Friday, December 23, 2011

Three Cheers: Really inspiring show today on The Inclusive Class radio show with guest Sarah Cronk, founder of The Sparkle Effect, which includes girls with special needs in cheerleading squads. If you're wondering how you'd get such a thing started at your child's school, Sarah's website The Sparkle Effect has lots of information, and there are grants and mentors available to help out. What can't be provided by a website, of course, is administrators and school-board members who have the courage and the creativity to take a chance on something different, and young people who are eager and determined to make this opportunity happen for their peers with disabilities. I don't know where you come by that part of the equation -- maybe it will be siblings of kids with special needs, like Sarah, who will lead the charge, or maybe it takes starting inclusion so young that it seems odd to ever leave kids out. Listen to the interview below to boost your faith in the future.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Calling All Kids Who Would Rather Play With the Infield Dirt Than Catch the Ball: A post yesterday on Support for Special Needs on "Scouting Inclusion Policies & Special Needs" reminded me of so many attempts at inclusive activities, and how they don't automatically suit our kids. I know the pendulum is swinging away from special-needs-only activities, but there's going to have to be a range of opportunities with varying expectations in the mainstream to make up for that, and I don't see it yet -- even though it would certainly benefit typical kids of different abilities as well. I chose Challenger League baseball for my son instead of regular Little League because those mainstream teams have become so serious that I knew my guy would not have the focus and would not have fun. If a regular Little League team could be about having fun outside with your friends, cheering for everyone, and not stressing the score, and if it could then provide an inclusive experience with non-disabled kids who also don't want to stress over whether they can catch the ball or get the hit, that would be just fine. Not sure it exists outside the special-needs world, though. Maybe we need to invite mainstream kids to our special groups instead of the other way around.
Do You Hear What I Hear?: I'm trying to imagine what goes through the minds of adults who think it's funny to make cracks about a child's medication in front of that child and his parent. Recently it was Santa Claus in the news for taunting a kid, but I've seen a substitute teacher do it to a kid in her class, and I've had a drugstore cashier do it to my son and me. "Did he take his medication today?" they crack. Har de har har. Santa in this recent story went on to suggest that the child in question should request a jail cell for Christmas, and there's a lump of coal coming his way for that, you can bet. But I imagine we've all had our instances of jaw-dropping comments by people who should know better and should have the feelings of kids and families particularly at heart. Bah humbug all around.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Well, They Didn't Say December 5 of Which Year: Feeling extremely ticked off today at the Warner Brothers Online Store, from which you should not order if you have any particular date by which you wish to get your goods. And if you think, "Hey, I don't need it for a month, even if they're slow, it'll come in time," you are sadly mistaken. As was I, assuming that ordering DVDs on November 25, DVDs marked as in stock, DVDs sold with a stated ship date of December 5, would be a safe bet for Christmas delivery. December 19, and not a sign of them, nor an unsolicited communication from the store updating the information. I've had a few contacts with customer service, and always gotten the kind of reply I expect is in a notebook under, "Say this to irate customers." Oh, it's back-ordered, but it's almost here. Oh, it's going to ship any day. Oh, it just went on the truck. Oh, bull. I'll believe it when I see it. Most likely as a birthday present for my kid instead of a Christmas one. Bah, humbug.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

You've Got a Friend, At Least While the Teacher's Looking: Friday's Inclusive Class radio show was about promoting friendships in inclusive classrooms. And boy, is that sure something that everybody could use some help with. I think programs like the one our guest Heather McCracken was talking about can increase acceptance, and friendliness, and those are very good things. What I think often eludes kids with special needs in the mainstream is true friendship -- the slumber parties and the secrets, the roommates on school trips, the person who is genuinely glad to see you for reasons other than acceptance and understanding and because that's what nice kids do. I'm not sure how you make that happen, or if you can. Starting with the inclusion and the instruction early would certainly help, when kids with disabilities have the greatest chance of being just another kid. Inclusion proponents often tout that the mainstream is where the "real friendships" are, but I sure haven't seen that with my kids. Of the two of them, the one who spent the longest time in self-contained is the one with the longtime close friendships.

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Friday, December 16, 2011

Weeping Alert: Here's the video I mentioned on the radio show this morning, about two 13-year-old friends, one of whom has cerebral palsy, who competed in a triathlon together. More about it, including photos, on the Ams Vans blog.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Making Your Own Mistakes (as Your Mom Tears Her Hair in the Background): I've been reading a lot lately about self-advocacy as an essential college skill for kids with special needs—most recently, in a post on Different Dream for Your Child—and, sure, of course, it's true. Colleges don't want to talk to the Warrior Mom. If young people can't speak for themselves, they don't get heard. The thing I'm struggling to accept about self-advocacy now, as my daughter makes her way through college, is that it is not a duplicate of mom-advocacy. She doesn't do things the way I'd do, the way I spent years and years doing when fighting for her was my responsibility. That's somewhat crazy-making. I've had to take a deep breath and remind myself that doing things for yourself often means making mistakes, and learning from them, and finding your own solutions that work for you. We don't expect typical kids to make all the right decisions during their college years—in fact, we rather expect spectacular screw-ups as they find their adult legs. Why should kids with disabilities be any different?

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stage Fright: My once-a-month contribution to Hopeful Parents just went up. I wrote about my son's choir concert last week, and what a relief it was in comparison to his third-grade choir concert, at which both he and I behaved not so well. I kept him away from the performing arts after that because -- well, that's what we do, right? We change the environment. We assess risk vs. reward. We look for situations in which the child can be successful. We are wary of planning for failure. It sure is delightful, though, to find that a situation once feared and avoided is now, at the very least, survivable. By both of us.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Let the Boy See the World If He Wants To: That's the theme song for Zach Anner's new travel show on Oprah's network, which finally debuts tonight at 8 p.m. I'm proud to have remembered to set my DVR for it, and I'm looking forward to seeing what this funny guy with "the sexiest of the palsies" can do. Get a preview of the show in the video below, and watch it or record it yourself. You might also want to read interviews with Zach today from Disability Scoop and Love That Max. Some good food for thought there about how parents should challenge their kids with special needs, and, well, let them see the world.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Maybe "Children With Special Terminology": Today's guest on the Inclusive Class radio show was Kathie Snow, who advocates for inclusion and person-first language on her Disability Is Natural site, and one of the topics that came up in passing is the term "special needs" and how, well, un-special it is. It sets kids apart in a not really useful way, but I really don't know that there's an option that's any more desirable -- "disabilities" seems negative and limited, and "differently abled" sounds like the kid has superpowers. I'm stuck with "special needs" in the name of my site, and I've defined it there as broadly as possible. I do think we need some sort of umbrella term for when we're discussing concerns specific to this subset of kiddos. What do you think would be more suitable than "special needs"?

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Thursday, December 08, 2011

This Was More Fun When Santa Did All the Work: So, let's take a moment to talk about shopping, shall we? Because if you're like me these days, you're pretending to do work while really you're frantically doing Web searches looking for That Thing You Want for Christmas. Or maybe that someone else wants, if you're generous, but this week, it's all about me. My elusive prey at the moment is some sort of bag that's big enough to stow a 13" MacBook but not so big that I can't use it as a purse when I'm going somewhere without the computer. Trying to eliminate the many-different-bags-and-which-one-did-I-leave-my-keys-in dilemma, if you know what I mean. Right now I have a perfectly decent large laptop tote, and a small just-the-basics bag, and a medium-sized backpack, and all of them work just fine, so I don't really have a reason to get a new bag unless it is Just the Right One that replaces all of the above. But it's either hiding from me or costing more than $100, which might as well be the same thing. Where would you look?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

You Know What Word I’m Not Comfortable With? Nuance. It’s Not a Real Word. Like Gesture. Gesture’s a Real Word. With Gesture You Know Where You Stand. But Nuance? I Don’t Know.: A post on Support for Special Needs yesterday by Robert Rummel-Hudson touched on something that I think most parents who've been on the special-needs beat for a long time start to feel -- that despite the explosion in support opportunities the Internet and e-mail have brought, it's still not that easy to find a community that fits. You feel a responsibility to be a professional sharer of your experience for the newbies, but after a while you realize that there's much more nuance to your story than you can ever responsibly explain to someone just starting out. And your fellow veterans seem to have hardened into those nuances to a degree where it's almost impossible to honestly share your experience without being accused of invalidating somebody else's.

I received huge assistance after adopting my kids from an e-mail list for parents who'd adopted from Eastern Europe, but when I was in a position to give advice back, I found a minefield of people who felt any discussion of special needs was bad for adoption and therefore evil, and people who felt anything other than a scorched-earth approach to problems like RAD and FASD made you a raiser of sociopaths, and people who seemed to scan posts for any phrase they could use as an accelerant for their own particular flame wars. Like many parents with a point of view, I fled to my own little website world where I could set the rules of discourse, blogging and writing and eventually becoming's special-needs-parenting guide, and I hope I've been useful to others in that effort. Yet I do feel at times like I've become a "brand" in a way that makes me a worse parent in my real life, where being able to turn any experience into 500 words is not that useful a skill.

Friday, December 02, 2011

And How Great at Organization and Regulation Are You, Exactly: Today's Inclusive Class radio show was on executive function, which is not a party for VIPs but the ability of an individual to self-organize, self-direct, and self-regulate. All those good things so many of our kiddos are so bad at. Our guest, Dr. Christopher Kaufman, had some hopeful things to say about how teachers are starting to understand that bad behavior does not = bad kid, and that there are some really easy ways to accommodate immature executive-function skills. I don't know why we -- parents and teachers both -- can understand that kids may need help with speech or with gross motor or fine motor skills, and that they have to learn to read and walk and potty, but expect organization and regulation to just happen as a natural function of being alive. Those skills have to be learned like everything else, sometimes at a developmentally slower pace depending on the kid -- and as the enormous adult-organization industry would attest, some folks never quite get it yet go on to lead useful lives.

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What They Did for Love: This is the YouTube video that's making us teary around my house this week -- of my daughter's high-school marching band and alumni playing this year at the traditional Thanksgiving game and paying tribute to their director's 40th anniversary. It was my girl's first year participating as a graduate, and inspiring as always to see everyone gathered together. If you've been in a band or had a child in band, give it a look. Have tissues handy.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

'Cause Who Couldn't Use a Bunch of New Books to Add to the Pile?: Well, this is cool. My book 50 Ways to Support Your Child's Special Education is included on The Coffee Klatch Parent’s Holiday Book Wish List, in the excellent company of books like Thinking in Pictures, The Out-of-Sync Child, Sensational Kids, and The Kitchen Classroom. I'd never actually thought of my little book as Christmas-present material; it's kind of bossy, the sort of book you buy yourself when you know you need a kick in the pants. I'm sure we all know parents of classmates of our children who could similarly use a clue, though, and maybe schools should be sending copies home gift-wrapped to get that parent involvement they're always whining about. Anyway, big thanks to Marianne Russo for including me on the Coffee Klatch's list, and if you're looking for more books to consider for special-needs giving, check out the ridiculous number of book reviews on my site. It will make you feel guilty for not reading more, and that's a gift that keeps on giving.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Squeamish? Skip This Post: Just got back from the dermatologist, where my son had an item removed that we have taken to calling the Disgusting Bloody Ear Growth. It started out months and months ago as a fairly colorless lump behind his ear, and got bigger with time, and once it was big enough to feel weird to the touch, he couldn't stop touching it, and that made things worse. In August, his doctor said it didn't have to be removed if he could just stop picking at it, but ... yeah, that wasn't going to happen, was it? It just got bigger and bloodier and crustier and yuckier. He made at least one trip to the school nurse due to bleeding, his pillow was covered with splotches of blood, the bandaids we put over it came away with pads-full of disconcerting colors, and all in all, it started looking like the kind of thing that, if this was a horror movie, would be possessed by the devil. So there was nothing for it but to slice the dang thing off, and I was amazed at how quickly and fusslessly that was done. Our challenges, though, have not been excised: How the heck am I going to keep a skin-picking guy from doing damage to the eraser-size scab that's left behind? I see incessant nagging in my immediate future.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Meaning Well Doesn't Make You Any Less Rude: The blog This Ain't Livin' has a post today about Cure Evangelism, which drives people to grill strangers on their medical care and choices under the guise of being helpful, concerned, and well-meaning. Certainly parents of children with disabilities are well acquainted with cure evangelists, not all of them strangers -- surely I'm not the only one who's had relatives inform me that they know all about my kids' disabilities because they read something in a magazine or their neighbor's friend's hair-dresser did thus and so. And there can be differences of opinion among parents of kids with similar issues that causes evangelism for a particular cure to burst into flames. But random bystanders are also, certainly, full of ideas if your child has a detectable disability, and are happy to expound on them right in front of the kid in question. And truthfully, sometimes, we're all too eager to contribute to the conversation. I know, as often as I wish somebody else would shut up, I wish I could shut my own mouth more.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Unfair Play: The Ams Vans blog had a post today about a President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports study showing that "only 29 percent of students with disabilities take physical education classes at least five days a week, compared to 34 percent of students without disabilities." Now, when I was a kid, that statistic would have made me envy students with disabilities, because I hated physical education big time. But my adult self recognizes the injustice of schools limiting physical activity for kids with disabilities because it's too hard to figure out what to do or too inconvenient to train teachers to do adaptive gym (which my son has been fortunate to have thanks to one teacher who covers three schools) or too expensive to make play areas safe for every student. The 5 percent deserve better.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!: We just drove over the river and through the woods and down the Interstate to our relatives' house the next state over, and all the way, I was whistling and humming and tapping my toes to this song. Play the video, and it will be your earworm, too. That's my gift to you this Muppet-movie-opening weekend.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

We Are the 5 Percent!: Education Week had an interesting post up today about statistics from the U.S. Census indicating that about 1 in 20 school children has a disability, or about 5 percent of all students. Not an overwhelming number, maybe, but certainly a presence. Enough to maybe not get treated like someone you're doing a favor to include. Man, in these days when parent participation is so nonexistent in so many schools, if all 5 percent of the special-needs parents in any given school could resolve to show up at PTA meetings and school events, we could take over the joint. Occupy public schools!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Last Week, He Wanted to Be a Mechanic: In about an hour, I have a meeting with our high school's transition coordinator and a representative from the county Department of Vocational and Rehabilitation Services to discuss my son's future. I wonder how much they'll laugh when I mention that the field he's excited about this week is forensic science. Yesterday in health class, he saw a video in which a dead person's organs were removed; I suspect it was really about the damage to organs caused by smoking or alcohol, but what he got out of it was how cool it would be to have a job in which you weigh brains. The community college he's planning to go to does indeed have a certificate program for forensics. Wonder how open that field is to individuals with differences? Though I suppose wanting to handle dead bodies for a living is a difference right there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Bullying Unawareness: There's a thought-provoking post by Robert Rummel-Hudson on the blog Support for Special Needs today, entitled The Things Unseen, about parent perception of bullying vs. socially clueless vulnerable child perception of bullying and how big a stick we should carry when we let those kids know that we know what's going on, mister, and you better cut it out. It's funny -- conventional wisdom on bullies has been that if you ignore them, they will get bored and move on to somebody else. But when we have kids whose first impulse is to ignore bullying, because they don't even notice that bullying's going on, we kind of want to shake them and make them notice. We assume that, far from getting bored, the bully will enjoy our kids' obliviousness, and that will make things worse. Speaking of which, I'm pretty sure that the few times I have inserted myself into a bullying situation, worse is exactly what I've made it. I often wonder how often, as parents, we're just reliving our own personal minidramas instead of actually engaging with our kids' experience. My interpretation of who's a bully and who's not is often very different from my kids', and what if I'm the one seeing it wrong?

Friday, November 18, 2011

Plus, I Rant About the Miserableness of Microsoft Word: Today's topic on The Inclusive Class radio show is one that's often on my mind -- support for struggling readers. Howard Margolis, who does another radio show for Special Needs Talk Radio called "Maximizing Your Child's Potential," talked about the teaching techniques that work best for kids who have trouble with reading, how parents can steer their kids into the right classrooms, and what can be done at home to help your child read better. I love the idea of schools giving parents training on working with their kids -- seems like a much better strategy than just whining that parents don't enforce homework appropriately or get sufficiently involved in school. Speaking of school involvement, though, I think this idea of figuring out what teacher would be best for your child and then sort of structuring the IEP so there's no choice but that classroom shows the value of volunteering in your school so you can spy, get all the good gossip, and know grades ahead of time in whose classroom you want your child to be. (Or not.)

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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As God Is My Witness, I Thought Turkeys Could Fly: Somebody pasted clips from this episode on Google+ this morning, and then I had to go find it somewhere online and watch the whole thing. Love the theme song, love the characters, love the fact that, no matter how bad your Thanksgiving goes, it's never going to be as bad as turkeys falling out of the sky like sacks of wet cement.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Pity Behind the Praise: Sunday Stilwell's post on Adventures in Extreme Parenthood today about the condescending way Ann Curry spoke to a teenager with special needs and her dad on the Today show really resonated with me, as I'm still processing a similar sort of comment made to me in church this past Sunday. It was from an older woman who usually sits in the pew behind us, someone I've often thought must wonder why I don't make my son behave better. So when she made it a point to speak to me after Mass and told me I was a very good mother, I was initially relieved and gladdened, because, well goodness, there are so many not as nice things she could have said. But it's sort of impossible for me to hear praise like that without assuming that the subtext is sympathy and regret for my burden. When I think back to how hard church was with my son in his early years, his current behavior seems unremarkable to me, and so it's a jolt when someone -- with all good intentions, in all Christian charity, entirely undeserving of my ingratitude -- acts like I'm in need of mercy. It's worse when someone does it on national television, of course, but respect and acceptance of the kid would make most parents feel better than being praised for their parenting fortitude.

Monday, November 14, 2011

How You Know It's Time for a Career Change: What, I wonder, goes through the head of a teacher who would duct-tape a six-year-old with special needs to a chair (or, come on, any student at all) and think that was a righteous application of behavioral techniques? I understand teachers being undertrained and undersupported and overtaxed, but duct-taping a kid to a chair in front of a classroom of students? Not restraint or seclusion in the heat of a meltdown -- bad as those are -- but a self-satisfied way of punishing a kid who got up from his seat too often. Who does that? Who goes into teaching with the idea that this would be an okay problem-solving measure? Who doesn't realize that, if duct-taping a six-year-old to a chair is looking like a good idea, maybe a career in teaching isn't really where it's at? Really, lady, there are other jobs. Find one.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Not Sure If I Should Be Hopeful or Not: Today's my once-a-month day to post on the blog Hopeful Parents, and for once I actually did it early in the day rather than at 11:59 p.m. This month's entry is about the unlikely prospect of my son going to his senior prom, and why I can't run screaming and laughing from that idea as I entirely should, as my husband totally can. Why does prom have such a stupid emotional pull on moms, so that we secretly plot our children's attendance and feel sad if they don't go? Are we just doomed to relive high school ourselves, over and over again?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Is the Principal of Your School Your Pal?: One of the challenges in getting schools to embrace inclusion is finding principals who really believe in it. I'll never forget the way the principal of the school in which my daughter had her first inclusion class did everything she could to sabotage inclusion, thus giving her teachers no particular incentive to try hard to make it work. I think she just genuinely believed it was a bad idea imposed by people without her hands-on experience in schools, but the ones who got punished were not those bureaucrats but vulnerable children who had the least amount of say about their own placement.

I thought about that former principal when talking today on The Inclusive Class radio show with Kathryn Yamamoto, a principal of an elementary school in British Columbia who actively promotes the inclusion of students with special needs in her school, and also the inclusion of parents in the IEP process and the day-to-day implementation of that document. It's great to hear stories like hers, but also sad because that level of involvement just doesn't happen in so many schools. Does your principal get it? Give the show a listen and add this to your wish list.

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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Speaking of the Need for Overprotectiveness: Another post that reinforces the need to check and check and check again that your kid is being watched at school -- not to mention the value of befriending bus drivers -- is up on the blog Adventures in Extreme Parenthood. In related news, my post yesterday about the tragic result of a lack of bus oversight brought me the oddest Twitter mention today; it seems that a man who wrote an article for Time magazine about the importance of roughhousing in an era of parent over-involvement tweets something along the lines of "Nice, Terri. You might also enjoy [link to his article]" any time someone uses the phrase "helicopter parent" in a tweet. Similar wording appears over and over again on his timeline, and I have to assume he doesn't actually read the linked material before he responds with "Nice." I hope so, anyway, because responding to a post about child rape with an appeal for more roughhousing and less supervision? Is creepy.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Why We Helicopter Parent: If you've never thought much about what happens when your child's bus gets to school, and who meets it, and how supervised kids are as they make their way into school, a terrible story about a girl with autism and what happened when she got off the bus should prompt you to ask those questions. And feel better about watching your child walk all the way into the school building, if you do the drop-offs yourself. And justify any vigilance you may show in, say, monitoring e-mail or Facebook activity. The world's just scary.
Here's Why I Don't Clean My House: I recently took some time to polish our good-wood dining-room table. Looks great -- except I set the can of polish on the table at some point, and it was apparently wet on the bottom, because when I was done with the elbow grease, there were three new can-shaped rings marring the finish. So I grabbed a bottle of another wood-cleaning solution, and went at the rings with that ... but of course, I put the bottle on the table at some point, and it too was wet, having come from the same spot under the sink as the polish, and so the net effect was the addition of two rectangular marks that also will not come off. So fine a housekeeper am I.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

I Voted, Really, I Did: I was at my polling place bright and early today, as a matter of fact, but I can't prove it because our town (or at least, the high school where we vote) does not give out stickers or stubs or any bit of swag with which to brag on one's status as an official voter. What gives? I see pictures of people on the Web proudly bearing their proof of good-citizenship, and I feel somehow second-class. I guess when it comes right down to it, I don't really want my sky-high property-tax dollars going to something as trivial as a "I Voted and You Didn't" sticker, but ... maybe a hand stamp of some sort?
Talking the Talk: It's well past Halloween, but here's a scary story for your Tuesday -- a post on the blog Bloom stressing that yes, you really really do need to talk to your child with special needs about sex. If you accept that premise but have no idea how to go about doing it, may I recommend The Rules of Sex: Social and Legal Guidelines for Those Who Have Never Been Told, a very straightforward take on the subject designed for use with children who have developmental disabilities. It's one of those books you'll want to pick and choose from as suits your child's particular needs and your particular comfort level, but it provides a good base from which to start, and some good reasons for doing so.

Monday, November 07, 2011

When Productive Work = Procrastination: Yesterday I had planned to finally finish the book I've been trying to read and review for a month, and so instead I started noodling around on the computer and designed the new Love Notes for Special Parents Calendar 2012. A worthwhile thing to be sure, and something that needed to be done, and yet ... that book is still sitting and staring at me. When did I start procrastinating reading? Reading is what I used to use to procrastinate. Maybe it's the fact that all I ever read anymore is special-needs books to review, and even when I'm really interested in the subject matter, the books tend not to be page-turners. Today's the day. Yep. I'm gonna finish that book today. Sure. It could happen. Hmmm.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

The Underwear, at Least, Is Mine: Managed to switch over my closet to winter wear this weekend (so, people of the Northeast, expect a sudden heat wave). How odd is it, do you suppose, that the majority of the clothing I wear is either a hand-me-up from my daughter or something I retrieved from my mother's closet after she passed away? There's surprisingly little that actually originated with me. Some of it is that I'm short, so I can wear clothes my kid has outgrown; some of it is that I'm cheap. Does anybody else have a multigenerational wardrobe? I've even got a few things from my son's and husband's cast-offs for good measure.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth: It seems sort of Grinch-like to complain in any way about Toys 'R' Us's annual Toy Guide for Differently-Abled Kids. It's a nice idea, a useful gathering of things, a high-profile enterprise with an appropriate celebrity selected each year to draw warm-hearted attention (this year it's Eva Longoria, who has a sister with Down syndrome). But ... that phrase, "differently abled," just seems so bend-over-backwards to me. Do we really have work that hard to feel good about our kids? There's nothing "different" about my kids' abilities, or their disabilities for that matter -- they have strengths and weaknesses just like anybody else. "Variously abled" might be more apt. "Differently abled," though well-intentioned, is still about different. I agree that "disabled" and "special" and "special needs" and "exceptional" are all problematic in their own ways, but "differently abled" is both not-quite-it and linguistically awkward. What else you got?

Friday, November 04, 2011

Three Letters That Make Our Blood Run Cold: The topic of this morning's The Inclusive Class radio show was IEPs, and automatically when I hear that term I cringe -- from memories of bad meetings, from memories of having to decipher that thing, and from memories of advocates and authors insisting that if you're not obsessing about every word in that document you're letting your child down. But our guest, Jennifer Sommerness, had some interesting things to say about inclusive IEPs that are more action-oriented than your average hunk of legalese, and opening up the IEP process to both parents and regular-education teachers who don't really want to sort through all that terminology either. Unlike most considerations of IEPs, the conversation didn't make me hyperventilate or anything. Give it a listen.

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Thursday, November 03, 2011

At What Age Can They Take Over Fighting With Insurance Companies?: The blog Thriving, from Children's Hospital Boston, has a post today about a subject that's much on my mind lately -- preparing your child to take over responsibility for his or her own health care. We're about at the end of the road with my kids' pediatrician, and that's made me wonder whether they should also, say, be making their own appointments, bringing in their own prescriptions, providing their own medical history. I don't think my son is ready for that yet, but I've been breaking my daughter in little bit by little bit, having her make and attend orthodontist appointments on her own or fill out the forms at specialist and lab visits. There's a lot of talk about self-advocacy in a school setting, not so much in a medical one, but it's an important part of becoming an adult. (One thing about the post that did make me feel good, though, was the depiction of a typical teen texting during a doctor's visit while Mom steps up with the answers. I do this, too, and always blamed it on my son's disability. But maybe, in this instance, he's just a teenager. Okay, so he's talking to his imaginary friends during doctor visits instead of to a cell phone, but still.)

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Stopping the Blame Game: It was nice to see a post titled "The Best Reasons Why Parents Should Be Looked At As Allies & Not Targets Of Blame" on the blog Engaging Parents in School this morning. I get why teachers want to blame parents, and why parents want to blame teachers, and sometimes the blame is deserved. It's never particularly useful, though, and tends to distract from more important things. I've enjoyed being allies with most of my kids' teachers. And I've hated the way parent-bashing has become a regular campaign activity at school-board elections in my town. It's time for some serious re-thinking about how schools and teachers interact with parents, moving from a school-based PTA meeting and teacher conference model to freer interaction on the Web and via e-mail. It could happen.
If There Was a Skeleton There, You'd Never Find It: In a very kind plug on her blog today about the state-by-state special-education resources on my site, Jolene Philo wrote, "Someday, I’d like to look at Terri Mauro’s closets to see if they’re as well-organized as her website!" And I about spit-taked my coffee when I saw it, because ... no. No, you don't want to look at my closets. I don't want to look at my closets, which is part of the problem. (I exclude here the coat closet at the top of the stairs, which was part of the great Living Room Purge of Summer 2011, and is so neat that we could even move the vacuum there from its previous spot in the middle of our bedroom floor. It is an aberration.) My bedroom closet is so messy I can't get at my clothes, which is why many of them are piled on my desk chair. Our linen closet is a jumble of towels and blankets and mismatched sheet sets. The closet outside the kids' bathroom contains not only toiletries but items that couldn't fit in the pantry, which is somewhat unsettling, flour next to toilet paper next to rice cakes next to shampoo next to coffee K-cups behind the Band-Aids. Let's just say that I put all my effort into the work I do for y'all here on the Web, and don't have time for petty things like keeping a neat closet. Yeah, that's it.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

I Hate Fundraisers: Well, that's not saying much, is it? Most parents feel that way about school money-raising activities. What I'm particularly hating on at the moment is a fundraiser that came home with my son a couple of weeks back with absolutely no information on what it was for, when it was due, who to make checks out to, where to bring it, or really anything other than a glossy two pages on overpriced candles. It came home with another fundraiser that had a smidge more info, but they're apparently unrelated. I think they trust that your child was listening when the stuff was distributed, and ... aw, you know, this isn't even a special-needs thing. I can't imagine any teenage boy sufficiently absorbing candle fundraiser details to remember them when he got home. No one at school seems to be quite sure where and how this money is being raised; I'm trying to pin that down, only because a couple of folks were interested and I'll order for them if I can. I'm beginning to think perhaps I can't. It's an anti-fundraiser, apparently.
Jessica Lange Has a Lot of Company: The FX series American Horror Story is proving to be quite comment-worthy on my site, with some folks objecting to the way a character with Down syndrome is depicted and treated, some folks saying it's just a TV show and we're supposed to object to the way the character's mother treats her, and some folks glad just to have someone with Down syndrome on TV at all. The "lighten up" contingent points out that the use of the word "mongoloid" is supposed to clue us in that Jessica Lange's character is decades out of date in her thinking ... but you know, it wasn't that long ago that I argued with a high-school English teacher about whether it was proper to put that word on a vocabulary list (I lost). Abortion rates of children with Down syndrome -- and horror stories like this one about the abuse of individuals with intellectual disabilities -- leads me to believe that we are not in the kind of accepting society that can brush off aberrant depictions as all in good fun. At any rate, FX just renewed the show for a second season, so those who have hoped to get rid of it will have to rail against it for another year (assuming the character of Addy stays around, in some form or another).

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick or ... Aw, Never Mind: Maybe it's the snow or the warnings about live electrical wires in the street, but costumed kiddies have not been beating a path to our door this Halloween night. We've had one little group so far, and it's looking more and more like that bag of candy bars is ours. Living on a cul de sac with no young children for neighbors seems to be the key to avoiding trick-or-treaters. I really wouldn't mind a little more action. But this year, the parkas and snow boots do kind of ruin the costumes. Anyone stopping by your home tonight?
Our Tuition Dollars at Work: For an example of customer service done brilliantly via Facebook, I direct you to the page for Bergen Community College. Students post questions and concerns, and are promptly answered by a very polite man/woman/artificial intelligence who does not mind answering the same "Is the college closed tomorrow?" question over and over and over. I like the way he/she/it starts each answer with the particular student's first name, and the way, in response to a poster expressing sympathy over all the annoyingly repetitive questions, he/she/it replied, "It's cool. Keep on truckin'." We had a lot of good entertainment last night checking the page out for updates, for patient BCC-man replies, and for hyperbolic statements from students about the aftereffects of Ridiculous October Snowstorm 2011. To the kid who suggests it's like World War III out there, let me say: Honey, if the worst that World War III brings us is downed tree limbs and electrical wires, mankind will be unbelievably, undeservedly lucky.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Nature's Own Little Halloween Trick: So it's snowing here in the northeast, for no other reason than to mess with us, as far as I can tell. We had weeks and weeks of rain and flood and hurricane, then about five minutes of nice fall weather, and now it's snowing? Really? Whatever. For now, we have electricity and therefore computers and can amuse ourselves nicely. If the power goes out, I'll be playing UNO games with my son by candlelight until I can no longer hold a hand. Is it spring yet?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Let's All Move to Vermont: Just finished the latest episode of The Inclusive Class, on which Nicole Eredics and I were very honored to have inclusion guru Dr. Paula Kluth as a guest. It was a very interesting conversation, and I believe our very first show to go over time and be cut off in mid-sentence (at least for live listeners, of whom I can't believe there are very many first thing Friday morning). I just didn't want to interrupt while Paula was talking about all the things parents can do to promote inclusion. Often when I hear inclusive classrooms described, it just seems like a pipe dream, but her suggestions seemed fairly practical and possible, if you can drag the dinosaur that is your school district out of its cave.  For those who wonder, as I often do, where this "inclusion" people speak of is actually being done well, Paula revealed that Vermont is at the top with about 60 percent of students with special needs included, and Utah is at the botton with about 2 percent. But of course, for many states, things vary from district to district and school to school. How's inclusion going where you are?

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Self-Determination Is a Life Skill Too: I like what this post on Radical Neurodivergence Speaking has to say about self-advocacy, which is that it's always important and not always what we as parents might like. Which is to say that a child saying "No!" is an act of self-advocacy. A child refusing to do something she doesn't want to do is an act of self-advocacy. A child digging in against a therapy exercise or a homework assignment or potty training is an act of self-advocacy. And that's one of the reasons why I think it's really important for parents of children with special needs not to get into power struggles with our kids, and to let them have whatever power they're able to exercise over their bodies and their environments. Short of safety issues, there is very little reason not to give kids a choice when they want one. Before you force something on your child, think about how you would feel if the situation was reversed. If you would not like it, think a little more creatively and see if there's a way to get what you need while still giving your child a win. Convenient as it may be, you don't really want to teach your child to always acquiesce to a more powerful person.
Zero Tolerance Can Be a Bully, Too: A post on the blog Thriving this morning has me thinking about bullying and the proper response to accusations. There's a major bullying crackdown going on at my son's high school, and that sounds like a good thing, but I'm not so sure. Many of the accusations of bullying turn out to be little more than misunderstandings or minor disagreements -- but each has to be investigated, and a number of complaints against a particular student will result in suspension or expulsion. Great in theory, but significantly problematical if you have a teenager with special needs whose behavior can appear to be provocative when it is in fact an innocent and predictable function of his particular disability. Zero tolerance is not nuanced enough to take that sort of thing into account, and it makes me worry for my son every day.

I think, too, of my daughter, who felt bitterly that she was bullied by boys -- fellow special-education students -- in several of her resource-room classes. As her language and social skills have advanced, she has come to realize that she was misinterpreting their behavior, and the boys in question had some problems of their own that kept them from realizing that their joking around wasn't having the intended effect. I don't think coming down hard on her "bullies" and removing them from school would have been good for anybody, but it would have been most disastrous for them. What was called for was a teacher to have a good talk with all the students about words and hurt feelings and reading social cues. As much as we would like it to be, as righteous as it feels, bullying is not always black and white. Maybe it never is.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

I Nag About as Well as I Floss: My son just went to the dentist, and miracle of miracles, he did not get a lecture about brushing more. Which is a good thing, because nagging him to brush has been a source of some tension lately. I've been feeling like a terrible parent when, at the end of the day, tired and lazy, I take him at his word when he says he's brushed even though I'm reasonably sure he's done no such thing. In the morning, rushing to get to school, I also believe him when he goes into the bathroom for five seconds and assures me he brushed. Calling him out for a liar in these instances generally starts a spiral of nagging and digging in that sets both of us on edge, so I guiltily put it in the "battles I will not fight" basket. It's a huge blessing that he apparently has teeth that really don't care so much either way.
Sadly, Klout Doesn't Make Your Kids Listen to You Any Better: If you write a lot on the Internet, and particularly if you are fortunate enough to have people read what you write, the day will come when you do a Google search and see something you've created in the top spot. And you'll feel proud and honored and, if you get paid by the page view, jubilant, but at least one small part of you will say, "Crap, I'm the #1 authority on this? How can that be?" I had the same feeling when someone mentioned on Twitter that according to Klout, I am the second most influential person in the area of special needs. And, thank you very much! That's terrific! Except ... really? That seems unlikely, and also like a lot of responsibility. Certainly, as they say in Hollywood, it's an honor to be nominated. But Klout seems kind of like the Golden Globes -- there's really no meaningful process for determining them, yet everybody acts like they're important. Still, if you've K'd me recently and inflated my influence, thanks a bunch!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Not All Who Wander Are Lost: You know what I'm tired of? I'm tired of reading books about fetal alcohol spectrum disorder that are filled with despair and lost hope. I'm tired of case studies that involve prison and sexual abuse and family disruption. I'm tired of stories about adoptive parents tearing out their hair and lost boys and girls whose only remaining purpose in life is to be a cautionary tale. Not to say those things don't happen, or are even uncommon, but they're not the whole story. They're not my family's story. They're not my son's story. I can't believe that he is the only one who is bucking the trend, that we are the only family that has learned from research and from best practices and found a way to improve the odds. I'm not saying, I would never say, that we should stop telling the sad stories. But could we tell the hopeful ones sometimes, too?
There Are at Least 150 Other Ways to Say 'Stupid': I'm percolating an article in my head about bad excuses for using the R-word, which will include a listing of synonyms for those who fear that they can't say anything anymore without it. While I'm working on that, here are two posts I've seen this week that save me the trouble of making some arguments, 'cause I can just link to them: "Words Matter" from The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism and "Just Don't Use That Word" from Radical Neurodivergence Speaking. Both make a good case for the fact that no, you can't separate those words from individuals with intellectual disabilities, even if you want to, even if you don't aim them at one. Really. It's true. Don't be a nitwit.
Because Everybody on NCIS Has to Have Family Issues: My husband and I seem to be consistently a week or two behind on TV viewing, knocking shows off the DVR just in time for a new one to be added to the pile. So I just now watched the NCIS episode from October 11, and what do you know, an adoption plotline for Abby. That is, she's just discovered as an adult that she was adopted, not that she's adopting. (Sorry for the spoiler if you're even farther behind in your viewing than we are. Which makes me feel all superior.) It seemed kind of thrown in there, since the show isn't huge on personal stories and tends to revisit them sporadically. Maybe it's just that this is a topic that's sensitive to me in a way that Gibbs's ex-wives, Tony and Ziva's daddy issues, and McGee's grandma being Debbie Fiderer don't. It will be interesting to see when/if they do anything much with the story, but kudos for the degree to which the actor playing the long-lost brother looks believably like Pauley Perette.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Big Pharma Behind This Somehow?: So all of a sudden, Vitamin D is a thing for our family. The kids had blood tests with their recent check-ups, and one of them was for Vitamin D levels. It was no surprise that my son was deficient, because he hates milk and will not drink it. But my daughter is very happy to drink milk, and does so often, and so I'm surprised that she's deficient and apparently needs massive doses to catch up. A friend mentioned that she's D-deficient as well. Have I just not been paying attention, or is D-deficiency some sort of Public Health Issue du jour? I await the endless alarmist commercials.
Proving That There Are Bridge Games in Heaven: One of the many things my mom and I had in common was a tendency to fall down. Genetic poor center of gravity or weak ankles, maybe? We both did a mean splat/leap up/declare "I'm okay!" combination, and most of the time, we were okay, though there were scrapes and sprains and deep embarrassments on various occasions. Since my mom passed away, it's seemed to me that I've fallen less, and I've imagined that she's my guardian angel, catching me at that moment when gravity fails. But yesterday, I was taking a walk with my son and I went down hard, on a downhill slope, right on to a knee that's not been in such great shape anyway. No leaping up this time for me, though I did manage to hobble home. Today, I'm feeling sore and worried, and also a little ticked at Mom. If she's going to find other things to do up there, I'm in big trouble.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

That Cause-and-Effect-Thinking Thing Is Tricky, I Know: A challenging thing about raising kids with fetal alcohol exposure is getting them to understand that unanticipated consequences are still their responsibility. If they throw a ball and it happens to break a window, but they didn't intend to break a window, they can't connect what they did to what happened. And they're often puzzled and befuddled by the anger of others over events they see as completely independent and abstract. That seems to be the same sort of thinking applied by people who use offensive language about people with disabilities, whether it's the R-Word or, as has been in the news the last few days, Ricky Gervais's "mong." If they didn't mean offense, there is no offense. If they think of the word as meaning a certain thing, why would anybody think of it as something else? If in their understanding a word is linguistically and historically without emotion and weight, complaints are irrelevant and inexplicable. But you know what, guys? The window's still broke, and that's your baseball on the floor.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Never Trust a Headline: I read enough science articles on the Web to know that headlines are more often than not misleading. And I know why that is, because in our increasingly noisy travels through the world of media, our attention can only be grabbed by big surprising statements. So "Scientists think that maybe" is never going to get as many readers as "Studies show!!!" Reading the article would often clear up the hyperbole, but gads, who reads articles anymore? You take in the headline and the first sentence or two on your RSS reader and then hit the share button. (I am entirely guilty of this. Hey, I've got Tweets and blogs to feed.) So we never get to the "well, really, it's just a couple of nerds talking over lunch, but it could be true!" part, and if a PR person is doing the writing, that part might not even get written. This week's case in point, as dissected by Emily Willingham on The Biology Files: Autism and type 2 diabetes linked because "both are increasing"? (I very much want a study done, or at least a series of alarmist articles, on the correlation between autism and basketball-shorts length proposed by a commenter on that post.)
The Keys are Preparation and Flexibility. Good Luck With That: Had a nice chat with Nicole Eredics and Dr. Sandy Gluckman on The Inclusive Class radio show today about stress as it relates to inclusive classrooms -- stressed teachers making a change in the way they do things, stressed students having to deal with classmates who are different, stressed children with special needs having to deal with a less-structured, less-accepting environment, stressed parents sitting home worrying themselves sick. According to Dr. Gluckman, the key for everybody in that equation is preparation and the kind of flexibility that allows everyone to get what they need in the classroom. Ironically, the very things that seem in shortest supply in schools these days. It makes me stressed just thinking about it.

You can listen to the show using the doohickey below, or follow the link above to go to the show page, where you can make comments and see pictures going by as you listen. Want to catch up on older episodes? There's an archive right here on this blog. You can find it in the future by clicking on the Special Needs Talk Radio graphic in the upper right corner.

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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Test to the Teach: A blog post on Education Week today discussed alternative assessments for special-education students and lamented an amendment that would increase the number of kids exempted from standardized testing (the amendment failed shortly after the post went up, it appears). I understand why disability advocates don't want special-education students shunted off to an evaluation system that offers no accountability, but the standardized tests are such a bad bet for a lot of our kids, especially those who have not been in state-of-the-art inclusion programs and are not being taught at grade level. Testing kids on things they've never had a chance to learn offers no sort of accountability either. I would have loved for my son to take the standardized test for the level he's being taught at and then see the progress from year to year, but that apparently can't be done.

Most parents I know of kids in special education hate the standardized tests and would prefer the alternative assessments. Most teachers I've talked to about it hate the testing but hate the assessments more because they are horrifically time-consuming. Would be nice to find something that is really meaningful for these students, because I believe strongly that accountability is important. All of the current choices fail.
Hope People Police Better Than They Park: A new app sounds like an interesting solution for illegal use of handicapped parking spots -- it allows do-gooders to snap a photo of the offender and send it directly to law enforcement -- but it also sounds like a pretty troublemaking tool to be put in the hands of just anybody. I've heard enough stories of people with legitimate but less obvious disabilities being hassled for rightfully using a spot, and I imagine they'll be getting police reports now too. The thing would have to be used with discretion is all, but I highly suspect the ratio of righteous grievances to nuisance posts would not be what we'd like.
Also, I'm Not a Newborn Baby: Confidential to the lowlife who sent me a scam e-mail through my Google+ profile this morning: Although I did post on Google+ yesterday about a documentary having to do with deaf students, I am not myself deaf or hard of hearing, so it seems extremely unlikely that a deaf organization would give me $150,000, even if the only requirements are being active on the Internet. So I will not be clicking on the link you so kindly provided. I will, however, be reporting your ass to Google.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Don't Do Us Any Favors: I've wondered, in my blog, why the growing number of kids with special needs doesn't give their families any sort of clout. If you could add up all the kids with autism and the kids with food allergies and the kids with learning disabilities and the kids with chronic illnesses and get their families to act as one big interest group, wouldn't somebody have to try to cater to us instead of acting like we're an anomaly? Lisa Jo Rudy makes a similar point in Inclusion Is Not an Act of Charity on her new Authentic Inclusion blog. Accommodating kids with differences should be as natural and as expected as accommodating any kid -- if not because it's the right thing to do, then because they're customers and constituents like everybody else. What other group is it so acceptable to exclude anymore? Why should we be happy with whatever inclusion anybody deigns to dole out?
How About Putting This on Regular MTV, and Restricting Snooki to College Campuses?: So I was getting all excited about an MTV series about deaf students at Gallaudet University -- because, as reality series go, how great an idea is that -- and then I saw that it will be airing exclusively on mtvU, a channel shown only on college campuses. I'm all for college students seeing it, but I think it could be of wider interest if it got a wider showing. And then, they could go on to do a similar series about students with intellectual disabilities at a place like Shepherds College or a specialized program at a mainstream university. Seems like MTV has enough hours-full of crap that it could clear a few for something awareness-raising.
If Only Everybody Came With an Explanation for Their Inexplicable Behavior: In a post called "I'm Not Bad. I Am Autistic," the Special Needs Homeschool blog offers a handy and easily understandable explanation for behaviors that are common not only to kids with autism but with other special needs as well. Many of these are typical of my son, who is neither autistic nor bad. Of course, for him, we'd have to add, "I know I walk up and take your keys out of your hand in a way that makes you fear I might steal them. I won't. I just like the way they feel in my hand, and I like talking about where they go, and I like it that I know exactly what kind of car you have and can pick it out in the parking lot from now on. No, really, I'm not going to steal it. I'm not bad. I'm neurologically unique."
We Don't Bite, Unless Provoked: A perfectly nice post on the blog Special Happens seems to have gotten under my skin today. In 'Questions “Typical” Parents Are Afraid To Ask,' the mom of "3 very healthy, athletic, socially adept (ish) kids" wants very much to be correct and polite and supportive to families of kids with special needs, and not be one of Those People. And sure, that's what we want, folks who are thoughtful and not judgmental about our kids' disabilities. At the same time, though, we're not a damn landmine. You don't have to tiptoe around us. In most cases, what you need to know about our kids is that they are kids. The dynamic of what's right and wrong to say is probably exactly the same as you'd feel if someone whose kids were healthier, more athletic, and entirely socially adept tried to pussyfoot around you. But maybe I'm just in an ornery mood today.

Friday, October 14, 2011

What I've been doing

Instead of, you know, posting timely blogs on this site.
  • Spent the better part of two days trying to upgrade my iPhone to the latest operating system and migrate my Mobile Me account to the cloud. At least I got a blog post out of it for, about how what we do for our kids with special needs is kind of like upgrading, too.
  • Tried to be patient while waiting for results of a nervous-making test for my daughter. I gave them a week, then called ... to find out her doctor's office is closed today and nobody else will tell us anything, so now we have to wait until Monday. This is what I get for being a good citizen. Back to nagging phone-calling pain-in-the-butt for me.
  • Got up a head of steam about Groupon and its smug snarkiness toward kids with special needs and their families. Sort of wish I was a member so I could stomp my foot and quit. If you are, please do.
  • Rejoiced in my son's super progress report from school, and the fact that all the things I worried about at the beginning of the year have not turned out to be problems. Still haven't found the switch that turns off the worrying, though.
  • Chatted with Gayle Hernandez and Nicole Eredics on The Inclusive Class radio show about the great work Gayle does as an inclusive teacher in British Columbia. Should have made me happy to hear about inclusion done well, but mostly made me ticked off that all I ever hear is that it's impossible. Clearly not!
What have you been up to?

Friday, September 16, 2011

What I'm ranting about this week

I had a good discussion this morning with Nicole Eredics on our BlogTalk Radio show "The Inclusive Class" about whether inclusion is right for every student, which of course involves a discussion of all the stupid ways school districts are doing it wrong and planning for failure. You can listen to the archive at the link above.

I also got a rant in on my site about Ron Clark's pronouncement on that parents should just shut up and listen to teachers who know everything. Hey, welcome to 2011, Ron, parents get to have opinions now.

My monthly contribution to Hopeful Parents was posted on Tuesday, a little whine about waiting.

What are you ranting about this week?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

I'm on the radio tomorrow

Tomorrow at 9 a.m. is the beginning of "The Inclusive Class," a radio show I'm cohosting with Nicole Eredics. I hope it will be the beginning, anyway; I'm in charge of the switchboard, so there's always the chance that I'll hit the wrong button and we'll be off the air. Assuming we stay on, you can here Nicole talk with Kathryn Burke, author of An Accidental Advocate, on the topic of "What Is Inclusion?" I'll be manning the chatroom, so if you're registered with BlogTalk Radio, hop on and say hi.

Monday, August 15, 2011

A few new things

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Google+ Invites

I'm still having fun on Google+, and now have 150 invitations to share at If you've been curious about it, give it a try. You may also notice some weird-looking posts on this blog like the one two posts down -- I'm trying out posting here directly from Google+, and though the formatting's a little different, it seems to work.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Learn About My New Radio Show

Woo hoo! Just recorded the promo for a Talking Special Needs Network show I'll be doing with Nicole Eredics of The Inclusive Class, and I'm totally excited that I sound lucid and relatively like myself on it. Give it a listen below, and tune in to the show starting September 9 at 9 a.m. Eastern time; you can also listen later in the archives.

Listen to internet radio with TalkingSpecialNeeds on Blog Talk Radio

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Flipping the Classroom: Useful for Kids With Special Needs?

I'm kind of intrigued by this idea of flipping, whereby kids watch the teacher lecture on a screen at home and do what would normally be "homework" in the classroom. Seems like something that might benefit students with special needs in inclusion classes -- more hands-on activity, less having to sit quietly and process information. I'd way rather listen to instruction with my kids and help them understand than have to do homework that they don't get and I don't have the information to help well with. Not sure how you get around the problem of making sure everybody has a screen to watch the lecture on -- my son has friends who don't have computers -- but it's something worth thinking about.
Flipping the Classroom: An Introduction | Gradebook
Flipping the classroom is a new phenomenon that entails leveraging technology to completely change the traditional teacher-learner paradigm.
View or comment on Terri Mauro's post »
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ADA and My Marriage Both Turn 21

I wrote about the 21st anniversary of the Americans With Disabilities Act yesterday on my site, and it totally didn't occur to me until this morning that something else important (to me, at least) happened in July of 1990: I got married. My marriage is 19 days older than the ADA. That seems impossible, that people with disabilities did not have those rights at the time my husband and I walked down the aisle. It doesn't feel like I've been married that long, certainly not as long as there should have been legally spelled-out rights for people with disabilities. Either I'm a lot older than I think, or ADA's not nearly old enough. Probably both, but let's pretend it's the latter.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Be Respectful

A boy my son has known since first grade lost his father last week. His mother passed away two years before, and we have no idea what's going to become of this kid, whose disabilities are not as immediately obvious as my son's but nonetheless there. My son has clashed with this young man somewhat over the past four or five years; it sounds from the various reports I've received that this friend knows how to push my son's buttons and enjoys getting a rise out of him (my son being incapable of NOT reacting in those situations). Still, it's been heartwarming to see how genuinely sad my son was for his friend -- bringing poster board to their summer job so his coworkers could make a card, asking to say prayers and light candles, speaking in low and respectful tones whenever the subject comes up. Summer is a silly, silly time for him, and sometimes it's easy to overlook how much he's really grown up. I hope it doesn't always take something sad to see it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Google+, anyone?

Not that I need more shiny things to distract me, but I'm giving Google+ a try. It's a little empty now, and needs to be filled up with lots of parents ready to talk about special needs and adoption. If you're on Google+ already, look me up at If you need an invitation, leave a comment here with the e-mail address you want to use for Google+ and a little bit about yourself, and I'll send you one. (I'll also delete your comment, so you won't have to worry about your information being visible to anyone.)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Summertime, and the Living Is Easy

Summer vacation's about a week away for us. Boy, do I remember how I used to dread this part of the year. I so valued the routine of school, the way it occupied the time of kids who could not for the life of them occupy themselves at home. The end of the school year meant a transfer of expectation for time-filling to me, and as much as I loved spending time with my kiddos, oh my gosh, it was a lot of time to fill.

Read the rest of this post on Hopeful Parents

Monday, June 06, 2011

Poop Happens

You know how we talk about one bad experience freaking our kids out for days and days afterward, leaving them all disrupted and disorganized and prone to extreme behavior well after the thing that caused it is over? I'm feeling like that now over a confrontation last week, and really, shouldn't I have gotten over it by now? It wasn't even an IEP confrontation over something important like my kids' educational future. It was a confrontation with a neighbor who screamed at me while I was walking my dog, because I was "letting" my dog poop on the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the street in front of her house.

I put "letting" in quotations because ... well, I don't know about your pooch, but mine doesn't ask permission. She just squats. I can let her finish and pick up what she left, or I can pull her away and strew dog feces all over the sidewalk. Surely my hysterical neighbor wouldn't want that, either. Yet she just kept screaming at me until the dog finished, I bagged it, and we got the heck outta there. I yelled apologies to her, I swore we'd avoid sullying her lawn in the future (though, again, sometimes, you know, that decision is out of my hands), and I left all jangled and somewhat hysterical myself. And I'm still jangled. And avoiding her house, which is causing me to take very convoluted and looping walks. And defending myself in my head.

Yesterday I talked with another dog-owner in our neighborhood, and she has also been screamed at by said lady, and feels similarly defensive about it. When did dog owners become public enemy number one? Doesn't "not being screamed at by your neighbor" count as a quality of life issue, too? Does she scream at the rabbits and squirrels who cross her lawn, the birds who fly over it, and forbid them to use her grass strip for unhygienic purposes? Can adults not be civil to one another? I can see her being angry if I did this every day, or didn't pick up, or my dog was digging up her tulips, but the screaming in this instance seemed aggressively over the top.

And so, I'm feeling like my son does when someone yells at him, grumbling and snapping at everybody but the person who done me harm. How are dogs received in your neighborhood? Have you noticed a dip in acceptance of canine neighbors by the non-pet-disposed? Or do you just wish I'd get off your lawn?