Posts Tagged ‘ education ’

Are You Prepared For A School Bus Strike?

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

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

I will never forget the first day I put my son, Norrin, on a school bus. He was two years old, his book bag straps kept falling off his shoulders, he had no language and he was still wearing diapers. Norrin’s been on a school bus ever since (he’ll be seven in a few days). He’s never gone to a school within walking distance. And most of the special needs children I know are taken to school by bus. It’s a service so many parents rely on. And I never even thought about what I would do if that service abruptly stopped. Not until recently anyway.

New York City students and families are being impacted by a school bus strike – 152,000 students to be exact, with a significant amount being students with special needs.

Norrin is one of those students. And on Day Two of the strike, our family is already struggling.

I work full-time outside of the home as a Legal Administrative Assistant, my husband is a Court Officer – we don’t have the kind of jobs where we can work from home. Norrin’s school is twenty miles away – far from public transportation. We have a car but I don’t know how to drive. If I were to take Norrin to school on my own it could take up to two hours in commuting (by bus, train and a short cab ride) or a thirty minute cab ride (about $75 each way).

But getting Norrin to school isn’t really the problem.  It’s picking him up – that’s the issue. It interferes with work and after school therapies. I’ve spent this last week trying to weigh all my options in the event of a school bus strike. And we’re still trying to figure out the logistics and put together our contingency plan. But the reality is, there are no easy options. I’ve already used two vacation days to stay home – not sure how much longer we can last. The last strike was in 1979 and it lasted three months.

Can you imagine if your special needs child missed three months of school because of a bus strike?

I’m hoping it doesn’t last that long. Because Norrin cannot miss three months of school or services.

But this strike has been an eye opener. I realized that I don’t have the contact information for any of Norrin’s five classmates. And even though Norrin does well riding trains and buses – I’ve never taken him up to school by myself. I haven’t even made the  trip on my own. I love Norrin’s school, it was well worth the fight to get him there but I wish it were closer. I wish I had the ability to drop him off and to connect with other parents. Once things get back to normal, I’m going to reach out to the parents of Norrin’s classmates.

I’m home with Norrin and we’re ready to head out – maybe to the zoo or the museum. But I want to hear from you.

Are you impacted by the NYC School Bus Strike? What are you doing? For more strike information and reimbursement forms – please click HERE.

And if you’re not in NYC but you depend on a school bus to transport your child to and from school – do you have a Plan B if busing was no longer an option?


photo credit: Caitlinator via photopin cc

Add a Comment

The Six Degree Project To Raise Autism Awareness

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

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

National Autism Awareness Month may be in April, but The Six Degree Project is a grass roots student organization passionate about taking autism awareness to the next level. With the collaboration of Carly Fleischmann, Emily Albert and Mia Kibel, the goal of the project is to get people talking about autism outside of autism awareness month.

Working off the basis that we’re connected to everybody in the world by six degrees of separation, the students picked 12 celebrities they feel the people in their communities might be able to reach: Jimmy Fallon, Ellen Degeneres, Justin Bieber, Brad Pitt, Dr. Phil, Ernie Els, Whoopi Goldberg, Kelly Ripa, Travis Stork, Anderson Cooper, the cast of Saturday Night Live, and Ryan Seacrest.The goal is to prompt these 12 celebrities and more to wear a blue scarf in February to show their support for autism and educate people as to why they’re wearing them. Since these celebrities are often the centre of media attention, the students feel it will get people talking about autism and increase overall awareness of the disorder.

The Six Degree Team made this really awesome YouTube video – you can watch it HERE. (It explains the project in more detail.) When I watched it, I got a little emotional because it’s truly inspiring to see a group of teenagers working to make an impact.

I appreciate National Autism Awareness month, I am grateful that we have an entire month dedicated to raising awareness. But for me and for so many other autism parents and autistic individuals, autism awareness is every single day, not just one month out of the year. And in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook tragedy, the autism community needs this. We need positive awareness. We need support. We need your help.

The average person on Facebook has between 120 to 245 friends…and you never know who your friends are Facebook friends with. I mean just a few weeks ago, I discovered that I have a three degree separation from Tom Cruise. And earlier this year, I learned that Amanda Seyfried is the first cousin of my former coworker. And doesn’t everyone have a some degree of separation from Kevin Bacon? By sharing, tweeting or posting about The Six Degree Project YouTube video you never know who it may reach.

But you don’t have to have a known celebrity connection to participate. You don’t even have to know anyone with autism. Autism awareness is a two way street. You just have to be willing to learn, show your support and meet us half way.

I am excited to order my blue scarf and I will wear it proudly.

For more information on The Six Degree Project visit them at

Image: Screen grab, The Six Degree Project


Add a Comment

What’s The Big Deal About The Asperger’s Disorder Elimination?

Friday, December 7th, 2012

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

Earlier this week the American Psychiatric Association (APA) announced the approved revisions for the May 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). Among the revisions – the “Asperger’s Disorder” diagnosis will fall under “Autism Spectrum Disorder.” According to the Huffington Post, the purpose of the change is to “simplify [the] diagnosis.”

I remember when Norrin was first diagnosed with autism, the doctor told us to think of autism as an umbrella. And under the umbrella was: autistic disorder, Rett syndrome, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) and Asperger’s disorder. During that first year of Norrin’s diagnosis, my husband (who was in denial) would tell people that Norrin had PDD-NOS. And I would think to myself – isn’t it all the same thing? But for my husband, any other name sounded better than autism.

At times I feel as if there is this need for distinction: high functioning, low functioning etc. Because for new parents, a straight up autism diagnosis is scary. And I think for some, Asperger’s is easier to accept. For parents who already have an Asperger’s diagnosis for their child, to have that taken away, for there to be no distinction within the DSM-5 – could mean having to go through the acceptance process all over again.

Or the change could mean nothing at all.

I honestly don’t know what it will mean to parents, since I don’t have a kid whose diagnosis may change. So, I thought I’d ask a few mom of kids with Asperger’s for their thoughts:

When I first heard about the proposed DSM changes, I was worried, of course, about what it might mean for my [12-year-old] son. He identifies very strongly as an “Aspie” and I could just picture that conversation. (“You don’t have Asperger’s anymore.” “YES I DO.”) I think the goal here with the DSM revisions was to say “autism is autism” and that makes sense to me. Asperger’s will stick around as a descriptor (or, in my son’s case, a self-identifier), but clinically speaking, it will simply be high-functioning autism. The main concern seems to be that some kids may currently be labeled with Asperger’s but do not meet the criteria for the autism label, and what happens to them? I don’t know the answer to that. ~ Mir

Looking at the new criteria, Zach [11 years old] still meets the threshold for an autism diagnosis. Honestly, I only think he was diagnosed as Asperger’s originally because he’s so verbal. I don’t necessarily agree with that because he has a younger brother who is also verbal, but officially diagnosed as LFA [Low Functioning Autism]. On any given day, the boys could trade the diagnoses the doctors have put on paper for them, so in our house, it’s all just autism. ~ Amanda

My daughter, who is about to turn eight, understands she has Asperger’s, and is quite open about it. She has been around kids with severe forms of autism and so for her the label of autism doesn’t resonate. I think she’s too young to understand the idea of the spectrum and the reasons for the DSM changes, so for now I will continue to refer to her as having Aspergers. My son only just turned four so time will tell regarding how this change impacts him, if at all. Based on the new criteria I don’t think he would have any problem getting an autism diagnosis. My Aspie daughter might not be diagnosed under the new criteria. ~ Sharon

My own personal feeling is this – so long as my child gets the appropriate educational services he needs, I don’t care about the diagnostic label.

The APA stated that the change will not impact special education services. But only time will tell. In a perfect world, if a child needs extra support – they should simply get it, regardless of the diagnosis. And I think that’s the bigger conversation that we as parents need to focus on.

What are your thoughts on the change? Are you worried? Do you think it will impact special education services? Or do you think “Autism is Autism?”


Add a Comment

A New Way To Make Special Ed More Manageable For Parents

Friday, November 16th, 2012

myEdGPS is a new site created to help parents manage the sometimes confusing (and often overwhelming) world of special ed—and they’re looking for parents to test it out.  They had me at “help” because I sure could use any tools I can get my hands on, especially when it comes to navigating IEPs.

The site lets you store IEP info, track milestones and keep a calendar of meetings. There’s also a “letter generator” to help you create Important Letters, like for when your kid needs a school evaluation. For a small fee, users can get live help from education advisors and advocates. Here’s a video:

The creator of myEdGPS, Adam Goldberg, has a masters degree in education and 15 years worth of experience as an education advisor. The U.S. Secretary of Education recently invited him to The White House to demo his creation—not too shabby.

For a limited time, myEdGPS is inviting parents to give it a test run; you can sign up here until midnight on November 21. Testers can use the site from after Thanksgiving till mid-January as often as they’d like, and give feedback on what they think. I’m sharing this because I think it’s a great, and very necessary, site; anything that can save me time (or grief) is A Good Thing.

Image of woman behind pile of binders via Shutterstock

Add a Comment

Should Twins Be Placed In The Same Classroom? A Helpful Infographic

Monday, November 12th, 2012

I recently came across this interesting infographic, and wanted to share it for any readers with twins (or if you’re just generally fascinated about what it’s like to raise twins, as I am). I had no idea there was actual legislation on this.

I personally think it’s a good idea to place twins in different classrooms; the two friends I know with twins have both done that, basically to help give each their own identity. But it sure does make for a whole lot of extra effort, from parent-teacher conferences to school trips.

Twins in the Classroom

Add a Comment