Thursday, June 21, 2012

Article: Displaying Confidence in Your Special Needs Child

Today I am posting over at Special-ism

Displaying Confidence in your Special Needs Child

It's an article about learning to let go and stopping yourself from reducing your child's hurdles simply because you, don't feel that they will be able to compete.  Sometimes you have to trust your children and let them fail ... or succeed.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Article: An Interview on SpeechBuddy

Just drawing your attention to an interview I posted on Speech Buddies;

An Interview with Gavin Bollard

Speech Buddies is the web site of Articulate Technologies. They are focused on Speech Therapy and help children, parents, schools, speech therapists, health care providers, and pediatricians. They even have free custom lesson plans available.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling Mitsubishi out on funding Neurodiversity

Warning: This post is likely to be upsetting or even offensive to some readers.  I apologize for this.  I hope that by writing frankly, I can stir up some feelings on this issue and perhaps even help some people to understand why this issue is important. It's a difficult line to walk, stirring up feeling without offending. Hopefully I won't cause too many issues.

There's an article out by the canary party which seeks to highlight issues in Mitsubishi's funding of a charity.  It's well worth a read.

See: Mitsubishi Funds Group that Opposes Preventing or Curing Autism

It's a perfect example of what is wrong with so many of the autism campaigns out there.

First of all, the canary party complains that the charity being funded "opposes all efforts to cure or prevent autism, denies an increase in autism prevalence and now seeks to promote this form of “activism” among college students nationwide."

Let me be clear.
Any funding going towards assisting people with autism is worthwhile.

The exception I think, is when that funding is used to support top-heavy management or when it is used to fight other autism charities.  I don't believe that ASAN qualifies under either of those.  I'm happy for them to "oppose efforts to cure autism" but I'd hate to see them spending their money there.  I hope they're spending it on helping people with autism instead.

It's the same reason that I don't support most cancer charities.  They spend their money on research which I believe should be funded by government and private industry.  After all, the inventors of a miracle cure for cancer are going to be rich - why do we need to fund their dream when we know that they're going to screw it out of us later in medication costs?  They also spend quite a bit on handing out logo-emblazoned hats and on supporting the management of their charity.  I'd rather they spend money to help people who already have cancer to feel better - or help those families left behind in the aftermath of cancer.

In that sense, I feel that ASAN is dealing with the here and now of autism - not miracle cures (snake oil), not prevention (murder) and not top-heavy management structures.

It seems a worthwhile charity.

To be insensitive for a second (sorry, please bear with me), there is already a cure for autism.  It's the cure for life.  It's the same cure that we use for down's syndrome babies and it's the same cure that many political organisations over the years have used to "cure" unwanted parts of their population.

It starts with exclusion and ends with extermination.

Today, there are plenty of babies about with Downs Syndrome.  Not as many as before because many people are willing to be murderers in their search for perfection but still enough.  Enough to make it clear that we don't consider this cure to be acceptable.  Even worse, I have friends who were told that their baby would have downs syndrome. They elected to keep their child and seven years later, there is still no sign of the condition.  How many of our baby murderers are murdering for nothing?

The second point in the complaint against Mitsubishi is that it "blatantly violates MEAF’s own stated guideline: “We do not fund organizations or programs connected with a controversial social or political issue.”

Wow... and this coming from an organisation which clearly states that they would prefer that money be spent on detection and on the afforementioned cure.  No discussion necessary - it's much more political.

The next point complains that ASAN promotes “self-diagnosis” of autism, causing students who may have the disorder to not qualify for college disability support services"

Seriously, this doesn't even make any sense.  If someone doesn't have a diagnosis they can go through a lengthy process to get one - or they can self diagnose - or they can go without.

If someone desperately needs support services, then a formal diagnosis is essential.

If someone simply wants to understand their place in the world, then self-diagnosis is appropriate.  There's no need for funding and they're not missing out on anything.  They can always seek a formal diagnosis if they want funding later.  In the meantime however, there is no underestimating the value of understanding oneself.

The final point is bizarre. "ASAN promotes segregation of people with disabilities in extracurricular activities". For a start, I can't see how this is a major part of ASAN's mission.  At the same time, I fully appreciate the need for people on the autism spectrum to have extracurricular outlets with each other (as well as with the main body of students).  So many of the problems of autism are created by the expectations of society that interaction with like-minded and understanding peers is a major part of our coping strategy.

Well done Mitsubishi! It's great to see a commitment towards people rather than research -- and, shame on you Canary Party, leave your politics out of this.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Drawing the Line on Media Access for your Child with Asperger's Syndrome: Part 4 Developing a Plan

In my last few posts, I've looked at the positive and negative effects of media and device access for children with Asperger's syndrome.  It's clear that while our children certainly benefit more from the media than their neurotypical peers, excessive access is still quite harmful.

In this post, I want to look at some techniques for limiting media access and overcoming the negatives in a sustainable way.

A word on Sustainability
No technique is worth using unless it is sustainable. If your partner isn't going to stick to the rules and routine, then it simply won't work. Similarly, if you think that you can only stick to a new routine for a few weeks, then it's no good. In that case, you should choose a different routine - one that is sustainable.

The Use of Rules and Routines
Children with Asperger's syndrome handle rules extremely well. That's not to say that they will obey them without reinforcement but simply that clearly stated (and written) rules have the best chance of being followed.

Here is a sample set of rules/routine that we use in our house on school days;

Before School
NO Toy Room, NO TV, NO Games, NO Computers

7am Get up
Get Dressed in YOUR OWN room
Put your socks on.
Go to breakfast

7.45 Breakfast Ends whether you're finished or not.
No going upstairs after breakfast
Brush Teeth and Hair, Wash face
Put your lunch in your bag.

8.15 Leave for school
Mum will do a bedroom & toy room inspection while you are at school.

After School
Come inside
Take Bags to the table.
Empty Bags - give notes to mum.
Empty Pockets - rubbish to go in the bin
Get Lunchboxes out of bags, empty rubbish and put on kitchen bench
Put Bags in cupboard
Put shoes in cupboard
No going upstairs until after homework.

If your rooms and toyroom are already tidy, free time otherwise tidying time.
Free Time until 5pm but No Games and No Computer - If it's not raining, go outside.
Snacks - Fruit, Bread and cordial ONLY - No PACKETS.

5pm Homework hour - 5pm until 6pm

6pm Bathtime and Put Pyjamas on
Hang up uniform.
Mum will inspect.
WHEN OK, then you can play in the toy room or computers, games etc.

7pm Dinner

8pm Bed

8.30pm Lights out.

Offer Rewards
It's always easier to stick to a routine if you have an incentive such as a reward. Food rewards (sweets) are extremely effective but have a lot of side-effects both health and hyperactive. Money works with most older children but things get expensive very quickly and you'll find that the kids quickly start to assign value to certain tasks and will only pursue those they deem "worthwhile".

In my experience the best and most sustainable rewards systems are the intangible ones. In particular, free time, TV time, game time and computer time.

There are other kinds of intangible rewards too;

My kids for example will sometimes be rewarded with a "lunch order" which means that they can get fresh lunch from school instead of having to take sandwiches.

Sometimes the reward is an extra-half hour of "staying up" and sometimes it's "an award of choice". For example, I'll often tell the kids to come downstairs wearing their pyjamas. The first one downstairs and correctly attired gets to pick their drink or dinner plate. Depending on the meal, they may opt for the largest or the smallest but the reward itself is "choice".

It's very easy to give out little rewards like this randomly and it gives you, the parents, a motivational edge. Personally, I don't tell my kids that there is a reward for completion of a small task like getting changed first. Instead I offer it on a whim. This gets the kids reacting all of the time without locking me into promises.

In the sample routine, you'll notice that I specify end-points like bed time but not necessarily beginning points. This provides its own reward because the kids know that the sooner they complete a task, such as showering, the more free time they will have.

Keep them Busy
Kids use the media out of habit when they are bored. It makes sense for the kids to use media on rainy days although there are other options too then, like board games, hide and seek and playing with toys. On sunny days however, kids should really be outside.

Unfortunately, something is missing in many of today's kids; the spirit of adventure. In many ways, it is our society that is to blame. We see every stranger as a paedophile, every cut or bruise as potentially gangreous and every kid as potentially a "bad influence". In our over-protection, we've taken away our children's independence. I use scouting as a way of combating this and I'll happily let my 11 year old walk to the park or to the shops.  He's allowed to go by himself but we prefer it when he takes his 8 year old brother too.  Nothing makes me a prouder dad and scout leader than when my son does appropriate preparation before an outing. This means;

  • Taking a look outside at the weather
  • Taking a backpack
  • Taking water
  • Taking food
  • Taking a buddy (his brother)
  • Telling us where he is going
  • Wearing appropriate clothes
  • Wearing covered in shoes and socks.
  • Wearing a hat (or at least taking one if it's not sunny right now).

I was floored the first time he did this.

Be Engaged or Provide Distractions
There's no sense in putting your kids outside if you're going to confine them in an area (the backyard) with nothing to play with. Swings are often not enough and even the most enthusiastic jumper will eventually get bored of the trampoline. As a parent, you need to find the time to go outside and play too or at least find a way to vary the outside routine.

If you can do this, you'll find that electronic distractions will be quickly forgotten.