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Sunday, January 31, 2010

On Growing out of Autism and other disabilities

As a teacher, I see Autisms (recently I heard a speaker actually add the "s" on purpose.....because it isn't any one thing. There are so many variables. ) I just got this catalog from School Specialty chocked with items to help kids with their sensory and behavior needs and my first thought was, how has education changed in the last, say 30-40 years? What has happened that now more and more kids have issues of some kind? It isn't just a brain thing, we isn't just environment or just vaccines but a real combination of society influences. Perhaps, our drive to be more competitive, no one knows. But as I look at the catalog, their are glimpses of things kids are missing in our schools......and things that are happening that keep kids from making progress. The lights.....we all know that fluorescence bothers many people's brains, but we still maintain those kind of lights, so that only if a school is wise and has the finances, they can then add the fabric underlays to remedy the situation. Why not change the lighting?

We all know that most class sizes are too big......a complaint that has long been said by teachers. The main reason why many kids end up in private schools, yet we keep increasing the size.

It has been documented that kids now have too much screen time from age 1 month into childhood......yet, tv manufacturers continue to make bigger and better tvs and push people to buy the big that a two year old watching almost disappears inside the box. Not to mention the amount of voices heard from the box, which is probably enough to mess up the brain.

When I regressed at 18 months, it was thought that my Dad's Navy experience was the reason, which would be environmental. He would go away on short cruises, and I would carry his picture everywhere with me. I lost ground in speech and toilet habits and pretty much withdrew from the world. I pulled my hair, sucked my thumb, and would not pay attention to my Dad as long as he was in his uniform. I also had three older half-sisters. A lot was going on in our house. Step relationships, teenagers, a nervous mother who had been widowed early before marrying my Dad. He had a previous family. Maybe something in me just said, hey, I don't want any part of it, I really don't know. My memories come from pictures (my Dad was a Navy Photographer). I have few memories before age 7.

I attended a preschool for retarded children at age 4 in the Tidewater area. I was in a class with other children with disabilities. Then we moved to Florida where I attended a small church kindergarten. Stop. In retrospect, I wish I would have gone to the church kindergarten for two years before moving on to first grade. I  was a December birthday and always felt younger and less mature than my peers. So, if a young child needs more time, do it. Give them that time. You won't have a chance like that later.

That is what is so frustrating about today's public schools: even our prek children don't play. I say that because kindergarten used to be connected to real play opportunities. Not anymore. We read and write sentences in kindergarten. We do addition and subtraction. Dolls and blocks have been banished. Puppets are a rare commodity. Assemblies are about behavior not enrichment.

As a special ed teacher, I have learned a great deal about what is children can only process small chunks of information at a time. Even my daughter, when she was a baby, could not grow teeth and learn to walk together. Each step had to be mastered individually. But she did, and mastered them well. In our present time, baby stores pound the need to get the babies up and walking asap by pushing the walker concept upon young parents. You need this is what they hear. You can't live without it. Yet, a child will walk when they are ready. A walker can develop leg muscles, true, but it does nothing for the cognitive connection a baby needs to be able to push himself up and get balanced. By doing it on his own, the brain, muscles, bones, and senses are working together. Set the child in a walker and those important connections may get lost.

So, take away the toys of yesteryear: our catalogs now only use a few pages to focus upon the kitchen centers, block areas, inside play units.....because, schools are abandoning this kind of learning. We don't need this. But what cognitive-physical connections are going to be missed if our children leap right into playing paper games at a table?

The child with one of the many autisms or apraxia, etc. can't always succeed if they miss all those important connections of childhood. People like Dr. Howard Gardner has proven the need for multi-sensory learning, but schools think this, I will buy you a rocking chair and that is our mult-sensory input. Now, on to our scripted can you be flexible and multi-sensory if you have to follow a script? Meanwhile, curriculum companies get rich.

I walk into a kindergarten room today, and see too much of a literacy environment......words from ceiling to floor....lists all over. If a child has trouble focusing, how is he going to focus here, on one thing?

Back to my childhood, I went to typical elementary school, was pulled out of class for speech through 2nd grade which I must have just hated cause I refused to return. I did speech finally in college with my teacher -speech pathologist who used the Lindamood method with me. Apparently, the Lindamoods were at Cal Poly when I was there.  It is a good program.

My Tourette Syndrome / TMJ probably began around age 8 when I began to have my first orthodontics fixtures in my mouth. Then in High School when the Dentist did orthodontics on my upper teeth but not my lower teeth which again probably messed up my mandibular joints causing pain and facial ticking.
Why do I tic, was what I sought, as I went to counselor after counselor seeking answers, and occasionally some weird medicine that would just knock me out. At that time, I knew nothing about Tourette Syndrome till a doctor diagnosed me sometime around 1991. He looked at me for 5 minutes and diagnosed me. HOW IS THAT POSSIBLE???

No connection or questions about jaws.......parents, ask questions. Make connections.....don't wait.

So now, I am getting Tourette help from an orthodontist......yet, insurance won't pay cause it concerns my mouth!......

Ok, I know, I am rambling here. I guess what I want to say is, don't give up. Live each day at a time. Enjoy your child. Push for more play. Speak up. Children with Autisms learn differently.....but they can learn. Realistically, every child does not have to be an ace scholar and attend Harvard. Some kids love cars and may grow up to be very good at fixing them, thank the Lord, cause that is something I am not good at. Pride can come from knowing when to turn that hamburger over. Many young parents don't even know how to cook anymore because we have lost that in our schools: the home economics, the sewing, the woodworking, the crafting.....the Waldorf  Schools encourage this kind of hands-on learning as essential to one's soul, but the public schools have abandoned it, preferring heads-on learning instead.

We must speak up for all the children.  We must save our schools.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I found this blog. I have read previously about a doctor who had special orthodontia devices made that literally stopped the tics from Tourette almost instantly. I was sorry to hear he was at the other end of the country.