Friday, February 19, 2010

Rebellion against segregated institution for disabled

The following is an interesting press release from the Virginian Alliance for Community.

If you have ever had a loved one in a segregated hospital, you will understand why holding people there long-term is harmful.

Contact: Jamie Liban
(804) 649-8481, ext. 101

jliban@thearcofva.org

-----------------------------------------


“Community for All”

Over 80 local, state and national organizations join call for reform

On February 15, The Arc of Virginia held a civil rights march in Richmond where hundreds of people with developmental disabilities and families from across the Commonwealth voiced opposition to the state’s plans to rebuild Southeastern Virginia Training Center (SEVTC) a large, segregated institution in Chesapeake, VA.

Willie Foster, who used to live in SEVTC, spoke at the march. Thanks to the help of local advocates, Willie moved out of the institution this year and now lives in a townhome in a Chesapeake, Virginia neighborhood. “I don’t ever want to go back there. My life is so much better now.” Mr. Foster said to fellow advocates at the march. “Some of my friends are still there; they want to leave too. We’ve got to fight for them! Do you hear me? They NEED us!”

Today, the Virginia Alliance for Community announced that over 80 local, state and national organizations stand with Willie and The Arc’s families in their call for reform. Each of these organizations have signed on in support of the Alliance for Community’s recently released proposal, “Reform Now: Community for All”, available on The Arc’s website at www.thearcofva.org.

The Alliance proposal calls for Governor McDonnell and members of the General Assembly to halt the rebuilding of large, costly, segregated institutions for people with developmental disabilities and instead redirect these funds to create integrated, community-based housing for training center residents.

“The Arc’s families are not alone in this fight”, said Howard Cullum, President of The Arc of Virginia. “Combined, the organizations that have signed on to the Alliance proposal represent the voices of over 100,000 Virginians who are opposed to the segregation of people with developmental disabilities.”

“The assumption that individuals with developmental disabilities need to live in institutions in the 21st century is simply wrong.”, says the Alliance in its whitepaper. A recent state-sponsored study by the well recognized Human Services Research Institute (HSRI) has confirmed that for every person living in Southeastern Virginia Training Center, there are individuals with equivalent (if not greater) needs being served in the community. A key finding of the report is that all people living in the institution can be served in the community.

The Alliance for Community’s call for reform has been endorsed by local family support organizations, private non-profit providers, Centers for Independent Living and civil social justice organizations across the state. Supporting organizations of the “Community for All” campaign include affiliates of Easter Seals, the Autism Society of America and the Down Syndrome Association.

Organizations in the Tidewater region have also made their position known. South Hampton Roads supporters of the Alliance proposal include Hope House Foundation, the Endependence Center, the Tidewater Autism Society of America, the Down Syndrome Association of S. Hampton Roads, the South Hampton Roads Friends of The Arc, Support Services of Virginia, Eggleston Services, and Niche Housing.

“Governor McDonnell and members of the General Assembly, the disability community and its partners are speaking loud and clear.”, said Mr. Cullum. “Stop the rebuilding of large segregated institutions for people with developmental disabilities. The time for Virginia to act is now. “

The Alliance proposal and the HSRI report are both available on The Arc of Virginia’s website, www.thearcofva.org. For more information about the Virginia Alliance for Community, contact Jamie Liban at 804-649-8481, ext. 101 or jliban@thearcofva.org

ALLIANCE SUPPORTING ORGANIZATIONS

1. APSE Virginia

2. Association of University Centers on Disabilities

3. Autism Society of America-Central Virginia Chapter

4. Autism Society of America-Northern Virginia Chapter

5. Autism Society of America-Tidewater Chapter

6. Autistic Self-Advocacy Network

7. Coalition for Housing Opportunities in the Community for Everyone (CHOICE)

8. Commonwealth Autism Service

9. Community Concepts, Inc.

10. Community Opportunities, Inc.

11. Community Residences, Inc.

12. Danville Arc

13. disAbility Resource Center

14. Down Syndrome Association of Greater Richmond

15. Down Syndrome Association of Hampton Roads

16. Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia

17. Easter Seals-UCP Virginia

18. Eggleston Services

19. Family Alliance Network and Support

20. Family First of Virginia Beach, Inc.

21. Fine Metals Corp.

22. Greater Richmond Arc

23. Hanover Arc

24. Hope House Foundation

25. ICON Community Services, Inc.

26. Imagine

27. Just People

28. L’Arche of Greater Washington D.C.

29. Legal Aid Justice Center

30. Lynchburg Area Center for Independent Living

31. MVLE, Inc.

32. National Association of Councils on Developmental Disabilities

33. Niche Housing

34. National Disability Rights Network

35. Parents and Advocates for Special Housing Needs (PASHN, Inc.)

36. Parent to Parent of Virginia

37. Peninsula Autism Society

38. People First of Chesterfield

39. People First of Northern Virginia

40. Positive Vibe Cafe

41. Post Educational Services

42. Richmond Residential Services

43. ServiceSource

44. Shenandoah Community Residences, Inc.

45. Shenandoah Valley Autism Partnership

46. Social Action Linking Together (SALT)

47. SPARC

48. Special Olympics Virginia

49. Substance Abuse Addiction Recovery Alliance (SARAA)

50. Sunrise Community

51. Support Services of Virginia

52. TASH International

53. TecAccess

54. The Arc of Augusta

55. The Arc of Greater Prince William

56. The Arc of Greater Roanoke Valley

57. The Arc of Greater Williamsburg

58. The Arc of Halifax

59. The Arc of Harrisonburg and Rockingham

60. The Arc of Loudoun

61. The Arc of Northern Shenandoah Valley

62. The Arc of Northern Virginia

63. The Arc of the Piedmont

64. The Arc of Rappahannock

65. The Arc of Rockbridge

66. The Arc of Virginia Peninsula

67. The Arc of Warren County

68. The Arc of the United States

69. The Lamano Agency

70. The Post Institute and Assoc. LLC

71. Wall Residences

72. Worksource Enterprises

73. vaACCSES

74. VA-TASH

75. Virginia Association of Centers for Independent Living (VACIL)

76. Virginia Association of Personal Care Assistants (VAPCA)

77. Virginia Federation of Families

78. Virginia Organizing Project

79. Virginia Rehabilitation Association

80. Virginia Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC)

81. VOCAL Network

---------------------------------------

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tripe I Must Finish

I'm reading this horror book about the search for an obscure Bella Lugosi film which summons a murdering monster bent on killing anyone involved. Sandy is the main character. I forget the author's name and the book title, though. Isn't that bad?

The problem is, even though Dean Koontz lauded the book and the book made it to the best seller's list, I really don't care about it or Sandy. Sandy and her lover Roger could get mutilated by the surreal, thin creature stalking them and I would have no emotional response.

I was saddened by the murder of Sandy's cats, however. The burial scene was a bit depressing. Supposedly, they were run over by a drunken neighbor, but we know what really happened to them. The monster ravaged the poor felines before she received them in a plastic bag.

My lack of caring is exactly why I avoid fiction writing. I either don't give a damn about my characters or I get sick of them early on. Even if they are alive and vivid in my head, by the time they make it to the hard drive, they are dead.

I've managed to write some short fiction in which I can endure my characters for a couple of pages. My novels are exercises in loathing, however. I'd kill off my characters mid book, but that's a writing no-no, a cheat.

Anyway, I don't know if Sandy will find the film and redeem the good name of her murdered friend who was searching for it before he got thrown off a building by some monster-related villain who made it appear an accident, but I guess I will find out. I will finish reading the book. The references to Lugosi are mildly entertaining, after all, particularly because I've been watching old Christopher Lee movies with my husband. One I really enjoyed was "I Monster," an interpretation of "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

Now that was a classic.

And I can even remember the film and book titles.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A true story (quotes reconstructed)

A good Catholic who had lived through the 1940's would have seen it coming. But I was either a bad Catholic or not old enough when I sought out the perfect gift for my fervent mother who was turning fifty.

The street fair in a small New Hampshire town sucked me in like the whale did Jonah, and I felt relief only when I happened by an antiques table and picked up the most amazing piece I had ever seen--a wooden, walnut-colored cross about a foot in length and height.

But this cross was not just an exquisite antiquity polished to a sheen by decades of fingering. No, this cross, I discovered after buying it on its own merits, had a secret.

I had neglected to study the back of the piece before buying it, and within seconds of leaving the table, upon turning it over to look for a hanger, realized it was more than just a cross.

In what was perhaps some of the most exciting of Scooby Doo-ish moments in my life, my fingers felt a ridge and a thin panel over a hollow spot. Pushing on the ridge with the flat of my index finger, I was shocked to see it slide open.

I gasped.

To my delight, inside were stored a heavenly trio: a pair of ruby glass Rosary beads, a vile of holy oil and a vile of holy water.

My soul rejoiced, anticipating the religious joy I would send to my mother in Florida.

I received the call from her several days later.

"Hello?"

"How could you?"

"Mom? Did you get the gift?"

Sob. "Kathy, how COULD YOU?" Even her voice sounded like tears.

"Mom, what do you mean? Don't you like it?"

"Last year you send me boxing nuns, and this year THIS? Do you think that's funny?" she demanded in the voice of the suffering mother, the kind that makes you wish you really HAD been swallowed by a whale.

"Okay, Mom, the boxing nun thing was a joke. I thought it would be funny, but it wasn't, and I already apologized a million times. But this....I don't understand."

"Where did you find that...that THING?"

"At a place, I mean, on a table at a town fair thingy. There was this antique table. I bought it and then saw the sliding thing and thought it was really cool."

She choked on a cry.

"Oh yeah. Really cool."

"Mom! What is the matter?"

"You really don't know? I don't believe you. I think you knew."

"Mom, NO. I really don't know what the problem is."

"You really, really don't know?"

"Mom, please. No. Will you please tell me?"

Big, wavering sigh.

She told me.

A rant ensued--how her father used to have one of these crosses hanging on the living room wall, how she hated antiques because they look old and beat up like the house she used to live in, how they reminded her of being poor, and was I making fun of her age? Was I? How could I do this, and for her fiftieth birthday, at that?

Hey, how was I supposed to know the cross was a kit used to administer Last Rites?

Sheesh.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Zoology Continued (for lack of a better name)

‘A pair of silk stockings, that pretty carved fan, and a lovely blue sash.’

That is what the man in the red hat slipped into his hand, smoothly, just as the thumb drive had tunneled through skin, the way a subway slips through the tube.

He recognized the quote, not because he was a Louisa May Alcott fan, but because he had seen the words before. Rarely did his employers bother to send him anything other than the drive via special courier. But once, they did send him the passage from Alcott, no note or instructions accompanying it. The event had marked his mind. He still remembered that note—the navy blue calligraphy, hand formed, the torn piece of artistic paper, as if someone were sending him a poem. And, like a scorned lover might do, he had burned the note in his fireplace.

The Alcott House. For well over 100 years, the brown-beamed home, also called “Orchard House” filtered tourists through low doorways and history. He had been there several times himself when he lived in Concord and had even entertained out-of-state guests who found the little town and its artifacts fascinating. His first time through the house had moderately interested him, but after that, he choked back yawns and consumed as much coffee as he could prior to the docent’s lecture.

When, though? And in Louisa’s room? He could hardly fly to Boston, drive to Concord, then mull about the front door of the Alcott house daily from open through close. He was good at being invisible, but not that good, especially because he was not particularly patient.

He examined the note again and decided against the fireplace this time. His toilet provided what he needed, and in more than one way.

He decided the note must indicate urgency. He filled his leather suitcase with jeans and t-shirts, khaki shorts and sandals, a bathing suit, one pair of black dress pants, one white dress shirt, a pair of shiny black shoes and a gray tie. He usually slept in his underwear.

The computer told him a flight had been reserved in his name. Dulles to Boston, a rental car from Logan Airport. Two nights at the Centennial Hotel. Nice place, he recalled. The website said it was recently renovated. One thing he could say about his employers—they never put him up in roach motels.

He was surprised at the soft ripple of sentiment. Concord in the summer, though crammed with tourists, wasn’t such a bad place. And being back somewhere that felt like home wasn’t such a bad thing. While he had lived in D.C. for more than ten years, it didn’t feel like home. Not that Concord had provided him a home in the traditional sense, but it was familiar, as was the New England area where he had spent most of his life prior to moving to D.C.

Ah, the nation’s Capital, he thought. The politics and the people.

Bunch of crooks.

That included him.

I'm cold

I am cold. Not cold hearted. Physically freezing.

Time for a hot bubble bath.

Wish I had something more profound to say, but my brain has turned to mush.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Zoology

He would have liked to describe himself as stealthy if it weren’t for the damn strollers parked four-deep in front of him. How could one move invisibly through a zoo, simultaneously weaving between bottle-sucking brats and cooing mothers who looked like they belonged in a zoo themselves?

A National Parental Zoo. That’s what D.C. really needed. “And visitors, don’t forget to check out the suburban exhibit where parents can be found in their natural habitats. See them rake lawns in front of McMansions. Stand quietly and you might event glimpse their children hiding out back and drinking Tequila.”

Finally, the woman with the Velcro-front nursing t-shirt figured out he was trying to get around her. She nudged her girlfriends, and the knot of plastic wheels and spit-up rags loosened.

He nodded and took three big steps into a finally open stretch of road. It was less populated here, though he knew if the concrete were anything less than the current thermogenic monster it was today, the parent packs would be clamoring around the statues, trying to take cute pictures of their offspring sitting on what might, in any other setting, be considered artwork. Steel porcupine. Wooden rat. He was really moving now. “He was passing a huge marble snail, a bronze frog and a beaver.” Try sitting your kids on THOSE in this heat, he thought. The image rather appealed to him.

He knew he should slow down, appear as a man searching for his wandering wife and children, but that would mean lifting his face, looking at others and risking recognition. Instead, he stopped at a kiosk and picked up a map he didn’t need. Moving rapidly with his head down, his finger tracing random routes, he made better time. Neither his feet nor his mind needed guidance, however. They were on auto-pilot.

It was always solitary behind the tar-paper shed. No volunteer poop-scoopers, no old ladies with manicures and brochures, no twenty-something girls wearing boys’ brown button-downs signifying official zoo status, no toddlers with crap filled diapers…the shed had served them well for four years. In any other setting, he would be shocked that the same meeting place remained safe for so long, but the zoo held secrets the way some animals keep food stowed away in their cheeks. Behind the shed was the perfect cheek.

And it was always the same man, the one in the red baseball cap, a man who could pass for anyone, a man with features as blunt and bland as a mole rat’s. The visor hid his eyes, his nose said nothing of his identity, and his mouth stayed straight and thin. No conversation, just a handshake and the slip of a thumb drive into the man’s palm. Four years of this, four years of steady income, direct deposit from the Department of Defense, taxes and social security appropriately deducted, health insurance and dental refused.

Really, he had enough of his own money if he needed a crown or a new liver.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Why increase Transitional Assistance (TANF)?


via S-A-L-T

Striving for Family Stability Through TANF

Family stability is a primary goal of the TANF program. Social Action Linking Together (SALT) is requesting a 10% increase in TANF payments to parents and other kinship/relative caregivers of children in Virginia. Current TANF payments are inadequate to support families with children. As a result, children who might be cared for within their extended families often must be placed—at greater expense and with greater trauma to the child and his or her family—in non-relative foster care.

Kinship/Relative Care: A Case Study
A growing number of children in Virginia are being raised by kinship/relative caregivers—relatives other than their biological parents. In most cases, kinship/relative care is preferable to other foster care situations, because the child maintains closer connection to his or her family of origin. However, these preferred caretakers labor at a disadvantage—the TANF payments they receive are only about 30% of the payment a non-relative foster care parent would receive.
The story of Darlene and Mickey Palmer, Grandparent Caregivers, is typical:
We were in our early fifties living a good life. We were both college graduates (one with a Harvard master’s degree) and earned a good living. Two adult children were on their own and doing well. We still had an eight-year old at home, who attended private school at Georgetown Day and whose interest in music resulted in opera and voice lessons at the Levine School of Music and the Kennedy Center performing arts summer camps.
When an emergency need arose for us to “take in” two of our grandchildren due to a tragic domestic violence crisis—and then eventually all four of them—we thought, “No problem. We have a house and food. What more do we need?” Like most grandparents and relatives who find themselves in this situation, we thought with our hearts.
But reality set in very quickly. We went from a family of three to a family of seven. The food was not stretching as far as we thought and the house was getting very crowded. The severity of our eldest daughter’s problems became increasingly apparent, and it became clear to us that the children could not go back to their parents. Separating them into foster care homes was also out of the question, as far as we were concerned. Our new family was our new life.
After two years of battling for custody in an out-of-state court, we won permanent guardianship and custody of all four grandchildren. But winning custody drained our financial resources. Because we had put most of our excess income into improving our children’s opportunities, we had little savings. Legal costs and traveling for the frequent court appearances depleted all those reserves. We received no support from either parent and never would.
With diminished resources, we tried to use all the services available from state and county government such as TANF, Medicaid, etc. We had thought Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), would be a real benefit. However, we received only $310 per month for four children (about $19.50 per week per child)—not nearly enough to feed and clothe them, and take care of their other normal and special needs. The state spends far more to support children through foster care programs.
Today, we are in our early sixties, living paycheck to paycheck. We deeply love our grandchildren. But we can no longer give them all the benefits we were able to provide our own children. We can love them and teach them to be good people and to get a good education, but we and they would be better off if the support we receive through TANF were increased.
Because Darlene and Mickey Palmer love their children and grandchildren enough to step in during a time of her daughter’s tragic family domestic violence crisis —and for the duration—their own financial stability is put at risk, and their dreams for retirement are deferred, perhaps forever. SALT believes that families like Darlene’s and Mickey’s—as well as those parents struggling to care for their own children—deserve greater support, and so requests a 10% increase in TANF payments to families in need.
---------------------------------------------
Update:

Delegate James Scott just received patron notification for TANF Indexing (Budget Amendment 327 Item #1h) is coming up in the Appropriations Subcommittee.
See SALT message below with a list of House Appropriations Subcommittee members including e-mail addresses and phone numbers. Urgently urge Chairman Harvey Morgan and all subcommittee members to support. For futther information see attached fact sheet & graph.
Thanks, john
***********
Chairman Putney & Appropriations Committee Members:
SALT thanks Delegate Scott for patroning TANF Indexing (Budget Item 327 #1h) intended to address the disparity between TANF families and foster care. SALT has 1000 members who join with the Virginia Catholic Conference in urging you to support Budget Item 327 #1h for the following important reasons:
  • To level the playing field , SALT urges the indexing of future TANF benefits consistent with Foster Care rate increases.
  • Virginia's TANF payments have not kept up with inflation. TANF benefits are at only at 20 percent of the federal poverty level.
  • There has been only one benefit increase since 1985. In that time, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has risen over 100%.
  • Indexing would prevent further erosion of recipients' ability to meet their basic needs, and can be funded entirely from the TANF federal Block grant.
  • Virginia currently ranks 35th in TANF payments. The average family payment in Virginia is $269/month.
  • The only difference between TANF and Foster care is that TANF children are in parental or relative care...A foster care family receives twice the benefits for one adolescent Foster Child as an entire three person TANF family.
  • Item 327 #1h--requires that the cost of living adjustments occur in the fiscal year following an increase for state employees. Because the proposed budget does not provide a salary increase for state employees, there is no fiscal impact to this amendment.
We thank Delegate James Scott for his leadership and for patroning the TANF Indexing Budget Amendments.
With thanks,
John Horejsi, Coordinator
Social action Linking Together (SALT)
******************************************
Please contact these members of Appropriations Subcommittee:
Delegate Harvey Morgan (Chairman), Room , 804-698-1098, delhmorgan@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Riley Ingram, 804-698-62, Room 404, delringram@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Steven Landes, 804-698-25, Room 515, delslandes@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Chris Jones, 804-698-76, Room 720, delcjones@house.virginia.gov
Delegate John O'Bannon, 804-698-73, Room 521, delobannon@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Robert Brink, 804-698-48, Room 711, delrbrink@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Lee Ware, O., 804-698-1011, Room 816, deloware@house.virginia.gov
Delegate Rosalyn Dance 804-698-63, Room 813, delrdance@house.virginia.gov

***********************************************************
Visit the SALT website at http://www.S-A-L-T.org

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Mental Illness Blues

I have to say, I am getting tired of dealing with mental illness, specifically, ADHD, depression and anxiety, in myself and my family. It is draining, and it is discouraging when people don't understand it or don't want to understand it.

Yesterday, I posted an article on bullying and social isolation. Kids with mental illness, especially, have difficulty with social skills, and as the article states, "In addition to causing mental health problems, bullying and social isolation can increase the likelihood a child will get poor grades, drop out of school, or develop substance abuse problems, the researchers say."

Unfortunately, besides ignorance about mental illness, there is a pervasive denial about the symptoms and effects. Kids are judged as trouble makers, bad kids or worse. Many in the general public are not aware when a child or adult is mentally ill, and/or, they simply don't know how to deal with it. And in some cases, they just don't want to deal with it. After all, people with mental illness can be difficult and draining.

However, the results are, again, isolation. People with mental illness are often not welcome in groups with "normal" people. Instead, the mentally ill are segregated, which exacerbates the symptoms. Imagine, for example, a person with ADHD and depression being pushed out of a social group. Now imagine the depression becoming worse and that person is admitted to a long-term hospital where other patients are struggling with different diseases such as schizophrenia. How helpful is this? While hospitals are necessary, segregation can become more debilitating than the actual disease.

The word "disease" makes most people uncomfortable. Some people become so uncomfortable, in fact, that they deny mental illness is a disease at all. They believe medication is bunk and that the mentally ill should pull themselves up by the bootstraps and move on. Many of these deniers have never lived with a mentally ill person, have never suffered mental illness or have never read a thing about it. Then again, some mentally ill people themselves are in denial or unable to connect their behaviors and feelings with their illness. And then, there are those who are merely pig- headed or mean because they have their own issues.

The stigma of mental illness persists even in this great nation which likes to tout itself as progressive. The fact is, until the general population becomes more educated, and until treatment for mental illness improves, we will remain a county where an increasing number of people will be a discriminated-against underclass.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Bullying and Social Isolation--no joke

Not a savory topic, but, alas, one both children and adults must deal with--especially if they have disabilities.

--------------------------------------------------

Tue Feb 2, 10:01 am ET

Kids who get bullied and snubbed by peers may be more likely to have problems in other parts of their lives, past studies have shown. And now researchers have found at least three factors in a child's behavior that can lead to social rejection.

The factors involve a child's inability to pick up on and respond to nonverbal cues from their pals.

In the United States, 10 to 13 percent of school-age kids experience some form of rejection by their peers. In addition to causing mental health problems, bullying and social isolation can increase the likelihood a child will get poor grades, drop out of school, or develop substance abuse problems, the researchers say.

"It really is an under-addressed public health issue," said lead researcher Clark McKown of the Rush Neurobehavioral Center in Chicago.

And the social skills children gain on the playground or elsewhere could show up later in life, according to Richard Lavoie, an expert in child social behavior who was not involved with the study. Unstructured playtime - that is, when children interact without the guidance of an authority figure - is when children experiment with the relationship styles they will have as adults, he said.

Underlying all of this: "The number one need of any human is to be liked by other humans," Lavoie told LiveScience. "But our kids are like strangers in their own land." They don't understand the basic rules of operating in society and their mistakes are usually unintentional, he said.

Social rejection

In two studies, McKown and colleagues had a total of 284 children, ages 4 to 16 years old, watch movie clips and look at photos before judging the emotions of the actors based on their facial expressions, tones of voice and body postures. Various social situations were also described and the children were questioned about appropriate responses.

The results were then compared to parent/teacher accounts of the participants' friendships and social behavior.

Kids who had social problems also had problems in at least one of three different areas of nonverbal communication: reading nonverbal cues; understanding their social meaning; and coming up with options for resolving a social conflict.

A child, for example, simply may not notice a person's scowl of impatience or understand what a tapped foot means. Or she may have trouble reconciling the desires of a friend with her own. "It is important to try to pinpoint the area or areas in a child's deficits and then build those up," McKown explained.

Ways to help

When children have prolonged struggles with socializing, "a vicious cycle begins," Lavoie said. Shunned children have few opportunities to practice social skills, while popular kids are busy perfecting theirs. However, having just one or two friends can be enough to give a child the social practice he or she needs, he said.

Parents, teachers and other adults in a child's life can help, too. Instead of reacting with anger or embarrassment to a child who, say, asks Aunt Mindy if her new hairdo was a mistake, parents should teach social skills with the same tone they use for teaching long division or proper hygiene. If presented as a learning opportunity, rather than a punishment, children usually appreciate the lesson.

"Most kids are so desperate to have friends, they just jump on board," Lavoie said.

To teach social skills, Lavoie advises a five-step approach in his book "It's So Much Work to Be Your Friend: Helping the Child with Learning Disabilities Find Social Success" (Touchstone, 2006). The process works for children with or without learning disabilities and is best conducted immediately after a transgression has been made.

1) Ask the child what happened and listen without judgment.

2) Ask the child to identify their mistake. (Often children only know that someone got upset, but don't understand their own role in the outcome.)

3) Help the child identify the cue they missed or mistake they made, by asking something like: "How would you feel if Emma was hogging the tire swing?" Instead of lecturing with the word "should," offer options the child "could" have taken in the moment, such as: "You could have asked Emma to join you or told her you would give her the swing after your turn."

4) Create an imaginary but similar scenario where the child can make the right choice. For example, you could say, "If you were playing with a shovel in the sand box and Aiden wanted to use it, what would you do?"

5) Lastly, give the child "social homework" by asking him to practice this new skill, saying: "Now that you know the importance of sharing, I want to hear about something you share tomorrow."

The studies are detailed in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. They were funded by the Dean and Rosemarie Buntrock Foundation and the William T. Grant Foundation.