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…

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Important lesson to teach your child

One thing I know for sure~~  Life is NOT smooth sailing. We are doing our children a disservice if we teach them that everything will be easy.  We must teach them that life if full of rough spots and lessons we must learn.  

As parents we hate watching our children struggle and sometimes we want to rescue them from the pain and suffering.  We want to help make things easier but we must refrain.  We can guide them but they must learn how to handle problems on their own.  We can model for them how to deal with adversity and how to advocate for themselves but we cannot allow our children to believe that it will be easy or quick.  

When we have expectations and these expectations are not met then we feel disappointed and frustrated.  These negative feelings can lead to more negative feelings such as depression and anxiety. 

Parents often ask if they should exempt their child from the school's standardized assessments.  My question is "WHY?"  Why exempt the child from these tests?  Often I'm told it is because the child become anxious and stressed.  Hmm isn't a way to overcome anxiety and stress is to tackle the triggers and learn how to deal with them?  If the child is exempt from these assessments they will never learn how to take tests under negative emotional conditions. Also, these tests are more about grading the school district than the individual student (even if they threaten you that your child will not move on if they do not pass - they are using this psychological tactic to deflect attention that THEY are failing to teach your child).  If your child will perform poorly on a district standardized assessment than you WANT their score to reflect the terrible job the district is doing educating students.  Exempting the child from these tests only hides the reality that the district is failing our students.  So let your child take these district standardized assessments as practice for test taking.  

When your child is struggling with learning remind them that everyone struggles with something and the goal is to learn how to overcome an obstacle. Teach them that the key to success is knowing how to solve problems.  When your child is struggling with a school assignment ask them how they can solve the problem. Help them see ways to work smarter and not harder.  Listen to books on audio, type assignments/speech-to-text, use calculators, Google the question, review Cliff-notes, ask to see a finished product of what the project is supposed to look like, and ask questions.  These things are NOT cheating they are ways to solve problems!   

When students learn ways to solve problems they are less likely to experience learned helplessness (Click on the link - this is a must understand concept!!!).  

Remember that it is important to allow your child to struggle and help them learn that this is normal and we are learning ways to overcome obstacles so we can be successful!  We need to help our children understand the meaning of success - it does not mean money, wealth, status, material items....  Success is being able to overcome obstacles, solve problems, and learn lessons (so we don't keep repeating them).  Also read: 

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

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Spiritual Sunday~ The importance of Outrospection

I teach a lot about being introspection and being mindful - so we are fully conscious of ourselves - strengths, weaknesses, values...  If we do not know ourselves it is more difficult to have empathy!  To make the world a better place we all need to be empathetic of the lives of others.   We need to have outrospection! 

Today on Spiritual Sunday take some time to learn about outrospection!  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Things to do for International Day of Persons with Disabilities!

Today is International Day of Persons with Disabilities and I would like to point out that we, as a society, should be more open to discussing all types of disabilities!   It makes me sad that when schools teach about diversity they exclude the diversity of disabilities and yet disabled people make up the largest and most disadvantaged minority in the world!  

Diversity education programs completely ignore the largest minority group in the world!  Wow that's something to really think about!  We as a society need to do better!  We need to stop discriminating against students with disabilities!  

We really do need to embrace all types of disabilities and stop the shame!  I continue to post that students with disabilities are more likely to commit suicide in hopes that teachers, parents, and school counselors will read this article and make changes to the way they deal with students with disabilities - especially hidden disabilities because these students are NOT lazy!  Stop the Shaming!!!  

Stop teaching anti-bullying because that only focuses on bullying and start teaching empathy because what we focus on we expand and I would rather students aware of being kind to others than looking out for bullies and bullying behaviors - to learn more check out: Empathy the Antidote to Bullying, Bias, and Bigotry!   

Also, teach about disabilities in your diversity education programs - really stop excluding this important minority group!  

Finally, practice EMPATHY!  Watch this video to learn what the difference between empathy & sympathy!  Help make the world a better place!  

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cartoon Saturday - Calvin & Hobbes snow in November

Don't know where you are living but it's cold & snowy here where I am but I'm not ready to give up yet either!  Enjoy~ Jill

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Want to know what I'm thinking?

Well, today is Wednesday & I just felt like saying HI!  Have you ever had so much to do that you don't even know where to start so you just procrastinate?  Yep, that's what I'm doing right now! Wishing I was somewhere else but hey, that's not going to happen so am posting a video of where I want to be.... 

Who wants to go with me? No takers?  Oh well...  Sigh... back to my work!  I guess this will only be in my dreams.  

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Life Lessons from The Hobbit & Lord of the Rings: Must See Movies

*Reposted from December 29, 2013 with new video added to the bottom~

I was finally able to squeeze “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” into my schedule.  Those who know me, know that I LOVE everything about The Lord of the Rings trilogy & The Hobbit movies and books (btw I ‘ear-read’ most books- which means I listen to them on audio, usually while driving).  

What you probably don’t know is why I love these adventures.
These are perfect tales of the Hero’s Journey.  One of my favorite things to do is coach others on their own Hero’s Journey and these movies & books are great examples of the lessons we all need to learn. 

Here are a few of those lessons: 

~~We should focus on a person’s strength not weaknesses. Hobbits (be it Frodo, Sam, or Bilbo) may be small but they are cleaver, courageous, and know the value of friendship.

~~We should value mentors and become a mentor to others.  Gandalf is a perfect mentor.  He can see the strength and potential in Bilbo and Frodo.  Gandalf not only tells them that he believes in them but also pushes them out of their comfort-zones so they can reach their potentials.  By having a strong mentor like Gandalf, both Bilbo and Frodo begin to have faith in themselves.  Everyone deserves to have a mentor in their life so go out there and be a mentor to someone; it makes the world a better place. 
~~Too much of something isn’t good for you.  Dwarves are obsessed with gold (& jewels) and King Thror is so obsessed that he ends up losing his whole kingdom (& thousands of people) because another obsessed creature, the Dragon Smaug.  These are examples of how an obsession causes negative events: Gollum and his precious; Thorin’s desire for the Arkenstone Gem over the lives of others; and Saruman and his quest for power.

~~Being vulnerable makes you strong, not weak.  When we believe that helping others causes us to be vulnerable we not only lose support but we also lose trust.  The Elves didn’t want to risk losing some of their own kind to help the Dwarves so later the dwarves refused to support and help the Elves.  Sam doesn’t want to be vulnerable to Gollum but without his help Sam and Frodo would not have been able to complete their adventure.  This does not mean that you blindly trust others.  Keep your guard up but allow yourself to be vulnerable once in a while so you can become successful.  Don’t be so full of yourself and think you can do it all alone. 
~~It is the experiences we have in life that build our self-esteem and our confidence.  When we overcome an obstacle, hurdle, or quest we change and become stronger.  Sometimes the most difficult challenges are the most rewarding in the end.  There are so many examples of how the characters (Bilbo, Frodo, Sam, Merry, Pip, Bard, the Dwarves…) become better and more self-assured after each challenge.  We need to remember these examples when were are in the middle of one of our own battles because it is often hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel but there will be a light if we keep moving forward. 
~~The way to obtain success when in the mist of chaos is by having tenacity, girt, and perseverance.  Giving up and quitting will not allow you to conquer your demons whatever they may be.  Again, there are countless examples of how each character used tenacity, grit, and perseverance to achieve goals and become successful. 

I use this story (and many others) in my life to help me stay motivated on my own Hero’s Journey.  When times get tough I seek inspiration and guidance in quotes.  Here’s one of my favorites from each film:

Tell me, when did we let evil become stronger than us?” ~ Tauriel (The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug) 
Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. I found it is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay... small acts of kindness and love.”  ~Gandalf (The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey) 
 “Even the smallest person can change the course of the future.” ~ Galadriel (LOTR – Fellowship of the Ring) 
That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.” ~ Sam (LOTR- The Two Towers) 
This day does not belong to one man but to all. Let us together rebuild this world that we may share in the days of peace.” ~ Aragorn (LOTR – the Return of the King)

**Yes, I had to add Viggo!

I know that each movie is long but trust me they are worth watching.  Here’s the trailer of the most recent Hobbit:
(the direct link if you do not or cannot see the video here)

**Update- here's the most recent movie trailer: 

(The direct link of you do not or cannot see the video here)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Joe and his Split Brain Understanding the Right and Left Brain with Alan Alda

I always explain to client, students, friends, and well just about anyone who will listen how our brains work.  Sometimes I can tell that some people either don't believe that we have two hemispheres of the brain or they just can't imagine how each part of the brain does something different (how the right side of the body is controlled by the left hemisphere of the brain and so forth).  Here is a great video of Joe, who had his brain divided/split because of his severe epileptic seizures.  Watch this 10 minute video with Joe and Alan Alda and you will be amazed by our wonderful brain!     

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

5 Ways a parent of children with special needs can reduce the pressure

This post is targeted to parents!  

As parents we have a lot of weight and responsibilities on our shoulders!   We have to work so we can afford to live and raise a family (job duties & responsibilities).  We run a household ~ shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, maintenance, organizing, and juggling the finances.    We raise children to become positive and productive citizens, as well as, spend quality supportive time with each of them.  Unless we homeschool our children we are sending them off to school to obtain an education.  Yes, we are there to help with homework but for the most part we as parents expect the teachers will be providing our children with a solid educational foundation.

This doesn't always happen however when your child has a learning disability.   We now have even more responsibilities that add extra stress to our lives.  As parents we have to spend countless hours researching evidence-based programs so our children can learn; we become experts on our child’s disability; emailing teachers and special education coordinators to make sure our children are learning; spend extra money and time on private tutoring and therapies; devote extensive time re-teaching the class material and subjects that were not learned in school; providing emotional support since our children know they are different; and limitless other responsibilities.   
Normal life causes us as parents to break but there’s even more weight when you are a parent who has children with learning disabilities.

I love this video as an example of what our children expect from us and how as a parent we sometimes just can’t handle the pressure. 

So, what can you do?  Here are 5 things you can do to reduce this pressure.

1.  Take care of yourself first!  Yep that is right, I said it – you must take care of YOU.  Just like in airplanes you need to put on your oxygen mask prior to taking care of your child’s-- the same goes for here.  If you are not able to breath, you will fall apart and what good is an unconscious parent, especially for a child with a disability?  Plus, if you don’t take care of you then who will?

2.  Have a support system!  This support system needs to be made up of others that have similar lives, children, and experiences.  It feels terrible to have to listen to parents go on and on about their “perfect” children when we just spent 3 hours battling with our child about homework, chores, eating, and so on.  When overwhelmed call someone from your support system and complete the next step.

3.  Put a time limit on your venting and make a written list of the positives.  The more we vent the more we feed negative feelings and emotions so tell your support person you are only going to vent for 10-20 minutes and then that’s it, no more.  Once the time is over you can only talk about solutions not problems.  After you have vented you need to reframe life back into positives.  Write a list of positive things in your life.

4.  Keep your list of positives with you so you can look at them when you are feeling depressed or anxious.  Remember what we focus on expands so focus on the positive things we have in our lives whatever they may be.

5.  Find ways to mentally escape!  As parents of children with learning disabilities we take on a lot of extra responsibilities and need time to mentally escape so we can relax.  Make a list of ways that you like to mentally escape: Songs that make you feel good and/or pump you up; books that have nothing to do with parenting and disabilities (eye-read and/or ear-read); TV shows or movies; exercise activities such as walking in the woods, aerobics classes, biking…; or other activity that reduces your stress level.

Remember that you don’t want to be like Frankie from the TV show “The Middle” shown here in this video where you snap.  If you can take care of yourself then you can reduce the chances that this will happen to you.  

Finally, know that you are doing a great job!  You have the hardest job in the world and just by showing up everyday fighting the fight you are a great parent!  Kudos to you!!!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Feature Friday: Words of Paul Hugh Ross

Words have a lot of meaning for me.  I write my own blog posts, poetry, and quotes but I also collect the words of others.  When I eye-read or ear-read words that touch my soul and connect with me in some way-- I must keep them.  I store them in notebooks and fill my bookshelves.  Today I want to share with you the words of Paul Hugh Ross. 

I have shared with you before about Paul Ross – here in aprevious post

Well, I just received Paul’s book and I’m excited to present this to you today as a Feature Friday, especially because Paul will be launching his book tomorrow in London at the Festival of Dyslexic Culture. 

I don’t live in London, I’m clear across the ocean in the United States but I wanted you to know about this book and know that just because you cannot attend this cool event or meet Paul as he launches his book you can visit his website: Dyslexic Thoughts In Words and watch cool videos like this the following on his YouTube Page.

I made a picture quotes of one of my favorite poems: 

I’d like to say Thanks Paul for opening up, being vulnerable, and sharing some of your soul.  I hope you have great success at your book launch!  

Monday, October 27, 2014

Motivational Monday Stephen Tonti Empowering ADHD people

What peaks your curiosity?  Where do you hyper-focus? Stephen Tonti shares his story about ADHD and how it is NOT a disorder but just a difference in cognition.  Here he is giving an inspiring talk.  You don't have to be and ADHD Dragonfly to appreciate this video because he really supports that no one has a disorder we just are different.  He also explains how we need a healthier understanding of these differences and how parents and teachers can become positive influence instead of a negative impact.
"Let society conform to me!"    

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Cartoon Saturday - running a 5K

Running in the 5K Dyslexia Dash this morning - eeek this might be me!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Communicate with anyone via Vocre a language App!

As you know I believe in working "smarter not harder" so I'm sharing a great app you can get to help you do this!  

Learning a foreign language isn't easy for everyone, especially Dragonflies!  Some of us can take years of a foreign language to only know how to say a few phrases.  Sometimes people have a communication failure because of language barriers or fear traveling to places that do not speak their native language.  Due to the advancements in technologies we can now communicate with people via our phones or tablets.  There is a great app called Vocre.

Here's a video of how it works: 

The great thing about this app is there are at least 23 languages to choose from and it is simple to understand.  This is not to say that people should not try to learn a foreign language, especially if they have an interest and desire.  Heck, even Richard Engel who is dyslexic, is fluent in many different languages.  

Now, if you struggle learning a foreign language here's an app that can help you navigate the world of communication!  Here is the link to the app with much more information!!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why it's better to use the word disability instead of difference!

(click on play if you want to hear me read this to you - remember that I am dyslexic so I make a few errors but I'm okay with that - because I want others like me to be able to hear what I have posted).  

October is Dyslexia and ADHD Awareness month!  Yes a whole month in honor of ME!  Okay, that’s a little lot egocentric of me to assume that this month is about just me.  I know I am not alone in having ADHD and Dyslexia so the odds are you have at least one of these and if you don’t then you are related to someone who does!  

I think it is great that we have a whole month devoted to awareness because it gets the word out that ADHD and Dyslexia are real – there is scientific evidence that they exist!!!! 

What I want to discuss here is the importance of the word disability instead of “difference.” 
As a person who IS dyslexic and ADHD I am often ask why I still use the word disability instead of the word difference.  Here’s why.  There is NO cure for dyslexia or ADHD.  I have dyslexia and ADHD because of the way my brain is formed and nothing will make that change.  When a deaf person gets a cholera implant they may be able to hear but they are still deaf- the implant is only a device to help them hear.   My brain can learn new things just like any brain but the general structure of my brain will always be the same. Because school and society are structured for non-ADHD & non-dyslexic brains and since I often don’t fit into these molds I struggle in some settings. In many settings I am just fine and I have learned exceptional ways to accommodate for my ADHD and dyslexia so I can “fit in” or “pass.”  

The legal definition of a disability is – “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual.”    Well, this IS me, especially in a school setting.  Because of my dyslexia I am a very slow reader (that’s an understatement), I cannot decode unknown words (really- no joke), I have terrible spelling (unfortunately I can never spell unfortunately without having spell check or looking it up), and I do not know my times tables (no clue on the 4’s & 6’s).  These make it challenging for me to keep up with my peers in a classroom setting and substantially limit my learning, reading, and writing (I am also dysgraphic so that makes it even worse).   Because of my ADHD I am highly distracted by my own thoughts (I can live in Jill-Land), other people (love people watching & interpreting body language), and auditory/visual distractors (I hear/see something I lose track of what I’m thinking & saying).  In a classroom setting I have way too much stimulation and therefore my learning, concentrating, and thinking are substantially limited.  I am disabled in classrooms, workshops, & some work settings but I can still be successful if I have appropriate accommodations. 

As mentioned I have exceptional ways to accommodate.  I use technology consistently.  I rely on auto correct and spell check for spelling and writing.  I type almost everything that another person is expected to see so my dysgraphia and dyslexia are not obvious.  I use a calculator and I triple check my answers just to make sure I keyed it in correctly.  I ear-read as much as I can and always have a book on audio in my car while I drive.  If I cannot ear-read the written material then I just take my time and read slowly.  Even though I cannot decode unknown words I have an excellent visual memory, vocabulary, and ability to infer (strong reading comprehension).  So even though I may mispronounce the word, I understand what I am reading.  For my ADHD I have strategies to keep me focused and on task, such as, standing, walking around, taking breaks, and doodling when listening (this allows me to pay attention & keep the distractions in check).  Since I am no longer in a classroom environment I have the freedom to use these strategies.    

So to me, saying I have a learning difference actually trivializes my challenges making me feel shame.  By saying a child has a learning “difference” instead of a learning disability is, I believe, harmful.  If you, as a parent, are uncomfortable with the word disability then just call it what it is – dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD…   Using the word disability does NOT make it negative but using the word “difference” does not make it positive.   Telling me that I just learn differently makes me feel judged that I am not working hard enough despite working my butt off but still experiencing challenges; which then makes me just feel stupid.  Calling it a disability makes me understand that it is not my fault just like it is not a blind person’s fault if they bump into furniture.    

I am not stupid!  Saying I learn differently makes it seem that I’ll be able to academically perform as my non-dyslexic/non-ADHD peers.  This will not happen because of the way my brain is set up.  I have been taught my times tables in many different ways – flash cards, timed tests, repetition, colored coded, with stories, & via songs but I still struggle with remembering most of them and my math fluency is still slow.  I need to use a calculator so I can keep up with my peers in learning math concepts.  Same is true for reading.  I’ll confess that I have never been taught via an Orton-Gillingham method and do know that I would be able to decode words had I been taught phonics instead of whole language.  Even if I learned how to decode words, my reading fluency would still be slow and therefore ear-reading is much easier for me than eye-reading.  I need accommodations to keep up with non-dyslexic/non-ADHD peers in some areas – not all because I excel in the area of reading body language, empathy, and many others abilities I have that my peers do not have.

Let me explain it this way because I know some of you are shouting right now that it is a “difference” not a disability. I assume that you are a parent and you yourself do not have dyslexia and/or ADHD or you would be more understanding of why the word disability is a positive term.  We all have differences but the differences of being a person with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, Asperger’s, blind, deaf…. are huge when having to function in an environment that is not conducive to those “differences” and that is what makes them disabilities.  If a deaf student is in a classroom of other deaf kids and students/teachers that sign instead of using their voice, then the deaf student is not disabled but put that same student in a classroom of speaking students/teachers they are now disabled.  A student with dyslexia in a classroom of non-dyslexic peers who are decoding and reading fluently while the student with dyslexia struggles to keep up and has to be taught to read in a different classroom-- IS disabled! 

There is nothing wrong with the word disabilities and when we call dyslexia a disability in certain settings assures us that our rights are protected.  Students with ADHD and/or dyslexia (and any other disability) need to be protected in schools from having their rights violated so calling it a “difference” will not protect your child.  It will also not damage their self-esteem if the word disability is used.  Call it what it is – dyslexia, ADHD, Asperger’s…. and teach them all the great things about who they are as a person and all the other people out there like them.  Help them learn ways to accommodate with technology and other strategies.  Focus on the positive and you will get positive.  

Finally, during Dyslexia and ADHD Awareness month please understand that the word disability isn’t negative it just provides a more accurate description of what is happening so a person’s rights can be protected.  See, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA) provide protection for people ONLY if they have a disability.  They don’t protect people with “differences.”  Unlike other laws to protect people from being discriminated against (Civil rights law of 1964) to be protected under ADA and IDEA you have to have evidence that you actually do have a disability and that this disability substantially limits a life function.  I want to make sure my rights are protected.  I want to make sure the rights of my children are protected.  We need to assure that people with dyslexia, dysgraphia, ADHD, Asperger’s… are NOT discriminated against and to do this we need to use the word disability.  I am dyslexic, dysgraphic, and ADHD and I am proud.  These are disabilities when in certain settings but these are also the nature of who I am and are my superpowers. 

We must first have awareness and then eventually we will have acceptance. We need to embrace the word disability and know it is not a bad thing but will help protect us from discrimination.  We need to also accept the labels of dyslexia, ADHD, dysgraphia, Asperger’s…. because these labels provide insight into who we are.  We cannot stop there with one label we need to redefine ourselves every day with new labels.  We need to not let others define who we are!  I am NOT stupid, lazy, unmotivated, ignorant….  Once we have self-acceptance then we will be successful!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A message for when times get tough!

Life isn't always easy and you will have experiences that will test you but remember that you cannot hold on to the feelings of pain and disappointment for too long or they will consume you.  You need to face the challenge, learn the lesson, know that you will be okay, take a deep breath, and just move on.  The goal is to focus on a brighter future!  Hang in there my Dragonfly friend!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Being afraid of retaliation and what to do

I have been dealing with some issues lately - these are all related to not wanting to be retaliated against for having my own thoughts, opinions, and experiences.  

I have written so many things I wanted to post but all of them end up sharing some true and honest events that have occurred with a person or people in the school district my children attend.  Even if I did not mention the district or the person/people and wrote about the topic in general, I was afraid of retaliation.  

I write frequently about how students with disabilities are marginalized and discriminated against because teachers do not understand what it is like to be a student with a disability.  When parents stand up for students or advocate for their own children, retaliation occurs.  It is often covert but sometimes it is overt.  It is a way to keep parents in check; a way to bully us into silence.  

No parent wants their child to be treated poorly and no parent wants to be excluded from school events because they have been supporting and advocating for their child/ren.  The hard reality is... this happens so frequently and right now I feel that I am being held hostage because I want to attend an event with my daughter due to the fact she is a student with a learning disability that also has severe anxiety as a result of being LD.  I'm scared because there is a history of them denying me these opportunities because I am a parent who speaks up for ALL students with disabilities.  I believe that they retaliate in these ways to bully me into silence because there is NO reason I don't qualify for these events.  I'm actually over qualified because of what I do for a living, my background, and my education.  Furthermore, I have always been respectful to others even when they have been disrespectful to me.  I have always treated others with kindness and shown empathy.  I do NOT attack others or come across in an aggressive way.  That is just not my nature so the only thing they have against me is the fact that I remind them that we have to include ALL students and educate students appropriately.  

I am paid by other school districts to conduct professional developments on Empathy, Inclusion, Supporting all students, Diversity (including disability diversity), and Understanding Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, ADD/ADHD.  I have offered these services to the school district my children attend for free but they have never accepted my services.  I know it is a way to keep me in my place and most of the time I'm fine.  Right now, I'm scared.  I'm afraid that even being honest about how scared I am and how school districts in general keep parents in check by using retaliation I am putting myself at risk of being excluded from an event I am qualified to attend.   

This fear is real and causing severe anxiety and depression.  I know writing about it is risky and I bet you are wondering why I decided to post this today.  Why was I willing to openly share how scared I am of the retaliation?  

Well, it has to do with the fact that many parents are bullied into silence for speaking out for their children.  Retaliation is real and it happens all the time to parents and children.  I hear these stories on a daily basis.  I have always been open about my experiences because I believe that we need to make changes for the better and we can't do better if we don't know better so we must face reality and be open about what is happening. 

I want to be the voice of those who can't or don't know how but what happens when I am the one that is retaliated against because I am that voice?  Who will help speak up for me?  Why do I have to live in fear?  I'm posting this today to give me strength and courage to keep doing what I am doing, because if I don't - who will?  

I will not be bullied into silence.  I am going to discuss these issues because they are important.  I will, like always be as discrete as possible because I know that every thing I do and say is being used against me and my children.  We will all suffer.  I will say this - I can't wait until all my children graduate from the school district they are attending because then I will be free.  I will be free to say what really has happened over the years, I will be free to share my own stories without being told that I need to watch what I am saying about the district, and I will be free from this anxiety and depression caused by knowing retaliation will be occurring.  

So here is what I want you to know parents - go ahead and keep that journal documenting all the events that happen with your children- the good & the bad.  Keep the emails and recordings of the phone calls in a safe place.  Speak up about what is really happening to your child and at all cost protect your child.  When retaliation occurs take it with stride that you are doing your job as a parent and taking care of your child.  Know that you are helping other parents by being strong and not backing down.  

One of the reasons I have been filled with anxiety and depression is the fact that I know the district has me by the balls (so to speak) and if I say or do anything they will prevent me from being able to be there to protect my daughter when she needs the most protection.  It then feel terrible that I can't be my true self.  I can't take care of my children in the way I need to take care of them.  I'm scared and therefore I wrote about it here with a belly full of acid and tear running down my cheek.  

I thank you for your support and appreciate you taking the time to read this post.  I am hoping to get my courage back!  Bear with me as I work on making myself stronger.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

Why disabilities need to be included when teaching diversity

I recently went to a Diversity Conference that was hosted by my school district, where my children attend and I am on the Diversity Committee.  When planning this event, as usual, I kept pushing to make sure that Disabilities (especially learning disabilities) was on the agenda as well because we really need to embrace ALL diversity.  I have been wanting to report on this event and share with you the really great sessions I attended.  I will touch base briefly on the three sessions I attended (there was a lunch session but it was really us just chatting & eating).

Session 1: “This Exit, No Return”: Voices of parents whose children have severe disabilities and what they want the world to know.  Dr. Joy Cowdery  

This session we read from a play that depicted the voices of real parents who have children with severe disabilities.  As you can expect, I cried and I cried, oh yeah, I cried.  Good thing I have courage to be vulnerable.  Being able to put myself in the shoes of another comes easy for me.  I am also a parent of 3 kids with disabilities and a person with disabilities so I could really relate to the emotional rollercoaster the short play takes you on.  This was very powerful.  I also highly enjoyed the conversation after with other parents.  We, parents of children with disabilities, are the minority and it would have been great if parents of “typical” children (majority) attended this session- but they didn’t (unless they were an intervention teacher & that doesn’t count - it’s their job).  The minority of us need for the majority to understand what it is like to live in our shoes and see the world from our perspectives.  This is the same as a person of color wanting those in the majority race to understand what the world is like for them.  The more that is understood the less we will be judged and discriminated against.  I’m not sure if Dr. Cowdery is a parent of a child with a disability because either she didn’t disclose or I missed it somehow.  The play was the “voices” of real parents of children with disabilities and that left a lasting impression. 

Session 2: It’s Possible: How to begin Including LGBTQ themed books into the curriculum.  Dr. Dee Knoblauch

After coming off the emotional rollercoaster from the last session I was knew I would cry again in this session and of course, I did.  Dr. Knoblauch explained the importance of having books in the classrooms and libraries that have characters and/or subject matter about people who are LGBTQ – Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, & Questioning.  She shared with us lists of appropriate books she has already read and researched. These books are appropriate for middle and high school.  I was thrilled to get these lists.  As a counselor I suggest books for clients to ear-read or eye-read as a form of biblotherapy.  When we read books with characters and situations similar to ourselves and what we are going through, we can relate and feel connected.  By reading we can live vicariously through the characters, learn lessons, and know we are NOT alone.  Being LGBTQ is being a minority in a world where the majority is not often open and accepting. I appreciated Dr. Knoblauch sharing her own personal experiences being a lesbian, living with her partner while raising daughters together because this information gave credibility to her choices of appropriate reading material.    I’m in the processing of checking for Dr. Knoblauch to see if these books are also available in audiobook format since I ear-read SOOO much better than I can eye-read.

Session 3: Teaching African American History: Movies, Music, and Multimedia.  Dr. Hasan Kwame Jeffries

I’m a movie fanatic and, like books, they can be used in counseling to help clients work through some of their own issues.  As you know I’m a passionate inclusionist and want everyone to learning to see the world through the perspective of others!  This is the best way we, as a society can become stronger and a great way to build empathy (remember – Empathy is the antidote to bullying,bias, & bigotry).  Dr. Jeffries was outstanding as he explained how he taught African American History to students using movies and critical discussions.  As he held up the movies and started to talk about them, I cried.  Not the boo hoo crying but the tears just flowed because I know these movies, I have made my own children watch these movies when it was my pick for “Family Movie Night” in the Lam house.  I raise my children the same way I was raised – teaching empathy, acceptance, and understanding along the way.  This session was validating to me because I am raising my children the way Dr. Jefferies is teaching his classes- having them watch movies and then critically discussing them. I was also thrilled to learn of a few movies that my children have not seen and I will make sure that I get these movies soon.   

Lessons learned - the lived experience of being disabled from the person with the disability:

I really enjoy learning new things and having the opportunity to attend these sessions.  I was glad to see that there were some sessions on dyslexia (Dyslexia simulations & Dyslexia 101).  I did not attend these sessions for a couple reasons.  First, as a person with dyslexia I know firsthand what it is really like to live with this disability.  Second, I teach others about dyslexia and conduct simulations, although I do much more work at explaining how the dyslexic brain processes language, how appropriate accommodations can alleviate frustration, and able to provide examples from my own life. 

I also feel that to really educate others about what it is like to be a specific race, culture, sexual orientation, or disability the presenter should be of that race, culture, sexual orientation, or have that disability.  I always find it interesting when I hear non-disabled people speaking about what it is like to be dyslexic, dysgraphic, or ADD (all my invisible disabilities) because they really have NO idea what it is like to grow up and live with these disabilities on a daily basis.  Nevertheless, many people feel they can teach about what it is like to have these disabilities because they have a child with one, took classes, or read some research/books.  That’s kind of like me teaching a class on what it is like to be Asian because my husband is Asian and my children are half Asian.  Now, I can teach a class on Chinese New Year because that is about the traditions we do in our home to celebrate. I can teach about what it is like having biracial children or being in an interracial marriage. Are you still not convinced that a person with a disability is the best one to teach about what it is like to live with that disability?  Do you still think that it is okay for a non-dyslexic person to teach a simulation on what it is like to be dyslexic?  Well, then, let me put it this way… who would be better to teach what it like to be African American – a white person or an African American person?  

Although I can empathize what it is like to be discriminated against being LGBTQ it would be inappropriate for me to be the spokesperson for the LGBTQ experience.  Can I still support them – you bet!   Being in the majority population of sexual orientation my support, empathy, and understanding would be a wonderful way to make the world a better place for the LGBTQ (or any race/culture/disability…).  I have many friends that are LGBTQ that I love and respect but it would be an incongruous of me to teach about the lived experience of being LGBTQ.   

I often explain that I would make a TERRIBLE drug and alcohol counselor because I’ve NEVER been there.  I could counselor them as the books and research tell me to – evidence based research of proven methods to overcome being an addict, but I would be a major failure.  I would be a failure because the whole time I would be thinking – WTF, just stop drinking, doing drugs, watching porn… I would be making judgments all along that I am better because I don’t have these addictions and this makes not only an ineffective counselor but also an unethical one.  I believe that the best addictions counselor is one who has been there.  A person who has spiraled to the depths of addictions and survived so they can take others along the same journey without judgment. 

The world would be a much better place is we really celebrated ALL types of diversity and those who are diverse can teach us.  I want to know what it is like to be a person of a specific race, culture, religion, sexual orientation…. the list goes on but I want to learn this information from someone who IS that race, culture, religion………    The more understanding we have the more empathy we will acquire and the less hate and discrimination will occur but we first have to realize that the best teachers are the ones who live though the experiences.  

Here are some great picture quotes that really express the importance of teaching about disabilities from people with the disabilities.  When was the last time you learned about the history of the disability rights movement?  Did you even know there was a disability rights movement?  

Why do we ignore disabilities when we talk about diversity?  Why is it okay to ignore that disabilities don't exist?   The rights of every person with a disability - visible or invisible are being violated frequently.  This would not be tolerated if we treated a person of a color or religion these ways.  Think about it! I am so blessed to be in a school district that holds a diversity conference so we can all become better people!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Spiritual Sunday - Letting go of people

Have you ever put more into a relationship than the other person? Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who ignores your or minimizes you?  Have you ever felt that the relationship you are in is unbalanced?  Well, if the answer is yes to any of these questions than you are in an unhealthy relationship and need to GET OUT!  

Sometimes we think that we need to be liked by others or have their approval but this is not true! Need some more information on this visit - Who are you! 

When we invest ourselves in a relationship with another person we are being vulnerable and it can hurt when the other person treats us poorly.   You need to stop trying to make this relationship work. You need to just let this person go because you have one life to live and you should live it with people who want to be in your life.  

At times the person who is treating you poorly is a person that you must come into contact with on a regular basis - a family member, coworker... You may feel that you are stuck.  You are NOT stuck. You can still be respectful to this person but they are NOT worthy of hearing your stories, sharing your experiences, or even your time, effort, or energy.  Do not be mean to them because by being mean they then have the power. They do not deserve the power over you.  Remember you are a person with integrity so don't treat them poorly in any way.  

The goal is to just let them go.  Let them go from your thoughts and your life.  When you do come into contact with them be professional and that's it - let them go.  You will be better off, you will feel better, and you will be so much more successful.  

Oh, if you really struggle letting go because you can't stop thinking - read this How to Let Go!