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

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

24 11, 2016

Meltdown at the border and what it taught me

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

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

12 11, 2015

Students with Autism: Have you Shared Your Vision?

What pictures do you hold in your mind of your child’s day at school? What activities would be challenging? Which activities would bring her the most joy? How do you see him reacting to frustration? Is your child dancing when music is being played or sitting with headphones watching a learning video? Is your child running around enjoying the freedom of recess or walking the perimeter of the school yard? Is he sitting on the floor with the other children during circle time or on a chair on the edges of the circle? Is she contributing to group work or working independently at her desk? As humans, we have incredible imaginations and we are constantly creating assumptions in our mind about what we think someone is doing and what they know or don’t know. We may not even realize that we have these ‘pictures’ in our mind until they clash

4 10, 2015

The TRUTH about Individual Education Plans

It’s only fair that I be honest right from the start. I don’t enjoy creating individual education plans. I have a hard time deciding what goals to choose, especially when a student’s needs are high. I want to do it all and be all I can, for the student who needs me most.  I hate how scripted and hemmed in I feel by IEPs - always striving to be clear and concise while incorporating the correct terminology and prescribed components. Frustration grips me at times when I am trying to transform ideas into meaningful SMART goals. Instinct about what I really want for a student clashes with the question of how I can put that knowledge into a well written goal and subsequent objectives. I especially hate trying to decide how I will measure the goal! I find writing individual education plans tiring and mind bending at times. You might