A Pair of Miracles: Isaac got a job!

Main View Restaurant, North Manchester, Indiana

When your identical twin brother has a job and you don’t, it’s a tough row to hoe. Let’s rephrase that. When your identical twin brother with autism has a job and you have autism, and you don’t have a job yet, it’s super hard to process and understand. 

Last week Isaac started his new job! This has been a long road for both boys. But thanks to Vocational Rehab in  Indiana, the boys are now both in job placements and succeeding. At least for now.

Autism is unpredictable, and while we keep our fingers crossed and are hopeful they will be able to stay in their positions, things come up that could change all that.

But today, we don’t focus on that. Right now we celebrate.  Isaac has a job! This was something I was told long ago that he’d never do. Just look at these miracles now!

Isaiah works at a convenience store/gas station about three mornings a week. And now Isaac is working at a locally owned restaurant. At the gas station, Isaiah cleans and stocks. At the restaurant Isaac does dishes several evenings a week.

Excuse me while I Snoopy dance!

We are thrilled that God has been gracious to us. And the boys are thrilled, too. Things are a lot less stressful around here now. Isaac is no longer upset and moping about  not having a job. With identical twins with cognitive disabilities, who often see themselves as one entity instead of separate human beings, this has been a difficult season for us to handle.

I had no idea parenting adult children would be so challenging. Sometimes I really long for when they were all little. Things were much simpler! Am I the only one?

Oh, and Isaac’s not the only one who  started a new job! Yesterday I attended my first training for my new teaching position as an 8th grade resource teacher at Indian Springs Middle School! I’ll send more details about that later.

In the meantime, check out the twins’ book. It’s about how God proved the doctors wrong. And how there is always hope and grace. Always.

 

Please click to tweet:  Autism grows up: getting a job

The (not so) glamorous life of a writer

Hello, beautiful people!

Today is LAUNCH DAY!

Yep, today is the day my new book, A Pair of Miracles, the story of my twins’ journey with autism, ventures out into the great big world.

(Did you get your copy yet? Huh, huh, huh, did ya, did ya, did ya?)

Okay. Maybe a bit too much coffee this morning???

Since so many people think I lead a glamorous life as a writer, I thought I’d share the run-down of my day so far. (Okay, so most people know I don’t lead a glamorous life, but  it makes good copy, so bear with me.)

6:30 AM — Hit snooze button

7:30 AM — Finally walking upright. Make coffee. Stumble through house looking for the house phone.

7:31 AM — Forget I’m looking for the  house phone. Forget I made coffee. Do hygiene stuff.

7:35 AM — Take laptop to office, look for interview confirmation, get out notes for the radio interview, get distracted by email and forget I’m setting up for a radio interview.

8:00 AM —  Look for house phone. Again. The radio stations always want you on a land line, not your cell phone.

Time out. Let me explain something.

Our house phone is cordless. There are two of them. I can’t find either one. I never, and I mean, never talk on the house phone. I think the last time I spoke on  the house phone was 1999.

8:15 AM — Panic. Wake  up the twins. “Where’s the phone???”

8:20 AM — Find the  phone. Go to office with it. Set the red flashing light outside my office door so twins will know I’m on an interview/recording.

Yes, I actually use this outside my office door. No one in my house understands the words, “Do not disturb, or bang on my door, I’m recording/interviewing.” This visual signal works for everyone but the two cats.

8:31 AM — I suddenly realize the ringer is off on the phone. I DO NOT KNOW  HOW TO TURN THE RINGER ON! This is not a smart phone. This is a clunky land line phone that has no icons. HOW DO I TURN ON THE RINGER! I don’t know how to check to see if the station has already called me. HELP!

8:32 AM — Yell down at the twins for help. “I don’t know how to turn the ringer on, why is it off?? HELP!”

8:33 AM — Isaiah turns the ringer  on. I run back to my office and shut the door, and try to slow down my breathing.

8:35 AM — The radio  station calls. On the air. Do I sound ridiculous? Do I sound like a know-it-all? Do they like me? Huh, huh, huh, do they, do they, do they???? Man am I thirsty. I forgot to bring water into the office. My mouth is full of cotton. Breathe, Karla, breathe. But not into the phone. Do. Not. Heavy. Breathe. Into. The. Phone. People do not want to hear heavy breathing in their car on the way to work. Breathe sideways. Smile. Put a smile in your voice. They can hear the smile…Slow. Down…

Somehow I survived the first interview of the day. I hope the radio station did. And the listeners. Especially the listeners.

I have to be honest. Interviews are hard for me. I think they are for most people. Writers, especially, would rather write words than say them out loud. Okay, maybe not all writers, but this one is much more clever when writing.

What? Still too much coffee?

After the interview I sent the twins to McD’s on their golf cart. They love doing this. We celebrated with a launch day breakfast and (more) coffee. Okay, fine, frappes. We had caramel frappes. There. I said it.

And here we are. I have more interviews today. I have located the phone. My papers are all lined up in a row so I don’t miss a call.

Problem is, living with autism as I do,  the phone could disappear in a heartbeat. And I could still be doing some heavy breathing.

Life isn’t glamorous. But it’s certainly never boring.

Please tweet:

Click: The (not so) glamorous writer launches a book!

It’s almost time for lunch, er, I mean, launch!

You know me. I’m always thinking food…

But seriously, tomorrow is Launch Day!

:::Cue balloons and music:::

A Pair of Miracles will be available everywhere books are sold all over the world.

Wow. Think of it.

:::Karla sits and ponders:::

Actually, I can’t wrap my mind around that internationally-available thing. So, I’m going to have a live feed pajama party tomorrow night and you’re invited!

I will give away four copies of this book tomorrow night at my Facebook Live launch party.

Besides all that, I’d love to have you join me.

See you there!!!

Jake Says:

“I hope everyone likes my paw-jamas!”

Frankie says:

“The party is going to be paw-sitively paw-some!

Pip says:

“I’ll bring the pup-corn!”

Chevy says:

“Did somebody say lunch?”

(Chevy needs to work on being punny…)

Please tweet:

It’s a paw-some launch paw-ty!

What do I have in common with a breakdancing gorilla?

Did you hear that? That was me breathing a huge sigh of relief.

I finally finished four huge papers for my Master’s Degree. I’ll have a few weeks off and then I’ll be back to the grind of writing papers again.

In the meantime, I may or may not have celebrated like this exuberant gorilla. I’ll wait while you watch:

That looks like so much FUN. I want to get right in there with him. Don’t tell me animals don’t have emotions. Look at that joy!

Speaking of fun, I’ve been making myself indulge in some. My husband has figured out how to get the pool water the perfect temperature and I have had wonderful evening swims with the grandchildren and even by myself. Swimming is my favorite.

July 4, 2017 with the grandchildren and granddog! That’s Mr. Himself in his robe. Hee hee.

In other news, my next book launches next week! Stay tuned for some giveaways and spread the word! If you can come to the launch parties, I’d love to see you! Here’s the info:

Official launch day is July 25! 

The twins are so excited. I am trying not to be nervous. But as Mr. Himself said, “You’ve worked hard your whole life for this moment. Enjoy it.”

Okay. Breathe. Breathe.

Until next time: dance like a gorilla! Splash  in a pool! Get out there while you can, kick up your heels and have some FUN!

Please tweet: Get out there and dance like a gorilla!

Proof: teaching sign language and communication works

In my last post, Teaching autism: first things first, I talked about the importance of teaching sign language and communication skills first.

After I posted the video, I found the following inspiration:

I’m passionate about kids getting early intervention and getting it consistently. Indiana education systems need to wake up. There are too many students who don’t get the chance that the young man in the above video got.

Kids with autism can learn to communicate if they’re given the appropriate intervention. It’s time to stop dragging our feet. It’s time to help kids like Ben.

What do you think? Weigh in!

Please tweet: What other autism questions do you have?

I’d love to meet you! You’re invited to my autism book talk on August 3! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook: https://goo.gl/ScsskD

The book launches on July 25. You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com and everywhere books are sold. The twins are so excited to sign books. They’re adorable about it. “Should we practice signing our name, Mom?” I can’t wait for you to meet them and see how awesome they are. And I can’t wait to meet you!

Teaching autism: first things first

What do we do first for kids with autism?

Teach them to communicate!

Meet their sensory needs!

Here’s the video I created to share with those who work with your child with autism. I hope it helps!

 

Let me know what videos you’d like to see by leaving me a note in the comments below.

Please tweet: What other autism questions do you have?

I’d love to meet you! You’re invited to my autism book talk on August 3! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook: https://goo.gl/ScsskD

The book launches on July 25. You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Christianbook.com and everywhere books are sold. The twins are so excited to sign books. They’re adorable about it. “Should we practice signing our name, Mom?” I can’t wait for you to meet them and see how awesome they are. And I can’t wait to meet you!

Princess in training

I’ve been interviewing for a day job for months now. I want the day job for which I’ve sacrificed and gotten my degree. I know that job is out there. It just hasn’t found me yet.

I was asked recently in a job interview what two most important lessons I’d learned in the past year.

My answers: Humility and Perseverance.

I was a student teacher and a long-term substitute teacher last year. By humbling myself and submitting myself to learning from others, I reached my goal of obtaining my teaching license in special education and elementary education.

In the process, I was rejected from time to time — by other teachers, administrators, what have you. Anywhere you work, you’ll experience rejection. News flash: not everyone is going to like you.

Writers get rejected a lot, too. And as a writer, I’m a little thin-skinned. Writers must be emotionally vulnerable to have insight into the human condition.

Rejection is painful, but for highly sensitive people such as myself, it’s brutal.

Another reason rejection is difficult for me is because I struggle with not internalizing it and letting it label me. As a child who was rejected in the womb, left at the hospital by her mother (for whatever reasons, good or bad), rejection is the ugly thorn the enemy uses the most to torment me. He pokes at my insecurities and whispers:

“You’re never good enough.”

“You’ll never measure up.”

“You’ll never get a teaching job. You’re too old. Washed up. You have no future. Give up, already. Crawl in a hole and just die, why don’t you? No one gives a flip about you or what you have to say.”

“You’re not worthy.”

“Who do you think you are?”

I have two choices when these demons do a jig on my self-worth . I can listen to them, wallow in self-pity and consume copious amounts of chocolate, or I can stand up to their bullying.

Who do I think I am?

I am the righteousness of God in Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). If God is for me, who can be against me (Romans 8:31)? If God favors me, what does it matter what others think (Psalm 5:12)? I am not what others think I am. I am what God says I am.

God formed me with His hands and breathed in my nostrils the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). I am created in HIS image (Genesis 1:27). Before I was formed, He knew me and knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139: 13 & 16). He knows the number of hairs on my head and before I say a word? He knows what I’m going to say (Matthew 10:30, Psalm 139:4).

I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)!

I am worth more than many sparrows (Matthew 10:31) and have been crowned with glory (Psalm 8:5; Genesis 1:26).

Cool! I love tiaras! Crowns = princesses. I’m a princess in training. Take that, ugly demon  of rejection. You’re messing with royalty here.

God loves me so much that nothing can snatch me out of His hand (John 10:29) and He will never leave nor forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

Yes, it’s been a humbling twelve months. But I’ve also learned how strong I am. I’m stronger than anyone ever imagined, including myself. Not because I’m spectacular, but because I  know where my help comes from.

I don’t live by my own power or understanding. I’ve learned this past year that I  have tons of plans, but it’s God’s purpose that prevails (Zechariah 4:6; Proverbs 3:5). It’s not my might, but His Spirit that gets me through the day and guides and empowers me (John 16:7, 13; Acts 1:8, Galatians 5:16).

Rejection is painful but it won’t kill me because I won’t let it. I know I’m strong because I keep getting back up and trying again. I have always believed it isn’t the most talented that persevere and succeed but the most determined.

My crown might be a little crooked. There are a few gems missing, and there are a few scratches that need rubbing out. Even when I fall, it manages to stay on my head. It gets bumped and bent but that doesn’t mean I’m any less of a king’s kid.

I’m not what negative thoughts and spirits say I am.

I am what God says I am.

A child of the king.

You are, too, if you follow King Jesus. Never, ever forget it.

What are the two most important lessons you’ve learned so far in 2017? Weigh in!

Princess in Training first appeared on KarlaAkins.com.

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?

cyberbully

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.)

the-ultimate-protective-dad_o_530456

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…)

deactivate-facebook-profile

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.

!!!!!!

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.

unsee

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.

internettroll

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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Tweet this: Autism grows up: how do we handle social media?



Photo Credits:

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

Photo credit: FixersUK via Visualhunt /  CC BY-ND

 

Are you old school 3-D or digital?

over the hill birthday

I think I live in an awesome time to be a writer. What used to take months, even years, to research, I can learn now with just a few clicks. I don’t have to travel anywhere but to my writing cave to go all over the world. I don’t even need a thesaurus, dictionary or encyclopedia at my side. Click. Click. A plethora of resources appears at the command of my fingertips.

app

As I’ve shared before, I really do wish it were possible to read the entire Internet. Then again, sometimes I read so much of it I’m left with even fewer answers than before. The reason? Not every expert agrees. Our knowledge on this earth is finite, and our faith, work and lives extremely complex. There’s simply no way to know everything.

Our knowledge on this earth is finite, and our faith, work and lives extremely complex. There's simply no way to know everything.

And then there’s the issue of digital versus 3-D. Print book vs. e-book. Hard copy versus virtual. I find myself unable to commit to one or the other. Fact is, I’m a hybrid consumer when it comes to using resources.

When organizing your thoughts while writing and planning, do you lean more toward digital or 3-d? I find myself doing both. I still haven’t completely committed to a digital calendar. I record both in my hard copy planner and my digital google calendar. For some reason, the hard copy planner is like a security blanket for me.

Noon

Click to print!

Maybe if I’d grown up recording my life in the virtual world I’d be more willing to let the hard copy calendar go. For now, though, I have it on my phone, computer, on the wall on a whiteboard and in my planner. I don’t know if that’s because I’m getting older and am afraid of being forgetful, or if I just enjoy planning.

-weekly To Do-

Click image to print!

As for planning a novel, I find myself using both Kanbanflow, WriteWay software and a 3-D notebook for storing ideas, outlines, characterizations and research. I found a really awesome little notebook that I wish, oh wish, they’d make in a 2″ binder. In this I keep all sorts of notes, such as my Pixar graphic organizers, character charts, names, research and more. I like being able to reach for the notebook instead of having to figure out where I stored the info online or on my laptop. And while WriteWay has given me a great tool for storing research and ideas, too, I still like having that back-up of a 3-D notebook.

binder

Click to buy

For now, both 3-D and virtual/digital planning works for me. I know I’m probably working at it a little harder than the next person because I use redundant methods. But it makes me feel safer somehow. Plus, I’m an extremely visual person. Not being able to physically see my resources makes me sort of anxious. Am I the only one?

How about you? Are you more a virtual or 3-D consumer/planner/writer? Weigh in!

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Please tweet: Are you a 3-D or virtual consumer/planner/writer?