Tag Archives: Discrimination

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein – SPC Episode 30

Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein

We’ve decided to start off the new year by reposting what I think is one of the most inspiring interviews I’ve done. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

Blind Justice

In November of 2014 Richard Bernstein became the first blind attorney to be elected as a Justice to the Michigan Supreme Court. Or as he likes to say, “Blind Justice is now on the Michigan Supreme Court”.

Justice Bernstein was born blind and has risen far beyond whatever boundaries or limitations anyone could have imagined. He successfully sued against the Law School Admissions Council for the right to be admitted to law school, arguing that the LSAC test was visually biased due to their use of charts and graphs in the test. As a practicing attorney, he was a strong advocate for the rights of disabled people and special education. He’s also a marathon runner and has completed an Ironman Triathlon.

Special Education Advocate

However, he holds no illusions over how he was able to achieve so much. In his own words: “85% of the blind community is unemployed… If I hadn’t been born into the family I was born to, where I was so blessed to have the resources and opportunities and I was given the absolute best of everything, If I hadn’t been born into an affluent family, what I would honestly tell you is, that there’s no question that I would be part of that eighty-five percent of the unemployment rate. Because there’s really no difference between myself, and any other person with a disability… So I think that when you ask the question, ‘what are the biggest challenges that are currently impacting people with disabilities’, I would really venture to say that it’s primarily socio-economic.”

Improving, Not Cutting, Special Education Support.

In this episode he shares his thoughts on special education, disability laws and rights, and his ideas on the progress we’ve made as a society in dealing with individuals with disabilities. Take a listen to more of the thinking of one of the most amazing and inspiring people we’ve ever had the honor to interview. Michigan Supreme Court Justice Richard Bernstein.

As always a reminder that if you like this episode of Special Parents Confidential or any episode we’ve done, please share our site with your friends, family, and all your connections on social media. You can do this easily with the social media buttons located right below this paragraph. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, add us on Google Plus, Tumbler, Linked In, Pintrest, Stumble Upon, Reddit, or other social media sites that you use. You can also sign up for our email service and have new posts and podcast episodes delivered right to your inbox the moment they’re available online. That form is located to the right of this text. We’re also on iTunes, Stitcher, and Poddirectory as a free subscription and if you have a moment, feel free to write a review about our podcast on either of those sites. Anything you can do to help spread the word about Special Parents Confidential will help us be able to continue these podcasts.
Thanks for your support!

Links To Follow:

Richard Bernstein Profile On Michigan Courts Page

Justice Richard Bernstein Profile In Wikipedia

Justice Richard Bernstein Facebook Page

Profile Article on Justice Richard Bernstein In The Detroit News

 

Social Issues In School – Revisiting SPC Episode 08

Social Issues In School.

When we talk about issues that can cause anxiety for parents of special needs kids,  dealing with social situations in school and elsewhere is probably right at the top of the list.  Will our children be accepted or will they be teased or shunned? Will our kids be able to handle the day to day interactions in the class room, in the cafeteria, or on the playground? What about bullying? And what are we supposed to do when our kids experience problems with these situations? Many of these social issues in school start early in pre-school and elementary school and can cause a lifetime of stress and problems for parents and children alike.

Social Workers And How They Help.

For many schools the person who can help guide our kids through their day in school is the social worker. They’re also the person who parents can talk to for help with making sure their special needs child can fit into the various social situations and can offer advice that parents can use to reinforce the school’s expectations at home. They are also often the ones who work with the parents of other students to facilitate better communication and understanding.

Advice From A Real Elementary School Social Worker

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential is Chris Kenward, an elementary school social worker who has many years of experience dealing with both special needs students and general education students.  Many experts agree, the vast majority of social problems begin early in elementary school so the sooner a child with special needs can get help in dealing with social issues, the better their progress will be throughout their life. The information Chris shares here is vital for every parent of a special needs child, as well as for teachers, special education experts, care givers, and anyone who has a relationship with a special needs kid.

Links Mentioned In This Episode

Shut Up About Your Perfect Kid – The website by the authors of the book. Includes a page with links to where you can purchase a copy of their book.

Driven Story by Jon Singer  – The website of the Sibling Support Project, where you can see stories from the book and order a copy.

Views From Our Shoes – Sibling Support  – The website of the Sibling Support Project, where you can see stories from the book and order a copy.

Sibling Support – Revisiting SPC Episode 29

Sibling Support

The Holidays always mean family visits, and with that in mind, we thought the subject of Sibling Support would be a good one to repost. This is the first of two episodes on Sibling Support we did, back in July of 2015.

Being a parent of a special needs child requires a great deal of concentration and a lot of involvement. So much so that often if the special needs child has siblings, they can feel overlooked or forgotten. Another challenge is stress involving sadness or unanswered concerns about the special needs child, which can lead to greater problems as children grow into adulthood. 

Communication Is Key

The simple fact of the matter is, the sibling is going to have the longest relationship with a person who has special needs. Longer than the parents or any professional support person. Siblings can be the most important person a special needs child will have in his or her life. Yet for many families, parents don’t always communicate well with a sibling about the situation involving the special needs brother or sister.

How can parents prevent poor relationships with the rest of their children so that they are able to help advocate and care for their special needs sibling? One excellent way is to make sure your other children have support group help, like Sibling Support.

Groups That Can Help.

In this episode of Special Parents Confidential, John talks to Andrea Vugteveen, a Sibling Support Group facilitator with Family Tree Therapies in Grand Rapids, MI. Andrea talks about the problems that siblings often have in their relationships with their special needs brother or sister, as well as their parents. She discusses what siblings of special needs kids want, and offers advice on what parents can do to make sure the relationships are strong and healthy.

Links Mentioned In This Podcast

The Sibling Support Project

Sibs UK – Sibling support for the United Kingdom

The following PDF attachment has the above links, as well as book titles, and links to You Tube videos about Sibling Support. Download the PDF by clicking here: Sib Group Parent Resources  

The following PDF attachment is the letter for the Child Who Has A Sibling With Special Needs. Download the PDF by clicking here: Dear Child Of A Sib With Special Needs

As always a reminder that if you like this episode of Special Parents Confidential or any episode we’ve done, please share our site with your friends, family, and all your connections on social media. You can do this easily with the social media buttons located right below this paragraph. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, add us on Google Plus, Tumbler, Linked In, Pintrest, Stumble Upon, Reddit, or other social media sites that you use. You can also sign up for our email service and have new posts and podcast episodes delivered right to your inbox the moment they’re available online. That form is located to the right of this text. We’re also on iTunes, Stitcher and Poddirectory as a free subscription, and if you have a moment, please write a review about our podcast on either of those sites. Anything you can do to help spread the word about Special Parents Confidential will help us be able to continue these podcasts.
Thanks for your support!

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 53 be nice campaign.

be nice. 

A new program called the ‘be nice’ campaign has been started in West Michigan to help end bullying. One of the hardest issues to deal with for parents of special needs kids – as well as parents of any child – is bullying in schools and online. What do you do if your child is the victim of bullying? For that matter, what do you do if you discover your child is bullying other children?How far does bullying affect a child? What kinds of impact does this have on a child’s mental health? 

Learn About Mental Health.

Did you know that problems with bullying are the leading cause of suicide in children and teenagers? Bullying can also cause issues of depression, drug abuse, and other mental health problems that can affect people for their entire lives.

In this episode we’re going to talk to an expert in the subject of bullying. Christy Buck is the executive director of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, and they have a new program that offers a solution. It’s called the ‘be nice’ campaign and it’s designed to to help kids, families, schools, and communities work to understand and end bullying. We’ll also learn about mental illnesses, how to recognize when problems escalate to thoughts of suicide and what to do in these situations.

We also talk about the common myths and stigmas associated with bullying, depression, and mental health issues that can cause problems for kids as well as adults. For example, a person doesn’t need to ‘bottom out’ before they should get help. We discuss ways to overcome these myths and stigmas.  You’ll also learn how the ‘be nice’ campaign can be used by your school or other organizations.

Links Mentioned in the Podcast.

be nice. campaign official website

The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (website)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-8255.

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Revisiting Special Parents Confidential Episode 17 When Schools Say ‘No’.

Revisiting Episode 17 When Schools Say ‘No’.

It’s IEP Season and we’re revisiting past episodes on the Individualized Education Plan. Find out what you can do when schools say ‘no’.

Special Parents Confidential Episode 17 When Schools Say ‘No’.

In 1990 Congress passed IDEA, or Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which entitles each student with a disability to a free appropriate public education (FAPE) to meet his or her unique needs. Originally titled Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975 (EAHCA), it was based on Congress’ finding that the millions of children with disabilities had educational needs which were not being met due to a lack of services and inappropriate public school placement. IDEA set down guidelines for how schools and states were to implement special education procedures.

Unfortunately, there is a wide disparity across states as to how those guidelines should be implemented, or even interpreted. Similarly, school districts can even have differing standards for services they offer in special education. Simply put, IDEA allowed States and schools a lot of leeway in special education implementation, based on numerous issues including need, population, local economic factors, and other considerations.

The problem for parents is, this leeway in the implementation of procedures can sometimes allow States and school districts to restrict or even deny extra help for students who don’t fit the exact definition of a particular disability or learning disorder. School Districts and States are also cutting certain aspects of special education support from Education budgets as cost-saving measures. While districts and States aren’t outright eliminating Special Education, they do cut budgets for support programs, assistant teachers or para-pros who help in the classrooms, and other accommodations. The result is many parents are finding out that their children will perhaps get minimal help (the least allowed under regulations), but more often than not they hear the word ‘no’ when asking for additional help or support for their child.

So what can you do when your school or State says ‘no’?

Our guest in this episode has some answers. Suzanne Wilcox is the co-owner of Hope Educational Consulting, LLC a special education advocacy service based in Ohio and Michigan. She is also the mother of four children, two of whom needed special education support in school.  She explains how IDEA works, and how schools and states interpret those regulations. She also explains how ‘best practices’ can sometimes be overlooked due to budgeting, or availability issues.

During the time when she and her family lived in Ohio, she and her partners were instrumental in creating and passing legislation that allowed Ohio to become one of the first States in the country to recognize Dyslexia as a learning disability, and implemented official regulations on the kinds of therapies schools must offer to help students with Dyslexia. She has worked with parents, teachers, school districts, and legislators on numerous issues with special education.

Suzanne offers some great advice and information that all parents of special needs children need to know.  Please feel free to share this episode with everyone you know who has a child with special needs or works with children who have special needs.

* Note: first paragraph attribution to Wikipedia article on IDEA, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. For more information on IDEA, visit http://idea.ed.gov

Revisiting Episode 21 Special Parents Confidential IEP And The Law

Revisiting Episode 21 Special Parents Confidential IEP And The Law.

It’s IEP Season and we are Revisiting Episode 21 Special Parents Confidential IEPS And The Law.

Individualized Education Plans. IEPs for short. Possibly one of the most stressful times for parents of special needs children. IEP meetings are those annual events when parents meet with schools to plan out the kinds of help and services their special needs children are going to receive for the next school year.

IEP meetings are very long, sometimes taking two hours or more, and usually filled with terminology that can sometimes be overwhelming. Parents are expected to understand a huge amount of information and make decisions on what kind of educational support their child will receive in the next grade year. The problem is for many of us, we don’t even know how our kids are going to do from week to week, much less three or four months later, after the entire summer break.

Typically the schools bring in the teacher, the special education teacher, any school therapists, the school social worker, and the Principal or Vice Principal of the school. Sometimes the school or district psychologist will attend, sometimes the district’s Director of Special Education will also attend. There can be as many as ten to fifteen people representing the school in these meetings. It is very easy for parents to feel ‘ganged up on’ or intimidated, especially when there is often only one or two parents in the room.

This is where Attorney Advocates can help. Lawyers who work in special education advocacy and mediation are trained in all areas of special education law. They can be the parent’s voice in the room and they know exactly what the laws are in what the school should be doing for your child and whether your concerns are being addressed.

Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential is Attorney Randi Rothberg who’s firm, Thivierge & Rothberg is a Special Education Law Firm based in New York City. She and her partner, Christina Thivierge focus exclusively on representing families of children with special needs, including attending IEP meetings, mediation, Due Process, and, when necessary, litigation in the State and/or Federal Courts. She talks about some of the problems that can arise when parents face an IEP meeting, how to prepare for those meetings, what to watch out for when you’re faced with things you don’t agree with in an IEP, and how to look for an advocate in your area. Randi also does advocacy work for issues of bullying in schools and discusses addressing those situations.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER:

Some of the legal issues Randi discusses are general, however some points, such as the “Parent Member in IEP meetings” are specific to New York State and may not apply in your State, or Country. Please consult a Special Education and Disability Law Attorney or Special Education Advocate in your area for complete information on your State laws and your rights.

Here are the links mentioned in the podcast:

Thivierge & Rothberg PC – Representing children and adolescents with disabilities in New York & New Jersey

COPPA – Council of Parent Attorneys and Advocates

Wrights Law – Special Education Law and Advocacy