Monday, April 30, 2012

Teachers Need to Know About More Than Just Autism: Saw a post on Disability Scoop today about legislation to "establish a five-year federal grant program to allow school districts to team with universities and nonprofits to train general education teachers and other school staff to best support students with autism." And that's a great idea, as far as it goes. Absolutely, general-education teachers and school staff at large would benefit from a greater understanding of autism. And of ADHD. And of learning disabilities. And of food allergies, goodness knows. And of fetal alcohol effects, to mention one that's particularly important to me. And of hearing impairment, judging by how many stories I've heard of teachers refusing to wear mikes. And of any and all disabilities of children in their classrooms and lunchrooms, on their playgrounds and buses. Congrats to the autism lobby for focusing so much attention on that diagnosis, but the problem of teacher and staff ignorance is way, way bigger than autism. Never let schools feel that once they've got that, they can stop. (And parents, if you're the one who has to do the educating, without the aide of teams from universities and nonprofits, I have some suggestions on my site, and places where you can share yours.)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spy Kids: All the talk of parents wiring their kids to capture evidence of verbal bullying by teachers has me remembering a post I wrote on last year about wishing I could rig up a stealth lunchbox cam to capture cafeteria interactions, and the comment it received from someone who claimed to work with youth with disabilities, saying I scared him and calling me overprotective and neurotic. Guess he really should be scared, as those stealth devices move into classrooms and target the professionals. I just wanted to know how my kid was doing with his peers.

And I still do. My son's got some social stuff going on now that's causing him anxiety -- maybe to the point of contributing to the busted ulcer that landed him in the hospital last month -- and it's really hard to get a handle on what's happening. It's like a high-school version of Rashomon, with everybody giving me their own subjective report, many of them further limited by the developmental level of the reporter. Part of me would love to get a surveillance tape on all those teenage social interactions, find out if my son is really saying the things he claims to be, find out what others are saying to him, provide some useful advice. And part of me is pretty sure I'd hear things that would break my heart and make it impossible for me to send my boy to school.

For now, my strategy is to hold my breath, cross my fingers, and pray for the swift arrival of June and graduation and freedom from these particular fears. In college, tape-recording his classes will be one of his accommodations, and there'll be no secrets.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The Great Bike Giveaway Gets Rolling: There was a time when I was actively on the lookout for an adaptive bike for my son. I never did get one, and eventually other priorities grabbed my limited parenting-project attention span. He never did get to be a biker, and now, given his age and size, any future bike ambitions will have to  be undertaken on his own initiative. If you're just now at the point where you'd like a bike that's right for your special child to suddenly appear in your driveway, take a look at the Great Bike Giveaway being presented by Friendship Circle of Michigan starting this week. Even if you don't win, it seems like a good way to raise awareness among families and communities of just how much our kids want what every kid wants. Here are the details you'll need:

The Great Bike Giveaway
Many children with special needs require an adaptive bike to enjoy the freedom and fun of bike riding. Unfortunately many parents are unable to afford an adaptive bike.

Here is your chance to win a free adaptive bike!

Friendship Circle of Michigan has partnered with adaptive bicycle companies to give 18 children with special needs a free adaptive bicycle in a contest called "The Great Bike Giveaway."

What is Friendship Circle?

Friendship CircleFriendship Circle of Michigan is a unique organization that creates friendship in the lives of 3,000 children with special needs by providing over 30 weekly and seasonal programs. Over the past few months Friendship Circle realized that many children with special needs miss out on the childhood joy of bike riding because their physical or cognitive limitations make riding a bicycle near impossible. For this reason they have created a contest that will enable 18 children with special needs to win a bike. This contest will also enable people to learn more about Friendship Circle and help raise awareness for all children with special needs.

Contest Details

The Great Bike Giveaway is a free contest that is open to all families who have a child (or children) with special needs.

Submissions Step One: Submit your photo and caption

  • The Great Bike Giveaway is a Facebook Contest. Visit Friendship Circle of Michigan's Facebook page to submit a picture of either your child with special needs or a creative picture that portrays "why" your family would like an adaptive bike.
  • Include a caption of 250 characters or less explaining your child needs an adaptive bike.
  • The submission round opens at midnight on April 16th and closes at 11:59pm on May 10th.

Step Two: Vote & Share

  • During the week of May 13th-18th, Friendship Circle of Michigan will display all submissions for a public vote-a-thon.
  • Vote for your submission and share with your friends and family. You can vote once per submission for the duration of the contest.

Step Three: The Winners

  • The top 14 contestants with the highest number of votes at the end of the contest will win their choice of bike (the highest number chooses first, the runner up chooses second and so on).
  • Friendship Circle of Michigan will also choose four "Director's Choice" winners based solely on the content of their submission, not on the number of votes.
If you are a mother or father of a child with special needs...take a few minutes and join this very exciting, very unique contest. A couple of minutes could win your child a slice of childhood they will cherish forever.

A Special Thank You To Our Sponsors


Monday, April 16, 2012

Easy for You to Say: My daughter did a speech for a college class about Special Olympics last week, and did a great job with it. Listening to her practice and watching the video of her performance, though, one thing that struck me is what a mouthful the term "intellectual disabilities" is. I remember, early in my days as a guide for, blogging about the push to replace the term "mental retardation" and wondering what wording would be best, and "intellectual disabilities" is a fine substitute, I think ... but when you have to say it over and over again in a speech, and pronunciation of big words is not one of your personal strong suits, it starts to be a liability. It made me wish there was an abbreviation that would be readily understood, but "ID" is too strongly identified with identification to work, particularly since some members of her class may unfortunately have been hearing the term "intellectual disabilities" for the first time. I think she was a great ambassador for Special Olympics and for respect, but for that particular terminology? Maybe not.

Friday, April 13, 2012

For Better and Worse: Got one of those good news, bad news reports about my son the other day. Two scores were higher than usual, one good, one bad. The goodness of the good one makes it hard for me to write off the badness of the bad -- if the evaluator in question is smart enough to see the good, I can't say, "But that other thing? Way wrong." I'm pretty sure it is way wrong, but there's enough of a seed of doubt to make me think it could be right-ish. Little bit. So now, even though I've got the good score I've been hoping and hoping for since the evaluation was done, I can't completely enjoy it because it's tempered with worry over the bad one, and worry that the people I need to be impressed by the good score will be distracted by the bad one. Aw, c'mon. Nothing's ever easy, is it?

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Well Aware: Recently, my son was offered the opportunity to apply for two college scholarships for students with autism. Very nice of folks to think of him. Only one problem: autism is not his diagnosis. A little worrisome that school personnel who should be familiar with his records don't know that, but also, a little frustrating that autism scholarships seem to be where it's at. I've looked around for FASD scholarships and come up empty. Nor does his college have a special buddy program for students without autism, as it has for students with. Not that I begrudge kids with autism their college assistance. It's just that autism awareness seems to come at the expense of awareness of anything else. I think of it every time I pay for my son's speech therapy, knowing that if he had autism, the state would insist our insurance cover it. And I think of it every time someone reacts to recent statistics about a rise in autism with something like, "Well, now we really need to step up our demand for services!" Please, leave some for the rest of us, willya?

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Bad Blogger. Bad!: I've been pretty absent here for the last little while, haven't I? March was a lost month. The one-two punch of Readers' Choice Awards madness in my professional life and emergency abdominal surgery for my son in real life has distracted me, and my one-foot-in-front-of-the-other path through it all pretty much bypassed this space entirely. But the contest is over now (please see and congratulate the winners!), and my son's scar is healing to the surgeons' satisfaction and he appears to be back to normal (although with a kid who doesn't feel pain until it's at the level where you scream at people in the ER to make it go away, it's hard to be certain), and I'll try to stop by here more regularly. At any rate, I did finally update the listing of Inclusive Class radio shows. So that's something, right?