Friday, January 16, 2015

Guest Post by Ezra Lockhart: The Negative Impact of Social Functioning Deficits on Adult Outcomes: The Broader Effect of Loneliness

It is with great pleasure that I introduce our next guest writer, Ezra Lockhart. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have met Ezra through LinkedIn and he has graciously agreed to share a guest post with us on Nathan's Voice. Please give him a warm welcome and I encourage you to leave him a comment at the end of his post!

The more substantial hindrance for many people with developmental disability is not the academic deficits, but the social deficits that isolates them from their peers (Osman & Blinder, 1982). Undoubtedly, social isolation and peer rejection can lead to feelings of loneliness (Margalit & Al-Yagon, 2002). Deficits in social skills contribute considerably to creating socially isolated environments and situations. Moreover, these social functioning deficits negatively affect adult outcomes and are implicated as contributors to patterns of unemployment and underemployment, lack of friendships and romantic relationships, and low rates of independent living in adults with developmental disability (Farley et al., 2009). Indeed, with impacts to these adult outcomes loneliness is a problem for people with developmental disability.

Developing support for social functioning and participation is important not only to address the issue of loneliness, but to positively impact outcomes in a variety of areas (i.e., school, family life, employment, recreation, community resources, independent living, etc.). There is a contemporary trend for support to be developed specifically as early intervention and implemented in early childhood educational settings. There is a consensus that this approach provides the most benefit to the individual throughout their life span. The benefits of early intervention are apparent, unfortunately, there are generations of adults that have surpassed support designed for traditional educational settings and for younger populations. Therefore it is imperative to develop and implement support for social functioning and participation in varying environments frequently encountered by adults with developmental disability that is attuned for situational encounters with their age-appropriate peer groups. In other words, social support interventions need expanded to account for family, community, employment, independent living, and recreational settings. This will aid in addressing the issue of loneliness as well as increasing social communication skills necessary for access to resources in these varied settings.

In conjunction with developing adult interventions that address age-appropriate environments and situational encounters, it is important to address the following factors identified as predicting social difficulties and loneliness experiences among persons with developmental disability. Researchers (e.g. Margalit & Al-Yagon, 2002) identified three main predicting factors: a) the knowledge deficit (Pearl, 1992), b) the performance deficit (Vaughn & La Greca, 1992), and c) rejected and loneliness behavioral styles (Margalit, 1994). Pearl (1992) describes the knowledge deficit as the lack of age-appropriate knowledge needed to develop social relationships. Vaughn and La Greca (1992) describe the performance deficit as the lack of ability to translate age-appropriate knowledge into effective social behaviors. Lastly, Margalit (1994) describes rejected and loneliness behavioral styles as individuals accepting the reputation and characteristics of isolated individuals and adopting such behaviors. These deficiencies in social functioning and maladaptive behavioral styles inhibit the individual from establishing social relationships. Their self-concept and beliefs in their inability to develop social relationships needs to be addressed in future support models.

In a final analysis, loneliness is a distinct issue adversely affecting people with developmental disability. Addressing this concern will require interventions that are delivered in various age-appropriate settings. Furthermore, reforming self-concept, beliefs, and behavioral styles for persons with developmental disability will be integral to establishing healthy attitudes and actions conducive to building and maintaining social relationships.

References
Farley, M. A., McMahon, W. M., Fombonne, E., Jenson, W. R., Miller, J., Gardner, M., ... & Coon, H. (2009). Twenty-year outcome for individuals with autism and average or near-average cognitive abilities. Autism Research, 2(2), 109-118.
Margalit, M., & Al-Yagon, M. (2002). The loneliness experience of children with learning disabilities. In B. Y. Wong & M. L. Donahue (Eds.), The social dimensions of learning disabilities: Essays in honor of Tanis Bryan (pp.53-75). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Osman, B. B., & Blinder, H. (1982). A note. In B. Osman & H. Blinder No one to play with: The social side of learning disabilities (pp. ixx). New York: Random House.
Pearl, R. (1992). Psychosocial characteristics of learning disabled students. In N. N. Singh & I. L. Beale (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy (pp. 1-18). New York, NY: Wiley.
Vaughn, S., & La Greca, A. M. (1992). Beyond greetings and making friends: Social skills from a broader perspective. In Y. L. Wong (Ed.), Contemporary intervention research in learning disabilities: An international perspective (pp. 94-114). New York, NY: Springer-Verlag.


Ezra Lockhart, MHlthSc(DD) candidate, MCSE, AC has worked one-on-one with over 50 individuals who experience a wide range of physical, developmental and intellectual disabilities. In 2004, he started assisting adults with various physical disabilities. In 2011, he specialized in providing home- and community-based behavioral supports for individuals who live on the autistic spectrum. In 2014, he expanded to provide milieu and group therapy (e.g., psychoeducational, skill development, cognitive-behavioral) for youth coping with fetal alcohol effects, severe emotion disturbances, personality disorders, and behavioral and substance abuse issues. Be sure to follow Ezra on his ePortfolio at http://www.ezralockhart.com and connect with him on LinkedIn.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

If YOU are Raising a Special Needs Child, Read Laurie Wallin's book #GetYourJoyBack and Enter the Book Giveaway for your own copy!

I'm proud to a member of the #GetYourJoyBack launch team, and to be able to #share the information about the Book Giveaway with YOU!!! Please do the same with all of your friends, asking them to do the same. We all know how challenging it can be raising a special needs child and how important it is for us to be able to rejuvenate ourselves physically, spiritually and mentally. Thank YOU for taking the time to stop by Nathan's Voice and check out #GetYourJoyBack!!! Also make sure to follow author Laurie Wallin on Twitter @mylivingpower for more great inspiration!  Below are just a few of the reviews shared by parents who have already read the book...

“It isn't the long day of monitoring a child's precarious health or being hypervigilant about her mood and mental health challenges that weighs parents down; it's the wishing that things were different. . . . Resentment, not the intense care they must provide their child, is the parents' greatest stressor and source of pain.” —Laurie Wallin


Parents of specials needs children are exhausted. They've done all the research, consulted all the experts, joined support groups, gotten counseling, fought for the best life for their children. Often just caring for their children's needs and attempting to maintain a home maxes out parents' mental, emotional, and spiritual reserves.

Laurie Wallin knows firsthand the difficulties of this journey. With Get Your Joy Back, she steps forward to make a bold, audacious claim: in the midst of this long-term, intense task, it is still possible to have an abundant life, full of joy. The key to radically changing daily life and restoring joy to the weary is forgiveness. Wallin gives parents a lifeline to find that restoration, pulling them back to shore when they feel like they're drowning.

This book is full of practical, biblical insights and strategies to shed the resentments that leave Christian special-needs parents themselves spiritually, emotionally, and socially drained. Wallin meets readers right where they are, sugar-coating nothing, but addressing issues with honesty, humor, and--above all--hope.

An invitation and a promise for weary Christian parents of special needs kids from a parent who's been there.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

@NathansVoice invites YOU to #share the story of your #Autism Journey to inspire other families, give them hope and let them know they are not alone!

Dear Fellow Advocate,


     I hope your New Year is off to a fabulous start!! You might be visiting my autism resource blog for the the first time, or possibly haven't visited in a while. If you are a parent, a caregiver or a grandparent of a child with autism spectrum disorders, I would be most honored to offer you the opportunity to share your story in a Guest Article on Nathan's Voice this year! If you are an educator or a service provider and would be interested in sharing something that would benefit or improve the lives of those who visit my autism resource blog, please let me know so that can pencil you in on the 2015 calendar as a prospective Guest Writer. 
     I wish that had more time to write and post on my autism resource blog but, I'm working full-time in the self-contained autism classroom at a local middle school, the leader of the AutismOKC parent support group, and taking care of my special needs family while completing a college course each semester towards finishing my associate's degree at a local junior college and eventually acquire my teaching certification in Special Education. This next semester will be challenging for me as it is very difficult for me to remember dates and I am enrolled in U.S. History to 1877. All of my free time will be dedicated to memorizing the information which will get me through this course.
     There is no obligation and no deadline's when sharing through my autism resource blog. I know how busy life can be and there's enough of that in our already overwhelmed schedules! When your ready, just send what you want to share in an attached Word document, along with any photos (credits, if borrowed), links and the instruction for placement of each, to the email address listed below. I don't make changes to anything without contacting the Guest Writer first. I hope that I have covered everything but, I am always glad to answer any question, at any time. The only thing is that it might take me a few hours to get back to you, if I'm in the classroom, taking a college exam, assisting my own son whom has high-functioning autism or his older brother whom has adhd with a school-related project. I will respond as soon as I possibly can. Thank you for your understanding and patience!
     If you haven't had the opportunity to check out Nathan's Voice before now, please time time to look around and see what we have been up to. Our local nonprofit, AutismOklahoma.org, has recently acquired a building, the Autism Oklahoma Building, located near downtown Oklahoma City. This will be a place where families and friends of individuals affected by autism to come together in support of raising awareness, understanding and acceptance for them in the surrounding community! Great things are coming in 2015 and I will be making time to share about those on Nathan's Voice, as well as on the social media outlets I utilize for everyone to learn more about what's happening in Oklahoma!!
     Please take all the time you need to make a decision. I appreciate your time and I look forward to hearing from you when you are able to respond! 

Your Fellow Advocate,

Lorrie Servati
AutismOklahoma Team Captain of "Nathan's Voice"
Follow me on Twitter @NathansVoice
AutismOKC Coordinator & Leader
Email me at Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Make an End of Year Donation to Support Our #Autism Team @NathansVoice and the 2015 AutismOklahoma @PieceWalk & 5K

Most of you know, our #Autism Team "Nathan's Voice" hosts the annual AutismOKC Christmas Store for families with children on the autism spectrum. This fundraiser was started to give families of special needs children, particularly those whom have been diagnosed with Autism (ASD), the opportunity to shop for gifts in a non-retail environment. The children, their parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, caregivers and friends will be able to browse and purchase items from the Christmas Store without the crowded stores and in a family-friendly atmosphere. We also offer to wrap all gifts purchased during this event and ALL monies raised through the annual Christmas Store goes towards the annual AutismOklahoma PieceWalk that our family team, Nathan's Voice, is fundraising for to benefit the families affected by autism across Oklahoma.    

It's NOT too late to make an end of year donation to support our efforts and make a HUGE difference in the lives of those families affected by autism. Even though the annual AutismOKC Christmas Store was this last week, we still need YOUR HELP to reach those that would most benefit from being able to purchase items through our annual event. We would appreciate your assistance in getting the word out about what we are doing to provide families with the opportunity to avoid the crowded and over-stimulating malls, by giving them a family-friendly and non-retail environment for individuals with autism to shop for their loved ones. By providing them with an alternative, we hope that each individual, and their family, walks away with an enjoyable and memorable experience. 


Anyone whom would like to check out and support the efforts of our Elite Team may email me at Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org to inform me of your intent to make a donation towards our team "Nathan's Voice". All donations made to our family team will benefit the annual AutismOklahoma PieceWalk scheduled for the first Saturday in May. The monies will then be awarded as grants and distributed to help fund research, education, technology, growing social groups within our grassroots nonprofit AutismOklahoma.org and help provide Family Fun Night events, through our various support groups, for the many families in the autism community across the state of Oklahoma.


Please consider how much your end of year donation will help to reach those families in the community, affected by autism and connect them to a growing grassroots and established nonprofit such as AutismOklahoma.org! Making an end of year donation is also a wonderful way for companies to show their support of individuals with special needs. If you are not familiar with what autism is, check out the FAQs on the AutismOklahoma website. You will also want to look at the many ways your donation will help our efforts. Thank YOU for taking the time to follow our family team "Nathan's Voice" and supporting us in raising awareness of the many social groups that the grassroots nonprofit AutismOklahoma.org makes possible for the families across the state!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Please Help Our Family Team, Nathan's Voice, by Making a Donation to Our 2nd Annual #AutismOKC Christmas Store and/or Volunteering at the Event!

Team Nathan's Voice will be hosting the annual AutismOKC Christmas Store for families with children on the autism spectrum. This fundraiser was started to give families of special needs children, particularly those whom have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders, the opportunity to shop for gifts in a non-retail environment. The children, their parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents, caregivers and friends will be able to browse and purchase items from the Christmas Store without the crowded stores and in a family-friendly atmosphere. We will also wrap all gifts purchased during this event and ALL monies raised through the upcoming 2014 Christmas Store will go towards the 2015 AutismOklahoma PieceWalk that our family team, Nathan's Voice, is fundraising for to benefit the families affected by autism across Oklahoma.    

The upcoming AutismOKC Christmas Store will be this Thursday, December 18th between 6:30pm - 8:30pm at St. Luke's United Methodist Church, located at 222 NW 15th Street, near downtown Oklahoma City. Anyone whom would like to check out and support may email me at Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org to register for the event, volunteer to help us in assisting each of our shoppers (any age welcome) and/or make a donation towards the event. All proceeds from the items purchased through the AutismOKC Christmas Store will filter through our family team, Nathan's Voice, which is hosting the event and benefit the annual AutismOklahoma PieceWalk scheduled for the first Saturday in May. The monies will then be awarded as grants to help fund research, education, technology, social groups within our nonprofit 
AutismOklahoma.org
 and help provide Family Fun Night events, through our various support groups, for the many families in the autism community across the state of Oklahoma.

We appreciate everyone who has been following our posts. We look forward to hearing from anyone who has the time to contact us! Have a wonderful Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

I Was Absolutely Thrilled to Have My Eleven Year Old Son Accompany Me to the Annual Oklahoma Statewide #Autism Conference for the 2nd Year!

Nothing makes me happier than having had Nathan, my eleven year old son, accompany me to the Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference for the second year in a row. Last year, it was at the Reed Conference Center in Midwest City but, I was glad that it was going to be at the Embassy Suites in Norman this year. The first time I attended the Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference, in 2011 at the Embassy Suites in Norman, was a major turning point in my life, and that in my family's journey alongside Nathan. It was an amazing experience to be able to learn more about Autism Spectrum Disorders, with other parents and have access to all of the resources available at this event.


Every year, that I attend the Oklahoma Statewide Autism Conference, the event is always better than the one from the year before. Even though I'm a leader of the AutismOKC parent support group, a paraprofessional in the public school system and a college student pursuing my teacher certificate in Special Education, I started out as the parent of a child diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). It is extremely important for me to remember how we started our journey, before and after our youngest son was diagnosed on the spectrum. One of the reasons I started blogging was to document the successes we celebrated, as well as the challenges we faced as a family, while literally following a road map written in invisible ink!


As we approach the holidays, please remember to reach out and share something positive with someone you know. It is critical for those around us know how important they are in our family support system. I'm thankful for each and every person in my family, everyone in my husband's family and our many wonderful friends. If it wasn't for them supporting us as they have from the beginning, our family would not be where we are today! So, take the time to either set that lunch date, make that call or send that message to that special person who has taken the time to show their support to your family. It will make all of the difference in the world for them to hear how important he or she has been to your family's journey! If YOU have a unique way of honoring those who support you, please take a moment to share with us in the comment section below. I always look forward to hearing from our readers and supporters!! Also, if you would like to share something that you have learned to make Thanksgiving, Christmas, or any other family tradition a success, please email me at Lorrie@AutismOklahoma.org with the details. Your tips, tricks and/or wisdom could be our next featured guest post! My family hopes that you have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend with your family!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Let's Make a Change in the Statistics by Becoming Supportive of Each Other and by Reaching Out to the #Autism Families in our Surrounding Community

I am always shocked when I hear about a story like the one that has been in the news the last few weeks. My first response is that if this mom had a family member and/or friend in the community, she might have been able to cope with whatever overwhelming feeling that she was experiencing at the time, and have been able to avoid this whole unfortunate situation. I am not making excuses for this mother, or any other individual who has made an unforgivable choice as she has made. I'm just reminding us that all parents of special needs children have felt overwhelmed and/or isolated at one time or another and need the support of those around us! It is important that we all have someone that is close enough to us to make sure that we get the "Me" time that we need, whether it is weekly, twice a week or maybe after the children are in bed each night.

Even though we are occasionally faced with some of the most challenging situations, we are all personally responsible for our actions and the decisions that we make. There is absolutely no excuse for any parent to let his, or her, feelings of despair build up to the point that they don't reach out for help, or assistance, before taking the life of the person they feel is causing their world to close in on them. Most of you know exactly what story I am referring to. It is devastating to read the details of such a story and it takes everything for me to not scream at the individual who took the life of the very child who loved and trusted her to protect him. It infuriates me, it saddens me but, it reminds me how very thankful that I am because I have such a loving husband that supports my physical health, as well as my mental health. I know that I can depend on him to tell me when I need a break. 

Everyone needs someone who they can talk to and with about what's going on in their life, whether it's good or bad. Who do you have? If you can't answer that question, please reach out to and make contact with the person you trust the most, or contact your local community parenting assistance center. Please don't let you and your family become a statistic like the family which I have mentioned. You are too important to those family members, and friends around you, to not take care of yourself and enjoy the life you have been given! Take a moment and read one of my previous posts, "Pockets of Patience", for some ideas on how to handle stress. Grab some tissues and be prepared for a walk down memory lane with me! If you have time, please leave me a comment below. I always look forward to hearing from my readers and featuring a special story of survival on my autism resource blog.