Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Living A Balanced Life (A Mindful Journey To Success)

By George M. Graham Jr.

The state of the world today appears to be more chaotic, more dysfunctional, and more challenged than at any other time in the history of mankind. Evidence of this can be seen by watching television, listening to the radio, surfing the internet, or by reading newspapers and magazines.

We are inundated with more information than our minds can possibly handle with news of environmental disasters, economic crises, political disharmony, and growing epidemic health issues. We are bombarded with so much negativity that it literally has repercussions and consequences on our well being, whether we realize it or not.

This is often amplified even more by issues that occur with our jobs, crises that occur within our families, and/or personal financial, medical, or relationship problems. When we are exposed to this negativity on a daily basis, we can feel like we are constantly being thrown out of balance within our personal lives. We may feel out of control, overwhelmed, or at a loss as to what to do.

How can we take charge of our lives to be able to feel grounded, peaceful, and in harmony among such turmoil and strife in the world today? The purpose of this article is to provide insight and guidance on how you can bring a sense of balance and well being into your life during these challenging times.

Stephen R. Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People describes the four dimensions of human nature as body, mind, heart, and spirit. Unfortunately, due to the everyday demands and distractions, we are unable to devote the time and energy necessary to be able to renew ourselves in each of these categories. In order to have balance in our lives, it takes our continuous effort in each of these aspects - body, mind, heart and spirit. This effort will vary somewhat from individual to individual and can vary at different seasons in our lives.

This requires us to become knowledgeable of the basics in each of these four dimensions. After gaining knowledge of the basics, one must consistently practice to maximize the best results that an individual is capable of achieving. This process can be understood in light of the following quote by Coach John R. Wooden, "Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to do your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming."

Covey shares insight as to what are some of the basics in each of these dimensions. When referring to body, an individual would need to learn and master the basic principles of health such as eating properly, getting appropriate exercise, and getting sufficient sleep. When referring to the mind, we are talking about growing and increasing your ability in such areas as reading, writing, and continued education. Heart, which can also be referred to as the social/emotional dimension, means such things as making connections with others that are meaningful. The spiritual dimension is covers a number of different aspects which could include prayer, meditation, spending time in nature, and service to others.

Living your life in balance requires taking the necessary time and commitment to renew yourself in all these areas of your life. It is about making good choices and decisions. It is about having the desire and perseverance to follow through on a consistent basis.

By focusing your time and effort in each of these four areas, you will promote growth in your life. You will find that you have more energy, better health, and that you are better able to cope with difficulties and challenges. You will also be happier, have more peace and harmony, and feel more grounded and in control of your life.

When you are living a balanced life, you will know it because you can actually enjoy yourself. You will find that you can be yourself and be happy with who you are. You will be better equipped to overcome negative, stressful circumstances and feel more optimistic about outcomes. In essence, you will sense a feeling of freedom that you may not have experienced in your life for a long time.

As you are on your journey of life, be mindful, aware, and observant of the present moment. Do not worry about the past or the future. By being vigilant to this moment, you can put your focus where it needs to be - on achieving growth in each of your life domains, making the effort to do your best, and becoming the best you are capable of being.

Your journey is about being mindful, exercising patience with yourself and others, simplifying your life, being compassionate and kind, being open to change, and having an attitude of gratitude. Above all, do not compare yourself to others. You are a work in progress. Focus your efforts on you and do not let yourself be distracted by others.


You can find information about incorporating positive, practical practices to help you in achieving balance in your life by referring to these previous blog posts:

Dare To Do Your Best: See It Big, But Keep It Simple - Part I (April 21, 2013)

Dare To Do Your Best: See It Big, But Keep It Simple - Part II (May 4, 2013)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Smile and Laugh, The Benefits Will Surprise You

By George M. Graham Jr.

Dale Carnegie, in his book, How To Win Friends & Influence People, included a chapter entitled, “A Simple Way To Make A Good First Impression.” In this chapter he shares that the principle to making a good first impression is to smile.

If you don’t feel like smiling – what do you do? Carnegie says, “…force yourself to smile... Act as if you were already happy, and that will tend to make you happy.” He goes on to share how the psychologist and philosopher William James described this process.

“Action seems to follow feeling, but really action and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not.”

Studies show that wearing a smile can bring about benefits for the individual. A genuine smile, referred to as a Duchenne smile, involves changes in the muscles around the eyes and the mouth.

The facial changes involved with smiling seem to have a direct affect on brain activities that are associated with happiness by releasing endorphins into the brain. Studies indicate that smiling and laughing reduce stress hormones which will increase the efficiency of the immune system.

Research suggests that those who smile more may live longer than those who smile less. Another study indicated that laughing can be a total body workout. It lowers blood pressure, increases vascular blood flow and the oxygenation of the blood.

I recently read that a smile uses approximately 36 muscles, but a frown uses approximately 97 muscles. A smile releases the muscles on your scalp, which in turn lets the blood flow more easily. As you continue to smile, which is releasing oxygen into the brain, you actually become happier.

By smiling more and frowning less, you can influence your mental health and elicit more positive connections with others – smiles have an impact on social relationships. A genuine smile can send a message that people can trust you and will increase their willingness to trust you. Smiling sends a signal to others of your willingness to cooperate and it enhances our attractiveness.

As a young man, I used to enjoy watching a television program called “House Party,” hosted by Art Linkletter. As part of the show, Mr. Linkletter would interview a panel of kids individually. The responses of the kids were not always what he expected. The many humorous things they said led him to write a book entitled, Kids Say The Darndest Things.

As an example, on one show, Mr. Linkletter asked a little boy what his father did for a living. Here is how the rest of the conversation unfolded.

Little boy: “My father’s a school teacher.”
Mr. Linkletter: “That’s a fine profession. Does he like it?”
Little boy: “He only has one thing to complain about.”
Mr. Linkletter: “What’s that?”
Little boy: “The kids.”

One study indicated that healthy children laugh as much as 400 times a day, whereas adults, on average, laugh only 15 times per day. Maybe we can learn something from children. Another study indicates that you can still benefit from the effects of smiling and laughter even if it is faked. The body cannot tell the difference between the fake and the real – the physical benefits are still the same.

Norman Cousins, a former editor of the "Saturday Review," shares his personal story of overcoming a deteriorating condition in his book Anatomy Of An Illness As Perceived By The Patient. After learning that his chances of survival were not very good, Cousins left the hospital and checked himself into a hotel.

Cousins took charge of his own recovery program, and he acquired a movie projector along with some Marx Brothers’ movies and episodes of Candid Camera. He watched these programs and laughed his way back into good health. In his book, he states, “I made the joyous discovery that ten minutes of genuine belly laughter had an anesthetic effect and would give me at least two hours of pain-free sleep.”

He later went on to explain that laughter included a full range of positive emotions such as hope, faith, love, humor, creativity, playfulness, great expectations, and the will to live. Cousins believed all of this contributed to the improvement of his condition.

There are many other experiments and studies that indicate that Cousins was on to something – laughter can be helpful to your health in many ways. Studies have shown laughter appears to travel through a circuit that runs through many regions of the brain.

One simple step you can take to help yourself deal with a busy, stressed out, and overwhelming life is to laugh. It has been said that laughter is the best medicine, and it has been proven through research and numerous studies. It can provide not only physical benefits, but also emotional, social, and psychological benefits as well. It can change a person’s outlook from hopelessness to hopefulness.

Some things you can do to increase your smiling and laughing:

  • Read a funny book or the funny pages/comic strips
  • Watch a funny movie or TV show
  • Play with children
  • Play with your pet
  • Spend time with people who have a sense of humor
  • Be spontaneous - do something silly
  • Count your blessings
  • Laugh at yourself – don’t take yourself so seriously
  • Participate in laugh therapy
  • Laugh out loud
  • Look for humor in life
  • Make having fun a priority, especially with family and close friends
  • Remember, smile and the world smiles with you.

You can laugh or smile any time, any place, and even if you are all alone. It only takes making a decision and training yourself to look for the possibilities to smile and laugh. You can choose to follow after ways to experience laughter which will help bring about positive changes. It will benefit you, and more importantly, it will benefit others.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


By Vicki Phillips

The following story is written by a old friend of mine who I met in college. She was one of the first friends that I ever had that was blind and she had a powerful impact on my life at the time.

She amazed me by her independence and confidence as she maneuvered around campus and through buildings with no problem. At the time, I wondered how in the world she was able to manage it with such ease.

There I was doing my best to keep up with everything that you go through as a student in college. She was going through the same things - going to class, taking notes, completing assignments and homework, but she was blind and it appeared that it was no problem for her at all. I often wondered how in the world she was able to handle it all with such ease.

On top of all that, one day I found out she played piano and sang as well. The first time I was able to hear her perform I was moved by her performance. She played and sang like an angel. She touched my heart!

It is my honor and privilege to have Vicki share her story on my blog. Here is Vicki's story titled Advocacy.


My name is Vicki, and I’ve been blind all my life. It’s been an interesting road, full of literal and figurative bumps and bruises, but full of wonderful experiences, precious friends, and the joy of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I am the mother of two grown children and grandmother of one granddaughter, plus I’ve married a man (my mechanic) who’s also blind and got myself two more children and four more granddaughters as part of the bargain. I’d like to speak to you a little bit about advocacy.

When I was six, my folks  sent me away from home to a residential school for the blind. I wasted the comeraderie of those six years I spent there by my resentment of having to leave home in the first place. However, the chance for learning was not wasted on me; I dove into my books once I could read, and I still remember odd facts from those years’ learning and the teachers who impacted me.

My mom was the real advocate at our house, but her example registered with me - albeit slowly. She took some time when I was a small child and went to the school to get an idea, I suppose, of what lay ahead for me. All through the years, she and the school psychologist were working toward getting me into public school back home even though I never knew it until later.

When I graduated from college, she waltzed me into the state agency for the blind and into the director’s office. Boy, was I embarrassed! The long and short of it was that I started work three weeks after I got out of college. She was determined that I would have what I needed to succeed, but I was held responsible for these gifts.

I know Mama was always there for me, but there was an innate understanding on my part that I best walk worthy of the luxury of a job I’d been given, and luxury it was since 70% of the employable blind are either unemployed or underemployed. What is underemployed? It’s like my later job with a nationally prominent insurance company. I was licensed but by happenstance found out from one employee at another office that she made $2.25 more than me with no licenses.

Life may never be what we consider fair, but there’s nothing unusual about that, disabled or not. The trick is to work at landing on your feet, forgiving a lot of well meaning, and even ignorant people because they can’t seem to fathom that you can live independently or want to despite your “differentness”.

When it comes right down to it, we’re our own best cheerleaders if we figure out that we need to open our mouths and be the instructors, the people who prove to others that there’s really no reason to be scared of people who are different. People are usually petrified that either the things that are our differences are contagious, that they just couldn’t deal with being that different and so we can’t either, or they’re just plain petrified because they are afraid of any number of other things.

Whatever the causes of the fears we are subjected to that belong to everybody else, it’s incumbent on us with the disabilities to set everybody at ease and prove ourselves, work harder, be better—just to mostly pull even, making sure to be nice when you’d rather scream.

But, pull even with what? I will never make the money a doctor makes, but I don’t want to work that hard in such a demanding field, either. I’m generally happy piddling in a makeshift garden, collecting recipes, playing a piano for a local church, and singing and reading. Playing cards is fun, and I like spectator sports and playing hot potato with my new granddaughters.

Sure, I’ve held down jobs—a social worker for the blind, a trainer of adaptive software,and a licensed insurance agent. I’ve flown places by myself and managed to wind up where I was supposed to be and even went cross country skiing once. But, the fact of the matter is, as I’ve learned from the National Federation of the Blind, I can only change what it means to be blind—one person at a time. Sometimes, that person is somebody I’ve just met or maybe known for a long time; sometimes, it’s me. Regardless, I have to believe in myself and be willing and ready to prove that every day and to give myself the best chance at success, whatever that means to me.

In being a part of a group of people with disabilities who worked toward greater voting accessibility in my state, I’ve run into some pretty amazing people who’ve done some wonderful things, and the common thread with them all was believing in themselves and their personal advocacy.

Vicki with one of her grandchildren (Taylor.)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Assignment

By George M. Graham Jr.

Mom finished cooking and set the table like she did every night. Dad and I joined her, and we all sat down to eat supper. Tonight was not much different than many other nights in the 1950's, except that I had something that I needed to say. I had an assignment to complete.

Today, I work as an administrator of the special education program for our school district. As part of my responsibilities, I often provide staff development for teachers, administrators, and parents.

Often times in my presentation, I talk about the importance of the example we set for children. I remind folks there are always little eyes and little ears watching and listening to everything we do and say.

I will often ask the members of the audience to raise their hands if one of their teachers had a positive impact on their lives. Typically, just about everyone in the audience will raise their hands.

We as educators and parents have a bigger influence on our students and children than we often realize. They pay very close attention and mimic what we do and what we say.

If you don't think that this is true, then take the time to observe your own children for a few days. It will probably surprise you to see and hear some of your own idiosyncrasies being repeated in your children's actions and verbalizations.

As I get older, I realize how many of my own parents' habits I have acquired. I see it in the things I say, how I say them, the actions I take, and even the things I believe.

Laurie Beth Jones states in her book, Jesus, CEO, "Teaching is educating the mind and preaching is educating the heart." Some of the educators who had the most impact on my life certainly understood and practiced this concept of teaching and preaching. One particular teacher who comes to my mind, who was a magnificent example of this, was Ms. Morrison.

Ms. Morrison was a petite lady, probably less than 5 feet tall. If the truth were known, most of the students in our 6th grade class were as tall, if not taller than she. She always wore her hair in a tight bun on the back of her head and usually had a pencil sticking out of it. If you remember the television program, The Beverly Hillbillies, then Granny on that show will help you to have a "mind picture" to visualize Ms. Morrison.

She was a strict disciplinarian! In fact, many students referred to her as "old battle axe." Of course, this nickname was used only when she was not around. No one was brave enough to even think about saying something like that within her hearing distance. We were smart enough to know we didn't want to tangle with her - not if we wanted to survive.

Although Ms. Morrison was small in stature, she was big in heart. As she educated us in the "three R's" (Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic,) she preached to us about doing the right things in our lives.

One day, she was giving us a "good talking to" about our mothers. She said that most of us did not understand or appreciate how much our mothers did for us. She told us we should be more thankful for what our mothers did and let them know how much we appreciated them.

With that, she gave us a homework assignment. She told us, "After you finish eating supper, you are to tell your mother thank you and let her know how much you appreciated the meal she prepared."

I should point out that in the 1950's things were much different than today. Families actually sat at the table together and ate supper without the interruptions of all of our modern technology. Families would enjoy each others' company and talk about the day and what was happening in their lives.

Supper was now coming to a close. It was time for me to complete my assignment. I just knew if I didn't complete my assignment Ms. Morrison would find out. You see, Ms. Morrison was also a member of the same church we attended. She knew my parents well.

I knew this was going to be hard for me because I was very shy and bashful. I had never said something like this to my mother before. I had never even heard my dad say anything like this to my mother. I wondered how she would react. I wondered what he would think.

As I started to push away from the table, I finally gathered up enough courage to say, "Thank you for supper tonight, I really appreciated it!" There, I had said it and completed my assignment. However, something was wrong. There was a dead silence.

I looked at my dad and saw that he was looking at my mother. I turned to look at her and saw that she had small tears running down her cheeks. My words of appreciation had brought tears to my mother's eyes. That one little gesture of saying thank you had melted my mother's heart and touched her in a special way.

I don't really know why it touched her so much that night. She may have had a really hard day. She may not have felt appreciated for what she did on a daily basis, like Ms. Morrison said. It is difficult to know for sure.

What I do know is that from that night on, I endeavored to say, "Thank you, I appreciate it," whenever my mother prepared a meal and so did my dad!

This is one little example of the influence Ms. Morrison had on me by "teaching to educate the mind and preaching to educate the heart." Every one of us probably could tell a similar story of how our lives were impacted by the example or words of another.

I am grateful and thankful for the difference Ms. Morrison made in my life. It goes beyond me, though. Because of her assignment, I was able to influence the lives of my mother and father in a positive way. I feel confident the other students in my class probably had similar success as well.

Who would have thought that this assignment would have had such an amazing impact. Thank you Ms. Morrison for giving us the assignment!

This article is dedicated in loving memory of my mom and dad,
George and Betty Graham.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Perfection At the Plate

Rabbi Paysach Krohn

This true story has been attributed to Rabbi Paysach Krohn. It appears in his book, Echoes of the Maggid, published in 1999.


In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to children with learning disabilities. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career while others can transfer into conventional schools. At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that will always be remembered by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything God does is done with perfections. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is God's perfection?"

The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish and stilled by the piercing query. "I believe," the father answered, "that when God brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that he seeks is the way people react to this child."

He then told them the following story about his son Shaya:

One afternoon, Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys whom Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, "Do you think they will let me play?"

Shaya's father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging. Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates. Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."

Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field. In the bottom of the eighth inning Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning Shaya's team scored again and now, with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game? Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it.

However, as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya could at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch.

The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya. As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung at the ball and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game.

Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman. Everyone started yelling, "Shaya, run to first. Run to first." Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out the still running Shaya.

But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were so he threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head. Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Shaya rounded third the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Shaya run home." Shaya ran home, stepped on the home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero as he had just hit a "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

"That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of God's perfection."

Saturday, May 4, 2013

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

By George M. Graham Jr.

In a previous article I wrote “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.”

I also talked about utilizing what I call positive, practical practices in order to help address basic wants and needs in helping individuals to be successful. Mastering these positive, practical practices sets the foundation for us to build upon in order to improve ourselves.

In my last article, we began looking at some of the positive, practical practices that parents can incorporate with their children in helping them to be successful in all domains of life. This article will continue to explore some of these practices that are foundational.

An important positive, practical practice is to ensure children are getting a nutritious, healthy diet. It is imperative that children get the proper foods that will help their minds and bodies grow and develop! Children will benefit from eating healthy foods such as fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, fish and fish oil (those with plenty of omega-3 fatty acids), and nuts and seeds, just to name a few.

There are those who recommend that whenever possible, it is best to endeavor to purchase organic foods. This is another topic where there are differences of opinion. However, there is indication that the chemicals that are used to deter insects from attacking fruits and vegetables as they grow, could have a negative impact on our bodies. There is evidence that toxic chemicals affect the central nervous system which includes the brain.

There is a strong indication that sugar, processed foods, and preservatives can have a negative impact on your child’s physical and mental health. Research documents the effects of sugar on children’s behaviors. Parents should consider removing, or at least cutting back on sodas, candy, cakes and other processed foods that may have a lot of chemical preservatives.

Diet does have a very strong impact on the brain and other bodily functions. Again, the research documents that some children will develop allergies to food additives which can cause allergic reactions like hyperactivity, difficulty in concentrating, and difficulty in staying focused. These are just a few of the possible symptoms that can develop from toxins, chemical preservatives, and food dyes.

While we are on the topic of healthy diet, I would like to point out the importance of drinking water as well. Water plays a major part in all of our body’s functions. When we are appropriately hydrated, we think more clearly, we are better able to fight off sickness, and our body’s systems can function more properly. Research on the brain indicates that one thing that can help students to perform better on testing is to hydrate the brain. Drink plenty of water!

Unfortunately, students with disabilities often suffer from low self-esteem. Another positive, practical practice is that of helping your child to develop a healthy self-esteem. Children need to know that they are loved and accepted just as they are. They need to know that they have within them everything they need to be successful.

Parents should teach their children to think positive thoughts about who they are and what they can be. One of the best things that children can do for themselves is to develop a positive mental attitude. Parents can help their child to do this by first setting a good example by the way they act, speak, and live. By setting a good example, children will have a role model to follow. If a parent has any doubts that their child does watch and listen to their example, I recommend that they take time to observe how their child walks, talks, and acts. It can be a real “eye-opener."

One way parents can help build their child’s self-esteem is to never be critical of the child and never be sarcastic towards their child. Criticism and sarcasm will only hurt and destroy a child’s self-esteem. Also, do not try to compare them to someone else, especially their brother, sister, or another neighbor’s child. Each child is an individual. God did not make us to all be the same! Being different is what makes each of us unique and special.

Children need to feel good about themselves and who they are. They need approval and support from their parents. Wrap your every thought, action, and word in love for your children. When they see it, hear it, and feel it, they will experience your love, approval, and support.

When you take time to think about and compare the lifestyle of today’s families to that of families of 25 to 30 years ago, there are certainly many amazing differences. One of those differences is that children today are surrounded by multi-media to include such things as computers, cell phones, video games, e-mail, texting, and multiple televisions in the home.

Of course there are advantages to having availability to many of these different technologies. Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages as well. One disadvantage is that children today are not getting outdoors and getting the benefits of fresh air, sunshine, and exercise. As a consequence there is a national trend towards obesity, and part of this is due to our sedentary lifestyles and not getting sufficient exercise.

Therefore, another positive, practical practice that parents can employ with their children is to ensure they are taking time to enjoy the outdoors and getting exercise on a consistent basis. Exercise helps to build strength, endurance, and flexibility. It promotes and develops gross motor and fine motor skills. It helps the blood to circulate throughout the body by taking much needed oxygen to the brain.

Not only does exercise help to make you healthier physically, but also it contributes to being healthier mentally and emotionally. Exercise can provide relief for built up stress, frustration, or even anger. It is amazing how a brief walk out in nature has a way of soothing the soul.

In bringing this article to a close, I would like to share one more positive, practical practice that parents can utilize to help their child. The importance of children having the opportunity to socialize and interact with other children, as well as adults, cannot be overemphasized enough. Children need this interaction in order to be able to develop appropriate social skills.

This can be accomplished easily enough by getting the child involved and participating in community programs, team sports, scouting, or through activities at a local church. Children, just like adults, need attention and need to be recognized. Being accepted by others outside of the family can help to provide children with what they need to develop self-confidence and appropriate social skills that they will utilize the rest of their lives.

These are just a few of the positive, practical practices that parents can implement with their children. Certainly there are many more that can be helpful as well. It is my hope that these suggestions will be helpful, even if it’s just for the purpose of stimulating the thinking process.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

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

By George M. Graham Jr.

Stephen R. Covey, in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, refers to human nature as being four dimensional. He identifies the four dimensions as body, mind, heart, and spirit. As parents, we should endeavor to address our children’s needs and wants in each of these four dimensions of human nature. This will help our children to become well-balanced and more prepared for all aspects of life.

In my previous article, I talked about all children having basic needs and wants that must be addressed in order for them to be able to grow, develop, and become successful. In this article, we will specifically be looking at some of the basic positive, practical practices that parents can implement to help their children. These practices, along with those that will be shared in the next several articles, will address ways of impacting the four dimensions of body, mind, heart, and spirit.

Before we move into the positive, practical practices, I would like to focus on the first hurdle that parents of children with disabilities must overcome. It is the hurdle of the initial discovery that their child has a disability. Parents may experience one of many possible emotional reactions to this discovery. One of the factors that may impact their reaction may be the severity of the disability and/or the type of disability the child may have.

Parents may become increasingly aware of something being different or unusual about their child. They may observe that their child is struggling academically, or behaving in a fashion that would be considered as beyond the ordinary type of behavior, or possibly the child may have something physically going on that is obviously not quite right. When they are finally able to find an answer to their growing concern, some parents experience the emotional reaction of being very relieved.

It is not relief in knowing their child has a disability, but they are relieved to finally know the cause of the problem they have observed. This scenario can be compared to a person who has been suffering certain physical symptoms and is not sure what may be the cause of the symptoms. The person may spend hours being worried and concerned about all the possible things that could be wrong. Once the doctor makes a diagnosis and the cause is known, the person has a feeling of relief. Sometimes it is the “not knowing” that causes a great amount of stress and concern. Even if the illness may be serious, it is finally having an answer and knowing the cause that can reduce the stress and concern.

For other parents the reaction can be that of the emotion of grief. They may initially ask themselves questions like: Why is this happening to me? What have I done to deserve this? Why is this happening to my child?

We have all had to deal with grief to some degree or another. It can be compared to what you may have experienced when you have lost a loved one. This can cause deep emotional wounds, and a person cannot experience real happiness until the wounds are healed. Therefore, it may entail a process of moving through the five stages of grief.

The first stage is the stage of denial, when you are in disbelief and experiencing numbness to the situation. The second stage would be anger, when you are blaming others for what has happened. The third stage is bargaining, when you are begging wishing, and praying for this situation to change or be different. The fourth stage is depression, when you are in a depressed state and experiencing sadness and/or crying. The fifth stage is acceptance, where you can finally come to terms with the situation and move on.

It is possible that parents may experience some overlapping or a combination of these stages at the same time. Another possibility is that they may become fixated on one stage for an extended period of time before being able to move through the process. In some very extreme cases, parents may get stuck in one of these five stages and never be able to overcome that stage. In any of these possible scenarios it is important to remember that it will take time for the healing process to occur.

No matter what may be the reaction to the initial discovery of their child having a disability, parents come to the point of saying, "OK, now what do we do? They will need assistance in seeking out help and support for their child. Even as important as getting help for their child, they will need help and support for themselves. There are many organizations and support groups available to parents that can assist them to find help and get the support they need.

Parents need to know that there is always hope! They need to know there are others who understand, who empathize with them, and who care! They need to know they can get help for their child and themselves.They need to know there are steps that they can take to help their child!

One of the most basic positive, practical practices that a parent can implement is to ensure that their child gets sufficient sleep. Unfortunately, in our hectic, fast paced society people tend to forget the importance of sleep. Research has documented the seriousness of sleep deprivation and the impact it has on adults as well as on children.

Many children simply do not get the proper rest that they need. Their little bodies need time to rejuvenate and restore themselves while they are sleeping. It has been proven that chronic sleep loss can contribute to some serious health problems as well as contribute to irritability and behavior issues.

There are differences of opinion as to what constitutes the proper amount of sleep that an individual needs. It is true that it may vary from individual to individual. However, many sources agree that children ages 3-6 need from 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. Children ages 6-9 need approximately 10 hours per night. Children ages 9 through their teens need approximately 9 hours per night.

It is amazing the difference that can be observed when a child is getting the proper amount of sleep on a consistent basis. They can perform better in every way. More importantly it will improve their quantity and quality of life.

In Part II of this article, we will be looking at additional positive, practical practices and the importance of incorporating these into daily living (habits.) Mastering these basics can be life changing for anyone who chooses to pursue them.

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.