why the adoptive parent’s opinions matter

why the adoptive parents opinions matterEveryone has opinions, and when you adopt or foster, you get ideas on how you should raise your kids from every which way.

Birth mothers want to be called “mom,” or “mother,” but you want to refer to her as “birth mom.” Your son would like to call her, “tummy mommy,” but his birth mom wants to be referred to as “Mom.” What do you do? Older adoptees share their opinions on how we should raise our kids, what we should tell them, what not to say.

Our world is so focused on always being politically correct, and yes, there’s definitely a necessity for that, but it seems that in the case of adoption it takes away from what adoptive parents want. It’s as if our opinions don’t matter, and I’ve been told by adoptees exactly that, my feelings and perspectives don’t matter. Other parents have been told by their child’s biological family what to do and what terminology to use. But my feelings as an adoptive parent do matter, because I’m the one who adopted my child, I’m the one who’s raising them.

As for the opinions on biological families, for some adoptive families it works well to have the birth families (or some of use the term “biological family”) over for holiday celebrations, but for others that would be *beep* on wheels. It would not go well, and it wouldn’t benefit our children. Why? Because each of our children have different stories, different backgrounds, different needs, different relationships with their biological families.

No one person can tell everyone else what to do with their adopted or foster children. Just as in families who have all biological children, you won’t see two families who do things exactly alike. No one group of adoptees can tell every adoptive family how to raise their kids and how it’s going to end up in the future.
you can listen to opinions on adoption, but ultimately it's your family

Is it important listen to adoptees? Absolutely. However, when their opinions come with too many absolutes, then it’s time to beware. As adoptive parents we can also choose the voices we want to surround ourselves with. We can hear the less positive opinions from adoptees about adoption and foster care, but we can choose not to surround ourselves with it after hearing it the first time.

After hearing what those involved with Flip the Script had to say, I was told I didn’t want to hear what they had to say. I wasn’t the deaf one, I heard them.

It’s kind of like a pregnant woman. Does she want to hear negativity from the mother whose birthing experience was horrible, endless hours of excruciating pain, how carrying that child wrecked her back, she was bed-ridden, unable to do anything she enjoyed. Or, do would the newly pregnant mother want to surround herself with mothers who had a good, positive experience? Will she hear the negative? Yes. But what will she choose to listen to the most. And I would like to add, it’s ALL in the way it’s said.

Many adoptees involved in the Flip the Script movement tell us we need to listen to them, and that us adoptive parents don’t matter in the equation.

Madeleine Melcher wrote an article, What an Adoptee Wants You to Know About Adoption. In it she says, “Parents: there is no voice on or about adoption that is more important than YOUR ADOPTEE’S.” She also says,

“Adoptees have different feelings about their own adoptions.”

I love what Madeleine says. It’s true, our children’s voice comes first. Then come ours (shocker) because we’re the ones raising them. We should listen to others who’ve been there, but we get to choose who we want to surround ourselves with.

Unlike what some adoptees would like us to think, each child will have their own views of their adoption. Yes, it’s up to us parents to listen to a variety of voices on the subject, including those who’ve been adopted and fostered, but those voices are going to vary too.

Because everyone has their own story, shaped by their own experience.

Here are some more posts that may interest you:
Are Your Worries About Your Child’s Future Stealing Joy from the Present?
Birth Family Relationships

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autism’s siblings: what a 7-year-old has to say about autism and her brother

autism siblings: what a 7-year-old has to say about autism and her brotherAfter reading an article on Huffington Post titled, “My Sons Love Their Sister but Not Autism,” I decided to ask my non-autistic daughter a question.

I thought Payton would have a different perspective so I asked, “Payton, do you like autism?” Payton answered, “Yes.” Then I shared with her what I’d told the nursing staff at the hospital where I speak on autism. I had told the nurses that Payton is the best sister I could have asked for Jeremiah. I went on to tell her how amazing she is, and how much she understands autism.

She smiled, thought for a few moments and said, “Another sister might have loved Jeremiah, but may not have understood Jeremiah.”

This video stemmed from that conversation. I wanted to share this 7-year-olds perspective on autism.

We went through the questions only once before this interview. There are some things Payton said during the note-taking that I thought I’d share with you. Note: She didn’t use notes while doing this interview.

Question: Is there anything special about Jeremiah?
Answer: He makes cool sounds. He makes me more interested in autism.

Question: Do you like your brother?
Answer: Yeah. Some people might like Jeremiah or love him, but might not understand him. Like, I like Candice (girl at school), but sometimes she pulls my hair.

Question: Do you know Jeremiah loves you even though he can’t tell you with words?
Answer: Yes. If I didn’t have a brother like this I wouldn’t be so happy about what he’s learning. (She does get VERY excited when does something new, and often points it out, or shows great interest when we tell her about it.)

Question: How do you know he loves you?
Answer: He’s gentle and touches my hair and holds my hand. Sometimes he’s not gentle, but he usually is and that makes me feel like he loves me and likes me.

She also made comments over and over about how what Jeremiah does and that learning about autism “makes her feel really good inside.”


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15 tips on how to be an awesome foster and adoptive parent

15 tips on how to be an awesome foster parent
I came across this amazing article by a former foster child. It has excellent tips on what makes a good foster parent, but I also feel it’s without a doubt useful for adoptive parents as well. I’ll give you a snippet of LT’s post, but you’ll have to click the link for more.

1.  Caring and Interest

Show interest in the child. Ask what is going on in their world. Ask what they feel. They may not answer, but show that you are interested. Showing interest shows you care. In so many of the foster homes/group homes I stayed in, no-one even asked about school, let alone how I felt or what was going on in my world. I knew they never cared about me. Foster kids may act like we don’t want you to care about us, but deep down we do. We are just trying to protect ourselves from getting hurt again…
TO SEE MORE great advice, click here: What Makes a Good Foster Mom/Dad – Tips from a Former Foster Child


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how Autism Speaks spreads awareness: it’s not what you think

how Autism Speaks spreads awareness - it's not what you think*You can listen to a recording of this post, just scroll to the end.

Autism Awareness Month needs some work. A large portion of awareness is propelled by Autism Speaks, but what is Autism Speaks saying about autism and what is their awareness doing? I thought I’d give you a glimpse at how Autism Awareness needs to change to Autism Acceptance, a concept that isn’t new, nor initiated by me. Autistic adults have been trying to make a change for years.

So, since Autism Speaks seems to be the organization we see plastered everywhere when we think of autism, let’s take a look at what they believe, and what their “awareness” is composed of.

Autism Speaks is hailed as wonderful by a multitude of autism parents. It’s one of the largest organizations that attaches its name to autism, and because autism parents think this establishment is going to find answers for their children, much of the world views Autism Speaks positively.

Individuals who stand on the sidelines give money to Autism Speaks because they see an organization that’s helping families who live with autism. But there are a few problems with Autism Speaks. It’s taken me a couple years to make such bold comments on this organization because I really wanted to find out the whole truth.

I’ve heard enough now, and have formed my opinions.

The first red flag that’s been raised is, Autism Speaks doesn’t listen to autistic adults. Autistic adults have written innumerable letters and contacted Autism Speaks countless times asking them to change what they tell the world about autism.

In the 2014 Joint Letter to the Sponsors of Autism Speaks, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (as well as over a dozen other mental health and disability groups) writes, “Autism Speaks’ senior leadership fails to include a single autistic person. Unlike non-profits focused on intellectual disability, Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy and countless other disabilities, Autism Speaks systematically excludes autistic adults from its board of directors, leadership team and other positions of senior leadership…The slogan of the disability rights movement has long been, ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us.’ Almost nine years after its founding, Autism Speaks continues to refuse to abide by this basic tenet of the mainstream disability community.”

Autistic adults aren’t going in with guns blazing, they’ve tried without success to communicate with Autism Speaks in a cordial manner. In the 2014 Joint Letter to the Sponsors of Autism Speaks, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network also writes, “It is our hope that we may work together in a spirit of partnership to find new and less controversial ways for you to show your commitment to our community.” If this isn’t making great efforts to work together in an agreeable way, I don’t know what is.

Second, Autism Speaks highlighted the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in their 2013 Walk Now for Autism Speaks Resource Fair. The JRC abuses autistic people with shock therapy, isolation, and much more. Here’s an excellent article written by Jess at A Diary of a Mom on the heinous acts the JRC inflicts upon the disabled, Judge Rotenberg Center.

The third issue is, Autism Speaks focuses on preventing and curing autism. Only 4% of Autism Speaks budget goes to “family support”, that “family support” being the portion individuals who donate think most of their money is going to. Whereas, 44% goes to research. Autism Self-Advocacy Network says, “Most of the research that Autism Speaks funds is devoted to causation and ‘prevention,’ including the prospect of prenatal testing.”

Autistic adults don’t want to be cured, they LIKE their autism. They tell us autism is part of who they are. 

My son, Jeremiah, would not be who he is if he didn’t have autism. Yes, certain aspects of his personality would be the same, for example, he’s really well behaved and doesn’t get in trouble doing typical “kid” stuff. But so much of who he is directly correlates with autism.

I completely support wanting to help the autistic person deal with things that are difficult for them, but to eradicate autism altogether, I’ve come to believe isn’t the right thing to do. Autism gives us a view into a world we otherwise would never witness, and so much of it is special and beautiful.

When autistic people say they don’t want to be cured I think this is a powerful statement that needs to be heard. I think so much of what we think we know about autism is perspective and who influences that perspective.

And prenatal testing? We just opened whole new &%$# load of problems with these words. What does prenatal testing do? Does it prepare the parents for what’s ahead, give them a heads up? Or does it more likely give the option of terminating pregnancies where the child has autism? The latter is far more likely and I have very strong opinions on the matter which I won’t discuss here.
autism awareness month must inlcude the autistic adult

Another problem I have with Autism Speaks is how they refer to our children who have autism. The Autism Self-Advocacy Network says,

“Autism Speaks’ advertising depends on offensive and outdated rhetoric of fear and pity, presenting the lives of autistic people as ‘tragic burdens on our families and society.’ In its advertising, Autism Speaks has compared being autistic to ‘being kidnapped, dying of a natural disaster, and having a fatal disease.'”

My son has what Autism Speaks would consider “severe autism,” he’s nonverbal, his sensory processing issues overwhelm him at times, and he’s the child you might find having a meltdown on any given day. Yet, I DON’T feel any of these statements are true of my son or our family. Neither do many autistic individuals.

Fifth, the CEO of Autism Speaks doesn’t even understand the autistic individual. In an address Suzanne Wright recently made to the Pope, she said, “Autism is forcing parents and caregivers to slow down the frenetic pace of our modern world and look into the eyes of our loved ones.” Do you know how autistic people feel about eye contact? Suzanne obviously doesn’t. You should hear what they say. Many of them say it’s actually painful.

Sixth, the support Autism Speaks provides to families only makes it possible for those families to get their child in ABA therapy, and much of their financial support doesn’t stay local. ABA doesn’t focus on the child’s positive attributes, it focuses on removing the negatives. It doesn’t focus on WHY the child has certain behaviors. Many autistic adults were harmed by ABA, and for many it caused them to have PTSD and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

The main problem I have with Autism Speaks is it promotes a very negative view of autism. I shared some of their propaganda above. They also show you the most severe autism, a child who is overweight, one who falls on the floor, flailing in the midst of a meltdown. The biggest problem I have with their “awareness” is they don’t tell you WHY the person is behaving this way. Mostly because they don’t really know and don’t understand.

Autism Speaks only focuses on the overstressed parent who doesn’t know what to do and that parent only sees the negatives in their child’s autism. They show the difficulties, but they don’t show the WHY or the good.

As I said earlier, Autism Speaks is the voice the world hears on autism. What is it saying? Are their words positive? Are they uplifting? Do they make people feel good about autism or think it’s a horrible disease that needs to be eradicated? This is awareness, but the wrong kind of awareness.

As countless of autistic adults have said, it needs to be Autism Acceptance Month. To accept autism, we need to know WHY, not simply what is, or what certain cases look like on the Spectrum.

It’s a whole picture, a whole person that Autism Speaks is ignoring. They definitely aren’t accepting autism. 

Make sure and come back for follow-up posts on Autism Acceptance, one will specifically focus on WHY autistic people do what they do, this is to bring understanding, but also in larger part, acceptance.

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are your worries about your child’s future stealing joy from the present? (adoption & foster)

are your worries about your child's future stealing joy from the present

“We can help pave the roads of those around us, but we can’t choose their direction.” – Shri Rama

* You can listen to a recording of this post, just scroll to the end.

When you adopt, occasionally worry comes with it. How will my child feel about their adoption? Will they feel like I took them away from their birth family when the birth family’s the ones who chose to not stay in contact? When my child becomes a teenager will he hate me? Will my daughter know how much I love her?

We hear stories from other parents and adoptees about adopted people feeling like their adoptive families took them away from their birth family, they wish they’d had more contact with their birth family, or they turn away from their adoptive family altogether. These situations are rare, but many adoptive parents can’t help but worry. If it’s not a consistent pestering of our hearts, then an occasional one.

First we have to remember that most teens (the non-adopted ones) go through the “horrible parent” phase; we’re horrible, uncaring, stupid, uneducated, mean, and all around “the worst parent on the face of the earth, and how come I ended up with you as a parent?!” It happens. All the time. Adopted children have an ideal to lean on though, and this is where it changes up a bit, or a lot. That ideal is that life would have been better if they’d stayed with their biological family. Most of the time this isn’t the case (excluding cases of corruption in adoption), hence the need for foster care and adoption.

I’ve worried and fretted about my daughter turning against me when all I’ve done is love her. But here’s the thing, I can’t worry about the future because I have no idea what it holds. I still do worry sometimes, but I try not to. I say this as a person who has a rare genetic disease that is worsening by the year and has no cure, so worry is my game, I’m winning. I’ve had plenty of training in how to worry about the impending seriousness of a situation.

Because of this disease, and because of research done on cancer, I know that worry kills because worry is stress, and stress kills. And although you may not have a deadly disease, stress isn’t good for you either, I’m sure you’ve heard about the many scientific studies done on it’s outcomes. Not good.
we can only pave the road, we can't choose our child's directionAs the quote says at the beginning of this post, we can’t determine what our children do in their future or how they feel. However we can love them unconditionally, and be open to talking with them about their birth family, adoption, or reasons they’re in foster care as they’re able to handle it.

All I can do is love my kids with all I have, and that’s what I do. Every day. Because in the end, my daughter may not have feelings of regret surrounding her adoption, she may not wish she lived with her biological family, she may be perfectly content with us.

I would like to add that what I’m talking about isn’t a desire to search for birth family, or make those connections and meet those family members. What I’m talking about goes much farther. The eagerness adoptive and foster children have to get in contact with their biological family is fairly common, however the anger about you adopting or fostering them isn’t the prevailing feeling.

As teens they may be angry, but as I said, many teens are, it’s simply that when they’ve been adopted or fostered they have something tangible to blame. Often this perception will pass and they’ll realize you are their family, the ones who loved them and took care of them, and they can accept their biological relatives as another addition to this family if that family is in a place to participate.

I know you feel like you’re pouring your whole life into your kids, and I’m glad you are because this is what they deserve, no matter how they treat you. They’ve been through trauma, and may take years to heal, years to accept your love and return it.

You may look at your child’s future as an adult and feel animosity at how they took so much of your time and effort, but they’re children and they deserve your unconditional love because they’re innocent. Nothing they’ve been through is fair, and they shouldn’t be expected to fix their hearts when so much damage has been done.

So keep moving forward. Keep reading Lovin’ Adoptin’. Also understand that love for these kids means having guidelines and expectations, you can read more about that in these posts:
Why Consequences & Rewards Don’t Work for Hurting Children
7 Reasons Why Time-In NOT Time-Out
Is Love Enough?

(I only talk about my daughter in this post because my adopted son has autism and doesn’t understand the concept of adoption at this time.)

Do you have any fears about your child’s future and whether they’ll be angry with you or turn away from you? If so, how do you deal with those feelings?

You can read more about talking about birth family in these posts:
Birth Family Relationships (How they can look different for each family and includes a checklist of “5 Factors to Consider in Open Adoptions”)
Questions About Birth Family (How to handle questions about birth family.)


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when parents accept autism, the world will too

when parents accept autismApril is Autism Awareness Month and there are many autistic individuals and some autism advocate parents who would love to see that changed to Autism Acceptance Month. So as part of Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month, I want to ask what we’re doing to accept autism.

Accepting autism begins in the home of the autistic person, it begins with the parents and their view of autism. If you’re an autism parent, what is your view of autism, of your child?

*You can read about why I refer to those who have autism as “autistic” in the post It’s in a Word: Autistic vs. Has Autism.

Do you view your child through a positive lens? Or do you view them through a negative one, focusing on those “bad” behaviors (when your child is simply trying to communicate, or over or underwhelmed with sensory input), inability to make eye contact (some autistic people actually feel pain when forced to look someone in the eye), lack of social skills (or is it really different social skills)?

Something that can keep us from seeing the positives or potential in our child or from accepting who they are is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

If your child’s in ABA, please know that I’m not judging you. I’m speaking honestly about how I feel based on my sons experience and how autistic adults who have sometimes suffered at the hands of ABA therapists feel. We are all on a learning path and the voices that have overwhelmed your experience are the ones that will largely determine the path you’re on.

Most of the time that path for autism parents is ABA. They jump blindly into it because everyone who has a child with autism seems to be doing it, and almost every therapist, teacher, or doctor you talk to highly recommends it.

I believe when ABA is extremely modified it can be helpful to a child who has autism. Some ABA therapists work under the guise of ABA when there isn’t much similarity so insurance will cover their services, however some ABA therapists still hold to the fundamentals of how ABA began. If you don’t know how it began, I encourage you to read ABA by Sparrow Rose Jones, an autistic adult who suffered under ABA. It’s important to know where this therapy stems from and if the therapy your child’s in has morphed from how it originated. Don’t worry, I know it’s overwhelming, and this post will help you know what too look for and be aware of.

ABA’s focus isn’t on the positives in your child, or respecting who they are as a person, the goal is to conform them into what the world around them sees as “normal” and it’s based on a “fake it until you make it” mentality. And what if your child feels very normal and doesn’t want to change?

I understand there are behaviors we need to help our children work through, however ABA doesn’t do this in a positive, encouraging way, it does it in a very negative way, not recognizing who the person they’re working with is, nor respecting what that person wants. ABA’s focus is to work the “bad” behaviors out of the autistic person, having no idea or care as to why that person is acting the way they are. Dr. Ivar Lovaas, the man who developed ABA says, “You have to put out the fire first before you worry how it started.”

“Autistic children are not allowed to be themselves, being forced instead, to learn how to pretend, never learning self-determination, never allowed to have an independent thought.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post, My Thoughts on ABA

“If you want something from me, if you want me to do something, respect who I am, respect my way of doing things, listen to me and allow me to disagree and to find my own way.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post My Thoughts on ABA

Autistic children need to be reinforced with positives just the same as non-autistic children. We need to find out the why behind behaviors (because behavior is communication), not suppress them because they don’t fit into society, or those behaviors bother us. We consider the autistic individual and find solutions they agree with, not ones that are forced on them.

Autistic children should never be forced to sit at a table for hours so they can learn colors, numbers, or letters, they need to learn through their environment (there’s a great example of this in the post More Perspectives on ABA). If an autistic child learns their colors and the stuffed bear is blue, there’s a good chance they won’t be able to correlate this with the outside world. The skills learned in ABA are often non-transferrable to the outside world because they aren’t learning through the environment.
autistic adults thoughts on ABA

I could go on and on about the problems with ABA, but I think this will be more helpful. Ask yourself these questions about your chid’s therapy, both in and outside of school and therapy:

1) Does your child’s therapy focus on the negative behaviors and not reinforcing the positives? How many positives are there to each negative?

2) Does your child have time to BE a child? If they’re going to twenty, thirty, or forty hours of therapy, the answer is no.

3) Would you accept this behavior toward a non-autistic child? I first read about this in the article, Would You Accept this Behavior Towards a Non-Autistic Child? It’s not a new concept, it’s something we should all think about when it comes to our children.

“ABA is nothing more than child abuse. If these same techniques were used against a normal child, all HELL would be raised.” (Referring to ABA in it’s true, pure form.) – Jeff Sexton (autistic)

4) Is the goal of your child’s ABA compliance? A great article about this very issue is, No You Don’t by Sparrow Rose Jones. This article hit me hard. It’s extremely important to take a look at ABA from this angle. If everything is compliance and your child isn’t allowed to choose or say “No,” then there’s an enormous, life affecting issue going on. In No You Don’t, Sparrow spells out exactly what can happen to autistic individuals who are forced to comply with every request, and as a woman she speaks to the sexual abuse she’s endured because of this being ingrained in her psyche.

5) Are you allowed to be part of the therapy? If not, this raises a big red flag. Parents have the right to know what’s happening during their child’s therapy. Also, I feel very strongly that most therapy (meaning simply learning and guidance for our child) should be done at home. If the therapy you’ve chosen has passed the test, then you should be implementing it at home, this is where a large percentage of learning takes place, not in the classroom or therapy office.

6) Does your child’s therapist force your child to do things that are extremely difficult or impossible for your child to do? This is wrong for anyone to do. I’ve met ABA therapists who don’t know what making eye contact is like for an autistic person.

“As a teacher, I have been horrified by things that were done to children in my classrooms in the name of ABA. It came across as incredibly disrespectful of the human being in question.” – Joanie Calem

7) Is your child given ample opportunity to learn through their environment? Does your child spend time with non-autistic children?

8) Is the therapist on the floor with the child, playing? Are they encouraging you to do the same? In my opinion some of the best therapy for children with autism is Floortime, a therapy created by Stanley Greenspan.

The world says we need to put our autistic children in ABA. Other autism parents. therapists, doctors, and teachers pressure us into doing ABA. They feel it’s the only answer, as if there’s a problem to be solved. Every autism parent seems to be doing it and if you’re not, you feel you’re probably the one who’s wrong. After all, they can’t all be wrong can they? But once you realize the source of ABA, and what it really does to your child, you may reconsider. Once you hear the voices of autistic adults you may realize ABA isn’t the answer.

“[Autistic adults] speak up because we know that our identity and our humanity cannot be taken away, something people who don’t share our neurology seem to believe can happen.” – Amy Sequenzia in her post, My Thoughts on ABA

“What looks like progress is happening at the expense of the child’s sense of self, comfort, feelings of safety, ability to love who they are, stress levels, and more. The outward appearance is of improvement, but with classic ABA therapy, that outward improvement is married to a dramatic increase in internal anxiety and suffering.” – Sparrow Rose Jones (autistic)

When I was in the planning stages for my post More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis, I asked, “What are your thoughts on ABA?” in a social media group consisting of adults on the spectrum, professionals, and parents of people on the spectrum. The responses blew my mind. I came to the deep realization that parents of autistic kids really need to listen to those who’ve gone before our children (and I don’t just mean Temple Grandin). I’ve written some of their replies within the body of this post, and here are a few more:

“I wish ABAs got more training in sensory issues.” – A. Creigh Farinas (autistic)

“There is also a high price that autistic children can pay when ABA is practiced in such a way that compliance itself is a goal – abuse, physical/sexual/emotional.” – Patricia Gabe

“Applying therapies and asking someone to conform to a standard in a one size fits all attitude can strip a person of their natural strengths.” – Nancy Getty

If you’re looking for other autism parents who don’t agree with ABA practices, you can read Emma’s Hope Book .
In the post, Tackling that Troublesome Issue of ABA and Ethics, Ariane writes, “One of the best arguments against ABA is Michelle Dawson’s article, The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists: Ethical Challenges to the Autism-ABA industry.  If you google Applied Behavioral Analysis you will see glowing reports of its efficacy for more than 30 pages.  I actually stopped at the 30th page only because I didn’t have time to continue.  The first book I read on the subject of Autism was Catherine Maurice’s Let Me Hear Your Voice which details how ABA saved two of her children’s lives from Autism.  (I use this language as it is the language employed by the author.)  Catherine Maurice also likens Autism to cancer and ABA as the necessary chemotherapy.  The whole acceptance model obviously is not employed when thinking in these terms, how could it be?  And perhaps this is the single greatest problem when discussing ABA.”

In the above mentioned article, The Misbehaviour of Behaviourists, it mentions how Dr. Ivar Lovaas (developer of ABA) worked with Dr. Rekers to remove homosexuality from children. This is how ABA began. I’ve heard of this throughout the autistic community, but this gives much more detailed information about how it came about.

The autistic adults I’ve heard speak (may be non-speaking, but use communication devices) about their autism feel it’s a large part of who they are, and to try to remove or cure it is an assault on their personhood. As I said earlier, there is no better way to learn about autism than from those who have gone before our children.

There is much more I have to say about ABA, you can read more of my thoughts in the links I’ve mentioned, My Thoughts on Applied Behavior Analysis and More Perspectives on Applied Behavior Analysis. I’ve also written an article for an anthology that will be published by a professor at Michigan University later this year (I can’t give away everything I’ve written in that article ;)).

Let’s accept who our children are so the world can accept them.
#AutismAwarenessDay #AutismAwarenessMonth

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sensory processing disorder and the classroom

sensory processing issuesand the classroom
Does your child sit still in class? Does the teacher complain that your child isn’t focused? Does your child come home and act like a monkey that’s been let out of its cage?

Last week I was chatting with a friend whose daughter, Alexa, is having some issues in school. Not big issues, some of the exact situations I listed above. Alex’s teacher is saying things like, “She’s so smart, I don’t need to remind her,” “Alex won’t sit still, she won’t do criss-cross-apple-sauce.”

A little background. Something that doesn’t define who Alexa is, but is important in what I talk about here on Lovin’ Adoptin’, which is that adopted and foster kids often have sensory processing issues or Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD).

Alexa is seven and her mom, Raena, had been noticing some interesting things about her in the past few years. When she put lotion on Alexa, she’d cry and scream, often lashing out at Raena. When Alexa put clothes on, she would say how they were uncomfortable, no matter what brand they were. Between Alexa’s parents and their daughter’s physician, they’d come to realize Alexa has sensory processing issues.

In school, one issue Alexa’s teacher has is Alexa sits on the edge of her chair during class. Once I heard a professional say that teachers really do kids an injustice when they make them sit still. Some kids learn while moving, and if it takes a child rocking quietly and gently in their chair to learn and focus, then let them.

You might wonder why Alexa doesn’t have an Individualized Education Plan (IEP). This is an education plan put in placed when a child has special needs, it  helps everyone meet certain goals for specific children. When a child has Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), the school would have an Occupational therapist (OT) work with that child to help them stay focused in school and meet those sensory needs. The child might hold a fidget during class, sit on a balance cushion (a round disk with nodules that tilts), have sensory breaks where they can be in a dark inclosed space (hammock swing), or the OT or paraprofessional can do push/pulls to help alleviate stress on the joints.
sensory processing disorder

For some of you, it may take time to get an IEP complete, and depending on the knowledge of your schools staff, it can still take some effort to get your child’s needs taken care of. Sometimes teachers won’t recognize your child’s sensory issues and may think it’s behavior based and your child has the ability to fix it. This is how Alexa’s teacher has been viewing her, she thinks Alexa is smart, which she is, so she expects good behavior and for Alexa to remember everything she tells her and doesn’t want to remind her. She feels that reminding Alexa and helping her is enabling.

Alexa attends a private school, and the answer to Raena’s questions about an IEP is that Raena needs to go to a public school to get more information. Well, besides this being completely frustrating, Raena will need to do something in the mean time, and she’s already begun.

Raena has found articles and sections of books that pertain to what Alexa is dealing with, printed them out and shared them with Alexa’s teacher.

This is a great first step, beginning a conversation. Do your research and find out more about SPD and how to help your child, whatever helps you, share it with the teacher. Don’t bombard him or her with information, but sharing what works at home and what you feel will work at school will help your child in a big way. We’ve done this with our son’s teachers and aids, and I can’t tell you how much it’s helped Jeremiah at school.

Alexa’s teacher seems to be grasping what’s going on, but Raena doesn’t feel they’re where they want to be. During our conversation Raena mentioned going to the doctor to discuss Alexa’s sensory issues and a possible diagnosis, so I suggested she have the doctor make recommendations to the teacher.

I know it can be so frustrating to see your child struggling as the teacher makes comments and remains unaware of what’s truly happening. I’ve been unaware myself at times and forgotten the comment I mentioned above, sometimes it helps a child learn when they can move a little. My daughter doesn’t have SPD, but she often stands at the kitchen table when working on homework, coloring, or doing a project, and I can’t tell you how many times she’s fallen off the chair! I used to correct her and ask her to sit down, but finally my brain kicked in one day and I said, “Would you like to stand and do your work?” She said, “Yes,” and pushed the chair out of the way. This is how she works and thinks best. Standing or sitting, does it really matter?

I hope this helps you bridge that gap with your child’s teacher(s) and gives you information to begin working together to create a successful learning environment for your child.

Some posts by Lovin’ Adoptin’ that will help you and your child’s teacher:

Sensory Processing Disorder (part 1): What It Is
Sensory Processing Disorder (part 2): Does Your Child Have Sensory Processing Issues?
13 Funny Reasons You Know Your Child Has Sensory Processing Disorder 

Another great website that has information on SPD:
The Friendship Circle


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