Friday, August 31, 2012

Practicality: Chores and Preparing for the Future

One of the most important things you will give your children, as parents, is an understanding of the work ethic. It is important that they learn how to organize and run their days so that they can become productive adults. It is also important that they understand what it means to work, and are allowed the pride and feeling of accomplishment that comes along with a job well done. The way to start them on this path is to assign to them typical everyday chores from as early an age as possible.

Chores not only teach us how to take care of themselves, and remind them that as a family we work together since we live together, but it is a way to teach your child responsibility. For responsibility is a large part of life. We do what we have to inorder to be able to do the things we would prefer to do. In other words, our "fun" is the earned reward for doing all the boring and annoying stuff. We of course also all that "fun" a "paycheck."

A terrible perspective that chores are the gateway to a happy life. Really? Who out there really likes cleaning the toilet or dusting the furniture? But to remain healthy you need to clean the house. Who out there really likes mowing the lawn or shoveling the driveway? But to keep your property value up you need to take care of your house and lawn. To be able to get where you need to go after a snowstorm you need to shovel the driveway. Chores are that part of life, that enables us to live our lives.

I suppose if you work in an office, you can associate chores with all the triplicate forms you fill out, or the timecard you have to punch. Now of course we are assuming that you, in some small way at least, enjoy what you do for a living. So in the end after all the crap at work, you finally get to do what truly fills you with joy. Ok if not joy at least a sense of accomplishment.

Chores we learn to do from an early age. As a small child you learn to pick up and put away your toys. You learn to put your dirty clothes in the hamper. You set the table for dinner. You hang your coat up and put your bookbag on your desk or in your room or wherever is the designated space.

Chores are also not always big, huge, humungous activities that need to be done. Most chores are simple, basic life organizing responsibilities. They are also age and developmentally appropriate. You cannot ask a six year old to operate a snowblower yet you should ask a 16 year old to do laundry and clean the bathroom.

The important thing to do in assigning chores is to understand your child and understand too, that it may take your child awhile to be proficient at the task you set our for them. Example: setting the table. We all know forks on the left and knives on the right. Here is a several step process. You can teach your child by rote and picture where to put these utensils, but it might help if they truly knew which was right and which was left. In other words, it would behoove you to teach your child right from left before you just expect them to "get" where everything goes on a table.

Until they are able to navigate the entire place setting, you can have them help put out the glasses, or the napkins. They can put down the placemat where they know everyone sits. The truth of the matter is that you may need to break down this chore, or any chore in fact, in much the same way you have to breakdown their school assignments. Remember  as with everything concerning our children,  make the chores developmentally appropriate and to break it down into manageable pieces as well.

When the boys started doing laundry I wrote down what to do every step of the way. We broke it down into 5 easy steps:
1. Bring the dirty clothes down to the laundry room.
2. Separate out the whites from the color wash and wash separately. (I had to emphasize the separate wash principle, because after they separated everything out, they then stuck it all in the washingmachine together...When you are teaching try to be as specific as possible.)
***** I showed them how to use the machine (including how to measure detergent, clorox 2 and fabric softener) which required its own step program. I also left the instructions up on a whiteboard in the laundry room.
3. Take the clothes from the washingmachine and put in dryer.
***** Dryer step by step instructions. (This rubric was happily alot less overwhelming then the washingmachine one.)
4. Take dry clothes out and bring up stairs.
5. Fold and put away laundry. (We taught them to fold and hubby labeled everyone's draws so they knew where to put the folded laundry. Yes the label maker is your friend).

Honestly when they started doing the laundry they were not little boys. I started teaching them when they were in high school and definitely now that they are in college. (I had tired to teach them earlier in life to launder clothes, but after CM1 had decided to put bleach in with my good jeans, which ultimately necessitated a trip to the store for new pants, I decided all they had to do for quite some time was to wash towels). I felt that they might not be away at college, but there are some things that they should be able to do that is age appropriate. No they don't cook, beyond the microwaved meal, but then most college students do not cook 5 course french nouvelle cuisine meals either.

Teaching them to be responsible is a large part of having them do chores. Actually one aspect of them doing chores, is that they also earn money towards their video games. The boys volunteer and work at internships. The reality is that even if they had summer jobs they would earn only minimum wage and quite frankly not certain what they would do with that first. CM1 in fact had a part time paying job this summer. He worked 4 hours a week. After social security and payroll tax what can he really buy with that? So the boys need some way to earn their games.

I think it is a good way that they also know that there comes a point that mom and dad are not just going to hand things to them. Clothes, food, shelter is one thing. But there is no constitutional right to video games. So if they want to play they got to "pay."

Now anyone who is a longtime reader of this blog, knows too that this little pay for play scenario evolved out of an incident from CM1's freshman year in college. He took my credit card, no not to buy games, sneakers or clothing, but to give to a charity he liked. He had decided that I had not donated enough. He understood that in effect he was stealing from me, because he went into my email and erased the confirmation letters sent by the charity. What he didn't figure on was that I received bills for my credit card. (Never really understood why he thought people just gave us money for nothing and that we never had to pay it back. Yes, he knows better now)

What ended up happening was that he lost his allowance, any money he had saved (to cover the bill) and had to do chores to pay off the rest of what he spent. He then learned that he lost his allowance forever and that if he wanted games or "playing cards" ever again he had to earn them through doing chores. Needlesstosay, this boy rarely spends his earnings on games and constantly finds charities to donate to. I just know that he is one day going to give most of his salary away. Hopefully he will understand that he will need to pay bills and take care of himself first.

Now CM2 realized that his brother was earning extra money and getting some really cool stuff. So one day when I picked him up from school he presented me with a business plan. He had written down chores and what he thought they were worth. We negotiated the chores true value and he then started earning some extra bucks himself.

I really liked that CM2 approached me with a proposal to earn money instead of asking for a raise in his allowance. I was really proud of him for that. We made a big deal of his initiative.

One more important thing about them earning money for chores...if they do a lousy job they don't earn the money and they redo the chore. Once when CM1 had done a terrible job with the laundry, I told him he was to rewash the clothes and refold them. He told me he quit. I told him he couldn't. His response was that if this was a real job he could quit. I countered with the fact that this was not a "real job" but a chore and that he was going to do it whether he got paid or not so he was better off just redoing the laundry and getting paid before he pissed me off....he never argued with me again about his chores, the quality and quitting. I also told him that if he did a bad job at work, he wouldn't have a choice to quit, his boss would fire his tuchas. So he had better learn to do a good job the first time.

Chores are an essential part of childhood and preparing your child for the future. You can use chores to teach lifeskills and self-help skills. You can use chores to teach the value of a dollar and how to budget for an item. Chores go along way in teaching your child independence and self-reliance. It is a way to help their self-esteem for a job well done.


Until next time,



Elise









Thursday, August 30, 2012

Practicality: Homework......

SHUDDER.....

I know its that time of year again and beyond IEPs, paras, therapies and teacher/classroom/support issues you have to help your child deal with homework. Honestly, CM2 is in college and we still have problems getting him to do his homework. Oh he ends up doing it, but not without screaming(dad), yelling(me) and snide nastiness (CM2)...and yes we have tried the gentle approach and the cajoling approach and the comfort talk approach...so no, I don't need a lecture about using a calm voice with your child. CM2 now almost 19, likes to remind us that he is NOT a child but a young adult, so we decided that we are going to treat him like a young adult and hold him responsible for himself and get mad when he doesn't follow through.

Oh he will learn if you let him fail people say. That's really nice for someone else to come up with that idea..but have you seen how much college costs? Yep, we should just let him fail and throw our money down the toilet. Or better yet, according to these so called parenting experts, let him fail and loose his financial aid and scholarship. That would so teach him a lesson that it would now cost me more money for his education(sarcasm). Oh let him pay for his own education these experts say....yeah right...

Your responsibility to your child doesn't really end when they turn 18. College and graduate school education is included in the parenting manual and so is letting them come home after college until they can pay for a descent place to live. (OK my boys never went away to school so they don't need to come back since they never left.) What I like best about those that give parenting advice, is that most of them never had any children of their own. But they know everything about raising children especially a child with special needs.

The truth  of the matter is that CM2 is capable of pulling off a solid B average with a minimal amount of work. Hubby tries to explain to him that B is all well and good and not something to be ashamed of, but into day's world, where 50% of college graduates do not have jobs, Bs are not good enough. Honestly if he spent half the time on schoolwork that he did on gameplay he would be a straight A student. Life is about not just getting by, we try to explain to him. Life is about thinking outside the box and taking initiative. No one wants to hire someone who plods along. They want thinkers and doers. Graduate schools want to see potential too. Hopefully he will learn that lesson before he loses out on something that is very important to him.

Meanwhile, back to the homework dilemma...

For many children homework is the bane of their existence. Having spent the day holding it together in school, they need lots of down time to recoup. On top of that our children probably are going from school to one therapy or tother, to umpteen number of doctors to educational consultants, to tutors and if there is any time left, maybe something a typical child would do after school..play a sport or attend religious school or scouts.

So the trick is to organize their time and their day so that some homework gets done. One other thing to keep in mind as well is that if your child has a processing problem, like mine do, they need extra time to do their homework. Something that might take a typical child 30 minutes will take your child hours. Under these circumstances, you can actually have the IEP accommodations include modified homework. If the students have to do 20 math problems your child should do half or even a third. If the class has to write a two page essay your child should write a one-page essay or even a paragraph. Of course this all depends on your child's learning issues and without a doubt the special  educators need to be consulted.

Now the trick here is to slowly get your child used to doing the requisite homework. While in elementary school through middle school homework modification is fine and can be used as a tool to help your child develop the necessary homework skills. In some states, New York for example, there is limited modification on homework in high school because there is a strict guidelines as to what is expected of students due to the Regents Board. By high school, if they are receiving an academic diploma, your child needs to be ready to do homework  like every other student at this point.

These requirements are not a bad thing. If done properly it does prepare a student for college and higher education. In college you can rest assured there is no homework modification at all. You can have test accommodations and even classroom accommodations but the work is the work and if you cannot do it, you do not belong at that school.Now what are those skills that can help your child preform their homework tasks?...Why our favorite good old executive functioning skills of course:

Executive functioning is learning how to organize, prioritize and time your work properly. It is knowing what needs to be done and having the proper tools to do it. It is knowing that you should have paper and pencil, computer, text book and dictionary and/or calculator handy. It is knowing when to take breaks, when to ask for help and when to even ask for extensions on projects. It is understanding yourself and how to function effectively.

No, this is not easy for our children. But it is a skill that can be taught. But you must begin in elementary school. Help your child learn to figure out their schedule. Brainstorm with them when they think they will need breaks. Figure out what they can do on that break. Figure out how they will keep track of time (we used a kitchen timer). Put it all down on paper, keep it in front of them so they have a tactile reality of their afternoon. Teach them too, that if they get off schedule its no big deal, you learn to readjust when necessary.

Remember as they age , their responsibilities grow. It is never too late to start teaching them this skill, but the earlier you start the better. This way they will become used to age appropriate responsibilities and each year they can add to their functionality.

Also the truth is that when your child learns to handle the homework and course load depends greatly on the student. While you read about CM2s issues, CM1 has never really had homework problems. Well he never lacked the drive to complete his homework, he just needed the tutors and the study skills to make his life easier. Again as with everything concerning our children, successes greatly depend on the individual and you cannot judge your child's success by the actions or reactions of others in the autism community.

The trick to successful homework is IEP modifications, study skills, scheduling and organization. And yes, some very astute and supportive parenting helps too...

Here are some past posts bout homework. Hopefully something in one of these articles may help:

Homework
Scheduling Homework and the Urge to Battle Mutant Zombies
Homework Hydra Strikes Again
Schedules, Oasis, Rules and Love
Triggers, Charts, Schedules and Perspective
The Big Bang, Organization and Executive Functioning
Fried Hard Drives and Fried Nerves (Mine)

Sorry,  no, it really does  Never End. Honestly I think that's OK. My aunt used to say about parenting in general...."from the time they come out to the time you go under, you worry {care and think} about them constantly..." Someone should write a real book about parenting someday....don't you think?

Until next time,



Elise



Monday, August 27, 2012

Brave New World and Chimps on Campus

Last night I received an email from the para that he was not able to get to campus today because of a family emergency. I have to tell you there was alot of scrambling on my part...but we came up with a doable plan. The downside is that the boys had to deal with the reality that I, the bane of their existence, will be hanging out on campus among their peers. While they went to their classes alone, I sat in the lounge just a few doors away just in case there was an issue. Didn't really think it would be cool to show up to class with their "mommy." And yes the disability director concurred.

Now if anyone follows my facebook feed they will know that this day has been one of those anthropological adventures that you can find on PBS. Of course those programs mostly revolve around watching chimps or gorillas in their native habit, not sitting next to young adult humans in their environment. Needlesstosay, after much musing about my interactions I have come to the conclusion that the chimps get a bum deal and the college students too much respect. Or these college students think that they are entitled to more respect than they deserve.

I understand that young people have a dialogue of their own. Heck I was young once (believe it or not), but I was never like this. Inane and boring perspective on life. They talk as if they know everything and cynicism is the answer to life. Vile, foul mouths. No decorum and a total lack of awareness of their environment. If this was one of "our children," we would worry that there was something wrong. One girl was even complaining because some of her friends lost their scholarships and had to go to schools closer to home. They decided how unfair that was, without thinking that you lose a scholarship because you don't maintain a 3.0 average. They seemed to blame everyone else for their issues and have basically forgotten why they are really here.

Manners and language are nonexistent, along with tolerance. "The group" was racially and gender mixed, yet somehow they devolved into an antisemitic joke game. While they would never think to say obnoxious and gross things about any race, or other creeds, somehow Jews were an easy target.

Lo and behold they didn't know I was in the room. Luckily it was really easy to stop. I simply said, "Excuse me, watch your mouths."  They were definitely caught unaware. Probably have been saying these things for awhile and noone ever stopped them. They did get very quiet for a little bit and then they changed the subject. I suppose they didn't challenge me simply because I am an adult and they really didn't know what to make of me. At least they stopped for the moment.

Meanwhile, CM1 is sitting across the room from me studying for his LSATs. Another table a group of kids are taking out yugi-yoh cards (CM1 did notice and was interested but went back to studying) and then the "useless group" it seems is having a contest on who can use the most foul language and pretend to devolve. They are trying to get their iPhone 4S's to comply with rude sexual requests....I kid you not. It seems more like high school than college. Honestly I remember even in highschool we were alot more mature than these children.

Perhaps this is what the sociologists mean when they say that our children are going through a delayed adolescence. Perhaps this is why, even though the boys have their social and idiosyncratic quirks they don't stand out as much as I am always afraid that they do. Maybe they are given a pass at times too, because despite some of their social ineptness they are very bright, hard-workers and mostly respectful. Compared to these children my autistic boys are role models of social appropriateness, ethics, morals and respect.

I suppose something can be said for how hard we are on the boys and how we try to drill into them proper behavior and work ethic. I seems to me that with everything that the boys have to deal with, they are leaps and bounds ahead of these children. Good, finally......glad to see all the therapies, the support and time and effort is really paying-off.

Until next time,


Elise




Sunday, August 26, 2012

Practicality: Teaching Your Child to Think for Themselves

Nothing bothers me more than a herd mentality. We see it continually through this political season. Society, or the powers that be in the media, have broken us down into categories and decided that if you belong to one group or the other, how you should and should not vote. If you vote against type, using your own mind and thought process you are then an ethnicity, gender or race traitor. Funny didn't think I gave up my ability to analyze, deduce and process information simply because I have a vagina. Wow, feminism has come such a long way.....NOT. Also not sure who decided to define womanhood, religion and skincolor simply in terms of what is deemed politically correct. Thank you but no. I will define myself. I don't need the rubber stamp of strangers to tell me who I am. I never did. I feel sorry for those that do.

OK, so I am set, but how do I get my children to think for themselves and not give into the herd mentality. Some actually used to call this peer pressure. It is not an easy task to keep your children safe from the adolescent throngs. This one gives parents nightmares. 

For some people individuality comes naturally. When CM1 was in a "mommy and me group," the other parents used to tease that he marched to the beat of his own drummer. It was funny then. We had no idea about his ASD. Looking back though, if you understand the isolation of autism you know in the long run not such a hahahah moment.

But this ability that CM1 possessed, to be content on his own, is a strength that we later used to help him stand up to peer pressure. From early on we taught CM1 (OK both boys in fact) right from wrong and set boundaries. We made certain that he understood respect and how to get along in society. We did not condone youthful hi-jinx, nor think of teen sex, drinking and smoking as rights of passage. Being a methodical young man, we taught him the downfalls of all these activities. Wanting to live a long life, CM1 took to heart the medical issues surrounding all forms of drug abuse. Wanting to have a real relationship and friendship with a significant other, he did not ever contemplate "hooking up."

Yes, I would like my son to have a girlfriend. Someone who cares for him and is a helpmate. I had to learn, this aspect of his life I cannot do for him, it is something he does need to do for himself. (Yes I think Ryan Lochte's mother is gross.) In time, I hope he will garner the skills necessary to find someone who will be an addition to his soul. He has accomplished everything he set out to do, and one day I know he will accomplish this as well. It's funny because anyone who meets CM1, will tell you, that he is so charming and smart, but that the one thing he needs is a girlfriend. Yes, I suppose this will be another aspect of peer pressure. But something tells me that CM1 when he is ready will find someone who thinks very similar to himself.

When dealing with CM2 we taught him the same lessons. We taught him the consequences of his actions early on and that people need to accept you for who you are, not for what they want you to be. He learned that he can be self-reliant and that he does not have to give in to the popular mythology.  Yes he knew he was not a popular kid in school, and yes it bothered him. But no he did not try to change to please anyone else. Yes there are moments that he says he will never have friends now in college. This is a terribly hard age and one you need to keep a watch on.

We explain to him that he will have friends. Friends that think like him. He just needs to look for them. So we try to have him join gamer clubs at school or the computer science club. People with similar interests and similar outlooks are the way to go. We had tried to get him involved with our Temple when we belonged. We had him join clubs in high school and middle school as well. With him, as with CM1, I know one day something will click. He will find a friend or two. But in truth he needs to understand himself a little bit more too.

I think in the long run the boys are very independent. They understand rights and wrongs and the consequences of actions. Luckily while they would like friends, they are not desperate, nor will they compromise their integrity. Here is some of what we did to get them this far:

1. Set boundaries early on for your children. This includes adhering to bedtime and behavior rules. The earlier you set rules and boundaries, the easier it will be for your children to assimilate the rules and boundaries for smoking, drinking, and "hooking up."
2. Teach right from wrong and consequences of actions. This also includes a discussion on lieing, hard work and earning your way in life.
3. Gently teach them about smoking and drinking. Most schools teach this beginning in elementary school. You don't have to wait for the school. Do it as soon as they see someone smoking. CM2's first question was when he was two-years-old. Of course, their paternal-grandmother died from smoking related cancer so it was something very openly discussed in our house too. I never minced words, although I made the discussion age appropriate.
4. Make sure that if they ever really mess up, they know that you will love them no matter what. That you will always have their back and that you will help them through every step if the way. But as they age, it is important to point out, that as teens, society will take a dim view of illegal activities and in some cases view them as adults with adult consequences. Society truly has no patience for out of control 6 foot tall, 200 pound people. (No matter what some teens think.)

What to do with your child and how to distract them from bad influences? Here is some of what we did:

1. Hebrew school (Sunday school works for Christian of course) with a heavy dose of ethics and morals.
2. Charity groups: some religious based, some secular based. Let them see how lucky they are in their lives. Teach them to give back.
3. Youth groups. Usually religious institutions have youth groups. They provide mentors, usually ministers or rabbis who the child can talk to. Make sure you really like this person. Make sure they share the same values as you do. Teens do need someone else besides their parents to confide in. Make sure it is someone you pick for them to talk too, instead of your child picking the school drug dealer. In other words, do this way before there is any problem, so that there won't be a problem.
4. After school activities. Find something your child likes or excels in. Push them to keep going. If they never settle on something, keep looking. We continued to look for both boys through high school. CM2 settled on film and acting. CM1 settled on politics and human rights.
5. Try to keep them off of social media as long as possible. Bullying is rampant on line and not the healthiest atmosphere for developing individuals. If they desire to go on line HERE, HERE, HERE,  for how to keep them safe.

I can't say that these actions will lend itself to perfection. Of course we had glitches along the way. But CM1 holds his own in college with other students and professors. He disagrees with them and calls them out. They may not like it very much, but he doesn't back down. He is his own man. In his words, "I have my morals and ethics and I won't compromise them for anyone or anything."

CM2 is his own person too..I know because he always argues with me. At first he told me he was in his rebellious stage and that's why he was such a stinker. But then he announced that after some more research he was more in his independence stage. He wasn't rebellious because he didn't have tattoos and piercings. He was just at that stage in life that he needed to psychologically separate from his parents. OK I thought...he can explore other ideas, as long as he doesn't reject the education concerning dangerous and unhealthy activities. Which it seems so far, so good...but watching truly is never done.....

So in the end, teaching them to be their own person, think for themselves and reject peer pressure is a lifelong challenge when raising children. Now the interesting aspect that noone ever thinks about too, is that they will also think for themselves and challenge your perspectives and perceptions. Fine with me....its what makes life interesting afterall.

Until next time,


Elise







Friday, August 24, 2012

Dealing with Death-Aspie Style

As anyone who follows this blog now knows, my father passed away last week. When my father was admitted into the hospital I had already flown down to Florida to be with my mother, so I was with both of my parents when my father passed away. Hubby was then left alone to take care of the boys and keep his law practice afloat. Hubby was also assigned with the task of telling the boys that their grandfather had died.

Now as befits who he is, CM1 immediately started trying to investigate why his grandfather passed away. He Googled, and researched and sought out answers why in his words "such a great wise old sage died." Luckily he had been able to talk to his grandfather and tell him that after his own dad he thought of his grandfather as the wisest old sage in the world. He also told my father that he loved him very much. This had brought a smile to my dad's lips.

CM2 wouldn't get on the phone with his grandfather. That is just his way. I would have to say that one of the best things about my father and mother is that throughout the decades in dealing with the boys and their autism they have been two of the most supportive people in the world. So when CM2 wouldn't get on the phone, my father didn't take it personally. He knew that it had to do with CM2's autism and his intense dislike of phone calls. Honestly too, we had not told the boys how sick my father was, so there was no immediate imperative for CM2 to get on the phone. Also as per his personality, upon hearing of his grandfather's passing CM2 actually didn't bat an eye. He told hubby that he was crying on the inside. And yes that was fine too.

Then came the next day.....

Hubby took them to their morning volunteer activity weeding for the Audubon society. Hubby was sitting in the car on a conference call while the boys, who were used to the routine commenced to pick up the weeds. The director related what happened next.....

She decided to go out and check on the boys to see how they were progressing. She found CM1 as usual working away and CM2 just standing there staring off into space. Then CM2 started to cry. And not just little tears, but ball his eyes out.

CM1 had no patience for his brothers display of emotions. Interesting since CM1 is known to have a crying jag whenever he feels overwhelmed and upset.

"Stop being a pussy," yelled CM1.

"We don't use that kind of language here," the director admonished CM1 gently, while she tried to comfort CM2. At this point CM2 just couldn't control his crying at all.

"I said stop being a pussy," CM1 yelled at his brother yet again.

The director turned to CM1 and told him more forcefully this time," that language is not acceptable here."

Then CM2 angry at his brothers callousness to his pain, turned to CM1 and responded, "My grandfather just died, so fuck you."

The director told CM2 that he can't use bad language either and that maybe he should go sit in the car with dad. She then told CM1 he should call it a day and clean up.

As he was cleaning up CM1 openly wondered why CM2 was being such a "pussy..." but he then caught himself and said to the director  "oops, I mean woosie."

*****

Luckily by the time I saw the director it was a week after this inartful interaction and she could laugh as she related this little blip with the boys and their language denouement. Luckily too she was the youngest sibling in her family and used to babysitting her nieces and nephews. She told me that dealing with this issue was nothing. Her dad was a drill Sargent in the army and she was quite tough.

*****

By the way, when I did finally get home I got an "I'm sorry about grandpa," from CM2 and one long huge hug from CM1.

How they will function in the weeks to come I can't really say. However, I actually think they will be OK. Maybe they will have a moment here and there, which is to be expected, but for the most part I think they will be fine.

We also start back with the therapist next week after a summer hiatus. A little support and some professional help to support the boys in processing this reality is a good thing. As much as I rail against the psychiatric profession, sometimes they do know what they are talking about. Thank heaven.


Until next time,


Elise





Wednesday, August 22, 2012

A Righteous Man....My Father

My father died last week at the age of 78. Here is a quick version of his story:

Richard K. 1934-2012


Born to Jewish immigrant parents my father grew up in the Bronx, New York. He attended Taft High school. He ran away at age 17 and joined the navy during the Korean War. He went to New York University on the GI Bill and became a teacher. He helped start the 600 school system in NYC (which no longer exists). Today we would call him a special education teacher. He left teaching as a Vice Principal.

From teaching he went into Jewish philanthropic work. But not content to give up his teacher calling he also taught at Memphis State University and helped create the program today known as Head Start.

My father was never one to sit on the sidelines of life. My first vivid memory of the life he would live (and which I am only learning alot about now that he is gone) was finding out that on a trip to the Soviet Union, he smuggled out a list bearing the names of Jewish refuseniks. One of the cause celebres of the time was freedom for Soviet Jews, but noone in the west knew anything about their organization and the people involved in the underground until that list was made available. If my father would have been caught, he had been warned, he could have been prosecuted for espionage. This list ended up in the hands of then Secretary of State Henry Kissinger on his first meeting with Leonid Brezhnev.

My father wrote the original proposal for the US Holocaust Museum and the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) at the Justice Department. While the Jewish world gives this honor to another named individual (My father had the nerve to be a republican I suppose. We can discuss the psychiatric health issues of some US Jews at another time). You can see the original proposal with his name on it in the Carter Presidential Library (we have a "presidential sealed" copy). He was named an advisor to the OSI. In his time, he was considered one of the leading authorities on the Holocaust and Nazi war criminals.

My father was named a Presidential appointee under the Reagan Administration. He was the Associate Coordinator for Refugee Affairs. During his tenure he planned and organized the airlift of Ethiopian Jews out of the Sudan. Other than a few mentions in passing in most books and the Jerusalem Post his is a name most people would never know. So much of what my father did during those years is unknown and hidden. This is only one of the operations out of his office. Most programs would never get the publicity Operation Moses received.


My father standing next to my mother, being sworn into his State Department post by Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor


As the associate coordinator for refugee affairs my father would visit refugee camps that were funded in part by US taxpayers. After one such visit to the refugee camps in Gaza, my father also attempted to help the Palestinian refugees by trying to get funding for better conditions in the camps. His attempt was not only shut down by our government, but by the UN and the Arab governments he approached. My father could not solve the middle east crisis, but he saw no reason that people who were caught in the middle of this political morass had to live in squalor. What my father saw were children, mothers and fathers. To him, everyone was first and foremost a human being.

There are events that he participated in to this day my father has never spoken about and are still highly classified. Remember this was at the end of the Cold War and so much of his time and effort was spent trying to free enslaved nations. At first he was asked to never request his government file for his own safety. The government felt several years ago that enough time had passed to send out his file if he wanted it. But when he finally received the file, the government had so redacted it, that the only words left on the pages were mainly prepositions.

From there my father was the head of the US Holocaust Commission. Yes, he ran the organization he had developed that noone ever gives him credit for creating.

After he left government my father developed a program for testing immigrants taking their citizenship exam. It was a successful program. It saved the federal government huge amounts of money. It helped people take their tests earlier than if they had to wait for the government to administer the tests. The person in the government who oversaw their program, one day told them that their program was going to be shut down because "they were republicans." Those were the exact words.  The Clintons had come into office. (Yes they are not my favorite people.) My parents lost their business six months later.

Even after he left government, my father continued in his own way to work towards a better world. He never stopped hunting down war criminals living in the US. He helped deport some very very very nasty evil men. HERE Yes, some parts of your past life do come back at times. Even last year he had been asked to help track down a war criminal in another country. (Here, here, here, here)

My fathers testimony before the Congress on the rehabilitation of torture victims. Here.

From there my father went back to his first love..teaching. He started as a special education teacher and ended up teaching regular 8th grade social studies. He taught, critical thinking and law. He loved helping children learn to learn and to appreciate and prepare for the future. He taught them a love of country and a love of the US Constitution. Most of the students he had recently taught were children of immigrants, like himself, whose parents came here, to this nation seeking a better life.

In happier times, my mother and father used to reminisce about the adventures that they lived through. My mother would then turn to him and tell him, "not bad for two little kids from the Bronx." No not bad at all I would say.



******

You don't have to believe anything I have written here. You can believe that it is the imaginings of a grieving daughter. But everything here is true. Of course he was not solely responsible for every act but he was a participant in an important and scary time in world history. So I know that because my father lived, hundreds of thousands of people are alive and have children and grandchildren. Because my father lived, millions are living in freedom. Because my father had lived the world is a better place.

My father lived his life to help others. To make this a better world. The Torah says that God does not destroy the Earth because he can always find a sufficient number of the righteous among us. I have never thought that to be righteous meant that you pray all the time or study Torah all the time. I have never thought that to be righteous means you are perfect all the time. How can we be?  Afterall we are all human....So no, I do not think my father was perfect by any means...But to be righteous is to do what you can to save the world.....My father was one such righteous man......Hopefully God will be able to find someone to replace him and soon...I know I never will.

Until next time,


Elise

P.S. I just remembered something of a wish I had had concerning my father and his grandchildren. The Western Wall of the Temple, or Kotel, is the holiest site in all of Judaism. It is located in Jerusalem, Israel. My dream, was that my father, and his grandchildren would go there and touch the stones hewed together thousands upon thousands of years ago. Together they would place a note in the cracks of the Wall, as is tradition. (A special message between God and you.) To us the Kotel is more than a religious symbol. It is a symbol of renewal and survival. It is a symbol of strength and the future.

The Jewish people pray three times a day, the watch word of our faith, The Shema. It extols the virtues of a monotheistic God. You are commanded in that prayer to teach these words, "Hear O Israel (meaning the people not the state), the Lord our God the Lord is One,"  to your children. From generation unto generation.... Seeing his grandchildren in Jerusalem, at the Kotel, reciting this prayer, would have been the culmination of much that my father had sought to accomplsih.

It never happened, because I thought we had years. First was medical bills, now there's college and graduate school. There was always a reason that we just didn't save money for such a trip. Now the trip will never happen.

Don't wait. If there is something important that you want to do, something so meaningful that it would be a lifetime experience, especially between your parents and their grandchildren find a way to do it. Don't make my mistake.Learn from my mistake. Please.



Saturday, August 11, 2012

Giving Our Daughters the Wrong Message: Having Gabby and Lolo's Backs

 
No I have no daughters, but the inherent sexism of the mainstream media is frustrating to me nonetheless. The past two weeks have seen the amazing feats of the world's best female athletes. Whether they won any medals or simply participated in the Olympic games, their dedication to their sport and the way in which they run their lives is an example to all young women (and yes men too). But what did we get instead of discussing these women in healthy and intelligent terms? We got....

Gabby Douglas' hair debate and Lolo Jones is too feminine to be an athlete....

Sometimes the media and people have too much to say and not enough intelligent brain cells to use to process their own stupidity. Yes I am using a mean word to describe these people (oowww bad me). The following is also not a discussion of "politics"  (read that here, here, here, here) but a discussion of the media's distortion of a woman's value and self-worth.

Gabby Douglas is an amazing gymnast and at 16-years-old won the gold medal for best woman gymnast in the entire world. Who cares what her hair looked like when she was preforming and quite frankly who cares what her hair looks like when she is giving interviews? She's 16! What did you look like at 16?  Not everything that a person does is superficial. It is fine and dandy to worry about your outward appearance, but to ignore the magnificence of Gabby's talent and accomplishments is inane. Do we tell our daughters, hey go be that neurosurgeon but remember when you are preforming brain surgery make sure to go to the beauty parlor beforehand so you always look like you came out of a Hollywood movie.....

Then on the other hand you have Lolo Jones, who does take more of a glam view of her appearance and quite frankly has done some modeling too. But because she didn't medal, even though she is the world record holder in her event, some loser-in-life who writes for The New York Times decided that if she didn't care about her appearance (read self-promotion) so much she would have done better at the Games. I can't decide if the author just doesn't' like the fact that Lolo is a devout Christian and still a  virgin or just mad because beautiful women like Lolo won't give him the time of day. (Yes the media tends to try to destroy Tim Tebow because of his religious beliefs as well.)

Then you have two of Lolo's teammates (and I use the term loosely), bad mouthing her on television. Instead of standing up for her, in the wake of that nasty NYT's piece, the two that won the medals in the event said that they were the ones who represent athleticism and the USA not Lolo. And yes, these two are going to wonder why they will never get endorsements despite their medal wins. Someone should just give them a  copy of their "catty interviews" so they can remind themselves that no company wants a "bitch" to represent their products.

No, of course I don't know either Gabby or Lolo. I don't know who they are in real life nor quite frankly do I care who they are at this point. But what they represent to young girls is the reality that  a young woman can be dedicated and persevere in the competitive world of international sports competition. That one athlete keeps her "kinky hair" and the other one doesn't is the most ridiculous and misdirected debates I have read about in recent weeks.

How are our daughters going to feel free to accomplish their goals and their sense of themselves when the world consistently looks for reasons to knock them down no matter how amazing and accomplished they are? Yes the reason they are attacked could also be because they are amazing and others are trying to make themselves known and relevant by denigrating the accomplished....jealousy as we see can also rear its ugly green head (just look no farther than Lolo Jones' teammates for an example I suppose).

And yes, from the selfish perspective of a mother of sons, where is the daughter-in-law of the future who will love and cherish my child going to come from if she doesn't have the right to be anything and anyone she wants without derision and supercilious comments? Where are my sons going to find a woman who is strong, self-reliant and can persevere, if women with strong personalities are denigrated and denied their self-respect? Where are my sons going to find the right woman to be a helpmate if all the media wants women to think about is their hair, their nails and their clothes but then demolishes them if these women incorporate a feminine appearance into a successful career and life?

In a world where we strive to make sure that our daughters are self-sufficient people there is always the reminder that there are still creeps out there who quite frankly need a really good psychiatrist to help them with their "women hating issues". The "Our Gang" boys were a cute group from a by-gone era representative of male chauvinism and archaic views of women...sadly it seems some of these attitudes apparently still exist and the truly sadder  fact is that these ideas are even perpetrated by other women as well....


Until next time,



Elise




Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Practicality: Setting Goals and Expectations

So here we are at the beginning of another school year. One of the hardest things that I have encountered over the years is the fact that so any teachers, administrators and therapists tend to have expectations of our children based upon their disability not upon who they happen to be. This is reflected not only in the classwork they are given but in the goals outlined in their IEPs.

In many ways this issue is fairly ironic, because in so many school systems our children's disabilities are not taken into account when their behaviors are dealt with, but only when their education is at stake. It is well documented that the zero-tolerance policies of most school districts falls heavily upon those with behavioral issues. Luckily for us, when these issues arose, (and they always do) we were able to work around the district's policy only because we had a high school vice-principal with a background in special education.

What I am going to do here is try to outline some ideas that you may use when creating goals and expectations  for your children. Furthermore, I am going to discuss how behavioral issues can be incorporated into their IEPs and how a functional behavioral assessment can actually outline how a school should deal with behavioral issues.

GOALS

Goals are in the IEP in order to breakdown the areas in which your child needs support. These areas can be far reaching, like organizing a huge research report to even simple tasks, like hanging up their coat in their cubby.

Lets start with a basic homework goal for example: The first part of this task is to write down homework upon entering the classroom (hopefully the teacher will be proactive and have that night's homework already up on the whiteboard). Of course a different issue arises if the teacher waits and puts the homework assignment up at the end of class. It gives your child less time to respond and practice the goals. But the breakdown does remain the same.

Remember the point of goals is that at some point your child will become independent of support and be able to fend for themselves.  There should be a percentage that your child will do these tasks without prompting..the schools usually expect 80% efficiency.

1. Child will take out homework agenda.
2. Child will take out pencils/pens to use in writing down homework.
3. Child will write down the days homework from the whiteboard

Then before they leave class your child should be able to explain to the para/teacher what the homework entails. This includes understanding what they not only have to do, if it is writing or reading, but what materials need to be brought home to accomplish this task.

4. Child will be able to communicate what the homework happens to be.
5. Child will understand what the assignement entails.
6. Child will be able to identify what they need to bring home to accomplish the homework assignment.

At this point if your child doesn't understand the assignment the explanation should be written out in the agenda either by the child or by the teacher/para along with the list of necessary items to be brought home.

7. At end of day child will take out what they need to accomplish homework and put it in their backpack.
8. Child's backpack will be checked before they leave school to ensure that they have everything they need to do homework.

Every element for every task can be broken down into increments so that your child remembers and recognizes the steps it takes to be efficient and be able to become independent. Here is another:

Remembering math facts...(the different levels)

1. Child will be able to count to one hundred without prompting.
2. Child will be able to explain their ones, tens, hundreds and thousands.
3. Child will be able to add and subtract all math facts in conjunction with state standards.
4. Child will be able to preform multiplication and division within state standards.

For each math fact based goal there are breakdowns to make it less cumbersome for the child. Counting to one hundred, could be spaced out so that the child learns at a different pace, and the same with the other types of math facts that need to be learned.

Homework can also be tailored to help the child. Most children with disabilities get very overwhelmed with the amount of homework given on a daily basis in school. Example: if the class is to do ten math facts that evening, your child can be given half of that to do. If the class is to write two page essay, your child could be allowed to write a one page essay.

For many up until high school, homework amounts can be modified in the IEP. In New York they cannot modify highschool requirements if your child is to graduate with an academic/regents diploma. Check with your state what the graduation requirements are to see if even in high school they can be somewhat modified.

The goal of homework is to help your child work on the skills they have learned during the day in school. However, when there is a processing or learning  issue and it becomes painful to do huge amounts of homework, that needs to be acknowledged. Homework accessibility and follow through is something that can be learned over time and over years. It does not happen within a one yer span of time. Like everything else our children do, this is a learned skill something our children assimilate over their 12 years of schooling.  What this may mean, as we already know, is that they will learn at a slower pace then their peers, but it does NOT preclude them from learning. This is something that needs to be made terribly clear.

Learning disabilities or developmental disabilities does not preclude education, it just means learning differently that is all. This is also why it is extremely important that the IEP reflect all your child's deficits. (Yes I know its important that their positive aspects of who they are also be written into the IEP, but to garner the proper supports, the deficits must be made very very very clear.) The fact that the deficits are acknowledged and that there is a written plan on how to handle their educational issues is the purpose of the IEP.  In fact one of the most important and yet rarely talked about areas on the IEP is the "management" section.

This section outlines what has been done before to help and support your child and what may need to be done in the future. This includes a discussion of triggers, sensory issues and even one to one interactions. This section tells how things have been handled and what is the best way that your child has been made to feel comfortable and a positive learner. This lets teachers, paras, therapists know what has worked and how to help your child. This way in some respects your child does to have to start from scratch with a new teacher every year. This is one area of the IEP that could include information taken from the functional behavioral assessment (FBA).

EXPECTATIONS

In this regard you need to talk to the school about expectations. It is very important that the school understand that your child can and will accomplish the tasks set out for them, it just may take a little longer. The trick of course is to make sure that the school acknowledges that your child has potential and that they just need to work harder with them to get them to the same level as their peers.

Unfortunately, this may not be as easy as it sounds. and in some cases it takes a lawyer or advocate's intervention. Sadly many schools still see the disability first before they see the child and they come to your child's education with preconceived notions about what they can and cannot accomplish. We even faced that in college with CM1. That is when I did hire a lawyer and sent the disability office a thinly veiled threatening letter.

What they learned over the years is to not judge CM1 by his disability or his needs, but by his mind and his work ethic. Today he is well thought of by his professors and that is what counts in the end. In fact CM1'sintelligence is well known and very acknowledged now at his college. But I won't tell you it wasn't anxiety provoking at first, but as I always say, our family is "autism awareness" on a daily basis. So it is something we are used to.

I can tell you that we did not face the same questions about CM2's ability at all when he entered the same college as his brother. In fact just the opposite. Many of his professors had been CM1's professors and they expected a different child than what they got with CM2. What they learned is that CM1's work ethic and analytical ability is not tied to his autism but to whom he is as a person. A lesson for the professors and one for the school as well. As I have been saying, educators need to see the person not the disability first.

But in our situation everyone in the end was willing to learn and that is all that you can ask, isn't it?

ZERO TOLERANCE

One important and overlooked area of expectations is behavior. It is ironic that in many school districts the educational powers that be will not push our children to preform at their best academically but will demand perfection in behavior based disabilities. One way to help avoid this issue is to make sure that your child has a functional behavioral assessment. This assessment outlines what behavioral issues your child has and how they are to be handled. A FBA accomplishes several things:

1. Lets everyone know what triggers your child.
2. Tells people who are unfamiliar with your child how to help them.
3. Will explain accommodations needed for behavioral support and compliance.
4. Can outline "punishment" and its progression as well if rules are not followed. 
4. Holds the school to a level of competence and legal responsibility toward your child.

Now in many cases the FBA will NOT be added to the IEP per se but can be rewritten in as goals (as well as being part of the management section of the IEP as mentioned above). These goals should appear under social and emotional development. They can also come under speech and language therapy goals and OT and PT goals as well. (Yes all these goals should be in an IEP).

I understand that so many of these things are counterintuitive. How could your child not be expected to adhere to an academic standard but is expected to adhere to a behavioral standard?This makes absolutely no sense. In reality it is simply the path of least resistance. It is not easy to think outside the box and not easy to always come up with new and inventive ways to educate. But our children demand that right and quite frankly demand that respect. Furthermore, it is not hard to fashion a pro-disability policy when instituting a zero tolerance policy for children.

Honestly, the best way to do it, is to not have a zero tolerance policy at all. Every incident does not have the same underlying facts and every incident does not require the same punishment. In fact the inanity of the zero tolerance policy was shown by the district, which suspended a student for standing up for someone who was being bullied (see the link above dealing with zero tolerance policy). Nothing can show the laziness of a zero tolerance policy more than that story....OK the times when districts suspended or cause trouble for autistic children because they meltdown or have issues especially when the teacher instigates these issues could also be a reason for elimination of a zero tolerance policy too.

The truth of the matter is that we as parents need to advocate on so many levels for our children. It only begins when we try to get our children designated and start the process of an IEP and a FBA. I would say in fact that getting these documents is the easy part. Reminding people that your child should be seen first as a student, and then as a student with a disability,  is the real challenge. No it is not easy, I won't lie to you, but it can be done...I know it can because I did it and I have no special magic wand just the determination that all autism-warrior-parents channel.


Until next time,



Elise






Saturday, August 4, 2012

Accepting Life's Offers

This TED talk is a little different. Here Dan Klein discusses how we can expand our lives and not accept the safety of our worlds. You start by saying "hello." He says that we  all improvise our day....that we do it to work around our mistakes...stop worrying about the missteps and see them for the gifts that they are. You should not term it to "learn" from your errors but that each mistake should be the point from which you restart.... follow the new path and see where that takes you...




What do you think?

Until next time,


Elise


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Practicality: When Your Child is Hyper-Active, What is it Really

Let me start off by saying I am not a medical professional. I have no training in psychiatry or any other biological based profession. The following post is merely from my own personal experience. In the end please always consult with your doctor, special educators and therapists.

We hear this word all the time..hyperactive. The reality is, that in a child with special needs hyperactivity is just one of the many challenges. But the problem is trying to figure out whether the issue is attention based, auditory based, learning disability based, social issue based or some other physical manifestation (i.e. occupational therapy needs). The truth is that your child can exhibit hyperactivity, it is the reason behind it that counts. And truth be told, there could be more than one reason for hyperactivity as well.

Both of my boys have adhd, auditory processing issues, learning disabilities and of course social issues. Also know that with age these issues can become muted as they learn to work around their issues as well. In fact while their testing as youngsters showed a huge auditory processing issue, today it does not reach a level of disability. Not because it has "disappeared" but because they have learned to cope (well for the most part anyway). The same with their social issues and attention issues.

Honestly this is when the doctor plays a vital role...Yes doctors always have a role to play (despite my constant complaining about them), but being able to parcel out just what is happening with your child is what they are supposed to do. Their job is to be able to break down every thing that is happening with your child and figure out why they have a particular behavior and help set a program for them. It is essential that teachers and other support staff understand which disability your child is dealing with so that they can figure out the right accommodation for your child as well. How your child learns to cope is different depending on the root cause of the hyperactivity.

In fact hyperactivity can and does look alot like melting down. A child cannot sit still. A child cannot do their work. A child cannot even pick which activity to do because they are overwhelmed by choice. I would have to say the one element that everything does have in common however  is frustration. When dealing with a situation that you cannot comprehend or are slow in processing what is happening, you will become frustrated as you are left behind. If your child cannot process what is being taught and cannot learn there will be a meltdown. If they cannot process the interactions and the requirements of the classroom there will be a meltdown. If they cannot tolerate the noise level, the lighting and sensory issues there will be a meltdown. If they have physical issues that make it difficult to sit in a chair all day, stand or even use a pencil there will be a meltdown.

Knowing what is causing the frustration, the meltdown, and/or the inattention is the first part of getting to the root of the problem. Also take note of something very important, some attention issues do not have a hyperactive element but the inattention is just as devastating to the child's progress. If your child is falling behind but is "well behaved" do not let it pass simply because they are not "trouble makers." Many schools will not deal with attention issues unless there is a behavior element involved. Those children who sit quiet do not always get seen and are ignored and fall through the cracks in the system.

Meanwhile here are some things that we did at home and at school that helped:

1. Remove as much distraction as possible. That is why there is alternative locations for testing. There is minimal distraction in the resource/testing center. Separate cubicles for testing and learning is effective. In fact when CM1 was in his out-of district-autism-program each child in the classroom had their own little cubicle area where they would sit and do their work. We also copied this at home when they had to do homework. Their desks are in an area without television or video games. In fact we created separate little offices for them. I know most people cannot do this, but minimize the distractions in the area that your child needs to do homework.

2. Schedule their time doing homework. Build in breaks. If your child has OT issues they will not be able to sit for a long periods of time. They will need some exercise or just simply to get up and move for awhile. The same for school. Have an OT consult and have them help rearrange the classroom so your child can function better. In fact CM2 used to have such a consult. She came in and gave pointers for the entire classroom not just him alone. It benefited everyone including the teacher. Happier children make for a better learning environment and makes the teacher's job easier too.

3. Understanding instructions may be difficult and lead to acting out. Have the teacher breakdown the instructions in small steps, making certain that your child understands what they are supposed to do. Having them write the directions down and even highlight with different colors each step goes along way in helping your child understand their assignment. Oral instructions quite honestly are a waste of time.

4. Social atmosphere of the classroom and especially the open ended areas like recess and gym need to be heavily monitored. Your child needs to be given exact instructions on what to do and how to do it on the playground. Otherwise instead of playing they might just wonder around the field unable to decide what to do or even how to approach others in play. When CM2 was in kindergarten he couldn't even pick which corner activity to play at unless instructed by a teacher or aide.

5. As your child ages then class notes becomes essential as well as the ability to tape record lectures. The use of laptop computers will help with OT issues. Make sure your child learns to write down everything instead of trying to remember it and have them go over their assignments with the teacher so that they truly understand every part of the project. If it is a huge assignment and something done over weeks or days, ask the teacher to let you know what the assignment is and what it entails. If there is a question or your child gets confused (which they so often do) you will then have the answer for them and be able to provide the needed support at home. (Sadly I found this part rather difficult for some middle school and highschool teachers to understand-the need for parental involvement. I have had more fights in CSE meetings with teachers about this parameter. It's almost as if they take it as an affront that they don't know how to teach. For my own children I stuck to my guns on this issue. But then again, as they grew, noone really questioned what I asked to be done when it came to the boys.)

6. It is important to set out parameters of behavior for your child. Let them know exactly what is expected of them and why. Truthfully this may be hard for them to do without other therapies (OT, speech, social skills. etc). But explaining to them everything that is expected of them and giving them boundaries is a huge beginning to helping them cope. Charts, rewards, bribes if you will is something that helped alot. Concrete evidence of their positive behaviors with an emphasis on the positive is very important. If all you do is criticize a child or tell them they are doing everything wrong, they will grow up to think that they are a failure. But if you find away to help them think positively about themselves, even when they make a mistake,  then they will be driven to try to work harder to succeed in their goals.

Also something really important, coordinate with the school. Consistency is essential if your child is to learn how to learn. Consistency is essential when dealing with the frustration and hyperactivity associated with many of these comorbid issues.

One more thing and this is very important...don't be afraid of medication. If handled properly the medication should not change your child's personality or turn them into zombies. What it does is help them focus so that they can then employ the strategies and therapies that they need in order to learn to cope. But also medication without the therapies and the classroom accommodations does nothing. It all must be done in tandem. Medication is not a panacea even though so many teachers think that's all they need.

Another note, simply because your child does have an autism spectrum disorder does not automatically mean they need medication either. Medication depends upon the underlying comorbid issues your child has to deal with as well. I know many children, now actually young adults, who are medicine free and have always been. Also we chose to put the boys on meds because their comorbid issues were so apparent and overwhelming. It did make a huge amount of difference in their ability to learn and function. That is why it is essential you have an expert help to delineate what is really going on with your child and how debilitating or not debilitating these disabilities happen to be.

Also the medication must be regulated by a psychiatrist  with a background in adolescent disabilities. I know that many neurologists deal with adhd. Find out their background with autism spectrum disorders though. Chose someone who has an overall background in everything your child needs and understands how all the comorbid issues interact.

In the meantime, there was a recent article in the Wall Street Journal about how they are looking at video games as a way to teach skills and help children with hyperactivity. Now we know as parents, that video games are very helpful for children with adhd. Well at least they are still quite effective for mine. In fact in their social skills classes as small children the psychologists used video games to teach general social skills. Glad to see that the scientific community is finally catching onto what us parents learned along time ago. HERE

Until next time,


Elise




Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Practicality: When to Tell Your Aspergean They are an Aspie

One of the biggest questions parents deal with is when to tell their child that they are on the spectrum. It was the question hubby and I argued about the most. I had always wanted to tell CM1 almost from the very beginning while hubby thought it would make our son feel horrible about himself to know that he was different. Our difference was resolved when the school psychologist upon hearing that we had never told our 9-year-old CM1 that he was an aspergean, told us to  IMMEDIATELY tell him.

At this point CM1 was fully included in school with a one on one para. Even though he was in a regular education classroom he did get pulled out for speech and reading help. The truth is he had been in an inclusion environment since first grade. Then he was partially included, spending most of his day in the autism-classroom but interacting with regular ed students during specials like art, gym, music and library. By second grade they had created a co-taught classroom model and our son was spending his days entirely among his typical peers.

So finally we sat him down and explained to him that the reason he has an aide and the reason he may find he has more trouble with somethings than other children is because his brain works differently. He has something called aspergers. I remember his words verbatim...

"So its nothing I did? It's not my fault?"

We assured him that of course it was not his fault. That he was just born this way. That everyone has problems but his are just more "in everyone's face" than some peoples. That everyone is here to help him be the best that he can be and that we are very very very proud of him. Well he went on his merry way and never looked back, He had a reason why things were at times more difficult than his peers and why even when he tried he simply had trouble interacting with the other children.

He grew up and underneath it all he understood that he had aspergers. He studied what autism meant (on his own) and could explain it to everyone who asked. He understood that it was a part of him and that this was how he was created. Somethings just are what they are.

The lesson I want parents to take from my experience is that it is so important NOT to wait. Tell your children early on. CM2 always knew that he had aspergers and adhd. I remember when he was 5-years-old and after a year of behavioral modification and child-study-teams at school we finally came to the conclusion that he needed some medication to help him with his attention deficits. He turned to us and said,

"It's about time."

Children know when there is something not right. It's us, the parents who need to get our heads out of our butts and accept that they have these issues. We need to be upfront with our children. Be honest. Tell them what is going on.  Respect their intelligence.

Remember that CM1 thought everything that he was having trouble doing was his fault. No one ever told him any different. We had no idea that he thought this way. We thought he just accepted the ways things are without question. Yes, to this day I beat myself up for not following through on my instincts.  Don't make the mistake we made with CM1. As soon as your child can truly tell that they are different than their peers. TELL THEM. As soon as they see that they have extra help, leave the room for therapies and are not invited to the birthday parties that everyone else talks about incessantly. TELL THEM. It won't make all the hurt go away, but they will know that the issues are not theirs but other people's ignorance too.

This is the reason that we were always open with CM2 about his issues. We did not talk of it in hushed tones like with did when CM1 was little. We were open and honest right from the beginning and let him know that hey..sometimes life is just what it is....and its no big deal and even more importantly nothing to ever be ashamed about...EVER.

I know many parents are afraid that if they tell their children that the child will try to use autism as an excuse for things that go wrong. Well yes they probably will. But how you handle that is what will set their path for life. If you tell them that hey yes autism can make some things harder, but that its no excuse. All it means is that you need to maybe work harder at the subject or find an unconventional way of doing something. The trick is letting them know in no uncertain terms, that they can do anything they want. Autism is no bar. If society doesn't get you then teach society. If something stands in your way find a way around it. Hold your head high, do your best and make no excuses.

I remember the boys never actually went that route of using autism as an excuse. I think its because from the git-go we never used it ourselves. But one day in highschool, after CM2 did have a meltdown at a teacher and called people names, was beyond inappropriate and was thrown out of the classroom, he was given detention. He told me that the school doesn't understand people with aspergers.

I looked at him and wondered where in the hell he got that one from. Of course, knowing CM2 he got it from his own little head. I quickly told him, that if the school didn't understand aspergers after the name calling, the screaming and the massive interruption of a hallway full of classes, he would have been suspended never mind sitting in detention. So yes the school understood aspergers and he had better learn how to handle his emotions better. The real world is not going to put up with is disregulation or his emotional outbursts. A boss is definitely not going to let you call him names and disrupt a business.

Getting no sympathy from us, he never tried that track again. By the way this does not preclude you getting them accommodations and teaching people around them about autism and who your child is and how to help them. It's teaching your child that they need to be the best that they can be and not allowing autism or anything to stand in their way.

So yes, tell your child as soon as they recognize that they walk to the beat of a different drummer and quite frankly as soon as they recognize that the world around them doesn't necessarily understand who they are. And yes make it age appropriate, giving a 6 year old a book on biology doesn't quite cut it. But I think you already figured this one out.... Make sure they understand who they are and that they are wonderful, gorgeous and above all that you love them beyond reason.

Until next time,


Elise