Friday, September 11, 2009

Rob Crawford and Hidden Disabilities 101

Met Rob Crawford, CEO and self-proclaimed "Chief Sarcasm Officer" of Life Development Institute, in person yesterday.

Tall, silver hair, dressed in bright yellow shirt, sunglasses neatly folded up and placed on the table, Crawford exudes "earthy," a word he used himself in describing how he tries to communicate with gifted or otherwise talented students in many age ranges that may feel blocked in their progress in school or society. The calmness belies an intensity about the education business.

We talked about the "pillars" of Life Development Institute so that I could get a handle on what his training classes do. Wait for a video to be posted that gives Crawford's account of where education is misguiding the nation's students. That will be a good one.

Here's what he's doing: there are all of these students, young and old, out there, who may have a learning disability or they may have grown up in an environment that blocks out their abilities because they are not "normal." Instead of encouraging a culture where those students would block out their own abilities and learn to use a "poker face" to get through life, Crawford and his team put effort into helping them access the areas they, by self will, avoid because they seem not to be good at them. For example, a highly functioning learning disabled person who may really be bad at math, but is very good at conversation -- Crawford wants him to avoid a situation in his work life where he is floundering around when, after a promotion, he is now tasked with doing budgets and numbers-focused activities. The illusion he created of having great skill and social dexterity won't normally translate into the budget issue. In short, Crawford tries to get behind that socially functioning mask that disguises the disability so that the full person can function.

The conversation took many wild turns, from the impact of Race to the Top on ancillary services to schools, to the motives of charter schools under the new Obama administration, to erasing poverty in India.

Full video up soon. Here are a couple of key quotes from the conversation:

1. “The goal is to find that safe place where you are able to celebrate who you are and be comfortable. There’s no gang of kids with Asperger’s Sydndrome where you can go and say, 'Oh, there’s my homies.'”

2. "There are boundaries and limitations in the online space. You can create community and put things together in lots of cool ways. But you want to do it in a way that is more than just text messaging and posting pictures to Facebook. You want to be able to get them to use rubric and assessment forms to help them to give feedback. All of those communication skills are part of every work environment, whether it’s a large business or a small business.”

3. "They are not quite sure of the world and they are finding out there is more to these barriers of learning; there could be emotional barriers or mental barriers, as well.”

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1 comment:

AppelBlog said...

I was a student at LDI twenty years ago. If it weren't for LDI I probably wouldn't be the man I am today.