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.
Death and grief are subjects that are often overlooked at the holidays. Celebrations can be difficult for families who have recently experienced a loss. Adults and children experience grief in different ways, especially children with special needs. The important thing to remember is there is no time-frame for ‘getting over it’ or even the so-called ‘sense of closure’ (which often never happens). With that in mind, we invite you to listen again to episode 32 from January of 2016, to get some great advice on coping with grief.
Death is one of those subjects that few people want to talk about, yet everyone will experience. For children, death, and the grief that comes with it, can be very hard to talk about. Many kids, even teens, don’t have the abilities or the tools to adequately express their emotions. And when a child has special needs that can make expressing emotions, or even basic communication challenging, the lasting effects of dealing with death and grief can be devastating.
Children Experience Grief Differently.
As parents, it’s sometimes easy to forget that our kids are upset when we face the loss of a parent, grandparent, sibling, or family friend. We see them playing together at funerals and think to ourselves that they’re okay. Sometimes it’s not till days or weeks later that the emotional problems begin to show themselves. Death and grief are difficult to understand for children, no matter what the age.
Support Groups Can Help.
Fortunately there are groups and organizations that exist for the sole purpose of helping children deal with death and grief. One such group is Ele’s Place, in Michigan. Our guest on this episode of Special Parents Confidential is Kelly Ahti, one of the program directors for Ele’s Place in Grand Rapids. She talks about the challenges of how grief can affect children of all ages from toddlers to teenagers. Kelly also has ideas of what parents and relatives can do to help kids deal with their emotions and get through the difficulties and sadness that occurs.
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!
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.
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!
Last spring we talked to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about their Learn The Signs, Act Early, program to help parents better understand if their child has Autism.
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.
Learn The Signs. Act Early. From The CDC.
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 Disabilities. You’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.
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.
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, Tumblr, Linked In, Pintrest, Stumble Upon, Reddit, or other social media sites that you prefer. 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, TuneIN, 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 services. 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!
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.
A Reminder:Please share Special Parents Confidential with your friends, family, and 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, Tumblr, Linked In, or other social media sites. 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, Google Play, Stitcher, TuneIN, Poddirectory, Blog Talk Radio, and other podcast directories as a free subscription. Additionally, please consider writing a review about our podcast on any of those services. 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!
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.
“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 nowAmazing 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 toAlex 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!
Find out how the Michigan Alliance For Families, and other similar organizations around the United States can help you negotiate special education services for free.
What Is The Michigan Alliance For Families?
Trying to get help with the special education process can be very difficult, and potentially expensive. There are dozens of advocacy service businesses and legal firms that specialize in handling IEPS for families. There are hundreds of books you can buy. Seminars you can attend. Personal counseling services. The list goes on.
But did you know that some of the best help for negotiating special education services is available for free from your own State government? Every State in America has what’s known as Parent Information and Training Centers that offer help in everything from early intervention, to writing an IEP, to legal support, transitioning issues, and beyond.
Free Is A Nice Price.
Here in Michigan, the Parent Center is called the Michigan Alliance For Families. They offer parent-mentors… these are parents of special needs children… who have been trained to coach other parents to work with schools and get the help that their children need.
Our guest for this episode is Kelly Orginski, who is the executive director of the Michigan Alliance For Families. She explains how the Michigan Alliance came together, how the parent-mentors are trained and work with families, and how they can help. She also talks about what parents can do to help themselves with the negotiations, and where to find help from similar organizations in other States.