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Providing information, education, and training to build knowledge, develop skills, and change attitudes that will lead to increased independence, productivity, self determination, integration and inclusion (IPSII) for people with developmental disabilities and their families.

The History and Evolution of Behavioral Approaches
and Positive Behavioral Interventions

Derrick Dufresne

Advice to Parents and Self Advocates

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Derrick Dufresne: Well, one of the first things that I talk about a lot when people tell me about advice to parents and people is that I'm not very good at advice because I don't take it very well. And a second thing I say is, "Don't you ever let a professional tell you that you're not an expert on your child."

You know, it's interesting to me, I say this very much tongue in cheek, but I've talked to a lot of parents, and one of the things I say to them is that, "Do you really think that we lay awake nights thinking about how to screw up your kid? Like we say, 'Oh John had a good day yesterday. I have to make sure I screw up his life today'."

So one of the first pieces, if I'm going to give advice is, you need to understand that what makes us so dangerous in your child's life, as professionals, is that we really believe this stuff. We believe our schtick. We know we're right and if you just would go with the program, we could get out of here quicker and we could move this along. We really believe it. So that... that's the first thing you're dealing with. You're dealing with true believers.

Secondly, many parents and people with disabilities may know more about the very things that they're talking to professionals about than professionals know themselves. Particularly for the people that have gone through Partners in Policymaking, like in Minnesota, and other states that have still kept this wonderful, wonderful approach. What happens is we're turning loose legions of people that not only have passion, but they have information. And information is power and information is dangerous to the status quo.

So my second piece of advice is, before you get angry, get strategic. If all you do is yell at the teacher, that's not treating your kid well, and if you never catch that teacher doing something positive, and you don't tell the teacher that, you are a negative reinforcement to that teacher.

We talk about this with kids. We don't talk about it with some...parents, and I know this because my daughter's a speech pathologist and she works a lot with kids with autism. One of the major issues that she struggles with every single day is to try to get the parents behavior... to be line with what we want for their child, and it's about modeling.

And that leads me to my next point. Model the behavior that you want for your loved one. Model the behavior that you want.

And then the final thing I would say, I'm a former real estate broker. And when I got my broker's license in St. Louis in the early '90s, there was 9000 realtors in St. Louis, and there was a hundred of us that were called buyers' brokers that represented buyers. And I saw up front, because the regular brokers hated us because we made it clear that unlike them, whether they said it or not to their client, that their fiduciary fidelity and loyalty was to the seller. Our primary loyalty, fiduciary and fidelity, was to the buyer. We represented buyers because we thought that these buyers needed representation.

One of the things that I say all the time, which causes some apoplexy, stress, and internal hemorrhaging amongst professionals, is that people that are paid by the government and paid through public dollars, unless they go directly to the person or the family, work for the seller. We work for the seller. We're not engaged unless the money comes from the government to the person and they purchase the services from us, we're not engaged by the buyer. So there's going to be a dynamic tension.

And I tell parents and advocates all the time, don't apologize for it, but don't put people down who are professionals either, because they have a job to do. And thank people when they do something good. Catch professionals being good. Write thank you notes. Don't always come with a request.

Sometimes parents burn bridges when they could be building bonds. And so I'm really pretty...I won't say hard, but I'm pretty direct with families as well. Just look at your own behavior and don't let your own anger, your own frustration... spill over to a professional that's simply trying to do their job, particularly if they're doing right by your child. That would be my advice, is to catch people being good.

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The GCDD is funded under the provisions of P.L. 106-402. The federal law also provides funding to the Minnesota Disability Law Center,the state Protection and Advocacy System, and to the Institute on Community Integration, the state University Center for Excellence. The Minnesota network of programs works to increase the IPSII of people with developmental disabilities and families into community life.