Monday, May 31, 2010

Over the mountain, part five

Please note this is part five, if you've missed anything you'll want to backtrack to 1-4.

So I stood on top of that mountain, part of the Wasatch front, and surveyed what I conquered. Then, I looked down the other side. There was still daylight, why not head down the other side and see how far I got? I walked down a steep slope several yards. I came to where the slope glistened in snow. It stretched out downward so far I couldn't be sure of where it ended. I found a ledge to my right and walked out onto it for a better look.

It was easily as steep down as the rock slide I climbed, only much further down. Maybe even twice the distance. On either side, jagged rocks defied me to find any other path to take. Across the mouth of that steep drop I saw another ledge. It's then I'm sure my eyes began to play tricks on me in the growing shadows of the evening. With the sun setting in the West, the East side of the mountain began to grow dark. Out on that opposite ledge, I thought I saw bones, partially unearthed with some kind of skull. Was it human? I don't know. I had to try and go across to look. That meant stepping across that snow pack.

I thought, if I used my stick and dug my feet in like before, it would be easy to cross over and check out the mystery on the other side. The first stamp of my foot whipped both out from under me. I flew down the snow pack like a human rocket. I couldn't stop myself no matter what I tried. I couldn't get my heels to stop me or the stick. I'm sure if I could be heard up there my long sound off of YAAAAAAAA would have turned every head in town.

A pointed black rock grew in front of me and I soon realized I needed to steer. I put my feet out for it and when I hit that rock, it acted like a ramp and tossed me into the air. I came down hard, knocking the wind out of me. More snow and still sliding. Mercifully, I crashed into a thicket of brush oak. I gasped for air and turned over on my side. I hardly felt the cold of the snow for sake of adrenalin.

My little blue suitcase and stick were still with me. Slowly I pushed myself up from the ground. I stood, perhaps in a bit of shock, staring at the way ahead. I landed all the way at the bottom of the slope of snow. What seemed like a valley area opened up in front of me. Tall trees loomed all around. I looked up to the ridge. No way was I getting back up there. The bone mystery would have to sit for someone else. As I stared, I thought I saw someone on the ridge. I thought I saw someone making their way down toward the snow.

It was more than likely my imagination, but it snapped me out of my stupor. I grabbed up my things and made way into the trees. I walked until I couldn't look back up at the ridge anymore. But I couldn't see a lot of things, darkness grew.

I found a new little stream to follow, this time without any hindrances on either side. But I knew I needed to find a place to hide out for the night. That's when I found the little island where the stream separated and went around either side. On that little island was an arrangement of logs. I lay down and curled up in the corner of those logs, praying that they would hide me for the night.

In that, more than the rock slide, more than the snowy pitfall, I would know real terror. (coming in part six)

Over the mountain, part four

This is the story of my journey over a mountain when I ran away from home at 14 years old. If you are just hopping into this, you might want to read parts 1-3 to catch up.

I paused in the trees above the rock slide to empty my shoes. Sharp rocks got into them during my excruciating climb. Once I did that I surveyed the grounds ahead of me. No path to be seen, so cross country I would go. I had to squeeze between some of the little trees because the cluster of them grew too close together. In ten or twenty feet, I came out of them and could see an array of hills going upward. Huge rocks and brush oak dotted the mountainside.

Brush oak, what is that anyway? It's a twisted and gnarled tree-like bush. It grows kind of like a giant bonsai tree. Ahead of me lay a literal forest of them. They weren't thorny or sharp or dangerous. But they were interesting to look at.

I started my climbing hike. I picked out large rocks or formations above me as stopping points and didn't stop until I made it to each one. At each point I paused and gazed down the mountain. I marveled at the incredible view. At one such stopping point, with a long way to go yet, I looked down and saw the helicopter.

I later learned that it might have been patrolling for me. Everyone below was in a tizzy. My little half sister found my note and took it to my stepmother who called Dad. The helicopter didn't climb up toward me, but stayed at one level down by the base of the mountain. As I looked down at it, I couldn't be sure of its purpose, but I had no intention of being found.

By this time, I should mention, my pants were mostly dried out. That's a good thing, because the mountain still had plenty of snow at the top. I started coming across it in wide patches. In that, I finally found a trail. The fact that I no longer had the stream to drink from also started to catch up with me. So what did I do for water next? I ate snow. I didn't even think about the dangers of dehydration. I was just lucky enough to think of eating snow because I was thirsty. I got hungry too, but wanted to save my food.

You might be wondering if I at least used the smarts to take a jacket with me. I did. I put my feet on the top of the mountain without any more perils. I looked down and raised my hands up over my head and yelled. From the peak I stood on, the weather station crested another peak far across. I thought about going over to look at it, but decided against it for chance of being caught.

I know I told you I would let you know in this part if I got into more trouble. I did indeed. You see, I made to the top of the mountain at this point, unscathed. I still had to travel down the other side.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Over the mountain, part 3

So far, I've told you about two small obstacles I overcame when I ran away from home over a mountain at age 14. If you missed those, go back and check out parts one and two.

Making it over that waterfall had me no closer to climbing out of the ravine the creek ran down the mountain in. For that matter, the path couldn't be seen anymore above me. It had wound off another direction. So I followed the water even further in a steady rise. There were two more small water falls I had to climb over, but they were a snap compared to the first. It was warming up now but I had no idea what time it was. I didn't have a watch on. I managed to leave that behind. Always have to forget something right?

So I can only tell you that I followed that creek for long time. When I finally had to stop, the creek ended abruptly and high above me, into the mountain itself. As if that weren't bad enough, to my right stood a high vertical wall of earth, taller than a two story house. To my left and up to the point the creek vanished, an even taller slope of broken rocks and gravel. It made the slope I slid down earlier seem puny though every bit as steep. I wondered if I was trapped, right then and there, but knew I couldn't just sit there.

I climbed up a short embankment to get onto the slide of rocks. I found that, if I kicked my feet in hard and jammed the stick into the ground the same, I could slowly climb up. The rocks were all shapes and sizes, from gravel tiny to fist sized. As I slowly lumbered upward, any I jarred loose, tumbled down into the creek behind me. Every foot upward took painstaking measure and sharp rocks got into my shoes. Three fourths of the way up I could see a boulder, bigger than two of me, wedged into the slide. I set that as a goal, a place I could rest before making it the rest of the way up. I struggled and sweat dripped into my eyes, but I kept going until I reached that boulder. I sat on it with a sigh of relief and looked down.

The creek looked so small and far away and I didn't fully realize just how steep this thing really was. As I pondered that the rock I sat on moved. Apparently, my extra weight served enough to loosen it from the slide. It threatened to roll right over top of me. With quick wits I didn't know I had I jumped to my left and jammed my hands hard into the dust and rocks in a desperate bid to stay put. I looked over my shoulder and watched the huge rock pound its way downward. It sent smaller rocks flying high into the air and created a wide cloud of tan dust. It hit the bottom with an echoing crash.

My heart pounded in my throat and I surveyed myself for damage and losses. Amazingly, my little blue suitcase and hiking stick were up against my knees. I pulled out one of my hands to grab the stick. In that sharp gravel I expected to pull out cut and bleeding hands. To my surprise, not one cut adorned my fingers. I was completely unharmed. I grabbed up suitcase and stick and went back to my method of climbing until I reached the top.

At the top, a new bank of earth stretched out in an overhang with small trees growing from it. I had to reach up and over with my little suitcase and put it past one of the small trees. Next I reached to pull myself up and over. I did this, by putting my stick behind and across a pair of the trees like a pullup bar. Finally, with great effort, I pulled myself out of the ravine onto the side of the mountain more formal. Landscape like a friendly hillside stretched out before me. I took one last look down the slide of rocks and knew I barely escaped with life and limb.

You might think such a realization would make me find a way to get back down that mountain and give up this mad idea. But the terrain ahead looked so much friendlier. I couldn't get into any more trouble like that could I? I'll tell you in part four.

Over the mountain, part two

Be sure to see part one, prior to this very post. As stated there, at 14 years old, on the first day of summer vacation, I ran away from home in Kaysville, Utah. Rather than run away in any standard form, I decided to hike over the Wasatch mountain front.

I left off as a pathway fell away under my feet and took me with it some several feet to the creek running below. I couldn't help but cry out in surprise as I slid in a cloud of dust and dirt. I stopped abruptly as my feet found the large stones lining the sides of the little creek and I paused to catch my breath. I craned my neck to look up the steep bank to the rest of the path high above my head. I looked down at the creek, then back up again. I wanted to be back on the path, so I flipped over and tried to climb back up. No dice. The dirt was far too loose. I had no choice but to follow the creek up to find another place to climb out. The banks were steep and stretched high on both sides. There were large stones around the creek sides and it only sat four feet wide at it's largest points. It wasn't deep either, but frigid cold. I had no wish to be wet.

In part one, I neglected to mention I actually had a target point to cross over the mountain. At the top of the mountain sat a weather station, a white domed building big enough to see from far below. It made sense to me that a man made structure had to have some way up to it. Too bad I had no idea how to find that.

So I started following the cold creek upward. Downward wasn't an option to me. It meant losing time in climbing and it was a matter of time before it was noted that I was gone. I left a note behind, yes a note. And in it I stated that I couldn't handle the fighting anymore, that I was leaving and didn't want anyone to come looking for me. I even said I would kill myself if they tried. Yes, I was a very depressed and hurting kid. I truly didn't feel I had anywhere safe to turn between my stepmother and a year of bullying in school. Studies now show that our autistic kids (and other special needs) are bullying magnets. I know this to be true from experience.

But, back to the story at hand, I followed the creek and for some time, I had very little trouble balancing on the rocks and even managed to hop across to easier sides a few times. I did great until I came to the waterfall. It wasn't severely high, head level to me for that matter. But there was no way around it. The banks were straight up and down walls of dirt at this point, easily twice my height. It was composed of giant boulders embedded in the earth and the waterfall part was about three feet wide. No choice at all. I searched for handholds and foot holds. I tried to grab on to the smoothed ledges and put my foot up on another below. I pushed myself and promptly slid and fell backwards. I barely caught myself before crashing to the rocks and water behind me.

I admit a feeling of panic at this overbearing obstacle, but I tried again. I managed to reach up to a flat spot that I could set my little suitcase. I pulled myself upward with some struggle and cold water flooded my pants. When I finally got a foot up on the top of the water fall and pulled myself up, I felt quite a sense of achievement, but also of wet and cold. I had reached a new plateau, but still couldn't climb out of the creek. I grabbed my little suitcase and started along the creek again. At this point I realized something. I was thirsty. Did I bring along a bottle of anykind for water? No.

You guessed it, I leaned down and drank that creek water from the snow runoff. It looked clear and it was very cold. Regardless of any risk I took, it was pretty refreshing. Then I spotted a long stick that looked just right for hiking. I grabbed it up and jammed it against the rocks and leaned on it a bit. My father used to carve walking sticks and taught me how to check for one that could bear my weight. I used to whittle on my fair share with my pocket knife. It bore my weight and a stought smack against the rocks, so it got the job. And off I went, little blue suitcase in one hand, stick in the other, and bright orange pack on my back. And, compared to so far, I hadn't faced anything yet.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Over the mountain, part one

I ran away from home when I was just 14. It was a very bipolar and yes somewhat Asperger's thing to do. Keep in mind that no one knew my conditions back then. And I didn't just run away once, but the first time was the most major and life threatening.

I didn't just pack a bag an run away to a friends house. I did decide I wanted to go to my mother's house in Fort Pierce, Florida. But I didn't hitch hike, no I felt that would be too dangerous. Instead I thought I could walk the days, hide out at night and go the entire 2400 mile trip that way. And I started off by hiking over the Wasatch mountain front.

The Wasatch mountain range stretches about 160 miles from Utah's north border southward. The hike took me two days and I made it ten miles, up over the mountian and into the town of Morgan on the other side.

I left to escape my stepmother and her abuse, yes I was rather desperate and severely depressed. I felt no safe haven, so I left. But this isn't to get into the details of her.

I thought I planned it pretty carefully. I would leave on the first day of summer vacation, very early before anyone got up in the morning. Well, I had to wait for Dad to leave for work, he would be up the earliest. I had this little blue flower pattern suitcase and a bright orange hunters backpack. I put some clothing and what I thought were essentials into them. I took my yearbook, a few comics, pencils and a notebook. I also packed in some home canned fruits into the backpack. I didn't stop to consider that going over a mountain with glass jars wasn't the brightest of ideas.

I had most of what I needed ready to go as I lay in my bed and listened to Dad go through his morning ritual. I even heard his old white pickup rumble out of the driveway. Then I went into action. I gathered up my things and headed out. I was so sure that the shortest way to anywhere was a straight line and thought it would be quite an adventure in the process.

Getting to the base of the mountain took longer than I anticipated. The mountains are so large they make themselves look closer than they really are. But I got to them inside of an hour. Then I found paths to lead up through the brush oak at the base. Now it really looked like it would be an easy trip, after all, there were hiking trails. Hiking trails are a good thing right?

Spring runoff was still in full run, meaning that snow up top melted and filled little streams running down the mountain. They then feed creeks and small rivers out to the Great Salt Lake.

I came across a campfire at a point in the path that spread out to a circular clearing. It still smouldered, telling me I wasn't alone on the mountain. The black dirt path led around a corner of sorts and started to follow one of those little streams up ward. The path became narrow and the dirt loose. About twenty feet below the creek bubbled away. I looked up the path and thought it didn't look too bad and started along it. I made it about ten steps before the path fell away from under me.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Acceptance and understanding

That's what people of the autism community really want, acceptance and understanding. I've actually found people confused by this. Various attitudes out there make it more difficult to educate on the idea. Attitudes of "why can't you just get over it" or "just shut up" or "you look normal".

What they don't get is that we have social difficulties that haunt us in everday life; some worse than others. Yes there are those who aren't bothered by it at all, but look aroud, does everyone really look identical to you? They aren't; they're fat, thin, short, tall, and varying shades of color. The same goes for the affects of autism in each member of its community.

You may be frustrated by the strange behavior or reactions that don't make sense to you from some person who actually has autism. But the truth of the matter is that person is likely just as frustrated. That's because he didn't intend that outcome in the first place. Imagine trying to say good morning but having your body or facial expression do something without your consent in the process. Or imagine that your brain won't let you recognize facial expressions and body language in others. You can slowly learn it with intense study and assistance (like I had to have), but for the most part, it's hard work. Wouldn't you appreciate a little understanding from others as you struggle?

I've seen others with worse effects in autism than me and I've seen them struggle. I had them ask me why they couldn't catch the situation before they did something they called "stupid". I told them they aren't stupid, it's part of our condition and we have to get past the issue of those who don't understand. We have to take the opportunity to educate when we can. But you see, there's one expression we learn really fast and that's shock. Shock we never intended to cause and that's very frustrating.

No one wants to be socially impaired and having that problem creates an internal struggle in a lot of autistic people. It can make us try too hard which brings the opposite of desired effect.

So, next time you see someone do or say something that doesn't match the situation very well and it kind of shocks you. Try to pause and reflect for a moment on what made that person do that. Was it autism? Other disorders cause it too, but you get the idea, I hope. And I'm not saying we're all trustworthy either, that's a different scale of issues.

I'll end this with a quote from the movie, Mozart and the Whale: "Autistic people want to be social, we just really suck at it." (Not entirely true so take it loosely).

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Where does autism come from?

I've had this question posed to me a thousand times. I know I've blogged on it before, but it seems to bear a rewrite as information evolves.

Autism actually comes from several sources, enough that it's very difficult to trace all forms. Autism is most largely blamed on mercury in vaccines. That only covers about two-fifths of the autism community however. Speciality groups will act as if their approach will solve all issues for all forms of autism, but they can't. That's scientifically impossible. Other groups only cater to one form or branch of autism and leave the rest out.

Now, in talking about where autism comes from, I'm going to mention the cause as forms of damage to our genetic structure. That is in no way meant to imply that people with autism are "damaged" or "useless" as a whole. That is not to imply that all people with autism need to be "cured". We do live with a scale of challenges from having autism and it would be folly to ignore them or consider them for anything less than what they are. It's too easy for us to forget that autism is different for everyone. That the effects are a spectrum of light to heavy effects. People of the high functioning areas may go through life with little difficulty while others can barely function at all. So if you are reading this and are fortunate enough to be high functioning and don't consider your conditions damaging at all, this article is not accusing you or anyone like you of being "damaged". You don't have to be "cured". No one can force you to be.

My definition of damage: How about impaired social function and erratic sensory issues? Those aren't fun and to me they can be very damaging. They aren't the way our bodies are supposed to work. When something doesn't work like it's supposed to, it's "damaged". I am not damaged as a whole person, but parts of me don't work right causing significant life challenges. I would love to have my sensory integration problems "cured" so that simple sounds don't bring me to my knees around "normal" people barely affected.

Now that I've finished the great big disclaimer, what are the sources of autism?

Lead, mercury, and a score of long time pollutants are big time suspects. Even aerosols, after all they could make a hole in the ozone right? How much of that have we breathed in over generations? In what they called "disintegrative child disorder" a child would be functioning normally and then suddenly lose significant function. Function that includes talking, feeding themselves, and loss of potty training. This has been attributed to vaccine "poisoning" or damage. There are long term affects that I believe should be viewed as suspect for longer term damage over generations of exposure or use. Work with dangerous chemicals, drug and alcohol use, heavy pollutant exposure, lead exposure, and even smoking tobacco over generations has slowly damaged our genetic structure. In short, we've created "flaws" that have become hereditary. These aren't just suspect for autism, but a wide range of disabilities that can be hereditary.

Some forms of autism, such as Asperger's syndrome, have been found to be hereditary in nature. That means it has gone so far as to become a genetic trait that can be copied in our children. I believe this is a large part of why numbers are increasing. The human race can't just stop having kids you know. I am going to go so far as to predict that numbers will rise by 50% in the next generation. That's because the average family has two children. Even if one child doesn't have autism, they can still carry the trait from their parents and pass it on to their children.

Sometimes, other injuries can cause damage that mimics autism or exacerbates existing conditions. I'm talking mostly about head injuries. Severe psychological trauma can also worsen some conditions. Sometimes permanently.

I also believe that the nearly limitless combinations of altering conditions over generations, that are different for each person or family tree are why there are so many different aspects on the spectrum of autism. I think it's reasonable to consider that autism through a family caused by drug use combined with lead exposure (over simplifying here) can have a few different effects than a family with causes from totally different chemical environments and exposure. Imagine hundreds of thousands of possible combinations of environmental exposures, each with their own hand in autism. No wonder it's so different for everyone. No wonder it's a "spectrum". No wonder it can't be effectively traced.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The twice exceptional child

A twice exceptional child (also called 2e) is a child with distinct skill or capabilities while also having a distinguished disability or disorder (usually cognitive).

A child with severe autism who can play the piano like a historical composer would be considered a 2e. There are varying degrees of 2e depending on the level of the skills or abilities compared to the incumberance they live with.

Recently I found a question regarding research of 2e children. Research is mostly geared toward the medical condition than the abilities they may have. For the most part, especially for autism, they aren't sure why some of our spectrum kids become savants.

I have my own theory. I think the brain is compensating. Much like what the phenomenon of the blind having better hearing in some cases or the deaf being more sensitive to other vibrations. I think the compensation factor could apply for about anything the brain is capable of.

Asperger's children have been referred to as "little professors" because most of them get attached to a "favorite subject" of some kind. They can tell you the most trivial points of that subject, but have difficulty changing discussion topics away from the favorite. So, if our Asperger's child likes cars and automotive, he will be "stuck in a rut" talking about cars with difficulty changing to talking about anything else. That doesn't mean he can't change that behavior with practice and support. He can, but it will take time and is best started on early.

There's no doubt that these are amazing children. The following are some videos with examples of these incredible kids. Enjoy.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

A matter of ethics

I want to tell you about an experience I had after writing an article on Examiner, and article you can see here:
I wrote an article about a local rescue that is above and beyond what a lot of private rescues are. Gentle Hands is that rescue. I say above and beyond because of how clean and orderly I found their property. I say above and beyond because of how much of themselves the owners have truly put into their endeavors. Because they are accepted and called upon by local authorities and trusted by them. You can see the article in the links to other articles listed below. Be sure to note the comment section.

Tanya Andrews-Cudworth, of Sable Bay Therapeutics (Briar Hollow Farm) in Cascade, WI posted the following comment:

“I happen to have first hand knowledge that Kristina Bludau and the Gentle Hands Rescue and Rehabilitation was “DENIED” their 501C3 License. According to the State of Wisconsin’s laws, no rescue or shelter may solicit for donations without the federal 501C3 determination which allows a LEGAL non profit organizations to collect donations. As a former CEO of Animal Intake at Wanekia Wanagi Shelter Inc. I was involved in the transactions of adoption and purchases of four of the horses Kristina and her husband claim as rescue horses at their rescue. Gentle Hands Rescue has never filed any of their non-profit tax forms (WI-990). The public has no recorded knowledge of what their donations are being spent on.
If we are to spend our hard earned dollars on fraudulent charities, the ones that file their taxes, provide proof of registration through licensing and do not buy animals to claim as rescued, are losing out on valuable contributions.”

Since a person can put any name they want in the “name bar” in comments, the writer of this article did an internet search and found Tanya’s name and business. You can see her business’s website (link removed by request). On that page is an email, and I contacted it to verify her identity. In her response she verified that she was the person who left this comment. Now let’s take a closer look at the comment.

Comments like this can be very damaging in small town communities and rural ones. It can damage innocent reputations for years. It can cause loss of business and trust. That’s because the average person just doesn’t do that much fact digging. They trust their friends and word of mouth. In these days of recession and hardship, the idea that anyone of any organization is committing “fraud” or “tax evasion” is enough to steer crucial dollars or other donations away.

Denial of non profit status: Mrs. Andrews claims “first hand knowledge” that Gentle hands was denied a 501c3 status. The first question that comes to mind is; doesn’t that mean you got the knowledge from Gentle Hands themselves? In email correspondence, Tanya stated “a colleague” gave her the information. She neglected to identify that colleague. In articles about Gentle Hands (mine and one at Sheboygan Press), Kristina states clearly that they are in the process of applying for the non profit status. In questions to update, they are nearly finished with the paperwork, so have not sent it in yet. One would submit that you cannot be denied when you haven’t applied yet. Denial comes after an application is filed, not before.

Non filing of non profit taxes: This creates quite a contradiction of terms in the comment. You can’t file non-profit taxes without a non-profit tax status. Any other income is reported via various requirements. Gentle Hands has an accountant in employ taking care such issues and keeping financial records. If they didn’t keep accurate records they would have little chance of obtaining a non profit in the first place.

Not being licensed: Investigation and question of authorities has shown that Gentle Hands has all licensing required for their level of operation.

Not legal to ask for donations: The law that finally got pointed out when certain parties complained about this response article was Wisconsin Statute chapter 440.42 that does say as quoted above about donations. There’s just one problem. They fail to quote the definitions section that shows that, in order for this law to apply to your organization you have to fall within a set of guidelines. One of them included making more than 5000 dollars a year in monetary donations. Gentle Hands (as I found out and they are more than willing to show their paperwork under proper conditions) is lucky to make 25 bucks in a month if anything at all. It also suggests that you have to have a non profit status. See above for the contradiction on that one. So, the law does not apply to Gentle Hands, not yet. So there is nothing illegal about any suggestion that they need some help to care for the animals of their private rescue.

The four horses mentioned, also not identified in email discussion, were found to be purchased two years before Gentle Hands was established. There are several horses on the property today.

So who is the mystery colleague? The only lead given is Wanekia Wanagi Shelter, located in Kiel and run by Sherry Murlasits. You can see the website for this shelter HERE. An email inquiry received no response. When a response did come along, I had written a version of this article (this one is updated) and posted it on Examiner. This made me the new target of the day with those quote complaining and Examiner decided that my article didn’t fit “publishing guidelines” after quite a debate and now it’s here instead.

When asked if Tanya was making a direct accusation she said, “I’m not accusing anyone.” However, looking at the comment, it’s hard not to see it as just that.

Then the question comes to why? Why go out of your way to attack another animal organization? The comment and email correspondence made several references to how unfair it is for money to go to Gentle Hands compared to somewhere else not identified. Is it competition then? Or is it some kind of personal vendetta? Comment from Gentle Hands is that they receive very little in monetary donations, rather they get supplies more often.

Webster’s dictionary defines smearing as attempt to harm a reputation, malign or slander. Slander is use of unfounded or false information to do harm by word of mouth. In writing, it’s called libel.

When any organization or representative (claimed or otherwise) stoops to such behavior, you have to question their ethics and whether or not you would want to do business with such people. The consumer has a right to know the ethical and unethical behaviors of any organization they put their dollar to. That was Mrs. Andrews excuse for her allegations that common sense and the law itself just proved incorrect if not outright false.

The writer of this article is not employed or partnered with Gentle Hands and can only present the facts as they are found and given. The rest is up to you.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Kids told they are bad, will eventually believe it

It never ceases to amaze me, the horror stories I get from parents who approach me for input and advice on their situations. It also never ceases to amaze me, the level of warped ideas an entire community or group can get when it comes to children and their upbringing.

I recently had a parent come to me and tell me about her son's problems in school. He's acting out and refusing to comply with instructions in class. On it's own, that brings about judgments of and assumptions of brathood, but get this.

First, the school and teacher herself are disregarding the 9 year olds medical diagnosis of autism or any other disorder. They dismiss it as him "just" being difficult.

Second, the teacher has literally stated to parent and child alike that she's "sick of wasting her time" on this child.

Third, the child has been labelled by the school staff as a "menace to society" since either during or just after Kindergarten!

People, please hear me on this, when you constantly deliver a message to a child of what a failure or waste of time they are, sooner or later they are going to BELIEVE YOU!

This child has been ABUSED by the very people who are supposed to be educating and working with him. Not the parent, but a whole school! Abuse in schools must stop!

Current report from the boy's mother states that this child hates himself. Let's note those two words again... HATES HIMSELF. Now why in the world does a 9 year old child hate himself? Well, refer to the above because I just gave three really solid reasons! Because of the message this boy now believes, he needs therapy, he needs lots of therapy. He needs all that he has been taught about himself undone and retaught. THAT should be at the expense of the school district.

And if they are facing layoffs, teachers and staff who humiliate grade school children and destroy their self esteem should be the first jobs on the chopping block. It's child abuse!

I'm sorry, but these stories just infuriate me. Some get into media, like a little girl a few states away whose teacher wrote the word LOSER on all her homework assignments. He needs to be fired, I hope he was. That guy is a direct threat to the children in his class.

Our schools need to get with the times. These, our special needs kids, are increasing in number and science and current counts prove that it's going to keep doing that. They can either adjust for this change in students, or be overwhelmed and see a marked increase in homeschooling and lawsuits. It's your choice, educators of America, which way will you choose?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Change is a tough word in autism

That's especially if changes or suggestions come up without warning. If we have our minds set to some task, we may find it annoying to have them interrupted. We don't take interruptions to our routine our thoughts well. Changes in other ways can be tough or even traumatic too. On one such change a reader asked me about preparing her child for a school change.

Change is a part of life and some changes are set in stone. It's best we know they are coming far far ahead of time. In this case the change can be addressed like a graduation. It should be celebrated and congratulated. If she misses the teacher, you might explain that lots of other kids need her and it's going to be their turn next year. Reinforce that it will be fun to see a new classroom and may even see some familiar faces there.

One thing is for sure. Change should be taught for what it is, a fact of life. It needs to be taught more directly with our spectrum kids than a typical child. Changing grades in school, for example, will mean changing classrooms every year. I have found that it can be shown and taught as a long term routine and thus accepted. Yes, there will be some balking at first, but it will pass.

You can soften the effect of "sudden" changes with timely warnings that they are coming. I do this with time to leave for school in the morning. If I don't, it may take me an extra fifteen minutes to get out the door because he didn't feel prepared for the transition from what ever he was doing.

One might suggest acting excited for good changes, but we on the spectrum don't always recognize your emotions so well. So use direct facts. Is it a good change? Tell us why and how. Tell us that you went through it yourself. Take time to show your child the meaning of change in lifes everyday circumstances. Make it a part of their vocabulary. The earlier that they learn about how things don't always go as planned, the better toward adult life.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Contacting departments of ed part 2

I recently sent out part two of my volunteer effort to spread extra autism education to departments of education in our country. Below is what I sent them:


As I’ve pointed out, being a student is an extra challenge for a child with autism. Not only do they need to learn a school curriculum but they are behind on social development and have to learn control of co morbid conditions like sensory issues. I have outlined some of these difficulties here.

Distractibility: Because of the lack of breakers that help us filter out information we take in around us, every little detail in the room can demand our attention like a hot strobe light. We can get distracted by a breeze, an odor, the color of someone’s shirt or pencil, the ticking of a clock or worse. We are even distracted by things across the street outside and that’s even from the far side of the room away from the windows! Add that to anything that itches or feels weird, maybe the angle of our seat that’s off a half inch today? It’s hard to pay attention to just one subject when small distractions pull at us like a tow chain on a Mack truck. It’s a flood of impulses every day and all day. Add that to Attention Deficit with racing thoughts and floods of ideas and this kid has a tough time in class.

Social Interactions: People with autism have profound difficulty with socializing. Development of social skills is impaired and we don’t recognize social cues without intense practice. It’s like learning a new language and it’s harder with the older we get. Consider it like a form of blindness, only it applies to emotions and social behaviors of others. We just don’t know them, so they may as well be invisible. This creates misunderstandings with not only other students but staff as well. Things like context in spoken words can be lost because we can be so literal that we get stuck on one way that a word can be used. That makes it difficult to view a word from it’s other uses and perspectives. Slang and sarcasm can be especially hard to understand and take extra years to learn for many of us. This can also and especially affect interactions with lessons in class.

Bullying magnets: Children with autism are highly susceptible to bullies. Because of the literal nature they are easily tricked into problem spots. Eventually, though, they start to lose trust for peers, always on the lookout for being tricked into something unpleasant. Bullies find the odd reactions of our autistic kids to be quite funny and it’s hard to just ignore it like most average children can. The experience is just too intense to ignore. Like the distractions above, only worse. If not stopped you wind up with a traumatized child, trapped in their own mind, set even further back on social development than before. It can shape the rest of their lives. Unchecked, bullying can get extremely cruel. I personally walked home from Jr High more than once a week with my face bloody. And bullying isn’t limited to the behaviors of students. Teachers bully as well. Consider the story of Alex Barton who’s teacher made him stand before his class while she had students stand up and say things they didn’t like about him. You can find his story in another section of this packet.


Meltdowns or Sensory Overloads: Sensory overload isn’t just a matter of your senses overloading you, but stress. Our autistic children cannot handle stress well. The more that stress is compounded the more likely you will have an outburst or meltdown on your hands. A lot of times this can and will cause self damaging behavior. This self damaging rage happens because everything feels so intense and causes such a flood of adrenalin that the victim literally has no idea where to put it all. The result is a flurry of raging activity that holds its victim at its mercy until there’s no energy left. It leaves a person drained and exhausted, and often injured. These episodes (compared with seizure activity) can be avoided if caught in time. They can be prevented by using calm tones and not getting forceful with the student. Most importantly, punishment adds more stress. Punishing this condition is wrong. It’s a medical condition, not fun to live with, and very hard to control. While there are ways to avoid and episode, once it has you, you are at its mercy. I have permanent nerve damage and possibly brain damage from thirty years of these episodes before my own condition was diagnosed. Now I am on medication to help keeping such stress levels and overloads from occurring. I also have a “safety zone” that I can retreat to in my home for “cool down”. Having a “cool down” place that’s friendly and clearly not a punishment could be beneficial to these students.

An important article “Calm down or else”

This is an article written for the New York Times by Benedict Carey. I believe it’s message should be taken into consideration by us all. If the rights of the student are not enough to convince us that changes must be made and we must adapt for this increasing number of students, then self preservation is the next item of evidence. Perhaps the liabilities of failing to adapt can motivate change? The cost of failure is far too high and this article proves that. Please give it your full consideration.

Calm down or else, by Benedict Carey

The children return from school confused, scared and sometimes with bruises on their wrists, arms or face. Many won’t talk about what happened, or simply can’t, because they are unable to communicate easily, if at all.

“What Tim eventually said,” said John Miller, a podiatrist in Allegany, N.Y., about his son, then 12, “was that he didn’t want to go to school because he thought the school was trying to kill him.”

Dr. Miller learned that Tim, who has Asperger‘s syndrome, was being unusually confrontational in class, and that more than once teachers had held him down on the floor to “calm him down,” according to logs teachers kept to track his behavior; on at least one occasion, adults held Tim prone for 20 minutes until he stopped struggling.

The Millers are suing the district, in part for costs of therapy for their son as a result of the restraints. The district did not dispute the logs but denied that teachers behaved improperly.

For more than a decade, parents of children with developmental and psychiatric problems have pushed to gain more access to mainstream schools and classrooms for their sons and daughters. One unfortunate result, some experts say, is schools’ increasing use of precisely the sort of practices families hoped to avoid by steering clear of institutionalized settings: takedowns, isolation rooms, restraining chairs with straps, and worse.

No one keeps careful track of how often school staff members use such maneuvers. But last year the public system served 600,000 more special education students than it did a decade ago, many at least part time in regular classrooms. Many staff members are not adequately trained to handle severe behavior problems, researchers say.

In April, a 9-year-old Montreal boy with autism died of suffocation when a special education teacher wrapped him in a weighted blanket to calm him, according to the coroner’s report. Two Michigan public school students with autism have died while being held on the ground in so-called prone restraint.

Michigan, Pennsylvania and Tennessee have recently tightened regulations governing the use of restraints and seclusion in schools. California, Iowa and New York are among states considering stronger prohibitions, and reports have appeared on blogs and in newspapers across the country, from The Orange County Register to The Wall Street Journal.

“Behavior problems in school are way up, and there’s good reason to believe that the use of these procedures is up, too,” said Reece L. Peterson, a professor of special education at the University of Nebraska. “It’s an awful combination, because many parents expect restraints to be used — as long as it’s not their kid.”

Federal law leaves it to states and school districts to decide when physical restraints and seclusion are appropriate, and standards vary widely. Oversight is virtually nonexistent in most states, despite the potential for harm and scant evidence of benefit, Dr. Peterson said. Psychiatric facilities and nursing homes are generally far more accountable to report on such incidents than schools, experts say.

In dozens of interviews, parents, special education experts and lawyers who work to protect disabled people said they now regularly heard of cases of abuse in public schools — up to one or two a week surface on some parent e-mail lists — much more often than a decade ago. “In all the years I went to school, I never, ever saw or heard of anything like the horrific stories about restraint that we see just about every day now,” said Alison Tepper Singer, executive vice president of Autism Speaks, a charity dedicated to curing the disorder.

The issue is politically sensitive at a time when schools have done a lot to accommodate students with special needs, and some have questioned whether mainstreaming has gone too far. “Some parent organizations, they’re so grateful to the schools that their kids have been mainstreamed that they don’t want to risk really pushing for change,” said Dee Alpert, an advocate in New York who reports on the issue in the online journal,

For teachers, who have many other responsibilities — not least, to teach — managing even one child with a disability can add a wild card to the day. “In a class of 30 to 35 children, there’s a huge question of how much safety or teaching a teacher can provide if he or she is being called on to calm or contain a student on a regular basis,” said Patti Ralabate, a special education expert at the National Education Association. “The teacher is responsible for the safety of all the children in the classroom.”

The line between skillful conflict resolution and abuse is slipperier than many assume. Federal law requires that schools develop a behavioral plan for every student with a disability, which may include techniques to defuse the child’s frustration: a break from the class, for instance, or time out to listen to an iPod.

But in a hectic classroom, children with diagnoses like attention deficit disorder,anxiety or autism can seemingly become defiant, edgy or aggressive on a dime — and the plan, if one exists, can go straight out the window, investigations have found. Even defying a teacher’s instructions — “noncompliance” — can invite a takedown or time alone in a locked room, they found.

In an extensive report published last year, investigators in California documented cases of abuse from districts in the San Francisco Bay Area, the suburbs of Los Angeles and in the rural northeastern part of the state. During the 2005-6 school year, an 8-year-old with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder and mild mental retardation was repeatedly locked in a “seclusion room” alone, adjacent to the classroom — at least 31 times in a single year. His parents heard about it from another parent, who saw the boy trying in vain to escape.

In another school, a teacher held a 12-year-old with a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder “face down on the floor, straddling him at his hips, and holding his hands behind his back,” according to the investigation, which was done by California’s office of protection and advocacy. Congress established such offices in each state in the 1970s to protect the rights of the disabled.

Leslie Morrison, director of investigations at the California office, said parents often complained about such episodes but were usually reluctant to cooperate with an investigation. “They’re afraid the school will retaliate,” she said.

And the children, who have an array of psychiatric diagnoses, from attention deficit to autism, often do not understand what is happening or why. “They just think they did something wrong and are being punished,” Ms. Morrison said. “Many of them are not verbal at all and can’t even tell their parents.”

In Tim Miller’s case, school logs obtained by his father illustrate how quickly a situation can escalate, regardless of behavior plans. In one entry, dated March 18, 2005, a teacher wrote: “Tim was screaming down the hall. He ran past me and began to double his fist to punch the locker. At this point I scooped my arm underneath his and directed him into my room.”

After the boy continued to struggle, this teacher and another “laid him onto the mat, where he was held approximately 20 minutes,” the log said.

Tim, now 15, graduated from the school last year and in June completed his first year of high school, excelling in a variety of mainstream classes without incident. In a telephone interview, he said he no longer thought much about the takedowns. “I just think now that they were idiots to do that,” he said. “I remember telling my mom to pray to God that they wouldn’t keep doing it, and wishing the other kids would see what was happening.”

When a school has a so-called zero tolerance approach to bad behavior, it often does makes a public spectacle of controlling a child’s behavior, said several parents interviewed for this article.

Kathy Sexton, who lives near Dallas, had to pick up her 11-year-old son, Anthony, who has a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, at the police station, after school staff members had the boy hauled away in handcuffs for cursing at a teacher.

“I didn’t hear about it for hours and had to go get him at jail,” Ms. Sexton said in a phone interview. “He was hysterical, obviously, and he’s had his ups and downs since then. It’s hard to know what a thing like that does to a child that age.”

Several companies offer programs to teach so-called de-escalation techniques to school staff, and a scattering of schools have developed model programs to pre-empt confrontations, and defuse them when they happen. But experts say that until policymakers and schools adopt standards, on exactly which techniques are allowed and when, children with behavior problems will in many districts run the risk of being forcibly brought into line.

Dr. Peterson, the Nebraska professor, illustrates the challenges by citing two recent cases in Iowa. In one, the parents of an 11-year-old who died while being held down called for a ban on restraints; in the other, parents charged that a school failed their son by not restraining him. The boy ran away and drowned.

“It’s damned if you do, damned if you don’t,” Dr. Peterson said, “and it reflects the level of confusion there is about this whole issue.”

End of article

I hope that you can see just how serious education for staff can be. Lack of knowledge for proper handling leads to desperation to make a child comply. That leads to dangerous practices. Practices that put your districts at risk. It’s far less expensive, especially in the long haul, to make sure that all staff are knowledgeable and sensitive to these special needs kids. Granted laws were recently passed on the federal level against restraint and seclusion but we all have an important part to play. We all must do our part to make sure the proverbial ball doesn’t get dropped anywhere for the sake of all our children. The answer is education.

A cruel reminder

It's been over a year since I came so close to one of my overloads. This one came as a cruel reminder of why I'm on disability. The labels are autism, bipolar, and a permanent head injury. The head injury is at the least contused and damaged nerves in the right side of my forehead and at most a permanent brain injury that messes up my sensory input just that much more from my autism. I take a great risk in writing about them because of all the judgment and stigma. I also live in a small community where becoming an outcast is too easy. People fear what they don't understand.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about. I'm here to talk about that cruel reminder I got yesterday. Recently I had to give up my van for multiple reasons that I'm not going into here. Suffice to say it is dead and gone. I have to seek new transportation. In the mean time, I still have to get around. I thought, why not get a bicycle and one of those trailers for my son to sit in? Seemed like a good idea. I can't afford constant taxi fares, I have to make payments to anyone I buy a car from (not too many like that idea), and apparently I don't qualify for low income bus pass (borderline). A monthly bus pass in this little town is 48 bucks per person (regardless of age from five on up). That's 96 a month taken away from me saving up for a vehicle. So, I got a good deal on a bike and trailer for 180. Not bad.

It was hard to get started riding. I hadn't been on a bike in twenty years. But I surprised myself and made it. I was worried because one of the triggers for my overloads is over-exertion. But it didn't happen, not right away. On my fourth back and forth trip, each direction worth about forty minutes the wind was horrible on the way home. That's home from picking up my son at school. No, no bus available, I got shut down cold on that one. And I won't change schools on my son for just the last month of school. He has autism as well and it could damage all the good work done so far. Anyway, the wind yesterday was so hard it actually stopped me in mid-peddle and I had to try and push through it walking in several areas. Having that trailer on the back is like having an open parachute for the wind to just grab and yank around. By the time I got home, I was going into overload, I was ready to scream.

I did manage to avoid the full seizure like state by getting to my meds and getting into my "quiet spot" where I can cool down. My upper legs are bruised from the effort of just trying to get home. So that kind of kills the idea that I can keep riding a bike for taking my son to school. Short rides after my legs heal are a possibility but I do have avoid overheating as well.

For more about Sensory Overload I have a good report I wrote at

Please feel free to take a look and read up on it. It's not an easy or fun condition to live with and a lot of autistics do live with it.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Contacting Education Departments

I've sent out my first email to all but one State level Department of Education throughout our country of the US. I originally planned to do a packet by US post to them all, but the costs just became impossible. Between having the packet copied fifty-one times (with one sent to the White House) and paying postage that many times over (a minimum of a hundred dollars) it's just not possible on my income. So I have to split the project into parts and email it.

There is one state that hasn't responded to me with an email that I can send to and doesn't have it listed on their site. You can only contact them through a general message point on their site. That would be New Jersey. The White House has the same general form to use and they haven't responded to me either.

Idaho responded to my sending of part one and favorably too. No one else has responded.

This was part one of my information on autism as sent through email. Feel free to print this and share it with anyone you feel would benefit. Just remember I put the man hours into compiling it for credit purposes.

Dear Educational Departments of America,

I write to you today as a concerned American citizen who lives with autism. I also write to you as a friend of the educational system in our country. I am not a doctor, lawyer or professor. I carry no special certifications. What I have is my raw life experiences and research. Through this I have been helping families learn about and cope with autism for about three years. I have put together this information to assist you in understanding autism, perhaps in ways you have not considered yet. It is to show you an alarming trend that has swept over the face of our country and suggestions to correct it.

My name is David Wilde, I am 39 years old and was diagnosed with autism in 2005, right after my son. Since then I have been on a journey of new self learning. Through my own school years, I never understood why I had such a hard time of it. I suffered physical and mental bullying and was even labeled as retarded by the school district I attended.

Yes, this was a long time ago and there have been improvements in our schools. However, there are still serious problems for us to correct that echo the same even today.

It is my hope and prayer that you will not cast this aside. That you will read it and share it with your colleagues. That all of you will gain knowledge from it that will help you and all our school districts in our great nation, understand autism even a little bit better.

Please know that you have my permission to duplicate this information as many times as you wish in order to send it to the rest of your districts and any other offices that you work with who may benefit from this information.

As this is being sent via email, if there is a better email in your department to send to, please respond with that information and I will make a correction immediately. Be sure to clearly indicate which state you represent.

I am not charging anything for this information or my hours in putting it together. I am volunteering for the sake of our educational system and children everywhere.

You may contact me at anytime via this email or write to:

Copies of this work have been sent to:

State level Departments of Education in ALL fifty states.

The President of the United States of America

1: Adapting to the new trend of student:

Adapting is what makes us successful as a species. As our world changes, we adapt or even evolve and move along with those changes. For example, in recent news, basic training in our armed forces announced the drop of bayonet training for soldiers. They dropped it because it does not meet the needs of our soldiers in combat environments of today. For that matter, they realized that they haven’t even been using bayonets on weapons in close to twenty years. Training has adapted now to fit the needs of our soldiers because the environment they fight in has changed.

How we handle students with special needs must also adapt because the very definition of those special needs and the number of students with them has changed.

This year the CDC announced that the number of children with autism moved from 1 in 150 to 1 in 110. The numbers of students with special needs behaviors have increased in classrooms as well. This demands a certain level of changes in handling the classroom and these students. By the current trend, numbers are going to increase, not decrease.

Because of this, not only are more teachers likely to be needed, but more in class aides and greater understanding of conditions being dealt with. Smaller classes for control aspects will also make it easier for teachers and aides to work with students. A ratio of 15 students per classroom is suggested at maximum. Some districts have already put this ratio to use.

Arranging autism seminars for school staff would help immensely in understanding of these students as well as other disorders. Resources to consider for such work would be state chapters of the Autism Society of America and Autism resource centers established across the country. They exist to help families find resources. It makes sense that they could help schools too.

So how did restraint and seclusion get so out of control? In a word, desperation. Our classrooms have been flooded with excess of special needs students without additional training to prepare. Staff have found themselves desperate to try and get these kids to “calm down” and “behave” in class. Sadly, human nature through society has been prone to use force when no other avenues seem available. This does not excuse the tragedies that have happened, but does explain a little of why. That is why we must make adjustments, we must adapt in our educational system. We can help educational staff work easier with these special needs students, and stem the tragedies, misunderstandings, due process hearings, and even lawsuits occurring around the country.

2: Autism Misconcepts

It’s as important to know the myths and misconceptions of autism as it is the facts and realities. What I will share with you here are comments made by school staff from actual experiences of parents I have interviewed around the country.

-This child can’t learn the material or is incapable of learning the material. Children with autism don’t react to or relate with the world around them the same as other children. This makes it too easy to underestimate their learning capabilities and for educators to just give up on them. My own son was accused of this because of his outbursts and behavior that made it seem like he wasn’t paying attention. Later in the year he showed them all that he not only absorbed the material and heard what was said, he understood it perfectly. Erratic behavior is not proof of inability to learn. For that matter, autistics are well known for absorbing everything around them. But they can’t sort it as fast as others because they literally take in too much at a time to do so. This factor of autism is murder on their attention span because literally every single thing in the room is demanding their attention at the level of a fire alarm. If all your teachers could be armed with this information, we can give these kids a better chance to make it through school.

-I just don’t see autism in your child. This is one that has frustrated many struggling parents and seems dismissive to them. You may see a hundred children with autism and not even know it. First of all, it’s not the school staff’s place to judge medical diagnosis. Every child with autism is different and there’s often other co morbid conditions that take affect on the child’s behavior. It’s a spectrum and behaviors can be affected all across it. I’ve had teachers suggest that my son is too social to have autism. What is missed with that statement is that our autism kids will be an extreme of either direction. Those that are in the extreme of social attempts still have trouble with social boundaries and cues. They want to be social but try too hard and wind up forcing people away as a result. It’s important that staff not worry about judging diagnosis (especially when they aren’t doctors) and concentrate on what will help the child learn.

-This child is a brat or a nuisance. If staff understand how our kids are affected by their conditions at all, they won’t dismiss them as just brats. Our kids aren’t just trying to learn a curriculum but how to live through a medical condition as well. Imagine trying to learn how to juggle and ride a bike at the same time. Separately you can expect success in a given period of time, but if your body and mind force you to do both at once it will get frustrating in a hurry. That’s life for our kids on the spectrum, constant frustration because things they try to do never come out as intended. Then they get more frustrated because someone is yelling at them or scolding them when it was a struggle in the first place. That’s not to say they should never be scolded but it will take practice to separate the behaviors that require a little healthy scolding and the ones that don’t. A rule of thumb is to apply to behavior that directly affects others. Hitting another child or acting out against another child is inappropriate and should still be dealt with immediately. Getting frustrated over a spelling paper is inappropriate but not hurting anyone. It doesn’t require the same amount of discipline or handling. It is where understanding and some sensitivity to the child’s struggles can go a long way.

-This child needs to be institutionalized. If ever a phrase should be banned from escaping a teachers lips to our autism families, it’s that one. This is a medical decision and should be made with extreme care. Autism kids don’t need to be locked in a cell, they already are inside of their own poor heads. Why would we want to compound that pain? In my Jr high years in Lincoln, Nebraska I was branded as retarded and made to stay in a hospital for 30 days for evaluations. While they still didn’t diagnose my autism, they did discover I was anything but retarded. It was not my school’s place to judge me medically. In all fairness however, autism can be a masking condition that is good at covering itself up. That’s why we need to apply this new level of understanding for all our teachers and staff.

-It’s just poor parenting. Autism is a proven disorder and has nothing to do with how a child is “parented”. As it is, parenting an autism child is very challenging. School is often far more structured than at home and doesn’t involve the same needs as running a household. Autism parents have to take their child to the store and appointments and be prepared for spontaneous behavior at any waking moment. Embarrassing explosive meltdowns could happen for just about any reason, but mostly reasons “invisible” to the bystander. Daily routines that most take for granted can be long drawn out episodes and require vigilance and patience to get through. Staff need to consider that they do not see but a fraction of these children’s lives. They also need to remember that these are special needs children and parenting is more of a challenge than with an average child.

-This child is unhealthy or diseased. Autism is a disorder, not a disease. It is not communicable though known to be hereditary. High functioning autism children can run and play just as well as any child. They can grow and mature, though maturity takes longer. Calling them unhealthy or diseased is inappropriate and hurtful to the relations with the child’s family.

-This child is supposed to have genius ability. Not all autism children have a savant ability, while such is popular in the movies. What is common is for them to become so enthralled with a given subject that they can’t let go of it. They may become “little professors” on that subject. They may be able to tell you trivial information that almost no one would even notice on the subject. They may even try to apply that subject to everything they say or do (whether it fits or not). However, that does not constitute genius, just intense interest that gets them “stuck in a rut”. People with autism are extremely diverse, though there are mannerisms that are common amongst them.

-This child will never leave home or be able to do anything on his own. This is an impossible forecast. It’s also highly inappropriate. It suggests that a child with autism will never mature or grow. It’s true that low functioning autism children may need care for their entire lives, but it’s not true for every child and certainly cannot be forecast based on the child’s condition in elementary school (for the high functioning). Children with autism go through phases of maturity and growth. They just take longer and have more difficulty. Not only is it wrong to say this to parents (refer to idea of not judging or diagnosing above), but the children can pick up on it as well. I remember being labeled as ‘retarded’ and I remember teachers in more than one state or district who told me point blank that I would never amount to anything. Remember that these children pick up more than they show. It’s psychologically damaging and hinders self esteem which does hinder their personal growth. With proper support and care, many of our children will grow, mature, and be able to lead lives on their own. It’s important for this to take place in our schools.

So, from this we can take that high function children with autism:

-CAN learn the material, even if they don’t show it right away.

-are diverse and will show symptoms differently in their behaviors.

-is NOT just a brat or spoiled child, rather at the mercy of their conditions.

-does not require being locked up just because they have autism.

-is not the result of bad parenting.

-is not diseased or unhealthy just because they have autism.

-is not always a genius.

-may mature and grow, even if it doesn’t look like it at the time.

There is more to come in part 2.