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

To make your dreams come true, it’s up to you…

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“If it’s to be it’s up to me.”

I know that as a Christian this quote isn’t exactly right. But there’s a lot of truth in it. Other than the fact that indeed, we must line up our dreams and plans and goals with God’s purpose for our lives, no one is going to make sure we hit the mark but ourselves.

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Six years ago I decided to pursue two life-long dreams. To continue my college education and write books. Since then, neither of those dreams dissipated. And now I find myself in the middle of one of the hardest parts of the journey physically for me: student teaching and editing a book I’ve sold to ready it for publication.

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During my journey to today, no one ever asked me if I had my homework done or if I had written anything each day. No one pushed me out of bed in the mornings after staying up until two or three in the morning. No one made my tea or asked me if I was making my deadlines.

I had to learn to say no in order to say yes to my dreams. Saying no is hard for me. As a pastor’s wife, I’ve been conditioned to worry about what other people think. I’ve still not mastered the concept of forging ahead without a thought to others’ opinions, but I’m getting better. I mean, sometimes it’s good to hear other opinions about things. I’m still figuring out when to listen and when to tune out.

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The point is this. More than likely no one has a passion for your dream like you. No one wants it as bad as you do. And you’ve got to muster up all the courage you can to climb that mountain and reach the top. It’s called ambition. And its cohort is grit.

You can do this dream thing. But be prepared to encourage yourself a lot. Be prepared to forge ahead when others wish you’d just slow down and take a breather. When your friends look at you funny because you need to stay in and write or study instead of going to the game or out for a night on the town, you can have the backbone to know that you’re in a different season than they are. You’re in the season of mountain climbing, and you need to suck up all the oxygen you can.

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You can do this. Dreaming is a solitary thing. And sometimes, making dreams come true is solitary, too. But as Christians, we’re never alone. Isn’t that wonderful? Imagine having to do it alone. We don’t have to. We have the Great Teacher with us and in us. We have the mind of Christ. We have someone Who never leaves us nor forsakes us.

Give Him your dreams and He’ll help you carry them. He’ll even carry you when you’re too tired to take another step. Ask me how I know.

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Tweet this: Dreaming + Grit = Mountaintop views

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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Tweet this: Superpower: teaching; passion: writing, sleeping: ?

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.

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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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Please tweet: Teach your special needs kids to type!

Meet me in Iowa!

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Hi, Friends!

Just a wee update to let you know that I’ll be speaking at the Homeschool Iowa Conference next week!

Here are the topics I’ll be covering:

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Technology and Your Homeschool

Is technology really all that important? How should you use it in your homeschool? When should you not use it? Learn some creative ways to integrate technology in your homeschool and have your eyes opened about dangerous technological advances you and your family needs to know about.

autism

Homeschooling Children with Autism

Has God called you to teach your child with autism at home? Do you wonder what the most important skills are to teach? Get practical tips on coping with tantrums, learning social skills, and leading your child to God. As children with autism grow up, what life skills are important to teach them? What can a parent do about aggressive, oppositional behavior? Learn how Karla taught her own sons with autism. What were the most valuable lessons of all? Handouts include practical tips for parents, therapists and teachers.

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Homeschooling Typical Children and Children with Special Needs Using the Same Curriculum

Do you ever feel as if you’re in over your head? Worried that you aren’t qualified to teach your special needs child? Learn why you’re the expert on your child and their condition. Get practical tips on helping them succeed through finding the right resources, building a supportive network, and accessing the right therapies. Learn what therapies worked and didn’t when Karla taught her own children with autism, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, speech disabilities and dyslexia. Handouts include practical tips for parents, therapists and teachers.

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Creative Writing in the Homeschool

Have a gifted writer in the family? Learn from published author, Karla Akins, how to foster that gift with practical tips and creative writing ideas. She will also share the climate of publishing today, and a brief introduction to self-publishing in today’s market.

I can’t wait to meet you!

By the way I’m giving away goodies in a drawing while there, too!

  • O Canada Her Story (print) — Autographed
  • Sacagawea (ebook) – Autographed coupon
  • Jacques Cartier (ebook) – Autographed coupon
  • What Really Happened in the Middle Ages (print) — Autographed
  • What Really Happened in Colonial Times (print)– Autographed
  • Scented wax warmer
  • The Pastor’s Wife Wears Biker Boots (print) — Autographed

And those are the just the goodies I’m giving away in the overall conference. My table will also have a beautiful gift package drawing you can enter, too.

See you in Iowa!

If I were coming to your state, what would you like me to speak on?  Check here for a list of topics! And let me know in the comments below!

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Tweet this: Meet me at the Iowa #Homeschool Conference!

 

 

Public Shaming

Who gossips to youwill gossip about youEveryone’s talking about it. The recent scandal of a popular homeschooling family has tongues wagging all over the world. And even if I don’t mention their names here on this blog, chances are, you know exactly who I’m talking about.

And it’s not all our fault. The family put themselves out there for public consumption. Except that, I like to think they started out as a family who saw an opportunity to share Jesus with the world in a unique way. Maybe I’m naive, but that’s how I like to think it started.

As a former homeschool Mom myself, I know the idealism I embraced in those days. Looking back, maybe I was a little too idealistic. There’s no real way to know. But I don’t regret homeschooling. I wonder sometimes about some of my choices because I know I’m far from perfect. But I also know that my choice to homeschool my children was made prayerfully each year. I never took the decision lightly.

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HOMESCHOOL-COMICS

It makes me sad to see a family taken to task for something so humiliating in such a brutal way. I feel for the parents. I feel for the children. It breaks my heart because I know how it feels.

No, I don’t have my own reality  TV show. But I’m a pastor’s wife in a small rural town. We live in a glass house. Always have. And it’s not been easy on my children. Yes, we chose to be in the ministry. But that doesn’t mean the pain of public humiliation doesn’t hurt just as much.

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As a mother of sons who made mistakes as adults, I can identify with the TV mother’s grief. I know what it’s like to be publicly humiliated as a family. The emotions are overwhelming and confusing.

But I still don’t understand the delight people have in pointing their fingers and wagging their tongues. Even before my family went through such things I never liked the way TV programs and newspapers convicted people who were charged with crimes before they went to trial.

I’m not siding with any crime. I don’t condone crime or abuse of any kind. But it does trouble me to watch people rush to harsh judgement as if they’ve never faltered or made a mistake themselves. But for the grace of God none of my mistakes have been hung out for the world to see. How many of those who point fingers have sin in their own lives?

Judging others doesn't define who they

I suppose there have to be harsh critics in the world or we wouldn’t have judges or law enforcement officials. I know I wouldn’t make a very good one. I believe every soul is redeemable. I believe that wrongs can be forgiven and that no one is perfect. Mercy is, thankfully, one of my gifts. That doesn’t make me better than anyone else. It just means I’d not make a very good supreme court justice. I’m more of a defense lawyer-type than a prosecutor. And that’s okay because society needs both.

Homeschool families who believe in the Word of God as their guide aren’t perfect. I know for myself, I cling more desperately to His Word because I know how weak I am, how fallible, and how at risk I am of falling. It’s what holds me up. It’s what keeps me from making mistakes I’m sure to make without its guidance.

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People see what they want to see and believe what they want to believe. You can’t reason with unreasonable people. Those who hate that TV family will continue to hate them. And I hope the ones that love them will continue to pray for them but also learn some valuable lessons:

  • No one’s perfect.
  • Every family has secrets.
  • People delight in your shortcomings–suck it up and hold your head high.
  • You aren’t what people say you are, you are what God says you are.
  • This world is temporary but your relationship with God and others is not.
  • Pray for your enemies.
  • Pray for each other in the Homeschool/Christian community.
  • Be careful who you idolize and look up to because there are no perfect families or Christians.
  • You aren’t supposed to be idolizing anyone on this earth in the first place.
  • The only one who will never disappoint you is Jesus.
  • Follow Jesus not other Christians or Christian leaders.
  • Forgiveness doesn’t mean there aren’t consequences.
  • Some sins have harsher consequences than other sins but there is no sin too great God can’t forgive.
  • Some things aren’t any of your business.

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There are a lot more lessons to be learned and it’s a shame we’re learning them at the expense of a very nice family. I hope and pray you’ll join me in praying for them and for those who love to hate them. They need Jesus, too.

Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?  (Romans 2:1)

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Tweet this: If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

Substitute teaching


A to Z blog hop at Patterings.

Welcome to A to Z!

We’d love to have you join the fun, either blogging your way through the alphabet with us, or simply visiting. =) We dearly love visitors.

If you’re joining in the meme, be sure to link up with us at the end of this post. Since this is a blog hop, you can grab the code for the linky down there too. Find more info about the A to Z meme here.

Today’s Post is brought to you by the letter S

post-card-the-letter-s-17767264-304-480I’m a Substitute Teacher for the Manchester school system here in North Manchester, Indiana. Because I’m also a full-time student and minister, I only get to sub once in awhile but I enjoy it immensely.

My mean teacher face. Don't mess with this sub!

My mean teacher face. Don’t mess with this sub!

In fact, I think I might like substitute teaching better than full-time teaching. Here’s why:

1. Subs don’t have to take work home with them.

2. Subs don’t have to attend meetings after school.

3. Subs aren’t required to attend after-school events.

4. There is great variety in subbing. Sometimes I’m in an elementary classroom and other times I’m in a high school English class. But my favorite sub experiences are with the students in the Special Education classrooms. (Which is what I’m getting my degree in.)

5. Subs don’t have to record grades, hold conferences, or meet with parents.

Parent_Teacher_ConferencesWhat don’t I like about subbing?

1 .Recess duty.

2. Recess duty.

3. Recess duty.

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I do love questions from five-year-olds. They’re often irrelevant to what I’m teaching and most of the time hilarious.

I’ve never liked recess duty. Especially when it’s 9F out and there’s ice everywhere. It’s just not my cup of tea.

How about you? Have you ever filled in for someone on a job? What was it? What did you like about it? Dislike about it?

books-and-little-bird-kestutis-kasparaviciusTweet this: I hate recess duty but I love subbing!

 


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.

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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.