Monthly Archives: August 2013

One Act of Hate Inspires Oodles of Love

Like so many others, I am deeply disgusted and disturbed that a human being is capable of thinking, let alone, writing and sharing thoughts that are so inhumane and evil. In case you have not heard about it, a local grandmother received an anonymous (cowardly) letter expressing anger and hate about her grandchild with autism. Yep, a CHILD with autism was described as being so abhorrent that he “should be euthanized!” 

My mind is riddled with all kinds of questions as to HOW and WHY anyone could be so backward, so filled with cruelty and nastiness, not to mention arrogance and self righteousness! I am horrified, indignant and ashamed that this kind of thinking still exists. 

But, at the same time, I see the beauty that emerges from the pile of garbage. The news is filled with stories of letters of support, gifts and phone calls that are coming to this family from all over the world. The grandmother involved has been supported by neighbors she never even knew. This one act of hatred has ignited a wild fire of awareness that no ‘Autism Day’ could ever achieve. The child smiles, laughs and his spirit continues to soar, never really ever understanding that his life is being celebrated by people who don’t know him. Love does prevail folks. Evil does not win. BeTheChange.3791459_std

I urge people to take their anger for the letter writer and change it into positive energy that proliferates and grows even more love for individuals with special needs. Every single one of us needs a world where love prevails over hatred. It starts with our response to evil. I DO NOT condone the actions of the writer. Not even a tiny bit. But, I believe that to meet hatred with hatred is counterproductive. It only breeds more hatred. Use this opportunity to share the magnificent gifts that our children  autism are to us and to the world. Take the time to share the unique qualities of an individual with autism. Let’s let the world see the gifts we see, not the bitterness we could choose to feel. 

Love is a choice.

You can see the news here:

Hateful Letter to Family


Teachers: The Holy Grail continued…

Use visuals consistently. Yes, I know you KNOW this already! 

But wait.

HelpCardDo you consistently do it? Does the practice of visual schedules, checklists, to do lists, graphic organizers and detailed written instructions of steps REALLY stretch past October?  😳


Do you find yourself constantly thinking about how you can make what you say, visual? Then you are on the right track!! 

Using these tools is an absolute, non- negotiable must for our students on the autism spectrum. If you find they ‘don’t work’ or ‘you have tried that’ then I promise you; you need to find a different way to use them or you need to incorporate the student in making them and implementing them. To give up using visuals is akin to rationalizing that a person who has no use of his legs has no real need for a wheel chair! 

Visuals can vary from written words to pictures, photos, objects and product samples to a combination of supports. The following are a sample of some useful visual supports:

A daily schedule that lists events/things to do or activities/changes in routine

A schedule that lists activities or steps of a specific time of day (if morning routine causes behaviour problems a schedule will help)

A key ring with visual reminders of social rules (Personal space, gentle hands, quiet voice, waiting in line etc…

Checklists of tasks to complete and a place to indicate when are tasks completed

Checklists outlining the sequence of steps to complete a task (washing dishes, completing an assignment, cleaning a desk, handing work in, laundry, using appliances or computers, etc…)

Checklists of materials needed (packing a swim bag, packing a lunch, packing homework or materials for a class)

 A pocket size relaxation booklet

 Labels to indicate name and location of objects (drawers for clothing, hygiene materials, cupboards, pencils, notebooks, library center, etc…) 

At the risk of repeating myself…okay, nagging, I beg teachers and parents to implement visual schedules, checklists, first/then boards etc in their homes and classrooms. A word of caution: the child may initially reject this strategy at first. Some children do. This is NOT a sign that you should stop using schedules; it may be a generalization issue. The child may not want the school tools at home or vice versa. Do not waver. Be consistent and reward your child for using the schedule! It will become your lifesaver!

Remember, you don’t have to be an autism expert. It is your compassion and determination to make your classroom a safe and autism friendly environment that makes ALL the DIFFERENCE!      





PECS picture



TEACHERS: The Holy Grail for Students with Autism

No need for expertise in autism theory, just a few simple and yet critical principles will help you and your student with autism to blossom! Cheesy, I know…but true!

Incorporate the student’s interests within the classroom environment and within the looking-for-a-signcurriculum. I KNOW you have heard this before, but I mean that you need to GENUINELY think about how you could make this kid feel like what he cares about, you do too! Sticking a couple of pictures up of his favourite chef or ocean creature is NOT using his interests. If you are serious about incorporating interests and passions then give the student a variety of ways to express that knowledge: in writing, video, presentations, building models etc. Be sure to have him or her share this passion with classmates and build in the skills of answering questions, asking questions and communicating clearly in words or non- verbal means. 

Paula Kluth’s book, Just Give Him the Whale is an absolutely awesome resource for taking the unique passions of kids with autism and turning them into highly effective classroom tools! I HIGHLY recommend it for all teachers! 

Stay tuned for more “cannot live without, non negotiable, must do’s” for students with autism! 

Staying on Course: Sticking to Plans and Being Consistent

I always starts out with the greatest intentions. I will not nag or threaten. I will keep my paperwork up to date and organized. I will maintain the data for each child each week. I will not lose my cool. I will follow through with consequences. I will maintain the token award chart.images

My plan goes smoothly for two weeks…if I am really diligent. But then, like water on pavement on a hot day…POOF! I am back in default mode and I can feel the best intentions literally slipping away from me. 

This scenario plays out in both my role as a mom and a special educator. I am inconsistent to say the least. It drives me crazy! I know that consistency is a key ingredient to reduced anxiety, increased self esteem and motivated learning for all children, and especially those with autism. So, do I give up? Not a chance.

Here’s my plan:

  1. Choose 1- 3 goals only. Avoid trying to fix everything all at once. “Stop chasing so many rabbits at once!” I was told by a coach.
  2. Before implementing a ‘great idea’ put time and thought into how much time it will take in reality? How much front end work needs to be done? Is it honestly a reasonable expectation for myself, my kids, my classroom/family given time, energy, other responsibilities and personalities. 
  3. Who should I include in the planning and implementation?  need to include others if I am to be successful.
  4. Have I recorded my goal and my plan in writing and shared it with someone who will hold me to it? 
  5. I must start again when I miss the mark. And again. And again. As long as it takes to achieve the goal.
  6. Be prepared to be flexible. Rarely do plans work out exactly as intended. Often people, events and the unforeseen force us to modify the original design. This is okay. Like my students with autism, I need to learn to roll with it. 

My friend, whom I consider an excellent parent, told me that she had instituted a reward system at home for her children. It was executed faithfully and the kids really bought in to it. However, life became more hectic. Once the behaviour problems diminished other priorities arose and next thing my friend knew the kids were acting out again and chaos ensued. During a family discussion, her son with ADHD said, “Why did you ever stop the Popsicle stick system? It really worked!” My friend laughed. Ouch. She had been called out. The system started again.say what you mean

Out of the mouths of babes!

Being consistent is so very important. Our kids need to know that you say what you mean and you mean what you say. Individuals with autism may not be able to cope without it! Our own integrity is founded on it too. 

How do you stay consistent in your plans and goals?