Teaching the New Three Rs: Responsibility, Respect and Reaching Out

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I’ve often wondered how I was blessed enough to have two children with autism.
Friends and co-workers think I’m out of my mind to make my career working with
special needs children, especially the greatly challenged ones. The fact of the
matter is that these beautiful beings feed my soul.

My belief that so many children with autism spectrum and other learning disabilities (such as ADD/ADHD and emotional behavior disorders) are here at this time because humanity is receiving a supercharged dose of higher consciousness. The ascension of planet Earth depends on these pure vessels of energy to focus enough to take charge and fulfill the divine purpose that they also came here to do.

The huge emphasis here is on focus. Anyone who has worked with challenged children knows that their compromised sensory systems and social and communication deficiencies make it very difficult for them to develop normal, healthy relationships to their surroundings, other people, and to the universal truth of cause and effect. I have a hard time using the word "disabled," because even "normal" children can be a challenge. The challenge is a matter of perspective. Our challenge is to help them internalize learning they can carry with them beyond home and school.

Some things you just cannot teach from a book. How does one, in fact, teach kindness, respect, cooperation, empathy or compassion? Academically, you can read the definitions of such virtues. You can act or model the concept of these behaviors, but there is no guarantee that the valuable lessons of these sentiments will be embraced and activated in the heart space of your children. How do you teach healthy self-esteem?

Traditional paradigms of book learning are increasingly becoming ineffective, particularly with special needs children who have trouble responding to academics. It is becoming more and more important to model social skills, as well as to teach social studies. How can one show respect if they have never received it? Is a child to blame for a lack of manners if they’ve never been taught?

Children are the centers of their own universes, that is, until they are challenged to step out of their box. They need countless opportunities to experience kindness, sharing, turn-taking and contribution in order to infuse the energies of joy and fulfillment into the heart. Put aside the motive of how the kindness feels to someone else. The kindness has to, first and foremost, feel personally good to them.

Love is always reciprocated. Even in the toughest, most street-smart, hardened youth. If you command and show them respect (remember, it’s always give and take), trust, listen to them, guide them toward their contribution to the greater good, they learn to feel good about themselves and, in return, spread the love. The trick is to do so with complete sincerity. No strings attached.

Children, even the most cognitively challenged, learn from a very young age the value of the reward system. If you do this, I will give you that. Sadly, it becomes a tool for manipulation and control, and eventually, any prize is no longer worth the task, no matter how high the ante is upped. Children see through the illusion. They have no internal motivation or ownership toward the outcome. You cannot make a child "feel" like doing anything. It has to come from within.

Encouraging a child’s own responsibility for their solutions and enlightening their role in both the cause and the effect – though they may be based in an entirely different value system – allows them to stand in their integrity and dignity. How many times have we heard from our children, "He made me mad!" and acts out accordingly? Gently guide them to see the situation from a different perspective. The internal trigger of madness may simply be they are tired or overloaded and unable to think rationally. How often do we allow this to happen to ourselves?

This requires a great deal of patience and a quantum leap in thinking and living from a higher perspective on our part. We cannot expect our children to become consciously aware of their part in the greater humanity until we have reached out and done so on our own.

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