Tag Archives: Learning Disabilities

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.

A Sibling’s Perspective – Revisiting SPC Episode 31

A Sibling’s Perspective.

The Holidays always mean family visits, and with that in mind, we thought our episode on a sibling’s perspective would be a good one to repost. This episode is from October of 2015, when we interviewed Aubrey Boerma, who grew up with an older brother who has Autism.

What’s it like growing up with a special needs sibling? Do you have feelings of being ignored by your parents? Do you worry about how your special needs sibling will be treated by society or your friends in particular? Are you frustrated over how often you have to explain why your special needs sibling “acts like that”? 

As hard as it is to be a parent of a special needs child, it can also be just as hard to be a sibling of one. From having to attend numerous medical or therapy appointments, to missing out on school events or social events, many siblings feel like their lives have to take second place to the lives of the special needs child. Even into adulthood, some people carry resentments and anger over their relationships with their special needs siblings. 

There Are Answers.

In this episode of Special Parents Confidential, we talk to Aubrey Boerma, who has a brother with special needs. She also works with sibling youth support groups, helping child siblings learn to cope with their special needs brothers or sisters. Aubrey talks about how not all sibling relationships have to be difficult. For many people, having a sibling with special needs can be an incredible experience. You learn to be a much more patient and tolerant person with great empathy for all kinds of situations. Many siblings of special needs children, including Aubrey, say that their brother or sister are the best thing that happened to them. She also has suggestions for parents on how to help siblings talk about their relationships and their feelings toward their special needs brother or sister.

Links To Websites Mentioned In This Podcast:

The Sibling Support Project  Founded in 1990, the Sibling Support Project is the first national program dedicated to the life-long and ever-changing concerns of millions of brothers and sisters of people with special health, developmental, and mental health concerns. 

Sibling Leadership Network – Providing siblings of individuals with disabilities the information, support, and tools to advocate with their brothers and sisters and to promote the issues important to them and their entire families.

The Sibling Survival Guide – A “How To” guide to being an adult sibling of a special needs person. 

Growing Up With Ben – The Blog Post that Aubrey wrote about her life and relationship with her special needs brother.

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

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Colds and the Flu – Revisiting SPC Episode 48

Colds and the Flu – Revisiting SPC Episode 48

It seems like every year the season for colds and the flu gets longer. Whether you’re a parent of a special needs child or not, our kids are coming down with colds and the flu all year round – for that matter, so are we parents. But what exactly are colds and the flu? Did you know that they share some of the same symptoms? How do you tell them apart? What’s the difference between the flu and a 24 hour stomach bug? How do you treat these illnesses and what can you do if you have a special needs child that has sensitivities to medicines or has challenges with standard treatments?

Why Do Colds And The Flu Affect Kids Differently Than Adults?

For this episode of Special Parents Confidential we are joined again by our friend Dr. Patricia Schultz, who has some answers. Including ways that you can help treat kids who have aversions to medicines. She also talks about the warning signs for when your child might have something else going on instead of the cold or the flu, why dehydration is a huge concern for sick kids, and – most importantly – when it’s time to take your child to the hospital.

Always Call Your Doctor First.

You’ll hear great advice about how colds and the flu, as well as Noroviruses and other illnesses can affect babies and infants, toddlers, younger children, teenagers and adults.  As always, though, Dr. Schultz’s advice is merely for informational purposes only. If you have any concerns about your child’s health, be sure to contact your family health provider or pediatrician.

Links Mentioned In This Podcast.

The Oral Rehydration Solution from The World Health Organization

The Common Cold – What Parents Need To Know. From the American Academy of Pediatrics.

The Flu – Healthy Children from The American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Surviving The Stomach Bug – American Academy of Pediatrics. 

Kids Health – Vomiting 

Kids Health – Diarrhea

Support Special Parents Confidential

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Applied Behavior Analysis ABA – Revisiting SPC Episode 15

Applied Behavior Analysis. ABA.

In January of 2014 we posted episode 15 of Special Parents Confidential, in which we learned about Applied Behavior Analysis ABA. Our guest was Conny Raaymakers, who is a board certified behavior analyst. Her interview has become our most downloaded and listened to episode, with nearly double the listens of any other episode we’ve done. It’s even been cited in a text book on applied behavior analysis.

What Is ABA?

Applied Behavior Analysis or ABA is a term parents of special needs children hear a lot in schools, doctors offices, therapy centers, and just about anywhere our kids interact with people. Studies have shown that ABA can be used to help children as early as 18 months learn to cope with everything from social settings to the educational environment. ABA has been proven to be successful especially for children with autism and can be used to help kids with other disabilities and disorders.

New Contact Information.

However, since that interview took place, Conny has had some changes in her career. She is now the Director of ABA services at Developmental Enhancement Behavioral Health. Conny is a Behavior Analyst and Limited Licensed Behavioral Psychologist.  She talks about the history of Behavior Modification, the decades of research that has been done to study the effectiveness of the treatments, and clears up the misconceptions people have about Applied Behavior Analysis. Conny also discusses the drawbacks and problems with using alternative or ‘fad’ treatments, how to watch out for misleading claims and how to spot phony success stories.

Updated Links & Information

Developmental Enhancement Behavioral Health

Conny Raaymakers Profile Page

Email: craaymakers@debh.org 

Association for Behavior Analysis International

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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.