Auditory Discrimination

Anxiety

Communication

Behavior As Communication

June 22, 2016
8634577 - the road home.surreal poster.apple, branch, and the worm.

In the language of Autism we talk a great deal about behavior as communication, and even more about “challenging” behavior and what it communicates.

There are countless articles that define specific behaviors, that categorize “challenging” behaviors and that address specific behaviors that are common for autistic children and adults.  We are taught to look for clues in the environment and within recent events for things that might have contributed to the behavior. We are trained to be behavior sleuths. Guardians of structure and routine. Creators of various visual cues and keepers of the therapeutic appointment.

However, in all of these examples there is a one line of communication that we sometimes forget to discuss:

What is your behavior communicating? 

Several years ago while sitting in a waiting room with my son awaiting a play therapy session I observed a mother and son arrive and check in at the reception. The child appeared a few years old than my boy and the two sat in the play area together briefly. I said hello to the mother. She was well dressed with pale blonde hair and very soft-spoken. After a few minutes the therapist came out and called her boy’s name. When he was directed away from playing he began to shout and stomp. This doesn’t phase me, I am no stranger to the difficulties of transition especially in a new environment, but  the mother seemed terribly embarrassed and apologized to me and the therapist several times. I assured her it was fine but was saddened by the depth of the child’s struggle, he was simply enraged, and the strange way the mother was approaching him, even as the therapist tried to guide her. Her cheeks were a deep shade of red, her body was tense, lips pursed, language very direct and pointed. Her anger was palpable even across the waiting room. After some time the mother and child left, canceling their appointment. Perhaps 20 minutes later, just as we were going back into the office, an uniformed officer approached the receptionist and said that there had been reports of a blonde woman hitting a child in a car in the parking lot and they were trying to gather information about who she might have been.

Whenever we talk about behavior as communication, we must start that journey by looking in detail at our own behavior and our own level of understanding. Communication takes at least two people, and when both are confused about the message neither can move forward.  While we cannot change the stressors of the world or how our children respond in a moment, we can make a choice about how we react and what we teach in that moment. If we are angry, embarrassed, impatient and unwilling to apply compassion we are teaching anger, shame, guilt and inflexibility. Ultimately  what our children remember is not the stress of the moment but the love, or the lack of love, they receive from us.

Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte

 

Click here For more on understanding Autism, Parenting and the Brain 

HALT – A Behavior Checklist 

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Bias and The Hemispheres

June 16, 2016
left and right brain functions concept, analytical vs creativity

Most of us, at one time or another, have been introduced to the idea of the left brain / right brain theory that says that the left brain pilots your creative thinking  and your right brain pilots your analytical thinking. This idea is a sort of literal look at how the hemispheres of the brain work and draws on studies conducted using an EEG (electroencephalogram, a test used to detect electrical activity in the brain) to monitor the areas of the brain that light up during certain activities. Researchers might, for instance, take a group of people connect them to the EEG and then have them watch a heart warming family film. As pleasurable images cause the brain to light on the left side, they draw the conclusion that positive emotion is a left brain function. The same group, when asked to watch a slasher film full of distressing images, show activity on the right side and so negative emotion becomes a right brain function.  While it is important to remember that while the largest measurable activity might have taken place in a specific location and so designated left or right brain accordingly, the brain is a dynamic organ with activity throughout. There is also the problem of the limits of our technology and rudimentary understanding of the way the brain actually works. So while we attribute left and right, it’s important to keep those factors in mind.

As I move into a discussion of the pre-frontal cortex and emotions and sensory input it is important to talk about the hemispheres and also to return to the amygdala and look again at its functions. Imagine if you will a large network of computer cables running this way and that, all coming together at a single central power strip where they are plugged in. Along these cords are messages from the body’s various sensory systems: the skin, eyes, ears, nose etc. Once they connect to the power strip it connects to everything else, the whole house, to control the body’s responses and keep the systems safe and running at optimal performance. That central hub of information, the “power strip” in this example, is the amygdala.

It is something of a misnomer that the amygdala is directly related only the to emotion of fear, though it has that reputation. The amygdala relates to the whole panorama of human emotion. However, since the body can put off pleasurable activities, like food and sex, for an indefinite amount of time but must respond to danger immediately, fear is an easy response to study. Within studies of human emotion then, there is a natural negative bias since negative emotions are more viable to survival and so more research has been conducted on them. Since sensory and emotional triggers directly affect decision-making, it is important to keep these biases in mind as we continue to look at the brain, autism and behavior.

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Last Thing I Remember, Part One

June 14, 2016

So, this idea came to my head a while back, and I finally started it up again. While I’m a proud punk, before that I mainly listened to classic rock, and songs with stories always get me. One of the more unique ones is Hotel California by the Eagles. I had the rather random idea to interpret the song as a first-person supernatural horror story, as it mentions unkillable beasts, the singer thinking “this could be heaven or this could be hell”, and a doorman telling him he can die but never escape…so, here’s Part one (the first verse). I’m a bit rusty when it comes to creative writing, but nonetheless thought I’d share it. Enjoy!


Last Thing I Remember

I wish I kept going that night. Kept driving on that dark and lonely highway through the desert, temperature made tolerable thanks to a cool breeze. But how could I know what would happen? I was tired and slightly high, and that cyclopean light drew me like a moth to a flame. Why would I think something bad would happen in the oasis of civilization known as the Hotel California?

The Hotel was opulent to the point of being gaudy. It was one large building painted the color of the sand around it, a color which usually would be understated if it weren’t for the ornate gables and other random flourishes, seemingly tacked onto the building because the builder thought there was no such thing as too much when it came to design. All the windows were shuttered, and the shimmering light that had caught my eye came from a rather odd affectation: an ornate mission-style bell illuminated by bright lights. Beautiful yet debauched, the California promised pleasure and hedonism to those within its walls.

When I parked the car in the empty lot, the mission bell rang once, shattering the silence of the desert and making me jump. When I came up to the door, I saw her standing there. Beautiful and sultry, just like the desert around us, with a tempting look in her eye. This could be heaven or this could be hell, I thought to myself as I was looking at her and the California. From the sole illumination of the bell, the hotel loomed over me, its extreme opulence seeming like a beautiful facade that could be hiding something much, much darker underneath. Just as that thought crossed my mind, the woman lit a candle and beckoned to me with a finger. Despite my previous reluctance, I felt a compulsion to follow her into the hotel.

When we got to the door, a decrepit old man in a faded yet ornate uniform opened it for us, saying, “Welcome to the Hotel California!” She all-but ignored the man, leading me into the lobby, where she picked a key from the wall behind the empty desk where an attendant would usually be.

Rather surprised, I asked, “Don’t I need to pay?”

She waved me off, nonchalantly responding, “We have many rooms here, no worries…consider yourself my guest,” she said before continuing down the hall at a brisk pace.

For the first time, I realized that I didn’t know her name. “Who are you exactly?”

After a dismissive laugh, she responded, “You may call me the Master.”

…unsure how to respond, I followed her to my room. The room was somehow elegant and seedy at the same time, with iced pink champagne waiting for me and mirrored ceilings. Pointing up at them, I asked, “Why exactly are those there?”

“You could say that we like to live it up here…it helps heighten the mood,” she told me in an extremely seductive voice. Before I could respond, she slinked out the door. Right as I was about to go to bed, I heard whispers from the corridor. It sounded like they were saying:

Welcome to the Hotel California

Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)

Such a lovely face

Plenty of room at the Hotel California

Any time of year (any time of year) you can find it here

 

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H.A.L.T. A Behavior Checklist

June 13, 2016
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When an infant cries it cannot tell us what the problem might be. It is second nature for parents and caregivers to begin moving our efforts through the checklist:
Is the Baby:

  • Hungry
  • Wet
  • Tired
  • Gassy
  • too hot or too cold

 

At some point though we abandon the infant checklist, relying on a child or person to tell us what they are experiencing. However, even the most self actualized of us may find that  we often miss the cues being given by own bodies. Being unable to step back and see the bigger picture can impair our ability to ask for what we need and instead lead to behavior that is uncharacteristic and confusing.

However, there is a quick and easy checklist for older children and adults that works quiet well, and one that will be very helpful when trying to decipher behavior as communication. It is called H.A.L.T. Your first clue to stop and think before responding to a behavior.

H. – Hungry : 

Anxiety and mood changes can often be traced to changes in blood sugar levels. Everything that we eat is converted into simple sugars (like glucose), fats and amino acids  by your digestive system and then delivered to your tissues and organs to be used as energy. When the body is hungry the amount of glucose available drops. Your brain, unlike your other organs which can use a variety of nutrients to function, is critically dependant on glucose to do it’s job. When glucose levels run low the brain perceives it as a life threatening event.  If you have ever found it difficult to concentrate, made silly mistakes or inadvertently snapped at a friend or loved one because you were hungry, you know how real the effect of hunger can be.

A. – Angry :

Anger, while a completely normal emotional response, is also a powerful and difficult emotion. Anger can be physical or verbal, and often times the person who is experiencing it may not even know why they are struggling. They just feel mad, and overcome with all the complexities of their anger need to act out.  If you suspect a behavior is linked to anger, take time to connect and give an opportunity to relax before ever engaging the behavior. Then do so with compassion and concern.

L. – Lonely :

Sometimes a behavior is simply communicating the need to connect. While it is easy to dismiss this behavior as being bratty and demanding, remember that it takes considerable emotional maturity to recognize your own need for attention, and even more skill to know the right ways to ask for what you need. Pay attention to what happens just before a behavior and just after, often there are significant clues, then respond with care and compassion focusing on the need without reinforcing the behavior.

T. – Tired : 

Poor sleep is linked to a variety of difficulties including irritability, decreased self-evaluation, anger, fear and poor motivation.  Sometimes a nap or a good night’s rest is just good medicine.

So, when faced with a challenging moment, HALT. before you react, then connect and redirect in ways that makes sense!

 

 

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Reveal – Predicting a Meltdown?

June 13, 2016
reveal

‘I was a camp counselor for autistic kids. One of my kid’s parents had talked to me a lot about her and the things she liked and needed and what to avoid. One day things were kind of intense and I saw that she was struggling and I tried to help her. At the same time, one of the other counselors came running up and touched her and was talking loudly trying to calm her. I tried to explain that he was making it worse, tried to tell him what I knew, but other people came running to help him.  Before it was over the little girl fell backward and hit her head. She wasn’t hurt badly, but the fact was that none of it had to happen. It happens too much, you know. One of the hardest things is not knowing the signs early enough to help’ -coworker on the challenges of meltdown

In recent weeks I have been engaged in a discussion about a new technology called Reveal. Reveal is an assistive technology that recognizes physiological indicators of stress as a way to monitor anxiety.  The soft band has sensors that detect changes in heart rate,  sweat and skin temperature and translates that information via a smartphone application. The idea behind the technology is that early recognition will allow a person or a care provider to cue into the earliest signs of anxiety and then work to modify the environment and perhaps avoid sensory overload and meltdown. While my initial response was positive and a desire to own Reveal for myself as I suffer anxiety and am not always as in touch with myself enough to see that I am over doing it until it is too late, I would be remiss to say that the technology has not been a subject of interest and debate.

Pros and Cons :

Subjects of debate have covered topics such as the ethics of being under constant monitoring and the vulnerability of autistic persons. Also the challenges of how predictive information should be use and how it could be used and whether or not age, consent, and oversight are relevant. Through out this discourse the developers of Reveal have been keen to listen and respond to our feedback, something I find invaluable.

 

A Tool for Self Advocacy 

Ultimately my best source for unbiased feedback comes from my nine-year old son. I thought that his response was perhaps the most helpful:

“I don’t really like it when I meltdown around people, but I can’t help it when it happens. I know that after they see me differently and I kinda see myself differently too. I think if what I have learned about being my own advocate means anything it means learning to be really aware of my own self and needs – and worth. So if a little Fitbit thing could help that, and maybe help me to self advocate, that is a really good thing.”

What do you think?

 

Learn more about Reveal at : https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/reveal-empowered-care-for-autism#/

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We are not

June 10, 2016

“Born free, but still they hate.
Born me, no I can’t change.”

Rise Against – Make It Stop (September’s Children)

marco supporter

So, recently a young hero of mine, Marco Arturo, created this absolutely killer video (watch the whole thing, remember that I’m an extremely pro-vax autistic) debunking the anti-vaxxers argument about vaccines causing autism…what followed was something that I honestly shouldn’t have been surprised about…after attacking him with arguments on his Facebook page which he continuously shredded (for just one example check his brilliant explanation of “the dose makes the poison” [the point that ingredients like formaldehyde may indeed be dangerous if you chug them, but the miniscule amount in vaccines can’t harm you {…there’s also more of that specific chemical in a pear}]), they decided to create multiple articles against him, insult him saying things like “I want to throat punch this kid” and “clearly on the spectrum himself no?” (truly wonderful seeing that used as an insult…) and dox him (definition of dox here).

All of this vileness because a genius twelve-year-old countered the claim that vaccines cause autism (if you don’t believe him, how about these 107 studies that also counter that claim).

I am tired of being used, and of the tragedy narrative (my term to describe the narrative that autism is something to fear/avoid/cure…all of the terrible things happening to us that I mention in Why I Fight are merely symptoms of this story about us that is the main narrative about autism) that makes them think that being like us is a fate worse than death from the diseases that vaccines prevent.

So, to anti-vaxxers and all of those who spread this narrative, hear this well:

We are not a tragedy. We are human, just like you, and deserve the same respect that you do.

We are not “vaccine-injured”. Autism isn’t an “injury” at all, is a genetic condition, and we are sick and tired of being used as a pawn for your agenda, of hearing our parents talk about how the light left our eyes when they made the choice to save our lives from deadly diseases, and of having you listen to Playboy models like Jenny McCarthy or movie directors like Robert De Niro (fun fact: before he changed his mind and decided to defend VAXXED, Andrew Wakefield‘s latest effort to profit off of the tragedy narrative, after his film festival retracted the film Naturalnews pretty much called him a Nazi…no point too low, gladly trivializing the holocaust before they changed to regard him as a saint) over actual doctors.

We are not broken neurotypicals who need to be “fixed” by therapies like ABA (and, before you say “That’s not ABA”, which I have seen by people who do something they call ABA…you don’t practice ABA according to the father of the therapy, who said such lovely quotes like this, and it had vile articles written about it like this one, screams, slaps & love. There may be tamed versions that are more palatable now, but still today we are having electric shock devices used on us to train us out of behaviors, so understand why I cringe and turn away whenever I see those letters) or “cured” by deadly things like MMS. We are autistic-autism is what makes us the unique beings we are, colors all our strengths and weaknesses, and not only would you have a completely different child if you “succeeded” in your terrible quest to remove the parts of your child you can’t accept, your attempts can scar us for the rest of our lives, with your message of us being broken, incurably diseased (because the MMS won’t make us what you want, so we’ll go through our lives thinking that even after all the hell you put us through we couldn’t be “cured” of our neurology), and of our coping strategies (stimming) being abnormalities to be stifled leads to high rates of PTSD and suicide in our community.

We are not Neurotypical people covered with a shell of autism that you can crack or a wall of autism you can bulldoze through to get to. We are what we are. We do communicate-we do feel (oh, how we do…to the point where I sometimes wish I was emotionless)-we just may not know how or even be able to communicate in or understand your usual way. It is a language barrier that, if you are willing to love and accept your child for who and what they are and put the work into learning our way of expression and help guide us to understand (NOT force us to imitate. Assume that we are trying to function and that if we are not doing something there may be a reason…we have sensitivities that you don’t, and what you may try to perceive as a stubborn child may be us trying to avoid things that cause us pain or discomfort, communication that should be heard…again, forcing us not to stim or forcing eye contact to make us more like you is wrong, you’re breaking us, not fixing us)  the peculiarities of your language (voice tone and body positioning and eyes and all of that stuff is weird…we need help figuring it out some, and respect when we can’t emulate it), this barrier can be broken.

We are not yours to do what you want with. We are human beings. When we are in meltdowns, our weakest moments, the moments when we need help, you should not whip out your phone to record us to put us on Youtube (when looking for “What’s wrong with meltdown videos”, 4 of these terrible videos popped up…we are not your amusement. Think about the time you were most overwhelmed and your reaction, and think if you would want that on the web for the world to see. Now multiply that amount of stress by 10, and you have what brings us to meltdown…it is so messed up to take a video of your children when this is happening, and the makers of these videos should be ashamed. Also, meltdowns are not tantrums, they are communication that stress has been building up and has finally exploded). We are not yours to kill, and when our caregivers do kill us (this has a list of 224 instances like this), they do not deserve your “understanding” (and when you believe these things, you perpetuate the killing). Murder is murder, taking the life of another human being no matter their neurology is still taking their life…frankly, writing this one out, realizing that people seem to need to be told this, makes me feel sick. I should not have to tell you that murder is bad, but people actually need to hear it…

But that’s the way the narrative goes, brought into focus every April, but also lurking in our minds through the year.

If people accepted us as the equal human beings we are, then nobody would be attacking a child for making a video reaffirming something that has been proven over and over…because nobody would use us as a reason not to vaccinate, Wakefield wouldn’t have made a fraudulent article blaming vaccines for the tragedy of our existence…for we are not a tragedy. We are you.

Marco, if you read this, know that it’s not you that they hate. The tide of rage that they represent has existed for years, we have been fighting against it, and your total awesomeness made them latch onto you…keep fighting on, don’t let them get to you too much, the future seems brighter knowing that you’ll be in it.

-Laoch Onórach

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A Blind Eye – Autism and Abuse

June 7, 2016
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During the 2015 school year the principal at my son’s school:

-shamed, humiliated, isolated, discriminated and frightened my 9-year-old son. Verbally attacked me on more than one occasion even demanding that my son be placed in “in-patient” treatment and “medicated.” After being told that he was not to have contact with my son, the principal held him in an office and refused to release him to my care and then chased me to my car when I brought my son to safety.

This was the school’s response:

After careful review of a full body of evidence, including a review of the Executive Director’s goals for the 2015-2016 school year, a self-evaluation, staff evaluations, community feedback, staff agreements and handbook, staff hiring processes and performance expectations, professional development, and an expectation that formal professional training on executive leadership will be completed, the Board renewed the contract of Mr. J C  as the Executive Director of **  School for the 2016-2017 school year.

***

One in three children identified as having a disability and receiving special education services will be subjected to abuse, be that physical, psychological or sexual. That is ten times more likely than their non-disabled peers. (Sullivan & Knutson, 2000) Research also suggests that the type of disability raises the risk for specific types of abuse: non-verbal children being at greater risk for neglect, children with behavioral needs more at risk for physical abuse. While an older study states that the rate of sexual abuse is nearly two times greater for children with disabilities (Mansell, Sobsey, and Moskal, 1998)   gender bias in diagnosis, the inability -or unwillingness of children, who often suffer neglect as well and lack confidence that anyone will care,  and misattributed and missed behavioral symptoms make the numbers almost impossible to quantify. In cases of abuse within the school system, collusion between two or more adults to cover up abuse is alarmingly common. In a 2011 study  conducted in Ontario, 2-11% of teachers were reported to have been observed bullying disabled students in the classroom when observed by interns who often fail to report the abuse for fear of reprisal.

The Turning Away: 

While it is impossible to look at the numbers and  not see a pattern of social behavior that impacts the welfare of disabled students, it is also equally difficult to see proof within the system that laws, organizations and safeguards are effective at providing a safety net. While I could write a great deal about numbers and finance and class sizes, that would just be scratching the surface of the iceberg. The truth is that the problem is deeper and more pervasive:

First look: A parent posts a video of their child in the middle of an autistic meltdown on social media. They caption the video, “Guess it will be another six months before I can have dinner out with my husband.” The video is received by uneducated viewers like a train wreck. They get a certain sadistic thrill watching someone else suffer, then respond with sympathy for the parent and disgust for the child.

Look again: A well-educated social paradigm would recognize this sort of public shaming for what it is : abuse. A child in the throes of a meltdown needs the care and compassion of the people that they depend on; to stand back with a camera is unforgivable and speaks to the need for education. A meltdown is a neurological event, the child is responding to multiple sensory stressors, the least of which can be assumed to be parents who are unwilling or unable to apply compassion, understanding, logic or reason to a difficult situation. A well-educated social paradigm would have sympathy for the child, and concern for the support and education of the parent. The act of publicly shaming the child an abhorrent display of abusive behavior.

Without a broad base of community education and socially supportive programs the abuse and neglect of children on the spectrum will increase, even as they are isolated, restrained, and even murdered by their own parents and loved ones.  Within our communities education professionals are trained to recognize signs of abuse and help identify at risk children. However, if the schools are part of that cycle of abuse the child becomes almost completely without a voice of advocacy, and some are literally unable to ask for help. However, even when the abuse is identified, even when the acts are grotesque, inhuman, torturous and in many cases lead to the death of a child, social stigma and ignorance give an almost free pass to those who offend.

In the case of my own family intimidation was used to prevent my son from speaking about the horror he was facing at school though true to his nature his behavior was communicating loud and clear. Sadly, deciphering behavior can take time, and with the professionals who I depended on to help me spot the clues were carefully covering tracks, it took longer than it should have to see what was happening. In the end all of the proof in the world was not enough to show how the person who attacked me and abused my son is unfit to be in his position.

In the weeks that my family worked through and recorded the events of the battle for special education, I was contacted by so many families caught in the same cycle who felt helpless, hopeless and confused by a system that was failing all around them. An advocate from the ARC, after a long talk on day, said to me that it seemed like I was working day and night to elevate the thinking of the people who should have been supporting me. But, she said, you cannot elevate people who are not interested in change. Your efforts are seen as madness. She then said that she was retiring from more than 20 years of working to make a difference for disabled students knowing that things were worse than they had ever been. I am certain there were victories along the way, but not enough and in the end the children are the victims.

Can we really afford to turn a blind eye?

 

Learn the signs of abuse 

 

 

 

 

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Sick and tired: A rant against anti-vaxxers

June 7, 2016

So, I did this rant on Facebook, and Tricia encouraged me to share it here…so I am. It’s in response to how anti-vaxxers love to use the rise of autism and how it correlates to the use of vaccines as a reason to say that vaccines cause autism (despite the fact that correlation does not equal causation, and if it did…well, let’s let the image speak for why that may be an issue for the pseudoscientist idiots)

Organic food sales rise at the same time as autism diagnoses, which, according to anti-vaxxer "logic", means that they cause autism

Note: not proof because correlation does not equal causation, though a rather hilarious rebuttal

So, I decided to write a response that detailed all the reasons why diagnoses are rising, why the United States has more diagnoses, why that’s a good thing, and why I hope that they continue to rise:
“Vaccines don’t cause autism
Stop throwing us under the bus as part of your agenda
The reason for more people being diagnosed (not *having*, but diagnosed, the many self-diagnosed aren’t even included in the statistics) is that we are better at recognizing what exactly autism is
We went from thinking of autism as just non-verbal to the spectrum
This is actually a really good thing, as it made it so people like myself can get the help they need because of an official diagnosis that we can show doctors to get medicine or to schools to get the accommodations we need to survive
The change to the spectrum model happened here in the States, was put in the DSM, which other countries use as well
Of course more people are diagnosed here, the change happened here first
Autism used to be considered just a childhood disorder as well, meaning that adults who would be diagnosed autistic if they were born now aren’t diagnosed
They may not think they’re autistic, but maybe something happens that makes them want to seek out and fork up the money to get tested, they get diagnosed, bam, an addition to your statistics
Many psychiatrists may still be under that childhood disorder notion and may not diagnose adults, and the diagnostic criteria is geared to children anyways, this happened to a mother I know whose child was diagnosed…many moms don’t even think of the idea of being autistic until they have their children diagnosed
There’s also a perception that autism is in boys only (assisted as well by issues with the diagnostic criteria…the boy thing is why people lit it up blue in April…issues with that are outside the scope of this point), so as we get more open to girls being autistic and more perceptive of how their autism manifests, more will be diagnosed…so, yes, it is an improvement in the criteria, and we still have a long way to go…all of my self-diagnosed friends aren’t included, and that means that they aren’t getting the help from the system
You are wrong, so utterly wrong, and we autistics are sick and tired of being used by you and your anti-vaxxer ilk”

I honestly hope diagnoses do increase…at the moment the ratio of boys diagnosed to girls is 4 to 1, and there is absolutely no genetic reason that has been found, only issues with the criteria that are stopping girls from getting the help that I need…however, it will never be one in two, as those who call us an epidemic say as a scare tactic.

If you want some more information about some things in here, I may be able to provide if you ask in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and please share to combat the people who keep using us for their deadly agenda

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Sorry for the Emails!

May 31, 2016
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As you know, I am changing and upgrading much of the blog. Today I took to task the reworking of my categories. In that process I did not realize that it would email every post I had selected for editing. I am so very sorry for the torrent of messages! Luckily, someone was nice enough to point this out so that I could correct it (I hope). Again, my apologies!

 

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Restoration

May 17, 2016
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One woman and her last-minute attorney filed into a conference room. A large wooden table with a dozen chairs, bottles of water and ink pens in the center. Two suited men sitting very seriously in front of four-inch thick stacks of paper bound neatly with file clips waited sternly. Two rose to shake hands with my attorney and regard me awkwardly. One offered his hand, the other sat without greeting me, reconsidered and then stood again to shake my hand very briefly.

Anxieties pushed over when the principal entered, slick as a car salesman and shaking hands as happily and nonchalant as if it were a wedding. I am certain that the air around me dropped a palpable 20 degrees when he dared ask me how Ben has been doing. White knuckled rage. I suppose it is a normal maternal response to anyone who has hurt your child.

The mediator arrived and explained the rules. I reminded myself to keep breathing and then the spotlight was on me. With care and as much courage as I could muster I articulated the history of events as they were leading to this day. I looked at the moderator and did my best to blank out the eyes of the men all around looking at me and scribbling notes on their legal pads.  I willed myself to hold back tears, this was the moment I most needed to be strong, to show them I was not intimidated. In the middle of my diatribe I had to press my hands under my legs so that no one would see how they were shaking.

Once I completed the history, the sides took separate spaces and I had long periods to get to know my last-minute attorney. As it happens, last-minute does not in any way mean incapable. He was not only kind and concerned, but also compassionate sharing his own experience as a father and as a consultant when my state wrote the laws that support IDEA.

So what happened? 

Well, I cried once but was able to recover my resolve fairly quickly.

I lost my temper once, but was able to rein it in enough not to seem crazy.

The District will provided training on the special needs of children on the spectrum for all of their teachers in a manner that promotes acceptance and advocacy before the beginning of the next school year. They will provide me with both the curriculum used and the records of who attended.

They will also evaluate Ben’s specific needs and help me to find an appropriate school, even if they must provide transportation out of the district or pay for a private situation.

I came home and slept more fully than I have for more than six months.

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