world when we learn from the mistakes we make.   Equality for all humans is the goal!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday - judgement

"Don't judge me.  I am not stupid, lazy, or being rude.  I just don't learn the way you do and don't always know what to say to people.  I wish you could walk in my shoes for a week and then you would finally understand."

Monday, July 15, 2013

Bias opinions and jury verdicts

This post is NOT about trying to prove the jury in the Trayvon Martin George Zimmerman case was right or wrong in the decision they made; it is about being open to critical thinking, bias thinking, and how our own experiences can taint our perceptions.  A while back I posted about confirmation bias and implicit bias (We all have bias opinions).  These are VERY important concepts to understand and I fear that they are not appreciated by most people in our country (I am focused on the United States because that is my frame of reference). 

Over the last few weeks I have heard and read many comments how this case is/should be/shouldn’t be… about race.  This case is NOT about race, it is about bias and prejudice and one of these areas of bias happens to be racial.  Racial profiling exists everywhere, you cannot change that fact.  I find it very frustrating when I hear (or read) a comment from a person how they are “color blind.”  This is impossible, no one can be color blind.  This is how we label and judge people; it can be overt or covert.  You are often unaware of the biases you have but they ARE there!  It is human nature and I encourage everyone to take the Harvard Implicit Bias Test (Harvard Implicit Bias Testand you will see that it does exist!  Bias and prejudice exists in all people: toward all races, genders, ages, and even people with disabilities. 

The characters of the people involved in this case, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman were discussed by the attorneys and the media.  Sadly, each side used confirmation bias to prove their points often painting a picture of what they wanted the women on the jury to perceive about each person.  This is another way to continue the bias perceptions and beliefs.  For example, Trayvon was portrayed as a criminal with a history of deviant behaviors and drug use.  What was not mentioned is how he only had the developmental level of his teenage brain and his previous life experiences as a young black male.  I have written about the teenage brain before and how this brain is cognitively different and not as mature as the adult brain (Understanding the teenage brain what you need to know and How the brain works).  This is important to understand.  It is also important to understand that white entitlement exist (here’s a great blog piece that explains this: white-privilegeand African Americans are still treated differently. 

Here’s a video clip from Michael Moore’s movie “Bowling for Columbine” about the History of America (yep, I’m aware of my confirmation bias here folks): A Brief History of the USA Bowling for Columbine.

Okay, see there really is a long history of bias and prejudice – this was only a few examples and sometimes our own history books are based on white perception, but that is a whole different post I will write in the future.

The point I am trying to make here is that no matter who we are or our personal experiences our thoughts and opinions are tainted.  We MUST work to fight against our initial reactions and look beyond our biases (we must first acknowledge that we have them too).  We must work hard to become empathic and see the full picture.  One of the movies I suggested parents watch with their kids this summer is “12 Angry Men” (Must See Movie - 12 Angry Men).   

Here’s a great clip from the movie that makes a great point.  I again recommend this movie to watch with your children, especially now.

So with all this information what should we do?  WE NEED TO STAND UP FOR CHANGE!  The jury has spoken.  You may or may not believe justice was served but we must move on from here. We must acknowledge that we do discriminate and only focus on the things that validate our beliefs while ignoring things that go against these beliefs (confirmation bias).  We must stand up against prejudice and bias. Accept that we have implicit biases, because we ALL do.  We must question our own opinions and test out if we would feel the same way if the people were of different races, genders, ages…  Then we must ask ourselves if we are being truthful or is it just more confirmation bias.  

We must make laws that make sense.  We need to be a more UNITED America not divided state by state when it comes to laws.  We need to hold the law makers accountable for their own biases and prejudices.  I have sadly seen too many politicians not understand how their own experiences taint their decisions.  What often happens is a politician has a strong opinion about a matter until it directly affects their own life (gay marriage, dyslexia bills, gun laws…).  Why are we not teaching and practicing empathy?  Why must we be so self-absorbed and egocentric?  Open up your eyes, ears, and heart so you can be a person who makes these changes.  This isn’t about being a specific political party it is about being an empathetic human being. 

Please do NOT use my blog post for your own confirmation bias to attack or defend your own beliefs and opinions as to the verdict.  This post is to help you have empathy, open your mind to the other person’s perspective, understand what it is like to really be in someone else’s shoes, and unite together to make appropriate changes to our laws so this tragic can NEVER happens again.  If you want to help others, than share this blog to spread empathy to others.   


Friday, July 12, 2013

How to have a positive school to build self-esteem of all students

I do not always share my personal stories with you for a couple of reasons: one I am trained as a counselor/therapist and have been conditioned to stay focused on the client; and two, my story isn’t just about me but it is also the story of my family members and not completely mine to share.  With that said here’s a story I think is worth sharing:

As many of you know I have a private practice diagnosing all types of learning disabilities and providing coaching/counseling services.  I am also dyslexic, dysgraphic, and have ADD – a Dragonfly.  I knew that I didn’t fit in from the time I was in 1st grade.  I spent years hiding the fact that I couldn’t read, spell, or write like my peers.  I learned how to use my strengths in order to fit in via a variety of other ways but was hyper-aware of all others who didn’t fit in and became in “inclusionist.”  I made a life out of finding other Dragonflies and helping them set and achieve goals. I have always been the one who goes to the person standing alone, invites people to sit with me who are searching for a seat, and include others in conversations if they are standing near me (I also have a number of deaf friends so I'm use to making sure everyone is on the same page in a conversation).  In other words, I seek out others to make sure they are included.  This is just a part of my nature and always will be.  I have a hard time with people who are excluders, people who ignore others, are out for themselves at all cost, and are bullies.   I also wanted to be the best mom to my children, knowing they too would be Dragonflies (I married a Dragonfly so it was inevitable).  

Here’s the story:
My oldest son has a new girl “friend” and for some reason I asked him if this new “friend” knows that he is dyslexic and dysgraphic?  He harshly stated, “NO WAY.”  I was surprised by his reaction and asked how he feels about being dyslexic and dysgraphic.  He shared with me that he is SO embarrassed and ashamed that he doesn’t want anyone to ever know.  I thought “wow this is my kid… really?”  He admitted that he would rather be considered “lazy” than dyslexic and dysgraphic.  I cried.  This is not what I wanted for my child; insecurity and shame.

I went to my other two children and asked them how they feel about being dyslexic and dysgraphic (and one is also ADD).  My middle son and my daughter both told me that they are comfortable and confident with who they are and are not ashamed.  They both reported they wish their brain was like other kids because sometimes learning new things was challenging.  My middle son told me that he only wishes he could have an English teacher accept him for who he is someday.  This son is actually a very creative and gifted writer but always ends up with English teachers who focus on his errors instead of his talent (one of his goals is to become a published author like Avi, Henry Winkler, or John Irving – and I know he will someday).

So how did only two of my three children become comfortable and confident with being dyslexic and dysgraphic despite me raising them in a supportive and accepting home? 

Here’s how:

When my oldest son entered kindergarten I believed in the education system.  I am from a family of educators and thought the only things that needed changed were some teaching methods and curriculums.  Over time I learned I was wrong, dead wrong!  The whole system needed changing but I didn’t really discover this until my oldest was in 3rd grade (he’s now going into his junior year).  From that year on I was on a mission to change the whole education system from a competitive shaming environment that excluded children who didn’t fit into a system that includes all children, appreciates diversity, fosters empathy, and all students are educated individually and appropriately.
This no longer was just about assuring that an Orton-Gillingham approach of reading was available to all students, it was about changing the culture and climate of schools!  Let me tell you that this battle is even harder than just adding a new methods and approaches to the curriculum.  For example, the school district that my children attend now requires every intervention teacher to be trained in the OG based reading program, Wilson; but many of the schools still have a strong “us versus them” competitive academic environment.  I'm on a mission to help improve schools cultures and climates so they are a positive place for all students. I have worked on these changes in a non-aggressive, supportive, collaborative approach and by working directly with administrators in districts and having free workshops for parents, teachers, and administrators. 

As a result of my lessons learned from the experiences with my oldest child, my younger children had a much better experience in school (not great but better).  I no longer just focus on getting appropriate services for my younger two children I also focus on influencing the perceptions of the teachers and administrators so the culture and climate of the schools can change.  So instead of having 4 years of shaming and academic competition like my oldest received the younger two had more experiences where their strengths were praised (although I could tell you some stories where some teachers/administrators refused to comply and were/are as stubborn as toddlers – it’s still a work in progress).  

Here are some things I have learned:  How to change the culture & climate of a school

Finally, here are some great videos that really drive home this point by Richard Lavoie:

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday

This is from a parent of a child who was just diagnosed:

"Sometimes I feel guilty about not having caught my son's problem sooner.  I feel bad that he had to struggle so long just because I didn't know about his disability.  I know that I did the best I could but I still feel guilty. I also feel angry that the school had to know because he was so far behind but they didn't do anything to help him.  I worry about what his future will look like."

This was from a parent whose child just graduated:

"I am thrilled to see my daughter graduate because it has been such a long and difficult journey but this journey made her a better and stronger person."  I am so proud that she is the woman she is today because of her disabilities.  She now has the confidence to go to college and although it will be challenging I know that she has the strength and drive to reach her goal."

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Independence for all

Today is the celebration of Independence in America.  Take a moment today to think about what this word means:

~ not to be controlled by others~ self-governing~ not requiring or relying on something or someone else~showing a desire for freedom

Do you have independence?  Are you helping teach your child independence or are you keeping them dependent.  Sometimes we forget that one of the best things we can do for ourselves and our children is to practice living independently.  

Happy 4th of July!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday

"Just because I don't speak much about others does not mean that I want to be left out."

"If my child isn't doing something well at school.  Do not assume that we are NOT working with him at home.  Do not assume that we don't care about his education, because we do care.  We are working at home with all of our children."  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Lessons from LR Knost

Empathy is the key to making the world a better place... Think about it!