Caring Author Changes The World One Child At A Time

MoreHeavenbookcover(PCM) When a young, determined special education teacher takes on the impossible task of teaching six so-called “unteachable” children, she not only transforms their lives; she also opens the doors for all future exceptional students who followed.

This is the premise of “More Heaven: Because Every Child Is Special,” the riveting new book, by International Bestselling Author, Dr. Jo Anne White, a noted motivational speaker, TV & radio executive producer and host of “Power Your Life.”

The book, published by Outskirts Press, has won numerous honors, including the Mom’s Choice Award Honoring Excellence and the Best Ever You Books Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence. It’s also an Amazon top 10 International Bestseller in three categories.

In 1975, the federal government mandated that all children, regardless of disability, be given the right to a public education.As a result of this historic mandate, this young pioneering teacher – with heaping doses of pluck and perseverance – stepped into a Philadelphia classroom of exceptional learners and transformed their world.

This “true life” experiment took place when Dr. White was hired by the Philadelphia Board of Education as the first teacher and program coordinator for children who were either expelled or had never entered the hallways or classrooms of a public school.

The cutting-edge program, which initially was not embraced by the typical education teachers, parents or by the administrators,began slowly. Its success paved the way for more special education classes to open in the public arena. “Not only did we persevere,” Dr. White explained, “we conquered skepticism and won victories for these children to live and thrive in society.”

Dr. White says that she fought hard, alongside the children and their tireless parents, “to restore dignity in their lives. This dignity, the birthright of every human being, had been denied them. The time had come to make things right.”

This pioneer has crucial lessons for all of us today: to learn that despite tremendous obstacles, each of us can use our compassion to bring out the best in our children. By using her common sense, imagination,sheer will, and a caring heart, she truly changed the lives of these formerly“unteachable” students in her class.

Dr. White still vividly recalls the first day of school when a little girl named Eva, who had autism, arrived for the new program.“There was great skepticism on the part of the faculty and the administration,of the notion of educating Eva. The girl’s driver echoed those sentiments to the young teacher, ‘Believe me,’ he confides, ‘I wouldn’t want your job for nothin’ in the world.’”

Q: How will your book, “More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special,” positively impact parents, teachers and the greater community?

DR. JO ANNE WHITE: I’d like people to understand how wonderful these children are, instead of seeing them as strange or approaching them with great apprehension. We need to be able to co-exist and embrace our differences when it comes to everything: ethnicity, culture, learning,and neurological differences. So, it has always been very important for me that everyone understand the richness and beauty of each child. That is the way to truly embrace humanity.

Q: Please tell me a little bit about your history as a teacher.

JW: I was planning to go to school for English literature and writing, until I became involved in an inclusive camp program. When this visionary director of the program created a division for children with special needs, it opened my eyes and I changed my plan to study education and special education.

Q: That sounds like a life-changing moment.

JW: Yes. When I walked into that camp program I completely fell in love with the children there.

Q: What do you recall from that experience?

JW: I remember working with one little girl who would bite her arms and bite the insides of her cheeks with sores that wouldn’t heal. She hummed and had ritualistic behavior. I immediately took her under wing, and sang to her, and massaged her cheeks, when no one else wanted to go near her. She blossomed under my care. This was such a beautiful life-altering experience and it shaped my future. I thought to myself ‘this is important.’

Q: Did the text books prepare you for that first special education classroom?

JW: No, not with these children. What I learned in school was important and served me; but I also had to bring something else to these kids. I had to reach them with unconventional methods, by getting into each of their worlds and being extremely resourceful, imaginative and creative.

Q: Please talk about being a young special education teacher, what was that like?

JW: I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many unknowns; and the truth be told, not everybody, including the faculty and many parents, wanted this to happen. It was new territory; people were afraid and misinformed. This was a case of sink or swim; I didn’t know what to expect.These children were labeled as more disabled than some of the previous groups of children I had taught. The first girl, who had autism, came to school in a taxi because it was thought ‘how could she function on a bus or relate to other kids.’

Q: But you say you never considered giving up even on the toughest days. So what about you personally made you stick with it, no matter how overwhelming this was?

JW: Something that has served me well over the course of my life is perseverance. I have patience, perseverance and an understanding that the time has to be right for everything. I also know that in life you need to take chances.

Dr.JoAnneWhiteQ: What is the most important life lesson for each of us who work with and care for children?

JW: My book gives you a front row seat where you get to know these six children up close and personal. It’s important to understand that despite the many challenges and mannerisms each child faces and family,each child has special gifts we need to nurture and celebrate every single day.

Q: How is all of this relevant today – some 40 years later?

JW: There are many reasons. One major reason is about bullying, and the way children with special needs are still judged, as opposed to being accepted by their communities. My book, “Bully Free,” which also won awards, ties into “More Heaven.” It focuses on my interviews with parents about their children with autism and special needs who were victims of bullying at school and in the community, and the deep emotional scars left on these families.

Q: How did you know how to teach these so-called“unteachable” children?

JW: I knew that I had to reach these kids, so I did whatever I could do, as long as it was ethical. With the first child, I used play, movement and dance since she was never still for long. Much of this was not a part of typical classroom lessons. I was literally utilizing whatever I could to make that connection, and for each child it was different. I knew I had to reach them and had to figure out how to enter their different worlds so they would eventually embrace and accept the world of learning and socialization.

Q: What was the result?

JW: Each of my students slowly started to accept their surroundings and felt ‘wow, this is okay. My teacher is not telling me I am crazy or ridiculous.’ I was able to get them to trust me, open up to their individual worlds and join our world.

Q: Why are you so proud of this book?

JW: I am repeatedly told that “More Heaven,” captures people’s hearts. It allows the reader to see what went on back then, and to understand that despite the strides we have made we are not there yet. Many parents at that time were told that their children could never learn or would best be served by an institution.

Q: What are the vital life lessons for all of us?

JW: People need to recognize the struggles, the passion and determination from families who have done so much to create change. We need to say to the world ‘stop putting blinders on and let’s teach these kids and not hide from it or ignore it.’ All these years’ parents have fought and pushed for change, and there are parents today who are continuing to fight for acceptance, inclusion and dignity for their children.

Q: What makes you believe we need to keep pushing for acceptance?

JW: As an example, in 2014 there was a lawsuit in California involving an autistic boy who was considered to be a trouble maker. Neighbors sued and were also worried about their reduced property values. This action eventually drove the family from their home of seven years.

Q: So is your message that history will keep repeating itself if people don’t step up and make the change?

JW: Absolutely. It’s happening on the playgrounds, in the schools and the communities. There was bullying, judgment and disapproval at the time I taught these children. Unfortunately, it still happens a great deal to children who act or appear different in social or educational settings today.

Q: Ultimately, what do you want your book to accomplish?

JW: I’d like professionals to be open to work with these children even if at times the techniques seem unconventional. I wish for all families and parents to learn to accept their children and guide them to express their talents. And I’d like families, neighbors and the general public to see these children in a warmer light after reading my book and interface with the special needs community. I frequently say that ‘this book reaches in from the heart outward to all children – they will be heard!’

For further information, please go to: http://www.drjoannewhite.com/more-heaven/

The post Caring Author Changes The World One Child At A Time also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

April 6th is Plan Your Own Epitaph Day

abcde-LooneyApril 6th is Plan Your Epitaph Day.  Spring is in the air, the birds are back and singing flowers are pushing their way out of the ground and new life is everywhere, now let’s take a moment and think about your death.

Let’s get one thought out of the way, we are all going to die.  It may be decades away or seconds away, but it is inevitable there is no escape.  The question is how do you want to be remembered.

On a tomb stone there is your name and some dates, for instance Joe Clark April 1, 1928 – February 29, 2035.  Do you see that little dash between the dates?  That represents a person’s whole life.  All they did and didn’t do, all of their hopes and disappointments all their laughter and tears are represented by that little dash.

After the name and date can come a sentence or two used to remember that person.  There is a stone in England that reads “Here Lies Arthur The Once and Future King”.  The great comedian WC Fields stone reads, “On the whole I’d Rather be in Philadelphia.”  On another tombstone it reads “To Follow You I’m Not Content.  How Do I Know Which Way You Went?”

If you leave your epitaph to your relatives, you may get nothing but your name and date, or something like “Beloved Mother” or maybe “Always Single and Never Happy.”  Don’t leave your epitaph in the hands of some distant relation or a family member that is too bereaved to think of a thing to say about you.  Who you were on this earth could be remembered hundreds of years from now if you write your own.

Maybe our friend Joe Clark might say about himself. “ I was a husband and father and I did the best I could”. Or “I set out to accomplish something good in my life and I did it”.  It needs to be about you and who you were and how you want to be remembered.

I would go a step farther than this though and plan your own funeral.  Choose the church or other building you want it to be held.  Decide on the music and the flowers, specify who you want to give your eulogy.  What passage of the Bible or another book that you want to have read.  Be in the driver’s seat at your funeral.  Write it all down, including your epitaph, and give it to a trusted friend or your lawyer.  They can take it from there.

Plan Your Own Epitaph Day can be a great experience.  Death is nothing to be afraid of and to go with all the loose strings tied up can be a great experience.

The post April 6th is Plan Your Own Epitaph Day also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, Friends

AjlaFriends!  I sometimes have a hard time seeing what is exactly in front of my face.  I don’t think this is a new phenomenon, I think it is the as old as time itself.  How many of us have looked and looked for something, we then go and call for someone to help, and the person sees it immediately within an inch of where we are standing.  We just can’t see it for some reason.  Of course, the person we called upon for help will not leave us without the favorite “#DUH.”   As if we are either totally blind or totally nuts.

This past Wednesday I published a column where I stated I was on my journey alone.  That statement wasn’t true and it hurt someone I care about.  I’m not alone and really never have been.  Much of my time this is true in the physical sense of the word, but it is not true in the support, prayers and good wishes of others that read this column or know me.

You know you were not going to get out of this column without fictional literature of different types being brought up.  I think I have an ideal of friendship being fueled by such books as The Lord Of The Rings.  The Fellowship broke up, but you know the Hobbits stayed together always and you also assume that Legolas and Gimli are never that long parted.  Then there is The Justice League, super powered, yes, but always there for each other, tackling big problems as a team.  More intimately we have Holmes and Watson, always together and indispensable to each other.  Batman and Robin, crime fighting friends, or even, despite the new film coming out, Batman and Superman they don’t leave each other

This list could go on forever, Lucy and Ethel, Laverne and Shirley, Fred and Barney, Ralph Cramden and Ed Norton, Historically Tolkien and Lewis as well as The Inklings, it is also said that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were friends, and maybe two of the most famous people in the history of Israel Jonathan and David.  David said at the death of Jonathan that Jonathan’s love was better than the love of women.  David wasn’t gay and was not talking about sex, he was talking about a different kind of love, the kind that only comes in friendship.

GK Chesterton a famous English author and Christian was friends with George Bernard Shaw a famous English playwright and atheist.  They would publicly debate each other on whether or not there was a God fighting tooth and nail to make their points, but when the debate was over they went out and got a pint together and were there for each other.  When Chesterton died, he did not leave much to help to take care of his wife.  Shaw took care of her.  This is friendship that goes deep and allows for even basic differences.  This is love.

We, who speak English are very limited in our ways of looking at love.  In our eyes it is only romantic.  But this is not so.  There are different kinds of love.  There is a love that is reserved for your spouse, a love that is reserved for your friends, a love that is reserved for your family, and even a love for those whom we would categorize as acquaintances.   There are four distinctly different forms of love.  This is why saying your spouse is your best friend is not really accurate, and if it is true, than you are missing out on the love of friendship.  This whole topic will be discussed in a feature article in the near future.

I long for the love of real friendship.  The love that takes a few days just to wonder the countryside and talk of great things and ideas.  The kind of love that puts people there for you, right in your house, when you are hurting or ill, the love that makes you take the time to tackle big things together, maybe not fighting crime in spandex, though that might be fun, but big projects that take a team to do.  I long for discussion of books and music and other art.  These are the cries of my heart.

Now am I walking my road alone? No!  Many of you and others are walking with me.  The text messages and PMs on Facebook all help as do the phone calls, and as I said before the prayers and good wishes of others.  You guys that are a part of my life, but I so much more, I want it to go deeper.

There is a part of me that longs for the days of long ago where friendship was so much more.  Knowing that this kind of friendship once existed makes my heart long for it.  That longing is coming deep from my soul.  I doubt I will see it here and now.  But I will speak for it and when I can fight for it.  But you should too.  You incredible people that are reading this, fight with me.  Redefine what you mean by friends and if it is in your power, make it happen.

I am not alone as I walk the yellow brick road, or find my way to Mount Doom or Make my way to the stone table and to Aslan.  There are many with me.  Lorraine, Tom, Caleb, there are several James’, Joel, Steve, Maura, two Lisa’s and a Susan and more than one Kathy.  There’s Brad, Saundra, Manny, Kevin, Ken, Matt, Joe, Joy, Meagan, Gary, Daves, Tims. Mary’s, Anne’s Micki, Carol, and many other who I could list forever.  I am glad a friend took the time to kick me in the butt and remind me of this truth.  I love you guys, but I do dream of more.

If you have a moment take a listen.  Two fictional friends, as well as two lifelong real friends, singing about friendship.  Song by Cole Porter.

The post My Journey To Health, Friends also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

My Journey To Health, The Wizard of Oz

Wizard-of-Oz-RSC-and-MUNI1-You may be wondering what The Wizard of Oz has to do with a journey to health, well I’ll tell you, just not yet.

I have started this column with the idea of always telling the truth when it come to what I am going through.  In Monday’s column I wrote again about depression which has let up a little bit but not much.  So today, though I am struggling to write something positive, when in truth my heart is heavy and I feel confused and a bit lost.

The second thing to be honest about is since Friday I have had a set back with my diet.  As a family we went to Shady Maple a huge buffet type restaurant in Lancaster PA.  And by huge, I mean the buffet is about half the length of a football field one quarter of it devoted to desserts alone.  My not eating sugar just went out the window. I have not been able to get back to a good eating pattern since, but I will have by the end of today.

Now as for The Wizard of Oz.  Most of you know the story of Dorothy, who is swept into the Land of Oz when a tornado blows her house away.  When she reaches Oz she has killed the Wicked Witch of The East as her house dropped on her.  Dorothy wants to go home, but she is told the only way for her to find her way there is to see The Wizard who lives in the Emerald City.

Dorothy begins her journey to see the wizard by following a road made of yellow brick.  On her way she makes three friends, The Scarecrow, who needs a brain, a Tinman who needs a heart and a Lion who needs courage.  She suggests to each that The Wizard may be able to help them too and they join her.

Through many struggles Dorothy does meet the Wizard, she kills the Wicked Witch of the West and finally is able to get home.  If you have seen the MGM film version you know it ends with Dorothy waking up and that her whole adventure had been a dream.  In the book, however, Dorothy comes home from Oz wide awake, eventually going back to Oz more than once until she finally settles there.  There are more than a dozen Oz books.

CS Lewis wrote, “Someday you will be old enough to read fairy tales again.”  What Lewis is saying here is that there is much to learn from Fairy Tales if we allow ourselves to see it.  When L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz, he wrote it because American children didn’t have their own fairy tales and he wanted to fill the gap.  Almost every culture has its own fairy stories but The United States being a culture made up of different cultures had none of its own.  The Fairy Tales of Europe and Britain had centuries behind them, America is just getting started.

Every fairy tale has something to teach much of it at a more subliminal level then what is on the surface.  Snow White and Cinderella are not so much about the girl getting the guy as how much the characters change and at the same time remain virtuous despite the evil people around them.  So it is with The Wizard of Oz.

If you know the full story of The Wizard of Oz then you already know that the Scarecrow had a brain, in fact he was probably the smartest one in the bunch.  The Tinman had a heart as he knew how to love and The Cowardly Lion had courage because he faces his fears no matter how afraid he was.  And Dorothy had the ability to go home, but she had to learn about herself first.

You see it is the same with me.  I have the brains to become healthy, even if at times I feel worthless and stupid and I have many times like that.  I can love others as love isn’t a feeling it is a choice.  Love is very much a verb, it is something that we do, not some affection we feel.  Feelings fail us all the time.  Love is not a feeling and therefore it cannot fail.  Courage, there is a major misconception about courage.  Most of us think that having courage means you are not afraid.  Fear is not a bad thing.  It is a warning that what we are about to do may not be wise, but it is our brains that decides whether we are wise or not.  So courage is walking into something that we are afraid of, but doing it because it is good for us or because it is good for others.

Courage is not the absence of fear but the ability to face the fear and do what’s right.

Dorothy throughout the story grows up, little by little until she finds the power to go home.  We all have to continually allow ourselves to grow.  Many people come to a point in their lives where they say “enough, I’m done.” But those people tend to be the ones that become the crotchety old folks that most people avoid.  We have to grow to continue to live.

In front of me is more of the yellow brick road.  Right now, I feel pretty beaten up and companionless.  I have my dog, so like Dorothy I will continue along the road and hope that God will send companions to walk with me.  I still have the responsibility to grow, not outwardly, but inwardly.  Here is where courage must come in.  I must utilize a brave heart.  But that’s another story.

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Teen Conceived At A 1996 Rock Concert Enlists The Internet’s Help To Find His Biological Father

Jette-Collins1

(PCM) 18-year old Jette Collins knows that he was conceived at the inaugural K-Rockathon concert in 1996 and has now decided to enlist the internet’s help with tracking down his biological father who he has never met. He is hoping that the message he shared via Facebook will reach someone who may have additional information.

Jette knows very little details about his father other than his name is Jason and he lived in Syracuse, New York, and of course attended the 1996 rock concert. Jette wrote down those details on a poster board, snapped an image of himself holding the message and posted it on his Facebook page. The post has since been shared over 12,000 times in all areas of the country.

I don’t know if this actually works but I’m going to try it, just hoping for the best and a little luck. Help a kid out

Posted by Jette Collins on Wednesday, March 2, 2016

When speaking with the New York Daily News Jette says that his mother, Diana Collins, met Jason at the K-Rockathon when she was 16 years old, things got hot and heavy between Diana and Jason at the show and Jette is the result of that evening. Jette says Diana and Jason stayed in touch for a few weeks after the concert however after that they lost touch and shortly after that Diana discovered she was pregnant.

Jette and his mother Diana have tried tracking down Jason in the past, however they have always ended up at a dead end. Their hope now is that if enough Facebook users see and share the most, someone with information about Jason, or even Jason himself, will come forward and Jette will finally be able to meet his father.

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Human Library Allows You To Check Out People Rather Than Books

Human-Library1

(PCM) Believe it is not as creepy as the title would suggest! The Human Library Project is actually all about celebrating diversity and helping us gain a better and more well-rounded understanding of the people around us, by learning and freely asking questions without any fear of judgement.

The project began in Denmark and has since branched out to areas all over the world. It allows participants to check out an “interactive book” for a half hour at a time, however these “interactive books” are actually living breathing human volunteers who have agreed to share their stories with others.

Human Library participants are given a library catalog which features the various types of individuals they can meet with to learn about their experiences, stories and of course ask them any questions they may have been afraid to ask or are curious to know. Some examples of Human Library volunteers include someone who is homeless, a soldier suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder), a person who was molested, a naturist, someone with extreme body modification, a person in a polyamorous relationship, someone who is Muslim, someone suffering from bi-polar disorder, a refugee, and someone who is HIV positive to name just a few.

The stories and experiences shared by these individuals can provide a wealth of knowledge and understanding and can certainly show us that there is much more to these individuals (and all of us as human beings) than what initially meets the eye. The Human Library project teaches us to never judge a book by its’ cover and  is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.

We think this project is a wonderful idea and certainly would love to see more and more Human Library events taking place throughout the world. It is refreshing to see people actually talking to one another and finding a way to put their differences aside and gain a better understanding of our fellow man.

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