Dear Son, Many times throughout your childhood, you cried, screamed and made it clear that you were not happy with me. My whole body ached with the pain and my mind churned with the uncertainty of what I was doing at the time. Was I doing what was best for you? Would you be forever scarred by my pushing, encouragement, persistence and determination to help you grow, cope and be challenged? I didn’t have those answers, but my gut told me to persist in pushing and encouraging you a little bit at a time. It warned me that if I rescued you from struggle that you would not grow to be the person you could be. Your autism would swallow you whole and leave you isolated, helpless and trapped. Throughout your childhood, dad and I deliberately put you into situations that were uncomfortable for you: Applied Behavior Analysis therapy, speech
A note to my teachers and parents: I know you are all working hard to develop my individual education plan. I know that you want me to have a great year at school. If you don’t mind, I have 5 thoughts I would like to share with you. Please use the document you create. Okay, so this may seem kind of obvious but let’s face it, sometimes you put all kinds of time and energy into making my plan and then no one looks at it until reporting time rolls around. I really depend on that document to keep all of us focused on helping me to make progress. My plan should help me to become the best me I can be, even if I have autism. Make the stuff I work on and the goals meaningful. I get it – you have curriculum that somebody wants you
How can you help people with autism NAME and UNDERSTAND their emotions and those of others? One personal frustration I have is that too often we use still images of a smiley face or sad face to teach vocabulary for emotions. I would argue that a smile does not always mean that someone is happy. It may be that they are holding back anger, conniving a mischievous plan or pretending to be friendly. The best way to teach emotions is to use ‘real time’ teaching moments. When you are experiencing an emotion, name it and explain how you know what you feel. I know, its sounds weird and maybe corny, but, the truth is that our emotional knowledge is like a well-kept secret from those whose brains are wired differently. Talk about what you feel. I don’t mean that you should be complaining or become self absorbed with all bodily
Yes yes yes! People with autism most definitely share the same feelings as people who don’t have autism. Autism does not make people emotionless nor does it cause a lack of empathy. In fact, emotions can be even more intense in autism - including empathy. For some people with autism, the challenge lies in naming, understanding and expressing emotions. A ‘feeling’ may be felt but being able to name what it is can be tough. That’s true for every human being. Sometimes we feel a mix of emotions and we cannot quite describe what we feel. Individuals who live with autism may only be able to express basic emotions such as happy, mad, sad. But, we know that emotions are far more diverse than that. We may feel infuriated, elated, desperate or gloomy. This has nothing to do with a level of intelligence – in fact, very intelligent individuals
You are finally here - home stretch. Summer looms in the near future. Dreams of relaxation, family, and adventure propel you forward. But, there is still work to do...and your energy....is... waning...exhaustion sets in as the last leg of the marathon lies ahead. Nerves frayed. Patience weakening. Field trips and year end activities wreak havoc on schedules. Year-end assessments, report cards, unit completion - so much to do to bring the school year to a close in spite of dwindling inner resources. And then - there are the kids we teach; lethargy has set in for some and for others, a constant state of antsiness shapes their school day. Other 'shiny objects' grab their attention - prom, parties, sports, sunshine, sleep, the great outdoors. Anything but, academics and education. Like us, our students are becoming unglued. Students with autism are no different. Well, actually, that's not completely true. They experience
Oh good! You're back! I was hoping I could entice you to step on me again today! You're staring at me. So many self-judgments racing through your mind, I see. Thoughts of self-disgust threaten your self-worth. I cannot help but giggle as you strip down so as to influence the number I render. It's so easy to toy with your emotions. Yesterday you were gleeful with the number I showed you. Today, your inner frustration spills out of your mouth as you curse at me. Oh how I love the way I control so much of your life. Your thoughts about yourself, your mood, the exercise you do and even the food you eat are controlled by me. The power is addictive! I toy with you like a puppet on the string. If I raise the number by so much as a half a pound, your face makes your thoughts transparent. WAIT. What
What might a person with autism tell his or her parents, caregivers and teachers about the holiday season? Dear adults, I know you are upset with me. I hear you talking to each other about me. You wonder why I seem so ‘off?’ Why do I melt down more often these days? Why am I being so inflexible and ‘non-compliant,’ you ask? There is a lot going on in my world. I wish I could tell you so that you would understand – and help me. My house is occupied with new decorations. The blinking lights and shiny things on the tree hurt my eyes. The presents under the tree are not to be opened. I must wait, you say. Your ‘background’ music screams in my ears. Different sights and sounds fill my world – decorations filling spaces and changing the way my house and classroom looks, feels and smells.
The message I was about to deliver boomeranged around and smacked me in the head. Ivars and I were excited about our return to Ohio. Anticipation occupied my mind as I rehearsed my presentation and imagined the people who would attend my workshop early the next morning at a large autism conference. “Your books aren’t allowed in our country.” The words stung. My chest tightened. My muscles stiffened. My face constricted. My husband’s voice broke through my shock, telling me to stay calm. His words sounded a million miles away. I was far beyond the possibility of calm. Beyond the point of no return. For almost a decade, we had travelled in the U.S. with my self -published books with no issues. The explanation at the border was always the same: “My wife is speaking at an Autism conference and she has a table to sell her books.” This time