Monthly Archives: January 2013

Just the Way You Are

I just received this wonderful video today and wanted to share it. Steve Pankratz, an NACD dad in Bulgaria, unbeknownst to me wrote and performed this song about his son, Jaden, for an NACD Bulgarian Down Syndrome Conference last year. Steve and his wife, Tanja, organized this conference and made it possible for our staff to have the opportunity to address a large group of parents and professionals in Bulgaria over Skype. Steve and Tanja have really been helping to educate folks in Bulgaria about the potential of our children with Down Syndrome.

The interest and need in their part of the world is such that I’m delighted to be going over to Bucharest this May to see our great dedicated families from Romania, Bulgaria, and throughout the region. NACD has been very well received there, and we are seeing some really great changes with the kids. Great parents, like Steve and Tanja, who love and believe in the potential of their children are the same everywhere, and all of us at NACD feel very privledged and honored to be able to give them some help and guidance in their journey. Thanks to the Pankratz family for sharing this beautifully personal video with all of us.

Where Did My Brilliant Baby Go?

From the Brilliant Baby series–

“Where Did My Brilliant Baby Go?” 

In this short video from the Brilliant Baby series, I talk about how parents and educators determine how well our children access and reach their innate potential.  Development is not about our children getting older; it’s about developing their brain, and parents and educators need to help make that happen. Hey, parents! Hey, educators! How well are you really doing?

Waiting for Hercules

Three feet of new snow, about 5 degrees, and my stairs and the walk up to my front door need shoveling. At first sight it is kind of a Herculean task for this out of shape sixty-five year old guy, but I view it as an opportunity.

photo 1 for blog

My regret is that one of my grandsons is not here to take advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

One of the great opportunities our children can have and lessons they can learn is to be presented with and accomplish Herculean tasks. Herculean tasks help your children learn what they can do if they really try. They teach them to look at a task that they think is impossible and to learn that they can really do it. As parents you should be on the alert for tasks that appear to be Herculean. The ideal Herculean tasks are those that look huge and to the child seem impossible, but which are doable, although they may take a whole lot of time and effort. The child who is used to 5-minute chores might perceive shoveling a driveway covered in a foot of snow, a yard covered in leaves to rake, an entire vegetable garden to weed, a stack of logs to move, or washing all the windows in the house all as Herculean/impossible tasks. But they are not impossible; they are possible if they try.

Completion of Herculean tasks provides children with an opportunity to redefine themselves, to change their perception of what is possible, and to learn that if they try they can in fact do it. The child who learns they can do Herculean tasks will continue raising the bar on their perception of what they can do and will learn to attack new tasks with the intention of succeeding–not just trying, not just making an effort, not just going through the motions, but having the intention of accomplishing the task.

The child who learns they can do Herculean tasks won’t shut down when presented with the task of writing a twenty-page report, reading a 500-page book, learning all of the bones in the body, or pushing to take another tenth of a second off their 100-yard dash.

Look for those appropriate Herculean tasks and change your child’s perception of himself forever.

Okay, so much for my break. I’ve finished the steps and walks.

photo 2 for Hercules

Now the driveway!

photo 3 for Hercules

Or perhaps I’ll wait for Hercules.

Related Links

NACD Family Chore List

More On How It Appears

I recently wrote a post where I discussed the significance of the term “It Appears That.” This is such an important concept to me that I’d like to expound on it a bit.

I mentioned that even when looking at “formal” research, I question and challenge the results. Although the researchers may feel that their study has proven whatever it is that their conclusion states, we still must understand that it still doesn’t necessarily make it true. Researchers, practitioners and developers alike become vested in their hypotheses, methodologies, and products. My experience is that an individual or group will discover something that worked for someone or a few “someones,” then apply it to a few more similar “someones” whom it may help. By this time they are vested, and also perhaps have invested, in the idea or product and are perhaps “sold” on their “baby,” so to speak. Then they start using their thing with a broader and broader population and look at results through rose-colored glasses. The placebo effect would tell us that about 30% of people who use something will see, or believe they see, benefits. For those who create, develop, invest in, and make their living from this product or service, this placebo effect feedback can be sufficient to keep them believing in and promoting what they are doing. For the user the more expensive and the more difficult the product or service is to acquire, the more invested they become and the more likely they are to see benefits. One would hope that time would bring out the truth; but the reality is that once a tipping point has been reached and a significant number of people have used it or sufficient time has passed, many of these things become “true” based on their longevity. “If it has been around for this long and used by this many people, is must be true and it must be right.” (Bloodletting was used for 2,000 years–it must be good.) The list of things I have seen that have followed this pattern is very long, but the bottom line is: buyer beware. Whether it is a product for sale, a new or “time tested” medication, or a “proven” scientific paradigm, we must look at whatever is presented to us in this light and not be naïve about what we accept as truth.

Another reason we have to be careful about such programs, products, and ideas is that what may be true for one individual isn’t necessarily true for the next. One of my greater challenges has been simply describing what we do at NACD. People endlessly ask, “What is your program?” to which we respond, “We don’t have ‘a’ program.” We have as many programs as we do individuals with whom we work. We utilize over three thousand different methods and techniques, which we continually modify or replace. Our task is to understand the individual and pull from our reservoir of experience and resources to determine what is going to give us the most bang for our buck for this individual, in this family today. How can we best utilize time and resources? What are the best specific tools to use with this individual today, understanding that next week or next month it will be different? People have a difficult time understanding this because the world is full of specific programs, which may be tweaked a bit, but which are essentially the same for everyone. Unfortunately–or fortunately–no two of us are alike. Those recommending medications, diets, and “programs” for developmental issues, however, tend to treat us as though we all are.

My decades of work have taught me one incredibly important lesson: Each of us is unique. Our strength likes in our individuality and uniqueness. The more we can approach our treatment and our relationships from this perspective, the more effective and successful we will be. It would appear that as educators or providers, as individuals or as parents, we had better understand that we need to be constantly questioning, looking at the results, and determining if what we are doing is working and working well. I always believe that we can and need to continually do it better.

Down With Homework

Our local news KSL posted an article this week, “Utah Teacher: assigned homework does not benefit kids.” The local educator and author Lynn Stoddard was quoted as saying “It’s such a strong myth in our society that teacher assigned homework is good for kids.”  The post went on to list Stoddard’s reasons for his statement, which included:

  • It is an excessive burden on parents.
  • It interferes with family activities.
  • It puts much stress on many students.
  • It makes less time for other beneficial interests.
  • It gives children an aversion to learning.

I’ve read Stoddard’s book, Educating for Human Greatness, and found I agreed with the majority of what he had to say, which is not too surprising in that we are both proponents of student individuality and the huge role of inquiry as a primary tenet of successful education. Stoddard and I are not at all alone in our concerns about homework. Other books that I have read that discuss the negative aspects of homework are Kohn’s The Homework Myth and Kralovec and Buell’s book The End of Homework. I have been fighting homework throughout my career and believe that the vast majority of homework not only does not benefit kids, but is in fact harmful for the entire educational process.

Two of the commonly stated concerns with our children and their education are that children do not get enough exercise and they do not read.  We have children getting up before 6:00 a.m. to catch their school bus; they sit in classrooms until about 3:00; get home at 3:30 or 4:00, if lucky; and then sit down to often hours of homework/busywork.  So when do they get exercise? And who could be surprised that after all those hours of non-individualized, non-personalized “stuff”– much of which requires reading–Johnny doesn’t read for pleasure or read to explore his personal interests?  It’s really not surprising that Johnny doesn’t read and Johnny very possibly is destined to become an adult non-reader.  The value of reading is unquestionable, and creating readers should be, and is, one of the primary objectives of education.  However the system is failing.  The often-ineffective methods being used to teach reading by our educational system is a whole other topic for another day. It’s tragic that the two most positive influences on reading in the United States in the past 40 years have been Sesame Street and Harry Potter. It certainly has not been our curriculum-based, testing-based public education system.

Many of the current educational trends are moving in all the wrong directions. The solution to better education is not more curriculum, longer school days, longer school years, more homework, and more testing.  The solution is smarter school, not more school, and more individualized, brain/child-centered education and parents– parents whose role is reading with their children, exploring with their children, or often even talking with their children, instead of fighting with their children to do their homework.

It appears that we need to fix this broken system.  Down with homework!

Related links: