When you are raising special needs children you know how painful it can be for your child to be excluded from other children and their activities. Sometimes your child’s challenges prohibit them from sharing an activity or experience that other children around them enjoy…but other times, it is either through prejudice or mis-information…or, a lack of understanding. No matter the reason, being excluded is not fun and can actually be harmful to your child’s self-esteem and their ability to form positive social interative relationships. Therefore, teaching how to accept and include others is a huge life lesson for families, schools, churches, organizations and agencies.
That is why i love the book called, The Friendship Puzzle. The children’s book is all about helping children to learn about the importance of accepting and including kids who are living with autism. It talks about differences and how friendships are formed once we understand each other. We have to learn to look beyond the surface of who a person appears to be different from ourselves; to see the real them. Then, we must find ways to include each other in our daily lives for a chance to become friends. Sometimes it is easy to misunderstand another person’s actions when we don’t understand why they do or say certain things; or, behave in a different way.
The Friendship Puzzle was written by Julie L. Coe and illustrated by Sondra l. Brassel. The book was inspired by Jennifer Maloni who’s children Dominic and Dylan are living with autism. The boys experienced a similar real life experience that was sad and disappointing. That experience is used in this book to make a difference in how we view people with disabilities. You can learn more about the book and where to purchase it here: http://www.friendshippuzzle.com/ This is not an affiliate link… it is just a book that I happen to adore.
That message, of accepting and including one another, is very profound. We can all apply that message in multiple ways to better the relationships we have with others without regard to abilities or disabilities; it is something that we can all improve on. This book and a recent news piece on an amusement park for those who are disabled reminded me of how often people neglect to include those who are different from ourselves in the things we enjoy; simply out of ignorance of how to do it.
The amusement park I read about is called Morgans Wonderland and it is in San Antonio, Texas. It was built by a father after a failed attempt by his daughter Morgan to interact in play with other children due to her disabilities and the lack of clear communication between the children alongside of a pool. The other children were playing with a beach ball and she wanted to play too…but lack of communication and understanding prevented continued play. This kind of situation can be heartbreaking…but in this case it was the catalyst he needed to dream of a place where special needs people and their families and caregivers could come and be included in all of the activities.
Gordon Hartman was the father and he has achieved his dream. Morgans Wonderland is a 25 acre park that lets the special need individual be themselves and experience the joy of an amusement park just like anyone else. They utilize volunteers at their park and they encourage families to come and enjoy their time together. I love the idea behind this park. If you are interested in learning more about Morgan’s Wonderland and all it has to offer…please click here: http://www.morganswonderland.com/morgans-wonderland-tell-us-about-inclusion.asp Again, this is not an affiliate link…it is just a place where a family can go to relax and have a positive family experience with their special needs loved one.
I just want to thank the Gordon Hartman’s and the Julie Coe’s of this world who realize the importance of acceptance and inclusion.
A huge area of concern for parents around the globe is reports declaring that Autism diagnosis numbers are on the rise…some in fact, are saying that the numbers are doubling. I read a recent article here: http://bit.ly/I5rII . This increase in numbers is frightening for those who are of childbearing years. Baby boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed as being autistic as baby girls are; is that for real? What is causing our children to be born with this condition? Is it the environment, diets, or genetic disposition? Is this an epidemic, or are our fears and faulty diagnoses at the core of the problem?
Frankly, if your child is one who is affected by an Autism diagnosis or label…it really doesn’t matter. The fact is that your child is facing some serious issues both socially, emotionally, and physically. What is desperately needed is some answers; and the only way to get those answers is through research. Funding is a big part of the research solution. Learn more about Autism and it’s research issues here: http://www.autism.com/ . If we all work together…we can improve the lives of families around the world who struggle with the effects of Autism.
Today I did an interview with Louise Sattler who is the creative owner/operator of http://www.signingfamilies.com. Louise is an expert trainer at workshops and classes that teach American Sign Language to help people communicate with one another. She is also a certified school psychologist who has an awareness of the importance of the need for families and community leaders to learn sign language. Sign Language opens doors and bridges gaps for people who are hearing impaired, or who may have developmental delays or special needs. Communication is something that many people take for granted.
Put yourself in the position of a person who is hearing impaired, or a person who lives with special needs; and, consider some environments they they may experience differently than you; such as a trip to the hospital or emergency room. How different would the experience be for you if you were the one who had difficulty making your needs known to the health care professionals. Or say you are an elderly person who is experiencing hearing loss…how are you going to communicate with other residents or say the staff? How about shopping or getting educational services at college or in elementary school? How about ordering a meal in a restaurant? Do you see how the quality of life can be improved for people impacted in this way? Can you see how sign language could open doors for people if others in the community took the opportunity to learn it from someone like Louise or through her DVD’s?
If you are interested in learning more about Louise and her educational services please listen to the interview here: http://www.rapidcashmarketing.com/lorrainesinterview/signingfamilies.htm
I’ve had the recent pleasure of “meeting” an extra-ordinary person with a calling on her life to teach communication skills through sign language to families. Louise Sattler is a very interesting person who has had a variety of experiences in different settings, including the educational field where she was a licensed school psychologist, which has enabled her to work with children and their families to develop strong and effective communication skills.
I met Louise through an online contest, believe it or not. It was run on Twitter. I happen to have won a poetry contest; and the prize, that I chose, was a DVD that made by Louise Sattler. Louise has a site called: http://www.signingfamilies.com/ . There you will find all kinds of information about Louise and what she does; but, I didn’t know all of that, when I won the DVD.
I chose that DVD because of the title and what I could potentially use it for. The title is, “Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Sign Language”. I work with children in several capacities and I liked the idea of learning some sign language just in case I needed to know it in the future. I was so excited when i got the DVD because, just watching it I could see the passion and the commitment that Louise had for teaching sign language to children and their families.
Bravery came over me and I approached Louise about doing an interview with me so that I could blog about what she does through her workshops, her speaking engagements and through her DVD’s. Louise agreed to do that and I thought that I would share the news of what she does because it helps so many people. By teaching sign language as a way of communicating it allows families to be more effective in advocating for their special needs loved ones.
http://www.signingfamilies.com/ caters to those who live and work with individuals with special education needs. Signing isn’t just for the deaf communities…people who struggle with many issues of disability can benefit from communicating through sign language. So if you work in education, in health- care, daycare, foster care, adoption, or you have a business or a family member who is impacted…this is a great way to brush up your communication skills so that you can strengthen your ability to communicate effectively in your relationships.
If you would like to contact Louise Sattler about her programs & her work she can be reached at Louise@SigningFamilies.com; or, you can contact her to do a workshop, give an interview or a presentation by calling her business line at: 410-715-9647 . Louise is also on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Louiseasl . She is very down to earth and she also teaches in Spanish-she is bi-lingual. Ask her about her programs….tell her that Writewhereyouare sent you and you will get a discount. You can purchase her DVD’s at her site: http://www.SigningFamilies.com/ or here on Amazon. com: http://bit.ly/913i5/.
You can always stop by and see me also at: http://www.writewhereyouareblog.com/ .
My husband and I are the proud parents of six adopted children. We have 3 girls and 3 boys. Each person has their own gifts and blessings. Some of those children are special needs children; and some are not. We have children with special needs issues ranging from bi-polarism, to ADHD, to learning disabilities, to fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, some have behavior related issues. One is homeschooled, one is in special education classes, one should have been, and some have benefitted from regular educational services. Some are adults living their own lives very successfully. Others struggle in some areas of day- to- day activities. A couple have to be supervised or encouraged every waking moment of the day to help keep them focussed on being the best person that they can be. They are all loved, supported and have brought much to our family.
Each person has their abilities and their challenges. None of them did anything to deserve the life they were born into; they had no control over the very beginning of their life. Yet, each of them must strive to have a loving, healthy, productive and happy life. It is possible. Some adaptations may be required for some of my children to have an independent life; but, it is possible. Since it IS possible, we will do whatever we can do to help make that happen.
Adoption is a complex thing. It serves many purposes and yet…it has an ability to wound, to heal, to lift up, to destroy, to save lives, and to shuffle lives. There are always imprints of a life that was supposed to be; melded into the life that is gifted and aborbed into another family. There are moments of: celebration, sadness, regrets, and purposeful choices; adoption is a wonderfully, painful mixture of the emotional buffet of life! It is a parent’s responsibility to seek excellence for the quality of life for their children.
Our family is special and unique; I bet your family is too! We have had many successes as a family; as well as, some twists and turns that were unexpected. The dream of a new parent doesn’t usually include the expectation that things could turn out differently from the dream of a picture perfect family. A birth family or an adopted family does not get to choose from an ‘ala carte menu, of challenges it may or may not face. As most parents would say, we live and breath for our children; and yet, we are not ashamed to say at times…we wonder…did we do the right thing? Our children didn’t get a choice in life in which family they would grow up in. There are shades of grey for each person…balancing the pros and cons of adoption.
Whether a child is brought into a family by birthing it into the family, or by adoption…the child is received with awe, with excitement, and with hope for a beautiful future. There are unexpected situations at times regarding health issues, behavioral issues, attachment issues, emotional issues and even loyalty issues. Those things and more can affect the foundation of a family.
Many families are jolted to learn that their child has special needs or that their adopted child has issues that will affect them and their family for years to come. It is a difficult time for parents and other siblings to struggle to learn about the issues facing the family…because…none of us go it alone.
Family is a support system all unto itself…but, sometimes the issues can seem overwhelming. That is the time that families need to reach beyond their boundaries that are self imposed, because many do not understand what we face as families with challenges. Don’t let that stop you from reaching out. You just might be surprised by the impact that you could have on another…or vice versa.
Really, for many people going through the shattered reality that their family is not following the dream of perfect completion…there is a sense of isolation and a perceived lack of understanding from others who have not walked in the same pair of shoes.
So, is there a need for support and information for families who have experiences that can mirror each other? Is there a wealth of understanding that is untapped because we have not had the opportunity to join forces and absorb techniques and encouragement from one another? I think there is. I have heard so many comments that would break your heart. Families that are under so much strain that they threaten to break and disintegrate under the pressure. If one person or family can benefit from sharing and encouraging each other here; then, the blog will have served it purpose.
Do you know someone who has things to share? Do you know someone who could benefit from a little support or information? Do you know someone who is facing a future with a special needs child and is struggling? Do you know someone with rose colored glasses that is thinking about adoption; but, isn’t willing to accept anything less than perfection? Bring them to a place that will enlighten them, encourage them, and embrace them! Families should be celebrated and enjoyed…not everyone is blessed with people to share their love with.