Thursday, June 9, 2011

"Right Brained People Living In A Left Brained World"

The title of this post is borrowed from a book with the title:  Right-Brained Children in a Left-Brained World  by Jeffrey Freed and Laurie Parsons.  The copyright date is 1997.  I bought this book back in the late 90's when I realized I was faced with two very intelligent, very right brained boys (my sons, Nate and Brandon) and was having a very difficult time relating....and so were their teachers.  By the way the subtitle to this book is (you many have already guessed) Unlocking The Potential of Your ADD Child.  I know what you might be saying, oh please, this is such an old subject.  Well, not really, it is very pertinent for many reasons.  Stick with me on this, it is more fun than you may think and has far greater applications than you may have imagined.

I have been considered very left brained all my life, which is actually somewhat unusual for a woman.  I am analytical, math oriented, rational, logical and linear in my thought.  And it is my left brain that made me put that linear continuum up there for you to see (it was a stretch to put it on pink paper with purple ink).  Had I been a right brained person, I would have been much more creative and had that continuum branching all over the place and in many different colors.   Left brained attributes are quite often assigned to men, whereas women are generally more spontaneous, imaginative, emotional, sensitive and creative creatures or right brained.  Now look at the attributes assigned to ADD and ADHD children: impulsive, hypersensory, sensitive, daydreamers, visual, distractible and in many cases hyperactive.  There are far more detail descriptions, but I will leave that to you if you want to research further.

I wanted to understand everything I could about this phenomenon or what really comes down to different learning styles, because I wanted to help my boys and their teachers work through the obstacles that right brained thinking poses for left brained people in our socially acceptable left brained world.  And I wanted to do it without my children taking any prescribed drugs.  I am not a believer in medicating our youth (or adults for that matter).  Although what I saw and experienced during my time locked up caused me to realize there are some people who do benefit with some help, as they are non-functioning otherwise.

I gained a great deal of understanding from this book and I think it helped me in my parenting as well, especially when it came to helping Nate (with autism) learn at all and with Brandon, in how solutions and methods for solving were presented.  For both, once they had a visual of something they could work it every which way.  As for Nate he could say the alphabet as fast backward as he did forward which was very fast.  Pictures became the center of his learning.  And he could read and remember like nothing I had ever experienced in my life. 

With Brandon, he was the grand winner of the school spelling bees, year after year, because we pictured things together in his practice and once he realized he could spell words backwards and forward with the same speed, by utilizing the pictures in his head, he knew he could spell any word he had ever seen, because he could access the picture of that word in his head.  Brandon was very artistic, he had beautiful and detailed drawings but as the grades progressed the school was not interested in developing that gift, in fact his drawing became a problem for teachers, in subjects other than art.  In helping him with math homework, I knew I was in trouble.  Brandon could visualize an answer (not doing the steps), whereas I was interested in taking him through the steps, because that is the way I think and I knew many teachers look for that as proof of understanding and doing your own work.  But when we would sit at the kitchen table to work together, within 5 to 10 minutes he would literally turn around in his chair with his back to me and the little help session was over.  He just didn't get it that way!!  But when I searched for answers, I found that if I could explain a concept with pictures and allow him to tell me how he was seeing things, then we'd have a home run.

All of this caused  me to become more creative, more observant and open to change if I wanted to relate to my boys and others like them.  As part of my love for my boys I wanted to be useful in helping them to succeed.  I am sure I share this with many parents out there.

As young adults, my sons both love music, art, are very visual and express their feelings loud and clear.  Brandon has taught himself to play the keyboards and is in a band, in addition to working almost full time and going to college full time.  He has learned to take his hyperactivity and focus it in ways that will benefit him.  I have to remind him to sleep.  Nate still loves to read, enjoys anything visual and is my most loving gentle giant.

When I developed The NOAH Project, we had a lengthy reading list of books as part of the training.  The book I have mentioned in this post was of course high on that list.  And many of our teachers/child facilitators made a point to tell me they really enjoyed it as it helped them to understand how there are truly different learning styles and for some it helped them to better understand their selves.  Definitely a good read.  In this day, the age of laptops, video games and iPhones, the VISUALS are winning out.  More and more of the kids are fitting into this pattern, if not born this way, they become this way by the time they are 3 to 4 years old as a result of being surrounded by our current day technologies.  For us old dinosaurs we have to move with them or be left in the dust.

All of that brings me to my point.  The jails and prisons are just loaded with right brained people.  I could not believe the talent of those incarcerated.  Singing voices that would just bring you to your knees with tears in your eyes.  And prison art is extraordinary.  I learned some while I was in there and I wanted to share it with you.  What I brought home is a combination of my doodles and that of others.  Nancy (my dear cousin), if you are reading this, know that you inspired this blog post with your blog post Doodle that!  Follow that link for more fun!  Below is some of the prison art I brought home:

This is just a small sampling.  Do you know, with exception of just a handful of women, most women I met in prison did miserably in school, many fell through the cracks at an early age,

yet they are talented, in a very right brained way.   How many of these women, would you dare to guess, learn in a different way?  By the time a child gets to the third grade, the teaching style becomes predominantly auditory and very left brained.  What about the visual learners!  That is also when behavior problems become so prevalent.  If behavior problems were addressed in a positive way, meaning how can we teach you in a different way, how can we develop the skills you have, how can we help you in the best way to prepare for life (instead of trying to force a square peg into a round hole)...would our jails and prisons still be full to the brim?  I dare say NOT!

The system failed many of these people at a very early age.  It is my understanding the men's prison and jails have many talented people also.  A whole lot of right brained people stubbing their toes in a left brained world....leading to incarceration.  There are those who argue we should not educate people in prison, they messed up when they had their chance.  I ask why not?  The system failed them before, when they were kids being batted around, why not a second chance?  And why not in a learning style that is conducive to their developmental growth.  Our right brain is known for our survival skills.  Many of these people did not have the best of home environments during their early years thus having to focus on survival, perhaps not able to make the jump to their left brain skills.  But, while separated from the streets, can you think of a better time to reach these people and help them become productive members of society.  They will be our neighbors, they are our fellow human beings, so why not help them get what they need to grow skills through education in a way they can learn and blossom?

We also have to address making  a place for these people when they come out.  A discussion on bettering people incarcerated falls by the wayside if we don't change our attitudes about those with a background and allow them a second (or third) chance by employing them and for that matter welcoming them into our churches.  The statistics now reflect one in five people in this country have a criminal background.  We have to educate and we have to change our attitudes so we can all become winners in this game of life.

Sir Isaac Newton
Albert Einstein
Leonardo Da Vinci
Jonas Salk
Thomas Alva Edison
Galileo Galilei
Bill Gates
Benjamin Franklin
Steven Spielberg
Alexander Graham Bell
Thomas Jefferson
Abraham Lincoln
Pablo Picasso


Friday, June 3, 2011

How HE Wants Us To Live

Being an older person in jail/prison has its benefits.  While the environment is volatile and rife with violence and fear, there are many who seem to actually respect and treat with consideration the elders.  Being in my early 50's I qualified as a grandma type figure or "elder".  Although during the first 19 months I was in Dallas County Jail following my trial and awaiting results of the initial stages of my appeal I did run in to a few women right off the street who wanted to take on anybody and everybody.  That is a lifestyle I have never lived and having never physically fought I was no match for anyone, yet there were at least two instances at Dallas County where I had to stand my ground one way or another. 

Both instances happened in a medical general population tank at the Government Center in Dallas, also known as the George Allen Building.  In a tank there were 5 cells, and in each of the 5 cells there were 5 inmates.   So, in the tank's dayroom that we all shared there was 25 of us.  At night, between 11/12 p.m. and about 4 a.m. we were locked into our cell with our cellmates, so just 5 of us during that time.

I was having a difficult time with one of the women who had recently moved into our cell.  She had a reputation of lieing, picking fights and cheating at cards.  She was about 22 years old, a bully and very loud.  Her crime was stealing credit cards from little old ladies purses who were shopping at Walgreens Drug Stores.  She apparently was wanted by many and showed up on several security videos, as most every day she was called out to the magistrate court to receive more charges against her.  Last I knew she had well over 50 different charges brought against her.  At any rate, you can see by the crime that she was a predator of the elder so my age was probably a red flag to her but not in a good way.

One night once they had locked the cell for the 4 - 5 hours she started yelling at me.  I don't recall what set her off, if anything.  I just turned my back and ignored her but I also did not sleep a wink.  I was having such a difficult time that after breakfast at 4 in the morning I just stayed out in the dayroom with my Bible.  I opened it up and was immediately drawn to Chapter 4 in Colossians.  As I'm sure you know, Colossians was written by apostle, Paul, while imprisoned.  The Bible I had (sent to me by Sam, Nancy's husband and my minister) was The Message version, which is current day dialect, perfect for my understanding.  Colossians 4: 2 - 6 is as follows:
  • "Pray diligently.  Stay alert, with your eyes wide open in gratitude.  Don't forget to pray for us, that God will open doors for telling the mystery of Christ, even while I'm locked up in this jail.  Pray that every time I open my mouth I'll be able to make Christ plain as day to them.  Use your head as you live and work among outsiders.  Don't miss a trick.  Make the most of every opportunity.  Be gracious in your speech.  The goal is to bring out the best in others in a conversation, not put them down, not cut them out."
Wow!  It certainly changed how I handled things.  Instead of fighting back or getting ugly with gossip I took the more positive approach.  There were no more outbursts by her toward me and I was able to get some sleep, trusting that when my eyes were closed I would be safe.  I was so thankful for the Bible and most especially for getting direction as to how to live, even under the worst of circumstances.

The other situation I wanted to tell you about started while my husband, Ron, was visiting one evening.  At the Government Center, the visiting was a bit different because of it being such an old facility.  The visitors actually came down the hall to where our tank was located and there were small (3" by 6") type windows at eye level, where we would stand and talk to one another's eyes while speaking over telephone receivers.  When looking in these small windows the visitors would actually have a look into our dayroom and the bars beyond that were our cells.  Intermittently between our little visitor windows were pay phones for inmates making calls out. 

Back to that evening, I had just started my visit with Ron and this other inmate (a prostitute who had just been arrested and placed in our tank) had decided to use the pay phone right next to me (probably just 2 feet away) and she started screaming at the person (I was told it was her pimp) on the phone with her.  I calmly asked her to quiet down as I was visiting, so she then starts screaming at the top of her lungs at me.  Next I raised my voice just slightly and told her again to move to another phone.  An officer happened by and told us to stop it and sent Ron on his way, ending our visit early.  I was fuming, Ron had traveled a long way to get there and he could not see well enough to be driving at night in the first place.   I said nothing else to her that evening or the next couple days.  Every time she would walk by me she would brush up against me.  I wondered what that was all about and the women I played cards with told me that's what they do to start a fight.  I had no idea, clueless!

I needed to defuse this thing but didn't know how so I returned to my Bible, praying for guidance.  The last thing I wanted was a fight.  I opened the Bible to 1 Thessalonians, Chapter 5: 13 - 18.  Again, it is The Message version and it said:
  • "Get along among yourselves, each of you doing your part.  Our counsel is that you warn the freeloaders to get a move on.  Gently encourage the stragglers, and reach out for the exhausted, pulling them to their feet.  Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs.  And be careful that when you get on each others' nerves you don't snap at each other.  Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.  Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time;  thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live."
It was the perfect thing for me to read, righting my attitude.  Then just a couple days after that the two of us sat together in the dayroom and shared with each other about our lives and how we came to be in Dallas County Jail.  She and I got along beautifully for the rest of our stay in the same tank, showing respect for one another.  The day we split up during a massive move of all inmates out of the condemned Government Center she saw me struggling with the weight of my stuff.  She offered to help me and I accepted.  I remember wanting to cry for her gracious offer and kindness.  Then we said goodbye, with smiles, as we went to our new assignments in a different facility.  All of that happened in one week's time and OH! what a difference the change in my attitude made. 

We can never go wrong by turning to the Word for guidance.  I don't know how I could have survived the three years without it.  God sure is faithful to us and in my life he used a very difficult environment to show me how His Word works....but then where better to see it so clearly.  He had my full attention!