Archive for the ‘ Disability ’ Category

From Special Education Teacher to Autism Mom Blogger

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

When Norrin was first diagnosed with autism, I didn’t know anything about the diagnosis or navigating the special needs system. I was able to talk to friend of a friend who was a speech therapist. She provided the emotional support I needed and helped me better understand the process. A few years later, her son was diagnosed with autism. She called me up crying and I gave her the support she needed.

Being a special education professional doesn’t always make the diagnosis easier to accept or understand.

No one knows that better than Mama Fry who writes the blog Autism with a Side of Fries.Written with honesty and humor, Mama Fry doesn’t pretend she knows all the answers – even though she once worked in special education. She even wrote a post about her experience sitting on the other side of the IEP table.

Earlier this month, I got to ask Mama Fry a few questions:

What did you know/think about autism when you were a special education teacher?

Not nearly enough. I haven’t been in a classroom for about 9 years now and much has changed. Back then it was more about getting kids to be all the same or “normal” rather than celebrating and tapping into their skill sets.

How did you advise autism/special needs parents?

My area was vocational training. I was thinking past school. Getting them ready for what real life job situations might happen. Most of my conversations with parents then was problem solving behaviors or trying to figure out accommodations that would suit their kid best.

What was it like when your son was diagnosed?

Surreal. It absolutely never occurred to me that he might have autism. I thought it was a speech delay and that’s it.  I was truly gobsmacked. I had recently stopped working outside the home because working with autism was burning me out. Surprise! It came to live with me instead.

How have you changed since? 

I understand how each kid is just so different. My son is not just a name on a page to me. He’s my heart.  I can’t punch out at the end of a shift. Behaviors are communication not just non compliance.

What advice would you give to special ed teachers who don’t have special needs kids?

Ask about what’s going on at home. Sleep is a huge factor. Eating too. Realize the student you have, their behaviors could be based on those two things a lot.  Ask what concerns the parents the most. Share what’s working in class.

Catch up with my last post: A Little Girl Gets a Second Chance at Childhood

Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective
Children with Autism: The Parents Perspective

And from my other blog:

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Mannequins With Disabilities Show The Beauty of Diversity

Thursday, July 17th, 2014

If you walked by the JCPenney in New York City, you might notice something a little different in the store window display. Something amazingly different. The five mannequins reflect physical diversity. Modeled after five real people, they include a woman in a wheelchair, a man with dwarfism and a double-leg amputee, along with a plus-size woman and a 6-foot-one-inch man. The mannequins are part of the store’s “When it fits you feel it” campaign, and were specially made for the TODAY show’s Love Your Selfie series, as Today.com reports.

As the parent of a child with disability, I love this. Traditionally, initiatives in support of body image (especially from the fashion industry) have to do with plus-size women. It makes total, wonderful, awesome sense to celebrate the physiques of people with disabilities, too. The more others can see people with disabilities in mainstream settings, the more they will come to think of them as being mainstream. Too often, that’s still not the case.

Model inclusion is also happening more frequently, slowly but surely, in advertising. Nordstrom’s July catalog, reports ABC News, includes a man with a prosthetic leg showing off running shoes and model Jillian Mercado in a wheelchair modeling boots (she made headlines this spring for appearing in a Diesel ad campaign).

The mannequins are on display through August. I think they should go on tour!

From my other blog:

8 ways to include kids with special needs in programs, events, classes, camps, wherever!

Let It Go, like you’ve never heard it sung 

On wondering what your child with special needs will do when he grows up

 

Images: Screen grab, Today video; Nordstrom catalog

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Tags: | Categories: Disability, To The Max

A New Bike Built For Kids With Special Needs

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

Jyrobike is the World’s First Auto Balance Bicycle that features a patented Control Hub in the front wheel that uses gyroscopic technology to keep riders upright, even when they tip or wobble.

Riding a bike has not come easily for my son, Norrin. After he was diagnosed with autism, we learned that he didn’t have the strength or the coordination to pedal. For years we’ve worked with therapists trying to build up Norrin’s muscle strength and teaching him how to balance. We’ve bought tricycles, big wheels and even scooters – hoping Norrin would be able to master one. Eventually Norrin learned to pedal but he still lacked the focus, tired easily and had difficulty maintaining balance.

Last spring, we bought Norrin his first real bike. And while he showed an interest in riding it, he still needed a lot of work. Even with the training wheels he still had trouble with balance and had difficulty turning. Now that bike is too small and we’re wondering whether or not we should buy another. Norrin will still need training wheels and it may be years before he learns to balance independently.

That’s when I heard about the kickstarter campaign for Jyrobike I knew I had to share it! It’s the ideal solution for kids like mine. “Jyrobike is built on the core principle that bikes become inherently stable at higher speeds because the faster the wheels spin, the more balanced it becomes.” While originally designed for 3 – 8 year olds, “one of [the company's] stretch goal rewards will be very popular with parents of older children.” There are also plans to launch an adult product.

Jyrobike will change the lives of so many families with special needs, especially kids with autism. It allows children to learn to ride a bicycle with confidence and a sense of security. It will provide the physical activity they need to maintain their health and it’s a social activity that can be shared with family and friends. Bike riding is a skill that can lead to a more independent life.

To learn more about Jyrobike visit http://www.jyrobike.com.

Catch up with last week’s post: How Not To Handle a Public Meltdown

And from my other blog:

 

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How Not To Handle a Public Meltdown

Wednesday, June 18th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

Being an autism mom can amazing as well as challenging. As a mom, the amazing is easy to handle. I cheer every single moment and milestone because I know how hard my kid works. But the challenging stuff? The stuff that keeps me up at night or the things that make me see red – there’s no hand book for that.  And sometimes my initial instinct isn’t always the best reaction.

It happened in a fast food restaurant. My son, Norrin, and I were sitting at a table waiting for my husband, Joseph, to bring over our food. I handed Norrin his iPad while we waited. We were on vacation, completely out of our routine and it was an unbearably hot day. All Norrin wanted was to return to the hotel pool.  And there was no WiFi connection and Norrin wanted to watch a video on YouTube. All the ingredients for a major meltdown.

I calmly explained to Norrin that we were for Dad to return with our food. We were going to eat and then go back to the hotel. Usually Norrin is fine. He doesn’t need visual cues so long as I tell him what comes next. But the last few days Norrin had been having a hard time. And in that crowded fast food restaurant, my 8 year old son started to cry and scream. I remained calm and tried to comfort him with words, smoothing his hair away from his face. But he didn’t stop. His face was bright red and his nose runny, tears streaming down his face.

That’s when I noticed a table of three men staring at Norrin; their eyes wide open and lips curled in a smirk.

“Is there a problem?” I demanded. And when they shook their heads no, I yelled “Then why are you staring.” I was all New York Latina attitude, neck rolling and hand waving. I glared at them until they looked away and went back to eating.

Joseph had returned with our food and managed to calm Norrin down. Unlike me, Joseph had ignored the men and focused on Norrin.

I’m not usually that bold to confront a table of men. But I had been feeling overwhelmed and my Mama Bear instinct just went into full gear. In retrospect, it was the completely wrong way to handle the situation. What if one of those men did have a problem? Was I truly prepared to take on three men? I cannot put myself or my family in that kind of situation. I may not be able to control how others react to Norrin, but I am in total control of how I react to them.

During a public meltdown, the only person that matters is my kid. I have to tune out everyone else, ignore the stares, the smirks, the finger pointing. While it may not have been my finest parenting moment, it was definitely a lesson learned.

Have you ever confronted a stranger for staring at your special needs child?

Catch up with last week’s post: Six Years Later, I Am Still Learning To Accept Autism

From my other blog:

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Six Years Later, I Am Still Learning To Accept Autism

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at Atypical Familia.

I will never forget the day my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism. The days, weeks and months that followed I felt this overwhelming sense of loss and sadness. At the time of Norrin’s diagnosis he had no speech; he couldn’t point his finger and lacked imaginative play skills. That was six years ago.  Norrin has had made significant progress. We’ve celebrated many milestones since then because we’ve seen how hard he’s worked to achieve the things that come so naturally to other children his age.

Norrin is now 8 years old and has been autistic for most of his life. The constant feelings loss and sadness have long subsided. I don’t wish to cure Norrin’s autism and I don’t believe it’s the worst thing that could have happened.

Autism has become part of our every day. It’s so common to us that I don’t even think about it. And since Norrin is my only child, I have no idea what it’s like to raise a “typical” kid. I focus on the things Norrin can do rather than the things that he can’t. And I tell myself that he will meet those milestones in his own time.

We were on vacation last week. We went to Walt Disney World – the Most Magical Place on Earth. It’s the place most kids dream about. I watched as other families waited on line, as kids excitedly pointed to rides wanting to get on. They wanted to watch the parade, posed for pictures and looked like they were having fun. And while other kids were having fun, Norrin – after the second ride – had a complete meltdown. He started crying uncontrollably and said he wanted to go back to the hotel over and over again. I tried to console him but nothing I said soothed, he was ready to leave.

In that moment, I was reminded of autism. And all those feelings of loss crept in.

As we were walking out of the park, I felt defeated and disappointed. It had been years since we had a vacation and I wanted Norrin to have fun. I wished that we were like every other family in the park, the ones you see in the commercial. I know I shouldn’t compare but sometimes it’s hard not to. “Why does something fun have to be so hard?” I wondered.

We returned to the hotel, changed into our bathing suits and went down to the pool. We spent the next few hours splashing, swimming and having fun. Norrin was having a blast swimming under water and practicing floating on his back. The pool was small enough that I could sit on a nearby lounge chair  and watch. It was a luxury and I appreciated the moment. Hours earlier at the park, I held his hand tightly, too scared to let go.

I love my son and I have accepted autism. Six years ago, I couldn’t see beyond his diagnosis. I couldn’t have imagined the progress he’s made. We have good days and not so good days. Days when I can forget autism exists and moments when autism is overwhelming. And during those moments, I have to accept autism all over again.

Catch up with last week’s post: Father and Son Bonding When Your Son Has Autism

Understanding Autism: Sensory Issues
Understanding Autism: Sensory Issues
Understanding Autism: Sensory Issues

From my other blog:

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