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.

 

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!

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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. For more helpful information and links, you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Happy swimming!

questions about birth family

when birth family questions arise
Conversations have been interesting in our house recently. Conversations can be interesting when you adopt your child from foster care, or adopt in general. They can be even more so when your child obsesses about their past (okay she obsesses about everything).

Lots of questions have risen about Payton’s birth family, and we’re answering several and adding more than we’d like at this time in her little life. We have a six year old who’s easily going on sixteen. Yes, I’m confident if given a set of wheels, and pedals she could reach, she could drive into town, pick up items from the grocery store, and return in one piece. However, she would definitely be stopped for speeding. (You can read more about how we handle the birth family situation here.)

We hadn’t told Payton her birth mom’s name. No specific reason really, maybe somewhere in my mind I thought that she’d go searching for her as soon as she could, but then how could she do that with only a first name? The other hurdle was that she has an aunt with the same first name, so that could get confusing for her, especially since she’s never met her aunt, You know, it’s all those unanswered questions in a child’s mind.

It’s those unanswered questions that keep Payton wondering, and creating. Adopted and foster children can create great imagined stories in their minds about what living with their biological families was like. Usually it’s pretty rosy. And that’s where we run into problems.

It wasn’t rosy, and it wasn’t better than where she is now.

I suggest reading the post I linked to above that explains where we’re coming from in sharing with Payton about her birth family, it will make things a lot clearer. So, we talk about adoption a lot in our house, both of our kids are adopted, I write about adoption, and we’re fans of adoption, so it’s no secret that Payton and her brother are adopted. We’ve talked about her “tummy mommy.” but like I said, never gave her a name.

So, the wondering popped up one day in an interesting conversation. Jeremiah’s Developmental Interventionist was at our house and Payton said, “When I was with that other lady, I didn’t have a brother or sister.” WHAT??? I just stared at Payton, thinking, “What are you talking about???”

The answer took a little while to settle in, and I was surprised. So I asked, “What are you talking about?”

She said, “You know, when I was with the other lady…”

I said, “Oh, you mean your tummy mommy?” Meanwhile the Developmental Therapist is trying to pretend she’s not in the middle of this awkward discussion.

“Yeah.” Payton replied, “Her name’s Laura.”

Shocked again, because that’s not her name, I ask, “Who told you that?”

“Grandma Jane.”

“Well, honey that’s not her name.”

“Yes it is, Grandma told me.”

“I’m sorry, but I know her name and that’s not it. We’ll talk about this later.” Since that wasn’t a time for birth family conversations in front of a therapist, I put it off. I still wondered if we should tell her.

The next weekend she went to spend a few days with my parents (Nana & Bompa to her). She had never been away from us this long, so it was something new and kind of dreadful for us. Okay, that’s a tad dramatic, but I was concerned about the behavior we’d have when she returned. I also thought we’d get a crying phone call while she was there and we’d make a trip to pick her up. We did not get a phone call, she had a blast being the center of attention. But, when we met my parents to pick Payton up, my mom whispered to me,

“She asked if we knew her tummy mommy’s name, she said you knew but wouldn’t tell her.” Oh boy.

So, we told her.
birth parent questions

Then came the comments, “She loved me even though she didn’t take care of me.” Now, I think this started with me. In the adoption circles it’s the proper thing to tell your adopted or foster child, “Your birth parents love you, they just couldn’t take care of you.” But really, when my daughter said this, a big check mark popped up in front of my little eyeballs over her words. It didn’t sound right.

Now that Payton has these words she can fling them at me when she’s mad, and that’s exactly what she did. She thought her birth mom loved her more, and at that moment she was unhappy with me so obviously I love her less (in her mind). I’m wondering if we do a disservice to ourselves and our children when we spout that a birth parent loved the child they abused and neglected to the point of someone else coming in a removing them.

I know each persons definition of love is different. That’s why some parents walk away from children and some stick through the extremely ugly. That’s why I wrote a post asking if love is enough when helping a child with a traumatic past heal. If I go by that definition of love in that post, then no, Payton’s birth family didn’t love her.

I don’t know what to say. Some would argue and say that all birth parents love their children, but because someone gives birth does that mean they love the child? I think we honestly want to say it to make the child and the birth parent feel better. I think we also say it because the child won’t feel worthy if they believe their birth parents didn’t love them. They’ll ask questions like, “Why didn’t they love me, was I not lovable, not good enough, not worthy, too ugly, too disruptive?”

After we told Payton her birth mom’s name, several other questions came up, and lots of answers to unasked questions, because we don’t want her living in this imaginary world, thinking it would be better with her bio dad (who scared her to death, and is the ONLY man she’s ever been afraid of). She has a tremendous memory, and I’m sure that there are several memories of her time with them and afterwards while she visited them in foster care.

This girl has a superb memory. When she was about four, she was standing on the back of my chair while I looked through photos on the computer. She said, “I wasn’t happy when I was one.” I asked her about it and she said, “I was really sad.” Wow! That was the year DHS was trying to reuinify her with her biological parents. She was right, she wasn’t happy that year!

We’ve had to explain things that I didn’t want to have to tell her until she was much older. It’s not pretty, but she says things like, “My dad loved me.” We’ve said, “Payton, this is your Daddy and he loves you very much.” We don’t want her living in that imaginary world. We aren’t happy with all these conversations taking place at her age, no kid should have to deal with this at age six. But then no child should ever be removed from their parents at nine months, or any age. This is our life, and we deal with it as it comes. It’s what we’ve been doing and will continue to do with God’s help and His answers.

After writing this post I chatted with Jeremiah’s Developmental Therapist (yeah, the one who was here for that awkward conversation, that conversation that will always be known as “the awkward conversation”) about Payton and her questions about her birth family and my conundrum about telling her they love her. Her suggestion was that when Payton throws it at me, which many adopted children will at some point, I say, “Yes, your mom (point to myself) loves you very much.” A light went on, and I was like, “That’s it! Perfect.” Then I went back and read what I had written for this post. And behold, I had written something very similar. Well, there you go.

Another post that may be helpful is Birth Family Relationships.

Have you had conversations about birth family with your children? What were those conversations like?

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. For more helpful information and links, you can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

4 reasons why you should teach your Autistic child to swim

4 reasons why you should teach your child to swim
Drowning is the number one cause of death for children with Autism. Parents whose children have died from drowning probably regret that their child didn’t learn to swim. Not all Autistic children will learn how to swim with ease, and panic can set in when someone (Autistic or not) falls into water, so even knowing how to swim won’t save everyone. But, let’s not live with regret, let’s do our best to help our children learn to swim.

So, here are reasons why you should teach your Autistic child to swim:

  1. Autistic children LOVE water. They will do anything they can to get to the source; pond, bathtub, lake, swimming pool, open ditch, river, stream, or a water trough for horses or other animals.
    Know what’s around your home (you will find out more of why you need to know in the next point). Are there horses or animals that require a water trough? Does a neighbor have a pool, and is there a secure gate so your child can’t get in? Is there a pond nearby, maybe in someone’s front or side yard? Teaching your child to swim will help prevent drowning in case they go in search of water or fall into water while exploring with curiosity.
  2. When wandering a child may find a source of water and could drown if they don’t know how to swim. You can just about guarantee a child who has Autism won’t be content to simply stare at a pool of water, they’re going to want to PLAY. They see a playground when they see water.
    The National Autism Association says, “According to recent data, 49% of children have wandered away from safe environments, such as homes, schools, public places, and day camps.” Our son has wandered several times. You can read more about that here. He’s never gotten farther than our garage when he’s walked out of our house (one of the benefits of a small house and ears attuned to each movement our son makes).
    The National Autism Association lists these instances at a higher risk for a child to wander:
    – During warmer months
    – During holidays such as Mother’s Day, Memorial Day, Father’s   Day, Fourth of July,  Labor Day, and other warm-climate holidays
    – During family gatherings, other gatherings, or outdoor activities
    – Camping & hiking outings
    – Visits to non-home settings, such as a friend’s home or vacation setting
    – After a family moves to a new home
    – When adjustments have been made to a home to accommodate warmer weather, especially window screens, window fan units, A/C units and screen doors.
    – During classroom transitions from one classroom to another, or during other transitions.
    – During times of stress or when escalation triggers arise (typically the child/adult will bolt)We live just outside the city limits, and there’s a DEEP (like fifteen feet deep) open ditch at the end of our street. This is a recipe for disaster, and I can’t believe they haven’t piped it and filled it in yet. If a child goes wandering, any child (they don’t even have to have Autism), it could be extremely dangerous. I regret to say I haven’t made a phone call to the city yet, I’ll be doing that a little later. We have to be aware of what’s around our homes. If we know what the dangers are we may be more attentive to keeping safety precautions in place and IF, in the worst case scenario, our children escape, we know where to look.
    A child can either have the intent to find water when they wander, or in their wandering come upon water, both being equally dangerous and a good reason to teach your child to swim.
  3. Swimming provides sensory stimulation for sensory seekers, and may be helpful to those who avoid sensory.
    When Jeremiah swims he talks more! Really exciting for us. Well, when I say “talk” I mean more of a jabber, but lots of it, and you can tell he’s trying to make specific sounds. He loves it, his face lights up and a big smile adorns his face when he’s swimming. The happiest we ever see him is in a pool or lake.
    We think he enjoys it so much because of the sensory aspect. Take a float through a pool and you’ll get a little glimpse of how it feels, it’s relaxing. When the Autistic child goes under water, the whole world is shut out, no sounds, no light if their eyes are closed, and there’s the constant of the water surrounding their body.
    For the sensory seeker like Jeremiah, splashing, going under and coming back up, jumping off the board, or sitting next to water jets gives them an awesome sensory experience that is almost impossible to find elsewhere.
    In this video, you will see Jeremiah swimming. The first star of the video is his sister, Payton and her Grandpa (sorry I don’t have editing tools on my computer to cut the video), about 14 seconds in you will see Jeremiah and Justin. Jeremiah’s been in swim lessons, but really the teacher wasn’t that great, and didn’t really help to teach him, but did help him enjoy swimming. No one moved Jeremiah’s legs to teach him how to kick, nor did anyone move his arms, yet you can see that with Justin’s hand supporting his stomach, he can almost swim. 🙂 Jeremiah wasn’t taught to close his mouth and not breathe in under water, it came naturally, in fact I can only remember one time that he coughed up water. In the video you can see how much he loves swimming and jumping in. Jeremiah is nonverbal and doesn’t understand instructions that aren’t part of his everyday life. Jeremiah is almost 5.
  4. Swimming gets them out in public, in a different environment. As the parent of an Autistic child, there are many times we don’t want to go out to dinner, the mall, the carnival, the park, on vacation. It can be work, and we never know what the outcome will be. We can tend to avoid public places, and this doesn’t help our Autistic kids. (I definitely think taking our children into public needs to be done by considering their preferences, and not forcing them to always follow our agenda.)
    For our family, there are many outings that have failed, but a trip to the pool never has. This gets Jeremiah around other people, we try different pools so this exposes him to different environments, and we have to work as a family which creates unity for us all. There’s nothing like a family outing with high-needs Autism.

There are so many benefits to teaching your child to swim, and making swimming a regular part of your life. We want our children to be able to swim, but we also want our children to enjoy life, and if they enjoy swimming, go take a dip in a pool, I don’t think you’ll be sorry.

Please pass this on to parents of children with Autism, to help prevent drowning deaths.

Here’s a post on how to help your Autistic child learn to swim. I’ve provided a great video there from MarTar swim school that gives some great ideas of what to do with your child in the pool.

Has your Autistic child learned to swim? Do they seem drawn to water? What steps can you take to help your child learn to swim if they don’t know how?

You can receive every post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re using 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.

“scream rooms” and shock therapy being used on Autistic children: Do you know what your school’s doing?

scream rooms autism
What equates a torture device? Something that makes someone go crazy? I’ve come upon two organizations in the last few months who use torture to get what they want (and really in the end they aren’t getting what they want). You may think this doesn’t happen any more, it’s 2014 for goodness sake. Well, that’s what I say, except, it is real, and although we feel we’re such a progressive society, there still exists this idea that you can somehow work the Autism out of a person.

What if your child was confined in this?
scream room in Deer Valley (Phoenix) schools

I hope if you’re a parent of Autism you continue to read this, so you can be aware and advocate for your child. If you’re not a parent of Autism, I hope you read on because we need you to be another voice for our children, our teens, and adults who aren’t being treated as “typical” human beings.

The photo above was the latest shock, a “scream room” in the Deer Valley public school district in Phoenix, AZ. I was livid when I saw the photo and read the article. A padded, completely closed-off cell in a public school? My blood boiled, feeling angry, scared for the children who must have been frightened out of their minds when placed in an isolated space. I’m claustrophobic, and being in there would drive me absolutely nuts, and it would be a million times worse for an Autistic child. I can’t even wrap my mind around it.

Just for some perspective, we used to put Jeremiah in his room when he was having a really difficult time. He was able to calm down in his space. I hadn’t put him in there in a while, but he was having behaviors I couldn’t handle, so I wanted him to calm and settle in his room.

This time it wasn’t the same. We’ve done it twice and won’t do it again. Why? He was in there less than three minutes and he went out of his mind both times. He screams often, happy screams, screams when he’s mad, but this was a whole new level, he was furious. He screamed up to the moment I opened his door, then he shut himself off from the world, this faraway look in his eyes. Some with special needs may have this look, but Jeremiah doesn’t, so it scared me. I held him, but he climbed out of my arms and just sat there on the couch, staring. Why did I even do it a second time? I’m human. I wish I wasn’t. If being in his room with toys, windows, a comfortable bed affected Jeremiah so negatively when he was in a disregulated state, what would it be like for an Autistic child to be placed in a “scream room”?

In 2012, after this report came out about the “scream room” in Phoenix, Arizona, house bill 2476 was passed, in part it says, “Beginning in school year of 2013-2014, disciplinary policies for the confinement of pupils left alone in an enclosed space. These policies shall include the following:

  1. The appropriate criteria for confinement,
  2. The size of the room in which the confinement will occur,
  3. The maximum number of minutes that the pupil will be physically prevented from exiting the room in which the confinement occurs,
  4. The method in which the pupil will be monitored by an adult who’s in close proximity to the room in which the confinement occurs and who is able to see and hear pupil at all times. (/An adult cannot see into the “scream rooms” in the Deer Valley school district./)
  5. A process for prior written parental consent before confinement is allowed for any pupil in the school district.

I’m not a professional at reading senate bills, but it seems to me that no criteria has been put in place, except that parental consent is required. The bill does not define the amount of time a child can be confined, nor the size of room the child can be restrained in. Autistic children hit themselves, pick at their bodies, pull their hair. This is called self-injurious behavior. This is cause for confinement under the house bill in Arizona.

I found another explanation of the house bill herewhich explains the school has permission to use confinement if the child poses harm to himself or others, even if a parent has NOT given prior consent. The administration then needs to notify the parents the day the confinement takes place.

In my opinion, which I stand strongly on, the use of a secluded room is unacceptable, it’s a cruel punishment that should never be implemented. Never.

In a February 2014 ABC news report by Angela M. Hill and Matthew Mosk, they say, “The Senate findings mirror those in a 2012 ABC News investigation which found that thousands of autistic and disabled schoolchildren had been injured and dozens died after being restrained by poorly trained teachers and school aides who tried to subdue them using at times unduly harsh techniques.”

The report also mentions the case of eight-year-old girl, who has “attention and hyperactivity disorders” from Minnesota who was closed in a room alone forty-four times in one year. This took place in spite of her parents and behavior consultant opposing the strategy.

A dismal eighteen states require parental notification when a child has been restrained in a school setting.

This video was released in 2012 of a teen boy named Andre, being shocked thirty-one times at the Judge Rotenburg Center (JRC) for developmentally disabled students. WARNING: This video is graphic, it may be disturbing to some and is not suitable for all audiences.

Why did the staff use shock therapy on Andre? Because he wouldn’t take his coat off. He had to wear someone else’s clothes that day, and was embarrassed, therefore insisted on wearing his coat, which the staff did not approve of. This “situation” took place in 2002, and went to trial in 2012.

Over at the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, Shain Neumeier says of the JRC trial, “After several more hours of jury deliberations the next day, the parties agreed to settle for an undisclosed amount of money…Ever since their clients signed onto this agreement, the defense attorneys have insisted that JRC and the three individual defendants were not liable, and have defended Andre’s treatment as reasonable. They went so far as to say they were glad that the tape was shown in court, allowing the jury to see that Andre was receiving proper treatment at JRC.”

I’m shocked, literally pained, and appalled by all of this. If this is happening in one school district or “center” it’s taking place in others. These are not isolated instances.
how does your school treat children w special needs

One message we should get from this is strong and clear, we have to constantly be advocates for our children, teens, and adults if they move on to day camps or other living arrangements. Whether it be at school, church, a therapy office, or daycare, we have to be aware of what’s being done to those with Autism. Don’t just call or email your school and ask if they use isolation rooms, scream rooms, or if they seclude children with special needs, take a tour of the school while children are in class. Ask questions. Talk with other parents of special needs children. Emails and phone calls won’t get you answers, you need to be present. Pick your child up sometimes, don’t only rely on the bus system. Talk with teachers, paraprofessionals, and aides. Know what everyone is doing with your child.

In response to these atrocities being used on people with special needs, some say, “But it worked for my child,” “It worked for me,”  or “I work with the special needs population and I’ve seen it make a difference.” I say for everyone it did help, it harmed several more. The question should be asked, “Would you do this with a typical child [or person]?” This question was brought to my attention by Heidi Lostracco on Speak for Yourself. I think the answer in these cases, with both “scream rooms” and shock therapy, would be a resounding, “NO!” And if it’s not okay for a typical child, it’s not okay for a child with special needs of any kind.

Please share this with others so everyone can be aware of what’s happening to children with special needs. They don’t have a voice, but you do.

What do you think of the implementation of “scream rooms”? What would you do if you found one in your child’s school? Would not signing a consent form be enough to ease your mind that your child wouldn’t be placed in one?

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

6 reasons to hug

6 reasons to hug
Have you ever received a hug from someone and felt better afterwards? Have you ever been one to dole out a hug and feel the hugee relax in your arms? There’s something about a hug that changes our chemistry.

In the movie Temple Grandin, Temple creates a machine that basically hugs her, she says something like this about the device, “Getting a hug connects something in the brain, you can feel it, and when I’m in my squeeze machine, I feel better.”

Whether your child is biological, adopted, foster, or has Autism, hugs are beneficial for everyone. Here’s why:

  1. Hugs calm us. If you’ve ever felt stressed when you were embraced by someone, it’s possible that anxiety lessened. This is especially true if you have a connection with the person giving the hug. There are times when I’ve been hugged during a tumultuous time and that hug made everything that was overwhelming me seem less important.
  2. Hugs create feelings of acceptance. When you embrace someone it usually means you like them. (Okay, there are exceptions, but it’s generally the rule.) Our hurting children deal with intense feelings of rejection. Even when they join a family who loves them dearly, they wonder constantly if they’ll be accepted. Do they like who I am? Do they think I’m dirty, because my last foster home didn’t let me wear deodorant? I look different than them, they can’t possibly love me like their other children. The questions continue and expand. When we hug our children (begin appropriately, because you don’t know your child’s complete history), we are showing them we accept who they are and love them. We hold nothing back when we hug someone. It’s complete acceptance.
  3. Hugs make us feel safe. When you put your arms around your child they feel safe. They may not recognize it at first, but eventually they will recognize that you’ll keep them out of harms way. When we went to our only counseling session with Payton, the therapist saw how she hugged me and she made a declaration, “See how she’s hugging you. She’s placing her arms above yours (I was sitting, Payton was standing), which means she thinks she’s in control of the relationship.” When you hug someone next time, notice where their arms are. I wouldn’t say what this therapist said is true 100% of the time, but often it is. When we place our arms around a child (usually above their arms), it communicates that we are taking care of them. When we hug a friend, it’s kind of like a figure eight, 50/50, one arm above, one arm below. If a husband is hugging a wife, his arms are usually on top, not in a controlling way (or I hope not), but in a protective way. We want our children to feel safe, so we hug them, showing them we will protect them.
    For children with Autism, their world may be spinning because of sensory issues, a hug may center them and make them feel safe. If they’re in a new environment they may feel more secure with you close by. Just because a child with Autism doesn’t seem like they care about your proximity, they do.
    Of course, there are some Autistic kids who don’t want to be hugged. In that case you can put your arm around their shoulder, try different approaches to see what works. Never stop trying. One month your child may hate hugs, the next they may accept them and want more.
    the simple act of hugging
  4. Hugs encourage. Even the strongest individual, whether it be a hurting child or mature adult, when confronted with daunting circumstances, can be greatly encourage by the simple gesture of an arm around the shoulders. It communicates on a neurological and emotional level, it truly is going to be okay, and even if it isn’t, they’re going to be okay. A hug makes us feel like we can do it.
  5. Hugs heal our children. For the child who’s come from trauma, it’s especially important to give out hugs regularly. If you wonder how important hugs are, consider what Dr. Mercola says, “…consider that children who aren’t hugged have delays in walking, talking, and reading.”
  6. Hugs help us grow. Family therapist Virginia Satir said, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.”

Have you ever felt better after a hug? When you’ve hugged your child have you ever seen it make a difference in their demeanor?

Hug your children today. Hug your spouse today. Hug a friend today.

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. Have a great day!