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

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

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!