On Facebook the other day I came across a list: 35 Phrases That Encourage Positive Cooperation Between Child and Parent. My son has Autism, and I tend to avoid “typical” parenting websites because there is little that is typical about our family, and I find myself feeling frustrated as opposed to empowered – but this time I thought, “what the heck?”
By number three I was frowning; by number 23 I think I may have started to twitch. As a teacher – maybe even just as a compassionate adult? – obviously I can see the benefit of working through difficulties with children in ways that encourage mutual, positive idea-exchange. As a parent of two kids – our youngest is neuro-typical – I notice a vast difference between what is effective (or futile) when interacting with a neuro-typical child as opposed to interacting with a child with certain needs.
So I thought I would compile a similar list, but one of phrases that are relevant to Autism. Trouble is, once I got going, I realised the list would be miles long – and even then, parents who don’t live in our house with our kids will sit reading my list and find themselves frowning and twitching. Finally, I switched gears and decided to put together something that families struggling with special needs can use for plain old, self-indulgent comfort. Et voilà:
The other day I wanted to research ways to teach the alphabet to my preschool aged son. I started with Google, typed in "teaching alphabet to preschoolers" and got 476,000 results. I scrolled through the first 2 pages or so and tried to bookmark some of them based on the initial descriptions but I got overwhelmed. I stopped. Isn't this similar to what happens when we, as parents, search for special needs resources? We have so much information at hand yet we often end up with so little. Sometimes we read and read but have no idea how to adapt the information to our needs or how to incorporate it into our lifestyle. Other times we think it is what we need and invest so much time into it only to realize the results were minimal. There are times when our research pays off but usually those times are a result of hours and hours spent plowing through articles and organizing them by relevance. As vested partners in the lives of a special needs child, there is limited time to engage in this kind of thorough research. So, how do we get the best resources for our special needs children without spending ridiculous amounts of time to find the relevant information?
Do you ever wonder about the faces of our special needs community? I never thought about or realized the many faces of disability until after university when I worked in a group home for adults with disabilities. I might not recognize a person with special needs as I walk the streets, buy my groceries or pick up the kids from school but persons with special needs are very much present. We just have to open our eyes to see. Thanks to the blogosphere it has become even easier for us to get a glimpse of the real lives of those with special needs and their caregivers. Thank you to the following bloggers for openly and honestly sharing your stories in order to build this powerful special needs community. Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (Our Micropreemie Twins) Spina Bifida (The Great Umbrella Heist) Autism (Joy in the Valley) Undiagnosed disability (Undiagnosed but Okay) Cerebral Palsy (Transcending CP) Down Syndrome (The Bates Motel) Developmental Delay (I Can Say Mama)
During my second internship as part of my Bachelor of Education, I decided to try my hand at teaching children with special needs. I had the amazing opportunity to student teach in a high school class at the MacKay Centre, a school primarily for students with disabilities. In order for the students to feel like they could have a real high school experience, their main classroom was held at Westmount High School, a mainstream high school.
The six students in this segregated classroom had varied disabilities. Most were multi-handicapped meaning both physical and intellectual disabilities were present. As a student teacher I did not have access to their personal files and therefore I could only guess what their specific disabilities were.
Are your eyebrows raised? Mine were. I heard this during my first year of teaching in a school where many students had significant gaps in their learning. Some of these learning gaps were due to behaviour and motivational issues but many of the learning gaps stemmed from learning disabilities, intellectual deficits and ADD/ADHD. In order to help all the students in the general classroom, special needs or not, to reach their full educational potential, there was a focus on increasing reading skills throughout all areas of the curriculum using strategies seen to have worked in the special education classroom.
It was a warm morning at the end of August- my boy’s first day of Kindergarten. Diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder when he was 3, we had done all we could for him. We had used the government help available through our CRDI (Centre de Réadaptation en Défficience Intellectuelle), he followed intense behaviour therapy at home and had learned to communicate one word at a time. By the time Kindergarten rolled around, he could make himself understood and understood others if they spoke slowly and directly to him. I had mixed feelings. I knew he could be integrated into a regular stream Kindergarten classroom and knowing how far he’d come, my mommy heart felt so proud of him. The flip side was that I was being asked to trust the school implicitly. I had no information about how his day would go, whether or not he would have someone with him during the day or whether any of the accommodations I had asked for were in place. Everything seemed to be a secret.