life before and after seizures (Autism)

life before and after seizuresAutism + seizures = parents on edge, constant concern, and questions, questions, questions.

When Jeremiah was an infant he had seizures, he’s adopted and after he came to us we never saw more evidence of seizure activity. That was until he was about two-years-old. One night we woke up to this frightened cry, when we opened Jeremiah’s door, he toppled out crying, terrified, and shaking. Now, some could say it was a nightmare or a night terror. It felt different, I can’t explain it, but my Mommy instinct knew it wasn’t a nightmare (more about that later). Plus, afterwards he had significant regression in his abilities and understanding.

Until last week we hadn’t noticed any more seizures, but the thing is, there are absence and petit mal seizures. This means there’s no shaking, and they can often be invisible. www.rightdiagnosis.com says, “[In the case of petit mals] The person will stop moving or talking and stare into space for a few seconds. Some muscle jerking and twitching may also occur. Once the seizure has passed the person recovers quickly and carries on with what they were doing with no memory of the episode. These seizures can occur occasionally or very frequently, hundreds per day in some cases.” These seizures usually last around thirty to forty-five seconds. When Jeremiah had the episode two years ago, this is what they thought might be happening.

Last week he had another seizure.

It was frightening. Both kids were in the backyard and Payton was having a meltdown because she’d been asked to do something, and in her mind, she wasn’t able to complete the task. Jeremiah was out in the  grass staring at her, not too odd because he’d really been paying attention when she’s crying lately.

Justin brought Payton inside and called for Jeremiah to come in, but he didn’t move. Justin waited a minute and stuck his head out the door again, calling for Jeremiah to come inside and eat. Jeremiah usually responds well to this, but he still didn’t move. Justin went outside and picked Jeremiah up to bring him inside, at that time he didn’t notice, but he would later realize that Jeremiah was stiff when he’d carried him in.

Justin and I both had our attention averted elsewhere, on making dinner and on the girl who was throwing a fit about something ridiculous, so we didn’t notice until a little later that Jeremiah hadn’t moved on his chair. Justin had placed him on his chair standing, holding the back of the chair, because that’s what he does all the time. Finally it clicked that Jeremiah hadn’t moved and was still standing where Justin had placed him.

We quickly went to him, I felt his arms and there was a slight tremor in them and he wouldn’t look at me (as opposed to some people with Autism, Jeremiah will look at us when we talk to him) and was staring off into space, he wasn’t there. Justin picked him up, took him to the couch and began removing his clothes, we were thinking he’d been bit by something and it was causing an adverse reaction. We checked his entire body, but didn’t find anything.

Everything was so muddled, there was screaming in my ears, FEAR.

At some point I realized that he may be having a seizure. He then curled up in Justin’s arms in a fetal position and shoved his fists against his eyes for a minute or two, I don’t know how long, time drags when you’re terrified.

We then started his favorite movie to see if he would turn and look, and he did within a few seconds. That was a relief! I held him in my lap, wrapped him in blankets and he stared at the t.v. The seizure itself lasted about seven to ten minutes, which the doctors would later tell us was far too long to be a petit mal. He finally did come around to fairly normal, but we were fearful the seizure would cause regression, because that’s what happened the last time he had one.

All we could do was wait. And wait. And wait.

We picked him up the following morning at school and when I asked if he seemed his normal self, the aide nodded her head in a circular motion, meaning kind of. The teacher said he was lethargic. (We sent him to school because he was doing well, and for him, being out of routine is the worst, and we are confident his teachers are skilled enough to determine whether something odd is happening with Jeremiah.)

That day at home was near normal, but we still needed to see what he’d do in different situations and assess whether he still understood as much as before. As days passed we knew he was where he’d been before. Thank God!
The doctor is referring us to Children’s Hospital, which will take a few weeks, or longer since she forgot to put the referral in. He may need to have a twenty-four-hour EEG done, which makes me extremely nervous. But, I would really like to know if he’s having seizures more often than what we realize so we can do something about it. He’s had so many major regressions in his short life that I’ve always wondered if seizures were the cause, for a long while I was convinced. Yet, his skills and understanding have only grown in the past several months, so that’s wonderful.

The reason an EEG makes me nervous is because we’ve been through it before. After that episode about two years ago where I was sure Jeremiah had a seizure, they sent us to the local hospital for an EEG. No preparation was made for a child who has Autism, and it was a horrendous experience. 

Just try to take an Autistic child to the hospital, put them in a strange room, with strange people, then place dozens of sticky electrodes to their head, and have them relax while the brain is read. HA!!!! He screamed and writhed, livid because of what was being done, confused because he couldn’t understand what in blazes was being done to him. He screamed and fought until he fell asleep, but the techs were so irritated that after he’d only slept for ten minutes they decided to end the test and took the electrodes off his scalp. No evidence of seizures, because, see, the person has to have a seizure WHILE the test is taking place.

So, here we go. I thought that with my rare disease flaring up, and Autism, and my husband owning his own business life was full enough. Guess not. However, I’ve seen God carry us through the really tough, the impossible, and I know He won’t fail us.


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why adopted and foster children have sleep issues (part 1)

A big obstacle adoptive and foster parents face is their child’s lack of sleep (aka: refusal to sleep or rest, inability to sleep). Many adopted and foster children have a difficult time falling and staying asleep. Sleep issues can wreak havoc on the whole family, and when everyone’s tired, everyone’s grouchy (at least in our family, I’m sure that’s not the case for yours;)).

Even when children have made significant bonds, they can still have defiant behaviors when they’re excessively tired. (Well, a few of us who never had attachment issues can attest to being testy when we don’t get enough sleep right?) Do you ever swear your child reached in and clicked the “off” switch when they’re sleep deprived? Does ALL logical thinking go out the window when they didn’t get enough shut-eye?

Obviously sleep is important, and we don’t want the lack of it to produce more negative behaviors that add to our already full life. There are a few reasons why our children don’t sleep well and have difficulty falling asleep. Let’s take a look at three of the main ones:

  • Control – Don’t jump to any conclusions yet. This sounds like something harmful that your child is purposefully doing to you, but it’s not. Their early life was usually chaotic and unpredictable. At a very young age, your child may have needed to protect themselves, fend for themselves, and worried incessantly about their needs being met. This creates a need to control their environment.
    In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry talks about a hurting child’s need for control. “After all one of the defining elements of a traumatic experience – particularly one that is so traumatic that one dissociates because there is no other way to escape from it – is a complete loss of control and a sense of utter powerlessness. As a result, regaining control is an important aspect of coping with traumatic stress. This can be seen vividly in the classic research on a phenomenon that has come to be known as ‘learned helplessness.’”
    Our children may stay awake because it’s one of the few things they can control.
  • Fear – We had major sleep issues with our daughter, Payton. She couldn’t go to sleep, and we never had a smooth transition to bed. We set up the routine, had a calming relaxation time before we put her to bed (included a back rub in bed), but all that didn’t help (but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stick to it, we still have a soothing transition to bed). We tried the Super Nanny approach that’s “proven to work”; put the child back in bed without saying a word, you may do it twenty times, but after a few days, they will stay in bed. Nope, that didn’t work either. We could put her back in bed without saying a word dozens of times, if not hundreds, and for months, not days, and it still didn’t make a bit of difference. We were EXHAUSTED! Sound familiar?
    After battling the sleeping issues (she also didn’t sleep well throughout the night, she woke up often) for over a year, we attended a training led by Scott Chaussee. During one of the breaks we asked him about Payton’s sleep problems. He asked if she’d been in a Meth home (this was a training held at the Dept. of Human Services, so many of us has adopted from foster care). We nodded our heads, “Yeah, she’d been in a Meth home.”
    Scott said, “Those Meth homes are very frightening, especially at night. She may not have a conscious memory of it, or be able to tell you what’s scaring her, but I would imagine that’s what it is.” He then gave us a plan on how to help Payton calm so she could sleep peacefully. (I will share that plan with you next week.)
    In The Whole-Brain Child, Dan Siegel writes, “Unless kids can make sense of their painful memories, they may experience sleep disturbances, debilitating phobias, and other problems.” Some of our children won’t be able to make sense of their traumatic memories. They may not even have a tangible memory of what happened to them. However, I do believe they can heal when attachments are made with their caregivers.
    There are many other fears that can play into a child’s reticence to go to sleep:
    – Fear of the dark.
    – Fear of being alone.
    – Fear of being unsafe.
    – Fear of scary noises.
    – Fear of abandonment.
    Think about yourself and fears you may have had at night, even as an adult. I know for me, if I hear a scary sound in the house at night, I lay awake listening for any other movement, it keeps me awake and on alert. If I wake from a frightening dream, I have to force myself to stay awake so as to not let the nightmare continue.
    So, we can see that even children and adults who haven’t experienced trauma encounter sleep disturbances. How much more is a child who’s been traumatized going to fear being alone in a room, in the dark, unaware of what’s happening in the rest of the house?
  • Their brains are always on high-alert/Worry – This is partly because of the fear mentioned above, but also because of learned behavior. Our children always feel they need to be alert and watching out for themselves, and when their brain is constantly in a state of hyper-vigilance, they can’t relax.

In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry writes, “If a baby’s primary metronome – his brainstem – doesn’t function well, not only will his hormonal and emotional reactions to stress be difficult to modulate, but his hunger and his sleep cycle will be unpredictable as well.” This absolutely applies to older children as well.

Now that we know some of the causes of sleep disturbance, what can we do? We want to send a clear and consistent message that our children are safe and loved. The faster your child feels safe, the quicker they will heal, which will lead to a more restful sleep and better behavior overall.

Your hurting child needs to know they can trust you. Next week, I’ll give you step by step ideas on how to build trust at bedtime so your child can rest peacefully.

We can’t truly fix the problem if we don’t know why it exists.

Our children may not look scared when they come out of their room asking for the next drink, Kleenex, back rub, or stuffed animal. Their crying and whining may seem like a behavior that just irritates you, but there’s an underlying cause as to why they aren’t able to fall asleep or why they wake in the middle of the night.

Do your children have sleep issues? What do your children do? Do they have trouble falling asleep? Do they wake up in the middle of the night? I would love to hear from you! See you next week, and until then, I hope you get at least one good nights sleep.  :)


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my adopted/foster child is never satisfied. what can I do?


Caleb was never satisfied, it didn’t matter what his parents did for him. They took him to Chuck-E-Cheese on Friday night, just because, not for a special event. After they left, he asked, “What are we doing tomorrow?” It happened every time, whether it was an amusement park, a golf game with dad, or simply getting to choose a toy at the store. Caleb always wanted more.

Does you child want more after you give and give? Does it seem like your child is never satisfied?

This issue can be adoption/foster related, but it can also happen with children who don’t come from scarcity, neglectful or abusive backgrounds.

With foster and adopted children, they may have had a life of poverty or neglect before they came to you. Their insatiable need stems from not having anything, and wanting to fill a void that they feel will be there forever. But this desire for more can last much longer than we might anticipate. Well, all behaviors in hurting kids last longer than the parent anticipates, you can read more about that here.

Sometimes this unsatisfied feeling happens with kids who have typical upbringings. I was a nanny for a family who had four kids (not adopted) when we lived in Phoenix, and when we moved to Colorado, they sent their two youngest to stay with us for a week. We did so much with those two, had a ton of fun, spent lots of money, but when we were leaving a water park one of the kids asked from the backseat, “What are we doing next?” ARRGGHHHH! What do you mean, what are we doing next? We just had ice cream and went to a water park. The day before that had been spent at a park and doing who knows what else to keep them occupied and happy.

Kids are kids, and they can manipulate whether they’ve had a traumatic past or not. If a child feels they can get more out of you, why not try? Go for the guzzler.

If your children are wanting more, more, more here are some ideas on what to do:

  • Explain what you’re doing. If you’re going to a movie and that’s all, tell them. “We’ll go to the movie, then we’re going home.” If you state your intentions prior to the event there may be less whining and complaining, and it will save your sanity (for when it can be used up later).
  • Explain money and time. Children have a hard time getting the concept of money, like it’s an unending supply. I don’t mean you should tell them every time money’s tight, we don’t want them to worry, especially if they come from poverty and didn’t know where meals were coming from. However, you can explain that you have a certain amount of money to take everyone out for ice cream and that’s all your going to spend that day. It puts a cap on the superfluous.
  • Review the fun activities you’ve participated in recently. In a happy voice say, “Look at all the fun we’ve had. We went to the lake and had a picnic. I’m so glad we were able to do that together. Some kids don’t get to do that with their families.”

We live in a society that’s constantly trying to please and reward itself, and this is going to trickle down to kids. Even if you don’t indulge yourself, their friends are, and they see it on television. More, more, more. First we need to take a look at our life and see what we’re doing to support this mentality, then we can work through the steps above to help our children be satisfied with what they have.

What about your kids? Do you feel they’re satisfied with what they have? Or are they always asking for more? What do you do to help your children feel appeased?

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do vaccines cause Autism? the debate returns


The ongoing debate…Do vaccines cause Autism?

I think parents are scared to admit that vaccines affected their child because they’ll be ostracized. I think parents are afraid if they consider that vaccines cause Autism then their faith in our government and medical professionals would fall to pieces.

Before continuing, I must tell you that both of my children are up to date on all their vaccines. Both of my children are adopted, and my son has Autism.

I’ve had several people ask me what my thoughts are on the cause of Autism, most of which were asked on Facebook after I shared a startling article from The Examiner. The article states that senior advisors at the CDC covered up findings from a 2004 study that found, “African-American male toddlers who received the Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) shot under the age of 36 months had 340% more autism than those who got the MMR older than 36 months.”

Why am I not surprised? When hundreds of thousands of parents make inexorable statements, saying vaccines caused their child’s Autism, who can argue? Yet countless have.

Thousands of parents had a typically functioning child before their child became Autistic.

Children who were playing, making eye contact, engaging with others, laughing, and talking in full coherent sentences, stopped. The life as their parents knew it came to a halt. Their child no longer did any of these things, they now had Autism. While I would say that Autism is very special and unique in its own way, these families had the shock of their life, and thousands of them say it happened the DAY they received a vaccine, specifically the MMR.

Our story is different. Jeremiah was delayed from the moment we met him when he was three-months-old, but he did make progress. When he was one-year-old, he was able to sit with his sister and play with a toy and he sat and looked through books for hours. No he didn’t play like most babies, but it was more than he does even now at four-years-old.

I wish I had kept track of vaccines and their effects, but the change was so slight at first that I didn’t see it. I blame myself and wonder if I should have. Our Autism seemed to sneak in, it wasn’t done with a club over the head. However, when asked the question, Do you think Jeremiah always had Autism?, the answer is, no.

Now to the question of what causes Autism.

I don’t believe the answer is simply vaccines or the MMR vaccine.

I think it’s a combination of factors that predispose a child to Autism, I believe often times the culmination is when the child receives a vaccine.

Our family can’t ignore the toxins that exist in our everyday lives, toxins in the air we breathe, toxins that we put on our skin, toxins we ingest into our bodies. Pesticides, mercury, antibiotics (a shocking amount in our foods), and BPA to only name a few. We no longer know what’s in our beef, our shampoo, our toothpaste (the makers of Colgate Total were called out recently because they use a chemical that causes cancer in their toothpaste), lettuce, lotion, containers, water, or anything really. I think the predisposition to Autism starts in-utero, I believe it causes children to be susceptible to other toxins and those can enter with a heavy dose of vaccines.

Here is a little known fact, vaccines contain mercury and antibiotics. Our pediatrician and I had a heated discussion on the vaccine front a couple years ago, and when I told her that vaccines contain antibiotics, she adamantly told me they didn’t. She later conducted research and found they do in fact contain antibiotics, and offered an apology.

Parents should be all over this latest news release, but they aren’t. Why? Possibly because they don’t know about it. Mainstream media has kept their hand out of the debate. I believe the government wants all children vaccinated, no questions asked, and the media is forced to abide by this criteria.
So, do vaccines cause Autism? I don’t know, I’m not a scientist, and my child didn’t receive an inoculation and suddenly present with Autism. If he had, I would say, yes. When vaccine companies compensate families with millions of dollars because they’re admitting their vaccine causes Autism, it’s an affirmative move. The companies were stopped from providing any more restitution. You have to wonder about the governments hand in all this. Dr. Andrew Wakefield conducted a study in 1998 which linked the MMR vaccine to Autism, he was discredited in 2011, and was stripped of his medical license. Conspiracy or not?

Extra information on vaccines:

Switzerland, Spain, Germany, Austria, France, Italy, and Canada have banned the flu vaccine.

Here you can read about a flu vaccine victim

You can find out more at National Vaccine Information Center.


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every child is worth it: adopting an older child

I came across this heartwarming video on Facebook and just had to share it with you. It’s a must see.

The girl in this video breaks my heart. She’s overwhelmed by the news that this family’s adopting her. She’s waited years, and now she has a forever family. I can’t imagine being a teen and not having a family. All those struggles youth go through, and then to do it without any support and while carrying extra weighted pain.

This father is right. His “foster” daughter deserves a forever family.

I’ve been asked, “Why would you adopt a child who has special needs?” (I’m working on an article detailing my response, and I’m hoping a magazine will pick it up, if not you’ll be able to see it here at a later date.) Interesting question, yet I feel it’s one many ask silently, if not out loud.

The answer: Because he deserves a forever family.

I bawled while watching this video. So much of what the father said, I feel, even though I didn’t adopt a teen. I did adopt two children who began life without me. I adopted two children who had to go through the pain in this world without me by their side to carry those burdens for them. I cry because I wasn’t there.

And then people ask why we did it. WHY? Because children are worth it. This teen is worth it. The child with Autism is worth it. The teen with cerebral palsy is worth it. The baby with a congenital heart disease is worth it. EVERY child is worth it.

Have you adopted an older child or a child with special needs? How has it been worth it for you?


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rocking: a simple first step to bonding, and it doesn’t just apply to infants (review – adoption/foster care)

Rocking_ a simple first step to bonding
(This post originally appeared on Lovin’ Adoptin’ in May 2013. I feel with all the new visitors I’d share again, plus a little reminder never hurt any of us, right?)

Have you found that discipline and having consequences for negative behavior doesn’t work with your hurting child? As one mom phrased it, “They don’t care.” So, our first goal is to focus on creating a bond. As you work on making connections with your child, be sure to keep in mind that this is a process. Our children’s previous circumstances have played a major role in re-wiring their brains, and it will take time and consistency to help them see us as safe adults, who they can trust.

Before we can implement directional techniques with our children, we have to begin working on the bonding process. Reason being, if our children are not attached to anyone, they will not change their behavior. This is why, until a certain point in the bonding continuum, consequences and discipline mean nothing. Simply put, our children who have attachment issues don’t care.

It’s also extremely important to remember that bonding will take time,

so will your child’s awareness that their negative behavior isn’t acceptable. Your child will take steps forward, and steps back. At first the steps forward will be much smaller than those going in reverse, but always look at those advances because those are what will keep you going.

Part of the reason our children are so difficult is because they are strong, and they’re extremely intelligent. In Chris Cleave’s book, Little Bee, he sums it up so simply.

“You are not dumb, Yevette. All of us who have got this far, all of us who have survived – how can we be dumb? Dumb could not come this far.”

Our children don’t want to change, and how well does it work to manipulate someones behavior when they are against it? It’s a no go. Their brain has literally been wired to distrust, and to protect themselves at all costs. We will have to change the patterns in their brain so they can bond with us, then we can help them with their negative behaviors. Bruce Perry has done some research that has scientifically proven that when a child is neglected, or has been through trauma, connections are not made in their developing brain. The neurotransmitters are not connected. A neglected/traumatized child’s brain looks different than a child’s who has been loved and accepted. This brain connectivity begins in-utero!

Rocking (rhythmic movement) has been proven to connect these neurotransmitters.

Brain scans were taken of children prior to rocking and afterwards, and the results were visible. Physical healing takes place when a child is rocked.

When we implemented rocking with our daughter we were surprised by the results. Prior to rocking, Payton had major sleep issues, not all of them were solved by rocking, but many were. It was a tremendous first step. You can see a previous post about how rocking helped us here. Before we began rocking, Payton would yell at me without thinking. She had a temper and was unable to control herself. After only a couple days of rocking, she yelled at me, caught herself, and began talking to me nicely.   This was a tremendous turn around, one that I had never witnessed with her. We still had behavior issues to work through, but many were taken care of with rocking.

You might be thinking, “Rock your child and they’ll begin to bond? But what if my child isn’t an infant, I have a seven-year-old.” The answer to the first question is, yes! The answer to the second is found in an amazing story I heard about a nine-year-old by who was not attached to either of his adoptive parents. He had been in their home for more than four years, and he had a disdain for his adoptive mother, and could barely tolerate his adoptive father. A therapist recommend the dad begin rocking the boy daily for a minimum of fifteen minutes per day. He did this, and the boy allowed him to do so. After rocking for a while, the young child began to make eye contact with his mom, which had never happened before. He finally allowed his mom to rock him and he bonded with both of them.

Try rocking your child by holding them facing you, it is recommended that they be rocked a minimum of fifteen minutes per day. You want rocking to be a positive time together, remember the goal is attachment. If you have a child that throws tantrums and fights you on everything, you can try Paradoxical Parenting to get them to rock. If you can tell that your child is completely uncomfortable rocking, you can begin with Floortime and Parallel Play which I lay out in my post, Tips on Bonding with an Adopted or Foster Child, and move to rocking as your child feels more comfortable with you.

rocking chairsYou can also begin by rocking your child for two minutes, then add a minute every day. If you have an older child that understands rewards, you can tell them they will get a small reward for rocking. I wouldn’t recommend candy, as I try to stay away from connecting food to behavior, whether removing it because of negative behavior, or rewarding with it because of positive behavior. I say small reward because you will have to continue it every time you rock for a while. Maybe they can play an educational iPad game when they’re done, or they can pick out a stuffed animal to sleep with. Also remember that for some of our children even rewards don’t matter. I can’t tell you how many “special” things our daughter has lost over the years. Until our daughter made a connection with us, rewards and consequences didn’t have the outcome we were looking for.

The study done on bonding wasn’t specific to rocking, but to rhythmic movement. Although, it is my opinion and the opinion of others that rocking makes a quicker connection between a parent and child – you are holding them close, you have bodily contact, you can make eye contact if your child will let you, and you are doing it together – there are other ways to get rhythmic movement into your child’s daily routine. You can use a trampoline, they even have smaller indoor ones (both of our kids LOVE the trampoline), swinging (you can even use aboy swinginghammock and rock together), or swimming. Friends of ours adopted their daughter from foster care when she was twelve-months-old and once they started her with horseback riding lessons, she never stopped.  Her family believes this is the rhythmic movement she craves and has helped her deal with issues that arise in her life.

I hope you can try rocking, and until your child is able to rock with you, or is far too large to rock, try rhythmic movement of any kind (can be combined with rocking). Let me know how it works, I would love to hear about it!

*Note: I shared the link about our children’s hurting brains looking different. This does not mean our children aren’t intelligent. It can actually mean that our children do possess a great intelligence, you can read more about it in, The Intelligence Behind a Hurting Child.

Following are some more posts related to attachment:
attachment in adoption and foster children: the first things we need to know

- tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child

play = bonding time

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inclusion vs exclusion: special needs in the classroom

inlcusion vs exclusion- special needs in the classroom
Are there benefits to having special needs children in the mainstream classroom? Are there benefits for the typical students? Are there benefits for the special needs students? Should children with special needs be secluded in their own rooms?

If you’re wondering what inclusion is, there’s a great article over at Special Needs Resources, called, Inclusion: What It Is and What It Isn’t. The author, Karen Wang, has provided an excellent photo to explain what inclusion is, and what it isn’t.

Inclusion has innumerable favorable outcomes:

  • Inclusion reduces bullying. When typical children are around children with special needs, understanding will go far to reduce bullying. Our school makes great efforts to educate children on special needs, it’s part of the curriculum. They show videos of the special needs children and explain to all students what behaviors they might see and how to handle them when they see them. They have photos on the wall of famous people who have special needs and explain each disability. An inclusive community is an accepting community.

  • Michael Emmons*, a Professor of Special Education, comes to our children’s school to facilitate the staff and students in including the special needs students in the regular classrooms. He’s had over thirty years of experience in special education, specializes in inclusive education, positive behavioral support, language, literacy, and communication. Emmons has shared some situations with us about special needs children who benefitted profoundly from being in an environment with other “typical” students. One was  about a girl who has Autism. The school she attended was in the beginning phases of inclusion, she walked through the school screaming, and ripped the papers hanging in the hallways. Now, she’s fully included in the regular classroom, with “typical” peers, and she’s doing great.
  • The benefits for typical kids are innumerable. For kids to accept and understand how to interact with the special needs community is priceless. When typical children feel comfortable around those with special needs, and understand the capabilities of a person who has a disability, it’s invaluable. We can’t teach any of this in a classroom where there are no special needs, this won’t happen when children are polarized. These life lessons will be with them forever, making them better people.
  • Children learn from their peers. If children are only exposed to others with special needs, meaning similar skill levels or having like behaviors, that’s what they’re learning. It’s essential to have children interact with others who have comparable abilities, but they also need opportunities to grow, which happens when they’re around others who are more advanced developmentally. In the article Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming, Rick Naurert says, “Researchers have found the practice of educating children with special needs in regular classes helps to improve the language skills of preschoolers with disabilities.”
  • I highly recommend the book, Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper. It’s a story of a girl who has cerebral palsy, she’s nonverbal and when she’s finally included in the regular classroom, and given the opportunity to communicate, she astounds everyone with her vast knowledge.

  • Children with special needs have feelings too, inclusion makes them part of the community.

There are negatives to exclusion:

  • In special needs classrooms children can have the same teacher each year, this could mean several years with the same educator. And what if that teacher is  dissatisfactory? What if they don’t treat special needs children as typical kids who have feelings, thoughts, and abilities? What if they don’t talk to them as though they are able to understand? What if they read baby books or work on number recognition when your child is capable of so much more?
  • Abuse can take place when teachers and aides are alone with kids who may not be able to, or know how to, express what’s going on.
  • In the article Special Needs Children Benefit from Mainstreaming, Laura Justice says, “The biggest problem comes when we have a classroom of children with disabilities with no highly skilled peers among them. In that case, they have limited opportunity to improve their use of language.”

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I’ve said it before, but our kid’s school rocks. They’re inclusive. The principle, Mary Biagini decided to go full inclusion four years ago, and they’ve made great progress. The school partnered with Listen 2 Kids Productions last year to create the video, I See Your Ability, which discusses inclusion from both the students and teachers perspectives. This is only a preview of the video, but you can purchase it here.

In the video above you hear children talk about helping those with special needs, it’s an every day occurrence, it’s part of everyday life. One child came to the school as a third grader and he’d never seen a special needs child before. He didn’t know what to do, if he should talk to them or not.

Children in the school admit they are different because they’re in class with special needs students, one says that he has a lot more patience and acceptance than he would normally have.

Here are some quotes from the video:

One child makes it very clear what inclusion means: “Martin Luther King worked to end segregation from whites and blacks, and if you’re a principle and you only want [typical] kids, no special needs kids, you are no better than the people who wanted to segregate blacks and whites.”

“I can see how much [the special needs kids] love playing with us, and when we’re not there, they’re sad.” – Student

“I really don’t see the needs of the gifted and talented or the higher end learners being compromised.” – School Counselor

“Inclusion is not just about getting kids in regular educations classrooms, it’s about creating belonging for students in regular education classes.” – School Psychologist

Not only is it essential for special needs parents to promote inclusion, but we need parents of typical children to step up and speak up. It’s the parents of typical kids who are worried about the special needs students being included in the regular classroom. We need parents who’ve witnessed a change in their children to come forward and advocate for special needs children.

Please share with others to promote inclusion of special needs students in general classrooms.

If you’re looking to incorporate inclusion in your school (this means parents too, as you’ll be the most influential advocates), know that it’s a process. This doesn’t happen overnight.

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