Posts Tagged ‘ school education ’

Nighttime Potty Training: UPDATE

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

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

Back in January, I shared that we were about to begin Nighttime Potty Training and I thought I’d give you an update.

Yeah. We’re not done yet. Not. Even. Close.

I’m going to be completely honest. My husband and I are at odds about it. I am ready to quit and just go back to diapers/Pull-Ups at night. And my husband is determined we stick to it.

I knew that it was going to take time and that I needed to be patient, but I am exhausted. I have washed sheets, blankets and pajamas almost every day since January. We are going on vacation in a few weeks. Is nighttime potty training something I want to deal with while at the most magical place on earth?

We’ve tried rewards, alarms, limiting liquids close to bedtime and waking up in the middle of the night. He’s just not getting it. Day time potty training and nighttime potty are two totally different things. And being successful during the day, isn’t always a guarantee for nighttime dryness. Going back to diapers at night doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my son. It just means I’m giving him more time.

Would love to hear your nighttime potty training updates!

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The Importance Of Talking To Your Kids About Disability

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014

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

I once asked a friend if her son knew that he has autism. “No,” she said, “We’re not that kind of family.” I left it at that because I understood what she meant.

Growing up we never talked about my sister’s intellectual disability. My sister’s original diagnosis was mental retardation and on the occasion my mother  referred to it,  she’d say, “She’s not retarded. She’s just a little slow.”

I can’t fault my mother for not being open about my sister’s disability. My mother’s of another generation. And my sister – who is in her mid-twenties – is quite “high-functioning.” She works part-time, she goes to the gym, she takes the train by herself.

The other day we were out for a family dinner – talking and laughing the way families do. And as my sister was telling me a story, she used the “r-word” to describe something she thought was stupid.

There are times when I hear it, I speak out against it. And there are moments when I let it go. But whenever the word is used in front of my son, I can’t let it go. I will not allow anyone to use the r-word in front of Norrin. I will tell them to use another word.

Hearing my sister use the word upset me and I couldn’t let it go. She used it in front of Norrin. She used a word that degrades herself and every individual with a disability. When I explained to her why I didn’t want her using the word, she apologized. “It’s just slang,” she said.

My sister believed it was slang because she was never taught otherwise. We never talked about the r-word at all in our house.

But the r-word is not “just slang.” It’s a slur. It’s a word meant to insult. In a recent Huffington Post article by John C. McGinley, he writes:

…however blithe the everyday practice of spicing up one’s speech with the words “retard,” “retarded” and the suffix “-tard” has become? The (presumably) unintended result is still the same. A population of people, who has never done anything to harm anyone, is circuitously targeted and suffers from a trickle-down discrimination that is very real and very painful.

My sister is a hard worker, she is a talented artist and she’s bright. She’s a young women worthy of respect, not ridicule. I wouldn’t want anyone to use the r-word in my sister’s presence and I certainly don’t want her using it.

My son Norrin doesn’t know that he has autism, he is not capable of understanding his diagnosis just yet. But we don’t whisper the word autism. One day, we will tell Norrin he is autistic. It’s not about being a certain kind of family. It’s about teaching him who he is. And teaching him to stand up for himself when he is being discriminated against.

Today is the day to Spread The Word – the annual day to raise awareness about using the r-word. I admire this online movement and those committed to taking the pledge. But awareness needs to begin at home. We need to talk about disability and the words that we use. We need to talk to them about respect for all. We need to talk to them about the weight of their words. Words are powerful weapons and like any other weapon, we need to teach our kids how to use them responsibly.

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Understanding Autism: Developing Social Skills
Understanding Autism: Developing Social Skills
Understanding Autism: Developing Social Skills

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Another Student With Special Needs Left Out Of The Class Photo

Monday, October 14th, 2013

Look closely at this photo of the 2014 graduates of Nederland High School in Texas. Can you tell what’s wrong? Hint: See the teen on the right, in the wheelchair. His name is Brannon, and he is completely isolated from his classmates sitting on the bleachers. “Can anyone guess what I would be upset about?” wrote Brannon’s mom, Pam Hendrix McWilliams, on her Facebook page. “Could it be that my son is way off to the side, trying to lean in to be part of the group?….Was my son just an afterthought in the pic?” She posted the photo, she said, “mainly as a teaching lesson to consider the person that is a wheelchair user and don’t push them off to the side. Get creative and include.”

Brannon his spina bifida. It’s actually Spina Bifida Awareness Month, ironically enough. If this story rings a bell, that’s because a similar one made news last spring when a class photo with second grader Miles Ambridge, who has spinal muscular atrophy, made the social media rounds. All of his classmates were seated on a bench or standing behind it; Miles was a good foot to the left of the bench, alone in his wheelchair and leaning as far as he could toward his classmates. It was heartbreaking (his parents never showed him the photo), and the reaction online prompted Lifetouch Photography to do a retake. That child’s mom also blamed lack of awareness.

Brannon, wrote his sister Kammie on Facebook, “was SO excited to take this picture. Please help us stand up for him!” His mom added, “This draws the line. I feel like Brannon has been discounted as a Senior of 2014 as well as a human being. Brannon would never say anything because he is the ultimate peacemaker, but I sure will…. My heart breaks every time I look at it.

Photos like this are a reminder of just how a little—we’re talking speck size—common sense and consideration can help kids and teens with special needs be included, whether in a group photo, group activity or group whatever. It doesn’t take much; people just have to start thinking about it—and seeing the possibilities.

To anyone who says this is just a photo, a panoramic shot, and that this mom shouldn’t take it to heart, here’s Pam’s response: “Let’s sit your child to she side and see how it feels.”

Retaking a photo like this wouldn’t be half of as big a deal as how this teen might feel looking at this photo for the rest of his life.

Retake the photo, people.

Image: Pam Hendrix McWilliams/Facebook

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Including Kids With Special Needs In Classrooms: There Are No Easy Answers

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Max is in a school for kids with special needs, and always has been, but I often wonder about whether we should consider inclusion for him.

It’s a toughie: We think he’s getting a great education, and the teachers and therapists are outstanding. If he were in a so-called typical class, he’d get pulled out a lot for therapies. I’ve heard, straight from a school source, that the quality of aides in our district’s public schools isn’t up there.

Still.

I long for him to be around so-called typical kids, both because I think they could have a positive impact on learning and for social reasons, too. And then, there’s this truth: Growing up in a special needs hothouse, as wonderful as it is, isn’t preparing him for the real world.

Last night, I watched the documentary Certain Proof: A Question of Worth; it’s about the challenges children with severe cerebral palsy face in the public education system. It really got me thinking about inclusion, as did this infographic on the topic.

Ah, special needs parenting decisions, decisions….

Photo of child writing on blackboard via Shutterstock

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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

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