Wednesday, March 30, 2016

The Early Bird Initiative~365 Days a Year

As April approaches, so does the annual "Light It Up Blue" campaign created by Autism Speaks to raise awareness about autism in communities across the world. I have always maintained (and will continue to do so) that we need more research devoted to the lives of people with autism, not just causes of autism.

With millions of people living with autism,
both directly and indirectly, learning about the causes of autism is not as  relevant as issues like: early diagnosis, interventions, wandering, transition, healthcare, education...and the list goes on.

Those of us who consider ourselves to be advocates/activists should actively use our voices not only during the month of April, but the other 11 months of the year as well.

So let's commit ourselves to raising autism awareness 365 days a year!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Autism Awareness, Acceptance & Support

Check this out on Pinterest. My Life My Autism -

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Seclusion & Restraint: The Reality

I recently got an email from the Autism Society about advocating against unnecessary seclusion and restraint. As a read one of the mother's story about what happened to her child, I had a brief flashback about my own experience.

Seclusion and/or restraint is not as uncommon as people think. I remember taking my son to a new school right before I referred him for special education evaluation. The school had just opened that year and I had taken a position as the sole special education teacher there. It was a complete nightmare as, almost immediately, I was approached about my son's "behavior. " He wasn't able to sit still...he wouldn't take a nap...he cried. I explained that I suspected that he had autism as if my words would somehow make them understand. I quickly found out that people really don't care when something or someone did not fit into their "ideal" way of life.

My son was soon transferred to another classroom. The teacher was initially very supportive, impressed by my son's extensive vocabulary and ability to fluently read. I felt a sense of relief and thought things were going to work out after all.

Then one day, out of the blue, the bottom dropped. He required too much effort. He wasn't able to retain information. I was heartbroken when I saw him sitting behind a whiteboard away from his classmates or outside in the hallway. I lost my appetite and sleep knowing every day that I was delivering my son into the hands of a teacher who had total disdain for him and kept him as far removed from her other well-managed students as possible.

After three weeks, I quit my job and withdrew my son. I was lucky because I knew what was happening to my son but the use of unnecessary seclusion/restraints is sometimes done without parents knowing anything about it. It left a lasting impression on my child, who developed a dislike for school that continues to this day. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Know Your Child's Developmental Milestones

Knowing your child's appropriate developmental stages is important. Although many children met their milestones at different times, there is still a window of opportunity in which they should exhibit certain behaviors. For example, if your child is not crawling by the time he or she is 9 -12 months, there may very well be some underlying issues that need to be addressed.

Like many parents, I was initially hesitant about drawing attention to my children's issues. I was adamant that what they were experiencing was the result of not being around other children, not attending a daycare where they could socialize and develop appropriate communication skills as well as social behaviors. I feared what I would hear if I spoke up during our visits to the pediatrician.

Autism does not go away. Ignoring an issue because of fear or a genuine belief that it's "something else" keeps our children from getting the attention that they need the most. Even if your pediatrician determines that there is no need for concern, it's always better to err on the side of caution. While my children are doing fairly well, I truly believe that early diagnosis could have provided them with a stronger foundation,  especially once they entered public school.

Remember, talk candidly with your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child's development. Doing what is in your child's best interest is far greater than being paralyzed your fears.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Early Diagnosis & Autism: The Early Bird Initiative

We need to spread the word. Early diagnosis of autism is critical if we want to ensure the best outcomes for our children. Many families are hesitant to have their children diagnosed for various reasons, mostly out of fear. But a diagnosis is not the end of the world. It is the beginning of a new journey filled with ups and downs, just like anything else. The most important thing is that you teach your child the value of those things that make us different. Teach them that they are DIFFERENT, not LESS!

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Every Child Needs a Champion: Rita Pierson

Check out this video by Rita Pearson @
She shares some powerful insights about the classroom that I think are sometimes overlooked when it comes to doing what's best for children. What we know: (1) Children do not rise to low expectations. (2) Children do better when they know teachers care about them. (3) Parents don't send their worst kids to school and leave their best kids at home; they send what they have.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Surviving An IEP Meeting: The Parent Side

So you have an IEP meeting coming up and you're feeling less than thrilled?  Well, the good news is that you are not alone. In fact, I have never heard a parent ever say that they look forward to gathering with a group of strangers to talk about how academically low their child is performing or how much their child is misbehaving in school.

An IEP meeting is very much like a battlefield and parents often feel as though they are gearing up for war when it comes to attending a meeting. Is it really any  wonder why many parents just don't show up?  It's not that they don't love their kid or want what's best, but they see their roles as being adversarial. They view themselves as the enemy, not an ally.

Why can't IEP meetings be a time to celebrate a child's accomplishments too? Maybe the teacher could bring some of the child's best work to the meeting as a way to connect more positively with the parents. It's okay for parents to ask for this to be done since the meeting is supposed to talk about a child's strengths along with his/ her weaknesses.

Parents can also share some of the amazing things their child is doing that may give the teachers a different perspective of a child outside the school setting.

So don't view your next IEP meeting as a preparation for battle. Look at it as a chance to take part in the overall success of your child and offer a deeper insight into who he/she is.

Just food for thought...