By Jessica Judd, Grafton Adult Services Community Engagement Program Manager Parents are fixers. It’s what we do. If something isn’t going right for our children, we take the bull by the… Read More
I was lucky to have been raised by two of the most resilient people I have ever met. My dad was injured in a body surfing accident when I was 21 months old, but somehow my parents rebounded stronger than ever and showed me a life I could never have imagined without my dad being in a wheelchair.
N-o. Those two letters trigger an emotional response in all of us. Being told “no” changes the course of our thought processes. Some people respond by accepting rejection and moving on. Others will hear “no” as an opportunity for negotiation or reframing their request. Some take it personally, as a repudiation of their ideas, their desires, or even their worth, and can react by lashing out or retreating inward.
1) I’m sorry.
I will be saying this to many of you many, many times over the next 10 years. I will say this to you probably weekly, if not more. And I really am. I’m sorry.
I’m sorry because I am the reason you have my child in your class. I fought for him to be mainstreamed because all of the doctors and specialists told me that being in the least restrictive environment among peer models would be best for my son’s development.
I’m sorry because I know that you aren’t trained for this.
I have a family member diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and to say that his life has been challenging would be an understatement. Unfortunately, he was not diagnosed until the age of 16 and prior to his diagnosis, he was lumped under the large umbrella of “Learning Disabled”. It was a never-ending pursuit of the best services for him and his parents endured unspeakable frustration and grief. However, although the small window of early diagnosis was missed with him, he has made significant gains over the course of his life with the right services.
“I am not different. “ My sixteen-year-old son makes this assertion countless time a day. Well, to be honest, I’m not sure if it’s a statement or a question. And I’m not entirely sure how he would define the word different. Despite my son’s autism diagnosis, speech and language impairment and IQ test scores, he is very intelligent. He is highly aware and very sensitive emotionally. But his language skills are very much delayed. For him, having a conversation is tantamount to climbing a mountain. It takes effort and it is exhausting. He saves this energy for topics he finds highly motivating. The concept of being “Different” seems to top that list.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world” Mahatma Gandhi
Beginning in July of 2016, Grafton’s Winchester Adult Services department started utilizing a DBHDS Community Engagement grant program to enhance the services we provide to our clients through increased community integration. This state funding has provided operational support with expenses such as transportation, activities and materials. But a large portion of the grant has paid for the services of a Community Engagement Program Manager and Board Certified Behavior Analyst; and this combination has been the secret to our ongoing success!
When I think back over my childhood, its ups and even its downs, I am struck by how much I took for granted. I took for granted that I had people who loved me and wanted me to succeed. I took for granted that I would one day have the ability and wherewithal to go out into the world as an independent adult and blaze my own trail. However, these things that you and I so often see as inevitable and ours to claim are not always so easy to achieve for our students. In fact, what you and I take for granted on a daily basis can often represent a seemingly out of reach goal for individuals with emotional and developmental disabilities.
According to Linda Hogdgon (also known as the “Queen of Visuals”), 56% of communication is visual (gestures, body language, pictures), 37% vocal (tone, rate, intensity) and only 7% is verbal (actual words). Visual schedules then become an important tool to support communication in individuals with autism.
At Grafton we often hear about “sensory stuff”, or students who have “sensory issues”. But what does that really mean? Each one of us uses input we receive from our senses in order to make sense of and navigate the world around us. This simply means that we use our vision, hearing, smell, taste, and touch, as well as our “invisible” senses that tell us where our body is in space, in order to interact with our world by walking, talking, listening, eating, and reading this article on your computer screen. These systems sometimes fall out of sync though, either due to environmental conditions, genetics, or challenges, such as ADHD or autism. Trouble with these systems can cause difficulty with how we relate and perceive the world around us and how we interact with it.