Monthly Archives: August 2018

Dealing with Ought-ism

The work that I do is rewarding, challenging, and much like Autism itself, ever changing.  I spend most of my days researching information so that I can stay up to date on the latest Autism research as well as what services are currently being offered for the ASD population.  I try to stay up to date with what’s going on in the State House regarding the budget and Autism.  I do this so that I can be best prepared to tell parents and individuals what they ought to do when they call requesting information.  I do my best to make sure that I have provided people with the best information possible so that they can do what is best for their family and their situation.  After all, people are trusting me with their families wants and needs.  The least that I can do is fully listen to them and offer any advice I can give…. Right?

You’d think, or at least I’d think, that this would be the way it works in all aspects of life.  If I have a question, there’s someone that I can call to get advice from.  That person can be a family member, a friend, or an agency that has expertise in the area in question.  The easier the issue the more resources I would have when looking for an answer.  It wasn’t until very recently, that I realized how willing everyone is to tell me what I ought to do.

This past year has been a whirlwind to say the least.  My husband and I bought our first house.  Shortly thereafter we found out that we were expecting our first baby girl.  We lost my mother who couldn’t win her 19-year battle with cancer.  And on March 18, my sweet baby girl came into the world.  With so many highs and lows I have never felt more out of control.

There have been a number of times that I found myself seeking out professional advice.  With my house it was:  Is the wall we want to knock down a weight bearing wall?  Why isn’t the radiator in the bedroom working?  During my pregnancy, every decision I made now wasn’t just a decision for me and my health, but the life I was growing.  So that brought on a whole new topic of questions:  Is it safe to eat _____?  Can I still ride my horse?  When my mom’s health was worsening, I was asking questions about her:  Is this the end?  Is she comfortable?  Can she hear me?

And then, when our baby was born there was a plethora of new questions I had.  The difference with this situation is that I didn’t/don’t have to reach out to a professional.  It seems like everyone has so much advice, even on questions I didn’t even know I had! I have never heard the phrase “you ought to” more so than in the past four months.  I know that the people giving me this unsolicited advice don’t mean any harm by it, but all of these “ought-isms” definitely leave me questioning everything.  You could ask 5 people the same question and get 5 very different answers.  I’ve been told that I ought to leave her sleeping in our room until she’s 6 months.  Then I’ve been told that I ought to get her used to sleeping in her own crib in her own room as soon as possible.  I’ve been told that I ought to start her on fruits and vegetables at 4 months, but I’ve also been told that I ought to wait until she’s 6-9 months.  I’ve been told that I ought to put on sunscreen when we go outside, but I’ve been told I ought to wait until she’s at least 6 months to use it.  I could go on and on with the different things I’ve been told that I ought to try or do.  I was even told by a nurse in the hospital that I “ought to shorten the spelling of her name.  It has too many letters.”  (My babies name is Ellianna.  The nurse that said this was Rosemary.  THEY BOTH HAVE 8 LETTERS!!!).

For The most part, I appreciate the advice that I’ve been given.  It’s usually from moms that have lived and breathed motherhood already and the advice they are giving truly comes from a good place.  But this has definitely taught me a new skill that I didn’t even know I needed in every aspect of life be it parenting, my professional work, or even just being a friend.  I need to listen more and wait for the person to ask for advice.  Sometimes when someone calls to talk, they just want that person on the other end of the line to listen and to reassure them that they are doing a fine job.  They don’t want or need any ought-isms.  I need to remember that.  Going forward, in conversations I’m going to do my best in giving the assurance that people need and the advice that they want, when they want it.

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Self-Awareness and Self-Determination at the Gottschall Access Program

What are Life Skills? For many, the idea of a Life Skills curriculum conjures up thoughts about functional life skills including cooking, laundry, hygiene and cleaning. For some it might mean vocational skills such as following directions, computer skills or alphabetizing.  Others may think of lessons about accessing the community: safety signs, social skills and transportation.  While many of these skills are important and necessary for young adults transitioning to adulthood life and responsibilities, I think we sometimes overlook an important process on this journey.  What do you WANT to do?

Moving on to adult life can be a daunting experience for all of us who have made that transition. I think many of us have reached that point in our life when we wonder if we work to live or live to work. I know in my case it is certainly both! Fortunately, my work is rewarding, dynamic and plays to my skill set.  My first job at Papa Gino’s however, (while I did love the employee discount) was a job of necessity.  It is vital to offer everyone the opportunity to find employment that fits well with their skills, interests and motivations while matching their need for support and fulfillment.

Through the Gottschall Access Program, our first year of Life Skills Curriculum aims to provide the base for this opportunity.  Our first two semesters concentrate on the principles of Self-Awareness and Self-Determination.  We feel that these 2 tenets are crucial to the process of figuring out “what do I want to be when I grow up?”

“Creating Happiness is done in many steps.  Only with self-awareness can we see where our steps are taking us.” – Pathway to Happiness

Self-Awareness is defined as “The ability to accurately recognize one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior. The ability to accurately assess one’s strengths and limitations, with a well-grounded sense of confidence, optimism, and a ‘growth mindset.’” – Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

Through our self-awareness curriculum we support students’ exploration of their strengths, interests, skills and talents.  So many students come to us well aware of their challenges and the things they cannot do well, but they often have a difficult time identifying the things that they are good at.  Through assessments, guided activities and self-exploration we encourage the students to realize their skills and interests.  It is also necessary through this process to discover our challenges and areas in which we require support or accommodations. This can be an empowering process for students to realize that while they do have limitations, as we all do, it’s ok! It’s vital to know ourselves before we can move onto knowing what we can provide others in work, school or community environments.  Once students have identified what they are good at and what areas they need improvement in, we can move onto self-determination.

“When you know yourself, you are empowered. When you accept yourself, you are invincible.” – Tina Lifford

Self-Determination is defined as the process by which a person controls their own life.  Once the students are comfortable with their self-awareness and have a good handle on not only what they are able to do, but what they would like to do, we can move on to how make that happen.  Through our self-determination curriculum we explore and practice how to be effective communicators, how to identify and request needed accommodations and how to set achievable goals.  A very important component of self-determination is motivation. For some students entering adult life, their decisions and advocacy has been done for them by their support system.  Students need to be self-motivated to want to achieve their goals. Without this, goals become the property of someone else rather than the student’s own. Motivation will provide perseverance when things don’t go as expected and a desire for self-advocacy to make changes when needed. It is important for us to teach students how to formulate goals, make plans and advocate for themselves or request support when needed.

It is our hope, at The Gottschall Access Program, that our students will emerge with a confident idea of who they are and a plan to live their best lives.