Posted in Stigma Talks

The Return of the King

Remember this? How much have you learned since that movie first came out? Have you acquainted yourselves a bit more on various learning differences that exsit? If you said, “No”, then I am shocked and wonder how you can survive living in a vacuum. If you said, “Yes”, then continue to learn, and share and teach others just a little each day. Namaste….Cheryl-Lynn

Posted in Stigma Talks

A learning difference can be one’s Strong Suit!

Learning differences are getting more and more attention this past decade.  Not so sure there is getting enough funding to help youths and parents but there is getting plenty of attention. BUT, is the attention positive or negative?  Do we not stigmatize this as well?  When youths call me and mention they have some form of learning disability, I usually paraphrase, “Oh, so you have a learning difference, eh?”

We all learn differently, and if some youths and adults learn within the spectrum the general educational system can accomodate…then they get by just fine…not great…just fine. {those that don’t fall within that “average” just slip through the cracks if they have not been evaluated early enough.

I also know how some systems and educators can be more sensitive to different learning styles.   I always wondered how come I barely passed Algebra all through high school and in university I got my first A+!  I had a teacher that took the time to teach several students 2 and 3 different ways to solve a problem. How come he got it?!  How come he figured out that some students just learn a bit differently?  Well, kudos on that amazing Math teacher at Concordia University!!

Tonight I finished watching an episode of Parenthood tonight and Max, one of  my favourite characters, had a speech to give as he was running for Student Council.  His mom was having surgery to remove a cancerous lump in her breast. Everyone was worried about the surgery and how Max would make out without his mom around that important day.  Here is the amazing speech he gave {that was all in his head…not on paper because he has an amazing memory:)  In the event the video may expire, I have also typed it out.

“I’m Max Braverman…”,[he takes some time to adjust the microphone and it makes screeching sounds for a few seconds…tension is building a bit as some students continue shifting in their seats, snickering and heads turning towards their peers}

“I’m Max Braverman and I am running for student council present. If elected as president then I will bring back vending machines that used to be in our school. And that’s why you should vote for me.” {There is a pause as Max skims the entire auditorium…some more shifting, heads turning and giggles…then he turns towards his right of the stage and looks at his older sister who gives him 2 thumbs up}.

“Also I’m very tenacious. It means being very persistent. I am like this because I have something called Asperger’s. Having Asperger’s makes some things very difficult for me, like looking people in the eye or saying hello.  So I don’t do those things very often. Some things also come very easily to me because I have Asperger’s, like being smart and remembering almost everything. Also it means being tenacious. And so I will be tenacious about the vending machines. Another thing about Asperger’s is that I always keep my promises. So when I tell you that I will bring back the vending machines, you can believe me. Some people say that having Asperger’s can sometimes be a bad thing, but I am glad that I have it because I think that it is my greatest strength.”

What do you think happened after that?  You guessed it! One student stands up and starts clapping, and Max gets a standing ovation.  And yes, he did win the elections by the end of the day! I gotta say, I wept with joy and clapped my hands as I sat on my couch, feeling so proud!

This was the second time in 2 days I had been inspired by someone with a learning difference..no kidding!  I do believe that life sends me such great opportunities and learning experiences…in twos and threes sometimes in a very short period.  I guess the plan is the Great Spirit wants me to “get it” and ’tis a wise idea as I age, the short-term memory lapses a tad.  {She says and frowns as it’s not so much a joke as a fear for me…another time, another topic} Last night at work (I work on an anonymous youth help line)

I received a phone call from a young man…late teens.    Let’s call him Justin.  He starts off with a very deep baritone voice “I am very angry right now and need help to calm down before get into a fight with my friends or family.”  I put my headset away from my ear a few times, waiting…thinking he needed to shout, scream..vent…but he continued in the same measured tone.

“I have Asperger’s and I have a hard time sometimes to control my anger and especially find it difficult to understand what people want or mean when they say things…sometimes.”

And so we continued on an unusually interesting and challenging exchange.   For over an hour Justin shared with me his discourse and helped me understand his struggles with a few friends whom  he cared for, tried to protect, rescue many times and yet…I could tell it was tearing him apart inside.  Whether he was able to show emotions or not, he certainly was able to articulate them.  He was able to describe how his frustration and powerlessness was leading him to self-injure.  Eventually, I dared use a different approach…not one I often use with teens.

We talked about what HE thought his family were worried about that he was hanging out with this group of friends.   His logic just floored me!  Especially during such intense times when a teen and their social life is of such importance.

Justin would get frustrated when he could not intervene and help his friends.   Often he felt his friends expected too much of him to reach out and help him when they needed a place to stay or a friend to drive them around.  We talked about how some people (adults as well) may not always have what it takes to “reciprocate” as he hoped they would.    Justin totally “got it” and even though it irked him, he eventually saw how his relationships may need to be a bit more balanced so he did not have to suffer so much and deal with this anger and frustration.

I could not get over,that despite his frustrations and intense emotions, he was able to grasp the logic in distancing a bit to sort things out.  He wanted to know how to not “obsess” so much with worry.  And so, we worked on an exercise he could do for two weeks to try to limit the amount of time he would think and worry about his buddies.

What I really appreciated about this call was contrary to many teens who are upset and set on one issue…he was open to “logic” and trying to work out ways to resolve his problem.  I also appreciated how he was open to help me understand and see things from his point of view.

I rarely get phone calls from  youths who have Asperger’s {or identify with it, I should really say}…I do see internet web messages, as many youths have shared they expressed themselves better in writing.  Not Justin! He did just fine indeed!! 😀

What a lovely experience I had with Justin who was very articulate and his strengths came through loud and clear…yes, Aspergers was definitely Justin’s strong suit (as was Max’s strength) in allowing him to take stalk of his situation and accept rational and logical steps in resolving part of his problem.

It’s been an amazing week so far.  And tonight I came back from a great lecture on Eating Disorders…I was pumped with all the ways I can advocate in schools or school boards to get more education on this condition …BUT, I will wait until the full day training offered at the Douglas Hospital next week to share my thoughts and learnings. Until then…consider being more open to people you may know with a mental health condition or a learning difference around you;  and when  you  question the behaviour or reaction of someone…don’t assume, don’t stigmatize…you can always ask and if  you aren’t comfortable…then ask a mental health professional for information. Thanks for dropping by…TAO aka Cheryl-Lynn

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” Dr. Seuss

Here is a scene in the movie Adam with Hugh Dancy that a fellow blogger at http://autismcafe.org recommended; check out that very interesting blog after looking at this. Namaste.

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, Montreal, Canada  November 2012, reblogged August 16, 2013

Posted in Stigma Talks

My rant on the “R” word, yet again…

I suppose when you have a specific pet peeve, you just have to elaborate on why it “peeves” you…why it grates at you and why it is totally NOT okay to say certain things.

And, yes, I have blogged about this before but it seems only the converted are reading my blog, so maybe I shall try to share this a bit more on Facebook, Twitter and Google+…I wish I could send direct emails sometimes or  just slap some folks silly in the face…yep, you heard me! In the face…because behind the head can be a good visual but not okay to do literally, at any time…we never fool around with hitting a person’s noggin…no way.

So what is my pet peeve I wish to share today, you ask? The R word and in French that would be the M word.  I know I am preaching mostly to the converted but, in case I manage to catch the attention of a few peeps on Facebook, Twitter or Google+, well, I am referring to when you say “Ah, don’t be such a Retard” or “Aye, fais pas ta Mongol!”   Can you believe hearing these remarks on school grounds?  Yeah, probably by several youths.  Can you believe hearing this in some bars, pubs, terraces or  home parties and such? Yes, unfortunately, you probably would!    They are still NOT okay BUT  when I hear them uttered by professionals in the medical or mental health field, I am fuming…you got that!  Do you see the steam coming out of your computer yet?! It makes me want to swear, throw a tantrum, a literal meltdown, kick someone in the butt and slap them silly…and that is STILL not enough!

Some may be feeling the shoe may not quite fit them…here are a few things to help jog your memory and to sit with these thoughts for a little while… sharing this blog on social networks will help,perhaps…  just to make sure you ALL feel included!!  I do not discriminate when bitching about ignorance…we are  so plenty and  many more to go around STILL.

Social network comment: don’t be such a retard!

French equivalence: fais dont pas ta mongol!

It is not funny, it is humiliating hearing such remarks from adults and especially from professionals. So this is my rant once again…and when you, to whom the shoe fits just nice and snug, Puleeze, do not tell me, “it’s just a joke among friends. I don’t think this way.”  Well, how are your friends family and people within ear shot going to know the difference what is Okay and what is inappropriate? It is totally hurtful and very very demeaning?

Huh?  How are you going to be able to explain to the kid who snickered sitting next to you on a park bench or in a restaurant?

Huh?  How is the STIGMA going to STOP if we still hear comments that are demeaning from professionals and adults?  Just explain that to me…because I guess I am just not savvy enough to understand YOUR way of thinking…The End {for now}

Posted in Did you know?

Mom calls teen a “R******”! :(

I sometimes get on my soapbox to talk about issues that are important to me and hopefully, at some point they may hit home for some of my readers.

This week I will be starting another series of lectures hosted and facilitated by http://www.douglas.qc.ca/user/camillo-zacchia Zacchia , PhD, Psychologist and Senior Advisor at the Douglas Mental Health Education Office (MHEO)  who will lead us on a journey into the understanding of mental health issues and ways to prevent them.   Alright,  I won’t hide the fact that I not only enjoy these lectures,  but Dr. Camillo is such a down to earth person and definitely a cutie:) First topic of this mini-psych series  http://www.douglas.qc.ca/page/mini-psych-2012:It’s crazy!” – Overthrowing stigma in mental health. Most of the lecture will be on exploring public education campaigns to fight stigmatization in Canada and around the world.

That topic just seemed like a continuum of my last  “rant”“It’s just a word!!” “Is it, really?!!”. .

At the end of these lectures there is a question period. I already had one in mind, “If some professionals such as nurses, doctors, psychologists, social workers etc. still use politically incorrect terms among themselves, when will they actually make that “concious decison to change”?  Some professionals may  explain that they were just talking among colleagues and it was not  to  be interpretted as a “slur”.  Oh NO?!  Well, if they talk like this normally among their peers, and probably in their homes too…what’s to stop them from “slipping up” and using that “slur” like the nurse at a children’s hospital did a few weeks ago?

Now, I am not so sure I want to ask this question.  I may have to see how I feel at the end of the class. I have a few  more floating in my mind.  Where are they coming from?  Well, I’m a  youth counsellor for an anonymous National Youth help line.  Last week a young teen called to tell me how scared she was that her parents were going to get her out of her school.  She said her parents told her, “You’re gonna go to the Retard school cuz you don’t learn nothin at  your school.”  I was not sure I understood correctly.  I asked her who said that “R” word.  And she repeated it was her parents.   Oh my!:(

She went on to explain that she struggled  in school with most subjects but she did fairly well in language arts and music.  So I went on to explain to her that most people have “learning differences” and not everyone learns at the same pace.  Also, it would make sense that one may do better  in one subject and not so well in another. I could not help but share with her how I always barely passed Algebra all through high school but in college I had my first A!  My professor was patient and if you did not understand one way, he tried another way…In fact my marks were much better in college…I was finally studying something I truly enjoyed.

I told this caller, “It sounds like you are a creative person.  That’s pretty cool!”   I suggested she speak to her school counsellor about her concerns because decisions of changing school have to be done collectively and she agreed she would try.

I could not help but picture and hear the scenario over and over when I went home.  A MOM repeatedly telling her child she is a “R”. How hurtful is that!!??

She said that her teachers never gave her a hard time and in fact they often offered her help.  She said she had good friends at school and no one gave her a hard time when she could not understand somethng in Math class.  She had a few friends that even tried to help her.  Wow! Amazing, huh?  She must go to one exceptionally good school that teaches academics as well as respect and interpersonal relations.

Too bad she gets bombarded with negative feedback from her mom!  And unfortunatley, no matter how great her teachres are, how loyal her friends are, the damage on her self-concept and self-esteem has  already been cemented with deep rooted  consequences. I cringe to think how many years of therapy to help this child as an adult…IF she can afford it!

How important it is for a child to feel she is in the limelight of their parents!

It broke my heart when I realized, that no matter what I said to boost her morale and regardless if  she seemed happy by the end of the call…in the end, she will still put more weight on her mom’s opinion…such a waste …  to crush the spirit and soul of a child like that!

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, Montreal, Canada 2012

Posted in Did you know?

“It’s just a word!!” “Is it, really?!!”

I know we have all heard and read many rants on this subject BUT OBVIOUSLY IT IS STILL NOT ENOUGH BECAUSE IT KEEPS ON HAPPENING! Am I shouting?  You think?!!

What does it do to you to hear a person refer to another person who acts silly or goofy or badly as a “RETARD”?  Well, it really irks me!  Yeah, sure on the school playground we heard it, and hopefully over time these kids grew up to be responsible  and politically correct adults, right?  WRONG! {Did you hear that buzzing sound go off?}

They say “that bad habits die hard”…is that the excuse you are giving yourselves?  “Oh, lighten up, what’s the big deal!? What are you so upset about?  You know what I mean!”  Ever hear those excuses? Well, they don’t fly with me!

I recently moved back to Montreal.  Now granted, I realize there are culturally, different expressions and jokes but there are also many politically INCORRECT comments that are still uttered in the name of “Ah, it’s just in fun…it doesn’t mean anything…really”.  Oh, yeah!!  I beg to differ!  I have heard it in other provinces so it is not just a Quebec thing…but we are more outspoken people in public though, so it will be heard  EVEN outside of their “homes”.

Well, get this, I work in the mental health field and I hear some professionals using the word “Mongol” which literally is an ancient French term from the 50-60’s”, referring to Down Syndrome, which Quebecers mean “Retarded” when they are meaning silly (or worse).  Well, ummm, sure in those days we also said Indian instead of First Nations People (Aboriginals), I can think of others but I cringe of the racist connotations that I would not utter; but frankly, I would usually hear these “faux pas” from a much older generation, like people in their 80’s.

Some younger adults utter that here and there in my presence and I cringe, grit my teeth and want to whack them behind the head…I just visualize this and it helps, I guess.   Why don’t I say something?  If it is outside of my work, I will most of the time; if it is at work and my boss has heard it, I try to intervene but when a manager only frowns or laughs it off…what can I do?!!…sheeeesh! It really riles me.

Fortunately, there are some brilliant young professionals who work with me and are totally open to learn and are not offended when corrected.  Well then, that is a sign of intelligence…to learn, right?

Have any of you ever heard someone telling a joke and one of those “slurs” slip in?  How do you react?  Do you shift around in your seat and wonder if you should comment on it?  It’s okay to paraphrase “that part of the comment” with the correct phrase, like a “developmentally challenged person”,  “a person with a learning disabilities”,  or not a schizophrenic but a person with Schizophrenia, etc.  It is not the mental health condition that defines the person; there is a person who may have acquired one form of mental illness.

Get it together folks…especially professionals in mental health!

P.S. Here is a blog from a person I admire from afar…but boy how she inspires me!  http://phoebeholmes.com/2012/04/27/dear-facebook/

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, Montreal, Canada 2012