Fatherhood: To Be Calm When You’ve Found Something Going On

April 16, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

By Vijay S. Mann

fatherhood

My son was born last August. I’m a believer in the notion that everything happens for a reason at that time. I believe that this new being came here to challenge me, change me, and make me see the world and myself in new ways.

When he was born, I felt incredibly powerful and yet unimaginably vulnerable at the same time. It’s one thing to have the ability to create life, but it’s an entirely different thing to nurture and protect it. It’s like pulling your heart out of your body and letting it walk into the world. A beautiful yet ugly world.

A plethora of feelings rushed through me as I held him for the first time. The first one I remember was nervousness; he was so new and fragile and I didn’t want to hurt him in any way as I held him.

Then came elation. He was healthy, my wife was fine, and I was now a dad. Some time later, I was struck by a feeling of fright. I realized that this wasn’t about me anymore and that I was now responsible for another human being. I felt an incredible weight on my shoulders at that time, realizing that I was now responsible for the life, health, development, and happiness of another. I was now responsible for molding a good person, who is to be an asset to his family, community, and society in general.

How was I going to mold this person when I have so many faults of my own?

I had had these thoughts during the pregnancy, but now it was staring me in the face. Crying. I recall feeling shame as well. Shameful for believing that some of my freedom for being yanked from me and in turn, I was being handed responsibility.

How could I think that when I was gifted this child? Moreover, how could I think that knowing this was a decision I was a part of?

These brief yet disturbing thoughts quickly faded. I felt assured that everything would work out, as it always does.

I now carry with me a sense of appreciation. I appreciate the opportunity I have to raise a child, an opportunity many wish they had, but aren’t as fortunate. I also feel appreciation in that I have the chance to teach my son from my mistakes in hopes that he makes better decisions in his life. I think of him as my do-over. He’ll be a new and improved me. A better me than maybe I’ll ever be, or I hope to be.

In that respect, he’s already changing me. I feel a greater sense of calm now; a calm I don’t recall feeling before. This doesn’t mean that I’ll be walking around with an aura of serenity. There are a number of things that still trigger me. And there are new things to deal with. Among them are diaper-changes. As much as I love my child, I still have that “Oh shit” moment when I have to change him. Pun intended.

And there will be greater frustrations and challenges along the way, which will test my new found calmness. This is just the beginning. Life is now a road from Pampers to a university campus, and beyond. RESPs, birthdays, school, friends, heartbreaks and happiness, and everything in between await us.

What he will feel, I will feel as well. There will be the things I can’t foresee as well—things he’ll have to go through on his own. I’ve come to realize that I can do the best that I can as a parent and some things will be out of my control.

The central focus of my life is my child now. Every significant and perhaps not so significant thing I do now will have some effect on him. How I think, act, and speak will be of some consequence to my child. What I believe and value will be the beliefs and values my child will be raised upon.

I can’t help but to think about the film The Place Beyond the Pines. Decisions that parents make create the legacies they leave behind for their children. Fatherhood has become my most significant branching point and this one is indeed a branch; an addition to the family tree.

My life is forever altered through parenthood. It’s an experience that is making me a better person. I felt new life being breathed into me at that moment he was born. I experienced a kind of love that I never felt before; one not built on reciprocity, but one more selfless.

I once read that your children are something you love more than your own life and something you die for without a second thought. I can say that I understand this now. I have many hopes for him. My ultimate hope is that he becomes a person who lives with dignity for himself and compassion for others. This is now my duty.

This article was originally published on The Good Men Project.

Image courtesy of the author

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Parenting: On Diversity

By Jillian Lauren

pig

A friend left a comment on my recent post about raising boys and it got me thinking. This friend’s child has multiple special needs and is confined to a wheelchair. In the comment, she suggested that exposing children to diversity (not just in concept) contributes to compassion. Most of the children who have grown up around her son are empathetic and kind with him.

A transgendered friend has also shared with me that the kids she grew up with from early childhood were always accepting. She began to have problems when she changed schools as a teen and encountered kids who were unfamiliar with her gender identification.

When I consider diversity, race is usually the first thing on my mind. When I was first visiting pre-schools, I always looked around and counted the number of brown faces I saw, putting it into my mental filing cabinet. My friend’s comment reminded me that diversity goes way beyond race. Parents of children with special needs offer something of great value to any school or community.

Sometimes the rabid competition to get into good schools in Los Angeles can prompt me to think in a conformist way and try to portray my family as something more mainstream than we truly are. I want to always remember that our strength is in difference. That is where we shine.

To read more from Jillian Lauren, check out her blog. You can also purchase her books on Amazon.

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Parenting Expert: Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

April 15, 2014 by  
Filed under Parenting, Parenting Coach

By Ann Brown, Parenting Consultant

fight

There are some really uncomfortable moments while raising kids. There are moments that embarrass you – when, say, you’ve run into an old flame from high school and you’re holding your two year old in your arms, thinking you look pretty darn fetching, and your kid says, “Mom! You have a really big bloody booger just hanging in your nose! Are you going to pick it out? Are you? ARE YOU?”
And there are moments of physical uncomfortability – balancing the rain-soaked grocery bags on your hip as you lean into the back seat of the car to unlock the $%#@ car seat which is held in the locked position by a cement made of Nutri Grain crumbs, apple juice and spilled Go-Gurts while holding your keys in your teeth. And you have to pee really badly.
Those moments – though they take years off our lives – are to be expected. And we commiserate with each other, and we live through them.
There are other awkward moments in parenting, however, that are not so easily laughed off.
They occur when our friends (or cousins, or neighbors…) do not share our style of parenting, and it becomes very difficult to get the families together. I’m not talking about benign differences – you use organic mild cheddar cheese in your enchiladas and your friend serves your kid enchiladas with organic medium cheddar, or, say, you hate country music and your friend plays country music in the car when you and your kid are there.
I’m talking about the bigger differences in parenting styles. Yelling. Spanking. Allowing kids to be disrespectful. When you’re in your friend’s house for a play-date with the kids, and your kid comes running down the stairs, crying because the host child won’t let her play with any of the toys in the house. And then the host child pushed your kid. And spit on your kid’s apple.
And your friend shakes her head and says to you, “well, you know how kids are. Best to ignore it and let them work it out.”
And the host child come running down the stairs and says, “I won’t share my toys. She can’t have any of my toys.”
And your friend laughs. And pours herself more wine. And she says to her child, “say you’re sorry. Then go back upstairs and be nice.”
And you know that’s about the worst advice she could give her kid, who is clearly not sorry and who clearly will not be nice when they go back upstairs.
And your kid looks at you with wide eyes as if to say, “Do something. “
And you just stand there. Because you aren’t really sure what to do.
So you mumble something about, oh, having to get home, and traffic, and needing to get to the airport, and war, and impending diarrhea. And you beat a hasty retreat to your car. And go home and change your phone number. And switch preschools. And leave the country. Because what are you going to do the next time your friend calls and invites you and your kid over to play?
Here, parents fall into a few disparate categories:
The Avoider – you pretty much just stop answering your phone. When your friend corners you about scheduling another play-date, you feign a fainting spell and collapse on the preschool parking lot. Every time.
The Ulcer-Developer – you continue to do play-dates with your friend and hope for the best. You tell your kid that you will buy him any toy he wants on the way home from the awful play-dates. You lose sleep and feel like a terrible parent.
The Bold Liar – you say to your friend, “we are quarantined. Forever.” Or you tell your friend you are allergic to her carpet. Or that your religion disallows play-dates.
The Earnest Truth-Teller – “Your child is awful. We hate him. I can’t believe you don’t hate him, as well.”
None of these strategies end well. And that is the bad news. There really is no one perfect way to extricate yourself from a situation where you don’t want your child to hang out with the child of someone who is/was your friend.
But there is some good news.
You can be very clear with yourself about where your loyalties lie. (They lie with your child. Please tell me you already knew that.) And in that clarity, you will realize that it doesn’t matter if the result of what you tell your (soon to be ex, perhaps) friend is that you are un-friended on Facebook, or trashed to the larger community, or kicked out of the book club or looked askance upon by the friends of your ex-friend. Because what matters is that you do the right thing by your child.
Your children need you to validate that you share the same values with them. So if a child grabs a toy from your kid and doesn’t give it back, or treats your child disrespectfully, and you keep going back to that child’s house for play-dates because you don’t want to jeopardize the relationship with the parent, the message you’re giving your child is that it’s okay to be treated badly.
Finding the exact right words to say isn’t as important as just getting the message right. And kids can understand that we sometimes flail for a while when we’re trying to deal with a sticky situation. But remembering that you are not there to change the other parent, and remembering that using the “I” message always saves the day (“I am not comfortable with the way the kids are playing together. I want to take a break from play-dates”), and – finally – remembering that the values you hold for your child are your guiding lights, you’ll find your way through it.
And if you don’t, I have a wig and sunglasses you can use around town.

 

Photo Credit: Sharon Mollerus

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Spring Break Circus Camp

April 14, 2014 by  
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KT Circus Camp is the place to be! Kids ages 6-12 can spend their spring break and summer days learning acrobatics, aerial arts, clowning, juggling, stilt-walking, and even put on their own circus show at the end of each week! They keep their camp small so each child gets individual attention and learns in a safe and creative environment.

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Puppet Festival at Skirball Cultural Center

April 13, 2014 by  
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Join Skirball Cultural Center for their third annual Puppet Festival, which brings together some of Southern California’s most talented puppeteers and artists. Fun for visitors of all ages!

Inspired by the fanciful puppets and kinetic animal sculptures that populate the Noah’s Ark galleries, this daylong festival features interactive performances, art making, and a diverse array of innovative puppets, including an interactive puppet display created by the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry.

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COLAGE in Los Angeles!

April 12, 2014 by  
Filed under

Join COLAGE for a day of empowerment and community building. For over 20 years COLAGE has been supporting youth in LGBTQ families. We want to invite you to attend our exceptional programs including – youth workshops ages 6-18, adult COLAGEr gatherings, COLAGE panel discussion open to all, and parent networking.

Programming Details:

For Youth! 9:30-4:30 We will talk about our relationships to our families and gather insight from our peers by sharing both the joys and challenges that come with growing up in LGBTQ families. Youth will be led in a creative workshop that provides a voice to their experience so they feel empowered about their unique story.

For the Public! 2 PM-Panel of Youth and Adults with LGBTQ Parents: COLAGE will host a panel of youth and adults with LGBTQ parents to talk about their experiences growing up around the nation. This is a unique opportunity for the public to hear authentic stories from youth and adult “children of,” ask questions of the panel and gain insight into the lives of people with LGBTQ parents.

For Parents! COLAGE loves to connect parents as well! While we are in L.A. we want to provide an opportunity for you to get to know each other and discuss what it means to be LGBTQ parents. We will meet at The Village and walk to have lunch together at The Corner at 12 PM. This event will accompany the COLAGE Panel Discussion in the afternoon.

For Adult COLAGErs! We see the need for adults to have access to our powerful programming and have a space to discuss our various experiences and identities connected to our parents gender and sexual identity. We welcome you to join us for free programming Saturday at 3 PM and Sunday at 12:30 PM.

RSVP on Facebook! and Purchase tickets at Eventbrite.

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Parenting: On Yelling

By Jillian Lauren

Jillian Lauren

T has been making so much progress lately, as I’ve been sharing. This hasn’t always been true. Growth is never a linear thing. We have gone through the cycle of hope and plateaus and regression so many times that I barely sweat it anymore. So I’m not sure why it should surprise me when I hit a plateau of my own.

I’ve been yelling at T lately. A lot. I’m in a sticky place and I can’t seem to change my lousy behavior, as hard as I try. Or maybe I’m not trying very hard at all. Maybe I’m indulging the outlet, as the alternative seems to be to stuff all the anger, shut down, slam cabinets and rage at my family in a passive way. Which sucks just as much if not more.

The other day, T and I got in a screaming stand-off about which I feel truly ashamed. When it was all over and he was in the other room, I put my face in his pillow so he couldn’t hear me and screamed, “I hate my life,” at the top of my lungs. And I did right then- I felt so out of control and locked into a confrontational dynamic with my son.

I grew up in a family with screaming. It was my model and it became my default mode and it’s going to take a huge internal shift to alter the habit. This morning, I revisited Christine Moers’s therapeutic parenting video about the power of our voices. I am gripping it like a lifeline. I am trying. I am praying. I am still yelling. But if I know anything from being T’s parent, I know that change is possible, especially when you go at it with all your heart, like he does. But just because it’s possible doesn’t mean it’s easy or instant. I have faith I’ll find a way through this thing to the other side.

To read more from Jillian Lauren check out her blog. You can also purchase her books on Amazon. 

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Can A Bully Change and Can We Forgive Them?

April 8, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

By Lisa Keating

bully

Early this week, I challenged another writer, Tony Posnanski, on his notion that bullies are weak-minded and unable to change. “Bullies are weak-minded people. Kid bullies have weak-minded parents who were bullies once as well. They prey on those who have a weakness — or a visible one.”

I reread Tony’s article six times to make sure I was reading it correctly. If this is true, then I would be a weak-minded parent and my son, Morgan, would be a weak-minded nine year old bully. Our fates predetermined with no possibility for change, awareness or emotional growth. Through that perspective, I would still be bullying my little brother or anyone else I deemed inferior or weak.

Growing up, I degraded, dominated, humiliated, and shamed my baby brother non-stop. We fought constantly. Our mom had no idea how to make it stop or fix it, she wasn’t taught skills to help us. Based on Tony’s theory, does that mean my mom was weak-minded because her daughter was a mean big sister? Or was she a single mom, working full-time, with an ex-husband that abandoned his kids and responsibilities, barely keeping it together one day at a time? My point being, accusing an entire group of kids and adults to the fate of being weak-minded blocks any possible progress in conversation and action.

I commend Tony for defending Grayson Bruce, and by proxy Morgan, and removing gender barriers for kids. Girls are allowed to cross gender lines without comment or questioning, thanks to the feminist movement. I myself played in the dirt, collected bugs, wore over-alls, played baseball, and climbed trees as a child. The feminist movement gave me permission to be both feminine and masculine. And to Tony’s greater point, it’s time boys are given the same permission.

What I cannot accept is that people can’t or won’t change. In the past ten years, this country has been flipped upside down in the fight for marriage equality.  Awareness and acceptance continues to sky rocket. By the time Morgan is an adult this will be old news in the same way interracial marriage was for my generation and segregation was for the generation before me. Culture and climate changed at grassroots levels. Brave and courageous people stood up, spoke out and demanded something better. We are in the middle of a movement for equality not just for adults but for kids, too.

Morgan has confronted numerous kids, with the help of teachers, who were harassing him because of what he wore to school, hair, shoes, accessories, activities and interests. Through the power of a conversation, what seemed different, weird or wrong became understandable and even relatable to other students. The kids I work with have made profound changes in how they treat one another, have better skills to recognize and read body language and have taken responsibility for the climate and culture of their school. So don’t tell me a bully can’t change.

Morgan was appalled by this concept and said, “That’s wrong. By saying “kid bullies are weak-minded” the author is being a bully. What if the bully is struggling? Maybe they’re having a hard time at home.” Might I add this is coming from a nine year old?

The greatest lesson on forgiveness and empathy I learned was from Azim Khamisa, whose entire life changed due to a random act of gun violence. On January 21, 1995, Azim’s son Tariq, a 20-year old college student, was killed at point-blank range by a young 14-year old named Tony Hicks. Tony, hanging with other gang members, who had lured “the pizza man” to a false address intending to rob him of two pizzas. Tariq refused to hand over the pizzas, and was shot and killed before he could drive away from his attackers. Instead of subscribing to the idea of Tony being weak-minded, Azim recognized that he was a victim like his son, Tariq. As a result, Mr. Khamisa, along with Tony’s grandfather, Plex Felix, began The Tariq Khamisa Foundation. On their path to healing, they found forgiveness together.

I had the fortune of seeing Azim Bardo speak at a seminar two years ago. Listening to Mr. Khamisa recount the death of Tariq brought me to tears. He said, “Given the blessings of forgiveness, I reached the conclusion that there were victims at both ends of the gun.”

Could I ever forgive someone for killing Morgan? How would I ever recover from such a loss? Would I have the courage? As a mother, working with the kids who have harassed, bullied and intimidated Morgan has been a challenge and tests my commitment to creating future allies and leaders. Let alone to do it with the same depths as Mr. Khamisa.

Because of Azim Khamisa, I look at bullying differently. There is pain at both ends of the spectrum. What kind of society are we going to be; one that condemns the aggressor with narrow absolutes and no path out, like Tony Posnanski suggests? Or do we tap into empathy and compassion? Clearly, what we are doing isn’t working. It’s time to take a new path; a path where kids like Tariq Khasima, Tony Hicks, Grayson Bruce, and Morgan Keating thrive.

Ghandi

 

To find out more about Lisa Keating, check out her website, My Purple Umbrella

Photo Credit: Thomas Ricker

 

 

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COLAGE- For People with LGBTQ Parents

April 3, 2014 by  
Filed under Same Sex Parent

By Brandy Black

COLAGE

TNF: What is Colage?

Robin: COLAGE is a national organization that unites people with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or queer parents into a network of peers and supports them as they nurture and empower each other to be skilled, self-confident, and just leaders in our collective communities.

TNF: What is your role there?

Robin: I am the National Program Director so I oversee and develop our programming, work directly as a mentor to people with LGBTQ parents and provide support for LGBTQ families.

TNF: Do you have LGBTQ parents?

Robin: Yes! I was born into an LGBQ family I have two moms (one is bisexual and one is a lesbian) who both wanted to have children and found my donor dad through the gay and lesbian community. Both my moms birthed a child (me and my brother) with the same donor dad who was part of our lives growing up. My dad’s partner has also been in my life since I was 5 so we call him my bonus dad. In COLAGE we call that a, “bothie,” when you have both moms and dads. I also am bisexual and plan on being a parent myself so my children will also be part of this community!

TNF: What inspired you to be involved?

Robin: I grew up in rural northern New Mexico extremely isolated from other LGBTQ families. I was born in the 80′s and my family was quite closeted for safety and because of the nature of the times. I grew up ashamed, scared, alone yet also with a fierce sense of pride. I always knew I was missing something, a place where I was understood, supported and loved for all of who I was. When I was in my early 20′s I decided to write a book about my experience because I didn’t know of any resources at the time. In my research I found COLAGE and my long lost family.

TNF: What are some key initiatives of Colage?

Robin: COLAGE’s three main initiatives are to unite people who have LGBTQ parents, provide programming and resources that foster community building, and to provide training and leadership opportunities for youth to become advocates. We have an extensive collection of resources for parents and COLAGErs on our website, online communities, 15 community groups across the country as well as national programming for youth to receive more in depth leadership training.

TNF: What age is appropriate to introduce your kids to Colage?

Robin: Traditionally, our programming starts around the 3rd grade level, partly because this is when we have seen other resources for LGBTQ families drop off, and also because this is a time when youth really needing to be able to talk about their families and see that they are not alone. We do think it is valuable to provide COLAGE spaces for people of all ages and work with parents who have younger children to utilize our resources and do community organizing to support their family.

TNF: Do you have any events coming up that our readers could attend in LA, New York or any other markets?

Robin: Yes! Our national team will be in LA April 12th providing a full day of programming for youth ages 6-18, a parent cafe, as well as a public panel of COLAGErs, and events for adult COLAGErs. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out our Eventbrite listing. We also have active chapters in both LA and New York that hold events year round. Both of those communities can be reached by emailing losangeles@colage.org or newyorkcity@colage.org

TNF: Do you have any tips for LGBT parents or parents-to-be?

Robin: Find community, be open, listen to your child (we all have different experiences with our families), and realize that your child has an identity connected to yours and that is a wonderful and challenging thing at times. When we are connected to other people who have families like ours, we are able to see that our difference is our strength and become empowered individuals with a unique and blessed experience to offer the world.

COLAGE

COLAGE

COLAGE

 

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Autism Awareness Month: Child Autism and Behavioral Coach

April 1, 2014 by  
Filed under Family

Imagine Blocks

To kick off Autism Awareness Month, we look to autism and behavioral coach Rebecca McKee, who started The 13th Child Autism & Behavioral Coaching, Inc.  McKee has worked with both children and adults and provides tips on detecting autism in your child, what to do if your child has autism, and the support and resources available.

TNF: How long have you been a child autism and behavioral coach?

Rebecca: I started my company, The 13th Child Autism & Behavioral Coaching, Inc., three years ago; although, I have been working in the field of Special Education/Behavior Analysis for approximately fifteen years.  I started my career as a Special Education teacher working in public schools with students with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), as well as a behavioral therapist in home programs.

 TNF: What inspired you to go into this line of work?

Rebecca: Hmm…I believe it was fate. In my undergrad program, Communicative Disorders, a professor had us watch videos on discreet trials run with children with ASD. She made a point to tell us that we should pay attention because we would definitely be working with this population of children.  Like many people with ASD, the children in the videos were quite physically aggressive.  I remember making a mental note that “I will never choose to work with those children…”  Lo and behold, I am applying to graduate schools, and a school in New York was persistent and recruited me to join their very new autism program.  They conveyed how I would always have job security (as sad as that is) with a degree specializing in autism.  I agreed…one of the professors in one of my classes was an elderly man – probably around 80 years old.  He knew autism like the back of his hand – he had us read a book that completely created a desire in me to begin to understand the mystery of people with ASD, and help them navigate our world.

TNF: I’m sure you may hear this one a lot: what are some signs of ASD that parents might look for in their children?

Rebecca: Most families hear about the lack of language, lack of eye contact, and poor social skills.  That can be vague…some specific signs are the following:

1.  Your toddler does not point – they hand lead.  This appears as when a toddler wants something out of reach, they will not point.  Instead they will place their hand on top of an adult’s hand, pick up the adult’s hand and place it directly on top of the object that they want.

2.  Your child does not smile upon command – for example, you are taking a picture and you say “smile” – it is difficult for them to follow that command (maybe they smile during other times but not under command).

3.  Your child speaks/attempts social interaction with others, but only about very highly preferred interests – for example, everyone is sitting at a table talking about something exciting for all – an upcoming birthday for Grandmom.  Your child appears completely disinterested and unaware of the conversation.  But all of a sudden someone mentions the phrase “take the train to Grandmom’s” and your child takes that opportunity to “lecture” to the group about trains.  Trains are a huge interest of this individual.  “Lecturing” appears as not having a give and take conversation – the person may stand up to talk and begin verbalizing about a certain topic without taking a breath and then they sit down.

4.  An excellent memory – especially visual memory – they remember such details about certain events that make others say, “that is so amazing” – they may even memorize routines and phrases people use – and they expect the exact same things to occur during a future event.

5.  They mimic language from videos; it is difficult for them to naturally pick up language.  These individuals may watch a show or commercial – hear a character say something – the person with ASD generalizes that verbal utterance to real life.

TNF: Do you specialize in only children?

Rebecca:  I am certified to work with infants to adults.

TNF: What are some tips you have for parents with a child with ASD?

Rebecca: 

1.  Be consistent with social rules – if the rule is that screaming during teeth brushing means no TV before bed and calmness during teeth brushing means TV before bed then make a visual rule about that in the bathroom and stick to it.

2.  Learn how to work with your child with ASD at home on socio-behavioral weaknesses – just as you work with your other children on homework or how to dribble a basketball, these individuals need to practice controlling their behaviors and building up their social skills – choose a day and time that is stress-free for you at home (maybe Sunday morning) and contrive (make up) a social situation that you know your child struggles with and positively practice the right way to act (for example, your child cries everytime the doorbell rings – have them take turns with you practicing to ring the doorbell – make a game of it – have the cat sit outside the front door and then ring the doorbell – work on them opening the door and then you are standing on the other side holding up a small present for them – reward them for dealing with with doorbell in a pro-social manner).

3.  Reinforce, Reinforce, Reinforce your child when they are behaving in a pro-social manner - make it a point to use your words to reinforce more than to critique or correct.

 TNF: What are some of the common misconceptions about ASD?

Rebecca: Some people feel that people with ASD don’t experience feelings the way we do, such as embarrassment or depression or sadness or love.  They do.  How they express it or their lack of expression is what is different.  They may not cry or express themselves if they fall into a depression, but they may lose interest in their favorite activities, begin to make noises more, become compulsive about certain objects or actions.  Also, people with ASD are hysterically funny!

TNF: Would you advise a child with ASD be put in a public school?

Rebecca: The term free and appropriate public education is what we always have to keep in mind here, particularly that word “appropriate”.  Each case must be analyzed on an individual basis.  There are pros and cons to public schools for children with ASD, as well as pros and cons to center-based schools.  The pros in public schools may be:  having access to other children who talk, learning how to act during an assembly or fire drill, walking down the hallway in a line, knowing how to use a water fountain..etc. etc. (too many to count).  The cons would be: lack of time to spend fine-tuning much needed skills, and possibly staff not understanding how to work with someone with ASD.  The pros of a center-based school is that your child will learn and master the skills they need to learn for life: shoe tying, toileting, using a fork, etc. etc. – the cons would be lack of exposure to the “real world” and lack of typically developing peers.

TNF: How could you help a family who has a child with ASD?

Rebecca: My company offers Friendship Clubs for teenagers with Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1 (formerly Asperger’s Syndrome).  The goal of these is to make friends with others who have similar interests and personalities.  My company can help a family learn how to replace unwanted behaviors into pro-social ones.  I can teach a person with ASD how to develop hobbies in order to build upon leisure skills.  Academic support is available to people with ASD, as well.  Trainings, workshops, and lectures are available to schools, homes, and vocational sites.  It is also important for me to teach others how to have the person with ASD enjoy a healthy lifestyle.  This includes eating right, exercising, meditating  - and other proactive ways of building a positive outlook for life.

TNF: Do you have any special stories from coaching children with autism?

Rebecca: There are so many!  People with ASD are so funny and fun to be around!  I am going to pick this one…it was with a boy in 5th grade who had gotten suspended from his public school.  He was suspended because he started to become frustrated in PE class and threw balls at the teachers’ heads and the other children.  When I saw him after the incident, we made a sequence of events on paper using drawings and simple sentences under each.  I made my story and he made his – then we compared. He didn’t understand that when the teacher said “everyone help put the balls away” that it didn’t just mean him.  (This is an example of how someone with ASD takes in information in an ego-centric manner.) To this boy it was a private conversation between the teacher and him.  He lost his temper when everyone else joined in on the cleaning up.  When I showed him my version of the event through my story book – he said “No way!  I didn’t even see that! Wow, I messed up that one…”  It was like a lightbulb went off – his reaction just showed me how cloudy the social world can appear to people with ASD.

 

Thank you, Rebecca, for kicking off Autism Awareness Month with The Next Family. To find out more about her Rebecca McKee’s coaching, please reference her website and contact information.This article has been sponsored by The 13th Child Autism & Behavioral Coaching Inc. 

Photo Credit: Melissa Flickr images

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