The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Resolution to make mistakes!

Life is not perfect and you are not perfect so why are you so afraid of making mistakes and expecting things to work out perfectly?  

We learn so much more from the mistakes we make so go ahead and make them.  

Here's something similar you should write for your New Year's Resolution: 

I will give myself permission to make mistakes!  

  • I will stop beating myself up when things don't work out as I expected - my expectations may be way off!
  • I will stop stressing out over things when they go wrong - I am learning a lot of important lessons!
  • I will stop throwing away the whole project/adventure when I can't get it right the first few times.  I am learning what works and what doesn't work - I will give my projects/adventures time and give myself time to figure things out!
  • I will take risks, try new things, and allow things to happen naturally.  

Here's a great quote I think you should read each week for the year 2016~~~

(Image: "I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You're doing things you've never done before, and more importantly, you're Doing Something.

So that's my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody's ever made before. Don't freeze, don't stop, don't worry that it isn't good enough, or it isn't perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you're scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” 
~Neil Gaiman)

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

First step in new year's resolution

In a few more days it will be a new year and so many of you might be thinking about your new year's resolutions.  As you are thinking about this I ask you to reflect on what your primary goal is - often it is to have a happy life or for happiness.

Happiness is not an end destination but a theme that run through your daily life based on the choices you make.  

So as you are making your list - focus on things that will give you a will lived life - a life with integrity. 

If you want a good relationship than put effort into that relationship to make it good - don't just hope that things work out.

If you want to be healthier than write goals that will help you live a healthy life.

You get the picture, right - focus on what you want & it will expand.  

Monday, December 28, 2015

5 Lessons about friendship

As 2015 comes to an end I want to reflect on 5 lessons I have learned over the years regarding friendships.  

1~  Not everyone is worthy of being your friend. It is okay to be friendly with many people but only those you can trust should you let into your inner friend circles.  Some people only want to be your friend to get their own needs met. 

2~ Your inner friend circles should have different levels.  When you do let someone into your inner friend circles they must earn their way through the levels. How fast the friend go through these levels will vary depending on the person and some may never reach the inner core of your true self.  Friends can move up and down on the different levels but only a very select few should be allowed in this inner core.  These levels are not games but designed to keep you safe and protected.

3~ Let your inner friends know you really care about them. A few years ago my childhood friend Matt was in the hospital for New Years due to a diabetic problem.  Trying to cheer him up I told him "hey, things can't get worse - the year can only go up from here."  Well, I was wrong. Soon I received word from Matt's wife that he went into a diabetic coma and passed away.  He will be forever missed by his wife, two young boys, and his friends.  A few weeks prior to his death, Matt and I met for coffee to discuss our kids and catch up on events. Matt's death was an important lesson for me to make sure those in my inner friend circles know that they matter to me because you never know how much time we have left.

4~ Friendships are not always equally balanced. Since we are all living our own lives we will need friends at different times and in varying degrees. There will be times when your friend needs a shoulder to cry on and you need to be strong and other times when you have hit rock bottom and you need the strength of your friends to help you up.  You should also understand that not all friends will be able to give you what you need.  Your core inner friends are the ones that will be there for you at your worst.  They are the ones that will fight for you when you have no more strength to fight for your self.  

5~ Not all friendships last forever. There will be times when you realize that you are doing all the care-taking.  You will discover that your needs are not being met. This usually happens in times of crisis when you look for support from that friend and each time they are not there for you. When a friendship becomes one-sided it is time to move that person to a different level in the inner friend circle or out of the circle. It isn't always easy to notice this at first because we care so much for this friend and can't believe that they are actually ignoring or abandoning us in our times of need but eventually we realize we are chasing after them. You will notice that you have shared something very personal and your friend goes MIA or is all of a sudden busy.  You keep reaching out to them but notice that you are the one texting/calling/emailing them first. When you are in crisis you should not be the one hunting your friends down they should be there for you. If you are the only one fighting to keep a friendship going then it is time to let go.  If that person wants you in his/her life they will work on repairing the friendship. It's okay for friends to get overwhelmed and not be able to give what you need at the time you need it but true friends tell you this and never abandon you.      

So, in 2016 think about your friendships.  I love this Jon Katz quote:  "I think if I've learned anything about friendship, it's to hang in, stay connected, fight for them, and let them fight for you.  Don't walk away, don't be distracted, don't be too busy or tired, don't take them for granted.  Friends are a part of the glue that holds life and faith together. Powerful stuff."

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Letting it go

It has been a few days since I posted anything because I had surgery (anterior cervical spine fusion C5-C7) almost a week ago.  

I had heard really good things about this surgery and went in with a positive attitude that my surgery will turn out well.  I am glad to say the surgery did turn out well. I do have a few complications in the recovery process. I didn't realize that "your throat will be sore" actually meant you will be in severe pain and not be able to swallow liquid or food.  I have never had to actually chew Jello before and I choke on sips of water.  The good news is things are slowly getting better every day.

The other area that did not turn out as expected is how I would be supported in recovery.  I don't know why I expected that I would come home the day of surgery and others would help take over my job duties.  Oh, I know why I expected this.... the doctor told me that I was to just sit back and don't do anything but focus on getting better. 

Well, I am the kind of person who hates to see my job duties not completed so I have still been washing dishes, cleaning the house, cooking meals, wrapping gifts, and even doing some last minute Christmas shopping with one of my kids.  I had expected the people in my life to stop me from doing these things when I started doing them or prevent me from even starting by having them already done.  

Please understand I am not complaining about those in my life who have not been taking care of me.  They are all doing the best they can. I am actually admitting that I had unrealistic expectations... AGAIN!  

It has been a big "ah-ha" moment for me to realize that my expectations for others are still too high.  I have always had these dreams that others will do things for me, celebrate things with me, want to help me, listen to me, or even really get to know me and then boom these ideas explode like a overfilled balloon.  

So I have decided the best way for me to get through this holiday season is to just let go.  I will let go of my disappointment and let the past be the past.  I can't change the way things have happened or how other people act but I can choose to let go and let the past be the past.  

I wrote this today to let it out of my system so I can move on.  Here it is out in the open and now I will just let it go.  I will be realistic and know that I will be hurt in the future by exceptions because it is my nature to want to be treated a specific way and once in a while. I will always have dreams that I will be treated like I matter. 


Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Words from Parents and Dragonflies Wednesday - empowerment

"I was once told that I wouldn't be successful in my life by a teacher who was trying to motivate me to work harder.  I was working as hard as I could.  I am a success now but it was not because this teacher tried to make me feel bad about not being able to read but because I had great parents who told me that I didn't have to believe the opinions teachers have about me.  My parents helped me learn that the opinions of others are just that, opinions and the thing that matters is my opinion of myself."

*quote from a graduate student with dyslexia.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Just keep going......

Sometimes you will feel like you don't want to keep going because you don't have a clear vision of where you are going so you don't know if you are even heading in the right direction.  I say.... keep on going.  Don't give up and keep moving.  I know you are worried that you might not be going in the right direction and waste a lot of time and energy but I say...  Don't worry you are learning so much on this adventure.  There are no wrong directions because we can learn so much from the experiences we have and the people we meet.  The key is ... Don't give up!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

The importance of changing Learned Helplessness in students with disabilities

RE-SHARING!!!  This is so important to understand please pass-along to anyone who works with kids!

Why do some students with learning disabilities (LD) succeed while others appear unmotivated, fail, or drop out?  The answer is quite simple.  The LD students who are more successful have grit – tenacity.  The LD students who are not achieving academic success have developed learned helplessness.  Students do not develop learned helplessness because teachers and/or parents coddle the students, do things for them, or make things too easy.  Learned helplessness is a condition in which the student has come to believe that he/she is helpless in a situation and events are out of his/her control. Learned helplessness is so damaging to a student and is the reason many quit rather than try harder, procrastinate, and even experience emotional problems. As an Educational Coach, Therapist, and Psycho-educational Diagnostician I will enlighten you on learned helplessness and changes that need made to help all LD students. 


Decades ago, a psychologist, Martin Seligman, performed some experiments on dogs. Here’s the abridged version.  The researchers put dogs into different situations where they were placed in cages (shutter boxes).  Some dog were placed in a cage where they received an electric shock but were able to end the shock by pressing a lever, while other dogs were placed in a cage where they experienced random shocks but had NO ability to make the shock stop or escape.  The dogs who had some control over their negative experiences recovered quickly but the dogs who could not escape or stop the pain learned to be helpless, gave up, and displayed clinical depressive symptoms.   Later the dogs were placed 
in another box and only needed to jump over to the other side to escape the pain.  The dogs who learned they could control their environment jumped over the small barrier quickly.  The dogs who had no control over their situation continued to display helpless behaviors and instead of escaping the situation they just laid down and whined; they didn’t even try.   Would we call these dogs lazy, unmotivated, or coddled?  No we would not, the dogs had learned to be helpless.  No matter what, they could not change their environment or situation even if they had a desire to change– they were stuck. 


More research has occurred over the past decades focused on learned helplessness and we have discovered that it happens in humans as well.   We are now able to understand why kidnap victims do not seize the opportunity to escape or why a battered spouse stays in an abusive relationship.  We also now understand why some students with LD give up.  

When students attend school, they are stuck.  The law says that a student MUST be in school and unless you are homeschooled you cannot just leave when you are feeling scared, vulnerable, stupid, or sometimes even sick.   Classroom management techniques are designed to assure that the teacher has all the power so students are controlled.  Granted, these classroom management techniques are often necessary but think about how similar they are to the cage the dogs were stuck in – quite similar in fact but with windows and more people.  

Now, some of these students will experience a great deal of negative pain while in these classrooms because they have LD.  They will watch other students grasp concepts and ideas quicker and with ease while they struggle.  These students with LD will also watch teachers praise and give positive attention to students who are being academically successful but they themselves cannot seem to achieve this academic success no matter how hard they try.  Often despite trying exceptionally hard, teachers send clear messages to these students that they are perceived as lazy, unmotivated, not working hard enough, not working up to their potential…  Wow, more shocking pain that they cannot escape and these LD students experience intense shame (Shaming needs to stop post).   

Students with LD often have the intellectual capabilities to be academically successful but have the false perception that they lack these abilities and have learned that trying hard or putting in effort has no positive effect.  Remember, a student’s perception is his/her reality.  So, even if they are gifted and LD they may still experience learned helplessness.  Learned helplessness undermines the student’s motivation to learn, reduces the student’s ability to learn, establishes ineffective learning strategies, and deteriorates school performance.

Over time these students with LD end up just giving up and accepting their fate that they are stupid, will never learn, or will always fail anyway so why try.  This is why there is a high dropout rate by the way!  And let’s not forget that with these feelings of learned helplessness are other problems such as: anxiety, depression, stress, suicide…   Which is why I work hard to help teachers understand that students should never be labeled as a student with a behavior problem or lazy – the behaviors are a symptom of a deeper issue and behaviors often stems from learned helplessness and shame. 


Studies have provided evidence that the teacher-student dynamic is a major factor that contributes to the development and maintenance of learned helplessness.   This is not because teachers intend to create this environment for students but because when the student struggles and displays learned helplessness behaviors, positive reinforcements and support seldom occurs.   An LD student experiencing learned helplessness will not be motivated to do better by receiving bad grades which often is frustrating for teacher who in turn give up on trying to even help the student.  Let’s face it, teaching students who are motivated is much easier than teaching students who struggle and display self-defeating behaviors.

Ways the system needs to change:
Teach and embrace differences.  Many schools have been willing to focus on cultural and racial diversities yet few focus on learning diversities as a whole.  Some teachers are educating their students in their own classrooms about learning differences and the importance of accepting how everyone learns but this is hardly done at a district level.  School districts are focused on Academic Excellence- praising and rewarding students and teachers who are high achievers.  Yes, we want students to be achieving but school districts are “doing it wrong.”  Success in school should not be defined in regards to high scores but instead, success should be defined as progress and improvement.  Improving the academic knowledge and self-esteem of students should be the focus of all education.  School districts also need to eliminate the shaming – discussed here: Stop the shaming post.        
School districts need to stop being afraid of the numbers (amount of students in special education) and just do what is right for all students!  I’m frequently in school meetings where I hear principals, school psychologists, or special education directors tell parents that their child doesn’t qualify for services.  This is often because the student “fits in the box” of average and therefore does not need the extra support services, accommodations, or intervention programs the parents (and myself since I diagnosed the student with a disability) believe are necessary.  We are not wanting arbitrary services and supports.  We see the struggles the child is dealing with.  We are standing outside the cage watching the child disintegrating from the pain and are trying to prevent learned helplessness.  It can be extremely frustrating watching the school district continue to press the shock button over and over and refusing to help stop the pain.  By the way, I have never met a parent who has asked the school for help when the child did not need the help but I have experienced many school district refuse to provide help when it is explicitly clear what needs to be done. 
Teachers need to stop using red ink all over the papers!   When teachers focus on errors, they are teaching students that failing is wrong/bad and that it isn’t okay to make mistakes.  In reality we really do learn more from the mistakes we make than the things we get right so we need to help students embrace errors.  The score at the top of the paper should be the number the student received correct.  The answers the students got wrong should be identified and the students should be taught how to go back over their mistakes, relearn (or be retaught) the material, and correct the mistakes. This technique should be taught as early as kindergarten and continue until the student graduates cause the goal is for students to learn, isn’t it?   Some students will need to be re-taught the material they missed in a different way because what the errors (poor grades) tells us is the student has failed to learn the information.   Sometimes teachers have gotten into the habit of thinking that the F means that the student has failed to study, or the student failed to listen, or the student has failed to apply him/herself, or the parents failed to do their part… 
This leads me to the next important thing that needs changed - blame.  To learn everyone needs to participate, the students, parents, and most importantly the teachers.  The teachers are the leaders here and if a student is not progressing and improving in their learning most of this responsibility needs to fall on the teachers shoulders.  I have heard many teachers place blame on the students and/or parents.  When a student struggles with learned helplessness the teacher needs to add specific strategies to help guide the student out of their perceived electric cage.  Most students with learned helplessness require a teacher to be explicit in their instructions and take time to meet with the student one-on-one to provide assistance.  Remember, an LD student hears comments such as “Your written response is sloppy and poorly written” as criticism (an electric shock) so focus on positive constructive comments such as “Let’s think of another way to answer this problem.”  This demonstrates that you, as the teacher, really do care and are willing to help alleviate the pain.  This does not mean that you as the teacher are doing the work.  You are guiding the student on how to do the work, rewarding them for their effort, and providing the student an opportunity to feel success. 
Remember that students with learned helplessness have learned to just give up so they may be resistant to help.  Think of them as a traumatized dog that just left the cage and the shocks were conditioned with human contact – the dogs will then avoid humans.  So when interacting with these students focus on the things the student does well and avoid focusing on what they are doing wrong or it will only make them more resistant and have increased avoidance.  I coach many LD students with learned helplessness and know that they do not want to have failing grades, they don’t want to feel stupid.  These students really just want the pain to stop but have no idea how.  Parents often try to help but they often have to spend their evenings trying to glue pieces of their child’s shattered self-esteem back together (these students frequently come home and let out all their anxiety, fears, and frustrations).  Teachers can help alleviate this pain.  One of the common themes in LD students with grit, is they had at least one teacher/mentor who believed in them so they in turn started to believe in themselves.  They had teachers/mentors who never gave up on them even when the times got tough and helped teach them that failing doesn’t make them a failure.  We all need people in our lives to help instill motivation, especially these students with learned helplessness.

Finally, we need to change the structure of our educational system to include instructions on developing grit and tenacity.  To be straight forward here – schools should focus less on developing new curriculums like the “Common Core” and put more energy into developing programs to teach grit, tenacity, and perseverance.  To learn more about this read, Promoting Grit, Tenacity, and Perseverance: Critical Factors for Success in the 21stCentury.  

Just think of how much better a school district would be if they could actually educate students to be successful in the world by having a positive self-esteem and grit.  I hypnotize that our prison population would decrease and we would have more productive high achieving citizens. 

Here is an activity that is similar to the one I do when teaching college classes and for professional develop workshops for schools it's only a few minutes long and is a great example of how easy it is to develop learned helplessness. (if the video doesn't appear below click the link to get to the video)

(Image below: picture of an adult female sitting with her arm around a young male who is looking at a book and has a distressed look on his face.  A quote from Sutherland & Singh's book 'Learned Helplessness and Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders: Deprivation in the Classroom-' "Students who are repeatedly exposed to school failure are particularly at risk for the development of learned helplessness." Then my explanation of learned helplessness from the research - "How to know if a student is experiencing learned helplessness: *Takes little independent initiative * Prefers easy problems & avoids hard problems * Makes negative or degrading comments about own ability *If fails one part of a task is certain to fail entire task *Gives up easily *Stops trying or avoids difficult academic work *Does not respond with pride when talking about academics *Does poorly despite having ability)

References if you need them:

Schunk, D. H. (1984). Sequential attributional feedback and children's achievement behaviors. Journal of Educational Psychology 76(6), 1159–1169.
Seligman, M.E.P. (1975). Helplessness: On Depression, Development, and Death. San Francisco: W.H.Freeman.
Sutherland, K.S., & Singh, N.N. (2004). Learned Helplessness and Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders: Deprivation in the Classroom. Behavioral Disorders, 29(2), 169-181.
Tollefson, N. (2000). Classroom applications of cognitive theories of motivation. Educational Psychology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, pp. 63-83.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Creating the life you want!

Did you know that YOU are the one who creates your life?  You have power to make your life what you want it to be and you are the one who creates YOU!  

Maybe you didn't feel you had the power to changes certain things but you do have the power.  You don't have control over everything but there is so much you do have control over.  Two things you have control over are - your own attitude and how much energy you put into something.  

So don't give up.  Keep working toward your goals and you will create the life you want!  You need to be focused on what you want!  What you focus on you expand so keep focused on what you want to become and you will eventually get there.    Keep posted here because in 2016 I will guide you toward this life you want to create.  In the meantime start thinking about what you want your life to be like!  

Friday, December 4, 2015

Someone you should know: Caiseal Mor, Autistic Artist

People often do not understand Autism and Asperger's.  There is this crazy belief that people on "The Spectrum" do not have creativity or imagination.  This is WRONG!  This is the problem: People are assuming that the desire for structure, consistency, and routines means a person lacks creativity and imagination.  These are very different and should NOT be confused.  People on "The Spectrum" are able to be very creative and imaginative.  One of the symptoms of autism is to look for a lack of pretend or imaginative play; but who are we to judge what is pretend or imaginary if we don't know what is going on in the child's head?  

It is no wonder why there are so many children out there misdiagnosed.  To make matters worse there is a negative perception of the Autism and Asperger's labels. This is why it is vital to make sure the person diagnosing you or your child has the knowledge and expertise in all types of disabilities (you know the saying "to a hammer everything looks like a nail").  Make sure they are experts in all these disabilities - that is the KEY!   

Here's someone you should know:  Caiseal Mor!  Check out the creativity from a person diagnosed with Autism.  Isn't he great! Isn't it great to openly accept people for the gifts they give the world instead of perceiving that something is wrong with them because they are not like the "average" population?

He also has a interesting website you must check out: