He is My Teacher

Yesterday was the kind of day that had brought so much emotion. Maybe it had more to do with the series of events leading up to it, but either way, that is where I had arrived. It was time for our night time routine and my son had earned a sleepover with me since he had enough stickers. Now, don’t judge: I am desperately trying out new things to encourage positive behaviors. This is our new method. Negative reinforcement just gets lost, there have been way too many treats given out, and this is what I have left. Anyway, after spending over an hour trying to convince him to clean up all the money from Monopoly that covered my kitchen floor, it was  most definitely time for bed.   

Silhouette of child on the beach, holding his hands up, towards the sun 
Every night I do our usual prayer and sayings, but last night was so different. I try to mix them up for a reason, but trust me, this does not ever go unnoticed when I do so. After we went through the whole routine I decided to just lay with him until he fell asleep. 

It’s not that I don’t or haven’t had concern that my son has been diagnosed with ASD, it’s that some days it just hits all over again.

Choosing Your Child Over the Judgement of Others

Like many times in life, you come upon a fork in the road. One choice leads you down a certain path and the other choice leads you down a very different road. Finding out your child has autism is complex enough, but eventually we all come to the same fork in the road. Do I choose my child or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals, those judgmental people around me?

This sounds simplistic, but parents realize almost immediately after the diagnosis that you are judged, alienated, and sometimes even rejected by your peers and perhaps even family. It hurts because you know your child cannot help the ‘tantrums’ when the baby in the grocery store won’t stop screaming. Or that your child’s complete lack of athletic skills will never match the soccer mom’s expectation of a friendly neighborhood soccer game. So eventually you and your child are excluded.

When these and many, many other similar situations would arise I realized my son would elicit these judgmental looks from people as a certainty because the autism was not going to be going away. So, we chose our child over others’ perceptions of what we should be.

As soon as our family as a unit took that path everything became easier! I no longer worried about others’ lack of knowledge when it comes to sensory issues or brain function. We as a family would have our own fun. Quirky doesn’t bother me anymore, in fact it’s almost cool and definitely a relief.

Together our family is a strong unit accepting and excelling in my son’s unique interests. Our family weekends are no longer with people that make for awkward or unforgiving situations, but we welcome anyone who would like to be with us just as we are! Now, many years later, the same families who alienated us for the differences, have surprisingly praised our strong family unit, ’hiccups’ and all!

By Jennifer Allen

Special Education Law: What You Need to Know

Just recently I was given this scenario from the Doctorate program from which I am attempting to earn a specialization in Special Education. Let’s imagine, if you can, that You are the Director of Special Education and a family has just moved into the school district. In this scenario, the parent has asked for his child to be tested for possible special education services due to reading difficulties. The elementary school principal has told a parent that his child does not need to be referred for testing since the school is utilizing the Responsiveness to Intervention Model (RTI). The parent, as reported by the special education teacher, is very upset. The student has had difficulties with reading for a number of years. This is the third time a parent has requested services and both the principal and reading interventionist have refused to allow the special educator to start the referral process.

Child Education

As a parent of children on the autism spectrum and as a professional working with children and parents of children with special needs, it is an interesting and pertinent scenario to explore. Not only for the sake of understanding you and your child’s rights under the law, but to better understand the foundation of the education system and where it seems to fall short.

The following will be discussed: the legal issues that are involved when assessments are requested and denied; the support that should be provided to the special education teacher; and what training should be provided to the principal.

The Ups and Downs of Parenting ASD Children: Those Kind of Days

Some days I wake up and feel truly blessed. I mean it. When I look back on the early days, I remember being so very overwhelmed. These days, those kind of days, are few and far between. If I could tell my younger self a few golden words of wisdom, I would tell her: “You Got This!”

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At the time, it felt insurmountable. It felt like a bad joke that these littles were placed into my care. Like there were so many other factors that made my life difficult, why would God want to put them into our lives. Well, I guess it was so I could grow. A seed grows better with a little manure.

I remember times when my kids would have meltdowns in the middle of the market.

How to Use Visual Supports for Social Skills Training

Many school students carrying the diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome exhibit challenges in the area of social interactions and social skills. These social difficulties are worrisome for parents and family members who look for supports to address these challenges. Struggles in the school setting often center on their child’s inability to “fit in” with other students or an inability to grasp social expectations from their teachers and peers. Additionally, their child’s feelings of high anxiety and stress can make the learning environment challenging for them and the people around.

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Over time, I’ve listened to concerns from parents and teachers regarding a student’s lack of understanding when it comes to social situations in the classroom environment. This often leads to isolation and the need for behavior support.

There is information in the literature that suggests both adult and peer mediated techniques to teach and build social skills in children with autism.

The Power of Conversation

Before I started this blog I was in a place where I felt alone and had nobody to relate to. Since then I have met so many amazing people and families. I have had the opportunity to talk with and meet many people who were in the same place I once was when this journey began. I love sharing my story and feel honored to have many share theirs with me along the way. Often times I get phone calls from friends or professionals who think that I should meet a certain family. It touches my heart in so many ways, and I am so lucky to have that opportunity.

However, not everyone is in this situation, I know I never used to be. Important interactions with others are not always planned out. Unless we put our phones down, pick our heads up, and share our stories we will never know all the amazing moments and conversations that could have been.

I don’t put a sign on anyone’s neck, nor do I shout form the rooftops what is going on in my house. Okay so maybe with the exception of this blog. Lol! The point is that you never know what someone’s situation of life experience has been, so be sure to walk through life with your eyes wide open.

The other week we were at a kids’ play place and I noticed a dad intensely following around his child. I recognized his behavior in myself, that dad on high guard with his child used to be me. At one point our children were both in the same area so I put down my phone and walked near them, mostly just to make sure that both kids were going to be okay together. While I do get to relax and stay seated more in public spaces now, I know my children, and felt the shift was necessary.

Three Useful Technology Resources to Boost Exercise

Asperger's, Technology, and Exercise

Technology and exercise? I know what you are thinking, how can I use a fitness product like a smart watch or fitness bracelet to get my child to exercise? Do I need to or am I financially able to purchase a fitness product like that? What if they don’t like it or use it and I’ve already spent the money buying it. Is there setup of the product or is it ready for use?

running and technology

Technology can be overwhelming but can also be very useful. The amount of fitness products out there is tremendous, but they each serve a purpose and a specific fit for someone. Today’s discussion will be on technology use during exercise but it will take a different perspective than you think. 

A Parent’s Perspective on Choosing your Child with Autism Over the Judgment of Others

Many times in our lives, we come upon a fork in the road. One choice leads you down a certain path and the other choice leads you down a very different road. Finding out your child has Autism is complex enough, but eventually we all come to a similar fork in the road. Do I choose my child, or do I choose to please the surrounding neurotypicals, those judgmental people around me?

family, parent, autism

It sounds simplistic but we realized almost immediately after the diagnosis that you can be judged, alienated, and sometimes even rejected by your peers and perhaps even family.

Preventing Meltdowns

Although we have addressed the topic of meltdowns previously, it is a topic that needs to be revisited often, given the intense nature of the meltdown. “People with autism, new research suggests, may have an unusually large and overactive amygdala. This may be one reason why people with autism are easily overstimulated and have a hard time understanding and managing emotions.” – University of Washington

meltdown

This is one of many neurological findings that helps to explain how meltdowns are very different from tantrums. They originate from a neurological place of sensory differences: an over-abundance of neuronal pathways. The brain, whether through too much sensory input, cascading thoughts, chemical overload or some cumulative effect of all of these, gets overwhelmed!

I know individuals with autism can help understand the horror of the meltdown better than any observer. So I would like to refer to Carly Fleischmann for her unique perspective. The following is an excerpt from her website:

Finding the Functions of Behavior in ASD Children

When a child with Aspergers or High-Functioning Autism demonstrates challenging behaviors, we tend to blame the child’s autism. However, these challenging behaviors are not a byproduct of autism, rather learned due to ineffective means to get needs met—especially when there are barriers to communication.

functions of behavior

Bottom line: if an individual does not have a way to communicate appropriately, he or she will find a way to communicate in another way (e.g. screaming or hitting).

Keeping in mind the ABCs of behavior from our previous post, let’s discuss the key to changing behavior.