Autism: C'hele's Story

March 23, 2017

Autism: University & Testing Challenges

Filed under: Uncategorized — C'hele @ 02:47

My daughter has only two months left in her university program.  It’s been a bit hectic but good.  I have not had time to think about the permanent breakup with my previous relationship. My focus is driven solely on Michaela.  Michaela recently did her year one final exam.  She failed by 6%.  She has taken this very hard but Chef says not to.  He shows great faith in her and he knows Michaela knows what she’s doing.  Michaela found the exam questions very confusing.  Being an autistic, her mind operates in a “black or white” state.  Reading between the lines or attempting to delve into any grey area is done with utter frustration.  Michaela is very much a “literal thinker.” This is one of the biggest challenges any autistic individual has to deal and cope with.  The best way I had helped her to prepare for such thinking is by getting her to watch soap operas when she was around fifteen.  My mother and I would make careful comments always referring to the actors actions. “Ohhh, I wonder what Jane is up to!?….” and so on. She was quick to get in on the action/game and attempt to problem solve.  It was really helpful for her.  The good thing is that she did not let the soap opera overtake her life.  Her equestrian lessons thank goodness were more important than the soap opera (having a deterrent was good for her in that it did not create any new obsessions). Michaela’s previous negative experiences with her past schools and teachers would surface now and again in university.  She forgets she is twenty one now, not sixteen. Teachers in her primary and secondary education were neither positive nor empathetic toward her or her classmates. Being mainly regular academic teachers, most were not trained in special needs and had little clue on how the autistic mind really works. I keep telling Michaela she’s an adult and she has a voice and so much more independence (and responsibility) now.  She often forgets as she works so freaking hard attempting to suppress so many sensory issues in her environment and internally and do her job all at once in class.  This is a huge undertaking!  Right now, she’s dealing with classmates who predominantly have sarcastic humor (this has always been challenging for her as she has had to break down this kind of humor into two avenues: tone of voice and the words the person has chosen).  As words are not obviously a visual thing, she will listen to tone of voice first.  Often you will see her with a “deer in the headlights” kind of look while she is looking at you.  Basically, she doesn’t understand what you had said and she is reading your face to get the jest of what you just said.  She is attempting to problem solve. Now imagine a person like this coping with confusing social/communication issues and then, is experiencing PMS or is having menstrual cramps.  Only an autistic person can understand the hell that they are experiencing.  Take what an average person is experiencing with PMS/cramps and times it by 25 then add the social/communication difficulties.  You then have a total answer of extreme, possible explosive behavior.  It either manifests right there on the spot, at home or at a safe place for them to do it.  I’m not saying that all autistics will explode, some will just immediately and quietly leave for their safe place or a quiet spot.  As long as they have been pretaught that it is o.k. and that there is nothing wrong in doing so, so they can go quietly calm their nervous system down.  They must have an out or you will suffer their verbal, obscene wrath or suffer from a chair darting towards your head (or other).  Michaela has found her quiet spot on a bench outside the kitchen.  She has only utilized this area a few times.  This is because she find this work so enjoyable.  Its only when she has issues with her classmates.

Back to Michaela’s exam.  Her black & white but incredibly emotional Vulcan mind, had difficulties with the exam questions: they were too vague and ambiguous.  Caela found many of them very misleading. Angry, her sensory system went into over drive and she failed to check with the Chef to double check what the questions were asking. This and the fact that a few questions not yet taught from year two (curriculum) were on this exam. She has the opportunity to redo this exam in June.  What a waste of time, grrr.  The most important thing a parent or teacher can teach is that these people have a voice and they must advocate for themselves when they are having difficulties understanding things.  They must advocate in a “professional, mature and mannerly way.”  This is a lot of work as constant reminding and repetition is at focus.  Praising them as well when they are attempting even if they fail and succeed is vital. “I’m really impressed how you dealt with that difficulty/problem/concern John. Well done.”  Don’t patronize or over-emphasize the fact.  They are autistic not stupid and they will tell you that in a second and only end up withdrawing from you.  Even with their  social/communication difficulties they will only end up thinking that you’re the one who’s the idiot!  HFA’s and Asperger individuals are often brilliant and quick witted and they know that they are most likely more intelligent than you.  I know I had an Asperger individual tell me so in high school.  Surprised, I quickly commented:  “then feel sorry for me, I am only trying to tap into that Vulcan mind of yours to help you socially meld in!” He was a new student at the time and after this conversation it broke the ice.  He trusted me first when he had difficulties with social/communication situations.  I was sorry to see him leave, as he transferred to a school for bright/brilliant individuals.

Michaela had her first in-class test today in year two of her course.  She thinks she passed it with flying colours.  I can’t wait to hear of her mark. I know it will be a B, she’s been consistent with it all throughout the course.  Finger’s crossed!
(more…)

March 18, 2017

Spring Break, day 5 (again)

Filed under: Uncategorized — C'hele @ 03:52

It’s Friday and it’s St. Patrick’s Day.  And I have no one to go out with.  Question: Do I have to or do I need to go out?  Absolutely not.  I’d rather go to Chapters and find a new book.  Since breaking up with Dan, I’ve remodeled the little suite I’m currently living in and I absolutely love it.  At the end of every day I cannot wait to go home and sit amongst my personalized comforts.  It’s cozy especially with a glass of wine and a book.

I sit here and observe my surroundings here at this university trades center.  Many of the students, mostly males are walking towards the cafeteria at their break. Looking around, I cannot believe how young these 19+ students look.  They are short, skinny and they look like around sixteen years of age.  I cannot help but eavesdrop lightly around me and I notice a small group of males sitting to my right.  I hear the word “consent.”  I can’t help but look towards them and they immediately look down as they shadily giggle.  I’m immediately not impressed with the negative vibe I’m receiving from them.  There is a girl who works somewhere in the administration offices here and show’s up at every lunch.  She is the typical bleach-blonde Barbie doll who always wears revealing clothes because she can.  Very cute, I can tell that she is high maintenance and she makes no pretenses that she is by the very way she carries herself.  She doesn’t bother to look to see if the men in the cafeteria are staring at her- she’s meant for much more powerful and rich men. Of course, I’m guessing.  But that what it looks like from the slight air of “grandness” that she eludes.  I can’t help but think that yes, she’s grand.  Grand enough for a patched biker to velcro her to a pole.

Enough! But I can’t help to “Meow and Hiss!!”  LOL.  Ohhhh I think.  If I had a sugar daddy too, how grand I would look as well.  Just not blonde.  I would become a luscious, untamable red head. Who am I kidding?  Born a redhead turned strawberry blonde turned dark blonde.  It’s innate though.  Luscious? Hardly. Don’t have enough money for that title. Untamable?  Well, I’m more like a mischievous pain in the ass whose primary goal in life is to have good ol’ fashioned fun.  A pain the ass my brother tells me.  He tells me his friends are scared of me. Huh??? You got to be kidding me. What’s this world coming to anyways when men can’t handle a strong, confident and independent woman who now and again prefers a glass of whiskey and water?

It’s only ten-thirty.  My daughter comes out from the kitchen with ice and a towel on the inside of her thumb.  One of the staff has called for a first-aid attendant.  She burnt the inside of her thumb.  I can’t help but sigh in exasperation.  Yesterday she cut the tip of her finger and burnt the other hand.  She needs to slow down.  Both chefs told me that she is being sent home. She will be fine, but she is unable to grasp items for today.  Monday she’ll be back to normal.

Maybe we will hit a pub and see what St. Paddy day preparations they have made and make sure to avoid the green beer (yuck)!

Spring Break, day 5: A Letter of Advocation

Filed under: Uncategorized — C'hele @ 02:06

This is not a perfect letter.  I wrote it at 7:30 in the morning and I am NOT a morning person. I think I got my point across though…..

March 17, 2017

 

(School Address)

Re:  Culinary Arts Program

 

Dear Mr. (?),

I would like to bring to your attention a questionable procedure with regards to the year one exam in the Culinary Arts Program.  It was brought to my attention that questions within the exam pertained to information yet to be covered in year two.  This put many of the students to a disadvantage.  It is biased and unfair. I understand that both Chef (?) and (?) have spoken to the (name of the trades people) regarding this many times, with unsuccessful outcomes.  It is clear, that the (name of the trades people) must develop new exams that DO NOT set every single student up for failure.

My daughter Michaela (last name), the only student with Autism and other developmental delays and has exceeded my wildest expectations in this course. She has maintained a B average.  She considers both Chef (?) and (?) mentors (and kitchen gods, lol).  I think Michaela would have passed this exam if it were not for the questions that had the two year curriculum within it. She has been busting her butt despite all of her challenges to be an equal and I think she has succeeded.  I cannot applaud Chef (?) and (?) enough for their professionalism and consideration regarding Michaela and everyone else for that matter.

May I please offer a suggestion:  It would be wonderful if the Disability Centre were more pro-active within the campus.  They do not check up on these students- what do they need?  How they are doing? And if they have any concerns.  I understand that this is University.  However to be fair, many of these student like my daughter often forget that they have other resources within the campus due to their challenges.  It would be nice if teachers/administrators would follow up on these students.  So many of these individuals are intimidated and many of them are not strong advocates for themselves. I know my daughter completely forgot about this center being available to her.  The goal for many of these individuals is to be independent and I personally would like to take that step back.  No one on campus says anything or follows up. It would have been advantageous if she had a reader during the final exam that she just completed. Michaela was never taught study skills in school (I had to teach her) and is not experienced with the language that is often used during final exams.  Until this program, she has never done a final exam like this.  She found the language confusing and being autistic, she is a literal thinker.  Michaela and I currently have an appointment with ? to arrange a reader for Michaela when she re-does the exam.

I would like to personally thank you and to your colleagues for allowing Michaela to enroll and find success within the program she is in.  It is my hope that future students with autism (and other developmental disabilities) find incredible success like my daughter has so far.  I can’t say enough, how grateful I am for what this has done for my daughters self esteem and confidence.  She left high school, unprepared for life.  She was told that she would not amount to much career wise.  When I discovered the (?) Program and (the person who runs it), it was immediate that Michaela must enroll.  This program was incredibly structured well.  I found out very quickly, what Michaela was able to do and learn.  She earned many certificates that I hesitated that she might even complete. This program showed my daughter’s worth as a human being.  That she indeed had a place in the world.  I her mother, can tell this to her until I’m blue in the face but it took a compassionate, friendly, & trusting professional like (the person who runs it) to draw the best out of her and other classmates like her too who are finding success in life (like a friend of Michaela).  This program, is the answer to all individuals who developmentally fall in the cracks and are often forgotten and left behind only to become drug addicts and alcoholics.  I know.  I’ve worked at (?) and I’ve seen it.

So thank you to you and your colleagues like (?) for giving my daughter a chance.  It’s made a world of difference in her life in more ways than one.  Now that I’m on a roll, I have one more request:  I cannot say enough, how wonderful if  (name of school) would become a cut above all other universities to create a teaching degree/program in special needs for low incidence students like autism/FAS etc.  High schools are doing their special needs populations a disservice by placing regular academic teachers in resource rooms.  This field so unique comes equipped with a whole new language that regular teachers are unprepared for.  I can honestly admit to assisting and guiding a new graduate teacher from (name of school) to the principal of the school. She burst out crying in front of a group of special needs students because she had no idea what to do for them.  I am a specialized educational assistant and have been for eleven years and I can honestly say that there is a need to start placing specialized teachers who share a love for this population of special needs. I don’t understand the “need” of making people do a full degree in academics plus two or more years in special ed.  I do understand the importance of knowing basic academics in order to assist those who have a mild, intellectual delay.  But Resource rooms are a whole new world. If such a program should exist, I would be first in line to become such a teacher!

Again, I thank you for taking the to read this.  I wish (the school) continued success regarding the special needs field like the (?) program and it is my wish that in the future I will witness more unique and remarkable programs to advocate for, for parents, their children and students of all developmental and physical disabilities alike.

Have a great day!!!

Michelle (?)

Parent of Michaela (?)

(A (name of school) student with Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, A mixed receptive/expressive language disorder, an anxiety disorder and other developmental disabilities)

March 16, 2017

Spring Break: day three, Musings

Filed under: Uncategorized — C'hele @ 02:24

This morning I got to sleep in one hour later.  It was exquisite.  I have learned to rejoice in the simple things life has to offer.  It is now ten after eight a.m. and the cafeteria is busy prepping for the breakfast crew that is soon to come.  A mob of guys that you can’t mistake for trades guys. Some, come along with an over-powering bouquet of oil and engine cleaners.  I plan to stand among the line up and listen.  My daughter has been telling me that some of these guys from the other trades programs are verbally abusive towards them.  Mean and disrespectful.  I was horrified to learn that this has been going on for some weeks.  Chef has already complained to the other instructors about this.  It’s helped somewhat, but frankly, there are a few assholes that still can’t shut their pie-hole’s. You would think that things would be different.  They are ALL at school LEARNING!?  My daughter is on the sandwich bar, by herself today.  I intend on observing from a respectful distance but within ear-shot.  This will be difficult for me.  I grew up with males for the first thirteen years of my life.  Grew up with mechanics, quarter-mile racers, some bikers and the like.  I’m amazed that my mother’s formal upbringing rubbed upon me and that I actually look like a cultured female now. It wasn’t always so.  I had to earn the respect of my male counterparts when I was younger and quickly too.  I was bullied by many males and was the only female their age, within two blocks.  It took my uncle (a hot-rodder and biker) and my mother to take me out in the backyard to teach me how to protect myself and fight.  I remember my mother telling my uncle, “you don’t know what you’re talking about, let me show her.”  My uncle was a true seventies child but he had an incredible respect for his older sister, my mother.  My mother is gorgeous and was almost a victim of rape many times in her life.  She depended upon her creativity, her amazing fitness (years of being an athletic cross-country skier in her town) and quick wit.  She learned how to fight, and fight dirty.  She is only four foot and eleven inches tall, very petite.  She is little but she is strong and is also a bit ADHD to boot. That meant that she could be fast and fast she was. My uncle could not help but take a step back and watch my mother show me “how it was done.”  I would observe him shake his head and comment “I feel sorry for the asshole who ever crossed your path and pissed you off.” Let me tell you, I learned fast and soon earned the respect of all the boys in my neighborhood. The anger I felt being bullied for so long, made me almost vicious.  My grandfather who fought in Finland’s “Winter War” would often nod his head in approval, proud I was using my “Sisu” to help me get through all the beatings from these neighborhood boys.

So, am I worried standing in line, observing these very immature, loud primates bluffing and bullshitting their toughness?  Not one bit. I had to laugh this morning, my daughter was begging me to behave myself and not make a scene.  “Of course not!” I said.   I intend on being the ultimate professional. However, they will learn fast should they piss me off, the trucker mouth I have developed but only use on special occasions.  Language I have learned but found extremely vulgar from years of hanging around shops and garages.

Lunch starts at around eleven thirty.  I will have to remind myself to keep it cool.  The failure of my last relationship has made me extremely bitter and angry towards guys.  I must ascend above these feelings and think of things more pleasant and less stressful.  So I will think about this classic car I wish to buy but my brother won’t sell it to me.  It’s a 1967 Pontiac Tempest Safari Wagon.  I’ll have to be creative about this……….it needs some body work, an engine and tranny.  We will see.

March 15, 2017

Spring Break: day two, Musings

Filed under: Uncategorized — C'hele @ 01:36

So I am currently on spring break.  I am still getting up every day at four-thirty to get to my daughters university by seven. I sit in the cafeteria with a coffee and type.  I might go to the mall and buy a new book to read.  Right now I’m too comatose to even think straight.  Another large double-double will be coming!  It is 7:21 a.m. and I can hear Chef speaking to his class doing his lecture.  Men/boys (because they act more like boys as their behavior appears so primitive) are entering the building getting ready for their mechanic/electrical/carpentry classes.  It is a true trades building here.  In approximately fifteen minutes, the cafeteria will open for breakfast.  I look forward to seeing what’s on the breakfast menu. I’m not a fan of eggs so perhaps I will try something different.  I ponder how the day will pan out later on.  I have scheduled myself to meet a friend and perhaps we will go to the range and do some shooting.  I have never shot a gun before and if the weather turns out decent, I will have the opportunity to shoot a 20 gauge shotgun, a derringer, and a 45.  I am looking forward to it.  I hear it can be quite de-stressing, lol.  I think I need that as I was just recently separated from my common-law hubbie after nine years.  For good. I guess that’s what he gets for sucker punching me the face the asshole.  But it was good that it happened, it was my way out the door. Suffering from health problems, the medications (Oxy’s) mixed with cannabis I think, was starting to take its toile on his body.  The bruises I was receiving were starting to become regular.  It was unfortunate that I could not help him. I tried.  But I’m sure as hell not sticking around to become a punching bag for his stress related medical problems.  It extremely unfortunate what chronic pain can do to a person.  Anyhow, I confess, I am elated to be on my own again.  After two failed marriages, I think I’m not waiting for a “three-time and I’m struck out” situation.  To be fair, I tried. Really, really tried.  These negative experiences have educated me and have shown me who I really am.  No more will I pretend to be something I’m not or try to be like everyone else and have a “normal” life.  There is no such thing for “all” people. I was not meant to live with someone. I’m a true Finn and far too independent.  I like being alone. I’m comfortable being by myself and to do my own thing.  It sounds terrible, but I don’t like sharing my personal space unless I invite it.  However, my two failed relationships will not deter me from perusing a more meaningful relationship with a man.  But it might be difficult to find the kind of relationship I want.  I might have to find a Finnish man, who will truly understand me, lol.  The next time:  I will have my home, he will have his home. We will hopefully have a meaningful, committed union as boyfriend/girlfriend.  He comes over for sleep-over’s and I go over for sleep-over’s.  Then we go home to our own personal spaces but meet regularly to engage in fun activities.  I think it’s a great idea.  Neither one of us has to deal with money issues, living arrangements, who has to do what chores, lol.  Because I hate being told what to do. Or being bossed around. I admit it whole-heartedly.  So I think I need to find a man who is of Finnish decent.  Most Finnish men are mentally strong. A man, who is comfortable being in his own skin, embraces his solitude and nature/outdoors.  A blue-collared guy who is intelligent and can work with his hands.  But not too serious of course.  But, being a true Finn, he will not be overly-social and most like will avoid trying to meet people. Basically, I’m shit out of luck.  Unless I move to Finland where my chances increase only minimally.  Finn’s are slower to make friends and I being only half Finnish?  My Canadian side might put him in a social coma! (*grin*) and he will most likely run like hell the other way.  I am so like my very unique, Finnish grandmother: brazen, bold and only slightly spritely!  So, I will wait till the cows come home and enjoy my new-found solitude.

And continue these bloody long drives and mornings. On my spring break. When I should be celebrating my independence and go for a road trip to somewhere new.  I love doing that. But, my daughter comes first right now.

Shooting has been cancelled due to the pouring rain.  So, I go to my friends for coffee until my daughter is finished her day. And I ate eggs this morning, scrambled.

March 14, 2017

Autism/Asperger’s and University

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Resource Rooms, Special Needs — C'hele @ 03:13

Holy crap.  So much to tell, so much I have experienced.  Where do I start?  Well for one, I am currently sitting in the café of the university my daughter is currently attending.  I have been traveling 170 kilometers/106 miles five days a week to and from home to the university since August of 2016.  My Aspie/Autistic daughter is currently enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program here.  She is excelling amazingly.  This is an individual who has been in a resource room program her whole academic school life.  She is an individual who left her thirteenth year from high school with a thirteen year school completion certification, not a diploma.  She was told that she would not amount to much when it came to succeeding in a career or to not expect much if/when she gets a job.

She prooved them wrong. Soooo wrong.  This girl is in the top five of her class and is not modified whatsoever.  After high school, my daughter enrolled in the same university in a Special ed. program meant for those with high functioning cognitive and physcial disabilities of all kinds.  The program was to prepare and equip them with the necessary life-skills they need:  how to make a resume, cover letter, search for jobs. How to have proper hygiene and how to dress appropriately depending on the work you do.  This meant that for six months, all these students had to wear semi-formal, business wear.  No hats, running shoes, jeans and t-shirts allowed.

These students were trained and certified in First Aid, WHIMIS, Food Safe and more before they started their three different work experience programs.  Michaela successfully earned a certificate in every workshop. She worked as a Veterinary Assistant, as a pet grooming assistant and later due to my request, did work experience in the universities kitchen as a kitchen helper (This is not normally allowed.  Students must go outside of the campus to do work experience).  Her three years working as a kitchen helper in high school prepared her richly and both of us thought it would be a good idea to try and see how she would do despite her hesitancy.  So I spoke with the Professor of the Special ed. program and she spoke with the Chef of the Culinary Arts Program.  He was hesitant. Students must have grade ten math to enter the program.  Michaela had a grade six level.  So we enrolled her in a math class that went at her pace at this university.  Michaela fell in love with the cooking field.  She was determined not to let the math get in her way.  She worked her ass off for six months and eventually attained a grade eight level.  Michaela’s time working in the kitchen on her work experience displayed her confidence and she proved her worth in the kitchen. Regular/Typical students were asking her for advice!  Between the Professor of the Special ed. Program and the Chef, they spoke to the appropriate people in the university to convince them to allow Michaela to enroll in the program.  Grade ten math was ridiculous for an entry requirement they said.  Chef told them Michaela was more than adept and was knowledgable in the kitchen than most of his students!  Due to Michaela’s Special ed. lable and my heavy advocation, they allowed Michaela in the program.

Let me tell you, they are watching carefully too, to see what she accomplishes.  They are using her as an example to see how far she goes. She has just finished year one of this program with a B average.  Year two is crunched and ends June 2nd.  She earned one hundered percent on all but three workbooks in which she earned a 96 percent average.

For a person who has been not taught any study habits or have completed a real exam in her life and has organizational issues, she done damn good!!!!!! Michaela early last year, produced a speech by request of the Professor of her Special Needs Program.  The program was in jeopardy of being extinguished and her Professor was busy trying to convince the universities administration the need for such a program.  In all their campuses.  Michaela nailed and sealed the deal with her speech and self-advocation.  It was at that moment I knew she had been paying attention to all my bickering about the importance of self-advocation.  She ended off the speech with “more and more autisitics are being born, you should assist because we are NOT going away anytime soon!  By the way enjoy the Indian dinner that me and my colleagues made for you tonite…….think of me when you eat the Naan Bread, because I made it!” This is a person who would have had a complete melt-down if she had to do an oral presentation in front of her class and she did this in front of approximately fifty people!!!

The Special Needs Program has been saved for now and will be opening further programs in their other universities.  I know because this Proffessor teaching this program is going around all grade twelve resource room programs in various districts to tell teachers of the programs existence.  I met her at my school.

I am so damed proud of my kid.  She is more confident, less embarassed and so damned proud of being an Asperger’s individual.  With my encouragement and pre-teaching she is advocating without hesitancy to others who may question the “oddness” with regards to her personality and actions.  People are shocked should she notify them that she is Autistic.  She doesn’t look like she has special needs and her behaviour and replacement behaviours taught to her, are mostly undetected to the untrained eye. She is so career focused.  Doesn’t give a damn about having a boyfriend, going out to parties, getting drunk and so on.  She is such a gentle but loving, tough-nut that she has earned the respect of all her male colleagues in the trades building.  She can banter and rebute faster than you can blink an eye and she does it in such a way that you know she has a point to say and she says it with utter-most mischieveousness, toughness and empathy.

My daughter is an Autistic Individual and a Leo.  Let me tell you, she know’s how to roar her truth as she knows it!

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