I have Autism and the world treats me different

I have Autism
I have Autism, and the world treats me differently.

If your child has Autism, you know what I’m talking about. The stares, questioning looks, noses stuck so far in the air you’d think they were preparing for a dental exam, questions, comments, avoidance, accusations, recommendations, and rarely, smiles.

There are a variety of ways others respond to our Autistic children. A persons perceptions are sometimes based on their previous experience with Autism. This can be problematic because every child with Autism is different, they all have varying abilities.

If someone knows a person who has Aspergers (a form of Autism), they may expect another child with Autism to act the same way, trying to fit them in a peg hole. For example, our son, Jeremiah, has nonverbal Autism and has struggled developmentally, he is nothing like a child who is on the other end of spectrum. Some people assume he can talk, or understand directions that aren’t in his every day life. They assume we can take Jeremiah to events and he’ll stand next to us. It goes on and on.

They don’t realize that Jeremiah isn’t every other child on the spectrum.

A few of my friends have Autistic children who have more abilities than Jeremiah. In one area, they act very much the same, but in others, vastly different. One friend took her son to a get-together with friends, her son stayed near them and they were able to converse with others. What a strange and utterly impossible idea. For us. What would that be like? We don’t know because it’s never happened. Those who don’t have a child with Autism or aren’t immersed in the intricacies of it simply think that our children don’t behave and that we should do something about it. Ha! I give them a day to try, well not really, because they would want to strangle Jeremiah, and it would consummately devastate him.

Many times people say to me, “Autistic people are SO smart.” I agree, they are smart, but we don’t know if Jeremiah is a savant with a “special ability” that’s unique to him and him alone, nor do we expect it. He used to put shapes in the shape sorter faster than any adult – or at least I would bet on Jeremiah if it were a race, but he no longer plays with the shape sorter. As I’ve said here before, Jeremiah is ALWAYS in flux. Part of this expectation (Autistic people are so smart) comes from a person’s experience with a child that was able to speak and communicate in some form. Jeremiah does not.

When people see Jeremiah, it’s not obvious at first that he has a different ability, unless of course he’s waving his hands in the air like he just don’t care. If they’re around him for any amount of time, they should pick up on the fact that he’s different, doesn’t talk, doodles obsessively, stims (waving hands), and if it’s a bad sensory day, he’ll hit his head compulsively or try to bang it on the nearest available person.

And example of how others are treating Jeremiah is when we took the kids to the fair last week, and one of the employees said to Jeremiah, “Hey dude, high-five?” and held his hand up. I kindly said, “He has Autism and doesn’t talk.” Frankly, the guy seemed a little offended – okay, sorry he can’t give you a high-five. He said, “Hi,” and I said “Hi” for Jeremiah. The patrons standing behind us in line stared down at Jeremiah, no smiles. I don’t mind staring IF the offender smiles. :)

Our daughter, Payton, said, “Mom, those people are just staring at Jeremiah!” Payton has a very tender heart toward her brother, she’s his little protector. You can read more about how their relationship here. Sweet Payton couldn’t figure out why someone would stare at Jeremiah. I said, “If they’re smiling at him it’s okay.” She said, “They weren’t, they were just staring, like this,” then gave me an example. I said, “Okay, it’s not nice of people to stare, and if someone is ever rude to Jeremiah, you stand up for him.”
don't stare - smile and treat me like everyone elseUnfortunately, the stares are going to worsen. Jeremiah is growing and it’s more unacceptable than it used to be that he’s riding a wagon through the Farmer’s Market, or that he’s waving his hands in the air, he isn’t talking, his cry sounds like an infants, he’s screaming. He’s standing out more and people are noticing, hence some of them are gawking.

When we’ve had to explain to others that Jeremiah has Autism, we’ve received several reactions. (Usually the explaining comes because someone says hi to him). Someone knows someone who has Autism, they offer advice, they stare, not really knowing what Autism is (how this happens really boggles my mind), smile and move away, uncomfortable.

While on vacation this summer, Jeremiah was swimming. A woman who floated by him said “Hi”. Justin said, “He has Autism and can’t talk.” The woman smiled and said, “Oh,” and swam away. Hmmm. Autism isn’t contagious. Really.

Another instance came about when Payton was at the dentist recently and the hygienist asked if she has any brothers or sisters. Payton said, “I have a brother, he doesn’t like to play with me because he has Autism.” The hygienist replied, “Oh, good.” Did she think Payton said, “I have a brother, he’s ARTistic”?
be somebody who makes everybody

Others responses to Jeremiah’s Autism have been flying in my face recently. Just the other day we were at my husbands High School reunion and we were asked, “Why would you adopt a child who has Autism?” Wow, what do you say? There were several retorts I could have thrown, but I didn’t feel like his question was directed in spite, so I told him why (the nice version). I honestly wish that others knew how awesome Jeremiah is, how very special he is, how I wouldn’t want to live my life without him, how I can’t imagine my life without him.

Here’s a great post that explains why having a child with special needs is so awesome: 7 Reasons Why Having a Child with Special Needs Makes Life Better.

Our own family has had some interesting, sometimes unsatisfactory responses to our family. I can only imagine it’s because our family is so different, first we did foster care (we adopted both of our kids from foster care), and then Autism came into the picture. Because of these two major life altering scenarios, we do life differently. And so, we’ve been left out of holiday get-togethers. Family living in the same town has left us out of these celebrations. We can only surmise that it has to do with our kids, and now primarily because of Autism. Forget about my feelings on the matter, believe me, they run deep, but it isn’t fair to my children.

I have Autism, and the world treats me different. I have Autism, and my family treats me different.

The only thing that’s going to make any difference is the Autism community kindly educating others on Autism. So, go out and educate. Go out and spread the smiles. Go out and share with the world how awesome your Autistic child is.


You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

therapeutic parents need breaks, but balance is key (adoption & foster care)

therapeutic parents need breaks - balance is key
Being a therapeutic parent is hard. It’s wearing. It’s tiring. It’s work. All. The. Time.  It’s benefits in the end are rewarding beyond compare, but when you’re in the day to day it can be draining.

Although my husband and I have come out of the most difficult parts of therapeutic parenting with our daughter, we still have to parent in a different way than a person would with a typical child. We also have an Autistic child, and that takes constant therapeutic parenting and I struggle with health issues, so I’m tired, and you probably are too.

Speaking of being tired, my husband, Justin, and I have been staying up way too late this summer. It’s usually midnight or later by the time we get in bed, and we don’t function well when we turn in this late. Often the culprit of our late nights is something needing accomplished around the house, but sometimes it’s simply staying up, just because.

Yesterday I was exhausted, pretty normal for me, but it was excessive. I’d been awake most of the previous night with shooting knee pains. Justin made a comment about me being tired and added, “We’re staying up too late every night.” My reply? “You know why I stay up so late? I like the peace and quiet. I’m trying to soak in the time when nothing’s going on.” He said, “I know, so am I.”

We LOVE our kids! They’re our life. (No I don’t know what we’ll do when they grow up! But heck, since my son has nonverbal Autism he may be living with us forever, so I don’t have to worry.) But there is so much going on, there’s a lot of stress in our life and Autism only plays a small part, and when everything’s done at the end of the day, we enjoy sitting down together and reading or watching HGTV or Last Comic Standing on the iPad. Yes, we are boring! Boring is good, boring is relaxing.

When I dove into the foster care and adoption world I saw parents who spent so much time away from their hurting kids. Parents who spent a couple hours exercising every morning, took their kids to school, and filled up their afternoons and evenings with events. I knew dads who, when asked to watch the kids, only sat in front of the t.v. watching sports, and on weekends when the family could be together, they went golfing or spent time with the guys.

I was furious. Yes, I judged, and maybe part of me still does. When a child is battling with their past, fighting to survive on the inside, they need family. They need attention, they need one-on-one time, and they need considerable amounts of it, so much that it can’t be measured. I hurt for these kids. Children who wouldn’t conform to a families routines (jogging, biking, sports, t.v. time, golf time) were sent off to group homes where they were supposed to be “fixed”.

I’m not trying to get into a discussion about whether sending a child to a group home is appropriate, my focus is what parents are pouring themselves into, selfish desires, or their hurting children.

I’ve always been reticent to tell parents they need to have “me” time, time for themselves, doing something that fills them up instead of taking away. I’m hesitant to say this because people can take it overboard and do as many parents I’ve witnessed, they can dive into themselves to avoid what’s really going on with their hurting child.

special children need special parenting

They can spend so much time filling themselves that they avoid the needs of their children, not the physical needs, but the emotional connectedness that a traumatized child yearns so desperately for.

As a therapeutic parent, you do need to fill your “bucket,” because what you do every day, every moment is wearing. But balance is key, and it’s not so easy to find.

I try to find my solace, usually reading a book outside. It’s something I can even enjoy at times when the kids are around. I also love writing, so working on Lovin’ Adoptin’ works in aiding in my “refresh” time, I really don’t consider it work. Justin and I have also focused on having more date nights, it’s hard to do when your life is busy. There used to be so many nights when we would cancel on our babysitter (who we ended up paying for the night just because we felt bad), because of our daughter’s behaviors or I was too exhausted from the day. Those days are fading, especially because Payton’s behavior has improved tremendously, and we have a date night about twice a month.

I’ve been there, where I’m so exhausted, not just from health issues, or from working with an Autistic child, but from pouring out love and getting nothing in return. Therapeutic parenting is all-inclusive, it invades every moment of your life, and to be able to fill your child, you need to help yourself.

What can you do for yourself that you enjoy? Is there something that would make you feel better? Is it having coffee with a friend who you can talk to openly? Is it working out at the gym or riding your bike? Is it taking an occasional weekend away? Is it simply reading in a favorite spot?

Do you find it hard to treat yourself? Do you find that there isn’t enough time? What do you do that doesn’t take away too much time, but fills you up? Maybe some other parents reading here would benefit from your ideas.


You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

 

why Ready or Not: a 30-Day Discovery for Families Growing through Foster Care & Adoption – is worth your time

why you should read Ready or NotPam Parish beat me to it! She’s published a book, one that every prospective and current foster or adoptive parent should read.

I discovered Pam Parish through and adoption group on Facebook. I went to her website and found so much helpful information, supporting parents of foster and adoptive children who’ve been through trauma. I was excited to see we’re doing very similar work.

As I’ve gotten to know Pam (albeit, we reside on opposite sides of the country) I’ve grown to respect her. The only problem I have is that she beat me to publishing a book. ;) I think I can forgive her though, as the premise of our two books are different, yet they have a common denominator, and that is to

help foster and adoptive families thrive. 

Pam’s book, Ready or Not, is a comprehensive book for all current and prospective foster and adoptive parents. Even though I’m engulfed in the adoption and foster care world, and I write about it daily, this book still brought to light ideas I hadn’t considered.

Ready or Not provides excellent discussion questions that can be reviewed with your spouse, a friend, or with a small group of others who are considering adopting or fostering, or who already are.

Each devotion in Ready or Not explains enough without being too lengthy, which is awesome when you don’t have extra time in your day. Honestly, each devotion only takes a few minutes.

Throughout Ready or Not, Pam asks essential questions of families, such as,5153jbMII3L “Have you thought and prayed about what behaviors you are and are not willing to accept before saying yes to a foster child placement?” She also adds excellent verses, such as Psalm 34:17-20, which talks about how God is close to the brokenhearted, and other verses that lay out our call to be His hands and feet to these children.

Pam talks about adoption being a lifetime commitment, and foster care being a commitment to loving a wounded child. Pam knows what this is like because she’s living it, she has seven daughters, six of whom were adopted as teens. She knows what so many of us struggle with, and throughout her pages, she gives guidance, support, encouragement, and reminders of how we are to parent our children; ultimately with abounding love.

Pam continually reminds us that throughout our endeavors, God is there, and He knows what we’re facing. It’s so refreshing to read her words and remember that we need to love as Christ loves.

“As we gain entry into the lives and stories of our children, let us humbly remember that, even in the frustration, there’s beauty. We’ve been granted an opportunity to walk near to those whom are nearest to God’s heart – the vulnerable, weak, and abandoned. As we’ve seen Jesus do, let us do also.” Pam Parish

If you didn’t get the clue, I HIGHLY recommend Ready or Not. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy Ready or Not as much as I did. If I was a speed reader, I could say that I read it in one day, but I’m not. However, I did read through it in less than two weeks.


You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

 

what to communicate with your child’s teacher: Autism in the classroom

communicate with your childs teacher
School is starting soon. I think I just heard YIPEEES!!! from several of you. :) Autism parents might be a tad more excited than the average parent for their child to go back to school after summer break, as that routine and consistency can make a night and day difference for our children.

I don’t know about your child, but most children with Autism are constantly changing. Our son, Jeremiah, gains skills, loses skills, says a word and then we’ll never hear it again, he’s regularly in flux. It’s hard enough to keep up with him at home, but then add school, progress, and regressions and

it can resemble one big spider web.

There’s a solution that greatly helps us traverse that spider web with agility, and helps everyone dive into a new school year with an exceptional start. What can you do to keep positive momentum going at school?

COMMUNICATE 

You don’t have to share the nitty-gritty of your every day life, like the stories that make your friends cringe (well, then again your friends probably cringe at many of your stories because life with an autistic kid is, well, different)…so I take that back, just don’t share about your relationship with your in-laws. ;)

Most of you have an IEP for your child, but this gets into the every day, moment by moment life of your child. Many times the IEPs don’t get to that, they don’t deal with the day to day changes and individuality of our children.

Here are some ideas of what to mention to your Autistic child’s teacher, aides, paraprofessionals, and therapists before school starts and throughout the year:

  • Communicate what your child is doing at home. The good and not so good. Are they experimenting with new toys? Do they have new sensory needs? What have you noticed that’s different? Are there situations at home that are troublesome, maybe some issues you need help working through?

 

  • Communicate what’s working. Swimming? Trampoline? Rolling in blankets? Is there a special corner your child loves to be in? Could the school recreate this setting in the classroom to help your child calm? Are you using phrases at home that seem to help your child transition (e.g. “FIRST we’ll go to the bathroom, THEN we can color some more.”)?

 

  • Communicate how your child is interacting with others. Are they using new words, signs, or gestures? Are there new sounds or phrases that someone else might not understand? What is your child understanding? As our children develop they understand more of their world, but at the same time other concepts become more misconstrued, so explain what’s going on with your child in this area.

benefits of communicating with teachers

Sharing with the staff about your Autistic child will help in many areas. You will be able to get on the same page, working in the same way both at home and at school. The staff will know what you’re doing at home and be able to incorporate your ideas at school and vise versa, this will bring a cohesiveness to your child’s life, making it more predictable. The teachers can give you ideas on what to do with your child at home to help make life calmer and to help your child develop.

When I say, “teacher,” I’m referring to their teacher, aide, paraprofessional, and therapists. You can talk to each one individually, but that takes up an incredible amount of time, so choose the one who works with and understands your child the most. If you’re able to talk in person with a paraprofessional, you can email the rest of the team regarding what you spoke about.

Be sure to keep everyone in the loop.

You don’t have to monopolize the teacher’s time, this can happen so easily, it especially does for me because our son’s teacher has a teenager with Autism. We could talk for hours. Try to choose a time when the teacher is available and doesn’t seem rushed, and if it’s a pressing matter, she/he will probably have a few moments. If it’s not pressing, you can email or chat on the phone when it’s convenient for them.

Our family has really benefited from conversing with everyone who works with Jeremiah.

We’ve all been able to work together to problem solve and most of the team is willing to take ideas from the other and incorporate what works and what’s best for Jeremiah.

Have you been able to talk with your child’s teaching team? Did it make a difference? If you haven’t been in communication with the teachers before, do you think it would make a difference?

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more information and links. Happy school year!

6 tips on taking an Autistic child on vacation

taking an autistic child on vacation
Autism + vacation = more stress than staying home. Well, sometimes. We met family in Ouray, CO this past weekend. We had a great time, but preparations were a forethought to make it so.

When you have a child with Autism, it’s especially important to plan your vacation. Be sure to read through all of the points, as I saved the most important one for last. ;)

Autism abilities differ in each person, so be sure to take into consideration your child and what they understand. Some children with Autism won’t understand when you begin talking about a vacation that’s far into the future, if this is true, you can begin talking about it a couple days before. So, on with the tips:

  1. Try to make your plans as concrete as possible in order to prevent as much unknown as possible. I know, plans fail, but with an Autistic child, routine is essential, so making a plan and sticking to it will help you make it through your vacation.
  2. Talk about what your vacation will be like. Talk about it often and be open to questions. If there are answers you don’t know, admit it and brain storm what you can do IF…
  3. As you approach a destination explain where you’re going and what you’ll be doing. This will help any child with their anxiety about the unknown.
  4. Draw or print out a map of where you’re going. When we take long trips I’ve drawn a map of where we’re going, and labeled the dates when we’re going to be there. I’ve done this for my daughter who doesn’t have Autism, as our son wouldn’t be able to understand something so complex.
  5. Take breaks during your trip. Let your kids get out and move.
  6. Consider your child’s sensory needs. This is a big one! Some children have high sensory needs and need lots of input, some don’t want much at all and avoid sensory stimuli. Even the children who have high sensory needs require time when their world is quiet. Be aware of noises, lights, bedding comfort, and other possible irritants.

On our last vacation a considerable amount of time was spent with family. I feel a tad bit bad, but we made our plans and anyone could join us if they wanted. We have to vacation this way or NO one will have fun. Jeremiah has high sensory needs, so we had to meet those needs each day if we wanted any calm (meaning avoiding crying, screaming, and intense jumping – yeah, we were on the third floor). About that jumping, I asked that we be put on the lower floor because I knew Jeremiah’s tendency to jump would irritate others, but the managements response was, “The floors are well insulated.” Well then, if you get a call at 6:30am, don’t complain to me.

There are certain activities that our family enjoys doing together, and take care of Jeremiah’s sensory needs. A couple of those are four-wheeling and swimming.

doodleAs for four-wheeling, I can only speak for our immediate family and the big smiles on my parents faces, but we had a BLAST! In this photo Jeremiah is doodling, it’s his “thing”. Some kids with Autism play with string, Jeremiah doodles on his magna doodle. It goes everywhere – obviously.

 

We travel to Ouray fairly often, so we know where the playsets are. Jeremiah loves swinging, so we spent time in between activities doing this while others were shopping downtown. Jeremiah was able to spend a little time walking the old-town Main Street, but not much, so this gave him another outlet to meet those sensory needs. Yes, he has HIGH sensory needs, and even more when in a new and different environment.

We also went swimming, which Jeremiah loves. Swimming meets many jeremiah swimmingsensory needs for our children, and the more you can get them in the pool the quicker they’ll learn how to swim. Here you can read my post on 4 Reasons Why You Should Teach Your Autistic Child to Swim.

 

 

Jeremiah comfy

 

We took Jeremiah’s blankets and the movies he likes to help the condo feel more like home.

 

Overall we had a great time, but much planning went into making it an enjoyable vacation. We also try to be aware of what Jeremiah needs and what makes him comfortable. I hope this gives you ideas on what you can do on your next vacation.

What special things have you done for vacation to help your child adjust? How do vacations go with your Autistic child? Any other advice on vacationing you’d offer to parents?

You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you can do this on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links. Happy vacationing!

 

foster care today & a look at Lisa Ling’s report on foster care for the Oprah Winfrey Network

foster care today
Foster Care. It dredges up memories for me, it heaves horrible statistics, it heals children, it hurts children, it gives them hope, it scars them for life, it’s temporary, or it’s supposed to be.

As part of Our America with Lisa Ling, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) focused on foster care the past couple weeks. I wish I could have seen the entirety of the episodes, but we don’t get the OWN. I first read about the series in this Huffington Post article.

I got teary eyed watching as the social worker walked out of the police station with an infant car seat. No child should have to wait hours in a police station for someone to come get them, and that someone isn’t even family.

Yet, there are far more hellish atrocities happening to children all over our country today.

I became emotional as the baby was carried out of the police station because I remembered how my sweet Payton sat in the Department of Human Services (DHS) building with a social worker as they waited for a foster family to pick her up. We weren’t that family, she lived in four homes before coming to us. It’s hard to recall her waiting there, waiting for a family, someone, just

someone to care for her.

I hopped over to the OWN and found another short clip that’s part of Lisa Ling’s report, Giving Back to the Foster System.

It interests me that in this video Ling says infants are the most difficult to place. It’s been my experience, in hearing from many other potential foster parents, that they want an infant placed with them. Most often they want a child who is under two-years-old. There are some exceptions, but it’s the most common, but I guess that isn’t so in Los Angeles where this documentary takes place. Maybe it’s a good thing in the end, it must mean that older children (older, as in three-years or over) are not being overlooked as much.

The family Ling interviewed is better than me, when Ling asks, “Do you ever think about not only the last twenty-four hours, but what ultimately led to [the baby’s] parents losing custody?” The foster father replies, “We don’t judge, we focus on providing the best care she can have. And, then from there, we help with their reunification. Our goal is always to help the families get their babies back.”

What’s the hard part for me in his equation? Well Ling’s question was specifically asking if he thinks about what led to this child’s removal. Umm, for me, YES, I think about what led to my children’s removal. It’s not a constant, far from it, and the farther I’m removed from the foster care scene, the more it slips back into the recesses of my mind. But, I write about adoption, I remember what my daughter’s been through because of her past, I write about what other children are going through because of trauma, so I do think about it.

I took the best care of Payton and Jeremiah as I could before we adopted them (and afterwards too), we worked with the Department and did exactly what we were asked by taking them to visits with their bio parents as they worked on reunification. It was painful. Because we didn’t see bonding, care, a shared love, it was impossible for me to say, “I want reunification to take place.”

Here are some statistics on foster care. The most recent numbers to be found were for the year 2012.

On any given day, there are approximately 397,000 children in out-of-home care in the United States. (childrensrights.org)

Here are shocking numbers from the Children’s Bureau AFCARS report:

  • 397,122 children were in foster care at a given time in 2012
  • 101,666: Number of children waiting to be adopted.
  • 7: The average age of children in foster care.
  • 23,822: Number of children who go to a group home each year.
  • 34,179: Number of children who go to an institution each year.
  • 93,094: Number of children adopted from foster care in 2012.
  • 23% or an average of 85,846 children spend 30 months or more in foster care.
    foster care statistics

That last statistic (23% of foster children will spend 30 months or more in the system) bothers me the most, all though they all poke holes at my heart. I thought there was supposed to be an Expedited Permanency Plan. I’ve asked this of friends across the nation, who have children in their care for several months, while the officials do nothing to move toward termination. This wasn’t our case, but then the system in our county was changing drastically as we stepped out after Jeremiah’s adoption was complete.

I know there is an Expedited Permanency Plan for Colorado, which was enacted in 2002. In short, the House Bill made a ruling that children have permanency by the age of six, whether it be with the biological family, relatives, or adoption by a non-relative. They did this to reduce the risk of a child being emotionally damaged by not having close connections with a caregiver.

The Expedited Permanency Plan House Bill says, “…almost all children are now achieving permanency within the 18 months time frame required nationally as determined by the Adoption and Safe Families Act.” I strongly disagree with this statement, as you can see the numbers; 23% of children placed in foster care spend 30 or more months there.

In the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997, it says, “…States to initiate court proceedings to free a child for adoption once that child had been waiting in foster care for at least 15 of the most recent 22 months, unless there was an exception.” It also says, “Required States to initiate termination of parental rights proceedings after the child has been in foster care 15 of the previous 22 months, except if not in the best interest of the child, or if the child is in the care of a relative.”

This means the 30+ months children are spending in foster care is far beyond the set standard of the Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997. Why seventeen years later are we still falling extremely short of the target for permanency? It shouldn’t surprise me, but it still angers me.

When we’re considering a nation of 318,400,000 (am I the only one bewildered by that number?), the foster care numbers aren’t extremely high, but they are rising, more rapidly, even when considering population growth.
change the foster care systemWhat can we do to help children in foster care? If we know of children who are languishing in foster care, we can talk to their case worker, and if she/he won’t listen, their supervisor. We can write letters to government officials. You can find the number for the commissioner over foster care in your county and talk with them.

Most importantly, you can become a foster parent. Quality foster parents are needed in every county, some more desperately than others. Sometimes counties don’t have foster homes to place children in so they’re placed hours away (and for older children this means not only loss of family and friends, but a different school).

You can help foster children by donating items to your local Child Protective Services. They will take new clothing, and sometimes gently used items such as books, bikes, and toys. As school approaches consider putting together backpacks full of school supplies for foster children.

Some of the ideas in my post, 8 Ways to Help Foster Youth Who are Aging Out of the System, are applicable to any foster children. Go check it out, and share with others.

Another post on foster care:
4 reasons why the foster system is STILL failing

What are some other ways you can help foster children?

———
You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

 

how to teach Autistic children to swim

how to teach autistic children to swim
Last week I wrote a post about the importance of teaching our children with Autism to swim. That post, 4 Reasons Why You Should Teach Your Autistic Child to Swim, has been shared over 3,000 times! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check it out. The number one reason is to prevent drownings, go find out why.

In that post I promised that today I would share some ideas on how to teach an Autistic child to swim. So here we go.

Our son Jeremiah (nonverbal and doesn’t understand directions unless it’s part of his every day life) is learning to swim. He’s almost five, and I wish he could take off across the pool by himself, but he isn’t. We expose Jeremiah to water as much as we can. Whenever we stay at hotels, we make sure they have a pool to meet his sensory needs, we put him in swim lessons the last couple years, we visit pools in town when we can, and we’ve been swimming in the lake a couple times.

It’s really important for children with Autism to be exposed to water.

This is to help them become comfortable in it and don’t freak out when they fall in. Because they’re so interested in water, they’re much more likely to drown than the average child, and the first step is getting them familiar with water.

You might want to do this without a life jacket at first. It depends on how old your child is, their activity level, and your ability to be constantly holding them up in the water. If you do use a life jacket, be sure to go without it sometimes (making sure you’re always within reach, preferably holding them up, until they can float or tread water on their own).

When Jeremiah was younger we didn’t use a life vest, but as he got older and wanted to explore more, we put a life vest on him. We’ve now worked into him having it off more than on. Many swim teachers would disagree with the use of a life vest, as this can teach the child to rely on the vest, and the child does not  have a healthy fear of the water. They can come to depend on the flotation and not realize they can go under and not bounce back up. We found that alternating, going with and without the life vest, worked well for Jeremiah.

I talked a little about this in the post on why you should teach your Autistic child to swim, but we never taught Jeremiah how to close his mouth and hold his breath when he went under the water.

Every child with Autism is different, they all have differing abilities.

With Jeremiah, he doesn’t understand directions that aren’t a part of his every day life, and even those were difficult for many years (i.e. only in the past few months has he understood how to hand us something when we request it – anything besides his PECS pictures has been difficult for him). So, we weren’t able to explain, “Hold your breath,” or “Close your mouth,” or “Don’t breathe in your nose.” How do you teach a child not to suck in a nose-full of chlorinated water? Surprisingly, Jeremiah’s done much better at learning to keep his mouth closed, and not choke when going under, than many other “typical” children. He learned VERY quickly what not to do. He’s only coughed up water a couple times.

This is the same with kicking his legs and moving his arms in the pool, we didn’t move Jeremiah’s legs, but it’s the first swimming movement he caught onto, second was the movement of his arms. We can now place our hand under his tummy and he will “swim”. Not enough to keep himself afloat, but he’s getting there.
Drowning is the leading cause of death in Autism

You may be wondering if we’ve had Jeremiah in swim lessons, we did, he’s been through two classes. However, I don’t really feel they were extremely beneficial. I believe if we had a better instructor (as the one in the video below), Jeremiah may have progressed more, but in the end, he seems to do most things at his speed anyway. I do feel the swim teacher was helpful in that it was someone he didn’t know, touching him and talking to him twice a week. It’s important for children with Autism to be around others and in new environments, working with their comfort level in mind.

The concept of “First/Then” works really well when helping a child learnt swim. (Okay, it works well in all areas of the Autism life.) First/Then is done best when taught in the home environment before introducing it in a new and unfamiliar one.

In Jeremiah’s classroom and at home, we use First/Then to let Jeremiah know what’s going to happen in his world, to prepare him. It’s also used if he doesn’t like a particular activity that he has to do. So, if your child doesn’t like to go to the bathroom, you can say, “First we’ll go to the bathroom, then we’ll jump on the trampoline.” You can start with shorter sentences, depending on how much your child understands. When swimming, you can ascertain what your child’s favorite activity is, whether it’s jumping in the pool, splashing, or going under the water, and then use the First/Then concept; “First we’ll kick our legs, then we’ll jump off the side of the pool.” (You can see the use of this in the video below.)

In this video, the swim instructor, Tara, uses some really great techniques with Daniel: PECS (the pictures on the boards are a Picture
Exchange Communication System – also best if learned in the school and home environment first), and First/Then as a reward.

A few things I love about this video are:

  • Daniel is nonverbal like my son and so many of your children.
  • The progress Daniel has made since the first lesson is inspiring.
  • Tara uses PECS, which Daniel is familiar with, to help him understand what’s coming next, which is paramount to the Autism brain.
  • Tara incorporates regular learning in her lessons (talking about the color of rings).
  • Tara’s consistent, each class is ended with the same three elements.
  • And this part is cool! – She says that once they teach a child to blow their nose UNDER the water, the child can then BLOW their nose when they’re out of the water. :)
  • Tara teaches Daniel how to jump into the pool. In the video, Tara explains why this is so important.

Really makes me wish we lived in Maryland!

I hope this gives you some ideas on how you can teach your Autistic child to swim. Some of you can’t afford lessons, and I believe you can try this on your own if that’s the case. And, if you don’t have access to exceptional swim instructors these are some ideas you can take to your child’s teacher if they are in swim school.

Have you taught your child to swim? Do you have any tips to share with us? have you struggled with teaching your child to swim? What were they? I love comments, so please share!

———
You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. For more helpful information and links, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Happy swimming!