Activities To Teach Tolerance And Break The Bullying Chain


Bullying is an issue that almost every child will experience at least once by the time they finish high school. Special needs children unfortunately are victims of bullying repeatedly. They tend to be targets for bully’s. Roughly 65% of children who are bullied struggle with special needs. This creates a double whammy of sorts.

Special needs children struggle with negative self efficacy, poor self-esteem and other issues due to their challenges and feeling different. Being bullied exacerbates negative feelings they already possess about themselves. Their negative experiences with peers creates psychological and emotional issues that they will carry into adulthood.

Bullying a child is not only defined as physical abuse. It can be verbally attacking a child’s intelligence, physical attributes, motor skill abilities, mimicking their speech, making fun of an emotional meltdown, social behaviors that peers deem as odd and more. True, a physical punch can leave a bruise. On many occasions verbal or emotional abuse leaves an internal bruise that is not visible to the naked eye, yet may take years to heal or worse yet never heal, causing issues that are carried into adulthood.

Bullies tend to target children who display a weakness in some area. Children may be smaller, weaker, fearful, anxious, lack the physical, verbal or emotional capabilities to stand up to a bully. Or the bullied child may be a peace seeker who sees the positive in others. Many times, special needs kids lack the skills to defend themselves. There is an imbalance of power., survival of the fittest. Your child may not have the capability to comprehend they are being bullied.

I know first hand how painful it is for a parent to observe their special needs child being bullied. I have experienced it first hand. Observing my son with Aspergers/ ADHD being bullied as a child was heartbreaking for me as well as him. After all, parents wish to take away their child’s pain and sadness. Observing your child being bullied and feeling like your hands are tied behind your back is a horrific feeling.

Combining my experience in the classroom and personal experience on the home front experiencing bullying propelled me to develop a game plan, both in the classroom and at home.

Many articles suggest finding a safe person to go to, a teacher, principal, school monitor or lunch personnel at the school. In my observation this has not proven successful. Many children fear telling an adult that they are being bullied. The child fears worse abuse if the bully witnesses them telling an adult about their experience or find out.

In my classroom I developed a plan of action:

A locked metal box with a slot was placed in the school office. Children could drop a note in the box alerting me of abuse. I was the only individual with a key. Thus once notes were anonymously placed in the box, I was the only person who could unlock it. I checked it at the end of each day. In doing so, I was made aware of and able to observe certain students in action so I could address the issue. The bully never knew who told on them. The abused child stayed anonymous to the bully allaying fears of repercussions as a result of disclosing the identity of their abuser.
Parents were encouraged to email me with information. Hence, assisting me in nipping issues and resolving the issues by alerting me to observe certain children. Developing class discussions according to issues that occur during the day are of the utmost importance.

I would keep an open ear and eye  to comments or altercations that happened during the day and incorporate them into a circle discussion that I had everyday. An example in point: I had a student in my class who possessed emotional challenges. I heard another child call him bad and stupid. First and foremost, the word bad was banned in my classroom. I taught the students that there are no bad children, only children who make mistakes.

Using my mantra of not singling out the bullied child publicly , I started circle by stating how we all make mistakes. I encouraged each child to tell us about a time they made a mistake. It was quite successful. I role modeled the safety of admitting our mistakes by starting with me.

I told the children in circle how I went to a drive through bank machine. I was in a rush. I repeatedly put my ATM card in the ATM slot. The bank machine repeatedly spit it out. I was confused and checked my bank card attempting to figure out why the ATM would not accept it. I realized that I had been inserting my health insurance card in the slot, not my bank card as I thought I was.

This was met by the kids with roars of laughter as I said, “see, even grown ups make mistakes”. What occurred here? I modeled my own willingness to admit my error. This in turn assisted the students in their willingness to admit their errors as well. This was a lesson in tolerance for others and an appreciation for human imperfection.

Preventing bullying starts with role models. It is one thing to speak about bullying, it is another to create an action oriented plan which models empathy ,social skills and the importance of good character.

After spending some time reading books on bullying, people who have disabilities and books on character building. We created a kindness box. The intent here was to go beyond talking about kindness and teach the children how to become more altruistic, empathetic and tolerant.

The kindness box was created from a shoe box. It had a small slit in the top. The children decorated it as a team . They wrapped it in shiny tin foil, decorated it with stickers, glued sea shells on it and what ever other items they chose to use. By allowing them to decorate it, it became (their) box. It was their classroom and I was the coach. If children have involvement in projects versus the teacher dictating the whole design, they are more responsive and take more pride in their project.

The children were encouraged to drop a note in the box when they witnessed another student performing a good deed. My only rule was that they could not sign their comments. I was attempting to teach students how to give anonymous comments and learn to enjoy the happiness their comment gave to another student. My goal was to reinforce that if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all. Children were encouraged to drop a note in the kindness box if a child assisted another child in tying their shoes, assisted a struggling learner with a project, picked up an item off the floor if another dropped it etc.

On Fridays, we sat in a circle and I opened the box and I read the kindness notes out loud mentioning the name of the recipient who performed the good deed. Applause for recipients was encouraged. The recipient was given their note to take home and cherish. I monitored the kindness box during the week, out of my students sight to make sure every child had a note in it.

I was aware that children could be left out and not receiving a kindness note, particularly special needs kids. This was not going to be a popularity contest as it would defeat the purpose of this activity. If a child did not have a note in the box, I would write one in childish scrawl to ensure all experienced the feeling of gratitude.

This became an extremely popular activity and created a larger sense of camaraderie in the classroom. When students heard the comments pertaining to their special needs peers, it opened typically developing kids eyes to the special needs peers talents. It caught on so well, that I found quite a surprise in the kindness box. The children started writing positive comments about me as well. My most memorable note in the kindness box said, “Miss Mari is a good teacher, she cares about us” A memorable moment I cherish.

Reading books and exploring various disabilities at the beginning of the school year can assist children in understanding the concept of differing abilities within their environment. Allowing time to discuss the strengths and similarities to neurotypical peers and not merely the differences can assist the children in understanding that classmates may have different challenges and come in all shapes and sizes, yet in the end they are all children who possess emotions, needs  wanting to belong within their peer group. By reading various books and providing discussions and activities, children who do not wish to discuss their issues are not singled out.

Children’s individual wishes and choices should always be respected. If children wish to do so, allowing them, their parents or both to speak in the class regarding their disabilities is a positive way to teach other students about differences and diagnosis. I myself personally believe being open about a child’s diagnosis in some form is important. However, it is imperative that the diagnosis is used only to gain an understanding regarding the child’s needs. Methods of approach to learning and learn about their differences and strength. If a child does not wish to publicly speak about the diagnosis perhaps the parent could speak to the teacher privately.

Remember, children learn what children see. No one is born a bully. Modeling good character, acceptance, tolerance and altruism can break the cycle. Creating buddy systems within the classroom can breed teamwork. When choosing children for teams I made sure no one was left out. Children will tend to line up next to a friend when teams are chosen. When they lined up I would call out random numbers from number one on up. ie 1 and 4 in line would be on the same team etc. I would switch my random number choices each time we did an activity so friends never knew what order I would choose in picking teams. The end result was a mixture on teams of children who possessed varied abilities and NO ONE was left out.

Special needs kids need to have a sense of belonging. Involve them in some type of club or group where they have interaction with other children. In my son’s case, we had school band in his IEP with intent to have it incorporated in his whole school program as it was his only time that he socialized in an extracurricular format with peers. Invite one child over to your home who shares an interest with your child. Make the visit short while gradually increasing socialization.

I have included a link to another article that I wrote long ago as well. It is a long-term project done in my classroom to teach empathy.   I do not normally provide dual links within my blog. I do think both articles are interconnected in this case.

  MY STUDENTS TAUGHT ME ABOUT COMPASSION http://wp.me/p2PTZP-39 

Bullying should never be tolerated, it is unacceptable. As adults we need to create plans to break the bullying chain. Especially for special needs kids. We need to be their voice when they do not have one.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

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Special Needs Kids : Looking Beyond The Deficits


Special Needs, how can this word be defined? On one hand, it is perceived as deficiencies. The focus is on what the child cannot do. This broad term can be indicative of emotional, physical, cognitive and sensory issues. These challenges may present themselves individually. Individuals can present with co-morbid (more than one) challenges and very frequently do.

When my son was a child, I tended to focus on his special challenges to the extent that I was not noting the child who he truly was. He was a child just like any neurotypical child with gifts and talents. I needed to look deep enough to see them. My constant focus on his deficits created a blind eye to his talents. Talents that pleaded to be honed by educators and I alike. Talents that needed to be nurtured as much as accommodations were needed in order for him to learn and thrive.

Accommodations – behavioral, in school and society at large are of the utmost importance. However, noting and honing a child’s skills that they do possess is important as well. It is quite a balancing act to embrace a special needs child’s implicit skills yet create necessary  accommodations simultaneously.

In noting a child’s skills, deficits may be modified through use of (compensatory strategies) their strong areas to compensate for their challenges. For instance, a child who processes information through auditory modality versus visually could be provided with a tape versus a book. A child who has motor skill challenges can be can respond to test questions verbally, versus writing the answers manually. If a child has issues focusing because they are in constant motion, provide them with a stretchy cord that they can manipulate when attempting to sit still.

My point in a nutshell is to remember that a special needs diagnosis should not make us focus on what the child cannot do. I perceive a special needs diagnosis as a child in need of learning and functioning in a different manner, not a child who cannot learn or function. If a blind child is taught braille they are capable of reading. If a child is deaf, they can learn sign language or lip-reading.

If a child lacks the capability to express themselves verbally, they can be provided with a computer program which will provide them a voice. As one can see, their challenges can be overcome with the right accommodations. Children will learn in their own way, at their own pace, at their own personal comfort level and time frame, not parameters that we as a society set for them. Individuals with special needs are individuals, just like everyone else. We need to respect that. Our children must be given license to follow life’s path that works for them, not one that is determined by parents, professionals and society.
In order to note the strength’s in special needs individuals, it is important to pack away societal heuristics (beliefs that individuals develop through the media, daily interactions etc.) Of what normal is. These perceptions are extremely skewed. These personal perceptions and belief systems can thwart our ability to see the talents and possibility in an individual with challenges.

My comments are based on both my experience as a professional educator and bringing ups sons with an array of medical and developmental challenges such as Asperger’s Syndrome, A.D.D. Processing challenges, mapping issues, motor skill challenges and more.

What have I learned along the path from my sons diagnoses to adulthood? I have learned to not compare my children to neurotypical Johnny who lives down the street, the child who learned to tie their shoes with ease and much younger then my child with motor skill challenges. Learn he did, just later than most. Through these experiences, I let go of my sense of perfectionism and vision of who my children should be. I realized that who they were destined to become was their path in life not mine.

By learning to model my own challenges I learned to teach my kids how to accept theirs. How would they accept and be comfortable in their own skin if I did not do so? After all, when they struggled with challenges, I needed to teach them how to fall on their metaphorical face and get back up through example. Learning to display my own faults with acceptance helped them accept theirs.

After my early period of mourning the child we did not have. Or, shall I say, the child I conjured up in my mind while carrying the baby in utero who was not to be. I learned to embrace and accept the wonderful children that I was blessed with. They have taught me more than I taught them. I have learned acceptance of all individuals looking beyond perceived flaws.

I have learned perseverance, patience, tolerance and an appreciation of the world that I would not possess without having the experience of parenting special needs kids. When milestones were met, I reveled in the new-found skills learned because I never expected them to be acquired. I am extremely adaptable and surprisingly appreciative of the (smaller) things in life from expecting the unexpected. These experiences carry out into my interactions with society at large.

My children created a sense of love in me through conquering challenges that has caused me to receive and give unconditional acceptance. I have realized that my children are different from the dreams I conjured up in the hallows of my mind. I have learned that they are not meant to become who I wish them to become. Thus, living my dreams vicariously through them. They are individuals and have their path. I have mine which is separate from my children’s.

Remember that we all have special needs. There is not an individual on this planet who is infallible, has no challenges or never makes mistakes. The biggest gift we can give our children is to accept them for who they are. Coach them to be as successful as possible in life, yet be cognizant of their special challenges.

Last but not least, the most important thing you can do is love them. When all is said and done, isn’t our child’s happiness the most important component? You will struggle when your special needs child struggles but you will also share in the joy of their accomplishments as well. Particularly the accomplishments your child was never expected to excel at. And excel they will. Not by your standards, educators standards or society at large but by theirs and theirs alone.

They say that God gives special needs children to special parents. I do not believe that for a minute. I believe fate gave me my children for a reason. I was not the special one. My kids MADE me special. They were sent here because I had a thing or two to learn and boy have they TAUGHT me. Thanks to my sons for being my greatest teachers, you have struggled with challenges and I have had the honor of watching you grow into admirable young men despite the odds. Your strength and ability to defy the odds is admirable. My sons, you are my heroes.

Special needs parents, never give up hope. Expect the unexpected and you may be surprised how far your child will develop, thrive and defeat the odds. BELIEVE ALWAYS………………

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

Helping My Child With Autism Learn To Play


My child has autism and does not play.

I have heard this statement from parents and educators. In my personal observation of children on the Spectrum I have come to the conclusion that they like to play and like toys. Their p[lay style is on their own terms and is directly related to their level of emotional and cognitive functioning. As with neurotypical children, each child with autism comes equipped with their own personality, challenges, and learning style.

These children play with toys, it is in a different format then neurotypical children but they do enjoy playing just like any other child. When choosing toys for children with autism it is important to take into account that they very frequently have difficulty with social interactions.

The child has a concrete style of thinking which often hinders using their imagination. Hence, make believe and dress up clothes may gather dust in the corner. Take into account that interactive play requires mimicking others, reciprocal play, and responding to other individuals are difficult for children on the spectrum.

Choose toys that match your child’s developmental level, skill – set, level of cognitive functioning and motor skill level. Do not force toys on them that you perceive as appropriate for neurotypical children. Always take your child’s needs into account, not what neurotypical Johnny down the street is playing with.

Play can be a challenge for children with autism. However, with the right choices their social skills, motor skills, analytical skills and more can be honed. Never underestimate your child. They may not verbalize frequently but their mind is thinking.

If you think about it, it takes quite a bit of thought to line up blocks in a color coded pattern. It takes thought to line up hot wheels cars in a row according to make and model that spans from your kitchen to the living room. If we look closely, toys are not generally lined up in a helter skelter fashion. Planning on the child’s part is involved in their creations.

To reinforce social interactions with children on the spectrum, sit next to them when they are playing with a toy. Neurotypical children develop interactive skills naturally as they develop and mimic others. . To enhance your autistic child’s interactive skills during playtime mimic them instead.

Sit near the child and allow enough personal space where they do not feel stressed. If your child is spinning wheels on a toy car, pick up a toy car and imitate the child by spinning the wheels as well. In mimicking the child, interactive social play is modeled in a non threatening way. If your child is banging on a toy drum imitate their lead by banging the same beat on a drum as well.

Talk about what you are doing to reinforce interactive conversation and provide words for actions.. The child may not speak but they do hear you even if no eye contact is made. Gradually, you may be able to use one toy. Create and action with it, then offer the toy to your child to imitate your action and model sharing. Remember, baby steps always baby steps. As your child learns one skill, then and only then, provide a safe challenge one step above their newly acquired skill. This is called layering. The challenge is called a safe challenge because it is a skill they most likely can handle without having it backfire. If new challenges are to difficult, the child will become frustrated and use avoidance in the future.

If your child responds to your challenges provide immediate rewards. Initially, use stickers, a cookie or whatever works with your child in addition to verbal praise. All children love praise, autistic or not. Eventually, verbal praise may be sufficient as the child develops mastery over playing. Always let your child guide regarding how much interaction they can process. Fluctuate between playing with you and giving them space to prevent meltdowns. Keep the sessions short and gradually add five minutes on occasionally.

Jack in the boxes are great toys for modeling cause and effect. Initially the child may prefer solitary play. Offer them the Jack in the box and perhaps merely provide hand over hand to teach them how to wind the crank. I equate this as a form of peek a boo for children with autism. It provides the same learning of cause and effect yet in a style that your child may embrace. In the human peekaboo version, Mom covers and uncovers her eyes and yells peekaboo. With a Jack in the box, the child winds the crank and Jack pops out. Jack is then stuffed back in the box and disappears. In both cases the child learns object permanence.

Now on to some of my favorite toys for children on the Autism Spectrum:
Toys R Us Has a Great List Of Ten Toys For Children With Autism. Take A Look And Happy Playing.

Top Toys for Autistic Children | Toys”R”Us

 

Remember; always adapt your child’s learning style, personality, capabilities and even present frame of mind into choosing toys and attempting to model skills to your child. Respect when they need to have solitary play. It may not be apparent but they are learning as they line up blocks in a straight line, jump on a trampoline, (sensory stimulation and more. Never underestimate your child. Even if they cannot speak they are most certainly processing their surroundings. The child may not look you directly in the eye but they hear you. Your child learns from you and their environment constantly even if they do not appear to do so.

Have faith in yourself and your child. They will make progress, merely on their time frame and way, not yours.

 

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

 
 
 
 

Aspergers Syndrome: Your Child Is Not A Diagnosis


 

  Your child has Aspergers, any parent who has received a diagnostic label for their child will relate. The day your child received a diagnosis will be frozen in a permalink of memory banks for eternity. I recall Wanting to inhale information on the topic. I initially focused on the diagnosis and symptoms. My goal was to re-mediate developmental and cognitive deficits connected to my sons diagnosis.
I was blessed to have a friend who’s son was diagnosed with A.D.H.D. and Aspergers as a child. I was a newbie at learning disabilities attempting to help my young son. My friend’s son was an adult. Her wisdom and experience was invaluable to me.
Upon discussing my challenges as a parent of a newly diagnosed child, my friend shared her seasoned wisdom with me. She told me that I would be inclined to read every book that related to Aspergers Syndrome and scour every article that I could find on the topic.
My friend stated, “Look, your son is not terminally ill, he has a learning disability. It is not the end of the world. He will succeed with your support, love and belief in him” And success will occur, merely on the child’s terms and time-table, not ours. Success will be defined by their individual terms as well, not the defined parameters for success by the neurotypical society at large.
My friend was correct. She then told me to forget about the books ,searching the information highway and enjoy my son for who he was. She told me not to ever focus on his diagnosis. My child was the same person he had been before he received a diagnostic level. Just like neurotypically developing children, he had his individualized personality and quirks that everyone else in society has. My friend emphatically encouraged me to focus not only on deficits but his strength’s that were already present as well. This was the best advice that I ever received.

For sure, diagnostic labels are important. A diagnosis allows an individual to receive services that address their specific needs, identify what modalities the child learns with and where deficits occur that warrant support. i.e. some children learn through auditory (hearing) yet struggle with learning through visual (seeing) modalities. Some children struggle with receptive (taking in words) speech, yet struggle with expressive (speaking and descriptive) speech patterns.
A diagnosis definitely is important. However, we must be careful to use the diagnosis for relating and reaching the child not to handicap them. A child may have learning challenges, yet through therapeutic support can learn compensatory (compensating for areas where the child may have challenges) strategies that help them achieve goals and milestones through taking advantage of their strength’s and modifying learning strategies.
Individuals with Aspergers merely learn compensatory strategies as they grow and silently struggle daily with their difficulty communicating, working with, and living with the neurotypical population. Aspergerers is a neurological disorder which effects many aspects of their daily lives. Because they tend to have normal to above normal I.Q.s, society perceives them as merely quirky loners. My experiences and opinions conveyed in this article are not internet and research related. They are resultant from bringing up a son who lives with Aspergers daily.

Johnny may have Aspergers Syndrome but his name is NOT Aspergers, it is Johnny.
Aspergers is not outgrown, nor curable. Why would we want to cure them anyway. Aspergers is not a disease and Aspergians do not need to be fixed. They are the analytical thinkers of our world, inventors, engineers, scientists, actors, mathematician’s, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children. We can thank Aspergians for many great contributions in the world.
Some of the individuals thought to have or have been confirmed with Aspergers or high functioning autism are:
The world-renowned Temple Grandin: An author of many books that have expanded and awakened the world’s knowledge and acceptance of autism. She is also a food handling systems designer, and much much more. Miss Grandin has given the autism community a great deal of respect and reduced the stigma associated to the autism spectrum through her candor regarding her life and public presence as a professional
James Durbin: American idol contestant He brings us the gift of music through his wonderful voice
Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft whose gift for technology brought us Microsoft. FYI without Mr. Gates wonderful development of Microsoft we would not be interacting with the world through in a literal millisecond via electronic communication.
Thomas Edison: He was the forefather of inventing the light-bulb, phonograph, and motion pictures.
Albert Einstein: His theory of relativity unlocked the mysteries of the world and set fort a path of exploration for future scientists.
John Elder Robison: Author of many books such as “Look Me In The Eye” Through his brave willingness to publicly tell his story from childhood to adulthood, he became a role model for other individuals on the spectrum. He exemplifies the ideology that yes; Aspergians strive for and do experience success within society.
Dan Akeroyd: He is brought a gift of humor and entertainment into many lives at times when they did not think they could laugh.
Holly Peete, and Toni Braxton: Just to name a few stars who have become awesome advocates for the autism community as a result of having children on the spectrum. They are perhaps the most humble and grounded public personalities in the entertainment business. Hence, my comment earlier that we can learn as much if not more from our children on the spectrum than they learn from us.
Last but not least, an individual with Aspergers that is my hero and famous in my eyes. My young adult, determined, creative, electronics whiz son. He will always be a celebrity in my eyes:-0)
I could ramble on in regards to all the wonderful people who have Aspergers or are assumed to have it but would end up with a novel here. I believe I have made my point and you the reader get the idea.
I leave you with a thought to ponder. If Thomas Edison had been “cured” or shall I say “fixed” according to societal expectations we would be living in darkness, we would not have music cd’s which he paved the way for with the invention of the phonograph. We would not have movies on demand which were born from his interest in developing motion pictures. Without Bill Gates our ability to communicate thoughts via electronic technology would be minimal or nil.
Without the Holly Peetes and Toni Braxton’s of the world who use their fame within a positive venue to better the world for the autism community due to their wonderful children, awareness Autism awareness would be minimal. John Elder Robison breeds acceptance and takes away stigma through his wonderful books and public speaking. Without Dan Akroyds gift of humor, the world would be a sadder place.
James Durbin’s voice can light up a room. Without crooners like him we would miss the gift of music. Without the Temple Grandins of the world we would miss out on an exemplary human being and role model who not only spreads awareness and knowledge of the autism community but spreads knowledge for the neurotypicals who work and play side by side with these fine individuals. Heck, with out Aspergians, Silicon Vally would be the equivalent of a ghost town, we would not have social media such as Facebook and there is a high likely hood that an Aspergian was involved in development of this computer that I presently pen my blog on.
The Aspergian child who over focuses when young will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child resultant from their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers. i.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.

The old phrase, “One cannot tell a book by it’s cover” is an appropriate analogy here. I can equate their issues with a cast. When one sees an individual with a cast, they know that individual has a broken bone. In regards to Aspergers, these individuals look like functioning neurotypicals on the exterior. I will now explain that is not the case.
The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more.
Some Aspergians will struggle with math due to processing difficulties yet flourish in reading and vice versa. News flash – No not all Aspergians are mathematicians and engineers. Although they unfortunately get type casted do to the heuristics of society. Their talents and deficits are as individualized as neurotypicals.
Focus on what a gift your children are. Embrace their individuality. Do not typecast them into a conjured belief system regarding the strides they will make. No one has a crystal ball – professionals or otherwise that can predict an outcome for children as adults. Believe in them as the kids will believe in you. Remember the self fulfillment prophecy. Children will become what is expected otf them whether negative or positive.
Identify and embrace your child’s gifts. Observe the whole child, not merely segments of their character. The goal is to help children hone their individual gifts and turn those talents into a productive skill – set that will ensure that they experience the taste of sweet success and positive self efficacy as adults. Challenge children and be their strength when they do not realize it is there.
1) Teach your child self-help skills. Do not enable them by doing for them what they can learn to do for themselves with the right support.
2) Identify your child’s talents. Seek out specialized group oriented programs that will reinforce their talents. All children benefit from belonging to groups with similar minded children in attendance. It gives them a sense of belonging and hones social skills.
Search programs that address your child’s deficiencies yet challenge them at the same time. A good place to research is http://www.autism-society.org/
Autism Society of America

And http://www.aspergerssociety.org/
Asperger syndrome behavior and signs of aspergers in children and adults. … successful life as a productive member of society … with the information, tips and …
# The primary mission of ASAF is to raise and allocate funds to address the many unanswered questions about autism. ASAF sponsors work as diverse as the …

Your child may have Aspergers, they are still part of a familial group. Balance their needs with the rest of family members. Giving them special treatment will not prepare them to venture out into the world as adults. Special treatment will merely be resultant in a grandiose mindset where they will have difficulty with adult challenges and demands and delayed gratification. Remember, the baby bird’s mother kicks it out of the nest when it is time to fly.
The baby bird does not realize it can fly until it is in mid-air, spreads it wings and moves on. This analogy is similar with children. We must always parent with the ultimate goal of jettisoning our children towards the adult world they will all eventually join.
In closing, and as a parent of an adult son, a young man who incites my passion for children on the autism spectrum and is my hero with Aspergers (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers) I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes many children on the Aspergers spectrum will grow up to be successful. You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Aspergers will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults.

The reader will note that I have used the term Aspergers Syndrome throughout my article. I am cognizant of the fact that DSMV has swallowed Aspergers into an umbrella term of Autism Spectrum Disorder. I will continue to use the term Aspergers. I believe an umbrella term is beneficial in terms of assisting an individual with more services. However, the spectrum is large and varied. Hence the reason it is called a spectrum. To lump all on the spectrum together would be akin with placing a blind child and a deaf child under an umbrella term that I might call sensory disability. Both have issues with senses yet one would not provide the same therapeutic treatment plan for the blind child and deaf child. Their plans would obviously need to be narrowed down according to their specific disabilities in order to assist them. This is merely my opinion.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

Empowering Children With Special Needs


As the parent of two children who grew up with learning disabilities, motor skill delays, processing challenges, health issues and more, I know first hand how difficult it is two empower our children. On many occasions, I had the urge to give in to all of their demands and requests, perform all tasks for them and climb metaphorical mountains rather than witness tears in my children’s eyes, frustration and meltdowns. After all, every parent wants their child to be happy and carefree.

Unfortunately, the reality is that every small child will inevitably become an adult. As parents, we need to step back and remind ourselves that the ultimate goal is to assist children as they travel the road to independence. Depending on a child’s ability level, what is deemed as independent will differ. However, our goal should be to strive for assisting children towards the most independent lifestyle feasibly possible.

Provide safe challenges. A safe challenge is defined as a skill level slightly ahead of where they presently are. These types of challenges are realistic and tasks the child will most likely achieve successfully. If a task is slightly above their present skill – set and the child masters the skill, they will feel a sense of empowerment. As their positive self efficacy rises, the child will feel confident regarding moving to the next level and the next.

Expectations that are presented in baby steps will have the best possibility of resulting in success. If the task is extremely advanced and far removed from the child’s skill level it will backfire. The child will lose confidence. Hence they will refuse to cooperate out of fear of failure. Teaching new skills must be done in baby steps, layering a new skill as an old one is learned.

Parents expectations will most likely be met with tears, meltdowns and even a child that goes on strike and refuses to cooperate. At this point, a parent’s inclination is to merely do the tasks for the child rather than see them cry or express frustration. It pains every parent to see their child frustrated. We must remember the ultimate goal. To jettison children to adulthood equipped with as many skills as feasibly possible.

Frustration is a part of life and it is quite the gift to teach children coping and living skills while they are young and have nurturing parents to cheer them on. If parents have no expectations for their special needs children, the kids will assume parents do not have confidence in their skills. After all, why else would a parent not have expectations for their children? We cannot wrap our children in bubble wrap and expect them to function in the adult world.

I recall a child approximately ten years of age visiting my home. He asked for milk. I gave him a cup and asked him to pour his milk. He had motor skill challenges. The boy replied that he was not allowed to pour his own milk; his mother poured it for him. I asked why? The boy stated that it was because he spilled it. I explained that in our home you pour your own milk at ten years old.

The child was hesitant. I explained that spills could be wiped up. He poured the milk, spilled some and I modeled how easy the spill could be cleaned with no permanent damage done. I provided a safe environment for the boy to have an accident with no fear of reprisal. The look of pride on his face when he accomplished the task of independently pouring the milk was priceless.

Remember when you learned how to ride a two-wheel bike? I am sure that you fell many times while learning to balance. Eventually, you experienced success and mastered riding a bicycle. Scrapes and bumps were inevitable along the way. Imagine if no one ever took off the training wheels to protect you from the scrapes and bumps, you never would have learned how to ride that bike. This same analogy is appropriate for any new task your child learns. They may get frustrated. However, if we never allow them to experience frustration, new skills will never be learned.

Setting expectations and teaching skills to special needs kids is more challenging for parents with special needs kids. The effort exuded by both the parent and child to learn new skills is threefold in comparison to a neurotypical child. I have held back tears in front of my kids to many times to count throughout the years so I could model resilience for them. I shed many tears privately when they were not present. It is quite a balancing act but if we do not believe in their ability to develop new skills, how can the children believe in themselves?

It is extremely difficult to avoid the urge to rescue special needs kids. No parent wants to witness their child struggling. However, children need to not only experience success but experience the roadblocks that are inevitable along the way. When children learn to fall on their face and experience the success of getting back up on their feet, they become empowered with a can do mindset. No matter the child’s eventual level of cognitive, emotional and physical growth we need to remember their future. Unless parents will be living with them in their first apartment, going to work with their grown child all day, living in a college dorm with them or sheltered housing dependent on their final level of functioning then empowering our children is non negotiable.

1) Explain your child’s diagnosis to them to the best of your abilities and their level of understanding. This assists them in taking ownership of their special challenges and ultimately being involved in developing strategies as they grow older.
2) Use your child’s diagnosis as a guideline for how to approach and interact with them. Do not use their diagnosis to handicap them.

3) Have expectations for your child to instill responsibility. No matter what a child’s developmental level, they all have some noticeable skills. Have your child set the table for dinner. If motor skills cause them to drop and break plates then use plastic plates instead. Accommodate…..Accomodate…….Accomodate.

4) Do not make excuses for kids when the kids are actually capable of the behavior or task. The task may be difficult for them, it may be quicker and easier to do it ourselves and we do not want to see them struggle. If our expectations are below their skill level then they will perform below their skill level.

5) When teaching a child a new skill whether it is making their bed, setting a table and more, be careful regarding criticizing a task not done to your level of specifications. Praise them and encourage their effort without correcting them. Praise will encourage them to try again. Criticism will make the child wary of their capabilities and productiveness. Hence they will back away from learning anything new.
6) When reaching developmental plateaus with special needs kids, do not assume they have developed to their full potential. With the right encouragement and parental sticktoitness, kids will develop far beyond parents and professionals expectations. They will do it on their own time frame and not ours but they will exceed all expectations with the right support.

7) Do not speak and do things for your child that they could do themselves, nor allow other family members to do so. It may save messes, ease time constraints for completing tasks and lower the frustration level in the house. In the end it will be resultant in an enabled child for sure. After all, if you could have others speak for you, clean up for you and do tasks for you would you challenge yourself to grow developmentally. Most likely not. After all, it is a good life when you have others doing for you what you should be doing for your self.
In closing, reach for the stars. Never underestimate how far your child will develop. No one has a crystal ball that predicts your child’s future. With a parents support, your children will astound you regarding the skills they will develop that no one thought they would. Your kids believe in you. Can you believe in them?

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9

 

Mari Nosal M.Ed.

Siblings Of Special Needs Children Have Special Needs Too


As I ponder my experiences with siblings of children with special needs both in my professional experience and within my own family, I am compelled to convey the different family dynamics that are resultant.

Siblings of special needs children often process an array of emotions and experiences that are far removed from a neurotypical household. Their experiences do not destine them for a lifetime of maladjusted lifestyles. If support, attention and understanding is present, these children often grow up to be empathetic and perceptive adults who will proactively fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

In order for siblings of children with special needs to grow up and obtain positive self efficacy, basic ingredients are needed. A cup of acceptance, a teaspoon of validation, a spoonful of support, two cups of love and most importantly someone to lend them an ear to speak with in a non judgmental environment.

I recall a conversation that occurred long ago with my eldest son. Learning disabilities can prove challenging and necessitate investing more energy into the child with challenges than the sibling who does not have any. There was so much guilt. When we cheered our child with special needs on and helped him with challenges we worried that we were ignoring his brother. When we supported his brother, and cheered him on, we felt as though we might be ignoring our younger child
It is a tough balancing act supporting both children and making sure their needs are being met. This conversation with my eldest son heightened my level of awareness regarding the fact that typically developing children with special needs siblings indeed have special needs as well. He said, “Mom, do you realize that you and dad talk about my brother allot? Can we talk about something else for a change?
My response to my son was, “I am so sorry. Sometimes mom and dad worry about your brother’s future. We know that you will be OK. But that is no excuse; we love you both and are proud of the talents and wonderful character that you both possess. Son, do me a favor please. If I start babbling about your brother, will you please remind me so I stop?” My son was satisfied with this answer and I kept my promise.
What occurred here was that I validated my sons concerns. I have created a communication style that makes it safe for our kids to communicate any concerns or thoughts to me without fear of judgment or reprisal. I as a parent have to admit when mistakes have been made by me as well.
This reminded me of the delicate tightrope of uncertainty and guilt that parents with both learning disabled and non-learning disabled children grapple with everyday.
Years ago, two siblings were enrolled in my school age program. The older child, a boy age ten had pervasive development disorder and an I.Q. of 65. His younger sister was age seven and typically developing. A sibling dynamic which occasionally occurs between special needs and typically developing siblings presented itself. The little girl acted in a parental manner stepping in to constantly speak for and care for her older brother. In working with this boy I gained an awareness of skills he possessed.
When this boys younger sister would attempt to take care of her brother ie pouring drinks for him, speaking for him when he could speak for himself and otherwise, I would squelch her concerns by letting her know I would look out for her brother.
My goal was to allow this child to be just what she was, a child herself. I reassured her through my interactions with her brother that I was the adult in the room and it was my job therefore, to ensure her brothers care not hers.
As I conducted spelling homework with her brother, she attempted to spell the words for him. I proceeded to have her brother write one of his spelling words on the white board so his sister could see the capabilities her brother had.
In doing so, the older special needs sibling was empowered by exploring his capabilities and his sister gained an understanding that she did not have to be a second parent to him. As frequently as she would step in to take care of her older brother, I would encourage her to go join the other children her age in their games.
Although, assisting a special needs sibling occasionally, ie watching them while parents make dinner, answer the phone, take a shower etc. is acceptable, the typically developing child should not be encouraged to be a second parent.
They are children themselves and require parental support, the freedom to have play dates and more. In a nutshell, it is unhealthy to expect siblings to parent special needs brother and sisters thus becoming little adults. It is important that they feel comfortable and are allowed to have a childhood as well.
If too many expectations are set for typically developing siblings, resentment towards the special needs child and family will develop. When growing up with special needs siblings, typically developing siblings can become perfectionists. The unrealistic expectations they develop can cause anxiety issues. Remind the typically developing sibling that you are proud of them, note their successes and support them when they feel that they have failed (imagined or not).
A plethora of emotions can arise within the typically developing child. They may develop a type of “survivor’s guilt”. The child may feel guilty because their sibling has a disability and they do not. They may feel guilty that they occasionally are embarrassed by their sibling’s condition, particularly when friends come over to visit. Talk with your child and reassure them that they can speak with you about their negative emotions in a safe non judgmental zone as well as positive issues.
If children believe they cannot talk about the negative experiences in their life because this will overwhelm you they will only speak to you about positive topics. Again, this is emotionally unhealthy because selectively suppressing what is self perceived as their (bad side) will be deleterious to emotional health for sure. No young child should have to worry about protecting adults from stress, special needs or not. They need to know the adult will protect them.
Parents with children that have special needs must plan for the future as well. All special needs children become adults. Attempt to plan ahead regarding what services will be available for the special needs child down the line. Parents will not be around for ever. Special needs children will all become adults.
Typically developing children will become adults as well avoiding placing undue pressure on typically developing children to take a sideline to special needs children is of the utmost importance. However, allowing typically developing children the freedom to live their own life as adults void of becoming caretakers for siblings and giving up their dreams is of utmost importance as well.
In closing:
Look into special needs sibling support groups, parent support groups and counseling for siblings and families of special needs children. You need support as well as the special needs individual. Here is one of many places to start.
Find a Sibshop Near You — The Sibling Support Project
http://www.siblingsupport.org › Sibshops
The Sibling Support Project
Parent to Parent USA: P2PUSA
http://www.p2pusa.org/
Council for Exceptional Children
http://www.cec.sped.org/
Council for Exceptional Children

Attempt to explain to siblings in a manner that matches their emotional and cognitive level what their siblings’ diagnosis consists of. Remind your typically developing child that although their special needs sibling requires more attention at times that you love your typically developing child as well. Note their milestones as well. Most of all remind them that you will always be supportive in a parental role to all of your children. Reinforce the fact that you may love all of your children for their individual characteristics and needs, but LOVE them ALL you do.
Giving the typically developing child small responsibilities regarding their special needs sibling will make them feel involved. The main point here is SMALL responsibilities. Every child deserves a childhood special needs or not.
Parenting a special needs child and supporting other family members is quite a balancing act. It is one of the toughest jobs in the world. Remember, you are up for the task. You are stronger and more knowledgeable then you think. Never underestimate your skills. Special needs parents have gone to the most difficult college in the world. They have received a Ph.D. from the college of hard knocks. Stay strong and hold your head up high.

I am a published author and focus on books pertaining to autism and Aspergers Syndrome. I have had special needs articles published in several magazines. I have been interviewed several times in print, on pod casts, and internet T.V. regarding the autism spectrum. I have presented autism workshops to staff, management teams, and parent groups. I offer tips on curriculum development and behavior modification within the classroom and through in-services. I am certified by the Department of Early Childhood Education as a lead preschool teacher, an infant and toddler teacher, and site coordinator qualified to manage school age programs. I have recently ventured into public speaking engagements to educate both parents and educators on autism and Aspergers Syndrome
I want my experiences and challenges to be used productively as a learning tool for other parents and for educators as well. When my son was diagnosed with Asperger’s a decade ago it was a foreign word among many parents and professionals alike. I fought for help never giving up. Through my books I wish to help parents feel like they do not walk in the dark, that they are not alone, empower them and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I also want to educate society at large on the topic of the autism spectrum. I believe all parties involved need to work as a collaborative team in order to insure a special needs child’s success.If you like my articles, aside from being the parent of an adult with Aspergers Syndrome/ A.D.D and an educational professional, I am also a published author of many special needs and autism related books written to inspire and support parents, families, educators and society at large as well. Please stop by and check out my books on Amazon.com at Mari Nosal : Please stop by my site at Amazon Books and check out my published books on autism aspergers special needs and more http://tinyurl.com/kdspqy9