Tag Archives: responsibility

National Dog Day

Don’t know how I could have missed it, but last Saturday August 26th was evidently National Dog Day! So, in a belated tribute to all of our dogs, here are my two—Lucy Liu and Boudreaux. A couple of miniature wirehaired dachshunds. I think these dogs understand a couple of hundred words and pay better attention to me than most children—or adults for that matter.

Over the years, I have encouraged many families to get dogs for their children, particularly children without a close sibling or playmate. Children with developmental and communication issues who find it difficult or even impossible to verbally communicate or play with others often find the companionship of a dog to be a wonderful addition to their lives.

As a child who was never permitted to have a dog (I ended up with a duck) I am happy to champion the cause of all of those children out there who want and need a dog.

Nine-Year-Old “Autistic” Child Spurs Community to Build Inclusive Playground

Lucas Fritsche – My Hero

by Bob Doman

I needed to write this story about my nine-year-old hero, Lucas Fritsche. Lucas exemplifies what can be, what should be, and what needs to be. Lucas’s story is one of a committed and proactive family, therapists who knew this child needed more than what they could provide, a school that learned to work with and assist a family, and a community that was willing to help and to listen.

I first met Lucas and his family in 2014. Lucas came with a bit of a “rep.” In preschool he was notorious for biting someone daily. When he started with NACD, he was in first grade and had been globally regressing since the previous summer. At the age of six, he had already been diagnosed with PDD/NOS, epilepsy, complex partial seizures (for which he was being medicated), sensory dysfunction, low muscle tone, and digestive and sleep issues. His school had him classified as autistic. He also had severe behavior, social, and academic issues.

From a neurodevelopmental perspective, Lucas had some sensory issues, as well as issues with muscle tone, strength, coordination, developmental motor skills, physiology, and auditory and visual processing. In addition to all of that, he had a questionable seizure disorder. The bottom line was we had a six-and-a-half-year-old child who was neurodevelopmentally where I would have liked to have seen him at age three, going on four. He had lots of potential—nothing scary, just pieces to put together.

Lucas had been referred to us by friends who have a child with Down syndrome named Abby, who was then and still is on an NACD program. I will a write separate post about Abby and her super occupational therapist, Debbie Hayden, shortly.

Lucas’s terrific parents were obviously anxious to see their son do better—much better—and were doing all they knew how to do with the help of doctors, therapists, and the school. They needed more and needed to address the causes, not the symptoms. Under ideal situations, I would have pulled Lucas out of school, kept him home, and had the majority of the day to address his issues one on one. Lucas’s dad was a farmer, a job requiring more than full time attention; his mom worked full time in HR; and they also had Lucas’s three-year-old sister, who needed their attention as well. So, Lucas needed to be at school full-time, and we needed to elicit the help of the school, as well as find some people to help his parents with program after school.

After that initial evaluation, I discussed his issues with his parents, and we started on a plan to address his problems, including his behavioral issues. The reality of Lucas’s behavior was that we had a strong willed, rather intense, six-and-a-half-year-old in first grade who had the ability to understand, think, and communicate like a three- going on four-year-old and a neurodevelopmental problem—we had to address his particular pieces.

It would have been nice to wave a magic wand, if it were possible, and have advanced him three years in a blink. Unfortunately, it takes some time to normalize sensory dysfunction, address physiological issues, sleep, severe processing delay, catch up academically and create new patterns of behavior.

Second grade had its challenges. He entered a new school year, and on day four he bolted from a situation. When his teacher grabbed him, he punched her. Unfortunately, because of a recent surgery, she needed to go to the hospital. Lucas was suspended for three days. Not a great start. After he was allowed back to school, he got upset at lunch with another student and hit him. Following this incident, we set up a behavior strategy to coordinate things between his parents and the school, which ended the aggression. That year he spent 85% of his school day in a resource room with an aide who did his NACD program with him. The other 15% of his day, he was with his peers.

It was then decided that it would be in Lucas’s best interest to repeat second grade while we continued the catch-up path. This second time around, with coordination between parents, the school, and NACD, Lucas spent his day in the regular class with a part-time aide, with some pullout time for school-based therapies. Through that year, the time with the aide continued to diminish, and with his advancing processing skills and the opportunity to be with peers, his social interaction and social skills developed. A year following his suspension, Lucas received the school’s “Pirate to Be Proud Of” award, an award given to just one child per grade in the school each quarter. Academically, he went from failing to As and Bs. By January of that year all outside therapies were discontinued—they were no longer needed.

Third grade started well; however, a significant event occurred in September. During recess Lucas felt he was falsely blamed for an issue that had occurred. When the class returned to their classroom, there was no Lucas. Lucas, having in his first years of school been sent to the principal’s office on numerous occasions for inappropriate behavior, had not gone back to class, but had instead gone to the principal’s office. He didn’t go because he had done something wrong, but because he needed to report the misunderstanding of the situation, and he felt that because he was blamed, he needed to report there. Having gained audience with the principal, Lucas stated his case and then proceeded to inform the principal that the playground was too small, that his friend who was in a wheelchair could not access the playground, and announced that he wished to speak to the school board about the issue. At that point, I knew I was working with a really special young man.

In February Lucas finally got to address 50-60 community members, parents, teachers, and administrators and presented a plan to make the playground handicap accessible. (See the video below.)

Lucas’s mom is currently working with a local group to create an inclusive playground in the community; and Lucas, because of his initiative with the school, has been invited to participate and has become a key spokesman in the development of this 1.5-million-dollar project.

Lucas is now an A/B student and is doing great socially. This past June, he won a purple ribbon for his 4H woodworking project, which moves him to the state competition; and this September, he will be showing a steer at the local community fair.

Lucas has shed all his previous labels; his seizures are history as well as his medications, his therapists, and his aides; and he has gained a new image: bright, kind, compassionate, witty, smart, and my hero.

Lucas represents what can be, what should be, and what needs be. We need to look at children as individuals with unlimited potential and not as labels. He exemplifies how we can get everyone working together to help achieve the parents’ vision for their child and produce the desired results.

What can be, what should be, and what needs to be.

Potential is defined by opportunity.

P.S. – Lucas read an email I had sent to his parents where I told them that their boy was going to do great things. Lucas’s response was, “If Mr. Bob says I will do great things, then I will.” I’d put money on it.

Amy

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Yesterday I saw Amy, a bright and delightful six-year-old girl. While I was speaking to her mom, Amy walked over eating from a bag of Cheetos. I looked at Mom and softly said, “You know those aren’t good for her, right?” (I thought that Amy had been ignoring us, but I was wrong.)

Amy’s mouth drops open and wide-eyed she looks at her mom and says incredulously:

“Soooooo—why do you give these to me?”

Soooooo parents, why do you give such things to your kids?

Our children trust us. They trust us to take care of them and taking care of them includes making good choices and at times, hard choices. One of those choices is providing them with and teaching them about good nutrition. Amy’s assumption was that her mother wouldn’t give her anything harmful. Amy’s mom, a really super mom, certainly represents the majority of parents. Parents that often find it easier to give children what’s easy and convenient, what they like and to be truthful we like making our kids happy—but at what price?

Parenting isn’t easy.

The Road to Independence Starts with Short Journeys

Here is another video from Japan talking about how to help move children along the road to independence and become a successful adult. In my previous post I talked about how children learning to take care of their personal and self-help needs and learning to be responsible for chores is vital to their development and independence. Now let’s look a step further.

From everything I can discover, our country is a much safer place than it was 50 years ago; however, because of national media attention most people feel it’s getting more dangerous every year. We as parents are being pressured to feel and believe that the world is really dangerous and that our children shouldn’t be permitted to play alone in their front yards, let alone walk down the street to a park, or heaven forbid, walk to school by themselves. Times certainly are a-changing.

I grew up right outside of the city limits of Philadelphia in a rather typical 1950’s suburban neighborhood. Our house happened to sit on a highway, US route #1, a very busy road that happened to sit at the intersection of another busy road. I prided myself in my ability to wake in the middle of the night from a deep sleep at the sounds of tires squealing and get to my window in time to see the cars actually crash. My sister and I walked to school along and across that highway for one mile every day, starting with kindergarten, as did every other kid in the area.

At the age of eleven I started a snow removal business, having contracted with many of the families and a few businesses in the area and having hired a couple of my friends to work for me. On school nights if it was supposed to snow, I would stay up and wait for the snow and would hit the streets as soon as it started coming down, often working from two or three am until it was time to go to school. My parents were proud of my initiative, and if they had anxiety over my being out on the streets in the middle of the night, I never knew it. I suspect they might have had a twinge or two of apprehension; but if they did they kept it to themselves.

Before I start getting hate mail, let me say that I’m not suggesting that you let your kids go out by themselves and roam the streets in the middle of the night, or that you have your seven-year-old daughter take a couple of trains by herself though a busy city to get to school. But I am saying that as parents we need to look for opportunities for our kids to do things independently and take some journeys.

I’ve had a number of occasions during my meetings with kids and their parents to challenge and push the parents. When traveling to our chapters, I often do evaluations out of suites in hotels and more often than not, Embassy Suites hotels. Most of these hotels have fewer than ten floors of rooms built around a central atrium, with glass front elevators at one end. Riding the elevators is often the highlight of the child’s trip. While working out of these hotels, I have on many occasions encouraged a parent with a teenage child with perhaps Down syndrome or one on the autism spectrum or even learning or attention problems to let their child go down to the lobby and retrieve the other parent. Often the suggestion is met with shock. The child wasn’t shocked, the parent was. To put this into perspective, because of the layout of the hotel you could watch the child go down the hallway, into and down the elevator, and even look down and watch them in the lobby. It should also be mentioned that during the day when we are doing the evaluations, the hotel is pretty much empty. As many times as I have done this, I’ve never had a child have the least bit of an issue. They listened to the directions, followed the directions, and just did it. The problem wasn’t with the child; it was with the parent.

We need to give our children the opportunity to do things independently to teach them independence. Independence teaches confidence, self-reliance, and initiative, all very important, very necessary lessons for all children, whether typical or special needs.

Lest you think that I just talk the talk and don’t walk the walk, my son, Laird, who now at 27 basically runs daily operations at NACD, was hauling 40-pound bales of hay to our Scottish Highland cattle first thing in the morning, in the dark, through the snow, often at temperatures below zero by himself at the age of 5. He didn’t need to be pushed or prodded or given candy as a reward, it was simply one of his jobs and he was proud to do it. He is better for the experience.

As parents, each of us needs to look at our children and evaluate their capabilities, determine what challenges they can handle, and let them go. It’s part of our job.

Teaching Chores Better Than Teaching Algebra?

Why might teaching your child to clean toilets be more helpful than teaching them algebra?

I love this video. All schools and parents should learn from this school. I have been extolling the importance of teaching chores and giving children responsibilities for decades. Sadly, parents and schools seem to do a poorer job of this every year. Many parents and most schools don’t understand the importance of teaching their children to work and contribute and how to become what I like to call “highly capable.” If I could I would raise every child on a farm or a ranch or around a family business so that there were always plenty of chores and jobs to do–lots of opportunities for growth.

Most of today’s kids don’t have a clue about chores or real “work.” I can ask a parent about what chores their kids do and get blank stares as though the concept is completely foreign, or a reply like he helps clear the table sometimes and will take out the garbage if I ask him. It is extremely rare that I have a parent reel off a list of real chores and responsibilities that their child assumes responsibility for. The norm is more like Mom having to get her children out of bed and on the bus in the morning, and perhaps when pushed they sort of clean up their room or help with dishes. And, sadly, the list tends to get shorter as the kids get older.

Many parents appear to feel that the more they do for their children, the more they are demonstrating their love and support; with the net result that they are teaching their children that they are both dependent and entitled. The outcome is often conflict and negativity and children growing up with the belief that what you give them and what you do for them is the true measure of your love for them. The more they are given, the more they demand. Along with the entitlement comes more and more pushback so it becomes easier and easier to do everything for them and hope that some day they will learn to be responsible and not so self-centered.

I see high school students who can’t be responsible for even getting themselves up in the morning, let alone taking care of their personal space, fixing themselves a meal, assuming responsibility for and contributing to the family and the home–their home–and often even their school assignments. Parents who remind their children that they have assignments that need to be completed, that they have upcoming tests that they need to study for, are assuming the responsibility for their children and are shocked when their children do poorly and that their children don’t feel responsible for their failure. But why should they? They’re not responsible, you are.

Many parents think that what their children need to learn is centered on academics and skills taught in classes and on teams. The children need to learn to read, to do math, science, perhaps play the piano or kick a soccer ball, etc. Are there benefits to these things? Certainly. They’re critical; but it’s not enough–not close to enough. Could learning to clean a toilet and having the responsibility to keep that toilet clean lead to better outcomes than getting artificially good grades in algebra because your mother got you up every morning and helped you with your assignments and hounded you to study for tomorrow’s test and having a teacher who let you take the test over again because you blew it the first time? In the big picture, in the long term, could learning to be responsible for cleaning the toilet produce better outcomes?

Children need to learn how to be independent, to take care of themselves, to be responsible for themselves, to learn that the universe doesn’t revolve around them, and that they need to learn to serve and do things for the family and others.

Children who are given jobs and chores and are held responsible gain tremendous self-respect and self confidence, demonstrate maturity beyond their peers, learn to be independent not dependent, learn to look for what needs to be done, do it, and learn to be responsible.

Irresponsible children tend to become irresponsible adults.

Entitled children tend to become entitled adults.

I love watching children grow and develop into adulthood with a strong sense of who they are, independent, confident, and having the courage to push themselves, think for themselves and to have respect and compassion for others. These things don’t happen by accident. They happen when parents understand that they are raising their children to be adults, not self-centered, dependent, irresponsible, entitled, very large children.

Teaching your child how to do chores correctly and teaching them to assume the responsibility for doing those jobs and chores needs to be seen as a fundamental part of their education.

Many parents and schools have lost the vision. Perhaps this is why we are becoming more and more of an entitled society.