|May 24, 2007
Hey there everyone!
It’s Ellen again. As I muddle through my full, often exciting and stressful days, I think of various subjects to write about that would have a positive impact on the lives of others. These subjects are usually ones which I personally have dealt with and I feel would be of significant value to discuss with all of you.
OK….here goes! Many of you are the parents of children or young adults that have a disability such as ADD or ADHD. They are really bright and intuitive, yet their disabilities make many tasks so very tough. Many in the general population believe that in order to have “a disability” one needs to have physical or facial attributes of such. We know that is not the case. But, this is what makes their lives so tough.
I know it hurts Wes, as well, he just doesn’t show his emotions–another characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome.
My son has Asperger’s Syndrome and ADHD, as well. He is an extremely handsome, well built 26 year old young man. To look at him walking down the street one would have no notion that his Asperger’s Syndrome & ADHD make life so very difficult for him. Due to this fact, people expect “more” from him. They are not tolerant of the fact that when they drum up a conversation he cannot look you in the eye, does not understand social cues and finds it impossible to carry on a conversation without getting frustrated and ready to move on to something else, losing focus. They wonder, “how can this be, he looks so normal, I don’t get it”. They cannot believe that he can have a disability because he “doesn’t look it”. They expect more from him and the lack of patience hurts me so very much. I know it hurts Wes, as well, he just doesn’t show his emotions–another characteristic of Asperger’s Syndrome.
A unique characteristic of AS and certain levels of autism on the spectrum, is the amazing ability to focus on one particular subject or art and truly excel in it.
Yet, also a unique characteristic of AS and certain levels of autism on the spectrum, is the amazing ability to focus on one particular subject or art and truly excel in it. Case in point, Wes reads sports statistics books daily. He is knowledgeable about just about every sport, such as, hockey, baseball, football, basketball, just to name a few. He knows information on every player, every team and if you were to carry on a conversation with him you would have no idea he has Asperger’s Syndrome (mild autism). In addition, many of the sports figures who live close by know Wes and respect him for the wonderful, kind person he is and enjoy carrying on conversations with him on his extensive knowledge of sports!
This is why we must educate society. A person can have a disability and not have to “look it”. Likewise, a person can have a disability, have physical and facial attributes of such, and society does not give that person a chance. Their IQ may be “off the charts” fabulous….but due to their “look”, the thought is “how can they achieve anything great if they have special needs.”
It is up to us to give our kids the positive reinforcement they need to continue being the creative, capable people we know they are!
I suppose you have to really get to know these people to experience what I live with on a daily basis. Not only with Wes, but with all the other exciting, phenomenal children and young adults I work with on a daily basis. How amazing, capable, talented, special and unique they are. I suppose the moral of this story would be, “Hey guys, Don’t judge a book by its cover!” Let’s take the time to advocate for our kids and teach society that they are worthwhile productive children and young adults that may very well be our future leaders. Everyone is important, they just need to be reminded of that. And, it is up to us to give our kids the positive reinforcement they need to continue being the creative, capable people we know they are!
Let’s shout it out….Let’s educate those that just don’t know what we know…..
THESE PEOPLE ARE PRODUCTIVE AND RESPECTED MEMBERS OF SOCIETY, THEY NEED TO BE GIVEN A CHANCE…..WHAT WINNERS YOU WILL SEE!
LET THOSE “SPARKS OF GENIUS” CONTINUE TO ENLIGHTEN US AS WE APPRECIATE AND MUDDLE THROUGH OUR BUSY LIVES. EVERYDAY IS A NEW EXPERIENCE, EVERYDAY IS A GIFT FROM “THE MAN UPSTAIRS.”
All the best & G—D Bless,
My name is Ellen Kleinert-Cohn. I live in Florida and am extremely involved in the plight of the developmentally disabled. I am a mother of three young adults, two of whom have special needs. In addition, I work in my husband’s law firm where we specialize in advocating for individuals with special needs. I also am a Management Team Member of The Special Olympics Broward County.
Our mission is to “bridge the gap” between the general & special population by showing the world how truly talented, capable, special & unique individuals with developmental disabilities are.
I am also the director of the world renowned Florida Special Needs Color Guard & Dance Program. It is the first special needs color guard team in the world. We perform as exhibition on The South Florida Winter Guard Association Circuit & perform annually, at Winter Guard International World Championships in Dayton, Ohio. Our mission is to “bridge the gap” between the general & special population by showing the world how truly talented, capable, special & unique individuals with developmental disabilities are. And, this past November, 2007 we had the amazing opportunity to do just that. Our very special color guard program made history by being the very first group of developmentally disabled young adults ever invited to perform in a fabulous American Tradition….The 80th Anniversary Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
When these kids perform…there is “not a dry eye in the house.”
Our team consists of really fabulous young adults. They range from the age of 12 through 40!!! (The average age is 21), and some of their disabilities are Cerebral Palsy, autism (Asperger’s Syndrome), Down Syndrome, Learning Disabilities, and Attention Deficit Disorder, just to name a few. On this amazing team we stress our ABILITIES rather than our disabilities. With the inclusion of flags, wooden rifle & metal sabers, and interesting dance movements, combined with inspirational music, we create a performance that is fabulous! When these kids perform…there is “not a dry eye in the house.”
Also we have non disabled coaches who are involved with our very special kids & they serve as role models for each other. These high school & college kids learn to be more compassionate, caring and the world sure needs more of that!!!
I often wonder what it would be like if my oldest son, who is now 26 years of age, did not have special needs.
OK……so that’s a little background about me. I am truly blessed to do what I do & to have the family I have. It has been a long, hard road, to say the least. I truly believe that G—D has decided what my destiny in life was going to be & has given me what it takes to “give it my all” and make the best out of an often difficult situation (s). I often wonder what it would be like if my oldest son, who is now 26 years of age, did not have special needs. He has Asperger’s Syndrome (mild autism), a seizure disorder (under control), learning disabilities & ADD. I love him dearly for who he is & accept him for the fabulous, kind, good natured, very special human being he is….but that is not to say that for his sake, I would not mind his life being easier. This goes for my daughter, who is 20 years of age, as well. Her issues are different than her brothers & she has learning disabilities, ADD and a few other letters of the alphabet. Although, her functioning level is higher & she, as well as her brother, excel in areas that others have only dreamed of. Their brother, age 22 is a Network Administrator at the school district in our county & spends a great deal of time volunteering and coaching our kids.
The sad part, which I encounter everyday, is that many in the general population just “don’t get it”. [Editor: Including some teachers!]
Because they may not be deeply involved with a person who does have a developmentally disability or are not privy in one way or another to such, they lack the patience and understanding so needed in dealing with such worthy individuals. They have a negative attitude and to be completely honest & blunt, cast them aside as not being important or worthwhile. How wrong they are & it is for us to make sure that the message gets out that their concept of such individuals is so wrong and misguided!
Wow….these children & young adults are worth a second look! And a third & a fourth, to say the least! They are truly amazing! Their attitudes are grateful, thankful and positive. They are proud of whom they are & I believe we can all take a lesson from them. And, most importantly, they can achieve anything they put their minds to with much determination, positive reinforcement and hard work.
Our goal is to help individuals with developmental disabilities fulfill their dreams & live up to their maximum potential.
I will say that this is my opportunity to perhaps “spread the word” that as parents, especially of young children who have disabilities such as Asperger’s Syndrome, ADD and the likes, don’t get intimidated or discouraged by school professionals. In your plight to advocate for your child/young adult, you will be confronted by some wonderful, supportive teachers, ESE specialist, etc & others that “have a lot to be desired”. Don’t give up…..hang in there….no one knows your child better than you. Which brings me to the teacher that may be overwhelmed & overworked & recommends that you immediately “get your child on medication to help him attend better.” I realize that every situation is to be handled on an individual basis, of course, but be smart…..and look into other alternatives, as well…FIRST!!!! Medications do have many side effects, as we knew all along, but even more so as time goes on.
In your plight to advocate for your child/young adult, you will be confronted by some wonderful, supportive teachers, ESE specialist, etc & others that “have a lot to be desired”. Don’t give up…..hang in there….no one knows your child better than you.
Speaking from experience, over 20 years of it, I have been through it all. I cannot stress enough that I wish many of the various alternatives to medications were available many when my son was young. I was one of the Mom’s who battled constantly…here was my motto, “If a child can’t learn the way a teacher teaches, a teacher must teach the way a child can learn.”
Thank goodness for Sparks Of Genius.
Thank goodness for Sparks Of Genius. For not only the kids in my family, but me as well. There are good alternatives, and this, I know first hand is one of them! We need to be “open” and as time goes on you do recognize the good honest people from the ones who are not. These methods of technology are here for all of us….check it out….embrace them…….such an alternative can make the real positive difference in your child/young adults life. It is a pleasure to see everyday, and an emotional experience, as well, to see what I thought I would never see…….consistent training does make the difference (improving focus, thinking more clearly, making conversations with others we thought previously impossible).
Everyday is another adventure with your kids, especially if they have special needs, but we become better people for it, this is for sure!
Love to hear your views……All the best to everyone….Keep up the great work… don’t give up, no matter how tough it may get at times. (Remember someone else always has it worse.) There is nothing more rewarding than working with our kids & seeing the progress…it is their futures & our legacy….they deserve our best efforts! G—D Bless!!!!
(Good luck on your journey!!!!)
Hang in there……ELLEN