Sunday, March 29, 2015

Knowing When to Trust an "Expert"

From TEDed

There are always questions when we think of autism. The issue becomes whose opinion do you trust and why. This little vignette may help with deciding where to begin your analysis.

Also read the posts under the sidebar page Musing for Autism-Warrior-Parents

Additional Resources for you to Explore
Eyewitness testimony is a legal term. It refers to an account given by people of an event they have witnessed.
Eyewitness testimony is the account a bystander gives in the courtroom, describing what they perceived happened during the specific incident under investigation.
Scott Fraser studies how humans remember crimes -- and bear witness to them. In this powerful talk, which focuses on a deadly shooting at sunset, he suggests that even close-up eyewitnesses to a crime can create "memories" they could not have seen. Why? Because the brain abhors a vacuum.
An expert witness, professional witness, or judicial expert is a witness who, by virtue of education, training, skill, or experience, is believed to have expertise and specialized knowledge in a particular subject beyond that of the average person, sufficient that others may officially and legally rely upon the witness's specialized (scientific, technical, or other) opinion about an evidence or fact issue within the scope of his expertise, referred to as the expert opinion, as an assistance to the fact-finder. See here for the official federal rules.
Here's an article about expert testimony.
Inferring probabilities from track record: See Wesley Salmon’s classic text The Foundations of Scientific Inference (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1966).

Saturday, March 28, 2015

So Apparently @IAmSteveHarvey Thinks He's Cool Making Fun of Special Needs

I saw this video on facebook and thought I would share. Maybe if enough people ask Steve Harvey why he thinks it's cool to make fun of developmentally disabled people he might provide us an answer.

Published on Mar 26, 2015
Please LIKE, SHARE and COMMENT - I really want this to go as far as it can go!
Steve Harvey may not see it, nor even care to hear what I am saying, but there are TONS of people who need to hear this!
My phone stopped recording before I was done, but you get the point. (You didn't miss anything in the end; just me crying before getting out of my car.)
Please help me spread the word to ALL comedians/comedienne's that this practice is extremely hurtful to many members of the Special Needs community!
There has GOT to be other material out here!
I don't even attend comedy shows anymore because I know that I'm going to hear foolishness like this from at least one comedian.
It has got to stop!
Thanks for listening.

From the marvelousdekeda

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dear Future Husband-Meghan Trainor

Meghan Trainor seems to be leading a revolution of sorts... female self-esteem, empowerment, self-respect and self-possession. She has started conversations about fat-shaming, truth in a relationship (no it's not cool to lie, even a white lie) and now this lovely bubblegum pop hit about how to treat and respect a woman. With all the neo-feminism found today among the so-called feminist third-wave, it is nice to know that young women understand that female strength does not come from phoney grievance mongering. It's about the real things in life that matters.

For a more logical look at today's issues facing women watch these videos from the Factual Feminist.

Also if you are interested in women who do suffer from living within real patriarchal societies that deprive them of their humanity, watch the videos linked here.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Question about Common Core and Civil Rights of Disabled Students

I posted this on my Facebook page yesterday. What does everyone think? Am I right about Common Core being a potential civil rights violation under the IDEA and ADA?

I just learned that under CC here in NY there is no longer the option of alternative testing that the State allowed under the old Regents regime. If the State knew that they needed to provide alternative testing to graduate some students with disabilities, or it would be a violation of the IDEA and ADA, why under CC do these Civil Rights legislations not count? Since when did students with disabilities loose the right to alternative testing to prove that they are college ready?

Every brain does not work the same. That is something that neurologists have known for decades. It is partly the theory behind the IDEA, to allow those who are not neurotypical the right to access how their brain analyzes information in order to prove their academic abilities.

It seems to me that CC is a violation of the civil rights of those who would otherwise qualify for alternative testing. Without the alternative testing many IEP students will not pass the CC and not be given a high school diploma. They will only be given a local certificate. It basically means that they cannot go on to post secondary education of any kind. They will not be able to fulfill their dreams simply because their brain processes information differently than a typical student and those that wrote the CC are discriminating against those with learning disabilities.

While a student who attends a private school, as opposed to a public school, do not have to take the CC tests in order to receive a high school diploma, most families cannot afford that alternative for their children. The question then becomes who pays for the private education in order that a child's civil rights are not violated? This is not an issue of alternative public placement for LRE and FAPE. But the question becomes:

1) If CC is a violation of the civil rights of students with disabilities (which I believe it is),
2) Because there is no alternative right of testing under CC,
3) Then the student with a  disability is then entitled to be schooled in an environment where their civil rights are not violated,
4) Hence is the school district required to pay for the student to attend a private school that does not require CC in order to graduate?

Or quite frankly the entire premise of CC is unconstitutional as a violation of the rights of those who fall under the IDEA and ADA, unless they implement alternative testing for those that qualify.

Well its just a thought....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The IEP and that one important forgotten issue-BE POSITIVE

Previous IEP Posts:

Don't Call them Boys with Aspergers, Call them Boys
You Know it Never Ends
From Few Words to One Kvetchy Kid
WOOHOO, It's Officially Senior Year
Don't Yell, Just Embrace Your Inner Bitch
Reprise: Don't Yell Just Embrace Your Inner Bitch: Dealing with Bullying and IEPs
Self-Esteem, It's not a Trophy It's Reality
Back to School: Transition and Perspective
Self-Contained to the Future
Schedules, Oasis, Rules and Love
Review and Reset
Standardized Testing: Blessing, Curse, Somewhere Inbetween
Sensory Issues While Growing Up
Talking About ESY
Demystifying Written Language
"Science" of Autism, Who Gives a Crap-Practical is What Counts
Setting Goals and Expectations
It's September, So It's Time to Talk About Schools Failing Boys....Yet Again
Getting Ready for IEP Season
Aspects of a Special Needs Village: Conflict Management


The Individual Education Program, or IEP, generated by a school districts Committee on Special Education (CSE) is the outline for support and therapies that a child is entitled to during the school year. It is based upon actual psycho-educational testing performed either by the school and/or a private psychologist. The IEP details what the issues are that the child faces and how they are to be worked on during the school year.

The CSE sets goals for each child based upon the testing. Depending upon the issues faced, the goals can be both long-term and/or short-term. Goals can be intertwined or completely unrelated. The only actual requirement is that they be based upon a real quantifiable need of the student. These goals are also not limited to educational supports, but can also include speech therapy (articulation as well as pragmatic), occupational therapy, physical therapy, social skills support, emotional development and even executive functioning goals.

The CSE details the classroom configuration, and classroom supports, the child will have in order to reach their goals. Classrooms can range from self-contained, to co-taught with para support, to basic co-taught, to regular education with para support or regular education with special education consult. In fact, the school district is not limited to any particular classroom design, except for what the district itself has decided to offer. The district also needs to ensure that whatever classroom is designated for the student it is the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE) that allows for a Free and appropriate Public Education (FAPE).

The IEP also outlines what accommodations the student will receive as far as testing, homework, class assignments and any physical needs. There can be extended test time, alternative location, computer use, lessening of homework amount, extended time to hand in essays, in addition to supportive technology for classrooms, gym and recess. There can be a discussion of accommodations fro sensory issues, auditory processing and language processing issues. Special detailed ideas for scheduling and even allowing a student to come and go at different times from class, can be spelled out in the IEP.

There are sections of the IEP that detail management ideas for each student and what has and has not worked. They do talk about some strengths of the student but in the end the real reason for the IEP is because the child is not doing well and its purpose is to outline these deficits and actively try to teach the child self-help skills. The realistic approach to life is that a child's disability is not going to go away. It is part of their brain. Some of the outward, noticeable issues may ameliorate, but that does not mean the disability is gone. It will never be gone. The real and final purpose of an IEP is to teach the child to be able to function successfully in the world-at-large.

The problem however, that is also part and parcel of this system, is that it is terribly negative.  The way the IDEA is written is that a student has to have a quantifiable deficit within their education in order to qualify for services. Basically a student has to be failing for them to garner support. And not simply failing a little, but noticeable failing to the point that they are not gaining educationally at all. A child that falls within the AVERAGE of psychological testing is not considered eligible for services. This average can range from 25-75 percentile. So even a child with a low average score is not eligible for support.  (This of course can be devastating for a child who really does need help but is not entitled under law for the support.)

The notion that by the time the child finally receives services that they are total and abject failures is pervasive through the legislation. By this time, the student has developed a terrible complex, believes themselves stupid, have been told that they are lazy or lacking in the requisite abilities that are needed to achieve. Their self-esteem destruction is almost, if not already, complete.

So the issue is what to do about it? How do you get those who work with your child to concentrate on their positive attributes as well as teach to their deficits? What do you, a parent, have to do in order to get the school to think about the entire child and not simply the one in the IEP?

1. Make sure that you write a letter to their teachers outlining the positive aspects of your child. Tell the teachers if your child is  artistic, athletic, kind, loving and caring, etc. That they want to be outgoing. They want to be helpful. They want to be liked.
2. Make sure that you and the teachers figure out what are your child's strengths and plan some activities around those.
3. Harness your child's obsessions or idiosyncrasies for the better. Channel how these issues can be used for the development of your child. Make your child's challenges into a positive aspect of their personalities. Remember Nobel Prizes are handed out to scientists who make discoveries by being obsessed with one minuscule area.

While you cannot change the legislative purpose of the IDEA to include a more positive approach, you can insist that:

1. The school in helping your child, do it in a positive manner by seeing your child before they see the disability. Makes sure that the school doesn't judge your child by their disability. That they do not decide to minimize who your child happens to be based solely on a diagnosis. (MrGS enjoyed preforming Shakespeare in his 8th grade English class, so he wanted to try out for the school play in highschool. The Special Education Department head at the high school told MrGS he couldn't try out for the school play because people with autism don't understand feelings and you need to understand feelings in order to act. Yes, that teacher was gone by the end of the year. Unfortunately the damage was already done.) It is important to remember that many of our children are very prone to suggestion and a child when told that they are incapable by a "higher-authority-figure" will take it to heart.

2. The school needs to engage your child in their education and make it an enjoyable experience even if the only way to do that is to be rather unconventional. EX: If a child is obsessed with baseball make sure that the lessons bring baseball into the program. If a child is obsessed with the color purple, make sure that there is alot of purple surrounding them. If they feel more comfortable sitting on an exercise ball rather than in a desk chair, put that exercise ball at their table. (CM2 felt more comfortable with a butterfly paperweight on his desk. He liked to hold it in his hand too. It was a tactile issue. He took it everywhere with him when he changed classrooms.)

3. They can also allow your child to teach their classroom about their disability. EX: CM2 did a power point presentation for his 4th grade class all about aspergers. This way he understood himself and they understood him. It was done very positively, emphasizing his strengths. While many may think that such a presentation is a bad idea, you need to remember that in many cases your child already stands out. It might be a good idea to explain why they do, so that there are no rumors, innuendos and maybe just maybe if others understand who your child is, there may be less of an issue with bullying. (No guarantee, but it worked for CM2. He was one of those rare Aspies who was not bullied during k-12, except in the way that  typical 15-year-old-boys seem to be pain in the butts to each other.)

4. Have the school put your child in a Circle of Friends or Counseling group that includes typical students. That way they will see, that they are not the only ones with issues and that every can help each other and be supportive of each other when issues arise. Have the school create lunch buddies for your child. The school should focus on trying to include your child in every walk of school life, not just in the classroom. And yes while the school cannot make others befriend your child, when compassion and understanding are taught, instead of allowing a Lord of the Flies mentality, it does work.

Lastly YOU BE POSITIVE. Your child will take their cue from you. You have a positive outlook and so will they. You help them be the best that they can be and they will believe they can achieve anything they dream.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Children's Book Review: ELLA- A cheeky parody

Let me begin by saying that I adored this book. It is Eloise for today's child. ELLA, a child of color, lives in a hipster hotel in Brooklyn. She has a working mom, a Manny with tattoo sleeves and is surrounded by some of the coolest and most inventive people around. Ella is also a modern child who recycles, reclaims and is very very aware of the world around her. 

When she is not doing yoga, she plays with her dachshund Stacie and her goldfish Rasta. She has two American Girl dolls, who are free to be themselves. She understand how to take good care of herself  from flossing to Zumba to drum circles and mani/pedis. She is home-schooled by a Phd Student and even writes her own memoir-journal. And needlesstosay, as a very modem hip little girl, she has her own on-line store where she sells her artistic wares. Her mother, of course, wants her to go to an Ivy.....

She is engaged and helpful in her hotel. She goes to fashion-forward events, plans date-nights for her my ponies, and finds some rather interesting things to do with edamame. She gets to travel around the world with her mother on private planes.

But the thing she likes best in the world is video chatting with her mom and her rainbow bed adorned with little dark chocolates at night. Meanwhile, when she can't sleep, she enjoys sneaking up to the hotel rooftop and looking into the neighbors windows and seeing life as it unfolds. She wonders about the big-world out there.

Ella is that precocious, engaging child that you love. A young girl exploring the world around her and growing to understand the interesting adults in her milieu.

Do I think this is a book for the average child? YES, definitely. In fact if nothing else it will begin conversations about today's issues and maybe even help you come up with some fun ideas so you and your child can go exploring together.

Read these other reviews of Ella. 

Vogue- yes that Vogue

From the author's website (Mallory Kasdan):

She has a nanny called Manny. He has tattoos for sleeves and he might go in with some guys to buy a grilled cheese truck. Sometimes Ella weaves purses out of Ziploc bags and reclaimed twine. (She is artsy of course.)
She has a dog named Stacie and a fish named Rasta and a scooter which is important for getting everywhere she needs to be.
Altogether she has been to 62 events including that Hillary Clinton fundraiser. She is NEVER bored. If Ella and Kay Thompson’s Eloise got together for a play date, they would have a very good time indeed.

 Purchase Here:

Meanwhile follow Ella's adventures on twitter HERE.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Remember What Testing Doesn't Test

Considering all the hullabaloo about the new education testing regime (Common Core) in schools, I happened across this list on Facebook reminding all of us what those standardized tests (and psycho-ed testing too) doesn't mom and dad, sit back, and take a breath.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Happy Once in a Century Pi Day: 3.14.15.......

Pi, that ubiquitous number so necessary for existence, but the one that few of us truly understand, is celebrated once a year on it is represented in a crop cool!

Since this year's Pi Day is a once in a century event click here for a special way to celebrate.

Meanwhile, celebrated world wide by those with an eye to the future. This rather interesting symbol is integral to our everyday world. In fact, its one of those little items that you don't know is there, but if it ever was ignored  your world would not really be the same. Of course, Pi generally really can't be ignored since math is the only thing that is constant in our universe, unless your one of those who subscribe to the Common Core math standards.

from Forbes, 3.14 ways to celebrate Pi Day

So HERE'S TO YOU, you symbol of modern life.

Or to be adventurous...maybe one of the cocktails listed at this link...

My favorite vodka martini.....

Pi Day party ideas and activities.


Monday, March 9, 2015

Video Game Play as Therapy

 I have written before about the benefits of general video game play.

 Video Games-Purpose and Yes-Importance

Video Games Can Actually be Good for You

Now comes a story whereby the medical world is catching on to what we warrior-parents have really known for a while. If used properly, video games can be another weapon in your therapy-armory.


New York News

NEW YORK (MYFOXNY) - Video games have gotten a bad rap for keeping our kids chained to the TV all day. But now, a special video game is being developed to help children and adolescents with autism. 
It is called "Evo" and it is being studied to see if game-based therapy helps improve brain function and motor skills. It works by targeting kids' attention, focus and problem solving skills.
Alex Siri, 16, has autism and is non-verbal. His dad, Ken, says the iPad changed their lives.
The video game, from Akili Interactive Labs, isn't available yet. 
The company is testing out the game in clinical trials later this year. 
The international advocacy organization Autism Speaks is funding the trials. 
The results will be given to the FDA, which could ultimately give the video game the green light, as a medical device. 
If so, Evo would be the first mainstream therapeutic video game on the market. 
The impact the video game has on the brain may eventually also be able to replace some medications.

Note: While I know some of you will be offended that this research is funded by Autism Speaks, please simply look at the hoped for result and not who is paying the bills. If all goes well, this concept may end up being a new level of support for many people, which may in turn lead to a new level of  self-empowerment for those who have had no choice but to be completely dependent.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

International Women's Day

- Twitter
- Facebook
- Youtube
- LinkedIn
- Pinterest

International Women's Day themeInternational Women's Day 2015 Theme: MAKE IT HAPPEN

All around the world, International Women's Day represents an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women while calling for greater equality.
Make It Happen is the 2015 theme for our global hub, encouraging effective action for advancing and recognising women.
Each year International Women's Day (IWD) is celebrated on March 8. The first International Women's Day was held in 1911. Thousands of events occur to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women. Organisations, governments, charities, educational institutions, women's groups, corporations and the media celebrate the day.

International Women's Day

Support International Women's Day ONLINE

Use your voice via social media:
- #MakeItHappen
- #womensday
- #IWD2015
- #internationalwomensday
- #PaintItPurple

Why purple?

From 1908, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Great Britain adopted the colour scheme of purple, white and green to symbolise the plight of the Suffragettes. Purple symbolised justice and dignity - two values strongly associated with women's equality. The three colours were used for banners, flags, rosettes and badges to show solidarity.

International Women's Day: We Are So Far From Done

International Women's Day: Not So Fast 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Videos: The Art of Conversation and Interview Skills

From TED

Some quick videos that can help everyone understand how to handle speaking to one another.

Have you ever felt like you're talking, but nobody is listening? Here's Julian Treasure to help. In this useful talk, the sound expert demonstrates the how-to's of powerful speaking — from some handy vocal exercises to tips on how to speak with empathy. A talk that might help the world sound more beautiful.

Marc Pachter is a man of many talents, and it seems he's used every one of them during his 33 years at the Smithsonian Institution. Although he has devoted most of his career to one organization, with the single goal of capturing the lives of great Americans, to do so he has played multiple roles. He began his time at the Smithsonian just after a five-year stint at Harvard, where he earned a master's in history and taught Colonial history.  Since that time he has served as acting director of the National Museum of American History, chaired the celebration of the Smithsonian's 150th anniversary, created the first national portrait competition, organized the first national conference on biography and created an interview program called "Living Self-Portaits" which earned him the title of Smithsonian "master interviewer."

In his final years at the Smithsonian, Pachter was director of the National Portrait Gallery Director, retiring in 2007 to work on his writing. Pachter has authored two books, Telling Lives: The Biographer's Art and A Gallery of Presidents, and is editor of several more. In addition, he holds an editorial role at the peer-reviewed journal Biography and was senior cultural advisor to the United States Information Agency for some years.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Happy Purim

Purim is the Jewish holiday where we remember how the bravery of one young women named Esther saved the Jewish people from genocide.

Purim and the Boys' question of hypocrisy
Purim and the answer to the Boys' Ethical Conundrum

Purim Sameach (Happy Purim)

By the way a very interesting book, one I started but did not quite finish, is making the rounds called Anti-Judaism. It's not about antisemitism per se, which is directed at the person, but about the tradition of the western world to denigrate and dispossess Judaism itself. The author discusses how due to this perspective about the Jewish religion  it is easy for a nation to be virulently antisemitic even when there are no Jews who live in their countries (i.e. Judenrein), like in most of Europe and especially in the Arab world. Yes the book is highly unsettling. It is why I couldn't read it in its entirety. I suspect that there are just some issues that hit too close to home as it were. But as you read the book the question you are left with is, whether Jew-hatred is so endemic to the European and Arab traditions, that it is so ingrained into these cultures, that there is generally no hope for its eradication without a drastic cultural shift in the world.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

An Important PSA on Vaccines

Thank you Salon for bringing this important PSA to my attention. Yeah I know, I actually read Salon. The real Salon, not the parody account on twitter. SShhhh, don't tell.

How Autism Freed Me To Be Myself

From TED

“People are so afraid of variety that they try to fit everything into a tiny little box with a specific label,” says 16-year-old Rosie King, who is bold, brash and autistic. She wants to know: Why is everyone so worried about being normal? She sounds a clarion call for every kid, parent, teacher and person to celebrate uniqueness. It’s a soaring testament to the potential of human diversity. 

When she was nine years old, doctors confirmed Rosie King’s self-diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome. With two younger siblings severely affected by autism, Rosie had a burning desire to help make the world a more tolerant place for people with autism ever since she was a young girl. She found the opportunity to do so when her family was invited to do a local news segment on her mother’s children’s books, which featured Rosie’s illustrations. Her lack of inhibition made her a natural presenter, and she was asked to host BBC Newsround’s special program “My Autism and Me,” bringing her a much wider audience and an Emmy Kid’s Award. Rosie continues to raise awareness about autism, and is working towards her goal of becoming a professional actress and storyteller.