Tag Archives: Autism Awareness

Special Parents Confidential 54 Neurocore and the Education Secretary

Neurocore and the Education Secretary

The new Eduction Secretary of the United States has caused some controversy in the past months since her appointment over her views on special education, and her financial ties to a company called Neurocore. Specifically, she seems to have no interest in special education at all. Indeed, one of the first actions that took place after her appointment was the removal of all special education information from the Department of Education website. That information has since been restored, but it is still troubling. It should also be noted that this is the first time ever that an entire section of the United States Education Department’s website was deleted and only restored after public outcry. While it was claimed that there had been a simple mistake during the transition from one administration to another, many were quick to point out that this had never happened before in the entire history of the department during either administrative transitions, or otherwise.

Education and Special Education?

Further troubling is that Betsy DeVos’ only answer to any questions about the future of education in America, including special education, is to state her belief that, “parents have the right to choose what school they want their kids to attend”, and that, “states have the right to decide what that education will be”. Seemingly, without any federal government oversight. If that is truly the case, where does that leave special education, and the oversight of IDEA – the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, that was implemented by Congress in 1991 and has been administered by the Education Department in since then?

What Is Neurocore?

During her confirmation hearings it was revealed that Mrs. DeVos and her family are the majority owners of Neurocore – a brain training program that has been hyped as a way for people with learning challenges to succeed. (They are also majority shareholders in several for-profit Charter School corporations, which we addressed in SPC Episode 43 with Kristen Totten of the Michigan ACLU.)

Our Guest: Ulrich Boser

Back in May of this year an article appeared in the Washington Post, written by our guest for this episode, Ulrich Boser. He investigated Neurocore, went to one of the Neurocore Centers to have an exam done, and checked out their findings with medical doctors and education experts. He talks about the concerns about Neurocore’s claims of success, and the problems caused by Mrs. DeVos’ financial ties to the company.

Links Mentioned in the Podcast:

Ulrich Boser’s Website and Blog

Ulrich Boser’s profile at the Center for American Progress

The article about Neurocore in the Washington Post 

Learn Better – The book about how we learn, mentioned in the podcast 

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Amazing Things Happen – Excellent Autism Animation

Amazing Things Happen.

A few days ago I came across the above video on Facebook called Amazing Things Happen, It does an incredible job of explaining Autism in a way that kids could understand.

Amazing Things Happen, since it was posted online, has had over 5 million views. It’s been translated into 28 subtitled languages, and 10 fully dubbed versions. I wanted to know more about the person who created the video, Alex Amelines, and how he was able to create such a well-done piece.

From Alex’ business website:

“Colombian by birth. British by naturalisation.

“I worked in Editorial design for 5 years. Back in Colombia. Then I moved to the United Kingdom to do an animation course after which I ended up settling up in. Both in the animation field and in the UK. 

“I now work as an independent animator and director, my animations have gone in all directions: television, exhibitions, installations, games, films, planes, etc. In 2012 I established Studio Tinto in an attempt to become rich and famous.

“I’ve achieved neither.”

This wasn’t quite all the information I was looking for, so I sent Alex a message. He replied that his preference was to not do a podcast interview because he was worried that his accent was a little to hard to understand. But he would be happy to explain the process of how he came up with the animation.

By the way – Alex mentions the term SENCO, which in the U.K. stands for Special Education Needs Coordinator.

The Amazing Things Happen Background Story.

“I must warn you that my story is not an exciting one and that I’d prefer the focus were on the animation rather than me or my family but I’ll try to tell you what drove me anyway:

“A few years ago, my son’s school organised an assembly to help explain autism to the children, which struck me as a wonderful idea. The talk was very interesting and the local expert who led it obviously knew her stuff but it was limited by a lack of clear, visual materials. The children got most excited at a slide of Lego toys and enjoyed a scene from the animated series Arthur, where Arthur meets a boy who doesn’t make eye contact and only wants to talk about trains.

“My immediate thought was, this could all be an animation – and might even retain the children’s interest better that way. I’ve always loved working on creative side projects to distract me from client work and thought this would be both fun and potentially useful for the school. Perhaps even a few more schools, locally. I had no big plans beyond that.

“I met with the school’s SENCO and told her my idea, which she as was excited as I was. I had to do a lot of research, a lot of books, a lot of TED talks, blogs, articles, etc. I met with the SENCO several times to discuss my progress. The hardest part was to condense the script into 5 minutes, as English is my second language, I’m not a trained writer and most importantly, because there is so much to say about autism! The spectrum is so unforgivingly vast it seemed impossible keep it all in, everything seemed so relevant. But I knew from experience that this could only work if it was short enough to be feasible to finish on my own and also to retain the attention of small children.

“My prerogatives were: keep it short, only positive words, keep the language simple.

“It took me the best part of a year to get to a point that I thought I can start animating. But before doing so I ran it past the SENCO and reached out to Prof. Tony Attwood, a leading expert on autism who was really generous with his time and knowledge. He checked the script and storyboards and made some adjustments to the language. So I felt I had a proper seal of approval, which cheered me on. 

“As I moved on from writing to animation things got easier. I was in my element. I developed the characters, created the artwork, did some research for the look of the animation. The backgrounds and colours were inspired by old 1940s UPA animations, which I’ve always loved.

“For the music I asked London based musician Chris Harrington, he has always supported my animated projects with beautiful original compositions. The narrator is a Scottish actor called David Gant (Braveheart, Sherlock, Final Fantasy VII), who I’d met while working on the visual effects of feature film, The Fitzroy. He has a beautiful booming voice that is both authoritative and warm. The kind of voice that inspires trust. So I reached out and David kindly agreed to do it pro bono. Mike Avgeros also generously offered to let us use his recording studio for an hour on a weekend. 

“We released Amazing Things Happen in time for autism awareness month, then something amazing really did happen. By the second day the film had been seen thousands of times. I was over the moon with that, but after two weeks it was 5 million. It was all very surreal and very moving, as I got many beautiful messages of thanks from parents, teachers and – most importantly to me – from people who themselves have autism. So it has been very rewarding, more than I had ever imagined.

“Right now Amazing Things Happen has subtitles in 28 languages, it has been dubbed into 10 languages, apart from the French and German narrations, everything has been from contributions from people who’ve liked the project. And there are more foreign narrations coming, the former director for the Icelandic Autism Society has offered to do an Icelandic version, the Executive Director of OC Autism wants to do Vietnamese, Chinese, Korean, Tagalog and Hindu, there are offers to do Finnish, Norwegian, Portuguese, Arabic, Hebrew, Estonian, Japanese and Malay. And an animation studio in Bangladesh, who are connected with the Prime Minister’s daughter are recreating the animation with Asian themes.

“From the reaction it’s clear that there is an urgent need for this kind of material. I would also love to do more, so I am considering a crowd-funding campaign to develop a series in which children could tell their own story, describing their autism to us. Raising funds this way would mean I could work on this full time, rather than finding a spare hour here and there around my usual client work. There’s so much more to be said on the subject. And I figure that the only way to paint a portrait of something that has a million faces, is to paint as many pictures as possible!”

Additionally, Alex wrote the following to me in a separate email:

“In relation to how I visualised it, I think the fact that so many autistic people have felt it is an accurate depiction is sort of a fluke, I mean I did lots of research but I knew it wasn’t going to be accurate for everyone as the spectrum is so vast, so it felt like taking a gamble, I tried to be generic (too much detail in some parts, too little detail in others, too bright, too loud), while showing things that Neuro-Typical children can relate to, so they can put themselves in their shoes. Professor Tony Attwood came up with the idea of removing people’s faces to convey the fact that they can’t read people’s expressions, which I think is a great touch, even if it’s not obvious to people who see it, it is there. 

“It helped me a lot that I am a visual person, for instance I can’t remember a phone number but I can remember the pattern my finger draws as it types. Even my mental associations are visual, when I was reading “The Reason I Jump” as part of my research at some point it evoked a scene from The Man of Steel, were Superman as a child starts discovered his powers (well I say discovered but it looked more like they ran him over, the scene is terrifying), suddenly he can hear everyone at the same time, see everything too clear, too bright, too much, that’s how I imagine sensory overload. Unfortunately autistic people don’t have superman’s ability to control this, there’s no filter or off button.”

My thanks to Alex Amelines for offering this explanation of his work.  

Amazing Things Happen is something everyone should watch. I highly recommend you share this video with everyone you know!

Links: 

Alex Amelines Professional Site 

Amazing Things Happen Official Website.

Special Parents Confidential 47 Nurtured Heart Approach

Nurtured Heart Approach.

What is the Nurtured Heart Approach and how can it help? For many kids with special needs the ability to concentrate, even to sit still in class, is challenging. We’ve given lots of names to these issues: Attention Deficit Disorder. Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Difficult Kid, Problem Child. The list goes on… and if you think about it, it’s a very negative outlook on these children.

A Paradigm Shift.

Now there is a relatively new process of working with kids who have these issues that tries to do away with all that negativity. It’s called the Nurtured Heart Approach. It consists of a set of strategies that assists children in developing their self-regulation, and transforming the way children perceive themselves and the world around them. And it has created a huge amount of success by concentrating on positive behaviors instead of all the negative behavior.

For this episode we’re joined by Dr. William Rowell, a retired licensed Psychologist with Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services of Grand Rapids Michigan who has spent the last  years training parents, educators, foster parents, social workers, and law enforcement personnel in the Nurtured Heart Approach. He explains how the Nurtured Heart Approach works, why it’s more successful than other strategies, and how making a paradigm shift in your thinking will make all the difference for your special needs child.

Links Mentioned In This Episode.

The Children’s Success Foundation The website dedicated to the Nurtured Heart Approach and Howard Glasser, creator of NHA.

Children’s Success Foundation Practitioner’s List – Information on NHA certified trainers in America and around the world.

 Dr. William Rowell’s Page at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. 

Dr. Rowell’s Email:  william . rowell @ pine rest . org.  – be sure to remove the spaces.

Support Special Parents Confidential.

If you find this episode helpful, and if you have found other episodes on this site to be helpful as well, please consider investing in supporting Special Parents Confidential. We have our very own Pay Pal account linked on our home page on the right side below our logo. Or you can click on the “Support SPC” link on our page directory at the top of the site. Any amount you can contribute to help us continue these podcasts is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for listening.

Special Parents Confidential 46 Sensory Processing Disorder

Sensory Processing Disorder.

Virtually everyone has heard of sensory overload, and sensory issues. People who have problems with loud noises, large crowded areas, tastes, textures, strong smells, bright lights, the list goes on.

Not A Symptom of Something Else.

For decades sensory issues were simply considered a side-effect of whatever the more prevalent disorder was inhibiting the child, whether Autism Spectrum Disorder, ADHD, Dyslexia, Multiple Sclerosis, and other disorders. However medical research has proven that this is a separate disorder, called Sensory Processing Disorder.  And there is now a push to have it recognized by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – known as DSM – which is the official medical reference for physicians.

SPD Parent Zone.

My guest for this episode has first hand knowledge of Sensory Processing Disorder. Kelly Jurecko is the President and Co-Founder of SPD Parent Zone, a non-profit organization that offers a website that is full of reliable and credible information on Sensory Processing Disorder. She also hosts a blog and a podcast on the site where she posts articles and interviews experts on SPD and keeps people updated on the latest information.

If your child is having any kind of sensory issues, SPD Parent Zone is a website you need to bookmark and search.

Links Mentioned In The Episode.

SPD Parent Zone

SPD Parent Zone Podcast on iTunes

SPD Foundation – The Star Institute For Sensory Processing Disorder

The Sensory Processing Disorder Resource Center

Support Special Parents Confidential.

If you find this episode helpful, and if you have found other episodes on this site to be helpful as well, please consider investing in supporting Special Parents Confidential. We have a Pay Pal account linked on our home page on the right side below our logo. Or you can click on the “Support SPC” link on our page directory at the top of the site. Any amount you can contribute to help us continue these podcasts is greatly appreciated!

Thanks for listening.

Special Parents Confidential 44 Alix Generous

Alix Generous.

In 2015, a young woman named Alix Generous gave a Ted Talk speech that has subsequently had over 14 million views. The speech was entitled, “How I learned to communicate my inner life with Aspberger’s”, and in it Alix talks about her amazing life and how she has achieved so much.

Living With Aspberger’s Syndrome

As a child, Alix Generous was misdiagnosed with the wrong disorder and had a  great deal of difficulties. It wasn’t until the age of 11 that she was finally correctly diagnosed with Aspberger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of Autism. Since then she has made amazing progress.

At 17, she attended the College of Charleston, where she studied Psychology, Molecular Biology, and Neuroscience. When she was 19, she wrote a paper on Coral Reefs and Microbiology that won the 2012 Citizen Science Biodiversity Competition, and she subsequently was invited to speak at the United Nations on her research. Currently, Alix is working as a Neuroscientist, author, and tech consultant, and she gives speeches around the world on issues concerning science, mental health, STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) and women.

Alix Generous joins us on Skype for this episode of Special Parents Confidential to talk about her life and her work, as well as sharing insights into how people with Autism can be helped and supported.

She also discusses how parents, families, and society can benefit through understanding and acceptance of people with Autism and Aspberger’s Syndrome, as well as all people with any physical or developmental disabilities. As she says on the main page of her website:

“This world is in desperate need of creative and intellectual minds to solve complex problems. But before we can do that, we need to build a culture that accepts mental diversity.”

Links For Alix Generous

How I Learned to Communicate My Inner Life With Aspberger’s – Alix Generous’ Ted Talk Speech on the Ted Talk website.

Alix Generous Website 

Facebook Alix Generous Page

Twitter Account for Alix Generous

Special Parents Confidential 41 Understanding Learning Disorders Part 1

Understanding Learning Disorders Part 1.

ADD. ADHD. Dyslexia. Dysgraphia. Dyscalculia. Understanding learning disorders might be one of the most difficult challenges any parent can face. We’ve known about these disorders for centuries, and the medical names for them have been in place for decades. But there’s still a lot of misinformation and incorrect beliefs when it comes to learning disorders. And these incorrect beliefs can cause a lifetime of needless problems for those who have learning disorders.

This Episode Is Part One.

My guest for these episodes has such a large amount of information and research to share that the interview I recorded with him took over two and a half hours. I had to split the interview into two episodes because if I had tried to post the original recording in it’s entirety, the file size exceeds the limit that my web hosting service allows.

Dr. John McCaskill, of McCaskill Family Services in the Detroit, MI area, is a clinical psychologist who specializes in learning disorders. He’s spent years researching the causes and the affects of learning disorders, and has done extensive work in finding the right solutions and therapies. The one thing he makes clear is that so much of what we think we know about learning disorders is incorrect or misleading. Dr. McCaskill fully explains his methods of research and breaks down exactly how learning disorders affect those who have them.

Learning Differently.

In this first part of the interview, Dr. McCaskill discusses the many misconceptions and incorrect beliefs about learning disorders. People with learning disorders are not lazy. They’re not deliberately refusing to learn. They have, according to Dr. McCaskill, ‘glitches in the brain’ that causes them to learn differently, and given the correct methods, they can be educated just as successfully as those who don’t have those issues. He also goes into great detail about ADD and ADHD, what Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder is, and just as importantly, what it is not.

As I say in my introduction to this episode, what you’re about to hear is nothing short of a master class in learning disorders. 

Of course please be sure to share this episode with everyone you know. Just use the social media buttons at the bottom of this posting.

Further Information:

McCaskill Family Services, located in the Detroit Michigan Metro Area.

Special Parents Confidential Episode 37 Act Early.

Learn The Signs. Act Early. 

Autism is a growing concern for parents across the United States and around the world. It’s estimated that 1 in 68 children will be diagnosed as being on the Autism Spectrum. The good news is there are now more effective treatments and therapies than ever before, and there is more credible research and information that can help parents, educators, and medical professionals work effectively with children and adults with Autism to lead healthy and productive lives.

To help parents understand what Autism is and how to better monitor their children’s developmental milestones, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, commonly known as the CDC, has launched a new program website: Learn The Signs. Act Early From the website: 

“From birth to 5 years, your child should reach milestones in how he plays, learns, speaks, acts and moves. Track your child’s development and act early if you have a concern.”

In this episode of Special Parents Confidential, we talk to two guests from the CDC; Katie Green, who is project lead for Learn The Signs. Act Early, and Dr. Jennifer Zubler, who is a pediatric medical consultant for the CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental DisabilitiesYou’ll learn about how the program began, some of the milestones that your child should achieve, the importance of early diagnosis, and how to talk to your doctor or pediatrician if you are concerned about your child’s developmental progress.

Important Links From The CDC:

Learn The Signs. Act Early.

Developmental Milestones.

Printable Milestones Checklist pdf.

Amazing Me – It’s Busy Being 3! Parents, this book for children ages 2-4 will show you what to look for as your child grows and develops. Whether you read this story to your child online or have a hard copy of the book, ask your child to find the koala bears. Each page with a koala bear also has a star and milestone at the bottom just for you. See if your 3-year-old is able to do some of the same things as Joey.

What To Do If You’re Concerned.

The National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities. Resource website from the CDC with great information on many issues for parents of special needs children.

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