Tuesday, February 21, 2006

How To Be a Popular Teenager

1. You are GREAT how you are!
Look around. Everyone has different skills and levels of success in school, athletics, creativity, charm, looks, grades, hobbies, etc. Make a list of all of the skills and talents that YOU have. Post it on your wall and on your mirror so you can see it and read it every day. Doing this reminds you of your self worth.. and everyone needs to do that as much as possible!

2. Life is a continual learning process
Believe it or not, whether you are in school, or working full time, the most productive people are constantly learning. Sometimes you focus on music, sometimes on languages, sometimes on your social skills, and sometimes knowing all of the music groups on MTV. Do your best to be open to things other than just what you HAVE to know or what’s COOL to know. For instance, if you are usually a sports fan, pick up a book on something cultural to do with plays or movies. If you are a music-aholic, then take some time to go white water rafting or canoeing. You’ll be more well balanced and get along with a greater amount of people.

3. Focus on looking at what is GREAT in others
When you are a teen, your life sometimes revolves around what others think! Some people can make it hard on us, and some people could care less. People like those people who show an interest in them. Start asking questions of the other kids in your class and in your school. Talk about what interests THEM. Even if you aren’t in their group, show an interest in what they are interested in or like to do. NEVER criticize, but acknowledge them for having talent and for having special interests. Even if you don’t “GET” it, you can say, “hey, that’s great”. It’ll make them feel good about THEMSELVES.

4. Learn to LAUGH and help others have fun!
Getting a kick out of others is a great way to be well received by others. If you find others humorous or funny, LAUGH. Look for things to compliment about others.. and have fun with people as much as possible. The teenage years aren’t easy and if you can focus on helping OTHERS to have fun, then you’ll be a step ahead. Be creative in your approach but don’t poke fun AT a person. There is a difference of laughing WITH the person and not AT them. Rule of thumb – if you can’t say nothing nice, don’t say anything at all. People always like to talk about themselves.. so get people talking and laughing!

5. Become an expert in something!
What are you interested in? Do you have a passion for writing or for sewing? Do you get a charge out of designing clothes or by the latest makeup? Do you have an interest in the martial arts? How about motorcycles or horseback riding? Wherever YOUR interest lies, become an expert in it! If you don’t have any hobbies besides watching TV or movies, you are missing the boat. If those ARE your hobbies, then you might want to PLAY an instrument! If you are a competitive athlete or totally dedicated to one activity, try to integrate another hobby or interest into your life. It’s bound to open up new conversation and friends.

6. Hang with groups!
The stress of teenage relationships is a lot to bear. Do yourself and your parents a favor by spending time in groups and not alone with the person who is the object of your affection! Getting a group of friends together is not only a great time, but it assures that you have many friends to be close to. Finding a group is the difficult part but activities like church retreats, school clubs, athletic teams or a teen sponsored event can bring teens together. Be willing to make new friends in addition to the old. Go to places where students from other schools will attend and where you can meet them. Everyone feels uncomfortable at first so just understand that everyone is in the same place. Many fun times can come from finding a good group of friends.

7. Find some positive role models
Decide what type of person you want to be and write it down. There are many positive role models and it makes it easier if you have someone to look up to. If your role model lets you down in some way, which they probably will at some point, realize that everyone is human and no one is perfect. You can have different role models for different things. Find the qualities you like in them and work on developing them in yourself.

8. Know your boundaries
Teens can be absolutely terrific and some can be absolutely horrible. One day you have dozens of friends and the next day you are the social outcast. It happens to everyone at some point and what is important to know that it is a phase. Be willing to know what you will and will not put up with and let your friends know what is and is not OKAY behavior. If someone isn’t treating you with the respect you deserve, ask why. If they continue, tell them to stop. DON”T let bad behavior go on without saying something. If someone is bullying you, take a stand. If you don’t want your parents involved, go to a guidance counselor or to a teacher. If you see someone being bullied, have the guts to stand up for the person.

9. Be a joiner!
So many people just float from class to class without having a purpose. Joining clubs, athletic teams or going to events is a great way to see and be seen. The more you get out there, the more people you are going to meet. Then, when the inevitable happens, that your best friend moves, gets a boyfriend or girlfriend, or a new best friend, you’ll already have other friends you can hang with.

10. Your parents are not the enemy!
If you have parents who are strict, don’t let you do everything you want, make you have a curfew, are cautioning you about certain people you are hanging with, or are all around pain in the necks, BE GLAD. Believe it or not, they aren’t as dumb as you might expect, and they were once in your shoes. They probably want to raise you to have respect for yourself and for others, and they are probably working hard to provide a good living for you. Your parents aren’t perfect, NO ONE is, but they are doing the best job they know how. Don’t forget to ask THEM how THEY are, and sympathize with them when they have a bad day, or congratulate them for successes in their lives and careers. And, I can tell you that their friends are people too! You’ll find that adults can be great friends the older you get so don’t be intimidated by their age. You can be popular and well liked with the adults too!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Educating your Child’s teachers when he has Sensory Integration Disorder

My 5 year old child Jeremy was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Disorder this year. Learning to deal with a child with SID has been a challenge. Even more challenging has been teaching his teachers how to work with Jeremy and getting us both to the point where we were bound and determined to help this child who was clearly different. It has been somewhat of a struggle at times, but over the months we’ve developed into a team. One who works with Jeremy during the day, and me, the mom who parents him in the afternoons, evenings and on the weekends. Now, we share our discoveries with each other. But it wasn’t always that way.

We discovered that he might have this disorder one night last summer while going out with some friends to dinner. The lady we dined with is a children’s occupational therapist and listened to me and my husband discuss our child and how challenging he is.

She listened intently and didn’t make a diagnosis but encouraged us to buy the book “The Out of Sync Child”. Even though my husband was clearly skeptical, he went home that night and bought the book on line.

Our lives have been different ever since.

We started reading about SID and realized that we weren’t alone. There are literally thousands of other parents who were also suffering without the knowledge or the support like we were. We knew we had a child who was challenging. We just didn’t know that it wasn’t a personality problem. What we learned, was that it was a difference in the way his brain operated.

There was about a 6 week gap in between the time where we self diagnosed Jeremy because of the book and getting the real evaluation. I would have had him diagnosed the next day but there are so few resources and we had to wait until an opening occurred and we could get into see the Occupational Therapists. During that time, Jeremy was getting in trouble at school every day and I was receiving bad notes home regarding Jeremy.

The notes mostly were about his lack of attention, focus and his constant talking. He was punished daily because he couldn’t finish his work on time and was forced to sit out for 10 minutes during the 15-20 minute recess. Many days he was taken out of recess for the whole time and forced to sit on the sidelines while the other kids played or had to sit at a table to finish his work.

Other punishments have been that they took away his crayons for months on end because he broke 2 crayons. He’s been sent to the principal’s office several times for acting up and many days Jeremy was physically restrained when he had complete melt downs when either Mommy or Daddy left him behind.

Over the past several months we’ve gotten the diagnosis and have entered occupational therapy once a week. We’ve noticed remarkable changes in our son, but still know we have a long way to go. One of the hardest things is to know whether the problems are because of discipline, or SID. After reading, speaking with other parents and trying different therapies, I’ve gotten better at solving the problems.

When dealing with the teachers, I have never taken a “me versus you” approach. I have written notes to the teacher several times a week explaining what I do at home to correct a problem. I threw a complete and nasty fit I must admit when I discovered quite by accident that Jeremy was taken out of recess every day for bad behavior. Activity, running and jumping is the ONE thing that should NEVER be taken away from a kid with SIDS. It’s a complete set up for failure. I marched right to the principals office and got a meeting.

Since then, we’ve scheduled regular meetings to discuss Jeremy and his progress. Our principal saw how completely frustrated, fried and upset I was over the whole thing. She had great wisdom when she told me, “Mary, don’t do anything rash. It’s going to take some time but lets keep working on it.”. Somehow, I got off my personal high horse and listened to her encouraging words. I also opened up and started telling everyone who would listen that my kid had SID. The mothers were sympathetic and started introducing me to OTHER moms who had kids with the same problem.

The frustrating thing is that the other mom’s kids didn’t have the exact same issues as my kid, yet they were all diagnosed with the same problem. That is when educating yourself is so important. There are so many different characteristics of SID and it’s helpful to know that your child’s brain is different. And it’s helpful for you to help remind the teacher of that as well.

Because I’ve been open about our struggles, our teacher has been so willing to learn about it too. She is now working with the counselor to arrange some different things in the classroom that will help all of the kids, not just Jeremy. Our counselor has grabbed the bull by the horns and is pushing the teachers to embrace these differences and she’s becoming a resource for other counselors at other schools. She’s recommending on line resources to parents and has just been a God send to so many of the parents who suffer daily with this issue.

I’d love to say that our issues with the teachers are completely resolved. But, as issues arise, we have to look patiently for a solution to the problem. As recently as 2 weeks ago I went to the principal and showed her Jeremy’s journal that they work on every day. He used to be clearly one of the most gifted artists in the class and now is only allowed to work with pencils and is scribbling in frustration. One look at those journals by the counselor and she had him using crayons the next week. I had mentioned this to the teacher in writing a few times via my notes and still she didn’t change her mind. It did take me going to the counselor to get a change. Yet, we maintained our solidly good relationship. I know she understands that I’m trying to do the best for my child.

The relationship between the teacher and the parent can absolutely make it or break it for the child. If the teacher hates the parent, then how effective will he really be in dealing with the kid if the child is a complete challenge to everyone? I wish there was a program in every school to help the parents know how to deal with the counselors. It does take patience and wisdom and the knowledge that it’s going to be bad for a while, until everyone gets educated and finds a way to work together.

Supporting each other is the first step. I’m now hearing from other mom’s who are out there struggling all alone. I encourage them to speak up in their communities and support the other moms, to get educated, to educate their families and to educate their teachers.

One day, Sensory Integration Disorder won’t be such a mystery. Every class will have the ability to integrate these challenging children and will be set up with quiet corners, have balls for the kids to sit on, bean bags to lay on during reading time, heavy weights to sit on their laps, gum will be allowed to be chewed for the kids who need something to help them keep quiet, and the other children will understand and accept the differences. Once we educate our own kids how to manage their brains, their bodies and teach them all how they can learn best, then we’ll be at a much better place in education.

We have to dream before it can happen. Then, we can get to work together to make it happen!

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Top 10 Tips for Becoming a Speaker

1. Be Prepared! The number one reason why people get nervous is that they don’t feel prepared. It is important to practice your speech over and over and over in the mirror and on tape so you can feel comfortable that your message will be strong. Fear is minimized by visiting the location of your speech in advance, meeting some of the people in advance if possible and dress for success! If all else fails, use deep breathing exercises before you go on stage to remain calm.

2. Know your subject well and have facts to support your opinion.You will have left brained and right brained people in your audience. Some people respond best to facts and figures and some of them will respond best to stories. But your story will be unique and it is important that you pay attention to getting the facts straight and list your resources. People will remember how they FELT in your presence.. and not all of the facts and figures you’ll toss out. But, it’s important to show your expertise along with being a great story teller.

3. Be a great storyteller!Not only must you have great facts to back up your speech or training, but make it personal by adding stories that are fun, interesting and have a point. Make the stories short enough to keep peoples attention and if you can be dramatic during your presentation.. even BETTER! Be willing to BE YOURSELF and incorporate aspects of your life that are unique.. if you ride a motorcycle, or have a child, add it! These are ways to make people feel closer to you as a person.

4. Have top notch marketing tools!Speakers traditionally have a one sheet that is a glossy printed sheet of a short bio, references, their picture or pictures, and the topics they can discuss. Speakers also must have a well written bio, topic sheets, any press that you have had on you, articles that you’ve written or have been written about you, and as many references as you can get on letterhead if possible. If you have out of date reference letters, white out the date and copy the letter and send it. If you have a book, you can include it but it’s not necessary. The video is perhaps the most important and should be between 5-10 min. of you speaking in front of a live audience.

5. Have a marketing & PR plan in place.Most people are using their website as a marketing tool and on the website should be downloadable pages for meeting planners to bring to their committee. Many people even have color printers so if you send a mailing out announcing your Website, they’ll be able to download everything. Send regular updates via email and even in mail form if you can afford it. It might get tossed, but it’s the consistency that people are looking for. If they see you pop up year after year, they are bound to give you a shot at some point. Many speakers have freebies on their website, give workshops to spread the word, and network with other speakers to mutually support one another. Spending time getting your name out to the media is a very worthwhile thing to do and ALWAYS mention that you are available to speak and your website by referring to it during your interview. You can offer some sort of free list or information if people go to your website. People always like to get stuff for free!

6. Be willing to be flexible and tailor presentations.Many organizations are going to want a tailored presentation. They might have a need for a keynote and a seminar and if you can offer both, you might get the business over someone who can’t. Also, if you offer a 3 day workshop, the corporation might only have 1 day available for you to work, so if you can also offer a shortened version, you’ll be seen as flexible. Many speakers work with the meeting planners or agents in advance to get as much information as possible about the group or industry. This shows you’ve done your homework and aren’t just showing up.

7. Assess your audience in advance.Organizations are made up of many different skills and skill level. Education backgrounds vary according to industry or job title. Be aware of the group that you are talking to so you won’t speak over their head, or quite frankly, below it. Audiences are smart and you really can’t ‘wing it’ much any more. While they might be polite to your face, they WILL tell your agent or spread the word and not have you back. Stay away from sexual jokes, political talk, religious references and knocking an industry or company if they are down on their luck. It is best to only speak positive about others because you are ON STAGE and people ARE WATCHING.

8. Speak for free!When you are first starting your speaking business, do whatever you can including speaking for free, workshops, training, keynotes, coaching and consulting. You never know when opportunities will arise and most speakers do a combination of all of the above in their business until they are well known and profitable.

9. Meet as many agents and bureaus as possible.If you are working with several agents, you are more than likely to get more bookings. Agents are people and like working with individuals who are professional, trained, and successful. It makes them look good. Agents usually get 20-30% commission on top of your fee, and they earn every penny. They are on the phone and marketing full time and developing the relationships that you need in order to be booked at associations, corporations and colleges. You can meet them either by visiting them in your city, by finding them on line, by going to national conferences such as the National Speaker Association conferences (www.nsaspeaker.org) or by purchasing a list of bureaus from Sharing Ideas Magazine at www.walters-intl.com.

10. Show me the Money!Back of the room sales can more than pay for your honorarium if you can arrange it. Speakers sell books, tapes, video tapes, workbooks and collaborate with other speakers on projects to sell them jointly. The most common advice is “do tapes before you think you are ready”. You can always upgrade and you should continue to upgrade!

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Magic of Charisma!

It’s that IT factor! It’s that special something that really makes people shine. It’s a combination of confidence, energy and warmth, and an extra sparkle in the eye. It’s easy to spot, but not so easy to attain. The question is.. do you have it? And can you get it?

The answer is YES!

If you take one look at all of the American Idol contestants, there is one thing in common with the people who HAVE it. They don’t need to promote it. It shines within them and they get more respect from the judges even if they don’t have a great voice. The judges usually say, “it was nice to meet you and good luck” as opposed to “Get me OUTTA here”. Watching American Idol is a wonderful way to study the quality of “charisma” over, and over and over again.

Charismatic people come in all shapes and sizes. There are some absolutely beautiful people with no inner spark whatsoever. There are tons of incredibly overweight or not so attractive in the traditional sense, that have been gifted with tons of Charisma.

The secret? It takes WORK.. but we all have it. Here are some quick tips:

Know who you are. Then SHUT up and BE it. People who have to talk about it all the time are BORES. When you know who you are, you can focus on OTHERS and get to know them.
Be an expert at something. Be smart. Be beautiful. Be a pianist. Be a martial artist. Be a teacher. Be an expert on ants.. it really doesn’t matter… just work and work and work and WORK, until you are an EXPERT at something.
Don’t be your own judge. Compete against others. Be judged in your sport or compete somehow or get noticed by OTHERS so you KNOW that you’ve accomplished something and are an expert at it. This can take years…. so suck it up and work on your craft!
Teach others and share with others your passion. When you’ve had some successes and some failures, you’ll appreciate yourself a lot more for the work you’ve put in. Then you can tell others about it… or better yet.. just show them! And when they compliment you.. say “thank you.” Don’t gloat and don’t apologize. Just say “thank you.. and I enjoy what I do.”
Work on your personal presence. Look at people in the eyes when you talk… eyeball to eyeball. Watch yourself in the mirror to see if you can PRACTICE that “inner spark” if you don’t have it naturally. Here is a test: Say to yourself: “You just won 1 million dollars” Then look at yourself! Are you lit up like a Christmas tree? This will give you a sense of what you can be like at your best. It’s a bright eyed, sincere, and genuinely happy look. It’s NOT boring.. that’s for sure!

Certainly there are so many other things to work on like a firm handshake, small talk skills, how to get comfortable meeting new people and things like that. But when you have a starting point and realize WHO you want to be, then you will have a visual of WHAT you want to be.

I’ll leave you with an exercise: Close your eyes. Now see yourself where you want to be in 5 years. What are you wearing? What do you look like? How successful are you? What are you doing?

Carry this visual with you always. Return to it when you go to sleep at night. Wake up with it close to your heart. In time, you will become it.

Dreams take work. And you know the saying!

If it’s going to BE, it’s up to ME!