JACQUELINE SHOHET, Ph.D., PSYCHOLOGIST
Former member of the Executive Board of the Orange County Learning Disabilities Association
Dr. Shohet passed away in October, 2003.
Today, evidence is continuously presented to substantiate a philosophy of ancient peoples that we are one with our earth and all within it. Native Americans believe that we belong to the earth rather than that the earth belongs to us.
The moment of conception – at the union of the egg and sperm – begins the dynamic interrelation with our world as new life is created. (The controversy continues about abortion.) The new individual, the fetus, begins to interact with its surrounding environment and with all its inner elements. Mother sings, the fetus reacts; mother contracts a disease, the fetus reacts; mother ingests toxic matter, the fetus reacts.
In turn, the fetus alters it surrounding environment: mother is nauseated, her physical body changes, her blood supply and blood pressure alter, her emotions fluctuate. The fetus carries the heredity presented by the egg and sperm union which may impact the condition of the fetus as well as the status of its mother and eventually the total environment of the new individual.
At birth, the fetus, now called a child, carries with it the development of its own internal-external processes and physiology, brain-body biochemistry interactions, and all aspects of body structures – blood flow, movement, digestion, body temperature regulation, sight, sound, tactual-kinesthetic sensitivity, emotions, feelings, memory, capacity of learning – to list only a few of the child’s inner relationships.
The newborn child, by it presence, alters the environment by its noise, its food demand, its movements and seizure of space, its need for water and air, its interrelationships with others, its soiling, and its impact on all of the surrounding world.
To live effectively, we need to understand our inner dynamics as well as our impact on the world about us. We create changes – some are beneficial, such as better health practices which extend our lives; we discover comforts that bring pleasure and happiness. But we also harm our world by quick-fix approaches, proliferation of harmful substances and procedures that create a legacy of damage for our future because we did not anticipate or evaluate for long-term effects. For example, we dislike spiders and kill them, without being aware that they act as a control against a proliferation of harmful insects – mosquitoes that cause infections of malaria and encephalitis as well as house flies that bring numerous diseases. The absence of spiders requires us to use insecticides that poison us and our world. Currently entomologists are reproducing lady bugs to control harmful insects that damage plants, thus avoiding the use of environmentally harmful insecticides.
We have begun to question the impact of our practices as they may facilitate benefits or bring about damage to all stages of human and animal life. We note deformities, disabilities and maladaptions in increasing numbers. We ask why there is an increase in the incidence of children who have learning disabilities, autism, and attention deficit disorders. We note the use of mercury, lead, food chemicals, etc., poor nutrition and lack of medical care for many persons in our population. To answer these questions, we often accept quick-fix solutions.
We do attempt to rehabilitate and educate children who are impaired and who have been diagnosed as having learning disabilities and other handicaps. However, we are made aware of the high costs of their special education programs. At present, there are many persons seeking to cut back on the services for handicapped youngsters. There seems to be little regard for the ramifications of not providing remedial education to assist the handicapped children to learn effectively. Over time this curtailment of service can result in even greater social costs as the youngsters, who are poorly taught and lack skills, become dependents on society. Without marketable skills, the young people have difficulty finding employment and may slip into the welfare system, homelessness, and the justice system. Special education, in the long run, properly conducted, is an effective, economical support for the disabled young people to insure their transition into productive roles in society.
We cannot separate from the world about us; we are one with all its elements. To live effectively requires that we respect all aspects of ourselves – the inner processes and outer relationships – and all aspects of our environment with honesty, integrity, and humility. We can emulate the code of the medical profession, “DO NO HARM,” if we focus on understanding the problems, and the outcomes of our actions over time rather than giving in to impulsive practices.
The earth is our home, we belong to it, and when we try to understand our interrelationships with the earth and all who inhibit it, we can learn to live in peace. ###
JACQUELINE SHOHET, Ph.D
Orange County Learning Disabilities Association Newsletter Vol. 41, No. 4