One day this past week, a staff person and I met to talk about strategies for working with one of our kiddos. They referred to their Autistic Spectrum diagnosis as their "disability" - as a starting point of the conversation. The reference pertained directly to the similar challenges they share. The child we were discussing exhibits behaviors consistent with ASD but does not have the official label.
The staff person's self-identification bothered me - they clearly see themselves as broken. I don't consider them disabled. I, however, do view them as a valuable contributing member of our team - with skills and talents that others of us do not have. They are someone who has immense potential working in a self-directed education environment.
I had another conversation with a staff person also diagnosed with ASD - later in the week. They adamantly refuse to be defined by their diagnosis. They simply think of themselves as a brilliantly creative person who happens to be on the Spectrum.
I don't know why one feels damaged, while the other feels empowered. Nonetheless, these conversations led me to think about the kids we work with and their convictions about themselves. Some are diagnosed with various disorders, and others are not. But - most have experienced mixed levels of trauma and believe they are defective in some way.
They don't recognize their charm, wit, genius, creativity, kindness, wisdom, or the other numerous positive traits I see. They can only experience their brokenness. And they adopt identities and behaviors that are consistent with their narrative, not their true nature.
At this point, my levels of frustration are boiling over. I want to help kids understand they aren't damaged goods, and whatever they have experienced in the past does not define them as human beings. Nevertheless, I have to remember it will take time and patience. I fully believe with unconditional love and support, accessible information, and most importantly, modeling, these kids will take back their stolen identities and embrace their superpowers.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We should know later today whether we can rent the new space we have identified for our DRC-East Center. Stay-tuned!
In other news, Nic, our DRC-East apprentice has taken the original DRC logo and created one using colors the kids chose, that represent many of their native heritage.
Leaning Into It
Discomfort is an excellent indicator that something isn't quite right. Yes, actual physical pain is an evolutionary response to those things that we should absolutely, without question, get away from as fast as we can. It will hurt - badly!
However, pulling away from something that feels uncomfortable is often an emotional reaction based purely on fearfulness. As a result, when we detect those initial twinges, we back away from the feelings instead of slowly and carefully exploring the whys. Or even poking around at the whats and hows, with positive intent - asking:
The kids I meet are often fearful of trying out new things - whether it is an unfamiliar activity, food, or even an idea. I have discovered that their fear comes from either a previous (or ongoing) trauma or a closely held worldview, possibly inherited from their family. In the end, both completely stop them from exploring the possibilities.
Considering Explore the Possibilities is our (literal) tagline, how do we work around these inhibitions? And, how can we support them to find the things that will change their perceptions of the world and their personal outcomes?
I will always maintain that it is easier to affect change for younger kids. Nevertheless, providing a comfortable, non-coercive environment filled with resources and materials - shared with people who model expressions of joy, gratitude, love, kindness, and have expectations for respectful behavior - is a perfect beginning point. Children and teens are more likely to lean into the discomfort of change and connect with the people around them when they feel supported and comfortable enough to investigate the above questions and then take control of all the answers on their own terms.
Weekly Creative Meditation
We are exploring some potential (exciting) options for DRC East. Stay tuned!
In the meantime, DRC is here in Canton and Lawrenceville for any child who feels like they are not supported to be their best selves by their current school environment. We have rolling membership, which means any child in the NoCo is welcome to join us at any point during the academic year. Contact us today.
And, a huge shout of thanks to the SLU crew who came out for Make a Difference Day to rake the DRC Canton yard and do a deep clean inside.
Productivity, I find, is a judgment call based on each of our personal experiences and is often overrated. No one can determine what is valuable or beneficial for someone else - not how they spend their time, the thoughts they generate, or what manifests from those ideas.
Self-motivation is born from the innate desire to learn - no amount of external criticism, inducement, or punitive action will instigate it. Additionally, when children are in coercive and controlling environments or relationships, they lose the ability to self-regulate and make decisions. It also destroys their natural curiosity and insatiable thirst to explore their world.
For me, practical productivity requires the quiet and (often) dormant spaces filled with the humus of previous generations of creativity, where my brain has free rein to wander (get lost), test out theories, and play!
Weekly Creative Meditations
Student members in both DRC Canton & Lawrenceville are taking on several Social Justice issues related to populations of people traditionally facing discrimination. One nine-year-old is passionate about the injustices practiced at the Indian Boarding (Residential) Schools and the bodies they are finding at those schools. She, with the help of Angie, and a couple of other kids, created and installed this memorial to honor them at the Canton Center. Stay tuned for future projects from the Social Justice Classes.
We all have stories that we tell ourselves. Most, whether we like to admit it or not, are based on emotions, not truth. These secret tales filled with fear, grief, or anxiety, likely stemming from past trauma, often stop us from taking the steps necessary to follow our dreams. And sometimes, they even get in the way of understanding scientifically accurate statements about the world.
These personalized tales, which we all carry around like extraneous luggage on a short day trip, are the main reason DRC's tagline - Explore the Possibilities - exists.
Most of us need the daily reminder to abandon the negative messaging loop of internalized blocks (and baggage). It gives us permission to spontaneously take that (real or metaphorical) left turn away from perceived safety and begin to actively seek out all of the creative opportunities, joy, gratitude, and potential hidden within the benign (boring) routines of every day.
A small sample of the fun we had this past week.
Another Creative Meditation
This is a double haiku written in my head while on a morning walk - which after a few revisions, then inspired this post. H/T to Angie for influencing the middle line in the second stanza.
If your child is ready to break free from coercion and intimidation they are experiencing in school, get in touch today. We provide open enrollment throughout the year.
Thanks again to Mary Ann Ashley for sponsoring our Little Free Library Registration. We received the nameplate. And will be on the world map as soon as our form is processed.
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