Post written by Howard Wakkinen, Graduate Credit Chair and President-Elect

Scott Hamilton said, “The only disability in life is having a bad attitude.” This quote rings true for me in many ways. Being a school psychologist, you might think that I am a firm believer in “disabilities,” “diagnoses,” and “areas of qualification.” I understand the need to have a set of criteria that allows students to qualify for specialized services in order for professionals to have a way to communicate. However, students are not their areas of qualification or their disabilities. It is infuriating to hear professionals discuss “that LD kid” or “that ADHD kid” instead of speaking in people-first language (i.e., the student who struggles with… or the kiddo who has challenges with…). While I have worked with numerous students (and staff) with challenges, I choose not to call these challenges disabilities or diagnoses. In addition to striving to always use people-first language, the words we use to describe challenges are very powerful and significantly impact each of us. For our students, the words we use to describe their needs most definitely influences how they perceive themselves and their overall attitude toward school, goals, and those with whom they work.

With that being said, my hope in writing this post is for each of us to reflect and do an attitude check. Ask yourself (or better yet, have your significant other answer for you 😉 the following questions? 1) How is my attitude? 2) Am I modeling resilience and problem-solving with the language I use? 3) Do I use people-first language to show respect for each individual I serve? 4) Am I approaching this new school year as just another year within the seasons of time or am I exhibiting enthusiasm for the many opportunities I will have to learn, grow, and progress? 5) Am I goal-oriented and excited to implement changes this year that will challenge myself and colleagues to improve for the overall benefit of students?

May each of us enjoy the new school year and approach each day with an attitude of gratitude. When we need an attitude check, call a colleague and remind yourself why you entered the field. Each day is a chance to change the world and whether we like to admit it or not, each of us changes the world. The choice is ours if we want to change things positively or not.