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, 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!  

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Important thing to remember on 9/11

Today is the 13th anniversary of 9/11 a very tragic day for everyone in the world.  I wanted to share this again because it is so true. 

Parents who lost children in 9/11 would give anything to have them back.  Let us remember those who were lost on 9/11 - each and every precious human being!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

David Raymond's essay is a must read (On Being 17, Bright, and Unable to Read)

This was shared last November 14th but worth sharing again because the school year has begun! 

Message to teachers and parents: Dyslexia is real!  Dyslexia impacts more than just reading and writing but it also impacts a person's self-esteem.  As a person with dyslexia, parent of three children with dyslexia, and a Psycho-educational Diagnostician & Educational Coach (I diagnose all types of learning disabilities & provide coaching/counseling services as well) I can honestly say that I'm disappointed that our educational systems continue to make it difficulty (both academically and social/emotionally) for people with dyslexia to receive an appropriate education.  It's not like Dyslexia is new!  Here's an essay that was written by a student with Dyslexia, David Raymond (born in 1959) while he was in high school and published in the New York Times in 1976.  YES, this was published in 1976 but it could be written by a 17 year old student now, in 2014!!!  There sure is something wrong with our education system if this experience hasn't changed in 38 years!

On Being Seventeen, Bright, and Unable to Read

David Raymond

One day a substitute teacher picked me to read aloud from the textbook. When I told her "No, thank you," she came unhinged. She thought I was acting smart and told me so. I kept calm, and that got her madder and madder. We must have spent 10 minutes trying to solve the problem, and finally she got so red in the face I thought she'd blow up: She told me she'd see me after class.

Maybe someone like me was a new thing for that teacher. But she wasn't new to me. I've been through scenes like that all my life. You see, even though I'm 17 and a junior in high school, I can't read because I have dyslexia. I'm told I read "at a fourth-grade level," but from where I sit, that's not reading. You can't know what that means unless you've been there. It's not easy to tell how it feels when you can't read your homework assignments or the newspaper or a menu in a restaurant or even notes from your own friends.

My family began to suspect I was having problems almost from the first day I started school. My father says my early years in school were the worst years of his life. They weren't so good for me, either. As I look back on it now, I can't find the words to express how bad it really was. I wanted to die. I'd come home from school screaming, "I'm dumb. I'm dumb—I wish I were dead!"

I guess I couldn't read anything at all then—not even my own name—and they tell me I didn't talk as good as other kids. But what I remember about those days is that I couldn't throw a ball where it was supposed to go, I couldn't learn to swim, and I wouldn't learn to ride a bike, because no matter what anyone told me, I knew I'd fail.

Sometimes my teachers would try to be encouraging. When I couldn't read the words on the board they'd say, "Come on, David, you know that word." Only I didn't. And it was embarrassing. I just felt dumb. And dumb was how the kids treated me. They'd make fun of me every chance they got, asking me to spell "cat" or something like that. Even if I knew how to spell it, I wouldn't; they'd only give me another word. Anyway, it was awful, because more than anything I wanted friends. On my birthday when I blew out the candles I didn't wish I could learn to read; what I wished for was that the kids would like me.

With the bad reports coming from school and with me moaning about wanting to die and how everybody hated me, my parents began looking for help. That's when the testing started. The school tested me, the child-guidance center tested me, private psychiatrists tested me. Everybody knew something was wrong—especially me.

           It didn't help much when they stuck a fancy name onto it. I couldn't pronounce it then—I was only in second grade—and I was ashamed to talk about it. Now it rolls off my tongue, because I've been living with it for a lot of years—dyslexia.
           All through elementary school it wasn't easy. I was always having to do things that were "different," things the other kids didn't have to do. I had to go to a child psychiatrist, for instance.

One summer my family forced me to go to a camp for children with reading problems. I hated the idea, but the camp turned out pretty good, and I had a good time. I met a lot of kids who couldn't read, and somehow that helped. The director of the camp said I had a higher I.Q. than 90 percent of the population. I didn't believe him.

About the worst thing I had to do in fifth and sixth grade was go to a special education class in another school in our town. A bus picked me up, and I didn't like that at all. The bus also picked up emotionally disturbed kids and retarded kids. It was like going to a school for the retarded. I always worried that someone I knew would see me on that bus. It was a relief to go to the regular junior high school.

Life began to change a little for me then, because I began to feel better about myself. I found the teachers cared; they had meetings about me, and I worked harder for them for a while. I began to work on the potter's wheel, making vases and pots that the teachers said were pretty good. Also, I got a letter for being on the track team. I could always run pretty fast.

At high school the teachers are good, and everyone is trying to help me. I've gotten honors some marking periods, and I've won a letter on the cross country team. Next quarter I think the school might hold a show of my pottery. I've got some friends.  But there are still some embarrassing times. For instance, every time there is writing in the class, I get up and go to the special education room. Kids ask me where I go all the time. Sometimes I say, "to Mars."

Homework is a real problem. During free periods in school I go into the special ed room, and staff members read assignments to me. When I get home my mother reads to me. Sometimes she reads an assignment into a tape recorder, and then I go into my room and listen to it. If we have a novel or something like that to read, she reads it out loud to me. Then I sit down with hen and we do the assignment. She'll write, while I talk my answers to her. Lately I've taken to dictating into a tape recorder, and then someone—my father, a private tutor, or my mother—types up what I've dictated. Whatever homework I do takes someone else's time, too. That makes me feel bad.

We had a big meeting in school the other day—eight of us, four from the guidance department, my private tutor, my parents, and me. The subject was me. I said I wanted to go to college, and they told me about colleges that have facilities and staff to handle people like me. That's nice to hear.

As for what happens after college, I don't know, and I'm worried about that. How can I make a living if I can't read? Who will hire me? How will I fill out the application form? The only thing that gives me any courage is the fact that I've learned about well-known people who couldn't read or had other problems and still made it. Like Albert Einstein, who didn't talk until he was 4 and flunked math. Like Leonardo da Vinci, who everyone seems to think had dyslexia.

I've told this story because maybe some teacher will read it and go easy on a kid in the classroom who has what I've got. Or, maybe some parent will stop nagging his kid and stop calling him lazy. Maybe he's not lazy or dumb. Maybe he just can't read and doesn't know what's wrong. Maybe he's scared, like I was.
 ---Article from the New York Times 1976

I recommend all teachers be given this essay to read (share this blog post or print it out) so that they can understand what it is like to be dyslexic.  I was 10 years old when this was published and how I wish my teachers would have understood what it was like for me in school.  I was mislabeled as lazy and made to feel ashamed that I could not read like my peers.  Like, David , I went on to graduate successfully from college. I earned a Master's Degree and currently working on my Ph.D. dissertation.  What David and I had in common that helped us achieve academic success was an underlying knowledge that we were smart, just learned differently so we had tenacity.  I worry about those who don't know how smart they are and continue to believe they are stupid.  Therefore, I'm on a mission to make sure every person knows how wonderful he/she is and that we don't need to "fit in a box" to achieve success.   

Monday, September 8, 2014

Motivational Monday!

It is Monday and for many of us that means a week of new frustrations!  Don’t worry; remember that failure is a good thing.  Look at this week as the beginning of great new adventures!  Never give up! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saturday Cartoon (yep it's late)

*Due to being gone the Saturday Cartoon was delayed until today!