This I believe …
I believe in the goodness of people and in our need to be connected. Our goodness is best demonstrated in our connections with others. I find it difficult to see how goodness can come out of a person if they have not benefited from supportive connections with others.
In my work with children and families with developmental disabilities I have come across many children who were diagnosed with developmental differences and/or emotional and behavioral disorders. I found positive qualities in all of the children, but I noticed that there seemed to be differences in how the most challenging children and families were not connected to others around them. In successful situations I found strong connections to family, teachers, friends, and support groups. However, in the most strained and troubled situations I found that the lack of these supports or connections seemed to be common.
I remember working at a state school with 60 adult ladies (divided among two wings) identified with severe mental retardation. My caseload was extremely challenging on one wing, with each of the ladies having specific behavior intervention objectives targeting aggressive and self-injurious behaviors. Many of the ladies had no contact with biological family members or visitors. While on the other wing, the ladies had regular visits from the family members and advocates. Many of the parents would go swimming, eat or play with the ladies, go on excursions, and volunteer at the school. I can not recall having to write specific behavioral goals on that second wing. I saw in the first wing a need for connection. Sure the staff cared for the ladies while they were on duty, but it was not the same as knowing someone loves you, regularly check on you, believe in you, or advocate for you.
I believe that the goodness within us is supported by the connections we make. I believe that belonging to a group will bring out our best qualities. This connection seems to bring out characteristics of loyalty, dependability, caring for group members, sharing common interests, and working toward goals. Our connections help us create meaning. Many of the students that I work with have challenges in making connections with others. Some of the children may move more toward a group or gang that will accept them and help meet their need for connectedness. No matter how negative or anti-social we might view these groups they may meet that need for connection.
I strongly feel that in working with children with special needs and their families we need to help them identify their strengths and their goodness. The best way showcase their goodness is to help them make healthy connections with others. This would help them know that they are not alone and that someone loves them, believes in them, values them, and will help advocate for them. I have benefited from my connections with family, friends, colleagues, and affiliations, and through those connections I can see the goodness in me.
Michael R. DuPont
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