New Year, New Ideas

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Kaarin Anderson Ryan, PhD, BCBA.     1.3.20

Time for a new year, a new decade.  Time for making resolutions you may or may not keep, and making plans for all things to come in 2020.  It’s a great idea to look at the new year as a blank page, a time to think about what you can do differently, what you can do better, what you can do more and what you can do less.  It is a good time to take stock of the things that have been going well and the things that have brought joy in the past year, to build on those things to move forward and a positive and productive way.

New Year’s resolutions date back nearly 4000 years, with ancient Babylonians making sacrifice and promises to the gods for the coming year.  This also happened in ancient Rome 2000 years ago with feasts and celebrations welcoming the new year with promises to the god Janus.  In the Middle Ages, the knights would renew their vows as part of the incoming new year ceremonies.  Modern New Year’s resolutions became popular in the early 1800’s, with people making personal commitments to themselves for improvement in the coming year.  These days, 45% of Americans report making resolutions for the new year, but only 8% complete them.

New Ideas

Some say that the best way to keep your New Year’s resolution – or any resolution – is to keep it simple, realistic and specific.  For example, a fitness goal might be to go to the gym 2 times a week or to walk 10,000 steps a day at least 5 days a week.  A social goal might be to do something with a friend outside work once a week, even if it’s just coffee, lunch or a walk.

While I believe that personal specific resolutions are a wonderful thing, and encourage everyone to try to make and accomplish them, this year I’ve been wondering about how many people make resolutions for giving back to their communities. I’m not talking about charitable donations, but about time and energy.  Because one of my primary interests professionally has been supporting people with different needs, I have seen a lot of positive changes with how much more accepting people and communities are of those who have different needs.  But, there is still room for improvement.  Some of this improvement may need to happen with the support of mental health professionals, educators, and policy makers.  But some things can change with a little effort from everyone else, too.

What if every single person in the country made a resolution to do one thing to help someone with a special need, or a group of people with special needs?  Imagine the impact that would have.

My simple, realistic and specific resolution:  Do one thing this year outside work to make a difference for special needs in my community.

You may wonder how to even connect with communities and groups, or how to do one thing in the coming year to make a difference.  You could start by looking into local organizations who support people with special needs, including local Autism Society chapters, Down Syndrome Association chapters,  and other organizations who support special needs on a local level.  There are also lots of national organizations who do good work for special needs.  You could help out by volunteering one time, participating in a fundraiser, or running in a 5K to support these groups.  They always need help, and they would welcome any time you are able to give.  Here are some great national organizations who do wonderful things to help people with special needs.  Consider adding a resolution this year to make a difference, even just one time, to make a difference to people who will always need a little extra support!

  1.  Autism Society of America
  2. Special Olympics
  3. National Down Syndrome Association
  4. Tim Tebow Foundation Night to Shine
  5. Easter Seals
  6. Ventures Travel (help people with special needs with travel adventures)
  7. The Arc
  8. National Collaborative on Workforce and Disability for Youth
  9. United Cerebral Palsy
  10. Friendship Circle
  11. Goodwill International
  12. Wounded Warrior Project (to support our veterans who have sustained physical/cognitive impairment serving our country)

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