31 01, 2018

This post might sting a bit…

“Mother knew that she had to “stretch” and lovingly push me just outside of my comfort zone so I could develop to my fullest.” These are wise words spoken by Temple Grandin, autism advocate, animal science professor and best-selling author. Like Temple, with every fibre of my being I believe that having autism, or any special need for that matter, does not mean less expectations. In fact, it might mean more. What is the reality for many children who live with autism? Too many parents, unintentionally, ‘sell out’ kids with autism. I know. That was harsh. But, to be fair, unless we name what is not working, we cannot do better. We love our kids. We want the best for them. That is precisely why it is imperative that we pull the band aid off - even if it hurts -  and identify what we might be doing that is

17 01, 2018

Moving Beyond “I can’t do it”

I can’t. I won’t try. We’ve all heard these words at some point. Feeling helpless and incapable is a very real problem that arises for our kids with autism (and those without it as well). Why does having autism seem to lead to learned helplessness? Part of the answer is uncomfortable for those of us who parent, educate or work with these children. Quite frankly, we tend to feed those helpless feelings. We allow anxiety, tears, and emotional drama to convince us to take over and get the job done when the child struggles to do a task. If we are not intentionally and consistently counteracting the child’s dependence with our words and actions, then we are promoting the dependence and powerlessness. Children with autism, even those with severe autism, are capable of SO MUCH MORE than we often give them credit for. Time and again I hear parents and

14 12, 2017

7 Keys to Help Students with Autism Cope with the Holiday Season at School

The weeks before Christmas are a tidal wave transition for folks with autism – and for many of us, quite frankly. Almost nothing remains the same: reduced daylight hours, TV shows are pre-empted for holiday specials, and daily classroom routines are interrupted by assemblies, play practice, and sing alongs. Blinking lights and shiny decorations change the look of classrooms and home and trees pop up in indoor spaces! All of this to offer a break in the darkness of winter – and life. And yet, it can be far too much for so many people. For those with autism, the spike in social expectations – Christmas parties, well meaning visitors popping in to say hello can be anxiety provoking. Particularly, when those visitors hug without warning and laugh a little too loud. An atmosphere of frenetic activity at school, the mall, in traffic, and at home threatens to send almost

13 11, 2017

I Am Glad I Didn’t Rescue You – My Heartfelt Letter To My Son

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

11 10, 2017

5 Ways To Make My Individual Education Plan Useful – A Note From Your Child

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

27 07, 2017

Do people with autism have feelings?

  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

25 05, 2017

Making a safe descent into the school year’s end

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

1 09, 2016

A New School Year: What are you Thinking!

It's that time of year!  The words "Back to School" ring loud in the ears of parents, students and educators. Schools, families, businesses and communities are hearing the rally cry and readying themselves for the inauguration of a new school year!!Some are celebrating the new start and others are bracing for a new year and the anxiety about the unknown. As we busy ourselves with back to school shopping and a return to more routine in our daily lives, I think it is equally important to prepare emotionally and mentally as adults who love and/or work with students with autism. It is well documented that our mental attitude and our thoughts play a huge role in shaping our reality.Time for a Check on your Thinking…Is your mind harboring resentment about what resources you don’t have ?Are you ‘stewing in your own juice’ about the lack of support your child with autism will have or the demands

28 05, 2015

We Can’t Teach What we Don’t Own

The post entitled Cultivating Self Regulation left me feeling like I had more to say. Now, those who know me, might be thinking that I always have more to say. True. But, this time, I was unsettled. It was in the midst of one of those embarrassing, "less than my best - self moments," that I figured out what needed to be said. Once again, I must sheepishly admit that in dealing with my hormonal,' preteen daughter I may have "lost my $#@$" one evening. Our day had been a series of small collisions of minds. In my mind, she was being selfish and ultra sensitive and in her mind I was being just plain, MEAN. The storm clouds had been brewing all day and by the time bedtime was within reach her frustration and anger bubbled up from some dark place within and she unleashed the beast of preteen fury!

25 04, 2015

The Gift of Feeling Incompetent

Do you ever feel totally incompetent and powerless in the midst of an interaction with a child with autism? Good. It is precisely the willingness to be ‘naked’ (figuratively speaking, of course) and to risk showing others that we don’t have all the answers that is a sign that we are still open to authentic human experiences – still connected and very much open to growth. Don’t get me wrong: feeling vulnerable can really suck – yep, I think that's the best word to describe it. Self -doubt, uncertainty and a lack of answers can be downright miserable. But, the opposite – to be guarded, to offer cookie cutter expertise and self -righteousness responses are “suits of armor” that are far more destructive to relationships and progress. Egos tell us that we should be in control; we should know what to do – we should not be weak. Egos don't