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…

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Spiritual Sunday - Believe


This is the one of the keys to happiness.  How can you go through life if you don’t believe?  So your Spiritual Sunday assignment is to:

~Believe in a higher power 
~Believe in the laws of attraction (what you focus on will expand) 
~Believe in the goodness of others 
~Believe in yourself 
~Believe that there is more goodness than evil in this world 
~Believe in things you cannot see and cannot explain 
~Believe you have a purpose in this world

Friday, April 24, 2015

You Can Attend College! So, Think College!

Have you ever thought that you are not smart enough to go to college?  Don't ever limit yourself!  Some Dragonflies just need a few accommodations but others need more intensive accommodations.  

Well, guess what? You can!  Did you know that The Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA PL 110-315) enacted in 2008 improves the access to postsecondary education for students with intellectual disabilities?  So even if you have profound Dyslexia or Dyscalculia you can still go to college. 

Check this video out of what it is like for students:  


Colleges around the United States are working to make a difference here's a great website to help you learn more about college options:  Think College! 

Never give up on a dream! 

Monday, April 20, 2015

Motivational Monday for introverts and extroverts

Some Dragonflies are extroverted and have no problem advocating for themselves and others.  These Dragonflies are not shy and often the ones that we hear about in the media for "overcoming" their "disability."  But there are just as many great introverted Dragonflies~  the ones we don't hear about but are valuable and important.  Sometimes these introverted Dragonflies get overlooked for their accomplishments and skills they have to offer the world.  We need to embrace all types of Dragonflies - extroverted and introverted!  The extroverted Dragonflies need to speak up for their introverted Dragonfly peers.  Some of us are called - Ambivert which means we are a good balance of both.

Not sure what you are? - Take the assessment on Daniel Pink's website (btw- he is someone you should know!):

Now watch this fun 2 minute video to stress this point! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Optimist or Pessimist which are you?

The Optimist vs the Pessimist~  The Shawshank Redemption movie clip.  The Optimist will succeed and you can change your perception but only if you want to!  There are no "Shitty pipe dreams."  "Get busy living or get busy dying"  this is really a simple choice.  Which choice are you going to make?


Saturday, April 4, 2015

3 ways to assure a positive relationship

I’d like to say happy Easter to all those who follow me!  I appreciate you all so much and thrilled when I hear how I have touched your lives.  We are all so blessed to be connected in this great universe!  Easter is a great time to focus on new beginnings.
Spring is also a great time to work on your personal relationship with the person you love or a time to fall in love with someone new. 

So wanna know how to make this happen in your life this spring?  Here’s how:
People want to know that they matter & here are 3 ways to make another person feel they are important to you:

1.   Be attentive to the details of your partner’s life. You can do this in a variety of ways:
a.   Ask questions: what they did at work/school… what they had for lunch… how have they been feeling physically and emotionally…
b.   Following them on social media can give you a lot of insight into what’s going on in their lives mentally, physically, psychologically, and socially. 
c.   Become interested in things they are doing.  If they have a hobby, learn more about the hobby.  If they are reading a book take some time to either read the book or learn something about the book. Ask specifically why they like it and how they relate to the book.  This is very telling I personally think all men in relationships with women should read the 50 Shades of Grey books – not for the sex but to learn more about romance. 

2.   Be a person that your partner can trust enough to be vulnerable with.  Being vulnerable is difficult and even more so if a partner is dismissive, apathetic, or judgmental.  How to create this trust:
a.   When your partner is sharing something with you give them your undivided attention.  This means stop watching TV, playing on the internet, and do not interrupt with a different topic.
b.   Listen with the intent to understand, NOT waiting for an opening to give your thoughts and opinions.  If you are thinking about what you are going to say then you are NOT really listening and you are creating an atmosphere of distrust.
c.   Sometimes you will be able to tell that a person is sharing something vulnerable but sometimes you may not even realize that what the person is sharing is something very personal.  No matter what, do not respond with judgments.  No one wants to feel that they are being judged. 
d.   Validate a person for taking the risk and sharing.  When your partner is sharing personal information with you, they are telling you that they are trusting you with their emotions so be careful.  Validate and acknowledge them.  Sometimes you don’t know what to say and that’s okay, you can say “I don’t’ know what to say but thanks so much for sharing this with me it must have been hard for you.”  Just don’t say “Oh, okay” as if what they just opened up to you about had no value. 

3.   Remember that you are in a relationship and there should be intimacy.  You need to understand what makes the other person feel valued and loved.  I always suggest that people read the book The Five Love Languages & take the quiz then discuss these love languages with each other so you are both on the same page.  Here are other ways to build intimacy:
a.   Know that intimacy is about the process and the journey it is NOT about the destination.  Did you know that staring into someone’s eyes is one of the most intimate things that you can do? 
b.   Research by Dr. Arthur Arons, has demonstrated that discussing a series of 36 questions sitting face to face with your partner & then staring into your partner’s eyes for 4 minutes afterwards could help you fall in love with them.  The reason for this is intimacy.  How often to you really openly share personal thoughts with someone while sitting there looking into their eyes with no other distractions?  So if you want to give this a try I have shared all 36 questions here (although there are phone apps too). Remember you MUST not be thinking of how YOU are going to answer when the person is talking or what you should have said – really listen to the other person’s responses with NO judgment!  

1.         Given the choice of anyone in the world who would you want to have as a dinner guest?
2.         Would you like to be famous? In what way?
3.         Before making a telephone call do you ever rehearse what you are going to say? Why?
4.         What would constitute a “perfect” day for you?
5.         When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?
6.         If you were able to live to the age of 90 and retain either the mind or the body of a 30-year-old for the last 60 years of your life, which would you want?
7.         Do you have a secret hunch about how you will die?
8.         Name three things the two of you have in common.
9.         For what in your life do you feel most grateful?
10.     If you could change anything about the way you were raised what would it be?
11.     Take four minutes and tell your life story in as much detail as possible.
12.     If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability what would it be?
13.     If a crystal ball could tell you the truth about yourself, your life, the future or anything else, what would you want to know?
14.     Is there something you’ve dreamed of doing for a long time? Why haven’t you done it?
15.     What is the greatest accomplishment of your life?
16.     What do you value most in a friendship?
17.     What is your most treasured memory?
18.     What is your most terrible memory?
19.     If you knew that in one year you would die suddenly, would you change anything about the way you are now living? Why?
20.     What does friendship mean to you?
21.     What roles do love and affection play in your life?
22.     Alternate sharing something you consider a positive characteristic of the person you’re with. Share a total of five items each.
23.     How close and warm was your family? Do you feel your childhood was happier than most other people’s?
24.     How do you feel about your relationship with your mother?
25.     Make 3 true “we” statements for each. For instance, “We are both in this room feeling …”
26.     Complete this sentence, “I wish I had someone with whom I could share ….”
27.     If you were going to become a close friend of the person you’re with, share what would be important for her or him to know.
28.     Tell the person you’re with what you like about them; being very honest and saying things that you might not say to someone you just met.
29.     Share an embarrassing moment in your life.
30.     When did you last cry in front of another person? By yourself?
31.     Tell the person you’re with something you already like about them.
32.     What, if anything, is too serious to be joked about?
33.     If you die this evening without the opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?
34.   Your house containing everything you own catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets you have time to make one final dash to save one item. What would it be? Why?
35. Of all the people in your family, whose death would you find most disturbing? Why?

36. Share a personal problem and ask for advice on how the person you’re with would handle it. Also, ask the person you’re with to reflect back to you how you seem to be feeling about the problem you have chosen.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

World Autism Awareness Day April 2nd

Today is World Autism Awareness day!  To help bring awareness to the Autism Spectrum replace white lights with blue lights!  

Replace your lights today with blue lights and wear blue.  When asked about why the blue you can Enlighten others about the positive aspects of the Autism Spectrum!  

Together we can change the world and make a difference for ALL!