"As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected
and no man rebelled, those wrongs would last forever
~Clarence Darrow

Saturday, April 25, 2009

'A Journey of 1000 Miles'

So I attended the AVRSB Learning Disability Conference today.

As I already noted, the speaker, Rick Lavoie, has quite an impressive and extensive resume in the field of special education, holding three four degrees in special education and having served as an adjunct professor at numerous universities. He also served as an administrator of residential programs for children with special needs since 1972 and now serves as a consultant on Learning Disabilities to several agencies and organizations.

This they tell you. What they don't tell you is that he has what describes as "moderate to severe ADHD". Not that you (or at least I) could tell, not until he said it. I had noticed that he looked at his watch quite regularly but the fact that he used a wireless microphone, giving him the ability to move around at will, didn't stand out for me. Not until he mentioned it.

His sons also have ADHD. Which didn't really surprise me given that I've often found that the best professional in the field (be it teacher, lawyer, psychologist) is the one who is also a parent of a child (or himself lives) with a disability.

A few years ago (at the same Learning Disabilities Conference, if I recall correctly) I had the pleasure of listening to Dr. B. Duncan McKinlay, a psychologist who has been diagnosed with both ADHD and Tourette's Syndrome. His presentation was entitled "Life's A Twitch" (go check out his website) and it was an absolutely amazing experience to hear his story and insight.

But I digress.

Rick's topic was The Motivation Breakthrough: 6 Secrets to Turning On the Tuned-Out Child. He's a very good speaker and although I might have appreciated a few less anecdotes and a little more substance, it was an interesting and productive day. I took some notes so perhaps at some point I might be able share some of his thoughts on what exactly does (and doesn't) motivate, not just our kids, but all of us.

Did I mention that he's a very good speaker?

One of the first things I noticed was how he was able to connect with both the parents in the audience and the professionals.

And, it was in that regard, that there was something I really wanted to share with you tonight. But first let me say that I am neither a Republican (thank goodness) nor a Democrat (thank goodness again). Although I have been impressed, on occasion, by Sara Palin, when it comes to issues around disability. For example, if you haven't yet seen this video, I would highly recommend it.

But Rick told the story today of how he was asked to write a newspaper piece during this past US Presidential election with his thoughts on Governor Palin's promise to be a champion for "special needs families" because she "knows what they are going through".

He shared with us his response, which he now has posted on his website, and which I found truly amazing.

As an advocate for families of handicapped children for over three decades, I have taken a special interest in the role that Trig Palin is playing in the Presidential campaign. Trig, now six months old, is nominee Sarah Palin’s son. He has Down Syndrome. Governor Palin often tells her audience that she will be a champion for “special needs families” because “she knows what you’re are going through.

With great respect and empathy, I must say, “Sorry, Governor, but you don’t.” You will…someday. But not now. Not yet.

Trig is – and always will be – a blessing in your family’s life. But, Governor, your journey has just begun. You will understand…someday. But between that day and today, there will be a lot of other “somedays.”

Someday…you and your family will spend stressful hours in a hospital waiting room while Trig undergoes corrective surgery. The doctors will call it “routine” … but that characterization will seem foreign and insensitive to you.

Someday…a relative or “close friend” will suggest that Trig not be brought to a holiday function because “it may be too much for him to handle.” Your relationship with that person will never be exactly the same again.

Someday…some stranger in a store will stare at him and ask an insensitive and intrusive question. Startled, you will give a bland response. But for several days after the incident, you will generate great and clever retorts that you “should have said." (By the way, you won’t be able to recall these “clever retorts” the next time this occurs).

Go read all of it.

And watch your life unfold before your eyes.

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