orphanages in America & 5 things you can do to help

orphanages in AmericaAmerican’s don’t think orphanages exist in the USA, I mean in 2015 how could they? Sadly there are orphanages in America, they’re simply called “group homes.”

Children in Arizona are being placed in group homes because there aren’t enough foster homes or kinship placement options. Maricopa County is only one county in the U.S. that’s seeing a tremendous influx of children entering foster care. Mary Jo Pitzl of The Arizona Republic says, “More than one out of every five children removed from their family home because of abuse or neglect is sent to a group home.”

In Arizona, specifically Maricopa County, 17,000 kids in foster care are in need of a home, many of that number are available for adoption. “The numbers show a steady increase in the number of children in out-of-home care — 71 percent higher than five years ago,” says Pitzl. With these numbers I can imagine the group homes are far surpassing their allotted number of ten children per home.

Here we are in the twenty-first century with orphanages in the United States.

Usually group homes are considered the alternative for children who have issues stemming from their neglect and abuse (a foster home cannot or will not care for them), or for people who are disabled or elderly. Neither is the case for group homes that are rising up around the U.S. amid the recent influx of foster children.

Children who can, and should be, given the chance to thrive in a foster home don’t have that opportunity. The inability to provide a loving and caring home to these children after they are removed from abusive and neglectful situations is exacerbating the likelihood that they will have even greater attachment and trauma based issues. It is proven that traumatized children need a family environment to heal.

It’s not helpful to only state the problem, so here are some ways to help:

  1. Share this article. The more awareness, the better. The more good foster homes, the better. Maybe some of those 17,000 children in Maricopa County can find a family who will care for them, maybe a child in another state will find a forever-family because this article was read by someone, somewhere.
  2. Foster. You read the statistic above. 17,000 children in need of a foster home in Maricopa County, Arizona alone. People are scared of fostering because they’ll get too close, and that child may be reunited with their biological parents. This deserves a much longer post that I haven’t written yet, but here’s the truth, this child has one chance at love, to know what a family is supposed to be, and you might be that one person to give it to them.
    Here are some articles and books about foster care:
    Tips on Bonding with an Adopted or Foster Child (Lovin’ Adoptin’)
    The Beauty and Brokenness of Foster Care
    Ready or Not by Pam Parish is an essential read for any prospective foster or adoptive parent.
  3. Adopt. Many Americans don’t realize there are children waiting for forever-families in the U.S. Children right now, in foster homes, waiting. Children who are two-years-old and kids who are eighteen are available for adoption. Infants are even in need of forever homes, and often have an older sibling who needs adopted along with them.
  4. Support foster parents. If we had received adequate support when our youngest son came to us (came to us through foster care), I believe we would have strongly considered adding a third child to our family. Support is needed. One family showed up with items we needed when our son came to us. One family. We had many friends, and family lives near us, but only one family gave us physical support. No one offered to clean the house, make meals, date nights when we needed it, or run to the store when either of our children arrived. Yet, this is done for many families who birth children. I don’t quite get it. Show support for foster families by offering to do these things. Give specifics, say, “Can I mow your grass, when would you like me to come over?” instead of asking, “Do you need anything?” When you ask this, the foster parents feels guilty for saying yes and dumping something on you.
  5. Support families who are struggling so their children aren’t removed. Support young parents by volunteering as a mentor. Help educate parents on how to care for infants and children. Help counsel parents, sometimes they need a little guidance in the right direction. Give them financial assistance, food assistance, and offer transportation.

children available for adoption in the USIf you do consider adoption or foster care, be patient, as the news recently released this information and CPS/DHS may be flooded with people who are exploring the option of becoming foster parents or forever-families to these children. Also, remember that just because families are inquiring about children does not mean they will follow through, or they will be approved as foster or adoptive homes.

Children are being failed all over the U.S. (and world) every day. According to the latest report from the North American Counsel on Adoptable Children, in 2012, 23,395 youth aged out of the foster care system. These teens were forced out of foster care without a family to call their own. No forever-family to return to on their birthday, Christmas, or Thanksgiving.

If you would like to do something to help foster children in Arizona, please visit AASK, this section of the website features children who are available for adoption. You can also financially support organizations if you are unable to foster or adopt.

“Celebrate the opportunity to open your homes to kids in need, knowing that if it be for just a few days or an entire lifetime, you’ve been given the unique opportunity to offer them something special – love.” Jason Johnson

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

5 tips for parents of special needs children

5 tips for parents of special needs children
Thinking positive is what gets me through. Crazy thing is I’m not a positive person. Now you say, Yeah right, sure you aren’t. But I’m not, I’m quite pessimistic, really the kind of “glass half empty” kinda gal.

I’m fairly positive when it comes to autism though. I’m learning from some of the best, and I’ve mentioned them here before, a therapist, a special education professor, autistic adults, and parents of autistic children who look at their child’s autism in a different way than most. It’s really helped me to see autism from a whole new perspective.

But what happens when the road is extra rough, whether it be normal life or autism? I won’t lie, it’s like a raging river in our house the last few weeks, I’m being tossed under the rapids along with my husband. I want to be honest and I know many of you face these same situations too.

In an effort to share with you the reality in our home, but also in an effort to avoid bogging you down with the negativity…ah heck, forget the latter, here’s what hell’s broken loose here. Some of this doesn’t even have to do with autism, because if we were to take a check of life, there are many complications that have nothing to do with autism.

  • Our washer broke in April.

In the last two weeks:

  • Our refrigerator stopped working a week-and-a-half ago and we haven’t been able to get a repair man here. When your family eats mostly fresh foods, no packaged foods (except for the kid with autism & the desserts) this is a problem.
    And honestly, the fridge and washer aren’t the biggest deal around here. When I hear my friends complain about their car causing problems, their appliances quitting, their plans going wacko, I sometimes want to say, “Spend some time over here and those will be the least of your worries.” It’s not always autism, but those hard days can tip us over the edge.
  • I had a thyroid biopsy a week-and-a-half ago because of my rare cancerous disease. I still haven’t been told the results of that test.
  • The school year ended and summer began. Adjustments for everyone.
  • Jeremiah learned to unlock deadbolts. He wanders and has zero awareness of the dangers cars careening down the road pose (or any other dangers for that matter).
  • Jeremiah is realizing that he no longer wants to wear a wet pull-up. Therefore, he is removing said pull-up and then going potty. So, at five (and 50 lbs), he’s obviously not potty trained. He’s nonverbal, so this poses extra difficulty in the process, nor does he understand all language. “Potty goes in the toilet,” means nothing to him. “That’s gross,” means nothing to him. Besides all the angst this causes – potty on the bed, potty anywhere and everywhere – it’s awesome that he’s beginning to understand the concept – not liking to be wet, the first stages of potty training. See, there’s that positive outlook I mentioned earlier. Yeah…
  • Jeremiah doesn’t like being poopy either, so he sticks his hands in there and it gets everywhere. I have back problems and overall pain, so taking care of this is quite taxing.

This is definitely a short list of what’s going on. We have another child besides the one who has autism, my husband owns a small business, and, yeah that disease I have. It can be overwhelming.

These are a few of my favorite things..when the kid pees, when the fridge breaks, when I’m feeling sad, I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.

If it only worked!!

I know some of you are wondering how to get through the next day, or even this night. I don’t have a pat answer, or a numbered list of steps so you can feel fabulous in one week. I do however know how I handle the rough and tumbling waves. Right now I’m not handling them well at all, but I wanted to extend some hope to you who might need an overhanging branch in that raging river you’re riding on.

1. Stay positive. Look at what ‘s good in your life. As I shared my recent circumstances with a friend, I was in despair, but then I began telling her about some other situations and I realized what good things were going on despite how I’m feeling. One of those is a grant we received for an iPad, case, and apps. There are good things around you, you just may have to do some demolition to see them for what they are. Same with how Jeremiah is noticing that he can pee outside of his pull-up and he’ll stay dry. Hurray! (Am I supposed to celebrate that?)

2. Grab an ear. Find someone who listens to you and is empathetic. Even if you have to pay a therapist. 😉

3. Do what you want. Spend time doing what fills you up. I know this is much easier said than done, but try to take the time, it’s essential to caring for a child with special needs.

4. Support each other. If you’re married, support each other. Have open communication and talk about what isn’t working and what is working. Listen to your spouses needs and desires and help them. Then ask your significant other to read this post. 😉

5. Listen to others who talk positively about special needs. They can have their bad days, we all do, but you want to surround yourself with people who will encourage you to see the best in your child, not the worst. Wallowing in those negative places won’t help. At all.

Sometimes life is hard. Sometimes autism is difficult, and it’s hard to see the rainbow. I hope this helps you know that even though I try to speak positively about autism, there are days when the rapids are washing over me, days when life is tough. But even in these days, I often come to the end knowing that it’s going to be okay, I can still see my beautiful child and know that one day soon it’s going to get better.


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why you THINK I adopted or fostered, but you may be wrong

why you THINK I adopted or fostered
Everyone has their opinions of why people adopt or foster. Some wrong, some right. Family and friends have assumed why we adopted. Why we wanted to adopt from China, why we adopted from foster care, and maybe part of me wants to set the record straight, but a larger part of me knows adoptive parents around the world face these assumptions too.

Some reasons (or non-reasons) listed are our own, but many of them are ones I’ve heard from other adoptive or foster parents. Some of them may be true for you, but untrue for others, it’s simply a general list of what adoptive and foster parents have heard.

**********

I didn't adopt because...
I didn’t adopt or foster because I can’t have biological children.
I can have other reasons for wanting to bring a child into my home through adoption or foster care. Maybe I know about the millions of children in the world who need loving families, so why do I need to give birth to one? Maybe we have dreamed of bringing a child into our home who needs love, and don’t feel bound by society’s standards of conceiving a child.

I didn’t adopt internationally because I don’t care about kids in the US.
When we were on the path of adopting from China, we were asked why China and not the US. I like to say, “God created the world, He didn’t specify who we need to take care of, there are millions of children around the world who need loving homes.” And honestly, if Americans didn’t adopt internationally, there would be a much larger orphan problem in the world. One family may be called to Istanbul (or name a country), but you may be called to adopt locally. Each of our hearts are pulled in a direction, a country, foster care, domestic adoption, whatever it may be, it’s where we’re supposed to adopt from.

I don’t do foster care because I want to be the pillar of my community. I do this because there are children who need good homes, families who care about the kids as their own.

I didn’t adopt from foster care because I don’t care about children in other countries. It’s what was right for us. I feel it’s important to take care of the children in our country, in our city. I heard the statistics, I heard about the need for foster care and wanted to do something. I found out that children are available for adoption in my country and I decided this is how I wanted to go about adopting.

I didn’t adopt because it’s the popular thing to do, because the celebrities are doing it. I did it because I wanted to.

I didn’t adopt to get another badge on my Brownie sash. Been there, done that. Adopting takes dedication, it lasts a lifetime, and sometimes it’s not easy. So no, I didn’t do it to receive approval from everyone else. I talk about adoption because I’m passionate about it, it’s how I became a mom to my kids. I wear shirts that say “adoption” because I want others to realize there are children waiting for families to hold them, care about them, and send them off to school with a hug, not because I want to be recognized for what I did.

I didn’t adopt because some kids on a website were cute, I didn’t do it because I “couldn’t resist.” Adopting takes work and dedication. It goes far beyond a photos and adorable smiles.

I didn’t adopt a child from Russia so he would look like me. I didn’t adopt a girl from China because she’s beautiful, I didn’t adopt from Ethiopia because African children are all the rage. I adopted from the country I chose because that’s where I was led, whether I believe fate, destiny, or God led me there. That’s where my child was and I brought him home.

Adoptive and foster parents were led to their choices for many reasons, many of them I haven’t listed, for many their answers are different than the ones I give. If you have other reasons for adopting or fostering, or you want to share assumptions that have been made of you, please share in the comments.


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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.

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 “like” my Facebook page and follow me on Twitter and Pinterest for more helpful information and links.

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 been thorough in telling Mrs. Briggs* about Payton’s past. 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 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 the question I mentioned above. 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?

These children 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 in one class: 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 an 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.

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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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