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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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judge rotenberg center

People would be outraged if this happened to animals. But the truth is, it’s happening to children at the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) in New York. We must take action, as Jess who wrote this post says, “That young man screaming for help in the video? He’s my daughter. He’s your son. He is our brothers and sisters. He is all of us.”
Jess gives tangible ideas of what to do to help these children who are being tortured. We CAN do something. We CAN help. We don’t have to sit by and wonder what we could do. We don’t have to let this haunt us. Take steps to shut down the JRC.

a diary of a mom

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In this Aug. 13, 2014, photo, a female student wearing a shocking device on her leg, lines up with classmates after lunch at the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) Source

What you are about to read and watch and hear will be extremely difficult to process. It’s horrifying. I’m asking you to read it anyway.

It’s necessary, because we need to understand that this is happening. Not in some far off country that we can claim no control over, but here, in our very own back yard.

Please read. Please watch. Please listen. And then, please, for the love of God, act.

This can’t continue.

“The first shock was in my leg. It was a stinging, ripping, and pulling pain that froze time. I was standing when it happened, and I immediately fell because I lost control of my leg. It hurt, but…

View original post 1,208 more words

tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child

tips on bonding with an adopted or foster child
When our daughter, Payton, came to us, she was young, but she was completely broken. Naive people have said to us, “It’s a good thing she was so young when she came to you, she won’t be affected by what happened.”

 

That’s the generally held consensus isn’t it? If a child is removed from a neglectful or abusive situation soon enough, it won’t affect them. Wrong. Sure it’s better for them, the hope is that it doesn’t take them as long to heal, but they are impacted as much, or possibly more than an older child.

In Bruce Perry’s book, The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, he says, “The fact that the brain develops sequentially – and also so rapidly in the first years of life – explains why extremely young children are at such great risk of suffering lasting effects of trauma: their brains are still developing. The same miraculous plasticity that allows young brains to quickly learn love and language, unfortunately, also makes them highly susceptible to negative experiences as well.”
myth- young children aren't afffected by abuse and neglect

Payton had emotionally shut herself down because of the neglect and trauma she suffered. She would bang her head on the floor, or on a piece of furniture, but no sound escaped her lips. Never having been around a child with a traumatic past, this shocked me. She had learned early on that no one responded when she cried, so why put forth the effort?

We didn’t have any specific training in how to deal with this or many other issues that came our way, so I did what came naturally. Every time she fell, or bumped against something, I picked her up, held her against me, and said, “It’s okay, Mama’s here.” (At the time she was in foster care. Her bio mom called herself Mommy, so I referred to myself as “Mama.”) After a couple months of consistently showing her that I would rescue her when she was hurt, Payton began following me around the house! It was more of a curiosity thing, she was making a basic connection that someone cared. True bonding would take years to develop, but we had a base to begin from, and I was excited!

During this same time, I was on the floor with her a lot. How did I do this? In my years of parenting a child with attachment issues (actually she was diagnosed with RAD, you can see my opinions on that here) and one with Autism, I have come to see the benefits of a small house. I’m in close proximity to my kids. (If you don’t have a smaller home, you can use baby gates to keep your kids close.) My husband and I also drastically changed our daily routines. Our focus was on our new little girl, who needed as much of us as she could get.

I spent as much time as I could on my daughter’s level.

She hadn’t learned the basics of play, not even as an infant would. It took a long time for her to learn to play, and even longer to use her imagination. But, she had noticed I was there. She moved from following me around to mimicking me (I have a photo of her at eighteen-months loading the washing machine), and eventually moving on to sitting on my lap, etc.

This technique can also be called “Floortime.” I implemented this (in a way) with my daughter before I heard about Stanley Greenspan’s Floortime. We were introduced to Floortime much later when my son was diagnosed with Autism. The approach is not specific to Autism, and can be extremely helpful in the bonding between a child with attachment issues and a parent or caregiver. 

“Floortime meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through interacting and creating a warm relationship. It challenges them to go further and to develop who they are rather than what their diagnosis says.” www.stanleygreenspan.com

The Developmental Therapist who works with our son uses a mixture of Floortime and other therapies, which I’ve discovered are a foundational component to bonding. We have to return to this cornerstone of Floortime because many of our children don’t know how to play, no one taught them how. Sometimes their brains can’t calm down enough to engage in free or imaginative play.

One reason I really love Floortime is because, as quoted above, “…it meets children where they are and builds upon their strengths and abilities through interacting and creating a warm relationship.” Why is this so great? Let’s look at key elements in the statement above.

  1. “…it meets children where they are.” – Our hurting children are not at their actual developmental age. We have to meet them where they are so they can climb the ladder of social, emotional, and physical development. There’s no time limit, there is no rush when looking at the developmental age of our hurting children, it will take time. And always remember bonding takes precedence over development in any other area.
  2. “…[it] builds upon their strengths and abilities.” – This is encouragement that our children need. They are constantly bombarded by negative, both from the outside and from within.
  3. “…through interacting and creating a warm relationship.” – What could be better? This is what our ultimate goal is for our children with attachment issues. We want them interacting with us (by the way, that begins with constant effort on our end), and we want to create a warm relationship. Some of you who have a child that struggles day to day may not think a warm relationship is possible, but it is! Your connection with each of your children will look different, but you will be amazed at the gem you find beneath the hurt, anger, and fear your child is holding onto.

Now that we have seen the benefits of Floortime, let’s find out how to do it. There will be a progression of steps. After you feel your child is comfortable with one of the steps, move to the next one. How will you know your child is ready for the next step? They will share smiles, engage you by handing you a toy, open discussions with you, they might make eye contact for the first time, or for longer periods than they have before. If you move on and you notice they are moving away from you or avoiding you, return to the previous step and work through it some more.

At any of the stages you can begin touching your child on the back or arm. See how they respond. If they squirm away, try again the next day. Don’t force it, but don’t avoid it either.

Step 1: PARALLEL PLAY

You will begin by sitting next to your child and engaging in parallel play. (This can also be done with older children, which I will touch on in a moment.) “Parallel play is a form of play where children play adjacent to each other, but do not try to influence one another’s behavior…the children do not play together, but alongside each other.” www.wikipedia.org For our purposes, this will be done between an adult caregiver or parent and a child. We’re going back to those fundamentals they never learned and have difficulty with.
Sit next to your child and engage in a similar activity. Don’t talk, only mimic what your child is doing with your own toy/book/body. It may feel goofy at first, but trust me, it works! If your child is pretending to drive a car, do the same with your own. If your child is looking at a book, sit quietly next to her reading one of her books. This will lay a foundation to build on. Be sure that you are engaging in something they have found interest in. You will do this every day if at all possible. The more you work on it, the faster bonding will come. I would begin with short sessions, around ten to fifteen minutes.

  • Older Children (including teens): It’s the same concept as above, but obviously they will be more advanced. If your child enjoys coloring or drawing, sit next to her and do the same with your own paper. Whatever they enjoy doing, do it sitting next to them. Get involved with them at a basic level, being quiet, and letting yourselves exist in the same space.

Step 2: INTEREST PLAY

Next you will begin talking about what you are doing with your child. If your child has a difficult time looking at your face, bring toys to the bridge of your nose, so your child will look at your eyes. If your child looks at you say, “Thank you for looking at me,” in an excited voice. For a very young child who is beginning to talk, you describe what you are doing: “I’m driving the car. You’re driving the car.” Praise a child of any age when they do well (be real, they’ll know if you’re lying). Don’t say anything negative at this time.
“Play is the work of children. It consists of those activities performed for self-amusement that have behavioral, social, and psychomotor rewards. It is child-directed, and the rewards come from within the individual child; it is enjoyable and spontaneous.”www.healthofchildren.com

  • Older Children (including teens): Talk about what you are doing with them. You can ask them some questions, but keep those few and brief.

Step 3: INTERACTIVE PLAY

Now you can begin interacting more, andJustin & Jeremiah 2012exchanging in play. You can begin to play with their toy with them. You can read a book to them, invite them to sit in your lap to read a book or sing a song. If you have a girl that’s interested in doing your hair (come on Dad :)), take turns playing salon. This is a great opportunity for your child to practice taking turns, caring for someone, and appropriate gentle touch is always positive.

  • Older Child (including teens): If you have a child that likes sports, you can play ball together. This exchange is a great back and forth play, your child is facing you, and they may also open up more and want to talk. Embrace what your child likes. Involve yourself by interacting and being interested.

These are some pivotal steps that will help your child bond with you. “[By using Floortime and] staying within [their] focus, you are helping [them] practice basic thinking skills: engagement, interaction, symbolic thinking and logical thinking. To master these skills requires using all these senses, emotions, and motor skills…”www.stanleygreenspan.com

When raising children with attachment issues (and for me, having an added child with Autism) it can get quite discouraging. You try something, it doesn’t work, so you try again, and again it fails. Keep trying. I have often put something on that back burner for a long time because I tried dozens of times and failed. Then one day I would try it again, and suddenly it would work! Be persistent and eventually your child will be ready for that hug, or respond to that “thank you,” or whatever you might be wanting your child to do to show connection.

You can bookmark this post to refer back to as you work on bonding. You can also 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 a web version. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

what if my special needs child lives with me forever?

what if my special needs child lives with me forever
I love the site, Not Alone. You can understand why just by the name alone (Ha!). Sometimes when we’re riding the special needs bus we feel alone. We feel no one else really gets us, our child, or our family. This is one great site that supports parents who feel such.

Todays post is on the shorter side, but that’s because I would like you to read two posts. I know I’m so mean!

On Not Alone, Ellen Stumbo wrote a perceptive article called, What if She Lives with Us Forever? Some of you face the possibility that your child will live with you forever.

We faced the reality about a year ago that Jeremiah will most likely live with us through his adult life. At first the idea was overwhelming. Typical parents sort of expect their children to grow up, move out, and then it’s the parents turn to play. Not so much when you’re a special needs parent, but I still struggle with those selfish feelings of wanting more “me” and “us” time.

Special needs parents are always on alert, there is rarely down time.

I do need more supports, and we’re working on it, but my view of Jeremiah living with us forever has changed. I feel a lot like the woman who wrote this article. I actually want him to live with me…IF that’s okay with him. 🙂 I adore him, I don’t know what my life would be like without him near because so much of it is enveloped in him. Selfish reasons I know.

It would be awesome if he was able to function in society, get a job, live alone or even better, find someone to love and spend the rest of his life with. That would be awesome! But, I can’t depend on that happening. This isn’t the typical life. And that’s okay!

Here’s what Ellen Stumbo writes on Not Alone, I can just about guarantee it will buoy your heart.

“Call me crazy, but one of the first thoughts that crossed my mind when my daughter was born with Down syndrome was, ‘Will she live with us forever?’

When my oldest was born, a typical baby girl, those thoughts would have felt so…outrageous! I mean, who thinks about their child moving out the day they’re born? But with Nichole it was different, Down syndrome rocked me and I was immediately wondering if she would ever live independently, if she would ever get married, if she would ever have a job…

I hope she still wants to do this with me when she’s 15, and 21, and 30 and forever.”

You can read more of what she wrote here.

Do you think your child will live with you forever? How do you feel about it? I hope todays post encourages you. Have a good one!


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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.


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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?

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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.