transitioning the special needs student to another class or school

transitioning the special needs student
Yesterday was Jeremiah’s last day of preschool. I’m crying. I’m scared. I’m worried.

I know so many of you can relate. The awesome thing is that Jeremiah’s preschool teacher can relate because she has an autistic son who’s sixteen. She has said over and over through our three years together that Jeremiah reminds her so much of her son. She knows what it’s like to move from one class to another, changing teachers, aids, and paraprofessionals. Sometimes they’ve been blessed with amazing teachers and staff, and other times it’s a whole different story.

And, yes, you may have caught that above, Jeremiah’s been in this same preschool class for three years. That’s a LONG time. It’s like a second home.In fact, his teacher, Ms. Gina, got teary eyed during our last conference. What can I say, Jeremiah touches people’s hearts.

Ms. Gina has been an exceptional teacher. At the end of last school year she recognized her classroom was becoming too comfortable for Jeremiah. This is great as a parent, and for the kid. Comfortable is good right? Well, Ms. Gina knew that Kindergarten was looming in Jeremiah’s future and wanted to prepare him for a small degree of the change he would face. She entirely rearranged her classroom before school started in fall of 2014. She moved everything for the first time since being the teacher there. For him.

This is part of why I’m so concerned about next year. We’ve had an amazing teacher, aid, and paraprofessional, we’ve also had some great therapists in the last three years.

But what about next year?

Jeremiah won’t have the same teacher, aid, paraprofessional, and one of the therapists who’s been so successful with him won’t continue on to elementary either. Those who know him so well and care about him so much won’t greet him every day or be there to know why he’s upset, what he needs, what’s bothering him.

The ONLY thing that gives me solace in looking to next year is that the principle is exceptional. It’s because of her dedication that Jeremiah’s school is inclusive, including special needs students in the general classroom. Mrs. Bianchi cares about each of her students as if they were her own, and I’m not just saying this as a cliché, she really cares. When the preschool class had to meet in the library instead of their classroom because of an issue, the principles concern was for Jeremiah. How would he do?

Because of his autism, Jeremiah needs consistency and routine. Not being in the classroom, where he is every school-day, could be disastrous, and Mrs. Bianchi knows this and was concerned about him.

My fears are lessened a little more because Mrs. Bianchi has an active presence in the school. She’s visible most of the time, not shut in her office. She sees Jeremiah almost every day as he’s made his way to the kindergarten (see info on “transitioning” below).
transitioning the special needs student to another class

Because of this exemplary school (a public school by the way), they’ve done so much to help transition Jeremiah into the Kindergarten class.

Here’s what they’ve done to help special needs students thrive, support teachers, and make the parents feel more at ease when big transitions come:

First, it’s important to know who the child’s teacher will be the following year. Even though most students haven’t been assigned to a teacher yet, the children with significant special needs have. This needs to be done before the following steps can be accomplished with a positive outcome.

Trips to next years classroom

A few months ago, Jeremiah’s Speech Pathologist took a video on her iPad of the walk from the preschool (modular) to the Kindergarten classroom (main building). The therapists, teacher, and aid have taken turns walking him to “Big School,” while showing him the video as they walk. They began by first walking in the front door of the school, they did this every day for several days, then they would walk to the gym for several days.

They went further and further until they were at the Kindergarten classroom. Sometimes kids were in the class, sometimes they were in the library, computer, etc. But Jeremiah went in each day, finally to the point that he sat with the kids in circle-time! Yeah, I know, pretty cool since he just started sitting on the floor during circle-time in preschool!

This does a couple things. It gets the child used to going to a new place, new class, with a new teacher. It begins to prepare them for next year when they’ll be going somewhere new, it won’t be such a shock when they walk through those doors the following school year. Another great benefit is the teacher (and possibly aid or para) can get to know the child a little before starting the school year. It’s better than walking in to a new situation without knowing what to expect, that’s already the case with the other twenty students.

Transition Planning Meeting

Another extremely helpful step is a “transition planning meeting.” We just had this meeting last week, and I thought it quite valuable. Those in attendance are, preferably, the current teacher, principle, school psychologist, special needs teacher, any therapists who work with your child, future teacher, aid (if there will be one), paraprofessional, and of course the parents. If the child who has special needs can attend the meeting, I would highly encourage this, they’re input is essential, they are the best indicators of what works and what doesn’t.

Why should parents attend? Because your input and involvement matter! I once heard an educator say, “When parents are involved, their kids are worked with more. I know it shouldn’t be this way, but it is.” Be involved, know what’s going on, communicate with your child’s educational team. You will see why it was important for my husband and I to be at the meeting when you see the questions that were asked. We were able to add our input on every topic about Jeremiah, our voices were heard and I’m positive much of it will be implemented (if the principle has anything to do with it). The Kindergarten teacher asked if she could get a copy – one was typed out and sent to each person in attendance.

I took notes for you at the meeting (or in my head anyway). ;) There were four sheets and each one had a title. Everyone shared their thoughts on each heading.

Who Is Jeremiah?

Instead of being another child, another number, it’s important for those who know Jeremiah to share who they think he is.

Hopes & Fears

It was hard to share our fears, or it was hard for me anyway. I don’t think Justin has as many fears as I do. ;) At the meeting they said, “There always has to be a worrier.” I raised my hand. High. That’s me. And astonishingly, during the meeting I didn’t feel as fearful as I had been or as I am now. Now, almost every day I’m telling Justin, “But they won’t…”
If you do this with your school, share your fears, it’s good to work it out together, and maybe the staff can help ease some of them.
Teachers, encourage parents to share those fears and be open to hearing them, they are real and vivid for us. This is even more true when our children can’t communicate or can’t communicate well. We have no idea what’s going on behind those doors unless we’re present and that’s not possible all the time.
Hopes are easy to share, everyone pitched in.

What Works/What Doesn’t

Current teachers and therapists can talk about this from their perspective in the classroom. Parents can share what works at school and what doesn’t, they can also share what works at home and what doesn’t. It doesn’t seem that home and school would overlap, but they do all the time.

Plan Moving Forward

Each point was assigned to a person at the table to work on.
What needs to be prepared for next year? A trampoline installed? A swing? Who will take photos of the classroom for PECS or a communication device?
———-

Parents, I hope this helps you know you’re not alone, that this is scary for some of us, and what you can share with your school to help transitions to go smoother. If you’re a teacher, I hope this helps you know how to make transitions better for your students.

I don’t share these positive stories to make special need parents feel bad. I know there are so many situations that fall far below what is desired by parents; schools don’t work with you, teachers don’t treat your child right, you wish you could keep your child at home. I share our stories because I want to educate teachers on how it can be done and how it can work.

Be sure to share this with teachers you know so we can make life better for special needs kids.

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adoption and foster care in the classroom

adoption & foster care in the classroom Parents know what it’s like, the questions and requests from teachers for baby photos, information for family trees, and questions about moms. A teachers job is hard, really hard. It’s even more difficult as class sizes grow. To remember the backgrounds of every child is difficult, but I think there should be a general understanding that there are children in the classroom who come from divorced families, are in foster care, or were adopted. For Mother’s Day, Payton’s teacher had the class answer questions about their mothers. Simple enough right? Well, one of the questions Payton had to answer was: Why were you given to your mother and not some other mother? Let that sink in for a while. I did, and it hurt. It didn’t hurt me, it hurt my daughter. Think about how the adopted or foster child answers this question. Payton had written out a long paragraph explaining what happened to her and why she’s with another mommy. Talk about heavy. These conversations are welcome in a loving environment with Mommy and Daddy available to hug and offer answers and weed out what she’s feeling, but in class, sitting by herself? She erased her answer and wrote: My mommy likes to go swimming with me. Total avoidance of the question, and I don’t blame her. I’m proud of her. The really odd thing is I’ve told Mrs. Briggs* about Payton’s past, thoroughly. And more importantly, she’s worked with children who have Reactive Attachment Disorder, so she knows all about it, or you would think she does. For the life of me I couldn’t figure out why Mrs. Briggs would ask such a question. I mean I grew up with both of my biological parents and I have no idea how I would answer this question. Ummm, because that’s who I was born to. Seems simple to me. Fate? Destiny? God’s design? Let’s take hypothetical Shalene, her relationship with her mom wasn’t good as a teen. Even if she had considered what it would be like to be born to another mother, it wouldn’t have benefited her in any way. I hate the phrase, but, it is what it is. She didn’t have any other choice, and thinking about it wouldn’t have got her anywhere besides depressed. dear teachers, we come from diverse backgrounds After reading a card Payton made in class, I came to a presumption (I think I’m close to the answer) of why Mrs. Briggs asked this question. They used this questionnaire as an outline for their Mother’s Day cards. I think Mrs. Briggs was trying to ask the kids what’s special about their mother. Maybe it should be phrased this way. I know it may have been easier on at least four kids in the class, my daughter, a boy who’s being raised by his grandparents, a child who’s been adopted by family, and another child who’s been adopted by his grandparents. That’s a lot of kids. In todays society, it would be great if teachers would preface any questions or conversations about mothers by including those who could be the students primary caregivers; grandparents, aunts, and siblings for those who come from different family dynamics. It goes beyond Mother’s Day though, teachers need to acknowledge those diverse ways children come into families. What about children who are asked to bring in baby photos? What if the child was adopted from the Ukraine at five-years-old and they have no pictures from when they were younger? What if a child enters foster care with nothing at the age of ten? They won’t have photos, they usually don’t even have more than the clothes on their back. When parents neglect and abuse children, they often don’t make it a priority to create family photo albums, and they usually aren’t passed on with the child if they do have any pictures. I don’t have such a problem with family trees. There are plenty of ideas out there on blogs that give adoptive parents ideas on what to do for these. It’s a great way for your child to learn about their new family, or you can do two family trees, with one being the biological side if you have enough information. (It will be up to your child if they want their class to know they’re adopted.) When I shared this question that came up on Payton’s paper, my friend, JoAnn*, said her adopted daughter was asked: What was the worst thing that’s ever happened to you? JoAnn said her daughter was reeling for days afterwards. She adopted her daughter from Haiti after the earthquake. Mika* had been living in an orphanage when the Haiti earthquake shook the earth beneath her feet and brought down most of the city. This question brought up so many horrible, terrifying memories for her, ones that I’m sure go far beyond the orphanage and the earthquake. I don’t think this is a question most teachers would even consider asking, but it happens. Teachers are awesome, I know so many and I respect them for what they do. They get paid nothing and they have THE most important job besides parenting. My hope is that this helps teachers understand how to approach children in the classroom, considering all backgrounds. If you’re a parent and class assignments come up that make your foster or adopted child really uncomfortable, have a honest, but kind conversation with your child’s teacher. Explain where your child came from and why it’s difficult for them. I think many teachers will be open to your input so in the future they can avoid causing children emotional pain. Many teachers are aware of what’s been said in this post, but there are still some who don’t understand how our families come to be. Thank you to ALL teachers for what you bring to society. *Since writing the draft of this post I’ve spoken with Payton’s teacher about this question and how it made Payton feel. Mrs. Briggs said she would speak with Payton about it and apologize to her and that she respects both of our feelings on the matter. *Names have been changed to protect privacy. You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, you may need to do this on the web version. You can also “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest.

adoptive parents of autistic children needed for dissertation study

Catherine Godone-Maresca, M.A. is in need of adoptive autism parents.

Catherine’s goal is to provide others with understanding about what it’s like to parent an autistic child. She says that this population of mother’s of autistic children has “remained largely unstudied.”

Catherine has enough biological parents participating in the study, but needs these adoptive parents to complete her dissertation. Note: Your child needs to be between the ages of 2 and 6 to participate. Below is the information:

Catherine will speak with you via phone for a short interview which will determine whether you can be part of the study. Then she’ll mail a questionnaire packet, and then do another interview over the phone after she receives your answers.
Dissertation Flyer

believe in your child (autism)

believe in your child
I’ve got to get out more. When we get out of our comfort zone and I talk to others, it gives me platforms to jump off. Ideas come pouring in from what I see and experience and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. However, with autism it’s difficult to leave this haven and my disease also keeps me tied down most of the time.

Despite those obstacles, we did leave the safety of our humble abode and spent time with others this weekend, and it brought to mind something I’ve thought of sharing with you before. I’ve shared bits and pieces of this idea, but it came to light again, and I feel it’s so important for autism parents and educators to hear. It can’t be heard too much, it’s something I think we need to be consistently reminded of. I know I do.

This past weekend we spent some time at my kids Grandma’s house. Now before I start, this is NOT a mother-in-law bashing session. My mother-in-law takes great care of our children, she runs an in-home daycare, and she’s always been the most sought after daycare in town. She takes care of our kids for a few hours during the school-week and a couple mornings and an afternoon in the summers. I’m grateful I don’t have to fear every time they go to daycare, I know they’ll be taken care of and I know no one will abuse Jeremiah.

However, after years of doing daycare, Grandma has turned into, well, a Grandma. She’s also never had children in her daycare who have significant special needs. This isn’t a problem for short visits, but when it seconds as the kids daycare it can pose some challenges. One of those is how she treats Jeremiah. She doesn’t treat him badly, but neither does she see what he’s capable of, and even when she does, her expectations aren’t raised.

It’s one thing when I hear about what she does with Jeremiah. (My husband, Justin, is usually the one to drop-off and pick-up the kids, so he relays the daily goings-on at Grandma’s.) It’s a whole other side of the coin when I see it in progress. At her house, Jeremiah is allowed to take his food into her room and eat his snack on the bed while watching a movie, he also has his cup of juice. There is always a movie on, when he enters her house she turns it on for him.

At our house we’ve worked VERY hard to teach Jeremiah to sit at the table when he eats. The food stays on the table, but he is allowed to come and go because he snacks all day since he doesn’t get proper nutrition from any food source, so he doesn’t get full at a meal. We don’t let him drink juice at home, we don’t have it in the house. If we did, he would be begging for it all the time, in the fridge, or crying at said fridge. But, it’s Grandma’s house and we draw the line at sugar loaded cereal, but let the juice slide.

So, when we were at her house this weekend, Jeremiah went to the cupboard and got some cereal, Grandma filled his bowl with it and sent him off saying, “You can take that in and watch your movie.”

I happened to be standing between Jeremiah and the “movie room” and he headed straight for the table instead of her room, and sat his bowl down. I grabbed a chair for him to sit on, and Grandma said, “Oh, he takes his snack in to watch the movie all the time.” I just smiled, or tried to, it was Mother’s Day after all. I told Jeremiah to sit down and he did.

Why did he take his bowl to the table when he normally takes it to the “movie room” when he’s at Grandma’s? Was it because I was standing there and he knows I’m his mom and I have expectations? Is it because he knew what those expectations were? Was it because he knew Mommy wouldn’t let him take his food on Grandma’s bed? I think so. He’s not dumb.

There was a time when Jeremiah couldn’t understand as much, and at that time we didn’t expect as much. Although we’ve always had expectations that he leave his food and drink at the table, along with some other guidelines.

As Jeremiah gains understanding, which is happening rapidly, we increase our expectations, always keeping in mind what he’s able to do.

This is what I want parents to do. I want parents to have reasonable expectations for their kids. I don’t want autistic kids to play video games and watch movies all day every day because “that’s all he’ll do.”
increase expectations for the autistic child

When Temple Grandin was young, she used to spin a ball that was connected to her bed, it calmed her, made her able to function in life. She could have done this all day, but her mother only allowed her to spin this ball for a certain amount of time during the day, she knew her daughter needed to move beyond the spinning ball, and she did.

Side note: I do feel that time for movies and video games is sometimes necessary for the autistic person. I used to feel so guilty when I would allow Jeremiah to watch more movies than I thought healthy for a child like him. Lia, the therapist who used to work with us said that maybe movies helped Jeremiah, made him calmer, helped with his sensory needs. She felt that sometimes he needed to focus solely on what was on the screen instead of everything in his world.

As in anything, there’s balance, and we need to be able to read our kids and understand what they need, but also what is good for them.

A couple years ago I watched a video of Rosie King at home with her autistic brother. Rosie has autism, but it’s more of an Aspergers type. It was a great video with excellent insight into how autistic people feel, but when they turned the camera on her brother, I was slightly bothered.

He came running out of the bathroom where he’d been taking a bubble bath, he was covered in suds. In another scene, he was kicking sand out of the sandbox, and in another he was climbing on the top of the entertainment center.

As for the climbing on the entertainment center, whatever floats in your family is good for you. I’ve learned that sometimes Jeremiah does this (only on the top of the stand, not the top near the ceiling like Rosie’s brother) because he needs a higher perspective, so we tell him to get down and take him out to the playhouse and let him climb there.

But running around the house dropping suds everywhere, this isn’t harmful, and if the parent’s okay with it, fine. But would this parent allow a non-autistic child do this? Well, probably, but it really releases any expectations on the child who needs to learn how to be in society like other kids. Different is fine, unacceptable behavior is not.

And kicking sand out of the sandbox? What happens when this child is upset and anywhere near dirt in the community? Will he kick it? Is his behavior isolated to sand? Would this behavior be acceptable when he’s in the sandbox with his friends?

We need to have expectations for autistic kids. No, they won’t be nearly as high as those for typical kids, but typical kids have expectations too. And I don’t mean that we need to be doing ABA forty or even twenty-hours per week. I mean expectations as the child is able. For example, we are working on potty training Jeremiah. We aren’t doing it the ABA way, and it’s going to take forever, but we work on it. We don’t expect Jeremiah to be wearing a pull-up when he’s thirteen.

We’re also working with him on pulling up his pants on his own, we would work on this some if he’d never done it before, but we have more expectation that he will learn to, and needs to work on it, because he takes his pants off and puts them on  when he wants to.

We may let our kids stand on certain couches or chairs, but not let them stand on others, and this is fine, as long as your child is able to learn to differentiate.

Both autistic kids who are verbal and nonverbal are capable of so much, often much more than we realize. Allowing them to get away with everything because we don’t want to teach them or we don’t think they’re capable isn’t always a good excuse (it’s a good excuse occasionally because I know we’re damn tired). But I know from teaching and working with my son who was thought to be a more severe case of autism, that these kids can. They can do so much more than we may ever realize, and they understand so much more than we ever realize. And often that CAN is connected to what we think about them and their capabilities – just like Jeremiah and his snack at his Grandmas, when I was there he knew the expectations were higher and he met them easily.

Are there things that you’ve assumed your child can’t do? Are there things you need to work on? What are those?

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should I change my adopted child’s name?

should I change my adopted child's name
What’s in a name? If you really ponder it, there’s a heck of a lot, especially for someone who’s owned their name for a while.

I think this is what we have to realize as adoptive and foster parents, our child owns their name, it’s theirs, it’s the ONE THING they didn’t have to give up or lose when they were removed from their biological home or orphanage. It may also be the one thing they take away from their previous life that’s positive.

Changing a child’s name upon adoption is a big conundrum for many families, but there are a few things to consider before doing so. (Don’t worry, there’s an exception which I’ll discuss later.)

Your child’s name is all they own. They left any family (siblings, parents, aunts, uncles, grandparents) when they were removed from their family. If they left an orphanage to join your family, they left behind friends and caregivers they may have grown attached to. They may have left behind toys, stuffed animals, or blankets (even if they only had one), and in drug homes these items are confiscated and discarded. If a child is lucky, really lucky, they leave their previous life with a trash bag. Our daughter came to us with two sets of clothes, our son, one, and neither brought a toy, stuffed animals or blanket. Many children have nothing to take with them.

One thing, the only thing they do have, they do own, is their name. We have to recognize this. 

Changing a child’s name is not like changing a bald tire on your GMC, it’s not something to be taken lightly. Many parents think of it as giving their child a new name to go with their new life.

Your child’s name is all they know, and crazy thing is, they may like it. It’s part of who they are. It’s a large part of their identity. Think about that. Identity. And what would a child feel like if their name, an essential part of their identity (because they really don’t know who they are yet because they haven’t been given the opportunity with love and acceptance) was changed?

How do they think the parent changing their name feels about them?

Think about something you would like to change in your home. A majority of the time when we want to change something it isn’t because we like it. Let’s say you want a new couch, well unless you really hate that your credit card is only in the double digits, you’re probably doing so because your tired of the one you have, you don’t like it anymore, or it’s ripped, broke, or dirty. Basically, you aren’t happy with it.

This is how some children feel when their name is changed. They’re fully aware that you don’t like their name (unless you change it for the reason stated below) and you want something different. What they came with isn’t good enough and therefore it can easily transition to them feeling like you don’t think they are good enough. These feelings are already resounding in their head loud and clear.
changing the adopted child's name

Some parents change their child’s name because it’s different, maybe your child is from another country or has an odd name. Fact: Different is in. Today parents want their child to have a different name, they spell it phonetically or choose a name they’ve never heard before. I know a baby whose name is Prator. Different? Yes. So the concerns about your child standing out because of their name isn’t such a concern any more.

In my opinion, there is only one reason to change a child’s name, and that’s because of safety concerns.

I know many adoptive families who’ve fostered, fear the biological parents will show up at their door or school and take the child, and thus changing the child’s name makes them feel safer. In some isolated cases this is true, but for many it’s not necessary.

If the biological family lives in very close proximity, and I don’t mean that you simply live in smaller town, you may consider a change of name. And you may also want to consider the biological parents history. Most birth parents won’t come after their children (even when the parents are criminals), it’s very rare that this happens.

If you feel you have to change your child’s name, there are a few considerations you might want to make. You can use part of their name, a middle name as a first name, or you can change their name slightly, transforming Jacob into Jake or Michael into Mike, it allows the child to keep a part of their name and helps keep it familiar.

I also believe that if a name change needs to take place, there should be positive discussions about it.

1) Take your time, don’t whack a child with the news and not accept discussions.

2) Tell children, no matter the age, what you plan to do.

3) Involve your child in the conversation. Ask them what name they like, and listen to their advice. Get them involved in choosing a new name if you feel a change needs to be made.

We must weigh whether changing a child’s name is necessary or if we’re doing it because of our own desires. Maybe we’ve always dreamt that our child will be graced with our grandmother’s first name, maybe we’ve picked out a favorite name for our future child. But the child must be considered, this isn’t like choosing an addition of black beans for your burrito at Chipotle. This is connected to something far greater than many parents give thought to. It’s identity.


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

why you should teach the autistic person the word NO

why you should teach the autistic person the word no
Are children allowed to say no? Think about a non-autistic child, are they allowed to say no? Think about the autistic child, are they allowed to say no? Usually not. They almost always have to comply.

Autistic children don’t get a choice, don’t get to express how they feel, nor do they get to say no.

Neurotypical children do have to follow a set of parameters most of the time, but they often get to make choices and say no. Think about the day in a non-autistic child’s life. They get to choose what book they want to read, a book isn’t placed in front of them while someone reads through each page with them. Neurotypical children get to choose what activity they want to do when it’s free-time, but often autistic kids aren’t even allowed free-time, let alone choose their desired activity.

Non-autistic kids are allowed to say no. If they don’t want to do something, say go on a bike ride, they can say they’d rather do something else, and their request will be adhered to. If that child doesn’t want to play with their cousin Lily, but would rather play with their cousin, Taylor, they can. If that child is finished with an activity they can say so, and if they’ve done it for enough time (far less time than what is required of an autistic child) they can stop.

We see time and again where the neuro-typical child gets to make choices and say no. But what about the autistic child? They’re made to comply their entire childhood, especially the ones in ABA, which is a large percentage of the autistic population.

Through autistic training, children learn they can’t say no, neither can they make choices for themselves, and when they are allowed to make choices, those options are very narrowed – a choice between two books, two activities, two food items.

If an autistic child can’t talk or can’t communicate well, it compounds the problem even more. They’re not taught to say no, it’s not part of autism education, nor part of life for many autism parents, they often don’t comprehend how important it is to teach their child to say no.

teach your children to say no

What happens when a child doesn’t learn the word no as part of their vocabulary? Sparrow Rose Jones lays it out wonderfully in her article, No You Don’tI wish every autism parent, every professional working with autistic children would read this.

If you don’t teach the autistic child to say no, you’re opening a plethora of problems for them.

People will take advantage of them, and this is especially dangerous for girls. If girls aren’t taught to say no, they open themselves to great harm; sexual abuse.

But the truth is, it’s dangerous and unfair for all autistic individuals, even boys, to not be given the opportunity to say no. If they don’t know how to say no, or when to say no, they open themselves to being taken advantage of and abused in our society.

“I want you to teach your children to say no and I want them to know how to mean it and back it up when they say it. I want you to teach your children to value themselves.” Sparrow Rose Jones, autistic adult

How do you teach your nonverbal child to say no? One way is to implement a “No” card or picture if you use PECS or a communication system. We started with showing Jeremiah the “No” card whenever he didn’t want something, his way of showing us used to be turning his head away or walking away. Each time your child shows you with actions or sounds they don’t want something you can show them this “No” card, and you can begin to incorporate it in the cards/photos they use.

Jeremiah doesn’t use many PECS pictures, so the “No” card hasn’t caught on, however he’s been verbalizing much more in the past months and can make the sound “uh uh,” and shake his head sometimes. We take each of these opportunities and say for him either, “No, I don’t want that,” or “No thank you.” He is shaking his head and verbalizing his no quite often and it’s so exciting. For him to be able to communicate what he wants and doesn’t want is a BIG deal.

When children are taught from a young age that they have to do everything the adult says, exactly how the adult says to, exactly when the adult tells them, it creates…compliance.

That compliance cycle can create many problems for children down the road. As autism parents and educators, we need to give children choices and the opportunity to say no.

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it’s not “just a kid thing”: behaviors in adopted and foster children

it's not just a kid thing - behaviors in traumatized children
“Desi cries every time we’re in the car, no matter what I do she won’t stop,” Jason complained to his friend.
“Oh, don’t worry, she’ll grow out of it, Zavier did that when he was young too,” replied Zack.

As parents of hurting children we hear this often, far too often. Our friends and family share their similar experiences on everything; picky eaters, criers, infants having difficulty weaning from the bottle, problems with potty training. We hear of teens who act out, use drugs and smoke to escape. Friends tell us of their teens who don’t listen, pre-teens who are promiscuous.

But there’s a difference, our children didn’t get a healthy start in life with love, care, and affection.

They were neglected, wondering when they’d be fed, never held, never soothed when they cried. They were abused, beat on, hit when they cried, yelled at when they asked questions, and heinous acts were laid upon them that we don’t even want to contemplate.

So, when an adoptive or foster parent says their child cries when they’re put in the car, we have to think outside of normal, outside that box that feels so comfy and safe. How many of our children were driven away from all they knew, in a vehicle? Most.

When children are abused and neglected, even thought it’s terrible and frightening, it’s all they know, it’s familiar. So, when that social worker drives them away from their home, it’s daunting and scary. They don’t know what to expect, they definitely don’t expect something better.

Even if children who lived in an orphanage before joining their adoptive family weren’t abused, leaving those walls is harrowing, sometimes that orphanage is all they know, and maybe it brought something better than starving on the street in a frozen desolate country. When any of these kids are taken to a new place, it’s scary.

Maybe Desi, who cries every time she’s put in the car had a terrifying experience in a vehicle, and when that door closes, those horrific memories come back assaulting her, and she cries.

Maybe Desi is afraid her new family will take her and drop her off with someone new, because whenever she was put in the car, she was abandoned on someones door step and her mom didn’t pick her up again for weeks.
it's not just a kid thingPeople who don’t live our lives and contemplate our children’s circumstances don’t get it. A few days after our son, Jeremiah, came to us, I was visiting with a friend of mine. When I mentioned that he cried all the time, she said, “My mom said my brother was like that, he was colicky.”

Yeah, we could chalk it up to colic, and a very small part of it was (because we worked on changing his formula and finally found one – plus gas drops – that decreased his crying by a minimal percentage), but a majority of his distress was caused by something else. Trauma.

Jeremiah’s biological father had let Jeremiah cry, he didn’t sooth him, and didn’t feed him nearly enough. Eyewitnesses saw him pushing Jeremiah around town in a stroller, while Jeremiah screamed, his bio father never doing anything to help the newborn. The same eyewitness saw the bio dad pushing Jeremiah in a stroller around town when it was fifteen-degrees outside (he wasn’t going to work, his travels sometimes had no purpose).

Jeremiah hadn’t yet learned that crying wouldn’t bring any comfort, it takes time for infants to learn that crying won’t bring food, a soothing back rub, rocking, holding, someone to change a dirty diaper, a mother to sing lullabies to help him go to sleep, a nightlight for the overwhelming darkness, something to look at from the bottom of the empty crib.

Until a child learns that crying gets him nothing, all he knows is crying, because that’s what babies normally do to get what they need. All Jeremiah knew was crying and being uncomfortable.

So no, avoiding the real issue and hearing that my friend’s brother had colic too made me mad. Sometimes our friends and family forget what our children went through, or they try to pretend, and want to believe that everything’s okay. They don’t believe that extensive trauma causes a plethora of issues, they don’t think people treat infants and children so horribly, to them it’s impossible to believe. Sadly, parents and caregivers do these horrific things and we need to recognize it if we’re going to help our children.

Another thing our two children did was stay awake on long road trips, even one that lasted twelve-hours. We’ve heard from other non-adoptive parents that their children don’t sleep much in the car either.

Neither Payton nor Jeremiah slept in the car for several years after they came to live with us, whether the trip last three-hours, seven-hours, or twelve-hours. In Payton’s case, we know she was left with strangers constantly, we’ve heard horror stories about some of the people she was left with. She lived in several foster homes before she came to us, and it’s no wonder her eyes were peeled on the road ahead when we took long road trips. She held them wide open as if invisible toothpicks were holding her eyelids open, no soothing, comforting words could convince her all was going to be okay, she could rest. No words, No actions. Just time.

Friends of ours adopted their two girls from Korea, and they’ve told us their daughters did the same thing, it’s as if it was exactly the same story, only different kids from another country.

There’s a really good chance Payton did this because she was afraid we were going to take her somewhere, drop her off where she would be abused, and never see her again. It broke my heart. But because my heart broke, I was able to help her in the ways she needed. Getting mad doesn’t fix it, blaming the child doesn’t fix it.

Having compassion and a willingness to meet your child where they are and dedicating yourself to them is what fixes it.

No, Payton didn’t do this because she was “that way.” It wasn’t a “normal kid thing.” It was trauma based, and we needed to recognize this.

So, when a hurting child hits, we don’t blow it off and say, “It’s just boys,” we have to address it where our child is, talking about what’s going on inside them, discussing feelings. Maybe that child’s father hit him, and taught him hitting was the answer, thus you have a child who hits, and it’s not “just a boy thing.” Saying “Stop it Daniel!” won’t help (although you still intervene), you have to dig deeper, get down to those feelings.

When friends and family tell you, “My kids did that too, she’ll grow out of it,” or “Don’t worry about it, it’s a kids thing,” or “It’s normal,” know that your story is different. Your kids didn’t have their beginning.

Your kids need you to recognize this and help them through it in an understanding and compassionate way.

What do you do when others give you this parent mantra? Do you respond, and how?

Here’s another post that will help you meet your child where they are:
What Emotion is My Adopted/Foster Child Dealing With?

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