Gary Crow Presents Audio Tidbits

Blindfolds, Proxies & Blindness

Can you visualize the scene? Eight adults are participating in what they call a trust exercise. All have normal vision but four are blindfolded. The idea is that the blindfolds simulate blindness. Those without blindfolds lead those with blindfolds, testing the trust levels of the blindfolded participants.

You have likely heard of this activity or perhaps even participated in something similar. Presumably, the blindfolded participants learn to be more trusting and those without blindfolds become more sensitive to blind people. Quite simply, the blindfold is thought to be a reasonable proxy for blindness.

A less active version of the activity happens when a speaker or group leader asks his or her audience to close their eyes and imagine what it is like to be blind. The notion is that becoming instantly (and voluntarily) unable to see is an albeit temporary proxy for blindness.

Let’s take the proxy approach a little further. A blind person is being interviewed for a job. The interviewer thinks about the job and considers how he or she would manage it. The interviewer then closes his or her eyes or perhaps slips on the imaginary blindfold. The question then becomes, “Could I do this job without being able to see what I am doing?” The interviewer’s perception of his or her own ability to function without seeing then becomes the proxy for the blind person’s ability to do the job.

The blindfold exercise seems innocuous enough. It likely does not matter that the apparent trust level of the blindfolded person is probably more related to how anxious not seeing makes him or her than anything related to actual trust. It also likely does not matter that some people are naturally much better at guiding people who cannot see than are others. The question is whether the activity has much to do with blindness or being blind. Is the blindfold a fair proxy for blindness? It is not.

The same question applies to simply closing one’s eyes. An individual’s response likely has more to do with his or her natural comfort or discomfort with the partial isolation that comes from not seeing. The point is that this activity has very little to do with being blind. Is closing one’s eyes a fair proxy for blindness? It is not.

The issue becomes much more serious when we consider the job interview situation, although the root of the false reasoning is present in the blindfolded trust exercise and in the more simple activity of closing one’s eyes and imagining how it would be to be blind. In the job interview, the future of the blind person is on the line. There, using an invalid proxy for blindness is far from innocuous. It is both harmful and totally unfair. Is the interviewer’s opinion about whether he could do the job without being able to see a fair proxy for the blindness of the applicant? It is not.

The reality of blindness:

Suppose you are not a pilot and have never done anything that gives you any special knowledge or skill related to flying. What do you think your reaction would be if you were suddenly expected to step into the cockpit of an airliner and fly the plane to Cleveland? Even more to the point, suppose you were interviewing people to fly airliners. What would be your primary criteria for deciding who to hire? I suspect you would start with whether a candidate knew how to fly airplanes and not with whether or not you could fly airplanes if you were him or her.

Suppose a five-year-old volunteered to get your new electronic gadget up and running. Would you simply tell her “No,” since it is unlikely that a child so young would be able to manage a task that baffled you? You might; but more likely, you would spend some time to learn about what experience the child had that qualified her to solve your problem for you. You would not use your general perception of five-year-olds as a proxy for your judgment about the abilities of this specific child.

Here is the point. The question is not whether you can fly. The question is not whether most five-year-olds have mastered electronic gadgets. The question has little to do with how you feel when blindfolded or with your eyes closed. The question is not whether you could do the job if you suddenly could not see. Rather, the issue relates only to the skills and abilities of the blind person, not to your skills, knowledge and perceptions.

From a personal perspective, I have become very good at functioning while blind. There are people who are better at it and many who do not manage it as well. Even so, I have become very competent physically, emotionally, socially, and intellectually. Further, I am a very good judge of what I can and cannot do. For example, I cannot play baseball. I was about six-years-old when I thought I could probably hear the baseball. A smack on the chin taught me that my hearing was not nearly that good. At the same time, I learned that there were a myriad of things I could do or could learn to do quite well.

Here are a few points you may want to stop and consider.

Most blind people have had a very long time to develop their blindness skills. They are far better at being blind than you are, unless you too are blind.

They are very good at doing things without seeing, and continue to hone their skills daily.

They are acutely aware of what they can and cannot do and are far better than you are at judging their abilities to do or not do most things. The best way to judge whether a blind person can do a particular task or set of tasks is to evaluate his or her experience along with asking, “Can you do this and if so, how can you do it without seeing?” Yes, it is usually as simple as that.

Most blind people are experts with knowing about and using adaptive equipment such as speech programs on computers, tablets, and phones; audio reading equipment such as that from The Library of Congress; canes and guide dogs; and much more, especially designed to assist doing what needs done without seeing. They also have help and advice from professionals specially trained and experienced in enabling blind people to work and live independently.

The final point here is that blindness may or may not be a disability. It depends on the situation or opportunity. More likely it is merely a limitation that may require some accommodation but more likely only require some discussion and willingness to work through the details. For most blind people as is true for those with other physical limitations, they can do much more than they cannot do. The need is to focus attention on can do and not on cannot do, especially not on what you think you could not do if you suddenly could not see. Just understand that blindness is its own reality and has no reasonable or fair proxy.


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10 Secret Reasons To Get An Apple Watch

1. Picking up an Apple Watch is a quick and easy way to get rid of anywhere from 350 to 17,000 dollars to avoid having to carry around so much cash. It also helps keep your pockets empty for those times when you have nothing better to do than stand around with your hands in your pockets.

2. It gives you another device to play with instead of paying attention to other people when they are saying something they think may be of interest to you. You know the truth is that whatever they might have to say can only possibly be of interest to them, so your watch gives you something to do while you wait for them to shut up.

3. You will finally have a device that actually stays where you put it. You won't constantly find your self trying to figure out where you put it; and if you can't find your iPhone, your watch will be happy to help you find it.

4. It will tell you when to get off your lazy ... and at least get your own coffee. It actually only tells you to stand up but you know what the real message is.

5. It will give you a tap every time you get a Twitter, Facebook, SMS, or other notification because it knows that you can't possibly spend even a minute without knowing you are totally connected and plugged in. This has the added benefit of making sure you do not let your brain get focused on anything long enough to have a complete thought or do some actual work.

6. Your watch will count your every step and even make sure your heart is still beating just in case you fear you might have died and didn't notice.

7. If you get lonely, you can talk to SIRI, although she won't talk to you. At first, this may seem quite rude; but it has the advantage of not having to actually listen to her. There is a lot to be said for saying what you have to say without any back talk. SIRI on your watch may be a good role model for teens when they are at their most belligerent.

8. When you are in a meeting or other situation where being bored has risen to the level of total brain freeze, you can tap your watch. This gives the impression of doing something marginally productive unlike tapping your fingers on the table, letting everyone know how truly bored you are. It's always good to have something handy to tap. -- Sure, you saw what I did there, "handy" to tap."

9. I am about to run out of reasons to have an Apple watch but am hoping for 10. Having something you are going to strap on and take with you everywhere you go seems like it should have at least 10 ways to justify going to the bother of having it. Here you go. If you had an Apple watch, which I personally do not, it would make you feel like one of the cool kids, although that feeling would likely be limited to you and others who have an Apple watch. No one else is likely to care, assuming they notice which seems unlikely.

10. Sure, I almost forgot. Your apple watch can tell you what time it is. I kid you not. It really can do that, except when it is on its charger. Oh well, usually being able to check the time will have to be good enough.


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Extra: Child Protection Reform #13 #14

Toward An Open Structure Paradigm For Child Protection

Above, I described how the universe of abused and neglected children is limited to only a portion of maltreated children within any particular jurisdiction. Child protection is a closed structure including many maltreated children while excluding most others. This exclusion results from the report pool including only those maltreated children who come to the attention of a reporter and who are then actually reported to the child protection entity serving the jurisdiction. The report pool is further limited by the somewhat arbitrary definitions for abuse and neglect representing a boundary between children included in the report pool and all other maltreated children who are consciously excluded.

Similar closed structures are seen in other areas of child protection practice. For example, consider the children who are judged to be "adoptable." One might presume any child who has no available relative with whom to live is adoptable simply as a result of his (or her) not having an appropriate, permanent home with a member of his extended family. This is not the case. In particular, older children are likely to be excluded from the adoption pool and assigned to alternative custody arrangements. They are judged to be too old for adoption. These children grow up in foster care or in other impermanent settings. Unfortunately, this outcome is sometimes also seen for younger children.

Children with significant disabilities, behavior issues, developmental deficits, medical problems, and emotional difficulties are also frequently excluded from what we may refer to as the adoption pool. Other children who appear to be in the adoption pool are passively excluded due to the challenges associated with identifying appropriate families who might consider adopting the specific children. Children from minority groups are especially vulnerable to this type of exclusion. The result is an active adoption pool that effectively excludes more children needing permanent homes than it includes.

This traditional closed structure approach to serving maltreated children is present throughout child protection practice. Those maltreated children who come within the scope of child protection as a result of entering the report pool are further reduced through a screening process that reduces their number to those who are determined to be abused or neglected, using the current, fuzzy-edged definitions. Within the remaining group, children are categorized and sub-grouped in ways further restricting the services and opportunities to which they have access. Assuredly, many children fair well within this closed structure approach as they move from compartment to compartment within the overall structure. The dilemma relates to those maltreated children who are actively or passively excluded from the potential benefits of those services and opportunities from which they are excluded.

Traditional legislative and administrative responses to the challenges and negative outcomes for children usually focus on the weaknesses and shortcomings seen in the various elements and processes comprising the structure and sub-structures constituting child protection. Usually this leads to new or modified rules and procedures and often to significant finger pointing. Still, it is rather like trying to improve the functioning of a train. It may be possible to enable the train to run faster or more smoothly. Nonetheless, it is still a train and still must be contained to the track with each car following the one in front of it.

No matter how thoughtful the new rules or how enlightened the new procedures, child protection is a closed structure excluding many if not most maltreated children for reasons unrelated to what we know to be in their best interest, if we were clever enough and creative enough to get it right for each child in need of protective services. Clearly, the need is to transition from the traditional closed structure arrangements to an open structure capable of including all children in need of protective services and likewise capable of delivering the exact services and opportunities needed by each child, one child at a time.

Fortunately, there is some indication child protection is seriously entertaining the idea of open structures and is consciously moving in that direction. This is first appearing in relation to the screening activities mentioned above. There is serious discussion about moving away from classifying children as abused and neglected and simply viewing maltreated children as children in need of protective services. This may help with the fuzzy boundary restricting which maltreated children do and do not get into the report pool. It also may help with opening the fuzzy boundary between abused and neglected children and all other maltreated children discussed above.

Unfortunately, this does not address the fundamentally closed nature of child protection structures. Similarly, the current differential response (alternative response) initiative helps with the boundary issues but does not help much with the closed nature of the general structure. Further, the internal compartmentalization remains unchanged. The conceptual need is to transition the traditional closed structure paradigm to a paradigm whose structure is open, inclusive of all maltreated children, and fully capable of doing the right things right, the first time, on time, every time, for every child, one child at a time, with no child in need of protective services excluded for any reason.

Open Structures And Emerging Models Of Excellence

I have discussed the fundamentally closed nature of child protection's general structure and associated sub-structures. These structures are consistent with nearly exclusive reliance on prescriptive rules and procedures and on the bureaucracy used to organize and operate child protection. These aspects were discussed earlier. There, we saw how reliance on these traditional administrative constructs reinforces staff centered, program centered, agency focused practice. This traditional, closed paradigm effectively includes most (but not all) severely maltreated children and successfully keeps them from harm's way. However, it does not include most maltreated children; and for the children it does include, permanence and ongoing success are secondary considerations, if they are considered at all. The unconscionable number of children lingering in foster care is but one example of the paradigm's inadequacy.

I have also discussed the importance of incorporating permanence and ongoing success with safety as co-equal pillars of child protection practice. Merely keeping most severely maltreated children from harm's way is insufficient. All children, maltreated or not, deserve and must have permanent homes with nurturing and supportive families where their ongoing success is, to the extent possible, guaranteed. This cannot be achieved through continuing reliance on the traditional child protection paradigm, with its closed structures and sub-structures. A transition to an open structure paradigm is much overdue.

An important shift toward open structures begins with simply abandoning reliance on legislatively and administratively determined, prescriptive rules and procedures directing the behavior and actions of child protection workers. The traditional "We know better than you how to help the children and families with whom you work," mentality should be replaced with an "Any reasonable approach" mandate. Here, a "reasonable approach" is consistent with generally accepted practice standards, known best practice, and sound professional judgment in alignment with the judgments of most other professionals with similar training and experience and in accord with well understood and accepted guiding principles underpinning practice.

Within these constraints, practice relies on clearly articulated outcomes and continuous invention of strategies individualized for specific children and families. Worker, program, and agency centeredness are replaced by child and family centeredness. The locus of services shifts to the community, as discussed earlier. Within this community focus, child protection relies on an integrated model of service delivery where virtual agencies are tailored to the individual needs and interests of specific children and families.

An example of a virtual agency approaching the integrated model suggested above has been functioning in Lorain County, Ohio for several years. The Juvenile Court along with the public child protection agency and the public mental health, substance abuse, and mental retardation and developmental disabilities agencies formed the Integrated Services Partnership (ISP). These public entities funded a services pool to pay for services for children experiencing more serious behavior and adjustment difficulties. The community, under the direction of the ISP governing group, formed the Children's Continuum of Care Committee (4C).

The 4C Committee functions as a clinical panel with full authority to work with the child and his (or her) family and to authorize any services or resources believed to be in the best interest of the child and his safety, permanence, and ongoing success. The panel includes representatives from the partner entities along with representatives from the schools and other community services entities. The services arrays are developed one child at a time and based exclusively on the judgments and experience of panel members and the special insights of the child and his family. The result is a virtual agency created to accommodate to the unique needs and interests of each child included in the ISP's operation.

The ISP has an additional feature of interest here. Although the partnership excludes most children in the County who need support and services since it only services more seriously maladjusted children who are also associated with one of the partner entities, the issue of whether the child is maltreated goes away. Some children served through the ISP have been maltreated and others have not. They are simply children in need of services, with full focus limited to developing the best services array for each child.

The ISP is an example of an integrated model with promise for all maltreated children in particular and all children in need of services more generally. For child protection, realizing the new vision starts with acknowledging the fundamental inadequacy of the traditional paradigm within which child protection is currently mired. The paradigm must shift to a child and family centered, community focused paradigm, relying on standards, best practice, professional judgment, and underpinned by generally accepted guiding principles for work with children and families. From there, we can pursue the serious business of creating strategies for realizing virtual agencies for every child needing services, based on open structures and emerging, integrated models of excellence.


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3 Tips: Your Point?

Do you want to improve your chances of getting your point across to others? If so, keep these 3 tips in mind.

Be clear about what your point is.

Be clear about why it matters to you.

Be clear about why it should matter to me.


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3 Tips: Anger & Frustration

Do you ever find yourself in heated arguments or needing to deal with angry, frustrating people?

Moderate the volume of the conversation.

Moderate the speech rate of the conversation.

Reduce the emotional intensity of the conversation.

Keep the content related but neutral, using "I" and not "You." If you are calm and patient, as you hang in, the volume, rate, and intensity will gradually get back to normal so more reasonable minds can prevail.


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