Sunday, March 31, 2013

Dare To Do Your Best:
See It Big, But Keep It Simple

By George M. Graham Jr.

A wise man once taught me a great principle to utilize when I was confronted with an apparent overwhelming obstacle in my life. He told me that I needed to “see it big, but keep it simple.” By endeavoring to heed his advice in numerous difficult situations, I was finally able to comprehend what he meant.

When we are dealing with any of life’s challenges, we should strive to maintain a positive mental attitude, with high 

expectations— “see it big.” Additionally, we must keep in mind that in order to achieve any worthy goal, we must 

take one step at a time to accomplish it— “keep it simple."

If we will put forth the time and effort necessary, while maintaining a positive mental attitude with high expectations, 
we can be more successful. By practicing the principle of “see it big, but keep it simple,” we can more effectively 
deal with stressful situations and overcome obstacles. We can achieve goals and objectives by taking one step at a 

For over 35 years, this advice has been instrumental in helping me in my work with students with disabilities. It has 
helped me to provide encouragement and support to the parents of these students, and it has helped me to provide 
helpful advice when consulting with teachers.

When I began my career in 1975, special education in the public school system was still a relatively new concept. 
There was very limited knowledge and understanding of what special education really entailed.

It has been a long journey to where we are today!

Up until 1975, there was little implementation of special education services in the public school system. In fact, there were some 
disabled students who were not even allowed to attend school because they were perceived as not being capable of being educated. Parents were placed in a position of either keeping their disabled child at home or placing their child in an 

In those early years of special education, the students with disabilities who were allowed to enroll in school were usually 
taught in a separate area of the building or in a separate building all together. I can remember special education classes 
being housed in basements of school buildings or in rooms that were small enough to be closets. It gave the appearance 
that keeping these students separated form the rest of the population was a priority.

Things began to change when in 1975 Congress passed Public Law 94-142 (Education of all Handicapped Children Act) 
which later became known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA.) This was among the first of many 
laws to be passed by Congress to help protect and assure that there would be no discrimination of individuals with disabilities. IDEA, more specifically guaranteed that all students with disabilities would have access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE.)

Today, students with disabilities are afforded an education under drastically improved circumstances as compared to over
 35 years ago. These strides are due to a variety of reasons that include enacting and implementing laws; the 
lobbying efforts by parents, educators and organizations on behalf of students with disabilities; and the on-going research 
in best practices in special education. These have all helped to contribute to many positive changes in the way services 
are provided to students with disabilities.

As I reflect on my early years in special education, I remember feeling somewhat unprepared and inadequate for the job 
that I was undertaking. Much of what I learned came through trial and error or by observing other educators. I came to 
realize that I was learning about special education as the field of special education was also going through its own 
stages of growth and development.

The purpose of this series of articles is to share some of the basic positive, practical practices that I have learned over 
the years. These are practices that parents can use to help their children, teachers can use to help their students, and students can use to improve themselves. These positive, practical practices are based on my years of experience from four different perspectives.

One perspective is that of a student educated in the public school system. The second perspective is that of an individual with a disability. I have a hearing impairment, and as a result I have to wear hearing aides. Another perspective is 
that of a parent with a child who was diagnosed with ADD at an early age. The last perspective is that of having been an 
educator and an administrator.

All children have basic wants and needs that must be addressed in order for them to be able to grow, develop, and become successful. I believe these positive, practical practices can be implemented in helping students with disabilities to address these basic wants and needs. In fact, they can be implemented to help any child to be more successful.

Anyone who has participated in sports or in any field of the arts knows the importance of mastering the 
basics. Not only must you master the basics, but you must consistently continue to work on them on a regular basis - practice, practice, practice.

Master the basics and practice are vital to success!

The basics are the foundation upon which anyone can build to improve themselves. 
I believe that each of us has been blessed by God with special talents, abilities, gifts, and skills. Yes, even those with 
disabilities have been blessed with them. It is vital and necessary to master the basics and to practice in order to develop 
the special talents, abilities, gifts, and skills. This will help each individual to be as successful as they possibly can be as they Dare To Do Their Best.

In the next article, we will begin to take a look at some of the basic positive, practical practices to help build success.

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