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…

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Best way to keep your New Year's Resolution!

New Year’s resolutions are great because they help us take a look at the things we want to change in our lives.  Problems occur when we have too many and/or they are too difficult.  

So today, I offer you this task: 

Make a list of 3 people whose opinions matter to you and tell these 3 people your New Year’s Resolutions. 

Discuss with these 3 people:
  1. What you want to change – be very specific
  2. Why you want to make these changes
  3. Steps you are doing to make your changes happen
  4. And tell these people exactly what they can do to help you reach your goals

Let’s use a common New Year’s resolution – weight loss
Tell your friends that you want to lose 8-10 pounds by spring (May 31 to be exact) 
You want to lose this weight so you can get into shape, back into some old clothes, and become healthier. 
The steps you are going to take to get to this goal are, add aerobic exercise to your schedule 2-3 times a week and monitor your food intake with a weight loss app on your phone. 
Finally, tell your friends that you want them to tell you positive affirmations to keep you motivated when you call them because you are emotional and ready to break your resolutions. 

May 2014 the year of achieving your goals, helping your friends achieve their goals, and making stronger friend connections.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday - a day late

If you were looking yesterday for some words from Parents or Dragonflies yesterday you discovered nothing was posted.  It was Christmas yesterday and I took the day off meaning I decided to do nothing work related and only focused on my family.  Today I will share with you my own version of "I have a Dream" so we can start focusing on the future we would like for our children!  

I have a dream that one day all students will be educated appropriately based on their own needs.
I have a dream that every child will be included and accepted by their peers. 
I have a dream that one day all school districts will openly embrace parents who are advocating for their child instead of oppressing them.
I have a dream that students will be taught phonics so they will be able to know how to decode any word and not have to rely on sight memory alone.
I have a dream that that one day school districts will not blame race or income as the reason a student is not achieving and focus on ways to just help those students achieve.
I have a dream that my children and grandchildren will one day live in a nation where they are not judged by their grades or test scores but by their compassion and empathy.   
~ Jill M. Lam

 Hope you had a wonderful holiday time with your family and are starting to think about what you want the next year to look like!  Thanks for visiting my blog!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Motivational Monday with Adam Levine!

Here’s proof that being ADHD is great!  ADHD allows you to be creative, talented, and SEXY! 

Notice in this clip him talking about being messy and his addiction to Candy Crush – 
gotta love ADHD!

People know recent hits by Maroon 5 but here’s one that from the past that’s worth listening to today on Motivational Monday!!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

6 Ways to build Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance in your child at home

Over the last few days I have received numerous phone calls, emails, and private messages via my Facebook pages (The DragonflyForest, Forest Alliance Coaching, & Decoding Dyslexia OH).  The post on Learned Helplessness resonated with so many people.  There was a general consensus that the main source of a student developing learned helplessness is in the school environment and that is the primary environment that needs changed.  The most frequently asked questions related to how, as a parent, can we help our children survive; build grit, tenacity, & perseverance; and heal the wounds that are already established.  This post will provide some insight into what a parent can do at home.

Here are some tips I give parents when helping coach them on raising a child with a learning disability:

Grit is “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.” 

1~Praise children for their effort not the end product or results.  For example, when leaning something say things like “Wow, I like how hard you worked on that problem,” “I enjoyed watching you put so much effort into your project,” or “You did a great job sticking to the problem after not being able to solve it.”  Your child need to hear you say… “We all fail and make mistakes what matters most is getting back up and trying again with new lessons learned.”

2~   Discuss how life is about learning all types of lessons and the goal isn’t to get good grades it is to learn, develop, grow, improve, and change.  When your child fails, and they will fail, focus on what lessons were learned from the failure and how to prevent these from happening again.  Remind your child about how Thomas Edison didn’t fail thousands of times before he successfully invented the light bulb he learned a thousand ways regarding what didn’t work but he persevered and finally found the right way.

3~  Watch movies that demonstrate tenacity such as: Rudy, A Bugs Life, Finding Nemo, True Grit, Karate Kid, The Pursuit Of Happyness, Little Giants, The Rookie, Remember the Titans…. Geez just about any movie really because they all follow the Hero’s journey. 

4~    When watching these movies (or eye/ear reading books) point out the theme of the Hero’s journey.  Remind your child that they too are on their own Hero’s journey.  Point out that on every journey the hero must experience a number of trials and tribulations.  These make the hero stronger and better although they are not pleasant to experience.  Help your child see how his/her own life is on the Hero’s journey path in all different areas.  If your child has a character from a movie or book that they admire point out how this character preservers and “keeps swimming.”  (Dory from Finding Nemo is one I admire!).  When coaching clients I often teach Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s journey and help clients see how it relates to real life.

5~    Be a good role model for your child and point out times you want(ed) to give up but persevered and therefore ways you have grit and tenacity. 

6~    Finally, allow them to express their feelings.  Children will be frustrated when they go through their own trials and tribulations so they will want to vent these frustrations.  When your child does vent he/she may not do so in a productive way.  Your child may throw a tantrum, stomp around, or display a bad attitude.  Ignore these behaviors for the most part (don’t allow holes to be punched into walls) because you don’t want to focus on the anger.  Instead you want to focus on how despite feeling frustrated your child is trying.  Yes, stomping and banging the table while doing math problems is trying.  Focus on how much you appreciate the effort.  When your child is in the heat of venting emotions is not the time to discuss more appropriate behaviors.  Give your child some space and once your child is calm and more relaxed thank them for the effort to make some progress.  Remind your child it is not about a final destination but the journey and how he/she has made some progress on the journey.  

These are just a few examples of ways I help coach parents on helping their child develop tenacity.   Another key to helping your child is to finding something, anything that he/she does well.  Every child needs to be actively involved in things they CAN do, so help your child find things he/she is good at doing.  Every person is good at something – if you need help in this area please feel free to contact me and I’ll help you figure out what your child may be good at doing. 

Remember you are the parent and you can help your child.  Yes, we all agree that school districts need to change so they are teaching students so they are Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance —Critical Factors for Success in the 21st Century.  In the mean time we can help heal some of wounds caused by the school districts.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Shame it needs to STOP and How to help!

Although everyone experiences shame in their lives, people with learning disabilities have to battle shame more often than their non-learning disabled peers.  When children with learning disabilities begins school they learn very quickly that adults (and peers) in their lives think less than ideal about them either via implied or direct messages.  These messages hurt and make the children feel less-than, worthless, stupid, unlovable… Eventually these messages become shame-ridden scripts replayed over and over damaging their self-esteem and leaving deep scars.  Here's a previous post regarding Brene Brown and her research on Shame.

Shame is different than guilt.  Guilt is when you feel bad because of something you did while shame is when you feel bad because you believe you ARE bad.  For example, when a student fails a test one student may feel bad that they just didn’t study hard enough (guilt) while another student feels that HE/SHE is a failure (shame).   Research has provided evidence that shame is highly correlated with addiction, depression, eating disorders, bullying, aggression, and violence.  These are also highly comorbid (common) in students with learning disabilities - this is connected to SHAME!  Here's a previous post about Depression in children what you need to know

Imagine if you will, a first grade student with undiagnosed dyslexia, I’ll call him Charlie.  The students in the classroom are learning to read and although the teacher is teaching the students all the same way and Charlie is putting forth great effort, he just can’t seem to grasp reading skills.  His teacher feeling her own guilt (and/or shame) because no matter what she does he just can’t seem to learn to read or his reading is inconsistent.  Charlie’s parents are experiencing anxiety thinking something is wrong and Charlie overhears his parents discussing their concerns and begins to think something is wrong with HIM. 

Charlie’s parents meet with his teacher to discuss their concerns and are either validated and made to feel they are on the right path or dismissed as over-concerned parents and minimized.  A variety of scenarios will occur here – the school may be receptive right away and assure Charlie is educated appropriately with an Orton-Gillingham method and parent anxiety is reduced so Charlie is less likely to perceive that HE is stupid or something wrong with HIM – or the other extreme and the school denies Charlie has a disability, blames parents and/or Charlie for his lack of learning, refuses to evaluate, attacks parents for wanting to “label” their child,  and therefore Charlie’s parents become more scared for Charlie, his teacher becomes more defensive (due to her own shame or guilt or because her hands are tied by the school) and Charlie now KNOWS that there is something wrong with him that he is stupid.   Most scenarios are fall somewhere in between but the point here is how easy it is for Charlie to feel shame because he is struggling with reading all because he is dyslexic and therefore needs to be taught to read via an Orton-Gillingham approach and that many teachers and parents don’t know about dyslexia so they are not able to tell Charlie that there is nothing wrong with HIM. 

Charlie may share his feelings of shame by saying things like “I’m stupid” or “I’m a failure” but he also may be displaying his shame behaviorally through depression, anger, acting silly, or even avoiding activities that make him feel bad about himself.  When Charlie shares his feelings of shame either verbally or behaviorally, he is validated, minimized, or gets into trouble- then the cycle of shame continues.  Charlie’s peers become part of this cycle as well.  Sometimes it is as obvious as name calling (block-head) but sometimes (and most often) it is relational aggression where he becomes the student that no one picks to partner with or excluded socially.  These only reinforce Charlie’s negative scripts of shame. 

Sometimes Charlie finds a strength and will focus on that strength to counter some of the feelings of shame.  Maybe Charlie is great at tennis so he excels on the tennis court – for some kids this is enough protection from shame invading their whole life.  Charlie, however, is good at some things and could possibly be great if an adult would just step in and nurture his strengths to reduce the pain of the shame.  Unfortunately, adults only view Charlie as lazy, unmotivated, not living up to his potential, annoying, stupid, or a trouble-maker so they don’t want to bother with him.  Again, more validation that Charlie is right, something is wrong with HIM-- he is not good enough! 

I could go on and on about Charlie’s life, explain how shame permeates everything he does, how hard it is for him to be successful because he doesn’t experience much success and when he does experience success he has such a negative self-script that it is difficult for him to accept the success, how teachers and the system consistently add to his bucket of shame (either intentionally or unintentionally) or how the way he deals with shame are often not productive but I won’t because I think you get the picture.

Instead I want to help you see ways we can help Charlie and other kids like Charlie.  I used dyslexia as my example but it can be replaced with any type of disability (ADHD, Dysgraphia, Asperger’s…) and the results would be the same.  I’d like to point out that the more hidden a disability the more likely that the child will have intense shame.  This is because it is not socially acceptable to call a student lazy if she is struggling to get her wheelchair to move instead, we provide her assistance --but it does seem to be acceptable for teachers to call or imply a student is lazy when they are struggling academically and/or socially. 

Ways to make change:

We must first recognize the difference between shame and guilt.  Guilt is “I feel terrible I ate too much over the holidays, I should start working out more” and shame is “I ate too much over the holidays, I’m so fat, I have no self-control, I hate myself…”  Or from the perspective of a young child who lost a game: guilt is “Darn I lost, I feel bad so I’ll have to practice and I’ll eventually win” and shame is “I lost again, I’m such a loser.”   

We need to openly talk about shame and know that everyone experiences shame.  When we hide shame we only allow it to grow more deadly.  We have lost too many people to suicide, especially kids – kids are not killing themselves because of guilt they are killing themselves because they feel shame!  When we shine light on shame and call it out into the open it can no longer hide and we can battle it head on. 

We need to stop putting a negative stigma on mental health disorders (depression, anxiety, bi-polar…) and learning disabilities (I’ll stop calling them disabilities by the way, when we can openly accept and embrace all of them and there is no shame in having any of them – in the mean time I must use the word disability so that educators understand the severity of the problem the student is struggling with)!  When we are proud to share that we are depressed, dyslexic, or ADHD and people/teachers do not make judgments but instead accept us as we are, then and only then will shame be reduced.   

We must label kids appropriately and as early as possible.  Research provides evidence that the earlier a child is diagnosed the less shame and negative effects they experience later on.  Sometimes parents are told “don’t label your child” or “why do you want to label your child.”  The thing is the child is already getting miss labeled which is filling them with shame.  The correct label will reduce this shame.  When adults are finally accurately diagnosed there is a sense of relief that they are not all the negative things they thought they were, they were just dyslexic, ADHD, or have Asperger’s.  You hear about this from the likes of Steven Spielberg, Susan Boyles, Henry Winkler, and so forth. Wouldn't it be great if we can stop the shame before it even begins? 

We need to teach empathy in schools and STOP teaching bullying prevention programs (Empathy is the antidote to bullying).  What we focus on expands and therefore by focusing on bullying and differences we are priming our students to look for bullying and differences.  When we teach empathy we instill in our students the skills needed to see the world through the eyes of others and a result is a more positive support world where people care openly and honestly about others.  A place where there is less shame because when a student hears his peer say “I’m stupid, I failed that test” and that student can tell his peer – “failing a test doesn’t make you stupid in fact, you are so good at [fill in the blank] remember we learn from our mistakes.” 

We need to celebrate all students and stop excluding those that don’t fit the ‘super-star’ mold.  Have you ever been to a graduation or award ceremony that shames those who are not in the spotlight?  This is very common – I wrote about one such event months ago Stop the Shaming but the gist is if the educators had empathy they would be able to see things from the perspective of all the students who were not showered with accolades and at least acknowledge their existence. When students with learning disabilities have to sit in these award events remember they have a negative shaming script running through their heads that tell them the reason they are not getting an award is because they are NOT good enough, they are stupid, or unworthy.  Is that really the message educators want to send – no, but it is still happening.  

I could continue but want you to digest what I have already written.  Don’t worry my Dragonfly friends, I will discuss this again. 

I want to leave you with this…  

**By the way - did anyone think of this Charlie when I discussed the "Charlie" above?  I was not referring to Charlie Brown but I hope you can see the shame that Charlie Brown experienced cause if so, you are developing or have empathy!  

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Who is Perfect?

Ever wonder why people struggle with eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and so forth?  Well one of the reasons is we live in a society that values "perfect" bodies.  We see images everywhere of what is considered "perfect" from what we see on TV, commercials, advertisements - heck we worship these "perfect" people and shame or reject those that are not "perfect. " We have businesses catering to people who meet the "perfect" criteria from "fit" models to the mannequins in the stores to clothes stores refusing to have larger sizes because they don't want "heavy" people wearing their clothes and giving them a bad image.  

Where is the empathy - oh yea, since we are NOT teaching empathy in school we continue to feed into this perception of what is "perfect."  Kids are killing themselves because they are not fitting into the "perfect" mold!  We perpetuate this terrible cycle and do nothing to stop it!  But it can be stopped!  

HOW you ask  - well we can start by not shaming those who are different but instead praising them from being themselves.  Instead of "perfect" models in magazines we need to have REAL models with a variety of body types.  We need to accept and embrace actors and singers for their talent not because of the way they look - we need to reassess what is considered the "Sexist Man Alive!"  We need to change around the world - I wish America would do this:  Proinfirmis    Here is a video of a great start!  

 Here is the link that explains this wonderful video and has the video in it as well in case the above video doesn't show up:  Pro Infirmis - Because who is perfect  

"Disabled mannequins will be eliciting astonished looks from passers-by on Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse today. Between the perfect mannequins, there will be figures with scoliosis or brittle bone disease modelling the latest fashions. One will have shortened limbs; the other a malformed spine. The campaign has been devised for the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by Pro Infirmis, an organisation for the disabled. Entitled "Because who is perfect? Get closer.", it is designed to provoke reflection on the acceptance of people with disabilities. Director Alain Gsponer has captured the campaign as a short film."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Words from Parents and Dragonfly Wednesday

Here is a quote I heard from a parent last week whose child is working his tail off but still getting low grades.  It is what she really wanted to say to a relative at the family get together who was bragging about her "gifted" son who just happens to be the same age...

"Yes, it is good to see you again [name of relative]!  I'm thrilled to hear all about your perfect son, my you seem so proud that he has straight A's, on the honor roll, and on the varsity team as a freshman cause you just spend the last 30 minutes gloating.  You must be the most amazing parent to have "raised" such a talented and intelligent gift to this world.  You must want a pat on the back or a medal of honor since all you do is brag about this amazing human being that loves everyone and is the most popular kid in school so obviously everyone loves him too.  But as I stood there nodding my head and smiling I really wanted to say this - 

Not everyone lives in the world of perfection, some of us are outliers on the outskirts watching from the sidelines.  Here is a list of my son's accomplishments.  My son's is on an IEP and this year we are doing much better since 3 of his 5 teachers are actually complying with his IEP (last year only one teacher complied) so I've only had to write a dozen emails and have a handful of meetings so far this year.  He now has a 2.0 so we are thrilled that he doesn't have any F's like he did last year (remember there were less teachers on board with his IEP).  So you can see there's no Honor Roll kid here.  He is on a few sports team but since the coaches care more about winning than developing young athletics he sits the bench.  This has opened many doors to being picked on and bullied by the other players some of which sit the bench with him but if they get rid of him they would have more room on the bench and the coach may notice them.  As his mother, I've tried to encourage him to focus his energy on things he is better at but he has a passion for these sports and not mature enough to know that he will never be given a chance since his school is all about the gifted and talented kids.  Oh don't worry my son's bench sitting will not cause all those college scouts to stop looking at your child.  Now granted I'm sure my son might do better athletically if we were spending the thousands of dollars on sports training like you are but we are using that money on his tutors and therapist.  Well, I think I've taken about the same amount of time you took bragging about your son to me so I'll let you go back to the land of Perfect and I'll get back to my reality.  Have a good Thanksgiving!"