NEW STRATEGIES CAN CREATE NEW LIVES!
I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.
Children and adults with disabilities want and need to live Real Lives in the Real World—normal, ordinary lives, included as valuable members of their homes, neighborhoods, schools, workplaces, and communities. Unfortunately, however, most seem to be stuck in Disability World: a world of special places and services, and ultimately, a world of segregation.
We spend too much time and energy focused on what a person cannot do, instead of what she can! Children and adults with disabilities have many strengths and abilities. And we haven't spent enough time thinking about what's really important to the person, and what assistive technology, supports, accommodations, and/or environmental changes are needed so the person can live the life he or she wants. The articles in this section can get us moving in a new direction! (Strategies specific only to children, like education and therapies, are in the .)
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Explore the articles below . . .
And check out the Your Stories section for valuable real-life experiences!
Looking for a specific article?
Click here to go to the Explore/Home page;
midway down the page you'll find an alphabetical listing of all articles.
Enjoy these new ways of thinking!
Ability to Choose + Helpful Tools = Success
When children and adults with disabilities have the tools they need, they're in a better position to make their own choices. Are we ensuring people have these opportunities for success?
Activity-Based Goals = Success
Many "special ed" goals may be inappropriate, meaningless, and irrelevant. (Ditto the goals written for adults.) So is it any wonder when the goals are not achieved? Activity-based goals are the solution!
Advocate or Diplomat?
Explore the definitions of these two words, ponder the outcomes of different ways of doing things, and then decide if you would be more successful as an advocate or a diplomat.
Improvements in laws and policies may be needed, but those can only establish a framework. Real human connections—infused with positive values—are what will make all the difference in the lives of people with disabilities.
Ask . . . and You Shall Receive
Wondrous things can happen when children and adults with disabilities learn to ask for the help they need from a variety of different people. Good-bye, Dependence; Hello, Interdependence!
Ask, Don't Assume
We do a lot of assuming about children and adults with disabilities. It's time to ask them what they want (and don't want), what they think, what they need, and what they dream.
Assistive Technology Can...
Assistive technology can ensure kids and adults with disabilities live real lives—self-determined lives—included at home, in school, at work, and in the community! (Click here for the Spanish version.)
Beliefs Necessary to Achieve Community Inclusion
What does it take to ensure children and adults are included in their communities? Commonsense beliefs! Inclusion in the community will happen when we believe it can happen!
Best Hopes, Worst Fears
The Best Hopes-Worst Fears exercise can help parents, teachers, service providers, and others, in our efforts to ensure real lives for children and adults with disabilities. Try it, you'll like it!
Beware the Retarding Environment
What do the true experts say about "retarding environments"? And where do such environments exist? Only in institutions...or in our homes, schools, and other typical settings? Beware...
Community Leadership for Inclusion
We want children and adults with disabilities to have better lives. But the solution isn't in the system, it's in our communities-and we can provide the leadership for positive change! (Click here for the Spanish version.)
Culture of Caring
Creating a culture of caring—in our homes, schools, and other environments—will also create a more welcoming, inclusive society for all.
Developmental Age vs. Chronological Age
An examination of this common—and harmful—practice will lead us to question its validity. I don't always act my age, do you?
Dream Without Limits!
Dreams are the stuff of life. But dreams are often missing from the lives of many people with disabilities. Let's ensure children and adults with disabilities can dream without limits!
Environment, Environment, Environment
In real estate, the mantra regarding the most desirable home is, "Location, location, location." To ensure the most desirable outcomes for individuals with disabilities, let's adopt a similar mantra: "Environment, environment, environment." Where and how a person spends his time can make a whale of a difference in the life he leads!
Everyone Needs to Be Needed
We all like to be needed by others. But people with disabilities are often seen only as "needy," and they're not given opportunities to help others. This can all change when we realize that everyone can contribute!
What's the big fuss about "making eye contact"? Is this really that important in the big scheme of things, and why do we practically "torture" some children in our efforts to force them to make eye contact?
Go Beyond Goals: Think Outcomes!
We write goals galore, because the government says we must. A goal is what we hope will happen; but an outcome is what really happens. So let's go beyond goals, and think about outcomes!
Goals: Meaningful and Relevant or Garbage?
Goals, goals, goals-we're fanatics about goals! But are we writing goals that are truly relevant and meaningful to the child (or adult) with a disability? Whose goals are they, anyway? Expand your thinking about goals with the suggestions in this article.
Going for the Gold: Self-Employment
Yes, the American Dream of being your own boss is a real option for people with disabilities. Dreams can become the reality!
The "Low Expectation Syndrome" (LES) attached to people with disabilities can be a greater barrier to success than the person's actual diagnosis. It's time to move on to great expectations!
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): Behavior Supports
Environmental changes-in the form of behavioral supports-can generate positive, life-changing outcomes for children and adults with behavioral disabilities.
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): In the Bedroom
If a person's home is her castle, then surely the bedroom should be the most welcoming room in the house. Check out these handy tips to make it so.
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): In the Kitchen
Gadgets and doo-dads can be invaluable assets in making a kitchen more accessible and welcoming for children and adults with disabilities, as well as for everyone in the home!
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): Physical Access
Children or adults with disabilities may experience significant environmental barriers, which can lead to helplessness, dependence, and lack of opportunities. Let's change this and create welcoming environments for all!
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): "Regular" Stores
Specialty stores offer many helpful products for people with disabilities, but many useful items can also be found in the ordinary stores in our neighborhoods!
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): Self-Sufficiency
Many people with disabilities are described as being unable to take care of themselves because they "can't cook." Let's explore ways to help kids and adults become self-sufficient in this area!
Home, Sweet Home (and Other Environments): Vision Supports
Need some visual supports or accommodations? There are lots of great products on the market today, and others you can make at home!
"HOW?" Is the Question
We may feel there are many barriers when assisting children and adults with disabilities to live better lives. But asking "how" can eliminate these barriers—opening our minds to a world of possibilities—for we begin seeing things in a whole new way!
Oh, the possibilities for positive change are extraordinary when we engage in IF-thinking. Try it!
If It's Written, Is It Done?
We write IFSPs, IEPs, IHPs, IPPs, and lots of other "PP" plans-but just because they're written, does that mean they really get done?
In the Dance of Relationships: Who's Leading and Who's Following?
A relationship is like a slow dance: one person leads, the other follows. In our relationships with people with disabilities who should lead and who should follow? Whose life is it, anyway?
Inclusion: What is Inclusion? What's Not?
What is inclusion and why is it important? How many places/activities are described as "inclusive" but really aren't, and why does it matter?
Inclusive Recreation: A Passport to Real Life!
Mark Ohrenberg, an inclusive recreation specialist, shares real-life stories and strategies to ensure children and adults are successful in ordinary, inclusive recreational activities in their communities!
Joe Schiappacasse on (Everyone's) Behavior
The extraordinary wisdom of Joe Schiappacasse takes us beyond the traditional solutions, explores the "Us/Them" mentality, and helps us see (everyone's) behavior in a new light!
Keep It Simple: Focus on Solutions, Not Problems
We sometimes make things harder than they need to be when we spend time focusing on a person's "problems," instead of targeting solutions...and simple is usually better!
What does Labor Day mean to people who have never had the opportunity to work at a real job for real pay? And shouldn't we care?
What we do can leave an imprint on the lives of others—positive or negative—and our actions may live long after we're gone from this earth. What will your legacy be?
We (the world) are unfortunately cursed with a strong systemic bias to develop an economy of "the marginalized" and call it "inclusion."
Thomas J. Neuville, Ph.D.
Assoc. Prof.,Special Education
Millersville University, PA
Living Natural Lives
The "special" environments of the service system causes people with disabilities to live unnatural lives. We can change this dismal situation when we embrace new ways of thinking and new actions! (Click here for the Spanish version.)
Look Before You Leap!
"Buyer beware" and "Look before you leap" are tried-and-true sayings that can protect us in many ways. Let's put them to work in the world of disability services, too!
Every minute...hour...day...we're making memories. And memories create the fabric of our lives. Let's make sure good memories are being made for people with disabilities, too.
It seems just about everyone understands the value of marketing. Advertisers tout their products, job applicants present the best image, and so on. Marketing works, so let's showcase the strengths of children and adults with disabilities!
Memories: Testimonies About the Living, Not Just the Dead
When someone we care about dies, we etch positive memories in our minds, ignoring the "negatives." What if we followed this practice with the children and adults with disabilities in our lives who are alive today?
Mining Our Natural Resources
Our communities are a treasure trove of natural supports and generic services which can meet the needs of children and adults with disabilities (and ensure their inclusion)! Why go to the system when what you need is in your own backyard?
Natural Supports and Generic Services: More Important Than Ever!
With the financial crisis, many disability services are being cut, and there's no end in sight. Under these circumstances, using natural supports and generic services are more important than ever. We don't have to go without!
New Agreements Create New Lives
The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom by Don Miguel Ruiz is a life-changing book. This article details the four agreements from a disability angle, and it can help you enjoy a new freedom!
New and Improved IEP Meetings (and Any Other Kind of "I" Meetings)
The words, "IEP meeting," (or any other kind of "I" meeting) can generate apprehension, dread, and a variety of other emotions. But the strategies in this article can lead to better meetings and better outcomes!
No Child (or Adult) Needs an Aide
A teacher or a classroom might need an aide, but no child (or adult) needs an aide. There are many negative consequences to "one-on-one aides," and there are also many ways to provide the assistance to a child or adult with a disability. Both issues are explored in this article.
No Responsibility? No Real Life.
Personal responsibility enables us to be in control of our lives. But what about children and adults with disabilities? Shouldn't they also enjoy the opportunities, benefits, and joys of personal responsibility?
On Becoming a Business Owner
Employment guru Cary Griffin details extraordinary experiences and effective strategies in this interview on how people with disabilities can become self-employed business owners.
It can all feel overwhelming—too much to do, too much to think about, not enough time—WHEW! But if we focus on one thing at a time, we'll make great progress.
Our Actions — Their Futures
The futures of children and adults with disabilities are influenced by the actions we take today! Are we opening the doors to opportunity or leaving people mired in the quicksand of segregation and dependence?
Permission to Fail...and Succeed
Everyone needs permission to fail—including people with disabilities. The freedom to fail opens the door to success!
Power of the Environment
Does a person who has been labeled with a disability always have a disability? Nope, it depends on the environment!
Power of the Personal Story
Each of us has a personal story. Consider your professional resume: you make yourself look good! What if we did the same for people with disabilities: created personal stories that focus on the positive?
Problem-Solving: A Most Valuable Skill
No matter what our role—stay-at-home-mom, teacher, custodian, executive, or anything else—we have to solve problems every day. Children and adults with disabilities also need this skill in their lives.
What if everything we knew was wrong? What if we didn't believe everything we thought? What if we recognized thinking errors? Imagine the possibilities for change when we question ourselves!
Relevant and Meaningful
The title says it all! Everything done with, for, or on behalf of a person with a disability needs to be relevant and meaningful to that person!
Remember the Law of Unintended Consequences
Most of us get up every morning and want to do our best, right? But our best intentions might have unintended negative consequences...
Many of us are concerned about people with disabilities being safe. The solution, we think, is to hover and protect, and/or ensure people are in sheltered, safe environments. But is that really the solution?
Many children and adults with disabilities are surrounded by an army of helpers who generate a large footprint. Let's work, instead, to leave a small footprint in people's lives.
Spotlight on Diversity
Why is "disability" often omitted from "diversity" celebrations? We can effect change in this arena, and can also improve our efforts to highlight the strengths of people with disabilities.
ANYTIME is a good time for spring-cleaning—to reorganize, clean out the old, and more. And anytime is also a good time to spring-clean ourselves, too!
Take a Walk in Their Shoes
Perhaps most—if not all—of the problems in the world could be solved if we understood each other better. Imagine the possibilities when we try to walk in the shoes of the people with disabilities in our lives.
Ten Commandments for Community Inclusion
It's all about our attitudes and actions, and it's easier than you think! When we adopt these ten commandments, inclusion in the community can become a reality for all.
I am blown away by your website and so happy to have found it. I began my journey as a special educator in 1973 and am now a college professor developing an inclusion program to train special educators and regular educators to work with children with diversities in the general education class. I am also the grandmother of a grandson who, as he describes it, "works with his Asperger's every day." While I struggle to convince my peers that disability is a natural part of life, I never give up. I know that I am right and your website gave me the emotional and professional boost I needed to keep going. Thank you so much.
Betty from Georgia
No, this is not about a new TV show! Instead, it takes a look at who we would trade places with, who we wouldn't, and why. Be prepared for an insightful and mind-tingling paradigm shift!
Voice of Authority (and Knee-Jerk Reactions)
The Voice of Authority comes in many forms, and it can erase our common sense, provoke knee-jerk reactions, cause us to cede power over our lives, and more. But when we pause and think, question, and wonder, we give our common sense time to kick in!
What's Happening Today? What's Really Important?
Enormous efforts are expended on behalf of people with disabilities. We have the very best of intentions, but do our efforts help children and adults live the lives they want today, and are we focused on what's really important to them? Shouldn't these fundamental questions guide everything we do?
When Less is More
We may work hard to help children and adults with disabilities, but are we also encouraging them to "learn helplessness"? Less help really can be more beneficial!
When the Table is Turned
A special ed teacher felt she was a great advocate for her students-until she sat through the first IFSP meeting for her baby son. Amazing new insights are possible when the table is turned!
Whose Job Is It?
We spend enormous energies trying to "get jobs" for people with disabilities. But shouldn't people with disabilities be in charge of getting their own jobs?
Why Choose Separation?
We often complain that we don't feel we belong, but it's possible we've chosen to be separate through our actions, attitudes, and language. Let's choose to belong!
You Are What You Learn
That's so, so true. What are children and adults with disabilities learning (and what are they not learning)? Helplessness or self-reliance; appropriate or inappropriate behaviors...and more. How does what a person learns (or not learns) shape his/her life forever?
Imagine what it would be like to be a child or an adult with a disability...This article can help you expand your horizons and your understanding.
Discover other valuable articles
and helpful information on these pages:
People First Language
Language and Communication
©2009-13 Kathie Snow, www.disabilityisnatural.com