Tag Archives: Reading

#Autism365…… Demystifying Autism….One Day At A Time!

So here we are, well into the month of May. The “Light it Up Blue” campaign for Autism Awareness in April has come and gone and you feel proud because you took some great selfies in blue shirts! While I am very happy that you participated, I want that fire to stay alive 365 days a year. Families with Autism face multiple struggles on a daily basis. Autism Awareness isn’t one of those things that I want to see trend on Facebook, Twitter, & LinkedIn for a week and then die down. Autism is a way of life for many people in the world and it isn’t talked about very much.

I and many others in America heard the #shms (Steve Harvey Morning Show) on Friday, March 27. He was acting under one of his many characters when he made a joke about an adult person with special needs. I personally like Steve Harvey and I respect him as a businessman. When I heard the joke, I was more shocked than upset. I was surprised that a man with such class would make such a joke. In the days of social media, people in certain positions must be careful of jokes they tell. Although he is a comedian, he is also a talk show and game show host. He did offer what I thought to be “kind of an apology” later that day. There is also a video floating around from a mother that responded to Steve Harvey’s joke. Many are saying that the woman is being “too sensitive” and that she should “get a sense of humor”. This brings me shatter a few myths about Autism today.

 Autism is a mental health disorder

Autism is not a mental health disorder. Autism is however, a neurological disorder. There have been a few studies of people with Autism that have revealed abnormalities in their brain structure. I was asked if I thought Autism was a disease. My answer is NO! I believe a disease is something that can easily be found in many people because the symptoms are the same. Autism is comprised of various behavioral and/or social skills that are many times difficult to manage.

Individuals with Autism are violent

This could not be more far from the truth. Because people with Autism may not understand “normal” social cues and sarcasm, they may find it hard to communicate their wants and needs. There are also many people with Autism that are challenged with verbal communication skills. Imagine if there was something that you wanted to tell someone very bad, but you couldn‘t get the words out. I can imagine that it would make you frustrated.  There are a variety of programs available across the world for people with Autism that struggle with managing behaviors. My program located in Maryland is just one of many. I also would suggest a product that I offer that can be used in the home or classroom to promote positive behaviors for kids on the Autism Spectrum.  I have partnered with “Bear on the Chair”  after having tried it myself. My students responded to it very well as they loved to make their bear friend smile. It can be viewed for purchase here  http://www.bearonthechair.com/products/bear-on-the-chair-1  Be sure to use the code word “leaf” .  

All individuals with Autism have mental disabilities

Individuals on the autism spectrum are unique, with a wide range of intellectual abilities that easily can be under or over estimated. There are some tests given that may misrepresent the intelligence of people with autism, who struggle with social skills. Individuals with autism may have difficulty with tasks considered simple, but quickly master complex tasks and concepts. Individuals on the autism spectrum have also earned college and graduate degrees and work in a variety of professions.  Asperger’s Syndrome is on the Autism Spectrum. There are many college professors with Asperger’s.

Autism can be cured

With all of the research being done, there is still currently no cure for Autism. There are many families that have a more difficult time dealing with this disorder because of the lack of social skills and communication skills their loved one has. LEAF Learning Center in Maryland is one of many programs across the country that provides assistance to youth ages 3-21 on the Autism Spectrum. LEAF provides Positive Behavior Interventions to help support youth with academics, learning functional skills, and even on community outings. To support LEAF Learning Center through a donation or for more information, please visit www.learnwithleaf.com or find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/learnwithleaf

Autism is caused by poor parenting

In the 1950s, there was an assumption that autism was caused by emotionally distant parents. The exact cause of autism has not been determined as of today. It certainly does not have anything to do with parenting. I personally think that parents of kids with Autism are some of the strongest people on the earth. Day to day, you face the unknown because your child’s mood can change or their sensory needs are in overdrive. I applaud you every day and would never think of saying parenting is the cause of Autism.                                                        

For more information about Whitney King, visit www.whitneyking.org . For more information about LEAF Learning Center, visit www.learnwithleaf.com  .


He Doesn’t Get It……

As many of you know, I am the Director of Loose LEAF Learning Center in Rockville, MD. Loose LEAF provides academic interventions to youth ages 5-21. One of my students is the subject of this note this evening. I have been working with him for about 2 months now. His family is from Egypt and they moved to Maryland because of its reputation in education. Montgomery County, in particular, is known for the schools and resources available to youth with Autism. My student has picked up on the English language very quickly[they have only been in the states for about a year and English is his third language; Arabic is first and then French]. He of course still struggles with comprehension in many areas. It is no surprise that this affects his academics.

Many times when working, he will stop me and ask me “why does the teacher give me so much work” or “why is this so hard”? When he first asked this, I simply told him because you are in the 8th grade and as your beautiful brain grows, so does your workload. As I worked with him longer and heard these questions more often, I really began to think about what he was saying. Here we have a student that is learning the English language, has a learning disability, and has Autism, yet the school continues to give him this large load of demanding work . I have been being the “family’s voice” and sending notes to the teacher to ensure that he is being accommodated appropriately. On one occasion, we asked if we could know what information would be on a test because the study guide was 8 pages long [front and back] and well…..there is no point in me forcing him to write all of this when only 15 questions would be asked. I also asked that he have multiple choice questions or given a word bank because he has a hard time recalling facts. He does wonderfully with prompting, however. I was provided with a completed study guide [how thoughtful of the teacher :/] and told that the test could not be changed. This sent me into a rage because this student has an IEP….what do you mean it can’t be changed. It then occurred to me that this must be apart of the Common Core instruction & assessments being provided.

I could go on about my newfound opinion of the Common Core Curriculum, but I shall save that for another day. My thoughts are now entangled with discovering when do we stop trying to bring students to a level of some fancy curriculum and start meeting them where they are. Everyone learns differently…..everyone learns differently…….EVERYONE LEARNS DIFFERENTLY!!!!! What part of this does the school system not understand. We as educators go through soooo much training in order to provide a proper education to each child, but we are still held responsible for their success. I don’t have a problem with being held accountable for a child’s progress……unless I am forcing that child to learn the way I have to teach it. This family looks to me daily and asks why is everything so difficult. Why is their son having to learn ten steps in order to answer a simple division problem. Why are they giving him such hard work knowing he can’t complete it. My student asked me, “do they want me to do bad”?

Well, you tell me dear reader………do they?

Where the Wild Things Are……

“Where the Wild Things Are” first came into our world of imagination in 1963 in a book of about 40 pages (many of them having only pictures) and has captivated many of our lives since then. I remember reading this book as a kid, but at this age (who needs to know that), I honestly didn’t remember what took place in the book. I just knew that it was a cool book at one time. Although the movie came out in 2009, I finally got around to viewing the movie and I couldn’t help but view this movie through the eyes of a special educator. I read a few reviews of the movie, but the one by NY Times, stood out to me the most (http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/10/16/movies/16where.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0). Some of the comments left on the review made me a little upset. Not because these people don’t have a right to their opinion, but because I viewed this movie from the eyes of a special educator, and to think people would feel this way about a child that has Autism, AD(H)D, Cerebral Palsy, etc. just gave me a headache.

Again, I know this is just a movie and probably had nothing to do with children with special needs, but that is the life I live and love and I approach every child with the thought that maybe their behaviors are based on a special need. What first put me in this state of mind was how “Max” (the main character) interacted with his mother. I automatically said, well he must have Autism because of his screams and upset nature. Now of course “Max” really went into his room, but the world that exists in the movie is his escape. I just really want people to understand that children with Autism have their own world many times and that is their escape.

Throughout the movie there were laughs, tears, and shocking parts that I thoroughly enjoyed. I also enjoyed how a monster was portrayed to look like his sister (KW). I was so heartbroken at the scene where his igloo was destroyed by her friends. All he wanted to do was play and when he had his meltdown, they just sort of left him there and went about their day.

I wanted to share my thoughts on this movie because the next time we see a child having a tantrum or just crying, don’t think them to be weird or disorderly. Give them a smile, pray for their peace and refrain from thinking of them as monsters. I was so thrilled when after he calmed down and came from his world, his loving mom was still downstairs with his hot meal waiting on him. We should all have patience with children and adults with special learning needs and make sure once they leave their special world of escape, we are there waiting for them with open arms and maybe even a warm meal. I mean after all….we all have a “wild thing” somewhere within in us. People with Autism are just lucky enough to be able to meet their “wild thing” whenever they so desire.

Be blessed and hug a child with Autism today!