Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Just for fun, Letters, My Life My Way, parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids

Military Wants My Special Needs Son

Dear Selective Service Person;

I received your letter requiring my son DJ register for Selective Service. As a deep patriot, I must inform you – you don’t want that boy!  As great as America’s military is, they are not prepared for my little weapon of mass destruction. DJ has many strengths, but he’s a little quirky.  Do you really want an enlistee who even Santa gives the side-eye? IMG_0038

There are things he could do such as train bomb-sniffing dogs.  Got some out-of-control dragons?  He’s your man!  But not horses!  He prefers riding them backward and wonders why it doesn’t work out.  Not to mention, the helmet messes up his hair.

 

His flair for disguises is a definite asset.  Hugh Hefner and Phil Robertson never looked better.

 

As evident in his massive medical file, he holds up well under torture.

 

Waterboarding ain’t nothing but a thang.

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He has a problem with loud noises, though.  They scare him and hurt his ears.  So, unless you want him standing in the middle of the battlefield covering his ears some adaptations are needed.  Put a silencer on guns, artillery shells, tanks, grenades, pretty much everything you have; including drill sergeants.  I hear they get a bit out of hand.

 

Considering how much trouble DJ gets into at home, putting him in uniform in another country increases the chances of an international incident.  He has a knack for getting into questionable if not downright compromising situations.  Gambling, document shredding, and literally caught with his pants down are only a few of his transgressions.

 

DJ aspires to be the world’s greatest social media influencer.  Therefore, he requests his uniform have more of the NASCAR I’m promoting something vibe rather than the camo I’ve come to kill you feel.  He thinks it works better for his brand.  He suggests his uniform have patches for Culvers, UK basketball, Pizza Hut, UK basketball, Coke, UK basketball, Bath & Body Works, UK basketball, Ricky T’s Bar & Grille … well, you see where this is going.

 

Though DJ is a true warrior at heart and a Superhero even The Avengers envy, I must exert my guardianship authority over him and reject your offer of war.  Alas, the world is just not ready for my DJ.  (sigh)  But don’t despair, his brother Dalton is all signed up and ready to go.  Good luck with that!

 

 

 

Sorry not that sorry,

Joan Graves

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Faith, parenting, Winchester Sun Columns

Disciplined with a Shake in His Stride

Many employers suffer a grave loss of which they are unaware. They shy away from hiring prospective employees because they are on the autism spectrum. The mere words autism spectrum conjures images of inept social skills, stark refusal to follow instructions, bursts of fury, refusal to take correction or responsibility and more. Amid, such a tsunami of negativity it is no wonder they drown out the positives. Yet, even as toddlers, there is a lot we can do to help our kids secure a job. We need to learn to recognize and respond to the potential.

Prior to Annie Sullivan’s arrival, Helen Keller had no discipline. She prowled her family home, doing as she pleased and responded to attempts of refusal with violent outbursts. Her parents labored under the misconception that allowing Helen’s atrocious behavior expressed love. Lucky for Helen a fiercely determined, courageous, half-blind teacher understood the roots of love begin in discipline. And discipline blooms from the small things.

IMG-2425I was nervous about my son Colton’s first involvement with STRIDE (Supporting Therapeutic Recreation for Individuals with Disabilities every day. I knew it was a fantastic program, but it forced me out of my comfort zone. It challenged me to face my fears even as I sought to still Colton’s. I had to swallow my pride, accept I wasn’t the only one able to care for my son and get myself out of his way. He was evolving. Pandering to my fears placed me between the kid he was and the man he’d someday be

This week, Colton started his first job. It’s a goal he’s pursued for several years. He has worked for family, friends, and neighbors but has been unsuccessful in the traditional job market. Until now.

Like most on the spectrum, Colton excels at repetitive tasks. Ordinarily, I wouldn’t advise the fast-paced and often stressful environment of restaurant work. However, food prep at Steak and Shake is ideal. Colton’s job is to remain in one station and chop, weigh, bag and otherwise prepare food for use the next day. He is able to work at his pace, somewhat segregated from other employees, spared from the hustle and bustle of peak hours, does the same thing daily and works off a list. An Asperger kid’s dream!

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STRIDE members encouraging Colton at work

One of the greatest hindrances to kids on the spectrum is fear of the unknown. Doing things for the first time is scary for most but debilitating for some on the spectrum. Colton didn’t have that hurdle. He had an idea of what to expect because STRIDE taught him the basics of food preparation years ago. When we faced our fears and trudged the painful path of discipline and self-discovery in STRIDE, we had no inkling of what it would bring. The dividends of that years old investment are evident today. Colton loves his job at Steak and Shake. His self-esteem has grown exponentially because his coworkers lavish him with praise, kindness, and encouragement.

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Colton explaining his job & encouraging his friends.

Times have changed a lot since the days of Helen Keller. But a child’s need for discipline has not. The world’s expectations of our kids tend to be low. It’s our responsibility to be the Annie Sullivan our kids deserve. We must love them through our pain so they may be a valuable productive member of the workforce and the community at large.

 

Visit http://www.winchestersun.com for more of Joan’s columns

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Reviews, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids

Magnetic Shoe Closure Review

You know those ads on Facebook? Well, I finally ordered something from one. Different Not Less was advertising magnetic shoe closures. The goal is to give disabled kids more freedom. The claim is that children with fine motor difficulties who can’t tie their shoes will be able to put their shoes on independently with these magnets. Additionally, it’s claimed an end to loose laces. The magnets come in an array of colors and are currently marked down from $19.24 to $10.95 without shipping and handling. All said and done I spent about $15. But did they work?

The first thing I didn’t like was that it took 2-3 weeks to get them in. However, I am an Amazon Prime member. So, I could just be spoiled by their two day promise. None-the-less, the magnets arrived right at two weeks, which isn’t too bad.  A great positive note here is that when I emailed them about the shipping their response was immediate and courteous. I love a company that answers their emails daily!

The instructions were easy to read and the magnets went on quick and easy. They are super strong and held the shoes together. My son wasn’t able to use his feet to separate the magnets because he wears braces. Our intent was to teach him how to pull them apart with his hands.  We never got the opportunity.

FullSizeRender (4)The problem came when the little eyelets that go on the side disappeared from one shoe. If you notice in the picture only the shoe on the right has the black eyelet. There should be an eyelet on each side of the shoe. Since we were running around a lot the day the eyelets went missing we have no idea how it happened. We don’t know if they came off on their own or if DJ, who likes to mess with his shoes, pulled them off. Whatever happened to them the magnets are useless without them. The shoe falls off because the magnets keep popping open. The other shoe, with the eyelets, still works fine.

It’s a great idea and I can’t place our failure solely on the heads of Different Not Less. As I said, DJ could have easily pulled them off. But my situation is that we had them working blissfully for a day but currently only one shoe stays closed and on. Would I suggest someone buy them? Possibly.

The bottom line? Although the item pretty much performs as described, If your child messes with his shoelaces I would not recommend it. But for children who don’t grab at their shoes it’s worth a try at the price it’s offered. The company, Different Not Less, is easy to work with, responds quickly to emails, and describes their product accurately. With all that us parents have going on that is the kind of company we like to deal with.

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Bullying, Holidays, parenting

What We Can Learn From a Red Nose Reindeer

With the Christmas season comes an object lesson in the form of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. Immediately, we see Rudolph’s father trying to hide the glowing nose so his son better fits in. That is a lesson for parents. We should teach our kids to hold to social expectations as best they can but pretending a disability doesn’t exist benefits no one.

Rudolph’s rejection is swift and complete once his nose is revealed. Yet, in the middle of the mocking comes a doe who doesn’t care about the bright red light. Clarice even tells Rudolph that his glowing nose is better than the false one he was wearing. We all pray for our kids to find a friend like that. As I have seen in the lives of my boys there are kids in the world who will accept them even as others reject and ridicule them. Yet, sometimes it’s the adults that are thoughtless. Clarice’s father insists she not play with Rudolph because of his nose.

rudolph-hermieWhile Rudolph is dealing with his rejection we meet an elf named Hermie. Hermie has concluded that he prefers dentistry over toy making. This, of course, is unheard of and his boss doesn’t take the news well. Rather than give up on his dream, as instructed, Hermie determines to run away. Doesn’t take long for him to hook up with Rudolph and the two, label themselves as misfits and strike out on their own.

Rudolph and Hermie are certain there is no one like them. They are misfits, outcasts, and rejects. They are quite surprised to discover an entire island of toys, with varying “disabilities”, who feel the exact same way they do. Like Rudolph and Hermie, the toys are convinced no one wants them. As we know Rudolph ends up the hero by saving Christmas with the very nose he was mocked for.

Our special needs kid may or may not ever have the opportunity to show the benefits of all_misfit_toys_welcome_heretheir disability to the world. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t teach them about them. We need to find our child’s strength and play to that by purposely creating situations in which the child uses the strength. This is a two-fold concept. First, it teaches the child that they have something valuable to contribute. Second, as they use their strength their self-esteem grows. A child with a healthy self-esteem is less likely to succumb to the psychological  warfare of bullies.

We cannot change how other people behave toward our child but we can teach our child ways to deflect the hurtful things others do. It is how our child responds to the bully that is crucial. Hermie was so certain in his dental calling that he didn’t back down despite all the mocking. That’s what we want, kids that can remain self-assured in the face of cruelty. So, as you watch Rudolph this year, take a moment to review the points of the story and help your child uncover his unique contribution to the world. Who knows, he may even save Christmas one day.

 

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Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Holidays, parenting

Let the Holidays be Quirky

In our daily lives, we accept the quirkiness of our special needs kids. But when the holidays roll around some parents strive to present their child in the best possible light, which translates to what other people deem appropriate behavior but is a foreign concept to our special one. You have the rest of the year to work out your child’s idiosyncrasies. Don’t torture you or your child by trying to live up to someone else’s misguided notion of normalcy. You’ll find the holidays much more enjoyable if you just embrace the quirkiness.

kid-pout-foodIf you have a picky or sensory eater on your hands the holidays are not the time to try new foods. If you cannot get the menu ahead of time be prepared by secretly taking a favorite food in with you. To avoid, setting a very bad habit I advise not letting your child see the favorite food, lest she start wanting to transport food into restaurants and such. If the preferred food happens to be a favorite among children in general, it’s always best to pack enough so no child is left out. Avoiding a meltdown for your child b setting off a tantrum in another is not good for anyone.

If you have a middle of the road kiddo, who is doing well with new food introductions and  seems to be handling the day well, go ahead and try a new food. Just know her limitations and don’t force the issue to the point of a meltdown. Once your kiddo has a meltdown you probably will too and the rest of the family will likely follow suit.

Have a “safe” quiet place in mind, before you arrive. Even on his best days, my Asperger’s kid cannot tolerate crowds for extended amounts of time. To avoid him locking himself in the bathroom for hours we had a plan in place. He knew where he could retreat to when needed. We reviewed the plan before we arrived. He could use the isolation place but he couldn’t remain in it for the duration. In the beginning, he spent more time in seclusion that socializing. But as he got older and more confident he spent more time in the mix of things. Now, at 23 he rarely bolts from the social scene.

If you’re dealing with severe sensory issues you might consider taking a favorite blanket orspd-1 sheet which can be used to cover himself, including his head if necessary, to cut down on sensory stimulation. For young child, I recommend fidgets to help them self-calm. A fidget or small favorite toy kept in his pocket is a good calming tool. It takes only his hand in his pocket to get a steady stream of reassurance. Of course, stuffed animals, dolls, and other treasured toys or pillows can have the same impact.

If noise is the spark to your child’s sensory wildfire, try taking noise-reducing headphones. Classical music has been proven to have a calming effect. If you don’t have a CD player with classical CD’s set up a Pandora station on your phone. Show your child how to thumbs up or down the songs in order to achieve the perfect blend for your child.

My son Colton could never get enough tactile stimulation. He would lick the tips of his fingers before touching anything in order to increase the sensation. Not only was this super gross, but unhealthy as well.  Sitting on the floor at home and rubbing his hands as hard as he could against the carpet was one thing. But essentially, licking other people and things in public was quite another. I nailed a small piece of carpet to each side of a thin block of wood. He carried that with him and when he needed stimulation he rubbed it between his palms. A much more hygienic way to increase tactile stimulation.

It’s all about controlled chaos. You may not be able to fully prevent your child’s meltdowns but a little pre-planning can lessen the chance of one occurring or reduce its severity. The goal is to gently prod them into new and difficult social scenes but in a way that is manageable for them. This is not the time to worry about Aunt Becky will view your parenting skills, or what Uncle Frank will think when you ax his desire to have a tickling tournament with your child. This is the time you do what’s best for your child.

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Education, parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids, Special Needs Students

After School Programs Fall Under 504

504 Plan VS. IEP (Individualized Education Plan) alphabet blocksI have seen a disturbing trend in public schools. Though I am at a loss to explain why some public schools are laboring under the misconception that their after-school programs are exempt from accommodation requirements for disabled students.  Administrators are informing parents that their student’s IEP doesn’t carry over to the after school program. That is somewhat true but highly debatable.

What is not debatable, however, is federal ADA law. Section 504 of that law applies specifically to the educational setting. It states that child care programs (including after-school programs in public schools) are prohibited from discriminating against a child with a disability by denying admission into the program or by denying requests for reasonable accommodations. Individual states have additional variances supporting this law but ADA is the federal guideline. It’s non-negotiable.

So, what should you do if your child is not receiving accommodations, has been refused entry into the program or been booted from it? First, send a letter to the principal, superintendent and school board members advising that you are invoking your child’s rights under section 504 of the American with Disabilities Act. Then clearly define what accommodations you are seeking for your child. Provide a date (I suggest a couple of weeks so they have the opportunity to get with their attorney) in which they must respond to your request. Also, make it clear that you will only accept their response in writing. If you are having to go this far to secure your child’s rights nothing they verbalize should be trusted and if you have to pursue it further proof in writing is worth its weight in gold.

If for some crazy reason they still do not relent, your next step should be a letter to the state board of education. Be certain to include a copy of the letter you sent to your local board of education. Since you can likely email them I would allow only a week for them to respond.

If all attempts have failed it’s time to call in the big guns, so-to-speak. ADA will fight for the rights of your child at zero cost to you. You will not have to hire an attorney to go to battle because the war is already won. It’s just the little generals on the ground who haven’t fully understood their role that cause the problem. You can file a discrimination complaint with ADA online. You will be required to jump through a lot of hoops, fill out mounds of paperwork and possibly pay to have papers notarized. But once that is done so are you. All you need to do is sit back and enjoy someone else caring enough to fight for your child.

Posted in Autism Spectrum Disorder, Education, Just for fun, parenting, Sensory Processing Disorder, Special Needs Kids

Feel the Sensory in Halloween

Science has proven that a multi-sensory environment improves brain function, language, social interaction, coordination and much more. Just as you arrange your food intake for maximum nutritional benefits, the same should be done for your sensory diet. The majority of us can exist in a day and get enough input to all of our senses to keep us balanced without having to actively search for ways to increase one sense or the other.

Individuals with sensory processing disorders, are on the autism spectrum or have other special needs, lack sufficient sensory input. The lack of an incomplete sensory diet can wreak havoc throughout our physical, emotional and intellectual state. With millions of  nerve endings sending messages to the brain about even the smallest tactile (touch) sense it is extremely easy to have a few crossed wires. Most of us can sift through the multitude of tactile stimulation without giving it much thought. Those with processing difficulty cannot. They either perceive too much stimulation or not enough.

Regardless of whether it’s a child with an over or under sensitive tactile system all children can benefit from a little tactile processing practice.  Halloween is the perfect time introduce your child to a sensory bin. The bin can be filled with sand, rice, water, flour, shaving cream, and even jello. Just go with the substance that your child will tolerate delving their hands into.

To keep the project affordable I purchased my bin and the contents at my local Dollar Tree. You can use any size or shape container you prefer. Mine is rectangular with a lid so I can safely store it away for reuse later. I filled the bin with rice then buried some plastic treat bag items in it.

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The goal is to have the child blindfolded, close their eyes or turn their head as they dig into the bin for the items you request. You want them to work on the sense of touch alone. Show your child an item then have them sift through the contents of the bin to find it.  I recommend having a couple of items that are easily identified. The ping pong eyeballs are easily recognized as are the tiny skull rings. Allowing the child to either start with one of the easy items or switch to them after missing an item or retrieving one that was particularly difficult gives them a much-needed confidence boost.

Only do as much as your child can tolerate. We want to push them a bit beyond their comfort zone but not to the point of a meltdown or where the activity isn’t enjoyable.  The more fun they have they less they care about the therapeutic aspect. As always, forget about the mess and enjoy the bonding time between you and your special one. Happy feel-o-ween everyone!