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Daycare For Kids With Special Needs: Yes, Please

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014

Among the many things I wished for when Max was little: a daycare that specialized in kids with special needs. We had a regular sitter, but when she was on vacation or called in sick, leaving Max at a regular daycare was stressful. Sometimes, my husband and I ended up taking off days from work.

I was so thrilled to read about A Place For Grace in Saginaw, Michigan, a daycare center for kids with special needs that opens September 2. Its founder: a mother of a child with special needs. As Jenny Dumont recalls of her struggles finding daycare for her daughter Emma Grace, now 9, who has intellectual disability, “She was having meltdowns four times in one week and I got called in to pick her up and when I got in the caregiver was doing the best she knew how. I got really frustrated and thought, Why isn’t there a place for children like Emma?”

Jenny Dumont and daughter Emma Grace

A Place For Grace has teachers trained in special education, along with a sensory room and toys  for kids with special needs. It will ofter preschool for children ages 3, 4 and 5 (who missed the school cut-off) and aftercare for kids ages 5 to 16. The goal is to offer full-day childcare for school breaks and special days by Summer 2015, including therapies in accordance with children’s IEPs.

If you Google “special needs daycare center” in your area or state, some might crop up—key word being “might.”  This country is sadly lacking in daycare options for children with special needs. It’s astounding, though not surprising, that this one was started by a parent of a kid with special needs. Parents like us often have more than our hands full and yet, we best know just how needed services like this are.

Also see Parent.com’s Day Care and Babies With Special Needs

 

From my other blog:

On letting your child with special needs do things for himself 

My kid with special needs understands you so don’t ask me, ask him

That sad you feel when you think about your pregnancy

 

Image source: Screen grab of center, WNEM video; Emma Grace and Jenny via GoFundMe

 

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7 Back-To-School Tips For Kids With Special Needs

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

Back to school is always a hectic time of year (understatement alert). But when you have a kid with special needs it can be even more of a challenge, especially if you have a child who doesn’t like changes in routine. I’ve found that getting Max a new backpack or some other new school item early in August helps; it gets him psyched, and it comforts him to know he’s prepared. I asked Facebook parents of kids with special needs what makes the return to school go more smoothly for their kids and them. Their strategies:

Get back into a routine. ”I start the routine two weeks prior, bedtime and morning wake-up. I let him pick out his new lunch box and pack up his school supplies and pick his first day of school outfit. I drive him to school to re-introduce it for familiarity.”—Amy S.

• Keep it visual. ”We do a monthly schedule color-coordinated for each of the four kids, and now a color for the dog! Kids and I like to see what’s ahead and what we get to look forward to.”—Nancy B.

Two words: “Online shopping!”—Maria K.

Build excitement. “A giant wall calendar shouts the term ‘starting day’ and conversation touches on the new teachers and responsibilities.”—Dave W.

Get some teacher scoop. “It helps to have a hint of what the coming year will bring. Some inkling of who this teacher is, into whose hands I’m about to place my child’s well-being and education…. I’m in a state of horror as I know none of that yet!”—Barbara H.

Practice homework to build confidence. “We do some ‘school’ work from workbooks every day to reinforce what he already knows!”—Amy S.

• Know that it will get better. ”My son actually does a lot better during the school year. He gets bored at home, and begins cycling through his preferred activities at a much faster rate. But adjusting to change is never easy for him. I expect to see increased frustration and aggression during the first few weeks of school. Knowing that situation will improve as he becomes more comfortable in school makes it easier to deal with a change in behavior.”–Regan B.

From my other blog:

On letting your child with special needs do things for himself 

My kid with special needs understands you so don’t ask me, ask him

That sad you feel when you think about your pregnancy

Preparing for the First Day of School
Preparing for the First Day of School
Preparing for the First Day of School

Image of child getting on school bus via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Autism

A Rodeo Queen Whose Cerebral Palsy Doesn’t Matter

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014

The bio for 2014 Eastern Colorado Roundup Queen Skyler Baker reads like one for any teen who’s a ring master: Skyler Baker has been rodeo-ing since age three. The 16-year-old enjoys traveling to shows and meeting new people. She’s learning how to rope. She has a 3.6 GPA. She’s enjoyed representing Colorado as Queen; she’s learned that children look up to her, and that it’s important to be the best she can be to set a positive example.

What her bio doesn’t mention: that she has cerebral palsy. And I loved that, more so than reading about how her town says there’s no one better to represent their “grit.”

Too often, the press plays up the accomplishments of people with disability as inspirational or who, as the caption on a video about Skyler notes, “show what tough really is.” To be sure, parents like me who have children with cerebral palsy admire the accomplishments of adults with CP because we hope our children grow up to achieve their own maximum potential. To be sure, kids like Max have to work harder at doing stuff. Yet in general, the portrayal of people with disabilities as being exceptional because of their abilities does them an injustice. They may have challenges to overcome, but like anyone they have their own special talents and, as in Skyler’s case, athletic abilities. Skyler is an amazing equestrian, period, cerebral palsy or not.

As Skyler says, “I don’t feel different. I’m unique, just like everyone else.”

This cowgirl’s cerebral palsy does not define her. If only more people thought of kids and adults with disabilities that way.

Cerebral Palsy: Challenges and Triumphs
Cerebral Palsy: Challenges and Triumphs
Cerebral Palsy: Challenges and Triumphs

From my other blog:

The paradox of disability inspiration and may I admire you, please?

On letting kids with special needs learn how to do things their own way

That sad you feel when you think about your pregnancy

Image: Screen grab, KMGH video

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Tags: | Categories: To The Max

Can We Change The Way Society Thinks About Disability?

Thursday, August 14th, 2014

Yesterday, I read an article about a PhD candidate in New Zealand who will be looking into changing the way society thinks about disability. Titled “Reimagining Disability,” the research will explore disability pride and ableism (discrimination in favor of  ”able-bodied” people) through a group of intellectually disabled adults.

“Having a disability is largely viewed as having a problem, when it shouldn’t be,” says Ingrid Jones. “It’s just part of the diversity of humanity. The reason we have disability oppression is because society views disability as a problem. Being ‘able’ is seen as the norm, when society is more diverse than that.”

All I could think was, AMEN. 

To me, it didn’t matter that her research is taking place across the world, because the challenges people with disability face seem to be similar everywhere. It’s more intense in some places, of course; there are developing nations where children with special needs are kept hidden away in homes, and may be considered a “curse.” But the commonality all countries share, sadly, is that people with disabilities are often seen as defective, lesser human beings.

I know this firsthand from raising Max. He’s a super-cute kid (if I do say so myself), and a charming, happy one at that. Bright, too. But there have been many times in his life when people have expressed pity about him, because of his cerebral palsy. Or excluded him from programs. Or have only been able to see his disabilities, not his abilities (or possibilities).

Max’s biggest challenges aren’t the ones caused by his cerebral palsy—they’re the perceptions people have of him.

As disheartening as this can be, I have hope. Through blogging and social media, many parents are showing the world just how much our kids rock. We’re asking for people to respect our children, both in their language and in their attitudes. We’re pushing for inclusion, in school and out, as a growing number of programs and events crop up that offer the same. More and more nonprofits are spreading the good word, like AbilityPath and Easter Seals.Many states, along with the Supreme Court, have chosen to use the term “intellectual disability” in laws over the now defunct term “mental retardation.” Meanwhile, technology like speech apps are enabling our kids to better interact with the world.

It’s going to be a long haul. But research bit by bit, program by program, idea by idea, people can find ways to help society welcome and include those with disability. Person by person, parents can change minds, and help give our kids a better chance at being seen as equals in society.

It takes a village to raise a child, yes—but it also takes a village to cultivate respect for a child with special needs.

From my other blog:

Would you call my child a retard?

My kid with special needs understands you so don’t ask me, ask him

Max takes a walk I will never forget

 

 

 

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Tags: | Categories: Must Read, Special Needs, To The Max

A Billion Dollars To Benefit Autism

Monday, August 11th, 2014

On Friday, President Obama signed the Autism Collaboration, Accountability, Research, Education and Support Act into law (Autism CARES). It dedicates $1.3 billion over five years to various autism causes: $950 million is earmarked for research grants; $110 million will go to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue researching the prevalence of autism disorders; and $340 million will go to early detection, education and intervention.

The new law also tasks the government with examining and anticipating needs for teens who are aging out of school-based support and transiting into adulthood; a study will be commissioned to examine the improvement and cost-effectiveness of transition and adult services. The Autism CARES Act reauthorizes (and renames) the existing Combating Autism Act that has invested more than $1.7 billion in autism research, treatment, training and services.

Obviously, the new act is a big deal, and a Good Thing. I have a child with cerebral palsy, and wish there were funding like this for his condition. Still, I know many parents of kids with autism who believe money for treatment and services should be key—and dollars spent researching the causes, less so. They are weary of the constant stream of studies on the factors that contribute to autism. As one mom said, “What would I rather see instead of all this research focus on prevention? Help for those living with this right now!”

From my other blog:

My kid with special needs understands you

The boy who never was a toddler, until now

I don’t mean to hurt people with disabilities even though I call them stupid, people say

 

Image of outline of head via Shutterstock

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Tags: | Categories: Autism, To The Max