Rob shares his thoughts on the state of education as well as important details that parents can use to help support their child's learning.

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Corrective Lenses

Welcome to Holland

A rather enlightened woman named Emily Perl Kingsley wrote "Welcome to Holland". This short story is even more important today than it was when it was written some 25 years ago and here is why.

As a parent you have spent countless hours dreaming of what your child will become and then BANG! you receive the news that your child has a disability. Society (i.e. parents, educators, specialists, medical professionals, family members, casual acquaintances, etc.) have falsely predetermined the fate of your child based on their disability. The vast majority of society believes that because a person is disabled, it is the disability that determines what they will be able to achieve or not achieve. In other words, they believe that a disability should define them. This misguided belief that a person with a disability "can't do" or "will never be" must be smashed! This kind of antiquated thinking might at one time have been marginally acceptable but living in the 21st century affords people with disabilities a breadth of opportunities (i.e. access to assistive technology, housing, employment, and longevity) that was simply not available at one time in this country. As a society, however, we have not yet changed our perception of the disabled. We still think of the disabled as less than able as opposed to more than capable. As parents, you are the front line of defense against this type of wrongheaded thinking. Rather than view someone with a disability and dismissively think "they can't do that" every person, especially parents, should be constantly thinking about how they can challenge and empower a person with disabilities.

A parent has one job in this world and only one job! The parent's job is to make sure that their child can live, thrive, and survive outside of the womb. To put it in its simplest terms, a parent's job is to ensure that their child becomes independent. Depending on the degree or severity of each child's disability that level of independence will look different but it is the role of the parent to push their child towards maximum independence. As a parent, you are doing a disservice to your disabled child if you do not hold them to the same if not higher standard than you would a non-disabled child. Will your child fail as they strive to achieve their individual level of independence? Of course! Everyone fails! I have failed far more times than I have ever succeeded. Failure doesn't matter! What matters is how we respond to the challenges in our life as well as how we allow our failures to shape our future actions. When we fail, do we brush ourselves off and try again or do we throw our hands up in the air and retreat?

When we retreat or when we are not nudged toward trying again we are being set-up for failure. As a parent, you must always instill the standard of "you can and will do it". Parents, if your goal for your child is maximum independence (as it should be) then you must become an active and constant participant in the success plan of their life. There is little that your child can't overcome if you are willing to be the positive guiding force they need. Yes, this takes work and lots of it but the alternative is learned helplessness. In other words, do NOT let your disabled child settle for less! Expect more of your child so that when you get older they will be able to live without you. The choice is yours! You can put in the hard work now and reap the benefits later or you can make excuses. If you decide to make excuses don't be surprised if in a few years your inaction has led you to taking care of an adult child.

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