By Kodey Toney
Keep It Together
I recently attended the Joining Forces Conference hosted by the Oklahoma Family Network. I've already explained how happy and fortunate I am to work for this group. They do wonderful things throughout the state. This conference was no exception. I wanted to share a few highlights of the day with everyone.
Heather Pike, administrative director, opened the day with an African proverb that I hadn't heard before. It says: "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together." If you really think about this one there are so many ways to interpret it, but I think the main thing is that we need to work together to help get farther in our life goals. Whether that be for ourselves or our children, we can get a lot further if we have help and let others assist us.
That was what this conference was for me. The the was "Joining Forces for a Good Life." It was a great networking opportunity for me, and I got to meet some great new contacts as well as talk to old friends about new ideas.
Sheli Reynolds, PhD., from the University of Missouri at Kansas City Institute for Human Development led the activities for the day. Her presentation was about how to set a LifeCourse for your loved ones and follow it throughout their many stages in life.
One part of the discussion was about death and how long your family member has to live. This is a tough one for many. One of the parents at the table said that their biggest fear was that they would have to bury their son. However, the alternative is just as frightening. If we are here at least we know our children are being taken care of, but if we're gone we have to trust others. That's a difficult thing to think about.
Reynolds said, "if I don't have hops it's hard to get out of bed in the morning." If we don't have a positive outlook on our lives and the lives of our children then it makes it tougher to function each day. You have to continue to think about the good things in life, no matter how hard that may be.
Reynolds was talking about how we have to work to make our children as independent as possible. I've talked about this before, but our ultimate goal is to eventually get rid of the paraprofessional or aide. If she's any good she will work her way out of a job, which is what we want. Reynolds said, "it's going to be hard to get a girlfriend and eventually a job with a para by your side." We have to be working to let the child do as much for themselves as they possibly can.
"If we start in kindergarten segregating a child how do we expect them to have a job or manners later in life?" Reynolds was asking how a person that is not around those situations can learn from their peers?
This is something I've talked about before as well. I think as much as possible the child should spend time with peers. Are there times when they need to be pulled aside for certain things? Sure, but only when necessary. We don't need to send a child down the hall just because you don't want to deal with them, or because they're not acting like everyone else. They'll never learn how to act like everyone else if you keep send them away from everyone else. Praise the others when they do good things. This will show "all" the children what you expect, especially those with disabilities.
In all, this was a great conference and I learned so much. I hope what I've passed on will help.