Monday, November 22, 2010

An Outstanding Advocate

A few months ago, I had the opportunity to hear a dynamic speaker at a conference. He had more energy than anyone I had seen in a long time. Just watching his animated presentation was highly entertaining, and then he mentioned his ADD in passing, which I figured was part of his package! His positive approach in advocating for all people with disabilities (or "possibilities", as he likes to say) to be employed was contagious. His premise is that there is no one who can't be employed, and he illustrated with an unbelievable story.

As a former special ed teacher, he was accustomed to looking for each student's strengths. He needed to find a job for a nonambulatory, nonverbal guy. His strength or ability? Blinking. That is literally all he could do. He studied this guy's likes and dislikes, and found that he loved loud, noisy places. Patrick, the speaker, found him a job in a busy copying center, where with a switch, powered by a blink, he could run copiers and collate! Imagine that. This man actually had to lie on the floor because of his disabilities, but he thoroughly enjoyed running his copier with his switch. Amazing.

Patrick Schwarz, the speaker, has books to his credit and has very unique ideas for the inclusive classroom. He also described several brilliant ways of helping kids transition to the next school. (That was my favorite part, since he took a kid who hated change to his new high school several times. He played basketball there with him with no one around, made sure he bought him a drink from the machine, and slowly introduced him to staff and classrooms. Voila! It was a beautifully smooth transition.)

One controversial idea he had was to always reward with the student's (or person's) passion. He was so emphatic on this topic. He told all about a noncompliant student who loved whales. They could get him to do nothing until Patrick discovered this love. Every positive behavior was then rewarded with a whale stamp or a chance to work the whale puzzle, and he blossomed into a very cooperative, hard working student. People I talked to wondered, though, if that would just further an obsession that might need to be extinguished or was inappropriate. I say if the behavior is undesirable enough, bring on the reward. What do you say?

You can check out Patrick Schwarz's website here.


  1. I say:

    "He's a top advocate".

    Liked reading about his ideas.

    I'm sure you'd have to be there to appreciate his presence!

    "See the possibility" is a common saying.

    And it's good that you mentioned, indirectly, one of my favourite books, Just give him the whale. I usually hear the Kluth half of the partnership.

    There is another book called "Pedro's Whale".

  2. Adelaide, I marvel at how knowledgeable you are on a variety of special needs' topics. I would love to know more of your story.

  3. Thanks for stopping by. Things are going good, we have a lot to be thankful for.
    I love this. I'm going to check him out. His ideas would work with both my kids.

  4. You have to check out this video: