Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder, and Executive Director 

         Winter 2018



FAQ: How do I deal with my child/student getting under my skin?


            My boys always knew what button to press. As a matter of fact, they became experts in all of my buttons! Looking back, I think they knew my weak areas better than I did! Some button pushing was intentional – wanting to get out of doing what they did not want to do – and some was just being kids – thoughtless, impulsive words or behaviors. Whatever the motivation, I felt myself being pushed by negative emotions that I struggled to not take out on them! Add to the already complicated mix of parenting (and teaching), a child with various challenges – learning, medical, behavioral – and life and relationships become much more complicated.


          As a parent, it was my responsibility to mold their behavior and character. As a teacher, it was my responsibility to mold their minds, grow their skills, excite their curiosity.



We all start this journey excited and hopeful; full of anticipation.



Then our children, our students, don’t respond as we imagined they would and we get discouraged.

What is wrong with me…with them…?



Our frustration level rises as our expectations are not met.

Someone once told me that the worst thing anyone can do to others is not meet their expectations.

Some days…



…we feel like we are losing our minds!


So, how do we get our minds back?


  1. Start with self-awareness – what exactly are those buttons?
  2. Recognize my own responses. What am I feeling? What am I doing?
  3. Admit where I am wrong and apologize when needed.
  4. Determine why I get so frustrated, angry, disappointed, discouraged. This can be a daunting task and takes practice!
  5. Process these thoughts and feelings and the consequent behaviors:
    • Talk to a friend. Having someone to talk through this with is a great blessing and sometimes it helps to have someone from the outside looking in.
    • Join a group, increase my skills: parenting group, Bible study, a topic-specific support group or self-help class.
    • Get professional counseling when the above is not enough. A counselor can guide me through this process so that I can have greater perspective and healthier responses. 
  6. Balance authority with the relationship: authoritative vs. authoritarian – am I providing appropriate boundaries as well as - am I a safe place?
  7. Don’t try to discipline/correct when angry – calm down first (both of you!). “I need some time to be alone, now.”
  8. Come up with a plan for frequent scenarios.
  9. Practice the plan, evaluate and readjust as needed.
  10. At a point of potential conflict – stop going down the conditioned negative path and find something to focus on that you really like about them. Let them know what you see. Sincere praise can be a good diversion and can refocus a conversation onto more pleasant, meaningful exchanges.


I vividly remember when I started to recognize that a particular button was being pushed. One of my sons was a master arguer. If he wasn’t getting his way, he would push and push to try to wear me down. This brought up memories. As a teen I constantly argued with my mother. We were well known in our family for “butting heads”. I recognized that this pattern was being repeated. This son would get me so heated that I wanted to lash out at him. We invariably ended up shouting at each other and nothing was accomplished. We also ended up resenting each other. I hated getting sucked in!


Once I recognized this pattern, I came up with a plan. I needed to stop the argument from him as soon as I saw it brewing. I would say no, or not right now, and he would start in, “But Mom…!” I would allow him to state his reasoning, if his tone of voice was appropriate, but then if I still had the same decision and he started to push, I would tell him to “Give me 10” (pushups). Now, all of my boys were athletes and 10 pushups were nothing to them. The first time I had him do this he laughed at me and gave me the 10. I explained that the purpose of the pushups was not to punish, but to remind him to be respectful in his communication. It was a way to make him stop and think. If, when he got up, he was still communicating disrespectfully, I would have him give me another 10. If we got through 30 pushups and he still was not demonstrating self-control, I told him to separate himself from me until he could speak to me politely. Honestly, this took a while to work well, mostly because I had to see the button pushing coming! Over time, I was quicker to see it and calmer in my responses. In the process, he learned what was acceptable behavior and our relationship became far less volatile – a win-win.


So, what button do you want to work on?


Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder, and Executive Director 

    December 2017



Stop In Your Tracks



            Do you have a song that seems to always stop you in your tracks? One that is so meaningful to you that your heart tunes in? There have been just a handful of those over the years, but there is one that persists for me, maybe because I only hear it around Christmas.


            Two years ago, I wrote my first blog post for our website. I titled the blog “Exclusive Insights – From My Heart to Yours” because each one has come from a deep place, fusing my mind and heart. That first blog article I wrote is still precious to me and so I am replicating it here. Read through to the end and there will be an additional link that will be special to you, if you know this story:


This is my first Christmas in our new home. I loved putting up the Christmas tree, decorating the mantel, hanging a wreath on the front door. All three of my adult sons will be able to be with us for Christmas…two of them coming all the way from LA! The Christmas season can be amazingly wonderful. It can also be amazingly complicated. Actually, life continues to be amazingly complicated!


         One of my favorite Christmas songs of all time is “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant (a link to the full text is at the bottom). It is a musical version of Mary’s prayer when she was told that she was to carry the Son of God. I remember listening to the song with my hands lifted high as she communicated my heart, my concerns, my trust – or at least my desire to trust my Father in heaven.


“…I wonder what I’ve done

Holy Father, you have come

And chosen me now

To carry your son”


         Of course, I make no claims! However, what I do believe is that God chose me to carry my son, Ryan. The Lord trusted me to love him unconditionally, to make wise decisions for him, to grow even as I was helping him to grow…to be Ryan’s mother. What a privilege!


“I am waiting in a silent prayer

I am frightened by the load I bear

In a world as cold as stone,

Must I walk this path alone?

Be with me now”


         It is so ironic that in the middle of a family and church community I would feel alone. But raising a struggling learner, or a child with special needs of any sort, can feel isolating. I remember people with “average” or gifted children blaming me for my son’s behavior, as if I could control all of his choices and I was okay with his misbehavior or social gaffs. Add to that the hours of trying to help him learn…Ugh.


         Privilege, yes. Easy, no. What I didn’t have then is a team. I needed others: teachers who understood (unfortunately rare), wise friends to listen and counsel who had been where I was, therapists to help him in ways that I could not because I had to focus so hard on being his mom.


“Breath of heaven

Do you wonder as you watch my face

If a wiser one should have had my place

But I offer all I am

For the mercy of your plan

Help me be strong”


         Ryan is now an adult. The raising part is over, but the loving is not! Much work and prayer went into the complicated family life we had. Today, Ryan is an amazing man, navigating the complicated life he has with honor, integrity, and great love for and from his family. He is a source of great joy.


         I am confident that the Lord designed your child for your particular family. I am praying that through this season, you will grow in wisdom and strength, that you will stop and enjoy who your child is, who they are becoming, and that you will find and take full advantage of the team you have. And, I pray you will know Gods presence in your life:


“Breath of heaven

Hold me together

Be forever near me

Breath of heaven”


                      *Breath of Heaven lyrics. Breath of Heaven video


            This Christmas, I don’t know if our two other sons can join us. Life is so full that I am not even sure when I can go shopping for gifts (or even what I want to give!), never mind when we can start the process of decorating our home. It is mid-December and already I want to cry, “Stop the sleigh! I want to get off!”


            So, I intentionally stop…or am jerked to a stop… when I hear “Breath of Heaven”. We need to stop sometimes, especially when life is chaotic.


            Is there a song that stops you in your tracks? Choose to listen. Is there a movie that fills you with joy? Watch it with someone you love. If you are raising children, especially a child with learning challenges, I encourage you to take some time during Christmas to break from academics, to play with them and enjoy who they are. Be intentional.


            I promised you a special link at the end of this article. Ryan, my struggling learner - the one whom I had wondered if he would be in jail someday because of his rebelliousness, or would even be alive at the age of 30 - has started his own video blog. Check out this short video and remember – at some point, if not now, you can rejoice that it was all worth it!



Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder, and Executive Director 

    November 2017





              A few years ago, I rushed to the emergency room, my friend Laura not far behind me. Ryan was on a stretcher in the hallway as they did not yet have a room available for him. He was writhing in excruciating pain with my husband Mike standing over him, waiting for the hospital personnel to provide the pain medication Ryan so desperately needed. It was just minutes, but it has always felt like hours when we have been in that situation.


             I was in crisis mode, a familiar place for me throughout Ryan’s on-going medical history. In a crisis, I have to be strong and clear headed so I can advocate for my son when he is not able to advocate for himself. I checked on Ryan’s status and turned back to my friend who was waiting at the entrance not wanting to intrude.


She was weeping the tears that I could not.


            When I recall this event, even now, after several years, I can feel the emotions rise. Why is that particular memory so impactful? I was, and still am, soul piercingly thankful. That day, Laura was the physical presence of God in that place – weeping over my son, hugging me tight and praying over me and my family with a Holy Spirit led passion.


            Although often used as synonyms, to me there is a distinct difference between gratefulness and thankfulness. I am grateful when a stranger holds the door for me or when my son grabs my suitcase and carries it up two flights of stairs when I return home from a trip. There is relief. I am pleased. I appreciate the other’s kindness to me.


But grateful is too tame of a word to describe the soul-piercing thankfulness that I can feel in the midst of sorrow - the kind of thankfulness that can lead to joy in the midst of hardship or pain.


I am currently working on my doctorate in counseling. (Yes, please feel free to pray for me!). There have been many research studies published in peer review journals discussing the clinical effectiveness of thankfulness in the growth of those seeking counseling. From my perspective, that is a modern verification of the way God has created humans to function. The Bible is full of instruction and encouragement to be thankful, even in the midst of anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7). So, both the secular and the faith-based worlds recognize the power of thankfulness.


Gratefulness comes from the mind – a recognition and appreciation for a kindness performed. Thankfulness comes from the heart. Both take practice and an intentional shift in mindset.


This month, when we celebrate Thanksgiving, is a great time to reflect on thankfulness and our own capacity to recognize and exercise it.


The pilgrims, whom tradition indicates celebrated the first Thanksgiving, had much to be thankful for: their physical survival of a grueling new settlement, a harvest sufficient to ensure survival through the winter, an alliance with the natives they met that had taught them the survival skills they needed in this new land. They were soul piercingly thankful to God - and very likely to the natives and to each other for all that had been accomplished - even though they had suffered tremendous losses as well.


Being thankful when life is challenging is a difficult practice, but a potentially life-altering one. If you would like to walk deeper in that direction, read One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp – a book that journeys through grueling tragedy into true thankfulness.


So, what am I soul piercingly thankful for? What are those things that can bring joy to my heart and tears to my eyes?


  • A God who loves me more than I can possibly comprehend, who brings me joy and peace in the midst of chaos, and to whom most of my thankfulness is directed.
  • A husband (Mike) who is intentional in finding ways to make me feel cherished, supported, and protected.
  • My son, Ryan, who is not only alive beyond any expectations, but who is also a man of character…and fun…despite the pain he deals with on a daily basis.
  • The staff at DTI who share my heart for those who are struggling to learn. It is truly a privilege to have them on my team.
  • The students that I have worked with and their families. I am thankful that I have been able to help them, but I am also thankful for the richness they have brought into my own life.
  • And yes, the beautiful fall foliage I am looking at right now through my office window! The natural world God created can feed my soul.


What makes you thankful may not be anything like these, but it will be well worth starting your own list. You can start with what you are grateful for - maybe just one thing a day - and as you meditate on these things, you may find the beginnings of soul-piercing thankfulness, as well.


Let the joy of that surprise and fill you.





Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director 

    Sept./ Oct. 2017




What an awful topic!


We all had it growing up, and we are now either giving it to our students or spending an inordinate amount of time helping our children with it. I am not going to spout off research data or debate the issue. What I do know is that there are not just facts involved, but emotions as well - sometimes BIG emotions. Let me share my journey and some perspective.


I am one of those students who actually likes to learn. I know. I am weird like that! Much of the learning process growing up was intuitive to me. I had homework, but it was minimal. I don’t even remember having homework in elementary school. I don’t know if they just didn’t assign it, or that I just forget doing it. I remember homework in high school, but I was able to get most of it done during study hall, so it did not consume much of my after-school time.


Then came parenthood in a whole new generation of educational systems. I home schooled my boys, one (Ryan) all the way through. The other two went to public high school. So, I don’t know homework policies from their generation of elementary schools, and their high school experiences with homework seemed to be similar to mine. But, I do remember teaching Ryan.


The process of learning for Ryan was anything but intuitive. If he had been in the classroom, his entire day would have been consumed with tasks he could not manage. He struggled working with me one-on-one, never mind working independently. For him, school tasks were equated with torture. He tried every strategy to get out of them: charm me (he has always been a charmer and funny!), be passive aggressive (“Sure, I’ll do it” and then he didn’t), and rebellion. By the time he was a teenager he was convinced that we hated him! I know that it is unproductive to look back and blame ourselves; but we can look back and learn.


Now that Ryan is an adult, we have spoken a lot about those days growing up and the rebellion we ended up dealing with. He told me that the source of his behavior was his learning challenges. So many of the things he had to do were like walking on hot coals. At the time, I didn’t think I had unrealistic expectations. But now I wonder. Did I have unrealistic expectations? Did I push him too hard? We need to have expectations, but they need to be balanced with compassion, understanding, and wisdom. We need to see the difference between what they can do with help and what they cannot. (Aside: professional help from an educational therapist may assist in gaining some valuable perspective).


Think about the struggling learner in today’s educational world. They are in school 6-8 hours a day. Then, they come home and get started on their homework, take a break for dinner, and then get back to it…even as early as second grade! Out of a sixteen-hour day (assuming they sleep for eight hours), they are “working” at least 12 hours, with many working the entire sixteen hours! That breaks my heart. They “work” more hours than most adults. And…adults get paid!


And what about the parents? They are often having to reteach what the student was unable to learn during the day (a daunting task), so they have little time to just have fun with their children – to really spend time together having natural conversation. Relationships risk becoming one dimensional – all task oriented.


That is where my heart is right now. I am concerned about the relational health of our families today. Do we eat together, play together, talk to each other and really have opportunity to build quality relationships? I know, I felt guilty that Ryan was not learning as quickly as his peers, and there were definitely times I (wrongly) placed that guilt on him or pressured him to do more than he really could handle! I can see that now.


It seems to me that the “system” is broken and everyone is caught in a lose-lose situation. Students are overwhelmed. Parents are exhausted. Teachers are pressured to produce results, cover the material and keep moving. Expectations are high.


As individuals, we may not be able to fix the system, but we do have to deal with it. So, as individuals, there are a few questions we can ask.



  • Can I build time into the day so I can help my students with skill building and application of the material I’ve covered so they will not have as much to do at home?
  • Does each assignment I require for them to do at home really have a purpose? What is that purpose?
  • How can I differentiate homework to fit the needs of all of my students (not just those who learn like me) and still meet learning goals? Some curriculum actually offer different learning activities and assignments for different learning styles, yet still cover the same subject matter.



  • What would happen if I limit how much time is spent per assignment for my child – placing limits on their time and energy demands?
  • How is homework assessed/graded by the teacher/school?
  • Am I doing their homework for them rather than helping them learn how to do it for themselves? How do I balance that time pressure?
  • Am I putting too much pressure on them too young or am I helping them to develop self-discipline and self-efficacy skills necessary for them to mature appropriately?
  • How can I advocate for them with their teachers in order to make homework more reasonable? More effective?
  • Am I protecting their boundaries so they have time for activities that are meaningful to them?


None of these questions are intended to induce guilt or shame, but rather to help us think about the way things are done and make wise decisions for our children moving forward.


Homework is one of life’s challenges that you need to face together, with wisdom, balance, and appropriate advocacy. Our children need us to love them, play with them, challenge them to grow, and protect them as they learn how to advocate for themselves and mature into the young men and women of character they are created to be.


I know I can’t change the past. What Ryan and I struggled through together is over now. He and I have learned from the pain of the past, the mistakes, and the daily choices to put relationship first, school second. That doesn’t mean ignoring responsibilities, but appropriately balancing them. High school was challenging, but we did it – without killing each other!


What both of us did right was forgive each other for the mistakes and the hurts, and chose to make time to do things together that were fun or meaningful. We still do that and I am so very thankful that we not only love each other, but we like each other too.


Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director 

         August 2017



Go Ahead...Dance!


             I danced with Ryan in the kitchen at 5:45 this morning. I woke up earlier than usual and came into the kitchen while my husband and our son, Ryan, were getting ready to leave for the gym. Ryan, as usual, was streaming a cappella music on his music app. If you have never heard the song “Sing” by Pentatonix, I highly recommend that you watch their video of it on YouTube. The song just evokes joy. I dare you to watch it and not smile! Well, this morning I could not listen to it and not dance! Ryan saw me and couldn’t help but join in. When the song was over he gave me an exuberant hug. Even remembering it now fills me with joy.


Have you ever heard the expression, “It’s the little things in life…”?


Little things. 


     They can also drive you crazy. 


             Maybe for you it’s someone leaving dirty clothes on the floor. I had a professor in a marriage and family life class in college who called them “tremendous trifles”. I’ll never forget one of his examples because that became me and my husband. I squeeze the toothpaste from the bottom. He squeezes it from the top. My professor said that these tremendous trifles – little things – can cause silly little arguments. One spouse becomes critical of the other, and voices it…often. The little things can become big things.


             For toothpaste, there is a simple solution: each person has their own tube. Simple. Other tremendous trifles may not have simple solutions. However, often in the midst of the tremendous trifles there are the wonderful little things.


             You walk into your child’s room where there are clothes and other “stuff” strewn all over the floor. Maybe you cannot even see the floor. But then, your toddler sees you and comes running in for a hug.


Your elementary aged child sees you and says, “Mom, come see what I just did!”


Your middle schooler looks up, sees you and gives a huge grin.


Your teenager looks up, gives a small smile, says

  “Hey mom” then puts their head back into their book or phone.


             Some of us are really good at recognizing these little things for what they are – wonderful! Others of us can only see the results of the hurricane that hit the room, we hit the roof taking one more step toward damaging our relationship with our child or spouse. Inadvertently we train our loved ones to not feel pleasure at seeing us.


So, how do we turn this around? How do we handle the “tremendous trifles”?


By putting relationship first.


             It takes recognizing our patterns and disciplining ourselves to find something –

anything that is positive, and focus on that.


  • My husband went food shopping and brought home the wrong mayonnaise. Instead of saying “You got the wrong thing” (unfortunately my first reaction), I am learning to not even mention it. Instead I try to focus on the time he saved me, the effort he put in to help, and thank him for going to the store. I can be more specific next time.
  • My son who lives in another state calls me after I’ve not heard anything from him in over a month. My first impulse, “It’s about time you called!” or something like that, which creates guilt and actually makes it less likely he will keep in touch more frequently. Instead, I express pleasure in hearing from him with my tone of voice and engage in conversation as if this is nothing unusual. I loved hearing from him.
  • When Ryan was little, he would come to me, covered in unspeakable substances, proudly showing me the creature he had found – frog, salamander, snake, spider – you can just imagine! Instead of recoiling in horror (my first impulse), I examined the creature, trying to enter his curiosity and joy of life. I’ll recoil later.


             There was a significant time in life when Ryan was in such a bad place that learning was torture, and he wasn’t handling it well. It affected, infected, the whole family. We were not dealing with tremendous trifles, but major life issues.


             When we are in a place like that, it is even more important that we do not let the tremendous trifles become building bricks in the walls of our relationships. It is even more important that we…


Look for the little things

Create the little things

Maximize the little things

     Invest in the little things

Be thankful!


             These little things can bring light into the darkness, joy in the midst of pain, breathing hope that relationships will endure, grow, even flourish. The investment is so worthwhile.



  • Focus on the things you love about them instead of those that annoy you
  • Hold back the critical comments
  • Dance in the kitchen and maybe even sing along
  • Smile back at them
  • Give hugs (if they will let you!)
  • Ask them to teach you something that they enjoy
  • Find something to laugh about or enjoy together


Since I was a child I have loved to dance - Ryan chose to enter in and enjoy my little thing.

I am still filled with joy.


Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director 

June/July 2017




So, summer is here and school vacation has begun (unless you are a year-rounder!). Your child has been assigned work to do over the summer – summer reading, math worksheets, etc. But what if your child is academically behind their peers? Do you have them do more? If so, what?


One of my biggest regrets involves the summer when our son Ryan (my struggling learner) was 15. We were homeschooling for high school as our research had indicated that there was no other educational environment feasible for him with his particular needs. That school year had been a nightmare of trying to get his cooperation to do school work. He had been recently diagnosed with ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). He was charming, delightful and fun loving…until we would tell him what he had to do. Then he stuck his chin out and refused – sometimes passive-aggressively, sometimes outright. Toward the end of the school year we had learned quite a bit about how to communicate with him in such a way that he would not fight back, and how to work on healthy boundaries for him. The school year ended peacefully.


But then came summer.


He had missed quite a bit of school in his rebellion and we needed to make that time up. So, I designed a “light” summer schedule of a couple of hours a day. He would have none of it. His brothers didn’t have to do school, so why should he? It didn’t matter that they had summer reading to do, and even a book report to write. All he saw was them having fun. That led to one of the darkest seasons in our raising of Ryan.


Looking back, I wish that I had backed off for the summer.


So, how DO you decide how much to require and how much to ease up?


There really is no simple answer. It depends on your parenting style, the personality of your child, and how much pressure they have already been under. Some parents are drill sergeants: their word is law and they often do not listen really well. Some parents are so eager for their children to feel loved, or feel guilty for how little time they have with their children, that they do not provide enough guidance, so the children rule their home. Sergeants need to loosen up and listen, eager parents need to tighten up and learn to provide direction and boundaries. Most parents fall somewhere between the extremes.


For me, it was unwittingly putting too much pressure on Ryan. I thought my expectations were reasonable. But, he did not. For almost any other child, I would have been correct - I wouldn’t back down.  Indeed, for most struggling learners, repetition is very important. But not always. There are other factors that need to be taken into consideration.


It is healthy to have expectations for summer vacation – for us as leaders of the home, as well as for the children learning from us. Know yourself and know your child. But have you asked yourself, “do I expect too much or do I expect too little?“  Unfortunately, resentment toward you and the process of learning can arise from a child who perceives that he is the “only one” having to work when “everyone else” is playing.


Struggling learners, especially, need to be watched for symptoms of being overwhelmed. The school year may have been so stressful for them that they desperately need a break. Then, as the summer nears the end, you can gradually help them ease back into the school year. Some of these students see “light” summer assignments as manageable because they can see that there is so much free time to enjoy the summer as well. Those who have recently become involved in a helpful intervention may need to continue, especially for the first summer, in order to keep the momentum. Still, the opportunity for fun and less structure is there!


Learning to tell the difference, being discerning of your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your child’s, will truly help you to then have the wisdom to decide how much is enough. So, I am not going to give specific recommendations regarding what to do and for how long each day. There are too many factors involved. But I will say, make it as “fun” as possible. For example, if you have a daily reading time (preferably for the whole family, not just the struggling learner), have them read “easy” books on topics that interest them.


Researchers have found that allowing your child to “become bored” is actually not a bad thing. It can give them the time to become creative and use their imagination, much like a toddler who explores their surroundings and makes music out of the kitchen pots and pans!


Additional resources on the subject:


The down side of no down time for kids:



Five ways a kid can benefit from being outside this summer break:



Psychologist recommend children become bored in the summer: 




Finally, in the busy-ness of summer, make sure to make great family memories with vacations or day trips, and reading interesting books together as a family. We want our children to be curious and to love to learn. However, someday formal schooling will be over. Families will not. Guide your children. Love your children. Enjoy your children. My boys are now men, and we still enjoy each other. A goal worth striving for. 


Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director

May 2017




You know, I am just not motivated to plant a garden. I like fresh food. We eat organically as much as possible (yes, I am one of those people!). I have friends with small gardens and I treasure the produce they share. However, I am convinced that I have a “black thumb”. I vividly remember my last attempt. The leaves of my tomato plants had white and black spots. The few tomatoes that grew got eaten by bugs, birds, and…yes…my dogs! Who knew?


This was five years ago now. I have absolutely no desire to try again.


Ryan was just not motivated to read. He has always loved a good story. He will listen to audio books all day! He has parents who love to read and love to read to him. However, he was convinced that he could not do it himself. He read slowly, laboriously, guessing words based on the beginning letters and the context. If he could have gotten away with it, he would have loved to tell me, his home schooling mother/teacher, “The dog ate my homework!”


How do you motivate someone who has become convinced that what comes easily to you is absolutely torture for him?


Honestly, it depends on the person!


With gardening, I have a choice. I do not have to raise my own food. I can go to the store and buy it. Students do not have that choice. School is their full-time job. They have to attend and do the work. At this point we could get into the interesting avoidance techniques that many students employ: cheating, manipulation, procrastination, rebellion - but the key to helping these students is to understand the why behind the avoidance.


Is it a character or personality issue? Do they expect life to be handed to them with little or no effort on their part? Do they have the necessary skills to be successful, but choose not to? There are so many far more interesting things to do than school work: socializing, gaming, sports, looking cool, superheroes, insects, motor vehicles of all types, and the list goes on...


Or, is it that as smart as they are, they do not have the skills to be successful? No matter how hard they try, they cannot immediately see the difference between “what” and “that”, or recognize that 6/8 is the same as 3/4, never mind how to get there. And, there are still those “far more interesting things” that are pulling at their attention.


If there are skills missing it is important to determine where those gaps are and why. This means inviting other professionals to the team to assess, and then others to create treatment plans to help the student grow. Many times, just the fact that there is a plan in place is enough to spark self-motivation in that student. The plan brings hope!


Warm, enthusiastic, engaging and positive parents, teachers, and therapists can give a student encouragement and the opportunities for success that can strengthen motivation. Coldness, negativity, and harsh words and body language on the other hand, can crush students and make them ask, “Why try?” Knowing they are cared for no matter how successful they are makes a huge difference! Children are naturally curious, but that curiosity can be squelched at an early age, especially in a negative environment or if the motivation is purely rewards based (extrinsic). So, find out what interests them and tap into those interests. Learning, itself, should be rewarding and fun!


There are books and more books written about motivation. One that I highly recommend for those who love and work with struggling learners is Motivation Breakthrough by Rick Lavoie. He does an excellent job of helping us learn how to tune-in those who are tuned-out by understanding the different ways that people are motivated! [Resource]


            I will likely never plant a garden again. I don’t have to in order to survive and I am just not motivated enough to put in the time and hard work necessary to be successful. But I am motivated in other areas where I pour out my heart and soul, time and energy. Ryan is an adult now, and he has found those things as well. One of those things is still not sitting down and reading a book.  However, spending time with his parents is, and for that I am thankful.



Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director


                                                                                                     March 2017


"Let me start by saying, I was supposed to write this article two weeks ago. I didn’t.


              Some days (okay, maybe most days), it seemed like I was supposed to do a lot of things that I didn’t. I procrastinated. Why?! Why do I do that to myself and to others who are depending on me? Ouch. This is actually painful for me to write about!


              I have a painful memory of procrastinating from years ago. I vividly remember the one and only all-nighter that I pulled in college. I had a research paper due the next day and I had not even started it! I thought it was going to be easy. No problem. Wrong! I didn’t have nearly enough resources and did a terrible job trying to pull things together. I was shocked when the professor had mercy on me and gave me a passing grade. I so did not deserve it! To this day, it is a source of embarrassment to me.


             Twenty years later, I was working on my master’s degree. My husband came home from work one day to find me deep cleaning the stove. The first thing he said was, “Do you have a paper to write?” He knew me so well!


             Defined, procrastination is: “the practice of carrying out less urgent tasks in preference to more urgent ones, or doing more pleasurable things in place of less pleasurable ones, and thus putting off impending tasks to a later time.”1 But this one really gets my attention: procrastination is the avoidance of doing a task that needs to be accomplished. Sometimes, procrastination takes place until the ‘last minute’ before a deadline.”2 And I see it effecting any area of life, whether it’s writing a research paper, cleaning up the kitchen, or talking about a difficult issue with a friend.


            Then, there are a lot of reasons why people procrastinate. Sometimes, it is out of arrogance – like, what happened to me with my college paper. Other times, it is because we make assumptions (or presumptions) of grace extended by others for our tardiness; or we view the task as too difficult or too time consuming. We put it off until “tomorrow” because we (erroneously) believe that we will have more time then. Sometimes, it is because we plan to do too much in a day or have unrealistic expectations - we can’t possibly get it all done. Or

perhaps, it’s lack of motivation; we just don’t feel like it.


            One young lady I knew procrastinated with EVERYTHING. I remember asking her if the consequences of her procrastination just didn’t hurt enough to make her want to change. She agreed - even though she was failing her college classes. She just didn’t care enough.


But what are the costs of procrastination?


It costs me.


            When I put off that which I need to do, it causes me a lot of stress – usually unnecessarily! I live off of adrenaline; constantly in fight or flight mode. When I don’t leave myself enough time, I am chronically late (more on that later!). This hurts my reputation with others. I approach deadlines and end up losing precious down time. Important tasks end up not getting done because I am constantly in crisis mode and keep putting things off.


Worse, is the effect of my procrastination on others.


            When I am late, I am being disrespectful of others whose time is just as precious as mine, if not more so. Thus, I am communicating that I think my time is more important than theirs. When my task (like this article!) is late, it causes stress for my staff who need me to do my part in order for them to finish their tasks, which is unkind and inconsiderate. When I am working late into the evening, my family misses me, never mind having to deal with my grumpiness! Ugh! Looking in the mirror is very uncomfortable.


            Whatever the reason, the truth is: procrastination causes anxiety, guilt, stress (for us and others), failure to succeed, and can leave us feeling bad about ourselves. So now what? What can I do to at least start the process of change?


The first step is to care! I need to recognize how I am hurting myself and others. I have to WANT to change.


            The next step is harder. I have to learn how to prioritize and plan well and then monitor my time. I have recommended this resource before, but it is worth mentioning again: The Smart but Scattered Guide to Success, by Peg Dawson, EdD and Richard Guare, PhD. The book is written for adults, to help us grow in skills just like these. It guides us to take one small step at a time as we gain control in those areas that are seemingly out of control.


I need to read it.





1. www.mindfithypnosis.com/what-is- procrastination/

2. Wikipedia

Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director


                                                                                                     February 2017


Kids can be cruel. I remember growing up and not being as “cool” as other kids. I was smart, but socially awkward. I was loud, obnoxious, and bossy. I was long limbed and gangly – called “Daddy-long-legs” by my classmates in elementary school – not intended to be a complement. I was not easy to love and I hated elementary school!


It is not easy being “low man on the totem pole” or just different for whatever reason – social, physical, cultural, developmental issues, or learning difficulties. It is often painful to feel different, and sometimes the response to being shunned is to act out, making it even more difficult for those who are supposed to love on us to be able to do so.


Perhaps ironically, my first major growth in the area of loving those difficult to love came when I was raising my three sons.


Parenting is challenging under the best of circumstances, but when Ryan (my middle son) reached school age and he absolutely could not learn how to read, we hit a major parenting wall. Little did we know that in addition to congenital heart defects, learning challenges and ADHD, he was also ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). He had difficulty viewing ANYONE as having authority over him. We had to deal with rebellion, not just at the character level, but also at the neurological level. Imagine the terrible two’s and teenage rebellion combined, and on steroids! Being his mother taught me a lot about what it means to love…and how to love those who are, at least at times, unlovable.


I vividly remember frequently crying out to God for help! I wanted to be a good mom…but more than that, I wanted my sons to grow up healthy in every way possible…and I wanted them to know that they were loved. I remember reading 1 Corinthians 13 with my parenting eyes. “Love is patient.” You know, I always thought I was a patient person - until I became a parent! “Love is kind” not “rude”, as I mentally slapped my hand over my mouth. “It is not proud.” I certainly learned how to eat humble pie and apologize. “It is not irritable, and it keeps no records of wrongs.” I had to let go of the little things and learn how to forgive - the little and big things – and then NEVER bring them up again.


I Corinthians 13 is a powerful chapter of the Bible: What does love look like and how do I love others? We all have people in our lives that are difficult to love, often within our own families. My husband and I had to learn how to really love Ryan, unconditionally, and in our case, we were incredibly blessed in that the final outcome was wonderful. We have an amazing relationship with him – open, honest, and yes, loving. And you know, in the process of learning how to love, I think we all became more lovable too.



Exclusive Insights:

From My Heart to Yours

Donna Weston, Founder and Executive Director


January 2017


I love being organized. Okay. The reality is… I love the idea of being organized!  A place for everything and everything in its place. Great concept, right? Execution?  Uhhh… not so good. I put items down on my desk intending to get to them soon. Then, I get frustrated with not being able to see my desktop, so I put things all in one big pile. The result? I lose things!


My good friend and co-worker looks at our company’s electronic folders and gets overwhelmed at the mess that it‘s in - “Where is that document?” Or, my son does his homework, but doesn’t turn it in because he can’t find it. I think you get the picture!


So, what is the big deal? Why am I concerned about this lack of organization? It’s just a factor in our busy lives, right?  


The truth is - It all circles back to relationships.


I can hear you now, “I thought we were focusing on tasks and stuff? What do people have to do with it?” In reality – everything! When I can’t find what I need, or even remember that the needed item already exists and doesn’t need to be re-created, I am being inefficient. When tasks take me longer than they should, I don’t have the time to relax with my husband or play a game with my boys. If I am responsible for a project being completed by a certain time, I am stressed out and those depending on me become stressed.


And the not-turned-in-homework? My son feels embarrassment, shame…oftentimes due to my reaction to his lack of organizational skills. I am upset with him. He gets upset with me. He withdraws from spending time with me. Communication shuts down. No time for relaxing or playing together.


I’m sure you can probably think of other examples of how lack of organization gets in the way of your relationships – including your work relationships. Tensions rise and affect those we care for the most. But should our lack of planning or organization create a crisis or stress for ourselves or someone else?


I have been reading a wonderful resource: Smart but Scattered Guide to Success, the adult version. One of my biggest takeaways is how to make a very small goal and work on mastering that one goal before setting another. You’ve probably heard the old saying: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”  It has also been said: “So instead of trying to eat what’s in the room [the elephant]—start feeding it. One bite at a time.”*


One small goal at a time. It works! I am not saying that I am the master organizer now - like I said, I love the idea of being organized- but I am growing and making progress. And that is success.


My family thanks me.



*Posted March 11th, 2014 by The Robert D.


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