19 09, 2018

Authentic Individual Education Plans for Students with Autism – Keeping it Real

Authentic Individual Education Plans for Students with Autism - Keeping it Real Do you struggle to write good IEP goals for a student with autism? What if you include a goal like this?  “Johnny will say “hello" to the staff he meets in the hallway 3 out of 5 times.” But what if Johnny has already seen that staff member 5 times in the last 10 minutes? What if the staff member is conversing with another person? As well intentioned as we are, sometimes the goals we create for kids with autism are just not that helpful. Sometimes there are far more important skills we should be focusing on. Goal setting is hard. It can be painstakingly hard for parents and teachers to figure out WHAT needs to be the goal and then, HOW is that goal supposed to be written as a S.M.A.R.T. goal? Yes, we strive to produce 

22 08, 2018

What You See Is Not Always What You Get

What You See Is Not Always What You Get “He doesn’t look autistic!” “She has high functioning autism – a milder case of autism.” Just writing those sentences makes me shudder. Experience has taught me that judgements like that are far from helpful. The words, ‘mild’ and ‘high functioning’ are, in fact, very hazardous to the well being of humans who need us to know better. While a higher IQ and verbal ability can minimize the appearance of impairments that come with autism, make no mistake about it - the impairments still exist. If you aren’t convinced, take a good look at the child who follows the perimeter fence of the school yard at recess because he doesn’t know how to play. He’s probably the same kid who doesn’t get invited to birthdays because his peers consider him ‘weird’. Listen carefully to the teen whose attempts to converse with

2 08, 2018

Are You Ready to Teach a Student with Autism?

Are you Ready to Teach a Student with Autism? Have you heard the ‘horror’ stories about this kid? Why are they placing him in MY class? I don’t know enough about autism or how to cope with the meltdowns I hear so much about. What am I supposed to teach? How can I be expected to meet his needs and the needs of 25 other kids? Will all of my time and attention be consumed by one student? If any of these concerns have crossed your mind – or jolted you from sleep – you’re not alone. The reality of teaching one or more students with autism is unnerving to say the least – even for the most experienced teacher. These kids, no matter how ‘high functioning’ (I really hate that term) are not your average learner. Students with autism are complex and let’s face it, school boards and

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

22 09, 2017

Teaching People With Autism About Feelings And Emotions

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

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

15 12, 2016

Help me! I’m Drowning in Christmas!

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.

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