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…

Friday, May 19, 2017

Stop the shaming: why ceremonies and graduations need to change

It is that time of year again & I am sharing this post because it is vital for these ceremonies to change!  I know some are worse than others.  It was originally written & published years ago after sitting for over 3 hours at my son's 8th grade graduation where only a very select group of students were praised. Sadly, it still holds true today.  Thanks so much for taking time to read this - if there are any grammar errors please forgive them (editing is not my strength).
The end of the school year brings with it many award ceremonies and graduations.  As an inclusionist, I am not fond of these event!!  Many (although not all) of these events are designed to exclude and shame students into what our society considers acceptable behaviors and standards of success.  True, students who achieve should be rewarded and acknowledged; heck, almost all students want to be acknowledged.  I think all students who attend the ceremony should receive an award.  This does NOT mean I believe we should give all students an award, what it means is that only those students who are receiving awards should be required to attend the ceremony.    Students who are subjected to sit through a 1-3 hour long awards ceremony or graduation and not receive one accolade are not being motivated to become a better student or athlete. 

Often a reason given as to why students should be acknowledged for their hard work and effort in front of their nonperforming peers is because this motivates students to work harder.   Really?  Students getting good grades, high test scores, or achieving athletic success are not necessarily the ones putting forth the most effort.   We are doing our students a disservice by only shining a light on achievements and failing to embrace diversity. 

Schools often report they are sensitive to diversity yet they only mean race, gender, and ethnicity.  What about the diversity of learning?   Some students will work exceptionally hard and only earn C’s while for other students learning is easy, therefore they earn A’s.  Yes, the “C” student could have all A’s too but it is up to the teachers to educate this student appropriately (this is their educational right – to receive a free and appropriate education).  I heard a teacher recently state in her speech about the academic award recipient; “she is so easy to teach... students like her are the reason why people get into teaching.”   My heart sank, of course, this student is easy to teach. This student doesn’t have a learning disability causing struggles with reading, math, or writing.   The message was loud and clear, teachers don’t get into teaching to have challenging students they get into it so they can reap the rewards of a student who excels easily.  Okay, to be fair, that may not have been the speakers intended message but it sure could be interpreted that way.

Sports are another example of how school exclude and shame students.  A few weeks ago I wrote details about this topic in my "Lessons from The Breakfast Club"  post.  Not all students have the ability or talent to play sports although some may have the desire.  When schools put talented athletes on a pedestal and worship these students they are sending a message to other students that in order to be successful you must be athletically talented.  If you don’t believe this then look at our society as a whole; how much does a professional athlete get paid compared to a teacher. 

Sometimes schools try to pretend that they are including all students by having “student of the year” or “star student” awards.  This is not true inclusion.  You are kidding yourself if you think that each and every student had an equal chance to earn one of these awards.  Did the staff really consider the student with severe ADHD who has difficulty with impulse control?  How about the student who has Asperger’s and is struggling with learning social skills or is awkward?  I bet the student who was bullied so severely he became depressed and withdrawn wasn’t given a second thought.  Students who are challenging or have challenges are not often picked for these awards.   So, face it, this is not true inclusion; it is a facade.  Also, be careful of another facade - when the obviously disabled student gets an award just so the school can say ...  "look at us, aren't we amazing, we just honored a student who has a major disability..."  Umm this isn't genuine & only done for the thrill of inspiration porn.  This is NOT okay either. 

So, here is my proposal to all school districts across the country.  Over the summer decide what you consider the values we should be instilling in our children.   Take a good hard look at the way you are rewarding students.  Do you make the students with good grades stand-up in front of their non-achieving peers and tell these peers that they too can have these honors and rewards if they only tried hard enough?  Do you have ceremonies where everyone is invited but only a few get rewarded?  Do you give out student of the year awards, if so - really look to see if all students have equal opportunity for these awards?  Learn about confirmation bias (you like someone so you see most things they do in a positive light – you dislike someone so you see most things they do in a negative light).  Once you fully understand confirmation bias go back over and answer the last question: Do all students have an equal chance of winning “student of the year” or “star student?”  Now, relearn confirmation bias again and repeat the last question one final time.  If you still believe that all students have an equal chance than you don’t understand confirmation bias.    

Am I saying that there should be no more award ceremonies and graduations?  No, I am not saying this at all.  Go ahead and have these events but only require the students receiving awards to attend and if anyone else wants to attend they can make that choice but do not force students to attend hour long ceremonies/graduations where EVERYONE ELSE gets rewarded and praised.  Graduation ceremonies can be wonderful celebrations when focused on all students.  Call each student up and reward them with their certificate (don't just call their name as they walk in & go to a seat with their "graduation award" is sitting on the chair), if they received other awards announce them at that time – this way each and every student gets the opportunity to walk across the stage (front of a room) and be recognized.  Remember that almost everyone wants to be acknowledged and accepted.  Schools should focus on inclusion and quit reinforcing a “haves versus have-nots” climate.  Now is the time for change and acceptance.  Just because the ceremonies and graduations have always been done a specific way does NOT mean they must continue that way.  Remember we were once a nation where: slavery existed, women were not allowed to vote, and racial segregation was acceptable.  We now know better so we should do better.   We need to embrace the diversity that each and every student has and acknowledge their strengths instead of measuring them as successful under one specific set of standards.      
(Here's another post about shaming- Stop the Shaming Pt. 2) 

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What's it like to have depression and what to do

Depression is real!  For people who battle depression it can also be the loneliest time as well because not everyone understands depression.  They will tell you to "just get over it" or try to make you smile and then say "see, don't you feel better now?"  

People with depression can't just 'get over it' or smile and then all the world is good again.  People with depression wear masks all the time, a mask of happiness, success, satisfaction, or anything to hide reality that they are drowning! 

This says... "And the worst part is....   
"...No one knows how close I am to drowning."  

It is not that people with depression don't want help.  In fact many people with depression ask for help frequently.  They tell others in so many ways but often people don't notice and this can add to their depression.  People with depression often want people to care and to notice but as soon as someone notices shame and guilt kicks in and makes the depression worse.  At these times a depressed person may put on a mask and say they are "fine" or they may pull away all together. (Image: "We all want someone to noice, but as soon as they do, we wish they never did.")
This isn't because the depressed person is playing games.  The depressed person often doesn't have the energy for games.
(Image: "Every Thought is a battle, every breath is a war, and I don't think I'm winning anymore.")
People with depression often don't see an end to the pain and suffering so telling them that everything will be okay doesn't help.  
(Image: "That's the thing about depression: A human being can survive almost anything, as long as she sees the end in sight. But depression is so insidious, and it compounds daily, that it's impossible to ever see the end.")
What often happens at this time of the year for a person with depression is they actually find out who their true friends are.  
(Image: "Hard times will always reveal true friends.")
A person with depression shares just a little of their depression with someone to know if that person is safe or not.  They are looking for how you handle their fragile side and if you are worth letting in to their dark side.  People with depression have often learned the hard way on who not to trust. 
(Image: If someone trusts you enough to tell you personal things such as their struggles with depression or what anxiety feels like or just how they feel in general, please don't be a shitty person by belittling it just because you've never experienced it. It feels like shit to be told your feelings don't matter by the one person you actually trusted enough to tell.")

If you respond the way the person with depression needs you to respond they will open up.  The key is they don't want you to solve the problem or save them.  They want you to be beside them as they go through their own struggles.  People with depression want to know they are not alone.  If they shut you out and you don't put any energy into trying to break down that wall they know you are not trustworthy so they will stop sharing with you.  You will not actually be there for them when it really counts.  
(Image: "I don't want you to save me. I want you to stand by my side as I save myself.")
 So, maybe you have a depressed person in your life and you don't know what to say to them.  Here's one of my favorite quotes that I would love to have someone say to me when I am in my dark side...  "I'm here.  I love you.  I don't care if you need to stay up crying all night long, I will stay with you.  There's nothing you can ever do to lose my love.  I will protect you until you die, and after your death I will still protect you.  I am stronger than Depression and I am braver than loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me."  

 Wow - this is often exactly what the depressed person not only needs to hear but they need to feel it too - if someone you love is depressed  - show them that you will be there for them.  Actions speak louder than words.  If you don't like to talk then ask questions!  Get the person talking and then listen - really listen. DO NOT give advice or say things like 'get over it' or 'it's no big deal,' or 'I've been depressed too.'  Remember that being there for them is also not talking about YOUR problems and how difficult life is for YOU!  When you talk about yourself and ignoring how vulnerable it was for the person with depression to share with you than you are not someone they will open up to in the future.  Their depression isn't about YOU!

 The key is be there for them!  When a depressed person tells you they are depressed don't abandon or ignore them especially if they have a plan. If they have a plan you must seek help from professionals.!  

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

What you need to understand about for-profit and nonprofit

Hi Dragonfly Friends!  Yes, I’ve been off for a while due to being exceptionally busy professionally.  I'm always on a mission to make the world a better place for EVERYONE & this is very time consuming but worth all the hard work!  

Today I wanted to correct a misperception. Someone once made a comment about not wanting to support businesses, companies, or people who are for-profit and only wanted to support nonprofit companies that were truly not in it for the money.  Wow, this person has no clue on what it means to be for-profit and nonprofit.  There is a perception that nonprofit companies are better because they are “not in it for the money” but this isn’t really true.  I used to work in nonprofit mental health and it was ALL about billing (aka money), which meant face-to-face time only because we couldn’t bill for phone calls or emails.  We were required to meet monthly billing quotas and if you did not meet your billing quota you were in trouble (reprimand and no raises).  This is not a good practice for clients because it creates unhealthy co-dependent relationships. 

Here’s a video of Dan Pallotta explaining “The way we think about charity is dead wrong”

Having a private practice that is not a nonprofit does NOT make me greedy or all about the money.  I have a passion for what I do and put in exceptional amount of volunteer time for these passions.  I created a business helping people with disabilities (dyslexia, ADD/ADHD, Asperger's, Anxiety, Depression...) and their families.  No one does exactly what I do because it requires much more time and energy for little financial compensation.  There are some people who do similar jobs but my business is very unique and it is people centered not money driven.  I am not against nonprofits I’m against bad business practices especially when these business practices do not help the people we need to help – we need to really understand the way profit and nonprofit companies are run so we can learn more and do better. 

I am also a person who is willing to promote and support others, especially if it helps bring awareness to my passions.  I don’t care if the person, organization, company, or business is for-profit or nonprofit.  I will support everyone equally!  The world is a wonderful place and we all need to make a living and there is nothing wrong with growing a business because “Profit is not a dirty word.”  

We need to remember this: