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!

August 23, 2016

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!!

 

 

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