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

9 04, 2015

Check Your Advocating Attitude

Let me start with an admission. As a parent of a child with autism, I hold very strong convictions and opinions when it comes to raising and educating my children. Anyone who has worked with me and/or my son, will attest to that fact. At times, I have been strong-willed, determined and persistent. Indeed, I knew my son best. I knew a lot about autism in general and his autism specifically. I had made it my mission to learn - and to keep learning. But, two decades in the ‘trenches’ as a mom and a teacher of students with autism has taught me that expertise can really get in the way of serving a child’s needs. I have met my share of professionals whom I disagreed with because they did not take the time to truly know my child. I am quite sure that many parents would agree with me. What

8 11, 2014

Be Wary of Students with Autism who are Not Disruptive

Quiet, well behaved kids with autism scare me. Don’t get me wrong – I am not overly crazy about loud, uncooperative or aggressive behaviour either. But, it does get demand attention and resources. On the other hand, the learning needs of a student with autism who sits silently and gazes in the direction of the teacher may fly under the radar. Is the child engaged in what is being taught? Or is he completely absorbed in his own imagination. While the teacher discusses the states of matter, a child may be basking in his passion for weather systems. How do we know what is being learned? Compliance is not the end goal - learning and growth are. Kids with autism can have some pretty mixed up concepts. Literal and rigid thinking may thwart student learning. Difficulties with attention, focus and the ability to use context to determine what is relevant information,

28 05, 2014

Dear Math Teacher

Dear Math Teacher, You asked me: “Why are you in this class? You must have other subjects you are good at. Why are you taking my course when you are not a “math” student? You seem offended that I did not take your advice in grade 11 when you suggested that I not take senior math. But, with all due respect sir, I learned early on not to pay a lot of attention to what people said I could not do. When I was really young I could not talk and I was afraid of everything. I screamed and cried a lot. My parents learned that I had severe autism and that many things would be very hard for me: speaking, reading, writing, math, interacting with others, showing empathy, and even taking care of myself. My parents loved me enough to get me good doctors and great therapists. They practiced