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Social Work

Teaching Self-Advocacy at Home Pt. I

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Self-advocacy is an essential skill for children to master, not only for their education, but for basic functioning and socialization throughout life. Parents can help children foster this necessary life skill by providing them with specific tools and practices to ensure that their voices are heard and understood—and the earlier children begin advocating, the better.

Self-advocacy is all about vocalizing one’s needs. However, the key to teaching children how to advocate for themselves starts with helping them to recognize their own needs. It is difficult to ask for help when you don’t know what exactly you need help doing.

For the major part of many children’s lives, parents accommodate a child’s every need. Often times, parents are there to swoop into the rescue before their children even know that they need something. To begin teaching self-advocacy, parents will want to introduce the concept in small steps by encouraging children to first recognize then vocalize their needs.

Ask your child if he or she knows or recognizes the sensation of hunger or thirst. What does it feel like if you are starting to get hungry or thirsty? Do you hear your grumbling tummy? Do you feel agitated or restless? If you’re hungry, but I haven’t offered you a snack, what can you do to make sure that you get what you need? Similarly, ask your child to describe what it feels like when they are too hot, too cold, or need to go to the bathroom. Do you see goosebumps? Do you start to feel clammy or sweaty? Does your skin pigment, fingertips, lips change color? Does your tummy hurt or feel funny? Do you get jumpy or distracted?

These questions may seem overly simplistic; however, the idea behind such basic conversations is that your child begins to actively recognize what his or her body needs and when. These types of questions are especially important for children with autism because of the tendency to struggle to make observations.

Children on the spectrum may find it difficult to sense time or communicate frustration or other emotions. They may also experience an inability to perceive unsafe or harmful situations, which makes it difficult for them to distinguish their wants from their needs. Therefore, when children are aware of their needs, they can begin to vocalize them. This is especially important when children head to school and no longer have a parent to accommodate their every need at the drop of a hat.

Parents can then begin to instruct children on how to appropriately ask for what they need. Practice using sentence frames for different scenarios and discuss the difference between “I want” and “I need.”  Talk about how to distinguish between an emergency or an immediate need and something that can be met or accomplished later or eventually.

Discuss instances in which your child should politely say “no thank you” versus vehemently saying “no!” Instruct your child about the appropriate occasions and means of getting someone’s attention, interrupting a conversation, or asking a personal question.

By role-playing certain scenarios or conversations, parents can begin to prepare their children with positive communication skills and self-advocacy tools.

Wendy Taylor, M.Ed has extensive experience working with students of all ages and abilities, with a focus on learning differences and disabilities. Prior to founding Learning Essentials, she served as a faculty member at Saint Petersburg College, a supervisor of pre-service teachers and a Montgomery County Public School teacher. A certified educator and qualified educational diagnostician, Wendy holds a B.S. in Social Science and Secondary Education from Frostburg State University and a M.Ed. in Special Education from George Mason University.

          
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LGBTQ

Applying the Cass Identity Model to Social Work

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Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT+) or other gender and sexual minorities can have significant mental health issues – not just as a result of their sexuality or gender identity but also because of discrimination and isolation. These individuals may find themselves seeking case management, counselling, or other social work support services and it can be helpful to have a framework for understanding their coming out process.

Coming out is the process a lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB+) individual follows in order to disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity to those around them. It can be an intensely personal and challenging process.

Cass Identity Model

The Cass Identity Model was created by Vivian Cass in 1979 in order to better understand the coming out process for LGB+ individuals. It consists of 6 stages or phases that a person will proceed through. The six stages are:

Identity Confusion

Identity confusion is the very first stage of the model. In this stage, an individual is confused by their sexual identity and begins to become aware that sexual identities are a concept. They are possibly in early puberty and noticing individuals expressing their sexuality.

At some point though, the individual will experience thoughts or feelings regarding an individual of the same-sex that will make them wonder if they are actually LGB+. This might lead to a denial that the individual is LGB (repressing these feelings.)

Identity Comparison

In the Identity Comparison phase, the individual will ask themselves more openly if they are homosexual. They will confront the idea that they might be alone in their LGB+ experiences compared to those around them and the resulting social alienation or need to keep their LGB+ identity hidden. This is especially challenging for people living in repressive societies or communities where LGB+ identities are not tolerated.

Identity Tolerance

Once the individual has reached Identity Tolerance, they have understood that they are firmly LGB. To those around them, they may be perceived one-dimensionally – as only homosexual. This can cause these individuals to seek out other LGB+ individuals and begin to build a support network.

Some individuals may continue to deny their identity and thus experience self-hatred, which may delay their coming out process and cause much distress.

Identity Acceptance

Identity Acceptance is exactly what it sounds like. The individual has accepted themselves as an LGB+ individual. They make begin to make the LGBT+ subculture a larger part of their life. This can lead to an insulation of one’s support network as a differentiation is made between those people who are openly supportive of the individual’s LGB+ identity and those who tolerate their sexuality as long as it is not displayed openly. Limiting the role these other individuals play in the LGB+ person’s life serves to reduce distress and alienation.

Identity Pride

The Identity Pride stage is the one most associated with LGBT Pride events. The person’s sexuality continues the pendulum swing from lack of awareness to tolerance to complete pride, overtaking the other aspects of their identity. The person may even dichotomize the world into an LGB area and a second, less important heterosexual category.

The understanding of heteronormativity may appear here as well, with the individual reminding others around them that the assumption they are heterosexual is a false one.

Identity Synthesis

Finally, in Identity Synthesis the individual has come to the realization that their LGB+ identity is merely one part of them and does not dominate their life. It is one part, like their career, hobbies, ethnicity and other aspects are simply other pieces of the puzzle that makes them up. At this stage, they fully accept themselves and experience little or no distress as a result of their LGB identity.

Applying the Model

A Social Worker may apply the Cass Identity Model by noting where in the six stages their client seems to be and reading the primary literature to better understand the conflicts that may occur at each stage. This can help ensure interventions are targeted to the unique distress the client is experiencing and continue to deepen the therapeutic relationship by demonstrating a strong understanding of the client’s inner-pain.

Conclusion

The Cass Identity Model is a six-stage model that demonstrates a lot of value in understanding the coming out process as it relates to LGB individuals.

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News

Social Workers Call on White House, Congress to Fully Reopen Federal Government

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The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) calls on Congress and the White House to act to fully reopen the federal government immediately. Allowing the shutdown to continue is unconscionable.

We are currently at the 33-day mark for the partial shutdown of the federal government. This is the longest such shutdown in our nation’s history and it is exacting a heavy toll on many NASW members and the often financially fragile clients they serve.

Nearly 800,000 federal employees, including social workers and allied professionals, are negatively affected by the shutdown. Almost half of these federal employees have been furloughed without pay.

Many of our nation’s most vulnerable, including children and older adults, could lose essential safety net services if the government is not restored to full operations. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Rental Assistance program, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), among others, are unable to fulfill their missions.

SNAP participants have received their benefits even during the shutdown, but these are in jeopardy in future months.

Contracts for HUD’s programs for the lowest-income seniors, people living with disabilities, and families with children have not been renewed. This places nearly 70,000 program participants at risk of major rent hikes and possible evictions. Low-income Rural Housing Assistance participants were informed on January 11 that due to the federal shutdown they would have to pay the full (not discounted) rent by January 20 or face eviction. Normally, their rent is limited to 30 percent of their income.

TANF authorization expired in December. The federal government could not distribute $4.2 billion to states for the period January to March due to the shutdown. States are permitted to cover TANF expenses, but it is unclear how many will do so and for how long.

For more information about the impacts of the shutdown on the most vulnerable, please visit the following websites: Coalition on Human Needs, Food Research and Action Center, and National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

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Human Services

SWHELPER Announces Its Second Annual Global Social Welfare Digital Summit

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On March 19th thru March 22nd, SWHELPER will be hosting the Global Social Welfare Digital Summit which is an all online digital conference. You can attend the conference from any place in the world with an internet connection. The conference themes will focus on advocacy, trauma-informed care, self-care and healing, and solutions.

Are you feeling unmotivated or uninspired? Maybe you need some professional nourishment to broaden your perspective or add tools to your toolbox for future career growth. The Global Social Welfare Digital Summit aims to extend learning to a global classroom by allowing you to connect with helping professionals around the world. Additionally, you may be eligible for up 10 continuing education credits (CEUs).

Early Bird Tickets went on sale January 1st at 50% off the regular price. The Four Day Education Pass regularly $55 is available at $25. For government employees, the four day pass is $49 and $69 for private and nonprofit. All passes come with 1 year access to view all the sessions on your schedule.

Click here and Use coupon code 4DAYSWH to get an additional 10% off of early bird pricing. Early Bird pricing ends February 8th, 2019. You can also view the session agenda before purchasing your ticket.

Some of the presentations include:

  • Twitter – Jerrel Peterson, MSW: From Micro to Macro Leveraging Research, Data, and Ethics for Social Impact
  • Facebook – Avani Parehk: Tech and Movement Building…How to Hold Space in the Digital Age
  • USC – Melissa Singh: Trauma Informed Interview Coaching for Global Environments
  • Columbia University – Matthea Marquart: Helping the Helpers Online Self-Care Technique

Some of our sponsors include the International of Association for Schools of Social Work, International Council for Social Work, Network for Social Work Managers, and the National Organization for Human Services.

For more information visit, https://www.globalsocialwelfaresummit.com.

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Employment

10 Ways to Diversify Your Social Work Income in 2019

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Social Work is not a high-paid profession; we all know this and we didn’t get into this field because we want to become rich. But, if we can’t be comfortable taking care of our own financial commitments, we won’t be in the position to give ourselves fully to our clients when they need us, whether we’re providing case management, intensive counselling/therapy, or community advocacy.

The answer is for Social Workers to diversify their income streams. This is something lawyers, doctors, and other professionals learned years ago but that Social Workers are still struggling with. It sometimes seems antithetical to our mission to make money for ourselves – but there are ways to generate revenue while also providing value to our clients.

With the new year almost upon us, here are 10 ways you can diversify your income in 2019:

1. Open a Private Practice

The classic private practice is still an option. Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) can bill Medicare in all 50 states.  For those who decide not to take insurance or to take self-pay clients, you can often charge north of $100 an hour for counselling or therapy – especially if you have a well-developed niche like working with bereavement, with men or with those who have HIV/AIDS.

To save money when starting out you may choose to use a home office, or even to see clients virtually via Skype. This can make therapy more accessible to your clients, but make sure you check with your licensing board first to avoid any issues with confidentiality.

2. Start Writing

It’s been said we all have a book inside of us, and you may too. But you don’t have to write a full book to make money with your writing. Launching a blog and monetizing it using Google Adsense or the Amazon Affiliate program can help you build your professional brand and demonstrate your expertise while generating you money for every click on your ads.

To get started, you can create a blog using the free WordPress.com platform, and then consider seeking out technical assistance to move your blog to its own domain and hosting to help you expand your audience.

3. Join a Speakers Bureau

A Speakers Bureau is an organization keeping a roster of speakers on contract so you can deliver keynote speeches or other talks for a fee. The Speakers Bureau helps connect the client and the speaker (yourself) together and negotiates a speaking fee you get paid. The Speakers Bureau takes a cut in exchange for the representation and you get the promotion.

If you don’t have the popularity, name recognition, or specific niche skills to join a Speakers Bureau yet, do some networking and reach out to conferences and other organizations proactively to get yourself some initial speaking engagements. If you’re lucky, some new business will come via word-of-mouth.

4. Create Mobile Phone Apps

This is the most technical of the answers here – but surprisingly not as difficult as you might think. Social Workers have a wealth of knowledge on mental health which they can apply towards creating apps that don’t exist yet to help people.

These can be targeted at professionals in the field, for example:

  • An app allowing you to complete risk assessments on a tablet and allows the information to be exported
  • A Social Worker’s Legal Reference with information on the laws relevant to child protection, suicide intervention and other laws relevant to Social Work in your state
  • A digital study guide helping social workers in training prepare for their licensure exam

Or targeted at clients:

  • A guided meditation app which helps clients calm down when they feel stressed
  • A digital crisis plan clients can complete and then refer to when they’re having trouble coping
  • A guide to local resources in your community like crisis lines, mental health agencies, and hospitals

These are highly complex topics. You can read up on the Swift programming language (used for Apple devices) or the Java programming language (for Android devices) or join up with a skilled programmer who lacks your specialized mental health knowledge.

5. Develop a Subscription Service

A subscription service is one way to help current or future clients to receive support. By paying you a small monthly fee, they can get check-ins with you on a regular basis between appointments. If they’re struggling, you can help connect them to crisis lines or other supports. For people who haven’t yet become clients, this may offer them an opportunity to build a relationship with you as they consider whether to book an appointment.

6. Launch an Online Course

Social Workers have skills in many areas which they can turn into online courses to teach others. For example, successful online courses have been launched teaching people how to have better relationships with their spouses or children, how to avoid getting angry or upset, and how to stay cool under pressure in a challenging workplace.

Providers like Udemy can help you build your course in exchange for a small fee taken out of each purchase.

7. Teach at Night

Universities and colleges frequently hire Masters or Doctoral-level Social Workers to teach classes as an Adjunct Professor. This can help you generate revenue but also to give back to the next generation and share what you’ve learned during the course of your practice.

8. Train Other Professionals

In addition to teaching in a school environment, you can make money by becoming an instructor for training programs. For $500 you can get certified to teach the Question, Persuade, Refer (QPR) Gatekeeper Course in suicide, while for $2,500 you can get Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training (ASIST) Training-for-Trainers (T4T) certified.

As a trainer, you can make between several hundred and several thousand dollars in a weekend leading a training course on a subject which you’re passionate about.

9. Become a Consultant

If you have an area of specialized knowledge such as program evaluation, fundraising, or experience building a nonprofit from the ground up then you may choose to become a nonprofit consultant. By helping clients avoid the same pitfalls you may have experienced yourself, you give them a great return on their investment.

Consultants also facilitate Strategic Planning sessions or Board of Directors Training and this may be an option for yourself as well.

10. Build a Video Library

If you don’t like to write but you do want to get your message out there – consider building a video library on YouTube. These videos, when you have a high-enough following, can be monetized and you’ll get ad revenue before each video plays.

Conclusion

There are a lot of ways Social Workers and other helping professions can use their experience and training to help others while also diversifying your own revenue and helping to build your personal brand. It’s important that you focus on the elements that make the most sense for your passions and level of technical expertise but also which makes sense with your desired client-base. Good luck!

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Human Rights

Increased Inmate Deaths and the Lack of Accountability

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Sandra Bland

One year after the death of Sandra Bland on July 13, 2015, the Huffington Post compiled a list of persons who died in jail. In the following twelve month period, there were 811 deaths, most of which were the result of suicide. In fact, 253 detainees committed suicide in the year after Sandra’s death, constituting 31% of all fatalities.

This heartbreaking statistic highlights a historical pattern; one of racial targeting and classism, poor management, health care oversight, and corruption. The criminal justice system fails our communities by allowing preventable inmate deaths while targeting the most vulnerable communities. These alarming trends in our prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers have us wondering, why?

Experts examining suicide and death in our nation’s jails reveal disturbing trends across the most vulnerable communities. A recent New York Times article, for example, Preventing Suicide in America’s Jails, reveals in 2013 a total of 967 jail inmates died while detained in local corrections facilities. This statistic continued to grow the year after, even though the inmate population declined by 4%. Other authors and researchers cite poor management, inadequate health care, and perfunctory oversight as major culprits. Although these issues go mostly unresolved, they continue to institute a pattern of death and suicide.

Reasons Behind Inmate Deaths

Many jail fatalities are overlooked and underreported. Generally, jails are not required to disclose fatalities occurring within their facility to their community. Even the most egregious incarceration centers can go unnoticed by the community at large when they aren’t being held accountable for deaths occurring in their own institutions.

Different from prison, jail stays are shorter (approximately 21 days) and most of the inmates have yet to be sentenced. Jail inmates could also be under the influence of drugs, alcohol, or have mental or physical health issues that correctional staff might be unaware of. For these reasons, many jail suicides occur in the first week of incarceration as indicated below by the Prison Policy Initiative.

According to KyCIR’s reports in Kentucky’s Grant County Jail, rampant corruption, employee incompetence, ineffective staff preparation, and inmate maltreatment were all present in the jail’s culture. In an environment where accountability is minimal, inmates are more likely to be disregarded and mistreated, as is the case of Danny Ray Burden at Grant County Jail.

“Danny Ray Burden fell asleep mid-sentence as he was booked into the Grant County jail, toppling over on the bench where he sat. Prodded awake, he coughed, shook and pleaded for emergency medical attention. A blood test showed that the 41-year-old diabetic badly needed insulin. Instead of assisting with proper medical standards and medications, deputies put Danny Ray in a cell, where he was found unconscious just three hours after he had entered the jail on March 27, 2013. He died a week later.”

Reflecting on the data, including the specific cases of Sandra Bland and Danny Ray Burden, who is at risk for jail fatality?

Vulnerable groups at correctional facilities include:

  • Persons booked for lesser crimes
  • Those without financial resources who are unable to post bond
  • Communities of color who are profiled by police and often receive harsher punishments
  • Sex offenders and those accused of vicious crimes

Why Death by Suicide?

For inmates whose lives were previously difficult, a brief jail sentence could prove traumatic. The most at-risk inmates may be experiencing withdrawal symptoms, a lack of access to prescriptions, and/or low availability of medical or mental health services. An inmate with a troubled emotional, mental, or physical state of inmates suffers even more while imprisoned, especially when our system neglects their basic needs.

Correctional facility detainees may have anxiety about unemployment, broken relationships, loss of residence, healthcare, or the inability to care for children. Without financial resources, these issues are compounded by the inability to pay a bond. And for black inmates, especially those in the 18 to 29-year age range, accruing considerably greater bail amounts than their peers in other racial groups isn’t uncommon.

Suicide Prevention Strategies for Correctional Facilities

In Matti Hautala’s article In the Shadow of Sandra Bland: The Importance of Mental Health Screening in U.S. Jails, the author examines the multifaceted environment of our American jail system and garners evidence-based recommendations for inmate suicide prevention.

The author suggests the initial entry procedure, including the preliminary psychological evaluation, acclimates the inmate to the criminal justice environment. This experience could have a lasting impact on the immediate future for that inmate; although alternative programs such as parole, probation, or mental health courts are recommended. Community supervision, rather than incarceration, is especially effective for those with psychological or mental health issues. Further recommendations include:

  • Psychological evaluation instruments and qualified evaluators
  • Proper procedures regarding medical records and treatment
  • Limiting the use of restraint and isolation
  • Frequent visual follow-ups, every 15 minutes, with suicidal or homicidal inmates.

The gross lack of culpability by local and state corrections personnel and increasing inmate deaths calls for advocacy and reform. Social workers, helping professionals, and concerned citizens must engage our political and community leaders in evidence-based dialogue and program development to reduce the number of inmate fatalities in our nation’s correctional facilities.

By engaging with our local communities and representatives, together, we can hold our system accountable. We can force our jail and correctional facilities to say “mea culpa!” and reform our policies to prevent tragic and unnecessary death.

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Disability

Four Ways Neurodiversity Holds the Key to the Future of Special Education

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For ages, special education has been developing on its own, together with the development of ordinary education. It emphasizes disorders and the ways special education students are lacking compared to an average student. Those who have a noticeable dysfunction have even been mocked for their lack of focus or skill to learn something – sometimes by teachers too.

And even though the history of the special education has been filled with inappropriate names and terms, the future is bright. More and more scientists and educators are turning to the better ways of conducting special education – and one of those ways is related to neurodiversity.

This term was first used by journalist Harvey Blume in the early 1990s and means that autism, ADHD, dyslexia, and other special-needs conditions are the part of normal variations in the human population. And here is how neurodiversity changes the entire special education system.

1. In theory.

Special education as it is at the moment regards disability categories as something originated from biology, genetics, and neurology. Neurodiversity, on the other hand, focuses on the advantages these disabilities have to offer – they use this to explain why these genes are still here today and why people are still born with disabilities.

This new concept examines how a person with a disability can be lacking in some aspects but even more advanced than regular people in some. During the past decade, university programs such as London School of Economics’ Dyslexia and Neurodiversity program, or the College of William & Mary’s Neurodiversity Initiative are aimed to support neurodiverse students and create positive acceptance and niches for them.

Annabel Gray, neurodiversity specialist and educator at Origin Writings states, “Regarding a person as completely disabled is fundamentally wrong. Whereas a person with, for example, autism can be lacking in some areas of life, on a job which requires focus and attention to detail, this same person would do outstandingly well.”

2. The focus.

The focus of special education so far has been solely on assessing deficits and how to go about educating students based on these deficits. However, neurodiversity relies more on assessing the strengths, talents, abilities, and interests of disabled students. It is a strength-based approach where an educator would use a series of tests to discover the student’s abilities and teach them how to use them to tackle their everyday and educational challenges.

What is so great about neurodiversity approach is it gives the students all the necessary tools to cope with their day to day life by focusing on what they do best. This way the students are not feeling left out and they know there are some things where they can thrive in.

3. Workarounds.

Workarounds are another way the neurodiversity improves the disabled students’ lives. What it essentially means is the educators are supposed to find ways for students to experience and learn which does not include their disabilities. For example, students with ADHD could be allowed to use special tools like stability balls or standing desks in order to focus on studying.

This could be expanded to create an individual education plan for each student based on what they need and in which environment they thrive the most. Placing those students in the traditional learning environment will help them to feel “lesser human being” or a burden.

Lila Christie, an educator at 1Day2Write and WriteMyX confirms: “Workarounds are some of the best ways of teaching the disabled students. We implement this strategy of putting each student in an environment that will allow them to learn without anything in the way. It not only works but also gives students the satisfaction and comfort.”

4. How to communicate with students.

While most special education programs still teach children about their disabilities, neurodiversity teaches them about the value of variation and being different. It teaches them how their brain works and how the environment affects it, how to use their skills to the maximum etc. This kind of mindset can help them realize the growth mindset can improve their performance.

To get the brain to its full potential it is important to get the students exercising in various ways, each suited to their own abilities – writing exercises are excellent ways to improve brain power and it can be easily accessible to students through tools such as Dragon NaturallySpeaking, Windows Speech Recognition, etc.

Conclusion

Neurodiversity is a great new approach to special education. It gives students opportunities and new ways of understanding themselves. This is a fresh take on educating those with disabilities – in fact, it relies more on their abilities and strengths. It can give students confidence and tools to be successful and do more later in their lives.

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