< My Thoughts > This is a fictional account of how one family finds an equitable solution to marriage, divorce, remarriage and loving a boy with autism. I believe it is a story that rings true and indeed, needs to be told. A story told by Ben, who is meeting his 5 year old autistic son Kyle for the very first time. A story of discovering what it means to be a single parent, and a parent of a child who sees the world in a different way. Through the eyes of Ben, we get a glimpse of both the challenges and joys of parenting this child. Smiles.
Focused Excerpts from the book –
Extended Review with < My Thoughts > by Sara Luker (Note: This is based on fictional characters.)
(13% indicates location in the Kindle version of the book, instead of page numbers.)
8% Autism is not a dirty word. It’s a different way of viewing the world. There are challenges involved in autism, for sure. But, there are also strengths.
10% Kyle’s kindergarten teacher was teaching him how to play chess. Is this really what five year olds did these days? Shouldn’t the teacher have her students kicking a ball or playing in a sand box rather than teaching them chess?
< My Thoughts > “Ability to play chess and concentration.”
Peer reviewed studies about teaching children to play chess, checkers, and other board games are few. How this would help the child with Asperger’s? Hopefully, the child would be absorbed enough in the game to sit quietly and observe, a great skill for school, the workplace… or, anyplace. In addition, they may even try to figure out what the other person is ‘thinking’, a kind of ‘mental aerobics’ for a person with autism to understand and master. Maybe these would be more socially acceptable skills and a welcome addition to playing videos or video games in isolation. Just saying.
12% Kyle was at school. Four little words. That sounded so simple but hell, it was not. Getting one small boy up, ready and to school took more organization skills than Ben certainly possessed. He ran a business with ten employees, handled million dollar accounts, but could not manage one small boy.
13% “Routine is so important to kids like Kyle. Look. When you have autism, the world can be a scary place. It can seem that things come at you from all sides. You’re contending with the sensory issues when every touch, every sound, every light can feel like just too much,” Kyle’s teacher admonished Ben.
She continued, “Remember that teacher in the old Charlie Brown movies? The one who went, ‘Wa, wa wa wa wa’ and we had no idea what was said? That’s how it often is for kids with autism. They not only have trouble understanding us… but they have trouble letting us know their wants and needs.”
“And, there’s more. Most of us automatically see patterns and connections in the world and our daily lives. Not so with many kids with autism. They have to be directly taught that there are patterns and consistencies and you can predict what is going to happen. When you can do that, the world is not quite as scary a place.”
15% She tried again, “Look, I’ll try to explain. Kyle is a visual learner, rather than an auditory learner. Kyle can take in information he sees much better than what he hears.”
16% “Look around… our classroom runs on routines. These routines are taught using pictures. There are pictures all over the room.”
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< My Thoughts > “Visual Schedules…”
Visual schedules can support learning and help teach self-help and social skills to persons with autism. Several things need to be kept in mind when creating and designing helpful schedules. Some things to remember are that not all people are visual learners. Sometimes the visual schedule needs to be accompanied by an auditory backup, or Smart Phone App.
Another thing to remember is that the visuals should be age appropriate and meet the person at their level of understanding. If the person is very ‘literal’, which many with ASD are, then you may need to take actual photos to use on their schedule, instead of graphics. Also, they may not be able to ‘generalize’, use the same routine in a different place. So, if Kyle is expected to shower at grandma’s on Saturday, that should be explained. You may even need to make a separate schedule to take there. Have the child help you. Making things easy isn’t always that easy. Again, many things are ‘trial & error’. Smiles.
17% Ben was early (to pick up his son at school), as he approached the kindergarten room, he heard screams. Kyle! Those were Kyle’s screams. Rushing in the room Ben spied his son on the floor. Kyle was tossing his head back and forth, kicking his heels and screaming. “What the hell’s going on here?” Ben yelled. “What’s wrong with my son?”
“What you just witnessed was a tantrum. Kyle was mad because he didn’t get his way. Remember how he reacted when he saw the ant farm at the back of the room the first day? That was a ‘meltdown’. He was feeling overwhelmed for whatever reason. We used some sensory techniques to help him calm down. That’s quite different from what just happened here. What you just experienced was a tantrum.”
“Tantrums are a good way to control others. Pitch a fit and people will give in. Is that the way you want your son to think?” “It’s just hard to see,” Ben said, “He almost kicked you.” “He’s a little boy and he’s still learning how to navigate his world,” she responded.
< My Thoughts > “Tantrums are a good way to control others.”
Sometimes the child can’t voice his/her fear and frustration. Perhaps they are having difficulty transitioning from one thing or place to another. Children with autism often resists change, due to their ritualistic nature. Possibly something happened earlier, which in the child’s mind hasn’t been resolved to their satisfaction. Maybe earlier, he was rushed to finish eating his breakfast in order to meet someone else’s schedule. Because of the ritualistic nature of autism, this can bring about the fixated notion that he needs to go back and finish eating before he can resume the next activity.
The following was retrieved from: https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/the-difference-between-tantrums-and-sensory-meltdowns
Author Amanda Morin (2018) tells us that… “The causes of tantrums and meltdowns are different. Tantrums usually have a purpose. Kids are looking for a certain response. Meltdowns are a reaction to something sensory that is usually beyond a child’s control.”
Morin suggests that when responding to a tantrum try acknowledging that you know what your child wants, without giving in. Calmly tell them the reason that their needs (wants) can’t be met. Or, then tell them when they will be met. When responding to a meltdown, help your child find a safe, quiet place away from the sensory distress, where they can deescalate.
43% Kyle’s kindergarten teacher invited Ben to the school’s Parent Teacher Association meeting. He decided that he would go. As he entered the gym, there were more people there than Ben had anticipated. The buzz of conversation was electric. Maybe this wouldn’t be quite as boring as he thought it would be.
A planful person, Ben liked to be in control. He thought things out, made a plan, he took charge and followed the path he had laid out. Then Kyle happened. Nothing about Kyle was planned. As the meeting was called to order, Ben abandoned his thoughts.
Listening, Ben learned that Kyle’s classroom was not usual – it was an experiment, the brain-child of master teacher, Melanie Nicols. It was her belief that students with special needs learned best in the company of their age peers, not in secluded classrooms without typical role models. On top of this, she also believed that typical students would also benefit from being with their counterparts who had extra challenges.
< My Thoughts > “…not in secluded classrooms without typical role models.”
In this fictional account, teacher Melanie Nicols may have created a ‘real’ dilemma for her school, her students, and their parents. Because, schools in each state must abide by both state and national laws regarding special education. You can search online for your states intentions.
For some states, Segregation, means the following: Learners labeled with special education needs may receive their education in a separate setting within the public school. Integration, which seems to be what Ms. Nicols refers to, may be special education students receiving their education alongside their non-disabled peers. While Inclusion, requires that attitudes, approaches, and strategies create a culture where all learners feel welcome. Also, disciplinary action may be brought against anyone who intentionally violates the specific statutes; as teachers and staff are expected to ‘cope’ with each student’s diverse needs.
And, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. Public, Private, and Charter Schools must create these programs, according to state and federal laws. They must identify those students whom they select to participate in those programs, as well as explain how these students will be accommodated accurately and fairly, in the least restrictive environment. Schools are also required to provide qualified staff to support these programs. Licensed professionals such as a school nurse & psychologist, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech & language pathologist, plus staff trained in behavior management. If not, parents may bring about ‘Due Process’, possibly leading to court cases which if favorable to the parents, will govern their child’s placement.
End of Focused Excerpts from the book.
References used in < My Thoughts > are:
Morin, A. (2018). https://www.understood.org/en/learning-attention-issues/child-learning-disabilities/sensory-processing-issues/the-difference-between-tantrums-and-sensory-meltdowns