Help for Indiana Schools: Autism Resources

It’s frustrating as a parent of children with autism to know there are excellent resources out there but that Indiana schools fail to access them.

In too many public schools, autism is an annoyance, especially at the secondary level. This is partly due to not addressing the needs of students with autism at the elementary level.

If students are reached very early with evidence-based interventions, many of the issues for students who respond to therapy, phase out by the time they are in secondary school. There are certain things a student must be able to do in order to be successful at the secondary level, and one of them is the  ability to handle anxiety. Others include being able to attend to a task, take directions that they may not want to comply with, and be able to respond to conflict in socially acceptable ways.

Notice that most of these issues aren’t academic. They are social and emotional. Still, if a child with autism is to be guaranteed access to a free and appropriate education, they aren’t able to access it if they can’t get past the social and emotional piece. Yet, during IEP meetings, schools argue that these  are non-academic issues and schools are not required to address them.

What I’ve experienced in Indiana is a lack of genuine compassion and interest in helping students with autism succeed. I’ve also experienced a shameful scarcity of school attention towards helping students struggling above the precarious precipice of diploma track vs. certificate of completion. (I heard a rumor that “no diploma for people with low I.Q.s, etc.,” could be changing for Indiana but I’m not holding my breath.) Too often I’ve been told or have overheard teachers and paraprofessionals say, “don’t bother wasting your time helping that one, they’re taking them off diploma track anyway.”

Special Education teachers burn out because of lack of administrative support. They are given over-sized case loads that result in students falling through academic cracks. They’re not provided with materials, resources, or training for meeting the students’ needs. The mantra is to do the bare minimum of intervention so that schools can legally pocket the rest of the special education monies. Students in dire need of 1:1 aides are not provided them. Instead, one “instructional assistant” or “para-professional” is given to classrooms, and only maybe 1 or 2 per grade if that. No one student is given enough attention and support. Sometimes, high school students still need 1:1 support. Need is the operative word, and is the word that schools interpret any way they wish.

And where is the accountability for special education dollars? Why is our local area program bankrupt? The money wasn’t spent on my twins with autism, I can tell you that. (They are 22 now.) Was the money (millions) spent on teacher training in my school system? No. Was the money spent on 1:1 paraprofessionals for students with autism in my school system? No. Was it spent on administrative conferences and trips? Yes. Why are we not allowed to see how the money is spent?

Special Education teachers are under strict orders not to offer any services outside of the bare minimum. And because teachers want to keep their jobs, they do what they’re told. If you want services, you, the parent, have to bring them to the table. Remember, the school is not obligated in any way to go above and beyond anything but minimum. This is how they interpret and practice “free and appropriate.” Period.

Not all schools are turning their backs on autism. I hope to find these schools and highlight what they’re doing right. (If you know of one, please let me know in the comments below.) But far too many are doing it wrong. Far too many simply don’t care. What’s more important to many schools is keeping ISTEP scores high so they can attract high-scoring students to their schools via the voucher program.

If your student doesn’t make the administration look good, you don’t matter. You’re an inconvenient annoyance. The school hopes parents will pull the student out of school by the end of the year. If the student has already attended X number of days, they get to count the student for the full year and get to pocket the special education monies without spending a dime on support.

Parents are ill-informed of their recourse options. Even though the state law requires that parents be given the “Procedural Safeguards” brochure at the IEP meetings, few parents have the energy to read and digest it. Most of their energy is poured into getting their student through one more day, working their own jobs, and dealing with their other children. This brochure usually isn’t explained by anyone in the IEP meeting. And parents with low-functioning abilities are too embarrassed to have anyone explain it to them.

Here are some resources every parent with a child with disabilities living in Indiana should use:

Indiana Resource Center for Autism. This organization provides incredible training for teachers working with students with autism. Why aren’t all the schools in Indiana accessing this? Is it time to ask our legislators to  mandate this training for our Special Education teachers? There are also great resources for parents, including a Lending Library and a few helpful videos:

 

Another excellent help for parents when working with public schools is In*Source.  If you’re not getting what you believe your child needs in school, and every IEP meeting is a war zone, this organization can help you. They provide trained support advocates to go with you into the IEP meeting and help you navigate the laws to get your child’s needs met. I am a trained In*Source advocate, but now that I’m a teacher, am unable to be part of this service. These advocates are volunteers, and are passionate about helping kids with disabilities get what they need in public school. Don’t hesitate to contact them for help.

Other (Sort of) Helpful Autism Resources in Indiana:

Autism Society of Indiana

Autism Speaks

The reason I call these “sort of” resources is that they do provide information and fund-raising types of things, but not much practical hands-on help for families living in the trenches. However, I’m not belittling what they do. My focus for this post is for helping parents get what they need for their child at public school.

I love helping parents find answers. What questions do you have about autism, disabilities or accessing public school services? Leave your questions and comments below and I’ll get back to you as soon as possible!  Do you know of a school that does autism intervention right? Please tell me so I can feature them on my blog!

My newest book is available now for pre-order at the following locations. I am so excited and the twins can’t wait to meet you! Our Book Talk will be August 3rd at Manchester Public Library. I will post more information as the date draws near!

Amazon

Barnes & Noble

Indie Bound

Powell’s

“Help for Indiana Schools: Autism Resources” first appeared on Karla Akins’ blog at KarlaAkins.com

Autism grows up: social media, bullies, and boundaries

Autism & Social Media

When we adopted the twins 22 years ago, I couldn’t have known the challenges we’d face with them when they became adults. Besides having to use key-less entry locks to keep things in the proper places, we’re also learning to navigate this brave (sort of) new world of social media. How does a parent with adult children with disabilities help their child through the swamp of online bullying, manipulation, and outright danger of online relationships?

Disability rights advocates frown on parental interference in adult relationships, but what if that adult functions on an eight-year-old level? Isn’t it indeed abuse not to intervene to protect that individual?

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I’ve learned the hard way that I never should have allowed the twins unfettered access to social media. Not that I could have stopped them, really. They’re both tech savvy. They both want to fit in, and they both love the socialization that happens on Facebook. That’s been a huge plus for them socially because they’re more comfortable writing than speaking. But frankly, I wish I didn’t have to oversee what goes on with them online because it’s extremely time-consuming.

In my interview with Gloria Doty, I learned how her daughter with autism was manipulated, raped, and abused due to online relationships gone wrong (the incident is discussed at 57:10).

What my sons have experienced is bullying, controlling and manipulation. But what is worse, I’m terrified one of my guys will contact an underage girl and be misunderstood. This has happened before and we almost had a dad show up ready to kill. We had to talk him down and explain it was a harmless contact. Nothing would ever come of it. He was not very understanding. I don’t blame him.  (Nothing inappropriate was said or done. But the fact my son was 19 at the time and the girl was 14 freaked the dad out as it should have.)

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I’m looking into alternative social media for the guys but there’s slim pickings. PLUS, they want to be where everyone else is. And why wouldn’t they? If Facebook appeals to over a billion people, of course they’re going to want in on the “fun.” (Personally, I don’t like Facebook for many reasons, but that’s another post for another day.)

Do you know how difficult it is to delete a Facebook profile when the owner can’t remember his password? Do you know how difficult it is to keep an intellectually-immature person from creating one in the first place? Do you know how embarrassing it is to have people sending me screen shots of stuff my sons post in innocence but could be taken wrong? (I do appreciate this, by the way. It helps me keep them safe, but still…)

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We’ve gone through several really bad online girlfriend situations. These girls were absolutely ruthless in their bullying and control. One young woman took over my son’s page and wouldn’t allow him to have any of his everyday friends on it. He started using bad language that she used. She Face Time called him every day for hours at a time. It was a nightmare!

At other times one of the guys will post on Facebook that he wants a girlfriend and to contact him if interested.

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Talk about the dredges of society crawling out of the darkness! I now know things about people and sexuality that I never wanted to know. I now have seen things I can’t un-see.

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If you have any ideas about keeping people with intellectual disabilities safe on Facebook, let me know. It’s difficult for the guys to understand that not all young women who say they are young women are really who they say they are. I’m very concerned that some undercover agent is going to bait them and they’re going to fall for it. Worse, I’m very concerned that they’ll be bullied again.

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By the way. While writing this post my husband informed me that one of the twins rang up some international calls. I’m thinking of starting a GoFundMe page…

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Photo Credits:

Photo credit: Enzo Morelos via Visualhunt.com /  CC BY-NC-ND

Photo credit: FixersUK via Visualhunt /  CC BY-ND

 

Karla Teaches

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As you may or may not know, I’m nearing the end of my journey toward my degree in Special Education! If I make it through student teaching I’ll graduate in December. Yay!

If you’d like to follow my adventures, you can do so here at KarlaTeaches.com 

If you have ever been a student teacher and have tips for me, I welcome them!

I could also use your prayers for stamina. I sold my book on autism right before student teaching started and edits are due very soon. All I need is a clone, right? Anyone know where there’s a good deal on one?

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Teaching kids to touch type

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If there’s one thing I am grateful for from my public school education in the 70s, it’s that I was able to take classes to learn how to touch type. I can still type about 93-102 words per minute (WPM), and believe me, it’s come in handy when writing books, blogging, and writing research papers! (Thanks, Mr. Geesik!) (I can still hear and see him wiggling his fingers and sing-song saying, “Type, type, type!”)

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Since I have special needs children, and taught many special needs kids in my cottage school, I was always on the lookout for unique ways to teach life skills. One of the coolest tools I discovered  were these ingenious typing gloves from a company called Touchtypers.

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From the website: “Touchtypers is a system that uses specially developed lettered gloves and simple exercises to make it easy for students to learn to touch-type on computer keyboards, using any typing system or word processing software.”

The gloves come with an instruction booklet, but I also used old-fashioned typing books to help my students practice.

touchtypingbook

These gloves worked great! I like anything that helps children self-direct and teach themselves. The only thing you have to do is supervise a bit to make sure they’re actually using the correct fingers and not “cheating.”

I hope you like these gloves as much as I do/did. I don’t get any kind of kickback or anything from this company. But when I experience a great product, I want to tell everyone about it.

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Oh, and when you order the gloves, err on the smaller side because they stretch. Let me know how you like them!

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Dear autism families, how do you spell spontaneity?

Because I love someone (1)Because I really want to know.

Sometimes I fantasize about running errands and grocery shopping. Freely, that is. I mean, without all the logistical hoop jumping that has to take place before, during and after.

Before: rustling up the courage to ask someone to either go with me on errands or come watch the family so I can go alone. Then once I’ve got a helper in tow, figuring out when, where, and how it’s going to happen. Get everyone dressed appropriately and toileted and pray that no one has a bathroom emergency before you get to the store.

 

Excuse me- 'Scuse me- Could I get a (1)

During: finding the patience to deal with the meltdowns in the store and grabbing grabbing hands before they grab another grape or cherry and plop it in their mouth.  Or, fielding the 1.2 thousand text messages you’re getting from the auties and the babysitter while calculating the difference in cost if you buy 10 pounds of cheese versus 1 pound.

 

After: Dealing with the meltdowns because everyone’s tired and stressed from running errands with you. or the stress of being left at home without you. And praying you don’t meltdown yourself. Not that it would do any good or that anyone would notice.

 

Autism parents

On a particularly faith-filled day I might fantasize about going to a movie with my husband or getting away for the weekend. But most days I don’t have the energy for that. (Not the getaway. The thinking about and hoping for it. )

Now, before you think I’m complaining, I’m really not. This is just reality. And it’s so much a part of our lives, that we’ve grown used to it. We don’t stop to think about how we can’t do anything spontaneously until someone says, “want to go to a movie?” or “Want to get away with us for a few days to the Poconos?”

"MP overlook" --Wikimedia Commons

“MP overlook” –Wikimedia Commons

Alright, I admit, we never get asked to go to the Poconos. We live in Indiana. But you get the idea, right?

“Uhm. No. Sorry. Can’t. Can’t leave the boys alone even though they’re 20 years old. Can’t leave Mama alone, either, even though she’s 80 years old (she has Alzheimer’s).”

I know, I know, our life would be so much simpler if we just put them in a home.

But would it, really?

I think it’s just exchanging one stress for another. And besides, what if we warehoused everyone who inconvenienced us?

Seriously, though, the thought has crossed my mind more than once. But the twins are still in high school and it doesn’t seem right to find them “a home” before they graduate. And Mama? Well, she gets a lot more stimulation with us (trust me on this point) than she would in a home. So she’s staying, too.

Jesse and Ellen

My son, Jesse, showing his Grandma his tattoo. It’s his daughter’s name which is also Grandma’s name, too. But she doesn’t realize that. She has her own rocking chair in the church sanctuary. Adorable!

Besides, group homes aren’t exactly a haven. Those hired to work in group homes are paid a pittance. It’s hard to attract quality people to work as a caregiver. No one is going to care as much as family.

Still, family needs a break now and then.  All parents and caregivers need respite. Time to recharge. I wish people could learn to reach out and offer to help, but everyone is so busy. Way too busy. Busy, busy, busy.

I also think people are afraid of kids with autism. They worry they won’t be able to interact with them. I admit, it is a little overwhelming sometimes. But it’s a worthwhile, important endeavor. It’s part of what makes us human.

Caring. Kindness. Love. People with autism need those things.

And so do their parents.

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All the shiny things

SHINY

Blogging is like exercise. It’s too easy to get in the habit of not doing it.

I love to blog. I’ve blogged since the 90s and have had at least a dozen blogs over the years. My problem is finding a focus. 

I tend to lead life that way, too. There are so many shiny things that distract me: theology, writing, music, history, conspiracy theories, politics, entertaining, disabilities, advocating for children (my CASA work), my church ministry–and I haven’t even begun to brush the surface of my family, job and college responsibilities.

Barking dogs

Because I’m attracted to so many things, I’m easily distracted. Sadly, I remind myself of that verse in Daniel 12:4:” Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Sure, I run to and fro doing regular human stuff, but I also go here and there indulging my insatiable appetite for knowledge. How far I run! Via google I can browse the National Palace Museum in Taipei and then fly over to Venice and purse the Ca’Rezzonico. If I want I can squeeze another couple of hours at the British Museum before sauntering over to study the Mona Lisa at the Louvre. 

many shall run to and fro, and knowledge

So, dear reader, I’m learning I have a need to get focused.

Right now I’m in the throes of college math exams — working on my degree for Special Education — another shiny thing that is important to me. Just as important as writing.

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And, to be honest, there’s also a family crisis in our lives right now that is emotionally draining.

But as I sit here in the library waiting for my granddaughters to get out of one of their summer fun classes, I’m filled with gratitude for a patient, loving God. I know He’s waiting for me to quit running around like a toddler and settle in and pay attention. (I’ve always said you can’t teach a moving target. Is that what I am, Lord?)

-Be still and know that I am

I may not have been here writing very much these past few weeks, but one thing I’ve managed to keep up with is prayer and bible reading. I’m thankful for that. I don’t think I could survive the buffeting without time in His Word. I’m so thankful for the hunger God has given me for Him . And I wonder — is that what He’s calling me to focus on more?

My heart is so full. I have so much to share with you. But where do I start? How do I begin? And just what is it you want to know?

Your Questioning Servant,

Karla

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Pinterest Cooking Sleepover Recipes

The Most Delicious Recipe Blog Hop!

This is a recipe blog hop! Go here to get the button and join us each week: The Most Delicious Recipe Blog Hop.

Then add your recipe post to mine with the linky codes at the end of this post.

Whether you’re a paleo, vegetarian, southern cook, or baker, you’re welcome to join me and post a weekly recipe!

Pinterest Cooking Sleepover Recipes

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It’s been a long cold winter in NE Indiana. The kind of winter that calls for lots of comfort food. (Thank goodness for baggy sweaters!)

Last Friday I invited all the girls at our church, ages K-12 grade, to a Pinterest cooking sleepover. It was a total blast and I can’t wait to share the recipes we tried! I’ve been collecting Pinterest recipes for a long time on my Pinterest board. I will never find enough time to make all of them, but having a cooking sleepover allowed us to make and try six different fattening and  delicious recipes! Some were a hit and others were so-so. All were kid-friendly and fun.

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Before we started our cooking activities, I reminded the girls how God made us with His hands and how special we are to Him. I asked them to remember as we worked with our hands, how God loves what He made just as we love what we make. I reminded them that they are royalty–the daughters of the King of Kings.

Recipe 1:

Pepperoni Roll-ups

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Bing free-use image. I forgot to take pics of our finished products but this is exactly how we served them up!

This was so easy and the kids loved doing it. They were delicious, too.

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I spread parchment paper all along the table and after the girls washed their hands, gave them each two crescent roll doughs, five pepperonis and a handful of mozzarella cheese. Most recipes call for a stick of string cheese, but using grated cheese was less expensive.

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I had the help of three other adults and the older girls pitched in and helped the younger girls. This activity worked for all ages and all abilities. One of our teens has autism and an intellectual disability and she had no trouble participating like everyone else. We all had fun eating the pepperoni and cheese, too, as we worked!

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We used cupcake paper to put the spaghetti sauce in for dipping when we served them. The girls loved them. They were surprisingly filling, too! (Uh, the roll-ups, not the girls!)

Since we have a western theme going on for our Children’s ministry, while the roll-ups were cooking, I read them a cute little book about a little cowboy and a very bossy cowgirl who’s a know-it-all: Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door. We talked about how to be a good friend and the difference between being bossy and being a leader. The book also emphasizes forgiveness, so we were able to discuss that as well. (And yes, the teen girls were just as engaged. I find that teens love story books.)

Conrad and the Cowgirl Next Door

The next thing we made were loaded nachos! I modified a very spicy recipe for little girl palates so it wasn’t so hot. We used Scoops brand Tostitos for the girls to put the filling in themselves. (Adults mixed the filling.)

Recipe 2

Loaded Nachos (for kids)

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cans refried beans
  • 2 cans whole kernel sweet corn drained (I think you could easily use frozen as long as it’s thawed and drained first)
  • 1 can nacho cheese sauce
  • 1 packet of taco seasoning (2 could be used if your kids like spicier foods)
  • Tortilla chips
  • Shredded cheese

Instructions:

Mix together and put in Sccops shells (you could spread this over a pan of chips, too)

Other recipes include beef or chicken, jalapenos and avocados. Any mix like this can be modified to your family’s preferences.

After the shells are filled, sprinkle Mexican mix cheese (Colby and cheddar) over top. Put in oven for a few minutes until cheese is melted on the top. Serve.

NOM! Just typing this makes me hungry!

This recipe made two full cookie sheet pans. The picture above doesn’t do justice to how delicious this was! And all the adults agreed these would make great little hors d’ourves for a party!

Recipe 3

“Gourmet” Hot Cocoa

Hot chocolate is like a hug from the-1

Again, I modified a Pinterest recipe. If you do a search on Pinterest for “Crock-pot Hot Cocoa” you’ll find lots of variations. Here’s what I put in our 8 quart crock-pot (this is not diet-friendly by any means but it’s delicious!)

  • 2 bags chocolate chips (you can use any kind, we used bittersweet)
  • 2 cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 3 cups heavy whipped cream
  • 12 cups milk (almost a gallon — we used 2%)

Heat in crock-pot on low being careful not to scald it. Stir often as the chips melt. When I served it to the little girls I added cold milk to their cups to cool it off. I served the adults straight up and hot. We didn’t have any marshmallows but I think that would have ruined it, actually. It was so good!

Recipe 4

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Money talks.Chocolate sings!-1

We had beautiful red, juicy strawberries but my method of making dipping chocolate bombed. I’d read a blog from Pinterest that said you could just melt chocolate chips. Don’t believe it. I knew better because I’ve helped my friend make candy before and she’s super picky about “tempering the chocolate.” But, I thought I’d try it.

Chocolate-covered-Strawberries-for-Nailed-It-Valentines-Day

If you’re going to dip chocolate, get a dipping chocolate. That’s my number one recommendation. It really is a science. Bakers has a great dipping chocolate for the microwave that is super easy to use.  I’ve used it in a special education class before and you really can’t ruin it.

Next time I’ll use a chocolate fountain. I’ve successfully used those before without failure.

So what happened? I must have gotten the chocolate chips too hot and they hardened in the bowl. So I added butter and it helped some, but still it wasn’t thin enough for dipping. So I gave each girl a spoonful of chocolate in their own little bowl and plopped their strawberries on them. And, as it often does when you cook a flop, those strawberries and chocolate were the most popular treat of the night!  Everyone begged for more.

Recipe 5

Cherry Pizza

Why not go out on  a limb_ That is where-1

Who doesn’t love cherry pizza? The teen girls made this easy-peasy treat and we served it for breakfast:

Ingredients:

  • Pillsbury refrigerated pie crust
  • Can of cherry filling
  • Cream cheese frosting (we made ours from scratch; recipe here)
  • Butter
  • Granola

Instructions:

Roll out the pie crusts (we used two pie crust to make two pizzas) and slather with butter. Bake until browned. Remove from oven and spread 1 can of cherries on each pie crust. Drizzle with cream cheese frosting and granola. Serve.

We didn’t put the frosting and granola on the pizzas until the next morning. (We re-heated the pizzas first.) They disappeared fast! Nothing was left!

Recipe 6

Cheesecake Cake Batter Dip

The girls’ favorites were the strawberries. But my favorite was this dip. I was exhausted by the time we got to this point and it felt so good to settle in with my hot cocoa and this dip with graham crackers. The teen girls mixed this one up themselves. It was sooo good! Instead of serving it dip-like, we frosted graham crackers with it for the little ones. Us older girls dipped to our heart’s content.

I found this recipe on Pinterest but the pin was taken straight IWashYouDry.com (see URL on the picture caption above). There are other variations on this recipe on Pinterest using Funfetti cake mix, so check those out, too. I chose this one because I love the tang of cream cheese and sour cream. Our first batch tasted “funny” and I think it was the vanilla. I think we got a bad bottle. So we threw that batch out and made another without the vanilla and it was scrumptious.

Ingredients:
  • 8 oz package of cream cheese, room temperature
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • ½ cup white cake mix
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup sprinkles
  • Graham Crackers for dipping
Instructions:
  1. Place cream cheese in your mixing bowl and beat on medium high speed for 3 minutes, or until it becomes light and whipped.
  2. Bring speed down to medium and add the sour cream and vanilla, mix until incorporated. Slowly add the powdered sugar and cake mix to the bowl and mix until combined. Scrape the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula and then gently fold in the sprinkles.
  3. Serve cold with graham crackers, pretzels, or fresh fruit slices. Enjoy!

I can hear the Mommies of the Year yelling at me about how unhealthy these treats were. This is not something I recommend serving on a regular basis. These were party foods. One night of supreme, delectable indulgence.  And because there were so many of us, there was little chance of over-indulging.

Besides, I’ve promised the girls that at our next sleepover in the summer, we’ll have a pool party and consume copious amounts of fruits and vegetables to make up for it! I see lots of smoothies in my future.

If you have any cute raw fruit and veggie recipes, send them my way!

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Sometimes Mama Bear needs to back off

The Bear Family Stand Up

I’m subbing at the high school this week in a special education classroom. That means that my twin sons who take life skills classes are in my department. This is great fun for them. But today my Mama Grizzly showed a bit when a staff member (not a teacher, a support staff) rudely snapped at one of them, first thing in the morning. No hello. Nothing. Just a bark.

grumpy-cat

The reason she snapped at my son was valid. It was how she handled it that wasn’t. He’d left his backpack in front of a locked classroom door, and while waiting for someone to unlock it, he slipped into my room to visit with me.

When the staff member arrived, she flew into my classroom and barked, “Whose stuff is that in the hall in front of Mrs. —‘s door?”

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Isaiah, who is almost always cheerful and sweet, and wouldn’t do anything wrong on purpose to inconvenience someone, jumped up from his chair and headed toward the hall door, “Oh, that’s mine.”

To which she responded with a great scowl and angry voice, “Well then move it, it’s in the way.” (Or some such phrase of which I don’t remember the exact words.) All I know, is that I never talk to students that way, and especially not special needs students.

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It’s all in how you say it. And I realize that teachers and staff have bad mornings. But bad mornings should be left at the schoolhouse door. Being a grouch doesn’t model appropriate behavior to students who need it more than anyone. I dare say that teens with autism need it more than elementary-aged children (although they all do desperately need it).

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I did complain to their teacher about her, but as I was doing so, I felt petty. It’s impossible for me to protect them from all the rude people on earth. Especially now that they are adults. (They are 19 but still in school until they are 21.) Still, as an educator myself, I feel that all students should be treated with respect. Tone of voice speaks volumes.

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As I shared in my post on my philosophy of education, school may be one of the only places some kids have that’s a safe place to fall. If they are to feel valued, school personnel must treat them with respect. It doesn’t matter what a child’s label is, they are still deserving of politeness.

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Maybe the snarky  staff member works with hard behavior cases. I don’t know. But I do know that children will act the way you expect them to most of the time. I know this because I’ve worked with some very, very difficult students. No one should ever be valued less because of their limitations or emotional struggles.

i-believe-in-youThis Mama Grizzly is learning which battles to fight. It’s not easy. There will be many more instances, I’m sure, when I won’t know whether to bite my tongue or take up the torch on behalf of my sons. It’s because of their vulnerability and inability to know if an offense is truly something they should be reprimanded for, or an honest, un-meant mistake. A student with autism isn’t always going to process that a book bag in front of the door might be in someone’s way.

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This frustration at the world for not understanding autism is part of what parenting these kids is so difficult. We want people to understand them, and frankly, most people aren’t even going to care. It’s something I’m learning to accept. Even 19 years later.

autismbI think as long as I live, the Mama Grizzly side of me, will always wrestle with the teacher in me, to teach the world how to get it about autism, kindness, and respect. Thankfully, the kind side of me won today, and I didn’t go toe to toe with the staff member. A part of me wishes I hadn’t complained to the teacher.

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Sometimes I feel I should wear a sign that says, “If you think I’m opinionated, you should know how much I want to say and don’t!” There’s so much inside of me that feels like it’s going to blow at times when people are rude to my children or other people with disabilities.

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Only with God’s help am I able to model appropriate behavior when I’m feeling protective. Since my gift is words, it’s also my weakness, and I know I need to temper my opinions with grace.

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Have you ever felt the need to stand up for your children? How did you handle it? What do you think I should have done? Should I have said something or not?

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 Tweet this: No one should ever be valued less because of their limitations.

 

Strong Girls aren’t Mean Girls part III

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A few weeks ago I wrote to you, dear Strong Girls, about standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

Today I want to share a great Strong Girl story with you.

Last night, in front of thousands of people, Anahi Alvarez gave her Homecoming Queen crown to her friend, Lillian Skinner.

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Lillian, described as sweet and innocent, was targeted by mean girls and told she’d been nominated as Homecoming Queen, which wasn’t true. When her friends, Anahi Alvarez, and Naomi Martinez, who were nominated as Homecoming Queen, found out, they vowed that if they won the crown, they’d give it to Lillian.

Watch the amazing report here:

 

Today, I’m happy to award the first Strong Girl Commendation Award to Strong Girls Anahi Alvarez, Namoi Martinez and Lillian Skinner.

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Do you know a Strong Girl who should receive this award? Let me know and I’ll honor her here.

twitter02smallTweet this: Alvarez, Martinez and Skinner show us what it means to be Strong Girls!

My philosophy of education

I’m at that point in my degree program where I have to submit a philosophy of education to my portfolio. I thought I’d share it with you here and I’m eager to hear your thoughts!

Karla Akins
Western Governors University
Bachelor of Arts Special Education K-12 and Elementary K-6 Licensure Track

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I come from a long line of educators. My father was a high school teacher and my ancestors built one of the first school houses in Pennsylvania, where it still stands in Halifax. My formal experience in teaching began when I was a twelve-year-old teacher’s aide in a preschool classroom. “Busy Bees” had a loving, nurturing teacher named Mrs. Reed. By watching her I learned kindness, and what it felt like to see a child go from “not knowing” to “knowing.”

busy_bee-399x411I also formed my philosophy from the good and bad teachers I had as a child. My bad teachers taught me the importance of compassion. My good teachers taught me to look for the reasons behind a child’s behavior. I was fidgety in school, and until my fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Strecker, discovered that boredom was the reason for my disruptiveness, I was often in trouble. Instead of punishing or embarrassing me, she kept me meaningfully engaged.

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Because I’m the parent of three children on the autism spectrum who struggled with academics, I’m a firm believer in searching for an open window into a child’s understanding. I enjoy the challenge of discovering the key that unlocks concepts for students. I’m also drawn to children with difficult behavior. I believe that behavior is communication, and I relish in decoding what challenging students are trying to say.

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I believe that lessons in the classroom should be meaningful and engaging for all students. If they aren’t, it’s a recipe for undesirable conduct. I have a tongue-in-cheek motto: “You can’t teach a moving target.” Most young people have a fascination with something that will keep them engaged. Using that fascination, I believe, is the key to keeping their attention and motivating them to participate with success.

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Regardless of ability, all students have gifts inside them that I, as a teacher, am responsible for unwrapping. A good teacher will focus on abilities and gifts of a student to enhance and strengthen weak areas. This goes hand in hand with using a child’s fascinations and obsessions to motivate them to learn. When children experience success, they gain the courage and esteem to try new things and practice skills they are weak in.

thegiftedMy passion as a teacher is to be an enthusiastic encourager. By focusing on strengths, cheering students on through positive reinforcement, I’m able to build trusting relationships with my students, who then develop the confidence to navigate their academic careers. In this way students reach their full potential.

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While firmness is important, I also realize that a teacher’s patient attention and presence in a student’s life may be the only soft place in the world for that child to fall. Teachers now, more than ever, need to realize they are a hero in the life of their students, and may be the only hope some kids have for feeling as if they matter.

For a child who lives with hazards in their neighborhood, or perhaps, poverty, teaching a child what they can do to change their world is a powerful way for the student to accept responsibility and appreciate the power they possess as an individual. Every community has its own challenges and culture. Therefore, I believe, teaching methods should change based upon the needs of the child, their families and their culture.

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I’m a teacher who believes in teaching to the individual needs of the child. I respect my students as fellow learners and hope to motivate them to find answers for themselves. By teaching in a way that piques a child’s interest to the point they beg for answers, I have accomplished the main goal of my philosophy, which is, to guide students toward success not only in school, but in life.

twitter26sepiamsallerTweet this: All students have gifts inside them that I, as a teacher, am responsible for unwrapping.