My New Life as a Special Education Teacher

Yes, I know, I know. It’s ironic. I’ve not had much to do with public schools during most of my adult life. I did attend public schools as a child K-12th grade, but I chose to homeschool my children for various reasons. One of them being the school districts we lived in doing a poor job of servicing children with special needs. Another was that I believed, and still do, that a good homeschool education is light years better than a public school one. (Notice I said good homeschool education. Too many claim to homeschool and really don’t.) We provided so many more opportunities as a home school and cottage school than public schools ever could. (I do talk quite a bit about our cottage school in my book, A Pair of Miracles.)

Both of my biological sons, like their father, had a difficult time learning to read and spell. I didn’t want them to fall behind when it came to learning. But I also wanted them to have a Christian education. That was very important to me. I wanted my children to know the Bible well.

My adopted twin sons have autism, intellectual disabilities and speech issues. The public schools couldn’t meet their various needs, especially socially. Ironic, isn’t it?

So how does a passionate homeschool mom end up teaching in public school? Easy. I want to be a special education teacher to help improve, in some small way, the delivery of special education to students. God has called me to work with special needs children, and public school is the best opportunity for me to do so.

(And then, there’s that pesky detail of needing insurance, food, and rent. <sigh> Yeah. Adulting is hard.)

I brought one of my favorite little tables from home to use as a desk.

Unless you’re a New York Times best seller, or get a generous movie deal, writing doesn’t pay the bills. I haven’t broken even financially with my writing career. Between travel, networking and website, no profit has been earned. Still, I will always, always write because it’s who I am. Ducks swim. I write and teach. I guess you could say this teaching job supports my writing habit. Maybe someday my writing will support our family completely. That will be a happy day. Until then, like Paul in the Bible, I “make tents” to help take care of myself and my family, and also to be a witness.

I can’t tell kids in public school about Jesus. I can’t give them the whole hope of Who He is. But I  can be kind, validating and helpful. I can show compassion to those students who don’t get a kind word at home. I can model good character and tell students stories about how I’ve overcome hard things in my own life. Life is tough, but these students need to know they have a purpose. It’s my job to guide them in discovering what they’re good at so they can have hope.

My first bulletin board this year!

Because I work with  students with disabilities, including learning disabilities, my charges have little confidence in themselves. I let them know I can’t imagine what it’s like having to come to a building everyday where you’re asked to do things you know you can’t do as well as your friends. By letting them know I get why they’re angry and frustrated, emotionally shut doors slide open to conversations. Conversations lead to interesting life questions. And trust me, eighth graders have some pretty deep, scary questions.

This kind of teaching feeds me as much as writing does. I love my job. I love my principals and co-teachers. I’m blessed beyond measure that God placed in me in such a lovely school. I’m not going to deny it, when doors kept slamming shut for me over the summer on my way to a teaching job, I was freaking out a little. Apparently age was a factor for some schools. I was rejected in my own local school district for reasons I couldn’t understand then, but completely get now. It wasn’t about me. It was about God’s Providence and the plans He has for me.

My second bulletin board. I love how it turned out.

You see, God planted me smack dab in the middle of my dream job. I know I’m still in the honeymoon phase and I risk gushing too soon. But I have had confirmation after confirmation that I’m right in the center of His will. And there’s not a better feeling.

I had actually asked the Lord to slam doors shut or swing them wide open to help me decide where to teach. The rejection was painful. It made no sense. But now it does. And even though I did feel a bit sorry for myself in the months of June and July, I’m so grateful for the grace God gave me to say, “I trust You. Things aren’t making sense, Lord, but I trust You.”

My classroom office which I rarely get to use…

It was worth going through all the interviews and rejections to get where I am now. After all, as a writer, I’m experienced at rejection. Still smarts, though. But wow, when God plants you, He plants you real good. I  am now on staff of of an award-winning special education department. People travel from all over the world to see how we do things in my school’s corporation. The people at my school are positive and kind. There’s no snarky gossip or drama. People are too engaged in meeting the needs of kids. It’s all about the students all the time.

 

But it’s not all unicorns and butterflies. I don’t care for the commute. I will admit, the commute is something I’m still not used to. It does take me 45 minutes from the time I  leave my front door until  I’m sitting in my office chair. It bugs me only because it’s time that takes away from my writing. But the other day I had the best praise and worship time in my car on the way to work. Glorious. And I thought, “Maybe God wants me to have this commute so I can hang out with Him more.”

Maybe. I don’t know. But I do know I’m working on seeing the commute as a blessing, too.

When God does things, He does them up so good. He is always up to something good.

Always.

Please click to tweet: You are never too old to set another goal or start a new career. 

 

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

Public School’s Answer to Autism: Jail

What kind of society yanks a 10-year-old child with autism from school in the middle of the day, tears him away from his mother (who had NO notice until the moment it happened), and throws him in jail for something he did months ago?

The United States of America. Land of the free. Home of the brave. Aren’t we something? Makes you real proud to be an American, doesn’t it?

Yeah, we really protected society  from danger by cuffing little John Haygood’s hands behind his back and escorting him out to a police car in front of God and everybody in the middle of a school day.

“Excuse me, do you have any paperwork or anything you can show to me?”

John’s mother didn’t have the faintest idea why her son was being taken away in a police car. They finally told her he was being arrested for leaving scratches and marks on a teacher back in October 2016. Felony battery. And now it’s April 2017. Yeah. That’ll teach him. He’ll definitely connect the cause and effect of that one. (Not.)

Since when does our society think it’s appropriate to arrest a 10-year-old boy at school in front of God and everybody in the first place?

The most troubling thing isn’t this one incident, but the fact that this is one of many, many incidents like it. Far too many schools resort to police interference in the elementary school setting. (What better way to condition children to accept a police state? But that’s another discussion entirely.) What I want to focus on here is the lack of common sense schools exhibit when it comes to helping kids with autism succeed in a classroom setting.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m a teacher. I don’t relish being kicked, scratched or punched by a student. My granddaughters attend public school. I don’t want them hit or scratched by an out-of-control child. Let’s be clear: I’m not condoning bad behavior. My beef is with the lack of in-class support given teachers and students with autism so that this situation doesn’t occur in the first place. If a student with autism is placed in a regular classroom, and expected to act like regular students, then the school should provide every support necessary for that student to succeed. Instead, from the sounds of it, the student and teacher were set up to fail.

How do I know this when I wasn’t there? Because a child with autism with proper support won’t throw paper balls in class, hurt other students and teachers, or be on his own to react to a reprimand the way this child did. And a teacher, well-trained in autism, won’t react to an autistic student’s behavior in an in-your-face confrontational way, or grab a student with autism and bodily remove him from a classroom.

I know because I have taught students with autism as well as my own children. Children with autism cannot have open-ended expectations and succeed. That’s like asking a child with paralysis in his legs to navigate the school halls without his wheelchair. You don’t physically man-handle any child, leave alone a child with autism. Tactile defensiveness sends the brain into fight or flight mode in kids with autism. You wouldn’t expect a diabetic student to go without checking his sugar or taking his insulin during the school day. And yet, we violate the needs of children with autism everyday in America’s schools.

Most schools in America don’t get this. But they better figure it out because according to the CDC, 1 in 42 boys have autism now.

Wait. Let’s take a moment for that to sink in. 1 in 42 boys have autism.

If that statistic isn’t enough to make you shudder, you ain’t got a shudder button. I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up, I don’t think I even met someone with autism. And now, 1 in 42 boys have it.

If that statistic doesn’t  shout out the fact that your typical children or grandchildren will share a classroom with a child with autism, then you ain’t comprehendin’ what I’m tryin’ to say here.

This problem  of inappropriate services for students with autism isn’t going away. In fact, it’s only going to get worse. And yet, schools in general don’t take the time to train staff about autism, or provide the sensory tools students need to get through a day. Sooner or later a school is going to get sued. And when it happens, I hope it wakes up the whole lot of them.

We don’t expect blind students to read the same textbooks or navigate the building the same way typical students do without the tools they need. But schools expect students with autism to. Far too much  is asked of teachers and students and no tools are provided. How do I know? I’m the mother of twins with autism. I wrestled myself with the schools. I’m now teaching in a public school and I see the lack of support with my own eyes. I experienced the lack of support when the twins were growing up and homeschooled them for almost all their elementary and junior high years.

My book about my twins with autism. Release Date: July 2017!

When I speak of support, I’m not talking moral support. I’m talking about visual boundaries, a 1:1 aide, visual schedules, and the most important thing of all: keeping the student with autism meaningfully engaged. An engaged student doesn’t have negative behavior. Yes, there are exceptions. There are students who refuse to be engaged. I understand that. But most negative behavior stems from students not being effectively, and meaningfully engaged. The activity must have relevance. It must have a clear beginning and a clear end. Students with autism can’t be expected to sit in an open-ended classroom without proper guidance and 1:1 support.

Society, in general, likes to call kids with autism brats. Americans and the world in general are sick and tired of hearing about autism. But they’re obviously not tired enough because we don’t know why 1 in 42 boys have autism now. When will the experts take a good hard look at this epidemic? When the statistic becomes 1 in 2?

When people told me that I needed to spank my sons with autism, I invited them to my house for one hour. One hour. Spend one small hour with my sons and tell me that all they need is a good spanking.

Funny. No one took me up on it. Doesn’t matter. I guarantee you they wouldn’t have lasted more than five minutes back then. (We’ve come a long way!)

Society also wants to believe the rumor that more kids are diagnosed with autism because it’s the new trendy disorder, much like they assumed ADHD to be in the 90s. But that argument doesn’t hold water because autism is the only disorder dramatically on the rise while intellectual disabilities, Down Syndrome and Cycstic Fibrosis remain relatively the same. Something is wrong. Very wrong. And whether or not we find out the reason behind these brains that fire differently and explosively, we’ve got to address the current crisis effectively. Most public schools simply don’t.

My challenge to you is this: find out how your school supports students with autism and then let me know in the comments below.

Does your public school have:

  • A sensory room for students with autism to calm?
  • Teachers trained in autism teaching techniques?
  • Lessons provided in an accessible way for the student with autism so they can learn the same material in their own way?
  • Visual schedules?
  • 1:1 trained aids for students who struggle with volatile behavior? (Not rotating aids — the same aid every single day)?
  • Lessons/activities that provide clear beginnings and endings?
  • Social Stories?
  • The use of video technology to help the student with autism decipher social cues?
  • Extensive social skills and behavior training for the student with autism at the preschool-3rd grade level?

My guess is the answer is no. And folks, that’s just the basics a school should be providing. Just. The. Basics. Instead, most schools are terrified of having to provide something like the list above because it may cost more. Well, guess what. We either take care of the kids diagnosed with autism intensively at the preschool-3rd grade level, or we support them the rest of their lives.

So, until the public schools stop brushing students with autism aside (and hoping and praying to God that their parents will remove them from school and keep them home), kids like John will continue to be arrested, handcuffed, and taken to juvenile detention centers for overnight stays. (I can’t imagine the horror his mother and he went through. She wasn’t even warned of any warrants for his arrest!)

It’s unconscionable. Frankly, it’s child abuse. Students with autism need advocates to stand up for them. I hope you’ll join me in adding your voice to mine.

Public School’s Answer to Autism: Jail first appeared on KarlaAkins.com. Karla Akins is a public school teacher and the author of A Pair of Miracles: A story of autism, faith and determined parenting published by Kregel. Release: July 2017.