Tag Archive for: education

In contemporary society, the discourse surrounding disability and special needs has evolved significantly, yet outdated perceptions persist. The phrase “additional needs” emerges as a powerful tool to dismantle negative stereotypes and foster a more inclusive dialogue. It serves as a catalyst for transforming society’s understanding of what it means to live with a disability or special needs. This article explores the term “additional needs” and its potential to reshape societal perspectives.

Society has long grappled with outdated and prejudiced notions regarding disability and special needs. Negative stereotypes often stem from misinformation and lack of exposure to diverse experiences. Individuals with disabilities are frequently stigmatized and marginalized, facing barriers that hinder their full participation in various aspects of life. It is crucial to recognize the urgent need for a paradigm shift in societal attitudes towards those with additional needs.

Language plays a pivotal role in shaping societal perceptions. By using language that focuses on the idea of additional needs, we can highlight the commonality of human needs while acknowledging the unique requirements some individuals may have. This shift in language encourages empathy, understanding, and inclusivity.

The adoption of the phrase “additional needs” opens up new dialogues about inclusivity and diversity. It prompts conversations that challenge preconceived notions and fosters a more nuanced understanding of the varied experiences within the community of individuals with additional needs. These conversations pave the way for greater awareness and acceptance, fostering an environment where everyone is acknowledged for their inherent worth and potential.

Education is a powerful tool in dismantling stereotypes and promoting inclusivity. Society must be equipped with accurate and up-to-date information about disabilities and additional needs. By utilizing the term “additional needs,” we can initiate educational campaigns that focus on breaking down barriers and promoting a more empathetic and informed community. This education extends beyond academic institutions to workplaces, public spaces, and homes.

At its core, the concept of additional needs emphasizes the shared human experience of having needs, albeit with varying degrees and forms. By recognizing that we all have needs, society can move towards a more compassionate and supportive stance. This shift empowers individuals with additional needs to participate fully in all aspects of life, fostering a society where diversity is celebrated rather than stigmatized.

The phrase “additional needs” serves as a beacon of hope for transforming society’s perspective on disability and special needs. By challenging outdated perceptions and fostering inclusive dialogues, we can create a more empathetic and understanding community. Through education and a commitment to recognizing shared human needs, we can build a society that celebrates diversity and ensures that everyone, regardless of their unique requirements, can lead a fulfilling and meaningful life. It is time to embrace the power of language and shift towards a more inclusive future for all.

Reprogramming Our Minds: Transforming Our Perception of the Unknown

As human beings, we often find ourselves forming opinions and judgments about things we don’t fully understand. Whether it’s a complex scientific concept, a different culture, a person’s additional need or needs, or a new technology, our brains have a tendency to default to old perspectives, skepticism, fear, or even indifference. However, in an era of rapid progress and interconnectedness, it has become crucial for us to challenge these ingrained tendencies and reprogram our brains to approach the unknown with curiosity, open-mindedness, and empathy. This article explores the need for such a paradigm shift and offers insights into how we can actively reshape our perspectives.

  1. The Power of Perception

Our perception is shaped by a combination of innate biases, personal experiences, and cultural influences. While these factors have helped us survive and navigate the world, they can also limit our ability to embrace the unknown. By acknowledging the limitations of our default thinking patterns, we open ourselves up to the possibility of growth and transformation.

  1. Cultivating Curiosity

Curiosity is the catalyst for learning and understanding. To reprogram our brains, we must cultivate a genuine curiosity about the things we don’t comprehend. Instead of dismissing or rejecting unfamiliar ideas, we can adopt a mindset that seeks to explore, question, and learn. Engaging in active listening, reading diverse perspectives, and seeking out new experiences can all fuel our curiosity and expand our understanding.

  1. Embracing Cognitive Flexibility

Cognitive flexibility refers to our capacity to adapt our thinking and perspectives in response to new information. By consciously embracing this flexibility, we can overcome the tendency to hold onto rigid beliefs and opinions. This involves acknowledging that our understanding of the world is incomplete and subject to change. Developing the skill of perspective-taking can enable us to see things from different angles and appreciate diverse viewpoints.

  1. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Empathy plays a crucial role in reprogramming our brains when it comes to the unknown. By empathizing with others who hold different beliefs or come from different backgrounds, we can transcend our own biases and connect on a deeper level. Developing emotional intelligence allows us to recognize and manage our own emotions when confronted with the unfamiliar, enabling us to approach these situations with empathy and understanding.

  1. The Role of Education and Exposure

Education is a powerful tool for transforming our perception of the unknown. By incorporating comprehensive and inclusive education systems, we can expose individuals to a wide range of knowledge, experiences, and perspectives. This exposure fosters a sense of intellectual curiosity, tolerance, and appreciation for the diverse world we inhabit. It is crucial to prioritize lifelong learning and invest in educational initiatives that promote understanding and critical thinking.

  1. Practicing Mindfulness

Mindfulness, the practice of being fully present and aware of our thoughts and emotions, can help us reprogram our brains. By observing our own biases, judgments, and reactions, we gain insight into how our minds work. This awareness empowers us to consciously challenge and reframe our thoughts when faced with the unknown. Mindfulness also enables us to navigate uncertainty with greater resilience and acceptance.

Reprogramming our brains to embrace the unknown is an ongoing and transformative process. By cultivating curiosity, embracing cognitive flexibility, practicing empathy, and investing in education and mindfulness, we can dismantle the barriers that hinder our understanding of unfamiliar concepts. As we strive for a more interconnected and harmonious world, let us challenge ourselves to reprogram our minds and approach the unknown with open hearts and open minds.

He’s the child found dead-center in this photo, almost crouched down.

A girl in a sky blue wheel chair sits to his left. Another girl with a navy blue towel around her shoulders sits to his right.

He’s the shirtless one with orange hair.

He was nine the first time I met him. He was eleven the last summer I spent with him.

He was only a few years older when his body gave out and he died.

I haven’t seen him in over 35 years.

Yet the orange-haired pirate of a child — with his mid-arm crutches and his leg braces and his wicked smile and his stutter and his limited ability to speak in full sentences and his infectious laugh and his willingness to play fearless kickball at the speed of a fast moving but rudderless speed boat — continues to live every day in my heart and in my imagination.

This is a story about that orange-haired pirate of a child.

But it is also a story about another ‘near-child’ — one who was nervous and unprepared — that was invited to guide him one summer long ago.

And ultimately it is a story about the adult (who that ‘near-child’ became) that eventually allowed that orange-haired pirate of a boy guided him.

***

Chapter 1: A Pirate and The Uninitiated

It was 1984.

It was the summer before high school. I was barely a teenager. I felt incredibly awkward, shy, and lost. I knew so very little.

I sat alone in the way-back seat of well worn school bus. Tried to ignore everyone in the rows ahead of me. Tried to ignore what lay miles ahead of me. Tried to ignore that I was scared. Felt way over my head. Wanted desperately to get off that bus. Wanted to go home.

Much like so many kids heading off to camp for the first time.

But I wasn’t a camper. And this wasn’t my first summer camp.

The trees passed by my bus window in a blur. Yet, the trip took forever.

I just wanted off.

The only way off that bus that morning was to step fully into an experience that would fundamentally change my life. An experience for which I was woefully unprepared.

If you had stepped off the bus with me at the age of 14 in that long ago summer morning, you would have walked into a modest (at the time) summer camp nestled on the end of a lake in Dedham, in ‘central’ Maine, about a half an hour north of Bangor as if you were on the way to Ellsworth, which is on the way to Bar Harbor. which is where most people head when they go to Maine in this summer.

But an hour or so before you’d make it to Bar Harbor there lies a place of deep joy and refuge, healing and living. There lies a place called Camp Capella.

At the time Capella was sponsored by United Cerebral Palsy, but it welcomed all kids regardless of the uniqueness of their specific disability or their life circumstance. It was (and is) a camp where young people — whose bodies are broken or unique or challenged — are allowed to be children in the most beautiful and life-affirming of ways.

Capella did (and does) a lot of wonderful things, but it honored (and honors) childhood and life particularly well. In other words, it honored (and honors) the magical power of summer camp.

But I didn’t understand that at the time.

I was 14.

I was young, sheltered, naive, nervous. I had never spent an authentic moment with anyone with a visible disability in my life until the moment I got off that bus in the summer of 1984.

All I knew is that I was going to be a 14yo camp counselor working with handicapped children.

And I wasn’t sure I could actually get off that bus.

As a 14yo I was technically in no position to be a true camp counselor. Not even sure how it was legal, other than there must have been a stipulation for ‘counselor in training’ that someone selected for me as a way to invite me to work that summer.

You see, Capella was a place — at that time — that creatively took advantage of all resources and people and hearts and rolls of duct tape and whatever one could offer. It was truly a by-any-means-necessary culture when it came to the children they loved, protected and served.

That included an awkward 14yo boy who was going to be a first-time camp counselor with kids he had no idea how to love, protect and serve.

***

Chapter 2: Getting Off The Bus

Fast forward past my getting off the bus that first day.

Fast forward past a few days of intense counselor orientation — finding out I had to help kids eat, help kids get dressed, help kids use the restrooms, help kids speak (even if on a backboard and only able to blink a few expressions), help kids manage unexpected seizures, help kids stay alive.

And fast forward past the nervousness (and emerging sense of excitement) of trying to sleep the night before the kids showed up.

I’m standing at the front entrance of the main building. Another bus arrives. The door opens.

And out steps a pirate.

Okay, Uriah wasn’t a pirate, but I want you to imagine a young pirate kind of kid, a young pirate kind of kid with a shock of fire-orange hair and a smile that stretched to the horizon.

He bounded and near-collapsed out of the bus, one hyper violent step and landing at a time.

He was my kid for the summer.

And I was already in absolute awe of him.

***

Chapter 3: Looking Out To The Water

Uriah had one daily goal. Heck, maybe it was his one life goal.

It didn’t matter what sort of day it was or what was on the activity list. We could be struggling to get lunch into his mouth as his body faced excitable convulsions. It could be when his knees were bloodied from yet another collapse-fall as he sprinted on crutches down the concrete walk way. It could be in the middle of arts-n-crafts with fabric and glue and who knows what else mockingly stuck to his hands. It could be in the rain when clouds and plastic jackets were impossible to avoid. And it was absolutely anytime rest hour was forced on him.

The water of Phillips Lake always stood off in the distance, about 40 yards from the bathhouse where we kept our gear and changed clothing.

That lake was a siren call for Uriah.

All kids love being in the water at camp. That’s no secret.

But for a kid like Uriah, it wasn’t just love. It was life.

Literally that lake was the difference between Uriah feeling broken vs. feeling alive, between Uriah being dependent vs. being fully realized, between Uriah being a deficit vs. being a super hero.

You see, when Uriah was in the lake, the world got out of his way. Gravity got out of his way. Injury got out of his way. Seizures got out of his way. Limitations of any kind got out of his way.

On land, Uriah was a kid who collapsed, constantly covered in blood and never-healing scabs. Uriah was a young boy whose braces and crutches poorly prevented him from falling in every movement. Uriah was somebody with regular seizures. Uriah was a young boy who had at most 20 or 30 words that he could force out in a way one could easily understand.

But in the lake, Uriah was a porpoise.

Sleek and effortless. Full of splash and wonder. Contortions of grace. Inexhaustible. Fluent. Seizure-less. Boundless. Boundary-less.

At 14 — as an unprepared first-time counselor working with kids like Uriah for the first time in my life — I didn’t fully appreciate the profound wisdom that I was witnessing in Uriah’s natural response to the siren’s call of that lake.

And for much of the decades of teaching, coaching, working at more camps, designing schools, and learning to be a parent that followed that long-ago summer, I didn’t fully grasp the wisdom that that orange-haired pirate of a child was teaching me.

But I do now.

You see, that summer I thought that my job and responsibility was to pick Uriah back up and proverbially dust him off when he fell. I thought my job was to guide him and teach him and clean him and protect him and keep the world of risk away from him. I thought that my job was to get him into his bathing suit and down to the lake, let him swim for 30 minutes or so, then get him back to the bathhouse to dry off and change again so he could get back to the next thing on the activity list. I thought my job and responsibility was to send him to kickball and then to arts and crafts and then to lunch so he wouldn’t be late to what was next.

But where I failed is that I didn’t see what Uriah was seeing.

I didn’t look out to the lake that was calling him. I didn’t see the light and mischief in his eyes when he saw it. I didn’t see — in spite of blood and scabs and braces and collapse — that Uriah was in head over heels in love. And I didn’t see that all he wanted as a 9 and then 10 and then 11yo boy pirate in the three summers I was with him was to feel absolutely alive.

If I could go back to those long-ago summers knowing what I know now — thanks to holding Uriah’s story inside my heart and imagination for decades since he passed — I would have broken all the rules, been late to all the activities, rolled my eyes at the ‘end’ of swim time, and found by-any-means-necessary ways to let him be a porpoise in that lake without limit of time or space or gravity or words or pain.

Yes, arts and crafts mattered. Eating a proper healthy lunch mattered. Kickball mattered. Being ‘on time’ mattered. And learning to communicate clearly, even with a stutter and limited vocabulary, mattered.

But what mattered most was the wisdom of an orange haired pirate falling in love with the lake and the ease at which his body and imagination flowed thru the water, occasionally breaking the surface back into the sunlight in riotous laughter before diving back down into the welcoming mystery below.

What I’ve learned over time is that summer camps like Camp Capella do not exist for perfection. They do not exist for showing up on time. Or making sure falls never happen.

Camps like Capella are places where young bodies with a myriad of challenges are allowed to be children in the purest of ways and the boundlessness of limitless love.

By any means necessary.

And children like Uriah — with their wellspring of energy and wisdom and mischievous looks to the lake and the horizon — are our guides.

If we choose to see what they see, feel what they feel, love what they love, dive into what they dive into.

I am a better educator because of Uriah. I am a better parent because of Uriah.

Best of all: I am simply a better human being because of Uriah.

***

Chapter 4: Lesson Learned and Shared Many Years Later

A few years back, I was invited to be the opening keynote speaker at a large (and rapidly growing) school district in Ohio at the beginning of a new school year. It was a celebration and welcoming back of all faculty, staff, administration, and board members. The indoor complex was packed wall to wall. The energy was palpable. And this group of school professionals were ready to get at it, although still holding onto the last vestiges of their summer vacation, attired in shorts and flip flops and well earned tans.

The district was a model of excellence, resources and innovation. Their students have a well-deserved reputation for thriving in all forms of academics, athletics, and extra-curriculars. Their teachers are talented and proud of the impact they have on their students. The parents and local business leaders are rightfully proud of the accomplishments of the young people (and staff), touting it as central to the tremendous success of local business, real estate, and community culture.

When asked to speak about the ‘future of learning’ — central to the work I do daily — I was struck by the fact that the real opportunity for such a district wasn’t in further accelerating into educational trends and technologies. It wasn’t in increasing test scores. It wasn’t about more state championships. It wasn’t about better marching band routines. They had all of that in spades.

The real opportunity was to remind them of the beautiful complexities found within each of their kids. And in each one of them.

With no PowerPoint slides, no provocative education or economic stats, no compelling stories about the future of learning or societal trend lines, I instead told them the story of two boys: Uriah at 9 and me at 14.

I told them the story because it was a story of summer time.

I told them the story because it was a story of childhood laughter and overcoming camp challenges.

I told them the story because it was a story of new relationships and sunset conversations.

I told them the story because it was a story about all of us coming back together from our own summer adventures and conversations and challenges and laughter and relationships and sunsets, becoming a community of co-learners once again, something central to this moment for everyone gathered at this back-to-school kick-off event.

But I also told them about Uriah and me and that long ago summer of 1984 because it gave me a chance to admit publicly that I had gotten it wrong.

That I had failed.

That despite being a very experienced educator, coach, and school designer — and a parent of two — I had spent most of my career and early days of parenthood getting it wrong.

That while I was so often passionately focused on ensuring the growth and skill development and accolades and accomplishments of my students (and my own children) — and teaching them the ‘lessons they would one day need’ when the world got tough— I had failed to do what mattered most.

I had failed — in that long-ago summer of 1984 — to notice what Uriah noticed.

I had failed to focus on following his path of curiosity.

I had failed to be curious about what he imagined.

I had failed to honor what he craved.

I had failed to create space for what he daydreamed.

I had failed to ensure he found the lake so he could find himself.

So, standing on that massive stage looking out at more than a thousand educators and school professionals, I told them that my greatest failure as an educator (and as a parent) was not in failing to prepare my students (and kids) for challenges or their future,…

…but that I had failed to fall in love with their most precious present.

And that I had failed to see what they saw.

And that I had failed to love what they loved.

And that I had failed to let my Uriah guide me in becoming a better parent, educator, leader, learner, and human being for far too many years.

As I ended my talk, I paused to ask the audience of successful educators, staff and leaders to make space for the ‘lakes’ that their kids looked out at, so that their young people could become porpoises on their own terms no matter what real world challenges and scars lay all around them.

I asked them to make sure they found their own Uriah.

I asked them to see the world the way their own Uriah looked at it.

I asked them to follow their own Uriah’s invitation.

And I asked them to let their own Uriah help them become better parents, educators, guides, learners, and human beings in the process.

Written by Christian Long

Christian Long is a designer, educator, and the founding partner of The WONDER Project, a design studio that helps organizations, schools and learning communities design and develop at the intersection of their mission and moonshots. Christian works nationally and internationally with students, teachers and school leaders, architects, and a wide array of multi-disciplinary professionals to design agile schools and organizations readying for the future. He regularly presents keynote addresses at conferences around the world focusing on the relationship between human-centered design and the future of education. Overall he is an unapologetic advocate for wonder and curiosity as the root of all learning worth doing. A much older version of Christian – many years into the future – can be found in semi-retirement at a tree-covered summer camp where he’ll continue to marvel first-hand at the shared joy of children and adults alike.

To find other articles written by Christian visit Medium

To learn more about Christian visit his Linkedin & Instagram accounts.  

To learn about Camp Capella: “The mission of Camp CaPella is to enhance life experiences for individuals with disabilities by providing accessible recreational and educational opportunities.”

We are searching on a daily basis to find information to assist parents as they decide on how to proceed with school reopening. We came across this article from NBC News, Do children spread coronavirus? What doctors say about going back to school 

 These passages are from the above article “In the U.S., children make up about 22 percent of the population, but kids account for only 2 percent of coronavirus cases so far, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” “It’s not yet known what accounts for that disparity, said Dr. C. Buddy Creech, an associate professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.”

  Now that got us thinking why are the numbers the way they are? We searched more and came across this article from our home state of Florida. More than 7,000 kids have tested positive for coronavirus in Florida. 12 have MIS-C via The Miami Herald dated 7/1/2020

 Back to the question why the disparity? As we continue to research we have found that children have not been tested nearly as much as adults and most children, thank goodness, will never have to see the inside of an emergency room because of having COVID-19. Here is what the Miami Herald article states about testing children, “When COVID-19 testing first became available in March, testing was restricted to those who were experiencing symptoms and met a specific criteria, including having recently traveled to a high-risk COVID-19 area. Now, almost anyone can be tested for the disease regardless of symptoms, though some sites in South Florida still do not accept children younger than 12.”  

 Now that takes us to the states weekly COVID-19 pediatric report which at the time of The Miami Herald article the number of children tested in Florida was 42,287. Of those tested 7,197, or 17% tested positive, the report stated. As of July 9th the number of children tested in Florida was 54,022. Of those tested 16,797 or 31.1% tested positive, the report states.   

 According to the numbers, the trend is going in the wrong direction. If a school decides to reopen, its number one priority must be the safety of the children, teachers and staff. The numbers speak for themselves.

*The pediatric report for Florida changes every Friday. To see the new numbers visit Florida Health COVID-19 Response

Photo by Caleb Oquendo

As a parent with a child with additional needs my wife and are pleased with how our school has transitioned with our son’s virtual learning. We are also pleased how his virtual therapy sessions have gone. Even though this is going well, it has its challenges. We do feel that all of this screen time is affecting our son’s behavior in a negative way. To reduce the negative behaviors once the lessons are completed we make sure that electronics of any kind are put away for the rest of the day. That includes screen time with friends and family. With running Additional Needs, Inc. I read articles about our community on a daily basis, I have read over and over how difficult virtual learning is for the children and parents, and in some cases, children are still not receiving any services. For the families that are doing virtual learning many of them feel the school is doing what they can but because of the circumstances it’s not enough. We feel the same way. Even in our case we believe schools and therapists can’t replace in-person teaching and therapies with virtual teaching and therapies. Here are articles that make this point crystal clear. Because we must stay home at this time and do things virtually we’ve also added articles that help parents navigate virtual learning. 

Below are articles on how difficult virtual learning is for children with additional needs:

No one to help me’: Special education families struggle with coronavirus school closures via USA Today

Two senators — a Democrat and a Republican — urge Betsy DeVos not to gut special-education law but provide ‘narrow’ flexibility to school districts via The Washington Post

Coronavirus: Parents of children with special needs experience challenges with at-home education  via WYDAILY

Disability rights advocates urge Education Secretary DeVos to ensure special education students receive equal services via The Washington Post

How are we going to do this?’: Students with special needs could slip behind via MPRNEWS

Special education during coronavirus: What should parents tolerate, demand? via WHYY PBS

Coronavirus: Special education at home could set some kids ‘way back’  via Dayton Daily News

The Pandemic Is a Crisis for Students With Special Needs via The Atlantic

Online learning presents unique challenges for special education students and families via kxan

Here are articles to help parents with virtual learning:

8 Tips for Conducting Virtual IEP Meetings via edutipia

I’m Homeschooling 3 Kids With IEPs And 504s — Here’s How We’re Making It Work via Scary Mommy   

Iowa Parents Seeking Solutions for Special Education Learning at Home via 13 NEWS

Parents of special needs children need community support during the pandemic  via Nj.com

Here’s how Washoe County students with special needs are adapting to distance learning via NEWS 4

Educators Get Creative To Serve Students With Disabilities via npr

Through this experience we believe both the families and the teachers will have greater appreciation for one another.