Three Voices of Inspiration: Promoting Accommodation, Acceptance and Appreciation of Differences 3

What is Inspiration? The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines inspiration as “the act or power of moving the intellect or emotions.” People who work to change the world to a place where we appreciate differences inspire others. They accept the challenge to heal society of its wrongs. They raise their voices to educate others as they work to forgive them for their lack of understanding.

I am among the privileged that heard voices of inspiration recently at the Pacific Rim International Conference on Disabilities & Diversity. Their voices made me realize that they are not the ones disabled; society’s treatment of them gives this illusion. The truth is anyone who fails to see others soul to soul is far more disabled than anyone we call “disabled.” Society is wasting brilliant minds by failing to see this.

There was so much inspiration in one place! Three of the voices that inspired me the most were Keith P. Jones of Soul Touchin, Drew Goldsmith of IamNorm.org and Laura Nagle of Vectors of Autism. Click on the links for more information about them.

Keith P. Jones has cerebral palsy, but please do not feel sorry for him. He is one of the best voices for advocacy I have ever had the privilege to hear. He gave his presentation to a standing room only crowd while he cracked jokes and told how he handles those who inappropriately invade his personal space. Hint: Never ever ask to pray for him and then pray for the “sins of his mother.” His mother did not cause his cerebral palsy and she is no sinner!

Drew Goldsmith turns sixteen this month, but he has already accomplished much in his young life, so please No Pity when you learn that he is autistic. Not only is he a film creator, he also started a website I am Norm to educate others and change the perception of others about being “normal.” I love this young man and wish him all the best in the future. I know he can go far if society allows him to do so.

Laura Nagle is an Aspie woman who prefers being called an Aspie instead of Autistic because, “That man (Hans Asperger) got us.” I am proud to call her my friend. She found me on Twitter months ago and identified me as a “half-Aspie”, a term I have come to love. The movie Vectors of Autism premiers April 13th in Flagstaff, AZ on the NAU campus. She talks about how society holds people back much more than anything else does. She wants to heal society as do I. She does not like using the word disability and I understand completely. She and other adults give parents a better understanding of Aspie and autistic children in a way that no one else can.

Pacific Rim Disability and Diversity Conference Anyone? 2

I’ll be there as an exhibitor and author and I’ll be giving away ten autographed copies of Delightfully Different. The keynotes and noted speakers looks impressive, and I know there are over 200 speakers total.

Let me know if you are coming! I would love to meet you face to face, and I might even tell you where to find the best beaches and the best shave ice.

Teachers Please Inspire and Support Our Children 8

I left a comment on a blog back in April about what I would want to tell the teachers of tomorrow. This is what I said:

“Please remind them that they have a responsibility to help our children and judging them does not help anyone. Remind them that they have a choice to be an inspiration or a detriment to our most vulnerable children. Advise them that even when children on the autism spectrum are teenagers they are not typical teenagers and asking them to write from a typical teenager’s perspective is ludicrous especially if a simple change in the assignment can avoid problems. Please beg them to assume the best rather than the worse about our children and to be aware that other things besides the class itself may affect our child’s ability to complete an assignment. Wrong assumptions can and do harm our children.”

Good teachers are the ones who are supportive of those who struggle either academically or socially without calling attention to the child. They promote kindness and tolerance and they avoid making assumptions. They realize each child is unique and they do not assume they know everything about a child on the autism spectrum or with any other diagnosis just because they have known other children with the same diagnosis. They realize past bullying can take years to overcome.  My daughter was fortunate to have a few of these teachers. 

Then we have teachers that bully our children as indicated in Teachers Bullying Your Child? Dealing With Teacher Problems.  Now, I cannot fathom a teacher intentionally harming a child, but I know many hurt my child whether they knowingly did so or not.  I believe they actually contributed to the bullying even if they did not knowingly bully her.  This has to stop!

One more thing that needs to stop is teachers who fail to recognize how long the effects of bullying last.  The teacher who ultimately caused my daughter to leave her school told me she did not see how bullying that happened over four years prior could still be affecting my daughter.  I have said it before and I am still saying it, the bullying caused more problems than Asperger’s traits and sensory sensitivity combined for my child.  My daughter’s school let us down by their lack of understanding.  Teachers, counselors, and school administration all need to read this, New Study Shows Long-Term Effects of Bullying Tied to Empathy « Bullying Stories and this, Long term effects of Bullying in girls and boys – Child Psychology and Parenting Blog: Child-Psych.org.

P.S. I have offered my services for free to my daughter’s former school, yet so far they have not accepted this offer. Maybe they think I have an agenda other than helping them, I do not know. I keep hearing stories about the same counselor making the same mistakes over and over again along with more bullying stories. I have to wonder why they are unwilling to accept help.

Learning Empathy and Tolerance for Others While Helping Our Children 1

Photographed at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Photographed at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

We all have to support each other and try harder to be empathic. It is not always easy to do, and this is especially true when we perceive an attack on our children. The grizzly bear or lioness comes out for me then.  I usually just avoid posting when this happens, because I know I will say something I will regret later otherwise.

Does this mean I always do the right thing?  I only wish this were true.  I too have been guilty of saying the wrong thing, as I think most people have.  I just hope anyone I have ever offended in any way has it in their hearts to forgive me.

It certainly brings home the issue of children bullying others over the Internet. That is why it is so important that we as parents teach our children that the Internet is forever.  They need to understand that it can’t just be torn up or erased.  It is the job of parents and educators to teach this to our children.

My son’s school has a wonderful class that they teach to the sixth graders called Technology.  It is not a quick one time class.  Rather, the class meets daily all year. They learn how to safely navigate the Internet, applicable laws that apply to information on the Internet, as well as, how wrong it is to cyber bully someone. They are learning that they are held accountable for their actions on the Internet.  I think it would be great if every school did this, although given the precociousness of today’s kids, it might need to be done at an earlier age.  Maybe we all need a class like this too!

Mahalo again for listening,

D. S. Walker