Friday, February 6, 2009

Don’s method of aggressive muddling.

Sometimes, in order to get something done, I just muddle on through. It’s not pretty, but I get the job done.

Not every job requires my best effort. Not every job I do needs to be done perfectly, or even close. Some things just need to get done. Because of this, I’ve invented: Don’s method of aggressive muddling.

My “method” is kind of a take on a Proverb that goes like this: “Where no oxen are the crib is clean, but much increase is gotten by the strength of an ox.”

Clean barn or great gain?

This idea also helps me overcome personal inertia.

The fear of making a mistake can paralyze, but my personal battle cry of “Muddle on!” allows me to move forward.

Sometimes the hardest part of getting something done is getting started.

So unless what you’re doing is life-or-death, you may want to borrow “Don’s method of aggressive muddling.”

(Hey, and if it doesn’t work out… you can always blame me!)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

101st Post: Listen to your inner DJ

Today is a personal milestone: This is my 101st post.

A year or two ago I begin writing and using self-affirmations as a way to stimulate personal growth. At some point I added this affirmation to my list of affirmations: “I enjoy writing to inspire and instruct. I enjoy the feedback I get from the readers.”

Do affirmations work? (Read the previous 100 posts!);-)

Lately I’ve been writing about the songs that programmed me into optimism. Today I want to share one of the Secrets of Consulting gleaned from Gerald Weinberg’s book by the same title. He’s got a little section late in the book entitled, Using Your Unconscious Mind: The Songmeister.

From my previous posts on songs, it becomes obvious that I know lots of songs, most of us do. From time to time those songs creep into my consciousness: I find myself humming a tune, and I don’t know why.

Jerry suggests that the tunes that surface can contain useful clues for solving some problem that the conscious mind might be missing. He cleverly names the subconscious DJ that picks the tunes, The Songmeister.

My brain works that way. During the day, I’ve learned to listen to my internal DJ.

Sometimes the links are obvious… This morning I found myself humming the Happy Birthday song. (Yesterday was my oldest daughter’s birthday. I’m still celebrating.)

Sometimes the song holds a link that I have to ponder to find, but it’s usually there.

Right now I have a sad but comforting song haunting me. (I think it’s because of the sudden death of a co-worker’s spouse. I’m feeling my co-worker’s pain, and I’m reminded of my own loss a decade ago.)

Women are often better than men at having a 6th sense. They pick up clues many men miss. (Hey, a lot of men miss the obvious clues, let alone the obscure ones!)

Listening to you inner DJ can help you access information that’s percolating in your subconscious.

What songs are being served up by your Songmeister?

Tune in. Ponder. Become aware. Look for clues.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Special Education: Asperger's Syndrome

Recently (January 30th) one of my readers posted a question. It’s taken me a few days, but here is my response. I’m putting this in the blog area because I think this information may have a wider interest group.

Tammy writes:

“I came here after Heather informed me of your blog. She had mentioned you were a Special Ed Teacher. I have a blog on mental illnesses asking for information on Asperger’s as to how to help children with this disorder. Do you have any information or sites I can visit to aide in how to work with children with this type of disorder? We just found out that our 8-year-old grand son has this, and he's been a handful. Any information you may have would be greatly appreciated. Thank you and God Bless.”

Dear Tammy and friends,

Yes, I am a Special Ed teacher. About 14 years ago I left the data processing field. I was a Systems Engineer for Cal Fed Bank. I was on Rapid Application Development team that built computer applications for various business groups in the Cal Fed organization.

After I was widowed, I took a severance package to become a Mr. Mom for about two years. Then I met a widow. By then I had learned to live on less money, and I had seen many single parent families that lacked a positive male role model.

I explored the elementary education field and chose the area of Special Education instead of Regular Education. My main reason for choosing this field, and the sub-field of Mild to Moderate Disabilities, was that I like helping the underdog. (My senior project in college was “Paradigm Shift: From Systems Engineer to Special Educator.”)

My personal optimism is contagious and many students with disabilities need a self-image makeover as much as they need remediation, compensation, and grade-level content. My optimism is mixed with an engineer’s pragmatism and planning.

There are about ten ways a person can qualify for Special Education including blindness, deafness, Specific Learning Disabilities, and autism. Asperger’s is on the high end of the autism spectrum.

Autism has various degrees of severity ranging from a child that is totally self-involved, to the child with Asperger’s who is comparatively more mildly delayed.

There are many sites, books, parent groups and such that you can find. What I want to give you is a distillation of 11 years in Special Education where I’ve had about a half a dozen students “on the spectrum.” (I also had a friend in his late 20’s who I identified as Asperger’s. He and I had several conversations where I validated my ideas with him.)

Although individuals with Asperger’s vary greatly, they seem to have a few things in common: they are usually socially delayed developmentally, they have difficulty with seeing the big picture, they have very narrow interests, and they have difficulty with viewing things chronologically or even sequentially.

I like to major in the majors, so out of this list I find one item that contains much of the value in helping the individual with Asperger’s and that is the social aspect. One view is that as infants, toddlers, and youngster’s these individuals miss one key tenet: the one that recognizes that there are other beings of worth co-inhabiting the world with me.

If you don’t figure this reality out until you are 10 or 12 years old, (or as my friend did at 16), you end up with some out-of-the-ordinary behaviors, interests, interactions, and relationships.

Think of your 8-year-old grandson as being 6 or 7 years socially delayed. That puts an infant’s social skills and outlook in an 8-year-old body. Yikes!

Now my job was to help 12 and 13-year-old students with this disability learn to read, write, do math, and interact appropriately with the world. As you can guess, that’s a challenge.

(Cats are socially aloof and no one gets too upset, because you expect that behavior from a cat. From a person, it’s hard to imagine that they don’t get “it,” but in reality, socially, they don’t. They’re off-putting behaviors are not necessarily intended to be personal affronts to others, but they sure can feel that way.)

Here are some tips: 1) Meet them on the ground of their interest’s not your own. (I’ve learned lots about cats, elephants, Animorphs, and Transformers.) 2) Do your best to get behind their eyes. Try to see the world from their point of view, and then try to reach in to their world and escort them into yours.

I’ve seen some very sweet and agreeable students with Asperger’s, and I’ve met some very rude ones. (But then I met the parents. Kids, all kids, learn to see the world how they are taught to see the world. Some are slower to learn, but they do.)

A movie that has helped me in my work is called House of Cards. It is the story of a mother who goes to incredible lengths to see the world from the point-of-view of her selectively mute daughter.

This is the type of approach I’ve sought to use with my students, regardless of their disability.

One final note: All too often we look at what’s not there to the exclusion of what is there. Individuals “on the spectrum” have a great eye for detail, they become almost encyclopedic in their area of interest, they can be funny, they can be generous, and some can even play sports quite well.

In living and helping with an individual “on the spectrum” remember that little by little improvements come. Love finds a way. Love persists in the face of apparent ingratitude. Love never fails: but it can get pretty tired by the end of the day. ;-)

Hope this long post helps. (I’ve only touched the surface, but hopefully this view from 36,000 feet is helpful.)


Monday, February 2, 2009

Optimism: Final Chapter -- Doris Day

Completing my personal playlist of songs that contributed to my optimistic outlook is Doris Day singing “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)".

I think my parents owned a copy of this record, and perhaps at some point I saw Doris Day perform the song in a movie, probably The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956). (Maybe I saw the rerun, years later!)

Although the song begins, “When I was just a little girl…” I was still able to glean something from the lyrics. The song exhorts the listener to live in the now and warns against thinking that you (or someone else) knows what the future holds.

Wise women (and men) don’t waste today’s limited emotional resources on tomorrow’s “what-if’s?”

This song, which became Doris Day’s signature song, inspired me to trust that the future would take care of itself. The song has a happy message, just like so many of the Doris Day movies. The movies of my youth had happy endings.

Later on I heard plenty of depressing songs, saw sad movies, and read sad stories. But in my youth, I fed on Happy Endings and Happy Songs. And I’m glad I did. Those stories gave me a basic outlook that helps me to see the cup half full, the silver lining in the darkest cloud, and I anticipate the rainbow after the storm.

What colors your outlook?

Me? I got my rose-colored glasses in my youth. They’ve been beat up from time to time, but now I have an informed naiveté that allows me a rose-colored optimism instead of a gray-colored pessimism.

That optimism makes my life more enjoyable, and it propels me in my quest to make the world a better place, at least the little part of the world within my reach.

Here’s a video of Doris Day singing the song.

Here are the lyrics:

Que Sera, Sera (Whatever will be, will be)

When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be
Will I be pretty, will I be rich
Here's what she said to me.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

When I was young, I fell in love
I asked my sweetheart what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows, day after day
Here's what my sweetheart said.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Now I have children of my own
They ask their mother, what will I be
Will I be handsome, will I be rich
I tell them tenderly.

Que Sera, Sera,
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours, to see
Que Sera, Sera
What will be, will be.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Optimism: For Those Tears I Died

After my first year of college (71 to 72), a high school acquaintance approached me with a travel offer. He was looking for someone who wanted to spend the summer traveling up the West Coast. After some conversation, I bought a four-man tent, he got permission to use a family car, and our trip began.

We started in Anaheim, California (think Disneyland), and made it as far north as Nanaimo, British Columbia. We spent a full month making the trip.

About three days into the trip, we were camping in Carpinteria (think Santa Barbara). The state park was full, so we were in a fairly nice private campground. In the late afternoon, I joined in a volleyball game with some other college-aged kids that were in the campground. They invited me to a campfire time that they were planning for after dinner.

I went over, and I learned that they were from the Goleta Baptist Church youth group. During the campfire someone performed a song called “For Those Tears I Died.” I was touched.

The song presented Jesus Christ as if he were 1) alive, 2) cared about the songwriter’s tears, 3) was capable of personally interacting with an individual.

This was all news to me. I marveled at the song’s concepts and at the inclusionary behavior of this youth group. On the volleyball court and in their campfire time they practiced what they preached. But they didn’t even preach, they just sang.

Songs stick. I’ve often looked back on that weekend as a turning point, or at least a vista point in life. A personal God, who cared about people, who cared about me, my problems, even my tears. Wow. How inspiring!

Here is the song. (Written by Marsha Stevens and released on Children of the Day’s 1971 album Come to the Waters.)

Here are the lyrics:

For Those Tears I Died

You said You'd come and share all my sorrows,
You said You'd be there for all my tomorrows;
I came so close to sending You away,
But just like You promised You came there to stay;
I just had to pray!

And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

Your goodness so great I can't understand,
And, dear Lord, I know that all this was planned;
I know You're here now, and always will be,
Your love loosed my chains and in You I'm free;
But Jesus, why me?

And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."

Jesus, I give You my heart and my soul,
I know that without God I'd never be whole;
Savior, You opened all the right doors,
And I thank You and praise You from earth's humble shores;
Take me, I'm Yours.

And Jesus said, "Come to the water, stand by My side,
I know you are thirsty, you won't be denied;
I felt ev'ry teardrop when in darkness you cried,
And I strove to remind you that for those tears I died."