Autism: C'hele's Story

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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August 23, 2016

Autism: Caela’s First Day in her University Program

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs, Uncategorized — C'hele @ 02:47

Today is my daughter’s first day in a real, unmodified, university program. The Culinary Arts Program. On the way to school, she admitted to me that she was nervous. We arrived a half hour early and she wondered what she should do to kill some time. I said to her: if you want to make a good impression, you would walk right into the kitchen and ask the Chef/teacher what she can do to help on the first day. Glancing over at her in the truck, I saw her eyes glaze over and she stared ahead of her like a zombie. Her anxiety is up sky-high I thought to myself. Asking her if she had any Skullcap herb, I told her to take a couple capsules to calm her nervous system.

I asked Michaela if she had any questions before she enters the building. She was nervous that she would not be able to keep up with note taking without an E.A. to assist her. All she would need is a scribe really. I told her to do the best that she can and to speak with the Chef if she thinks this will be a problem for the future.

It is after all, the first day only. She agreed.

This will be very interesting for us. Michaela excels when it comes to visual learning like most Autistics and can learn very quickly just by “doing.” When she was in grade twelve, she had her last, updated Psych-Educational Report done. This report is beneficial in determining what kind of services Michaela will need when it comes to adult services and post-secondary educational. Academically, Michaela tested below average at 75%. Her math was well below average at around a score of 68%.

So this will be interesting. My plans?

  1. Review the concepts taught that day.
  2. Giving clarification where needed
  3. Planning and organizational support for assignments and homework
  4. Review of study skills for exam preparation
  5. Asking Chef for a separate setting and extra time to be given during exams

The fun has just begun.

Autism: Documentaton

One of the most frustrating things I have to deal with at work is being the only one who documents. Document what you may ask? Negative behaviours, odd behaviours, and new behaviours. We use an ABC chart to do this. A: What was the antecedent before the behaviour occurred? B: What was the behaviour that manifested as a result and C: The consequence for the behaviour that occurred. Outside of using the ABC chart, we are also required to utilize what’s known as an Incident Report when negative behaviour occurs that involve physical contact: slapping, hitting, punching, pinching, kicking, spitting and the like. So many of my colleagues choose to opt out of filling out incident reports. Many Educational Assistants or Specialized Assistants feel that they are doing their student(s) a disservice by documenting. Or getting them in unnecessary trouble. Many parents refuse to document their child’s behaviours because they fear their child will become “labelled” or they fear that the government will label them abusive in some way.

I cannot stress enough how this approach can hurt their students/children. Without documentation, the individual who displays challenges does not get the free services and funding they would so desperately benefit from. The earlier your child or student receives support, the more success that individual will have. I know this to be a fact. I knew at six months of age there was something wrong with my daughter. Despite my inquiries, my family and some of my friends thought “I was making my daughter a special needs case.” The stress they caused me was overwhelming. I knew, early intervention was everything. I made the necessary doctor appointments, spoke to her pre-school teachers and talked with those who worked with her (dance teacher, Sparks leaders, etc.). I documented every single odd, repetitive, negative and even violent behaviour my daughter manifested. Times were crazy and stressful then. The documentation I provided to her doctors were worth their weight in gold. They could see I was being very proactive and was putting my daughter’s wellbeing first before everything. Because of this, my documentation made their work a bit easier- they in turn, worked extremely hard to find solutions and answers for us.

Due to the documentation, the hospital soon figured out that my daughter was Asperger’s, ADHD, had a mixed expressive/receptive language disorder, an anxiety disorder and had other developmental disabilities with a delay of two years. People were horrified that I was elated that my daughter was given the labels. Why? Because now I know what I’m working with. Not being one to bury my head in the sand and pretend that my daughter was normal or typical, I went straight to work. I decided that it was important to follow my daughter’s development so I attained my ECE certification and later my S.E.A. Certification, my POPARD/Autism training, worked at POPARD for a while, and much, much more. I wanted to get on top of things so my daughter could cope better with life, with people and learn how to self-regulate herself. As a parent, I’m not saying you have to do the same. But I’m suggesting that you read. Read a lot! NO ONE knows your child better than the parents. With this in mind, you stand a very good chance of helping your child to be successful in school, home and later in life.

The most frustrating thing I come across, is meeting parents who pretend that nothing is wrong with their little Johnny. When clearly? Its farther from the truth. Parents need to understand that by “making” their child “normal,” they are creating incredible stress, anxiety, and pain for their child. Is this thinking selfish on behalf of the parent(s)? Perhaps. I will use my own experiences as an example of what success looks like. I literally have books filled with written notes that I have made over the last 19 years. I wrote down every single thing I found odd, wrote down all the self-inflicted behaviours my daughter did and more. Making a very long story short, all the documentation and labels helped me to better serve Michaela. I had access to all the services and professionals she needed. I realized that she’s Autistic. Not stupid. She just see’s and perceives her world differently. She just wants to be accepted and included in life. She came out of high school with a 13 year completion certification only. She later enrolled in a University program for individuals with cognitive/neurological/physical disabilities. There, they taught her life-skills and gave her work experience and more. She is now at a grade 8 math level, attained her Food Safe certification unmodified, has her WHIMIS certification unmodified, attained her First Aid certification unmodified and she starts her Culinary Arts University program tomorrow. UNMODIFIED. Because she has labels, she is eligible to apply for grants to pay for her education, books, and more. I or Michaela have not had to pay a dime.

How does one define success? Does the Autistic individual HAVE TO BE a doctor? A lawyer? A surgeon? Not in my opinion. As long as my daughter can tell the time, read, do basic math, know how to use a calculator, knows street smarts, and knows how to ask for help and more? When she finishes her training in the Culinary Arts Program and if she passes? She will be a certified professional cook. In the end, she will be INDEPENDENT. To me, that is SUCCESS. But I will not lie, it is hard work. You have to constantly be the one hollering the loudest in order to get people to actually hear you. It can be frustrating.

So my fellow colleagues and parents. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT. Focus on the small goals at first and don’t give up on the big ones. Follow your child/students lead and give them time. Work on your childs/student’s self-esteem and confidence. Tell them that it won’t be easy but it will be worth it in the end. My daughter’s self-esteem and confidence has exploded in the last two years. She no longer let’s others demean her. She understands her own power and strengths and is working it. Just because she thinks and see’s life differently, it doesn’t mean that it’s wrong! Presently, my daughter has a new mantra: “WHO SAYS I WANT OR HAVE TO FIT IN????” When someone gives her attitude and says to her “what’s the matter with you, are you stupid?” She now hammers them back with a mini educational class about Autism and what Autistic people are like. I have literally witnessed her making people look and feel two inches high after she’s done with them. There is nothing more rewarding as a parent, teacher or E.A., to see the struggle and later success for a person with an intellectual or developmental disability. It’s to be admired really when you think all the opposition they have had to face only in the end, not to let it control or beat them down. Once they realize that they have rights in this world and that they should never abuse it, they can do wonders. I have personally seen Autistic people come up with the damndest solutions towards creative projects and challenges. Just look at what Temple Grandin has achieved. My daughter idolizes her.

But parents. Don’t look at documenting as a negative. In the end, you will see the success but you do have to be proactive. And patient. Always and never give up. Approach your child holistically- become a walking encyclopedia on their challenges and think of them, put yourself in their shoes. Focus on their talents. Be creative in their learning. Your child should be celebrating their uniqueness and successes later in life.

P.S. I realize that everyone’s situation is different.  Go with what you know!

August 20, 2016

Autism: Communication Books

Comm PgDoes your child’s resource room send home a communication book? If not, they should. It is the parents right to know what’s going on during their child’s day. If a teacher has any reservations about doing so, I would go to administration (principal, vice-principal) and request that one be sent home. It is your right. Depending on how the resource program is structured, it is vital that communication is present. Parents who are true advocates and who are working as part of their child’s professional team in their child’s education? Will most likely see huge benefits and positive results. Remember, these changes take time for Autistic individuals but they can happen. Routine, consistency is the key. I have more than not, witnessed one way communication where the S.E.A’s and teachers are the only one writing in the communication book to home, but the parent(s) do not reciprocate. Parents!! It is vital that we know of any important details of your child’s day at home in order to make the school experience successful. The purpose of this communication book is not to trap parents negatively. Many parents are always worried that we are looking for signs of abuse. It couldn’t be farther from the truth! Any trained S.E.A/Resource Teacher in Autism, understand the possible negative behaviours that occur at home. We understand what a melt-down is, how smart these kids can be at manipulating (they are kids after all!), what sensory over-load is, and so on. I want you to know that we understand what your family is going through. I’ve seen parents divorcing and families being broken up over their Autistic children. I want parents to know that most of us, are here for you. Parents do not have to write a diary entry every day (unless you want to!!)

The things that S.E.A’s/Teacher’s need to know is as follows:

  1. How did the night before school go? Any sleep issues? Run out of meds? Did they not eat dinner? Any sensory or new sensory issues? Did the homework not get done for any particular reason? Any behaviour concerns? And so on.
  2. The morning of school – Did they not eat breakfast? Are they tired? In a bad mood? Perseverating on something in particular that happened at home or school? If the student is a female? Did they get their period? It is wonderful for us to know the week before they are due for their period so we can prepare for the PMS symptoms so we can reduce any stress for the student. How much homework if sent home got done? What needs further work on? And so on.
  3. And in return, S.E.A’/Teachers will write back home:
  1. Any special events that occurred at school
  2. What their child worked on at school (academics, life-skills, work experience, etc.)
  3. If their child’s behaviour was triggered by something in particular
  4. Any medical/safety issues
  5. And so on.

Unless the program is unique, I would be highly suspicious if a teacher never created any communication books to be sent to and from home. I once worked for a teacher who purposely did not create any communication books. Because all she did all day is talk with the staff and surf the web on her laptop/phone. THEY NEVER DID ANYTHING IN THE RESOURCE ROOM! My daughter’s high school teacher refused to create them too. I was outraged and raised holy hell over it. A TRULY CHILD-CENTRED PROGRAM, will ensure that all the students and the program itself is flowing and is HOLISTIC.

Enclosed is an example of what communication page looks like. Anyone is free to copy and print it!

Again…..ADVOCATE!!

 

 

August 17, 2016

Some Things are Just Not Meant To Be.

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs, Uncategorized — C'hele @ 14:29

Well. So much for going to University.  I went to two Universities to enquire about getting my degree as a Special Education Teacher.  The unfortunate part is, there is no such thing as a Special Ed. degree by itself.  I must Major in an academic and Minor in something else.  4 years.  Then I have to do an additional 2 years in special education.  That makes 6 years of school.  Not possible for me.  I asked the Academic Advisor “why” is there not a separate program for those who wish to teach Special Ed. only?

WHY must I have to a learn high school academic when I know I wont teach it?  In special education, the focus is always on “Functional Academics and life-skills.” And yet, teachers who have not done their special education training but teach in a Resource Room, have NO IDEA what Functional Academics is???? After stating my opinions, the academic advisor shook his head and said to me “Michelle, I don’t know why they don’t have a course like this- it is definitely needed.  But its all about the money.”

Disgusted, I walked out.  If only people with disabilities and their families who truly comprehend the negativity of this sad fact rise up and advocate for their kids human rights.  If parents really knew what goes on in many of these classes, they would be outraged.  It’s a rare thing to work for and be in a class with a trained teacher in special education.  I for one am tired of working with teachers who in frustration end up in tears due to a lack of knowledge and expect me to pick up the pieces.

Money over quality education.  Money over these students confidence and self-esteem.

It’s disgusting.

 

August 15, 2016

Autism: After High School

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — C'hele @ 08:48

I apologize to my readers for being so disengaged from my writing. I had to. I’ve been so exhausted the last few years. As any parent of a child with a neurological disability knows, our kids will either make, or break us. I am happy to report that I am alive and well *chuckle*. So far. My daughter Michaela is now twenty-one. She successfully graduated from high school and even volunteered to do a thirteenth year (totally optional) to pick up important courses to help her when she goes to University/College. It’s been a long time since I wrote, so let me review my daughter’s labels: she has Asperger’s Syndrome, ADHD, a mixed receptive-expressive language disorder, an anxiety disorder and “other developmental disabilities.”

She left school with a reading level of grade seven. Her math level was at a grade six level. She never did learn any science or much of any other academic. She excelled in art, graphic arts, and physical education. At home, she excelled in Equestrian riding (for eleven years I might add). She also participated in an inclusive art exhibition here in Vancouver too. After high school she had to wait approximately a year to enroll in a special program at a University near us, aimed at teaching anyone with a cognitive/physical disability who wished or is able to learn, life skills how to find & keep jobs and complete four different work experience programs. She excelled and blossomed in this program. Here she saw the professor treat all students like human beings. The professor took her time with each student to make sure they always had a say when it came to “what they want to be when they grow up.” And so on.

Last May, this university was fighting to keep this program alive. This program was in three different universities until they were closed down in two universities but kept alive in one. The professor upon her request, asked for a meeting to convince the universities administration to keep and open more special needs programs. She was allowed to speak to the board of the University at one of their monthly meetings. She asked my daughter to speak along with her. Michaela has always melted down whenever she had to speak in front of a group. This time she shocked me: excited, she said YES. I had always taught her how important it is to teach others about disabilities, especially autism. TO BE PROACTIVE!   She was listening! Where once she cowered in fear whenever any adult or child bullied her. If she had to speak out for herself (which she didn’t), it took me years to educate her how valuable she and other autistic individuals really are to others and the world. That she is NOT stupid, she just views and perceives her world differently! Michaela understands now, how really important education is- not just for her, but for everyone else around her.

So the professor had only ten minutes to present. Caela had five. I was asked to come along in case Michaela experienced any difficulties or severe anxieties. What I witnessed……made me want to stand up in front of that crowd and say, “Do you see? Do you see?? What the right education can do positively for a person who has challenges!!??” Michaela stood up and said her piece in front of the mayor of the city, the Member of Parliament of the city, the President of the University along with his two vice-presidents and thirty other important people. Michaela’s last statement was this:

“You must. You must……protect and develop this program for people with intellectual and physical disabilities!! ESPECIALLY for Autistics. You know why? YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO DEAL WITH US EVENTUALLY, BECAUSE WE’RE NOT GOING AWAY!”

Michaela nailed it. Everyone was shocked at her advocacy. They were suprised that she wanted to continue learning- upgrade some of her academics and eventually enroll in the Culinary Arts Program to become a Chef/Cook. She had impressed the MP of the city so much so, that he came right up to her and shook her hand, telling her how impressed he was with her speech. She received many congratulations that afternoon. Michaela’s last work experience was at the University itself in the Culinary Arts Program. This is not the norm in the program- all students are mostly “sent out” of the University to complete their four-week work experience.

Michaela shocked everyone within the Culinary Arts Program. The chef/teacher was highly impressed with her knowledge & confidence of the kitchen. When my daughter asked him as to how she was doing, he was abrupt: he told her he wants her in his program. He told her that he is impressed of her guiding others in the class whenever any of them needed any help. In the last week of her work experience training in the kitchen, Chef had asked my daughter to make something for him- anything. Caela took the request as a challenge and came home on a mission. She wanted to make something they’ve never had. Finnish food. So she came home went through my Finnish cookbook and decided to make bread. Not just any bread, but a sweet, coffee bread. We call it “Pulla.” So she went to school the next day and made four loaves. One for the students in the class, one for their little café to sell, one for the chef and one for home. Michaela tells me that the class had eaten the whole loaf within minutes. All the bread in the café was sold and in essence, her culinary baking project was a hit. Chef then gave Michaela a book on Kitchen Math to study over the summer to prepare for when she gets in the program. A big hint for Caela that she should enroll in the program and not give up. She was elated to be given a hundred dollar textbook for free and a promise that he would work hard to get her in the program. Her disability be damned. We were thrilled!!

She was in the kitchen doing her work experience at almost the same time she was invited to make her speech to the universities administration. After she gave her kick-ass speech, she coyly told her audience that she along with the other students in the kitchen prepared the Asian Indian lunch that day for them. She then said “please enjoy the naan bread that I cooked!” This was a huge surprise to them and to the esteemed South Asian exchange student who after her speech, told her he was more than looking forward to it!! Everyone just looked at each other surprised. I couldn’t help but shake my head in disappointment for their lack of knowledge regarding Autistic people.

It was the proudest day of my life.

My autistic daughter is fighting for her successes in life despite the odds and challenges. Temple Grandin has always been an inspiration for her and Caela wants to take up Temples fight to educate others and to be pro-active. We are just beginning. Just two days ago, Michaela and I visited the university to enquire about funding options and to get that in motion. The woman at the desk told Michaela she had “good news”. Michaela was formally accepted into the Culinary Arts Program and is now on the class list!!! We were told that Michaela would most likely go on the list next year! My daughter was extremely pleased but I was ecstatic! I kinda made a bit of a scene actually. At least the receptionist thought I was funny!

Parents. If you have a HFA, PDD/NOS, or Asperger’s child, do not THINK FOR A MOMENT that your child cannot make it. You know your child the very best- their strengths, weaknesses, and challenges. You most likely know their hopes, fears and dreams. This may not manifest fully until they are 15+. But work on this, shape it. Their passions and strengths may be the only thing that make them successful in life in order to avoid a life of poverty, struggle or homelessness. I knew my daughter had a talent in horses at eight years of age. I sat back, worked on her self-esteem and confidence and just observed. She was still young yet. She struggled throughout elementary/high school, trying to make sense of it all with teachers who “were gonna make them NOT autistic” or just simply just sat around with them in class doing virtually nothing. Like what the hell, “they’ll never amount to anything in life anyways!” (My daughter overheard this statement in class once).

Tell your students, your children not to give up. Ever. Teach them how to fight appropriately. They are not stupid. They are simply striving to make sense of the world, where people are constantly re-defining the meaning of what’s NORMAL. There is no normal, only uniqueness. Tell them to advocate to their teachers and to others respectfully when they are having social or difficulties. Let them know they have a voice- and to NOT be ashamed when they have to listen to their inner voice, to ask for advice, to use judgement and logic when making decisions. These children come to us to teach us lessons. To help others. To help us along our journey in life and to embrace compassion and empathy for others who struggle as well.

They DO NOT come to us to make us feel that there is something wrong with us. We are not responsible for bringing into the world a defective child with Autism!!! The responsible thing to do, is to embrace and to look forward to the hidden lessons these children came to teach us. What have you learned whilst raising a child with special needs? Are you a better or worse parent since your child came into the world? I tell my daughter all the time: “your soul picked me. Not the other way around.” I have not been cursed bringing a child like this into the world. It is tough. Stressful. Isolating, but it has also been incredibly rewarding.

But I’ve learned to be tough. Mentally and physically. I have more compassion and empathy for others. I have developed more patience and understanding. I have learned to use my voice. I have learned to develop tolerance towards self-centred, arrogant people. I have learned to be more authentic and more.

And it shows. I have given up a very good career as a dental assistant to become a trained ECE Educator and Special Ed. Assistant in autism. I have learned to turn the other check in this incredibly thankless & incredible stressful career because I fall in love with the soul of every child/student that I work with. I love it when their eyes light up when they have just finally figured out how to respond to a social difficulty or trusts me when sometimes I say, “just memorize it” the answer will come later, or when a problem is solved for them after years of trying to figure it out, or when they find their own confidence because they know that I believe in them and have their back. And so much more. Almost every day I go home with a smile on my face due to some minor or major success seen, or unseen by them but observed by me, telling me I did my job well. Administration be damned. I don’t want to talk about them, the very thought of them upsets me.

My daughter and I have succeeded through many obstacles and barriers. And it’s only the beginning.

It is time that Autistic people find their place in the world. Apples and bananas. We’re all in the end, in the same basket!

 

July 1, 2015

Autism and the Vaccine Link, My Opinion

I think most of us know that autism is caused by a gene that is passed from father to child. It is not uncommon for mom to carry this gene as well, though it’s rare. What bothers me is that people seem to think that autism is solely caused by vaccinations. I don’t believe this to be true. From all my readings and my eleven years of working for these individuals, the autism gene needs to be “awakened” and this is where vaccines come in. It also can be awakened though environmental factors too. We all know that vaccines are detrimental to a person’s health. Vaccines filled with aluminum salts, formaldehyde and mercury. They use these toxic substances because these substances remain permanently in the body. So, what better way to make the vaccine formulas stay in the body?

Unfortunately, vaccines cause all sorts health problems (immune system problems etc.). As much as it protects a body from particular deadly viruses, it’s never a guarantee either. My daughter was not vaccinated till FIVE years old. And I had to do it. She only had one dosage to shut people up (like school nurses) and she never got any more throughout her school life because I don’t like them. Caela was diagnosed at FOUR years of age at Sunnyhill Hospital. Her autism was triggered through what I’m sure was stress and anoxia damage during birth. She came out a blue colour. I had an extremely difficult labour with her- so bad, that they could not perform an epidural because my muscles were too tight and the anesthesiologist could not get the needle though the vertebrae. Michaela was born suddenly when she didn’t want to come out. It was crazy.

I read an article about a study Japan did some years back. They told parents not to vaccinate their babies/children until they were ready for school (five years old). They saw the rate of autistic children being born drop. Hmmmmm?

I read that a baby’s immune system is not FULLY DEVELOPED until three months of age. It was not mandatory when my daughter was born but I believe that babies now as early as one to two months receive their first vaccination shot. It might be different in different areas. I asked my doctor, “Do babies have a different, lesser amount given to them compared to adults? NO, I was told.

So what the hell? Babies who possibly carry the autism gene receiving adult dosages of lethal vaccinations before their immune system is fully developed?

Common sense to me. Temple Grandin talks in her book “Thinking in Pictures, My Life with autism” that, “Research during the last ten years confirms that autism, PDD, and Asperger’s all have a strong genetic basis. Craig Newschaffe, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, estimates that 60-90% of autism cases are genetic.” Temple goes on to mention “Researchers also confirm previous studies that show that relatives of people with autism will often have many milder autistic-like symptoms.”

My daughter’s father used to tell me, “It’s all in your head! There is nothing wrong with her! She’s just like me!!!!!”

After much nagging from me for him to get tested, he finally did so after many years of fighting. He came out with a diagnosis of high functioning autism, ADHD and Dyslexia. I have met many women throughout my career who talk about their husbands being difficult regarding their children being diagnosed with autism. Then they started seeing the quirky behaviour and the like in their husbands.

There is no doubt in my mind that all these things I’ve mentioned above, play a part in creating an autistic child. God Love them.

August 14, 2013

Autism: What Spock Can Teach To An Asperger Individual (no kidding)…..

A conversation between my Asperger daughter and I one day after school……

Setting:  At home, approximately 4:00 p.m. My daughter Michaela is in a major verbal and emotional melt-down state. Michaela had just got off the bus from school.

 

Conversation:

 

(Explosion)

“Mom, I’VE HAD IT! You know, I just cant believe HOW STUPID people can be!!!!! “

“And you know?  People can be SO MEAN!!!!! I JUST DON’T GET IT!!!!”

Me:

“Uh-oh.  What happened?”

Michaela:

“Get a load of this (Michaela says this phrase alot-  a hint to me to always pay attention).”

“During our math block today?  “B” gave us our questions and we coulden’t do it. So when I asked for help?  He accused me, saying that it’s not that I don’t get it, I just don’t want to do it!!!!”  “CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT?”

“And then, one of the E.A.’s said outloud that he agree’s with the teacher and that we are just being lazy!!!  GET A LOAD OF THAT!!!!!!”

Me:

“So what happened then? Did the resource class say anything? Did they agree?”

Michaela:

“Mom, I got so mad so I stood up from my desk.  I stood up and pointed my finger towards that nasty, freaking E.A. and told them both how OFFENDED I was! I told them HOW DARE YOU ACCUSE ME OF LYING! Because I truly did not understand the questions!” I DID NOT LIE!

“HOW DARE THEY!!!!!”

Me:

“Did the class say anything?”

Michaela:

“YEAH.  They actually stood behind me and told the teacher they truly did not understand the questions either.”

Me:

“So then what happened?”

Michaela:

“So then, I turned around in front of the teacher and told him he needs to learn how to teach better.  You know?  Learn different ways to teach kids.  GET A LOAD OF THAT!”

“Then I walked out of class I was so mad. I needed to cool off.”

Me:

“Ummmm.  Where did you go?”

Michaela:

“I just walked to the bathroom, hung out there for five minutes.”

Me:

” What did “B” say?”

Michaela:

“He told me I needed to relax. So get a load of what I did?  As I got up to go to the bathroom?  I took my worksheet, walked by him, looked him in the eyes and threw the questions in the garbage can!!!! Then I went to the bathroom. Then I turned around to look behind me and GUESS WHAT?”

Me:

“What?”

Michaela:

“The rest of the class doing the same questions? Got up and THREW THIER WORKSHEETS IN THE GARBAGE TOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

“Get a load of that hey?”

Me:

“So did the teacher become angry with you and the rest of the class?  Did he say anything to you all?”

Michaela:

“Nope.  He diden’t say one thing at all.  Instead he told me I could read my novel (Michaela loves reading books).”

Me:

“Wow.  Exciting day hey?”

Michaela (now even more elevated):

“Mom, I’ve just SO had it!  The next time, I’m going to freak on “B” again the next time he says something so stupid to us.  It’s clear mom, he doesn’t get it.  He doesn’t understand us.  AT ALL!!!”

Me:

(Thinking to myself, Oh, Crap.  How many times have we had this discussion about self- control, self-monitoring? She just doesn’t get it.  She is so emotionally elevated right now, if she could, she would go back to school and smack the teacher herself).

**Note to the Reader:  Michaela is one of those very rare, emotional/social Asperger individuals.  Not at all like the introverted Aspies.  She may be emotional/social, but that does not change the fact that she still displays obvious social/communication difficulties.  Theory of Mind difficulties still apply here!

(I then think to myself, it’s time to try a new tactic and I’m going to wing it!)

———————————————————

5 minutes later:

Me:

(I decide to revert to humor to handle the situation).

**Note to the Reader

:  Never, never, never resort to giving advice to an Aspie individual on what to do when they are so adamant about something. Unless you want to suffer thier wrath.  And believe me, they can give it because (they think), they are always smarter than you. They will not tolerate such insult! And they can be incredibly verbose about thier opinions!!! So consider yourself warned, lol. 

The Setting:

Michaela is now sitting at the kitchen table, calming down with juice and a few potatoe chips.  I am puttering around in the kitchen talking to her and making dinner at the same time attempting to handle the situation with some placidity.

Me:

“So Caela, how do you think Spock would of handled the situation?”

Michaela:

“Mom, what the heck are you talking about?”

Me:

“Seriously, how would Spock handled the situation?  Does he flip out in stressful situations?”

*(Now Michaela is crazy about Star Trek)

Michaela:

(Giving me a very wide, deer in the head-light look), “Not at all.”

Me:

“So let’s talk about Spock. Let’s discuss just how many ways Asperger Syndrome and being a Vulcan/Human Hybrid are alike.”

The Break-down of our conversation:

We have some crazy humor in our family.  Michaela caught on immediately that this was going to be a light-hearted conversation with a point! Making a very long story short, we discussed the challenges Spock has being half human, half Vulcan. The Vulcan side of him must control emotions. However, the human side of him constantly provides him challenges in order to control those emotions effectively. Yet Spock must accept his humaness too.

I pointed out in the first Star Trek movie, that Spocks own father tells him that emotions run deep within Vulcans, even deeper than in humans.  So Spock kind of has a “double-whammy” of emotions to control. I pointed out to Caela that this might feel like her when she’s “really” upset. She agreed. 

Lesson:  Accept the emotions you feel.  But learn, like Spock, how to control them in social situations.  It is ok to stand by your convictions, it is not ok to “freak-out”. 

Vulcans are quite logical.  Humans not always. Those illogical people? Are Klingons.  Learn to accept that there will always be people out in the world who don’t think before they act.  Instead of worrying and trying to figure out “why” people act so carelessly, tell yourself that they are simply being “illogical.” Aspie individuals can obsess trying to figure out certain social situations.

Lesson: To teach Caela “how to walk away or let it go” and get on with life.  It’s not worth obsessing over, or having to figure some Klingon.

Vulcans do not raise thier voice when discussing a particular subject.  They don’t hesitate to give facts when trying to make thier point.

Lesson:  Instead of making a scene in class, go up to the teacher and respectfully educate or remind, him how Asperger individuals think, in private.  I told Caela that she should advocate for herself and not fear it (she does).  There is no harm in educating others on the complexities of the Asperger’s mind. It will provide huge benefits for her in the long run and maybey the for other person.  It’s quite logical!

Vulcans do not lie.  Neither do most Asperger individuals. 

Lesson: Don’t change and continue to stand up for yourself if you are called a liar.  But learn in social situations “when” it’s ok to be truthful and when it is not.  Learn how to be strong enough to tell people “you would rather not talk about it or, you would like to speak to them privately, etc.” If it becomes totally illogical?  Walk away.

Yep.  We are convinced that Aspies and Vulcan’s are distant cousins and all “illogical” people are Klingons. 

After talking like this for about an hour and a half (no kidding), our stomach’s were in knots from laughing. Though I am not a “huge Trekkie” and some of my facts may be incorrect, I don’t think I was too far off. Michaela would have reminded me to be sure.  The main thing is, she got the points that I was making and I think she will remember the Spock analogy in challenging future situations.

After our long, humorous talk, Michaela and I went to watch Star Trek. Michaela is a huge ET, UFO buff.  Comparing her to another alien being (no kidding) and an intelligent one at that, was the best thing to do in order to teach her a few social rules.  She would die should I confess this to others, but Spock really is, a good teacher for her! *laughing*

So far things have been going much more smoothly at school.  Now, Michaela comes home with a smile on her face, chuckle and say, “I met a Klingon today” or “I had a Spock moment” as she walks to her room.  Its now our own personal joke. So far, the melt-downs have lessend considerably. And believe me, her teacher is feeling it- Michaela is constantly in his face asking about the “logic” in his actions (in a respectful, joking way)!

All I can say? 

You Go Girl!

August 12, 2013

Autism- Student to Adult Transitions, pt. 1

Filed under: Aspberger Syndrome, Autism, Special Needs — Tags: , , — C'hele @ 02:37

Greetings!

I have soooo missed writing. My year has been plagued with one challenge after another.  I cheerfully confess that not only did I survive?  I kicked ass, quite frankly. My autistic journey is far from over however.  My daughter Michaela is now eighteen years old and has graduated from high school.  She will return next year to complete her thirteenth year and pick up extra courses.  I always make the attempt to take the Buddhist perspective on life.  However, humbleness be damned at this very moment…. I did a *f…reakin* good job raising that girl! (LoL). Everyone who stumbles upon Michaela’s path loves her.  Michaela is kind and gentle. She is feisty, strong and passionate. Michaela has become such an amazing advocate for Asperger/autistic individuals and all individuals with an intellectual or physical disability.  She has learnt how important it is to form a thick skin and to forgive others who are clearly ignorant and illogical towards her and people like her.  Michaela has effectively learned……how to have a “cultured, elegant, opinionated, open-mind”.  She is fighting the system within school (later the world) and is teaching her peers along with her teachers, how to approach life with like-mind.  Michaela and I talk constantly- that just because she has cognitive-neurological challenges, she is not to be taken for granted of by others.  She is her own person and with the correct assistance to help fine-tune her challenges, her persepective taking on the world has much to teach others.  I am proud to see that she comprehends. She constantly supports others like her, helping them to see the strength and courage within themselves and to take charge with the same passionate elegance  that she has.

A comment made by her resource teacher in her high school annual this year:

“Congrats.  Its been great watching you grow up. You’ve bruised me, make me laugh, and most of all, proud. Good Luck and all the Best.”

“Bruised?” Oh yeah- Mommy was tickled pink to see that!  Not that I wanted to raise an uncultured, unmannerly child though.  I wanted her teacher to “see” that there is more to an Autistic individual if only they would take the time to peel the layers off with tender and intelligent hands.  The teachers “bruised” comment told me immediately that he is learning.  Always remember, depending on where you live, Resource Teachers do not necessarily have the Special Ed. training that they should have. They, like their special ed. students need to be taught with the same tender and intelligent hands!

And this,  makes me *smile* big-time.

August 4, 2010

Autism: My Asperger Daughter and High School

Michaela like any other Autistic individual, is unique. She has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, ADHD, an anxiety disorder, and a mixed expressive/receptive language disorder. I have had the pleasure working with many Aspie kids and it is always intriguing to watch how they metamorph as they grow older for good or bad. So it has been with my daughter. Every two years or so, one or two of my daughters challenges will take prescidence over the others. Then in a few years, it will be the reverse. It all depends on what is occuring in her environment at the time.

My daughter is now looking forward to her grade 10th year and it just so happens that she will be in a new school this upcoming September. Change and transitions do not sit well with these individuals but it was a matter of picking and choosing my battles. Michaela’s grade 8 & 9 years were spent enrolled in a special program that focused mostly on academics until it switches over to life-skills training on her grade 11/12th year. For any autistic individual, two years is hardly much time to prep an autistic individual that faces a life-time of social, communication challenges not to mention other difficulties.

But that wasn’t the real issue. What is increasingly disturbing and distressing to me are the teachers who accept a position in a resource room/special needs program with virtually no special education training. For those teachers who may take on working in this area too lightly or deem it an easy position, have no clue the damage they inflict upon thier students. What’s worse, is that some of these teachers seem to have developed the belief that “they are going to fix thier students”. My daughter has had two such teachers, one in primary school for three years and a new teacher in her high school in her grade nine year. Many times I have found myself to be in tears due to frustration and anger and have thought to myself many times, “If I am feeling this way, how is my daughter feeling when her anxiety and sensory challenges are heightened ten times over?”

Yes. Her frustrations and anger has caused her to have many hysterical moments and spoken outbursts that she wishes she were dead. My daughter has always been enrolled in a modified program. She will never attain a regular high school diploma only a 12 year school completion certification.

So. What was the problem this past year? Shortage of support staff (E.A.’s) due to funding cuts. The teacher never persued to check on Michaela to see how she was doing in her electives courses. This means that her work was never modified and she struggled incredibly hard to keep up with her classmates. The teacher also insisted that Michaela participate and do all the final exams at the end of the year. This means doing the same exams as her peers in her classes without modifications or adaptations or an E.A. to assist her. When I inquired on this further, I realized that the teacher had not even prepped Michaela. No practise tests, no examples to provide so she could make sense of what it was that she would be doing. For goodness sakes- we prep our regular/typical students at our high school before finals!! I am not against Michaela taking a final exam- just to see how she does and providing she is o.k. with doing it and has been prepared for one. Throughout the year, Michaela was sent home with homework unmodified. After many phone calls to her teacher, unmodified work was still consistently being sent home. We spent many hours together as I showed Michaela how to break things down, proofread, etc, etc. My assistance caused me to be practically doing all of Michaelas work since she had difficulties with it. There were no instructions sent from school and due to Michaelas short-term memory issues she forgot to write it down in her agenda only to later forget details completely. So we winged it, but it sure caused some extreme exhaustion for both Michaela and I and it was non-stop! I work for a living with extremely behaviourally challenging students all day. Then I come home to my own autistic child who requires my assistance. At the same time, Michaela does not want to be told what to do like a teacher because I’m her MOM! *Ugh!*

After expressing to the teacher the hell that both Michaela and I were going through (all year in fact), told her all my conerns and “why” my daughter was working on unmodified work and “why” she is not giving me any logical answers, all I got was: “I woulden’t worry- this is normal for a parent of a child with special needs to be worried themselves”. She’s fine, she’s fine- she’ll be fine!” And then without expressing it I freaked. Was this her only response? Hell. The woman was not only extremely arrogant, but insufferable. She knew I worked in the field and yet treated me like some ignorant bone-head. She also later on implied that she knew my kid better than I. This caused some further fury for me.

The woman had made it absolutely clear to me that she had no understanding on autism or her students or she woulden’t of had said that. After having a very dignified freak-out hissy fit after the phone call, I immediately called the department of special programs of the school district (basically, her boss). They know me well because I once worked for them for almost seven years in the district.

It was extremely difficult to remain in a professional-like, calm manner as I talked to the woman who was in charge of the resource rooms in the district. I wanted so badly to yell at someone or cry- as I was so frustrated, angry and exhausted. I cannot tell my readers enough how important it is to know the facts, to have a clear understanding of your childs disability and to take notes throughout the year of what you see or question regarding school. It is so important that we as parents, keep an open mind as to what may be going on and to listen to the other side whether we want to or not. What our children are like at home may be an entirely different story at school. For instance, this year I found out that my daughter who is known for her impeccable manners, has quite the aggressive little potty-mouth at school. Let me tell you, it shocked me and when I questioned her upon it she confessed. So never say never. Peer influence is an amazing thing- good or bad!

Once I spoke to the lady in charge of my concerns, she said she would speak to the teacher and get back to me. Making a long story short, she confessed to me that I had some valid concerns. This “resource room teacher” had no idea how to effectively do her job. She diden’t even know how to modify her students work nor did she know how to implement learning strategies geared towards students with cognitive disabilities! I then immediately and kindly asked that my daughter be removed from this program and be placed into another program that I was aware of. This program has an excellent reputation and I wanted Michaela in it since the beginning but high special needs student numbers in that catchment area forced Caela to go elsewhere.

I am elated. Michaela is both freaked and extremely anxious over the change (typical of autism) so once a week we visit her new school. With the school’s floor plan map in hand, we walk around to where her new resource room is and discover where all other pertinent areas are. The regular visits are helping to some-what ease Michaelas extreme anxiety. By the end of summer, she will know by heart where everything is and avoid looking like a “newbie” or overly special needs” as she puts it. This school is in an area where priviledged kids reside and thus, the school provides so much more with regards to programs offered. These programs are right down my daughter’s alley so we talk about this alot as we walk throughout the school. I am relieved- now that summer is half-over, that my daughter is now excited and is looking forward to this new opportunity to move forward. But man, its not without its challenges. It takes constant repetition and reminders to soothe her soul.

Time will tell how things go. In the meantime, we will be prepping ahead of time and practice sewing and cooking before she takes these courses in school. This will boost her self-confidence so she doesnt look too vulnerable in front of her peers. It will help decrease the anxiety she will be feeling being in a new school. Michaela is always hesitant to try new things but after explaining to her that this school has an excellent cafeteria program (something her previous school did not offer) and that the skills she will learn will help her towards a possible future career, she is excited. She loves both cooking and food (eek!).

I will make further posts on how the transition goes and how she does in her new school in fall!

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