Posts Tagged ‘Autism’

Understanding Autism

April 25, 2016

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How much do teachers and students really understand autism?

How much teacher training is dedicated to understanding and catering for students with autism and how much time is invested in helping students learn how to connect to someone who has it?

Reading this inspiring speech by a young girl with autism, I am struck by how effective it was for her to be given the platform. I hope she has inspired both her class and others.

 

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Click on the link to read my post on Autistic Girl’s Heartwarming Letter

Click on the link to read my post on The Difficulty of Going Back to School for Bullied Students

Click on the link to read my post on What This Teacher is Accused of Doing to an Autistic Boy

Click on the link to read my post on School is the Place to Make Better Connections with Our Disabled

Primary School Teacher Catches Herself in the Act (Video)

February 27, 2014

 

I always appreciate it when a school community comes to the defense of a disgraced teacher.

It is important for us to understand that good teachers often make bad mistakes, just like good stockbrokers and company executives do. But bad mistakes in every sphere often leads to a termination of contract, no matter how much that person was regarded or liked.

Here, we have a odd case of a teacher filming herself taunting an autistic child who is stuck in a chair. This would have to be one of the most bizarre ways of getting caught being completely unprofessional:

A PRIMARY school teacher who used her mobile phone to record a 10-year-old boy with Asperger’s syndrome as he struggled to free himself from a chair may be fired.

Nicole McVey, who teaches the fifth grade at Oaktree Elementary School in Goodrich, Michigan, is heard mocking the youngster, asking him, “Wanna be tasered?”

Even the school principal Michael Ellis gets in on the act, telling the child: “It’s not really an emergency in their book,” after Ms McVey states that maintenance is on the way.

According to the New York Daily News, Ms McVey then emailed the incriminating video to school colleagues — presumably thinking they would find it funny — who forwarded it to school administrators.

Mr Ellis has since resigned and there are now calls for Ms McVey to be sacked. But the teacher still has the support of some parents and the incident has divided the local community.

“You hear of bullying by other students and other kids in class … but I have never had a case with teachers and administrators bullying,” the boy’s family lawyer, Patrick Greenfelder, told the New York Daily News.

Mr Greenfelder also revealed the family may take civil action against the school.

Goodrich School Board Superintendent Scott Bogner told ABC 12 that an investigation into the incident was under way.

 

Click on the link to read An Example of Teacher Sanctioned Torture at its Worst

Click on the link to read What if she were a Man?

Click on the link to read Teacher Allegedly Published the Grades of her Students by Writing on their Foreheads

Click on the link to read You Can’t Foster Tolerance With Racist Teachers

Click on the link to read The Teacher that Defended Hitler and Child Abuse and Advocated Porn

 

 

Valuable Tips for Teaching Children With Autism

November 26, 2013

 

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Courtesy of blog.gryphonhouse.com:

1. Remember that autism is a spectrum disorder.

Children with autism display a range of behaviors and abilities, and they exhibit symptoms that range from very mild to quite severe. The word autism can describe a child who fits anywhere within that range.

2. Always use child-first language when describing the child.

The child with autism who is in your classroom is just that—a child with autism, not an “autistic child.” Child-first language helps others see that you view the child first and the disability second.

3. Focus on the child’s interests.

When trying to encourage a child with autism to play, focus on the interests of the child and make interactions with others as natural as possible.

4. Remember that novel situations can be overwhelming.

Recognize that children with autism may have difficulty adjusting to new play situations and new play materials.

5. Recognize that the environment is important.

Children with autism need a special place in the room where they can go without distraction and without all the sensory input they receive elsewhere.

6. Begin social-skills training early.

Learning how to respond in social situations should begin as early as possible. It is a critical skill for children to possess and enables them to interact with others more easily.

7. View parents as partners.

Parents often agree that the one thing a teacher can do to understand their perspective is to be respectful of their opinions and treat them as valued contributors.

8. Value the uniqueness of each child.

Each child is unique, and while she may have characteristics typical of other children with autism, she will have other characteristics that are not.

9. Remember that there is no one single method that works.

There is no magic pill or specific program that can “cure” or “fix” autism. While many programs and methods have been tried and are successful with some children, they may not be successful with others. Look for methods with a solid research base.

10. Consider that learning about autism is a process.

Learning about autism is not about a product; it is about a process of gathering information and making informed choices, based on the needs of the individual child.

 

Click on the link to read my post on Autistic Boy Gives an Inspiring Graduation Speech

Click on the link to read my post on Girl Banned from Museum because Her Wheelchair May Dirty Their Carpet

Click on the link to read my post on Disabled Children: A Missed Opportunity for Us All

Click on the link to read my post on Meet the 14-Year-Old on his Way to Becoming a Nobel Prize Winner (Video)

Click on the link to read my post on Treatment of Autistic Children Says a Lot About Our Failing System

The Masterful Paintings of a 3-Year-Old Autistic Girl

July 1, 2013

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All I can say is WOW! I can’t believe that a 3-year-old could be responsible for this!

 

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Click on the link to read Disabled Children: A Missed Opportunity for Us All

Click on the link to read my post on Meet the 14-Year-Old on his Way to Becoming a Nobel Prize Winner (Video)

Click on the link to read my post on Treatment of Autistic Children Says a Lot About Our Failing System

Click on the link to read Our Real Heroes are Not Celebrities or Athletes

Redefining Gifted and Talented

December 28, 2012

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If a school’s gifted and talented program goes no further than those who are gifted at calculations and essay writing they are limiting their scope dramatically. Creativity and the wonderfully imaginative and artistic ways children express themselves warrants some attention when it comes to devising gifted and talented groupings.

The child below may not be a writer or a human calculator but I defy you to argue that he isn’t gifted or talented:

 

Click on the link to read School Calls Police to Stop A-Grade Student From Studying

Click on the link to read Schools are Failing Gifted Students

Click on the link to read Skills Your Child Should Know but Isn’t Taught at School

Living With Adam Lanza

December 17, 2012

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Whilst I am not a fan of profiling a gunman, the following article entitled ‘I am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: A Mom’s Perspective On The Mental Illness Conversation In America, gives us a great insight into the difficulties of raising children with mental disorders:

Friday’s horrific national tragedy — the murder of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut — has ignited a new discussion on violence in America. In kitchens and coffee shops across the country, we tearfully debate the many faces of violence in America: gun culture, media violence, lack of mental health services, overt and covert wars abroad, religion, politics and the way we raise our children. Liza Long, a writer based in Boise, says it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

While every family’s story of mental illness is different, and we may never know the whole of the Lanza’s story, tales like this one need to be heard — and families who live them deserve our help.

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan — they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.
“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

“You know where we are going,” I replied.

“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.
The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork — “Were there any difficulties with… at what age did your child… were there any problems with.. has your child ever experienced.. does your child have…”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

For days, my son insisted that I was lying — that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.

On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise — in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population.

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill — Rikers Island, the LA County Jail and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011.

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

Click on the link to read School Shooting Showcases the Heroic Nature of Brilliant Teachers

Click on the link to read Let’s Make Sure that this School Shooting is the Last

Click on the link to read Get Rid of Your Guns!

Click on the link to read Explaining the Sandy Hook Elementary School Shooting to Children

The Cheapening of Real Conditions

July 10, 2012

I know of people who struggle with debilitating depression. It is a complex illness, with many different triggers and dimensions. I imagine that it must frustrate people suffering from depression to read articles like this one:

Violence aired on TV round the clock is causing depression, anxiety and post-traumatic disorder amongst children, according to a senior psychiatrist at the Ziauddin Hospital, Dr Syed Ali Wasif.

 “A child or any other individual who is abruptly exposed to the sound of a cracker or breaking news on a TV channel goes through fear, anxiety, uncertainty and hopelessness,” Dr Wasif told The News on Tuesday.

 “The child can develop depression and post-traumatic disorder. It also affects their educational productivity,” he said.

Are you telling me news is a trigger for depression? How would people suffering from this complex condition feel about that assertion?

The same goes with autism. With the autism spectrum seemingly widening every day, now including cases of such slight autism you wouldn’t be able to detect it if you weren’t alerted to the diagnosis, I feel for those with clear autism. Why should they be pigeonholed with others who have a dramatically easier quality of life and functionality?

If “the sound of a cracker” really is enough to send a child into clinical depression I’ll eat my shoe.

Click on the link to read Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

Click on the link to read, Stricken with Self-Doubt

Treatment of Autistic Children Says a Lot About Our Failing System

June 21, 2012

If I had to assess the effectiveness of our education system in one sweeping statement, it would be that our system is concerned with process over people.

What we must remember is, we are not only teaching human beings, we are teaching the next generation of citizens. The method in which we teach them and the way we treat them will have a dramatic impact on their view of the world. If we treat them with respect and empathy, they are more likely to grow up to be decent and generous people. If we treat them as guinea pigs the outcomes will not be as positive.

That’s why our system has to change. Programs and policies which are designed to avoid lawsuits rather than achieve outcomes have to go. As does the notion that children with disabilities can be put anywhere the budget bottom line dictates:

Autistic students are being told they can no longer attend specialist schools because their language skills are assessed to be too high in controversial year 6 tests.

Parents say their children, many of whom have attended autism schools all their lives, will be unable to cope and vulnerable to bullying if forced to go to a mainstream school.

Some have resorted to desperate tactics such as threatening to go to the media or applying to have their children reclassified as having a Severe Behaviour Disorder rather than autism so they can remain at autism schools.

Janeane Baker, whose 11-year-old son William has been at Northern School for Autism since prep, was horrified to learn her son no longer qualified for funding to remain at the school because he had passed a language test. ”It doesn’t matter that his mother has worked in the mainstream education system and knows that he would never survive there,” Ms Baker said. ”It doesn’t matter that his highly qualified teachers have never thought he would be able to be integrated. He can speak; therefore the government obviously thinks he is cured. They are very wrong – autism is for life.”Ms Baker had tried to integrate William with mainstream peers at junior cricket and Scouts but he got bullied because he was ”just that little bit too left of centre”.

Instead of treating this issue as a process dependant on academic evaluations, we must see this as a human issue. If children with disabilities are more likely to thrive in specialists schools we must do whatever we can to make sure that option is available to them.

Schools Have to Wake Up to Confidence Issues Amongst Students

February 27, 2012

I’m not a medical expert, so excuse me if I show my ignorance, but I am constantly amazed by what looks like a overdiagnosing of kids. From ADHD to autism, from dyslexia to language disorders, our students are being bombarded with medically based names for sometimes seemingly everyday based problems.

Sometimes these diagnoses prove spot on, and ultimately guide the teacher to better understanding their students. At other times however, I feel the diagnosis seems rushed, lazy and counter productive. Not only do such students receive the stigma of their newfound disability, but they also tend to lose more confidence because of it, rather than letting the revelation give them a new lease on life.

What bothers me is that in making these diagnoses, GP’s, occupational therapists and speech pathologists often see a child’s low confidence levels as a sign of a condition that is impeding their learning. Why can’t a child’s learning challenges be caused plainly and simply by their confidence issues? Why does it always have to be a condition? Why don’t they try to improve a child’s self-esteem before prescribing and labelling?

I can’t tell you how many students I have seen over the years that have been diagnosed with some learning disorder that have responded not to the recommended regime, but to a devoted teacher that spends just as much time trying to raise the child’s self-esteem as they do trying to improve the child’s academic skills.

Sometimes I think we fool ourselves into believing that school life is easy and that all children should be able to cope fairly well. School is tough for children. It can potentially damage a child’s sense of self and can be quite detrimental to their feeling of worth.

I’m not surprised kids are reluctant to go to school. I am surprised however, that our psychologists think that only 1-2% of children fall in that category:

… suffering from school refusal, an anxiety condition that affects 1 to 2 per cent of children.

”A certain degree of anxiety or reluctance to go to school is normal,” psychologist Amanda Dudley says.

”But for some, they experience excessive anxiety and it can result in persistent refusal to go to school.”

Children who experience school refusal often complain of stomach aches, headaches, nausea and other physical symptoms and are often extremely distressed when it is time to go to school.

”It can be all of a sudden that the child refuses to attend; it can be after something upsetting at school or after legitimate absence from school,” she says.

School refusal isn’t a condition. It is a natural response to the challenges that children face at school. It is also a sign that educators are blind to the real needs of their students. By overlooking self-esteem issues and instead concentrating on placing seemingly normal children on an ever-growing spectrum, we are labelling children instead of responding to them. We are diagnosing instead of truly connecting with them.

I accept that there are children with special learning needs who require targeted programs and individual support, but I also believe that there are many children who would be better served if their school helped them to adjust to school life instead of bracket them with a condition or disorder.

 

Autistic Child Put in Duffel Bag as “Therapy”

December 28, 2011

If you ever wanted a reason why teachers should never be given permission to inflict corporal punishment on children, just reflect on this sickening case. An autistic child who threw a ball across the classroom instead of putting it down as instructed, was subjected to a most unorthodox form of punishment. He was put in a duffel bag with the drawstring pulled tight.

The mother of a nine-year-old autistic boy who was placed in a duffel bag with the drawstring pulled tight has called for the teacher responsible to be dismissed and for the practice to be banned.

Sandra Baker, from Harrodsburg, Kentucky, said that her son, Christopher, has been withdrawn and uncommunicative since the incident at Mercer County Intermediate School two weeks ago.

Baker, who was told her son had been placed in the bag as “therapy” for his autism, in a practice that has been used on other students, said she has had no apology or further communication with the school, despite promises to the contrary.

She said: “You do not put a child in a bag like that for any reason. If I did that to him, I’d be put in jail. We have not heard anything from the superintendent and we have not had an apology.”

What kind of barbaric form of “therapy” is this school handing out? Name me one medical practitioner that suggests time in a duffel bag is the perfect fix for insubordinate behaviour.

And don’t get me started with the schools response (or lack thereof). In these litigious times a school cannot even apologise to rightly disgruntled parents, without the apology seen as a possible green light for a lawsuit.

Even with the apology it seems as though the school hasn’t broken any laws:

Kentucky is one of several states in which no laws exist preventing the use of restraint or seclusion in public schools, according to a document on the Department of Education website.

If we give the teachers the permission to metre out punishments of a physical nature we will see abuse all the time. When teachers (or in this case aides) are capable of this type of ham-fisted reaction, who knows what they will come up with should the parameters widen.


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