Well, I left the autism support group that encompasses a lot of my time/life and daily thoughts more than 2 years ago in favor of sanity. I was driving myself nuts with the stresses of trying to help a huge community of people who have needs that were not and are not being met so grossly under served people tremendously stressed about their child future. No idea why they are still so under served but I’ll figure that our later…or you can email me with thoughts as I am curious.
At times some really took advantage of my attempts to help. Some were even kind enough to point t he finger directly at me (via phone and email) with accusations that their child’s lack of success was my fault ( mind you I could not identify them or their child in a line up nor was I there are conception so how I was to blame I am unsure) or that my programs were not designed to meet their child’s needs (usually aggressive/self injurious or escape based behaviors). While trying to help (for free not that I would take that abuse for money) I spend time defending myself from their attacks and many sleepless nights thinking about other peoples kids. This was not healthy and I won’t do it again. Your child is your responsibility just like mine are my responsibility so success or failure is in your hands.
The time I took off was valuable to my family because middle school is a bitch! For those now terrified let me just say that people have told me over the years that 1st grade made or broke their child, that 5th grade was a game changer and high school was the beginning of the end. All kids are different spectrum or not so don’t fixate on Bird’s truth as it will likely not be your child’s truth so work on what you can now. I enjoyed my time off and went back to school where I got to feel old and stupid. Nope, I did not take and classes in writing, grammar or English so please remember (Suzi Q if your out there) that MY blog is for parents interested in an autism journey not a writers guild. I did take Math though so I was able to help my twins with 5th and 6th grade math which was awesome and made me feel great about educating myself. This last comment btw should lead people to the natural conclusion that my math was well…not calculus or geometry.
Some of what brought be back is largely covered in my middle school and Robinson blogs. Seeing the lack of interest in getting kids with autism in the least restrictive environment, warehousing them in self contained classrooms where they statistically have a far lesser chance of going to college or even getting a job terrifies and saddens me. The 13.5% employment rate for kids getting a non-standard diploma in Fairfax County meaning 86.5% of kids with a non-standard diploma are not working full time for a least minimum wage is terrifying.
I was also driven to come back by some parents I met at an Eid Celebration my husband, Bird and I attended for special needs families to promote POAC-NoVA and share info about autism. I met great parents who had zero idea how to help their kids with behaviors, social skills and gaining language. I used to set up 20 classes a least a year and give 2 myself. That aspect of parent training seem to largely die leaving people in a lurch as to how they could help their child, train a new therapist, educate a teacher not familiar with ABA/VB. POAC-NoVA would give maybe one big workshop a year covering a single topic which was always great (Caffery and Carbone are my heros) but nothing else.
Some of my old POAC-NoVA families were very reinforcing to me when I started to come back to the list serv. I got emails from a few of my favorite hard working families about how the classes changed their child’s life and their families dynamic. I heard success stories and they made me feel so good knowing that our teachers and classes gave their family the same thing it gave my family which was hope and a direction! This really increased my desire to see some of it happen again.
What my plans are right now is to have classes running from January to May once or twice a month and then a summer series for one week with classes that are critical to work on when there are less academic demand and more time in the child’s schedule. We started three days ago giving Managing Problem Behaviors with Les (which went great). February we will do Mand Training so working on gaining language for kids with little to no language with Justine. March will have Being Sexually Appropriate with Nick and late March will be Thinking about your learner and Breaking Down Curriculum for k-2nd grade with Nick and maybe the 411 with me. April will be Breaking Down Curriculum 3rd-6th with Lesley and I am on the fence with May so I will get back with you later. June we will offer a series previously called PVBIA Mini (I am sooo renaming this) and we will do classes on Socialization, Toilet Training, NET (Natural Environment Teaching) Managing Problem Behaviors 1 and 2 (thanks David for the suggestion) and something else maybe doubling up on classes one day like Managing Problem Behaviors 1 and 2 on a single day with a break for people who have taken 1 in the past to do it again.
So, to those who were kind enough to remind me that learning creates more successful children THANK YOU. My brand new ideology is (drum roll) to STOP forcing ABA down peoples throats! I am not Reverend Jim and there is not a punch bowl of Kool-aid in my car and everyone does NOT need to drink it. If I can affect the lives of 1 or 2 people a year so that their kids can reach their potential than HOLY MOLY that is amazing I got to help someone and that rocks! I am NOT going to be able to force people to do right by their kids nor should I pressure myself into thinking that is somehow my job (it’s a fire dept remnant in my mind that I have to save everyone). SO, sanity will come at the cost of thinking I am super woman with the knowledge that those who are on board will gain and I will have the pleasure and privileged of helping them. Those people who are not going to follow through, commit, take the classes or plan to whine at me will be ignored as I only have time for people who are actively working towards the same goal I have for my kids (all of them not just Bird) and that is to meet their potential.
For the masses I won’t be able to help with classes I will be reinvigorating my attempt again to fix the broken school system with the hope that their child will benefit with or without them. I backed off this project because someone else wanted it badly enough to tell me they would do it so I reluctantly stepped aside. They are I hope doing what they are doing and I am going back into working on the state issue not the county or national.
Did you know that your child in Fairfax County Virginia has a 13.5% chance of being employed if they “graduate” with a non-standard diploma! Consider if you will that Fairfax now has 1:83 students coming into the system with autism and that this is a 1184% (why yes that is 4 digits) increase in the number of kids in the system in 14 years! Think for a minute about the fact that these kids could have jobs and be educated and should meet their potential and have a life! not predicated or predetermined by a diagnosis. Then remember that if they don’t have a job that they need housing, care givers, day wasting programs and money which means your taxes and that we already don’t have enough in our county to meet the needs of the people (1:10,000 vs. now 1:83) who are in this system. Now ask yourself if this problem is only occurring in Fairfax Virginia? OH NO…we have a problem friends. Your help would be lovely as I am uneducated but tenacious.
All for Our Kids,