Monday, December 31, 2012

The Puzzle of Autism

The following is a summary of the article. The full article can be found here.

Section 1 - What Teachers Need to Know

One thing that I feel are very important for a teacher to know about ASD from this section is that ASD includes the “individual’s ability to integrate sensory information and regulate their emotions.” As an educator it is very important to fully understand this. Unlike other children that have learned how to act appropriately in a social context, it is more difficult for a child with an ASD to learn appropriate behavior. Therefore, they may have outbursts in the class, which is often dealt with by the use of punishment. This is not fair to the child. Not only have they had a stressful situation that caused the outburst, but they have also been punished because they are stressed.

I feel that it is extremely important for a teacher to know the symptoms of ASD. These include: “lack of eye contact, lack of joint attention, lack of reciprocal conversation, and typical sensory/motor processing.” As an educator, if you do know these common symptoms of ASD, you may be lead to believe that the child is engaging in some sort of defiant behavior. Children with ASD are often disciplined because they don’t pay attention to the teacher. What may have actually happened is that the child was not making eye contact with the teacher and the teacher assumed he/she was daydreaming. Furthermore if a child is not interested in the subject of conversation, they may actually disengage themselves from the classroom. Also a teacher may also assume that a child is being defiant because they have not answered the teacher’s question. There are several things that a teacher must consider on this: 1. The child may have not understood a question was being asked. 2. The child may have not understood the context of the question being asked. 3. The child has not had enough time to process the answer to the question being asked. 4. The child may simply just not know the answer to the question being asked. In this case the child normally will not say they do not know the answer. Instead, they will rationalize their response as I don’t know the answer; therefore, I will not say anything at all. Finally, because of the poor sensory/motor processing, education is very exhausting and frustrating for children with ASD. The later in the day, the more apt the student is to being disruptive. These children are not bad children though they are often perceived that way since they do not understand appropriate behavior in a social context.

Section 2 - Features and strategies for intervention

As an educator it is very important to understand that the IEP has been put into place for a reason. The child’s previous teachers and parents are very valuable to the IEP process. Though an educator may have dealt with a child with ASD before, the same techniques may not benefit another child with ASD. Therefore, it is very important to understand if the IEP states the child needs a detailed schedule of the classroom routines, visual instructions, a stress free area, etc. for the student, the modification must be provided even if the teacher feels the modification is not warranted for the child’s age. In other words, children with ASD in the middle-high school setting may still need these modifications.

The most valuable tool for a student with ASD is organization. As an educator, the checklist can be very beneficial to: the teacher, the student with ASD and the other students in the classroom. Without the checklist, the teacher may have to take time to explain step-by-step routine instructions for the child with ASD on a daily basis. This can take time away from the material being learned, time away from the other students in the classroom, and be very embarrassing for the child with an ASD. These instructions must be broken down to the simplest terms and phrases such as, put your name on your paper, turn your paper in, sit down in your seat, etc. The teacher can also help the student by giving him sticky notes for their checklist when the routine is changed for the day. Furthermore, color-coding each subject is very beneficial to the student. The student should have folders, notebooks, crayons, markers, pencils, high-lighters all in the same color for each class.

Section 3 - Communication

As an educator, it is very important to know and understand that the communication skills of the child with ASD are not the same as other children. These children may have extensive vocabularies, but may not be able to explain to you what they mean. Many times when speaking to a child with ASD, they may stay on track during a conversation but suddenly add a word, phrase, or term that is way out in left field. Though we may not understand how the child got from point a to point b, they may understand. Therefore, an educator can ask the child to explain why he/she added that word or phrase.

Because a child with ASD has trouble with isolating important terms or information that is important for answering specific questions, the child may not do well on essay or short answer testing. Also, the way a question is worded or the complexity of a question can be very confusing for a child with ASD. To address this problem, it may be necessary for the teacher to break the question down into simpler terms for the child with ASD.

Section 4 - Sensory integration and regulation

In order to help a child with ASD in the classroom, the teacher may have to make accommodations and modifications to address difficulty with writing. If the child’s IEP recommends the use of an Alpha Smart, Neo, or Dana, the teacher must allow the use of the adaptive technology. If the teacher is unfamiliar with the technology, then they should contact their administrator and let them know they need training on the use of the equipment. There are other pieces of adaptive equipment that may be recommended as well such as: pencil grippers, mechanical pencils, markers, graph paper, and keyboards.

An essential modification for children with ASD is the shortened written assignments, and providing teacher prepared notes to the student. The reason that these are very important is that most children with ASD have deficient fine motor skills. Handwriting is a grueling, arduous task for the child. Therefore, their hands tend to cramp and the concentration required for writing is exhausting. If the child stops and refuses to finish the assignment, they are not being lazy or defiant, they are actually mentally tired and may not be able to continue.

Section 5 - Socialization/social skills

A teacher must understand that children with ASD do not understand many visual cues that occur in socialization. The child cannot guess the emotions of the person they are dealing with just by reading faces or body language. Therefore they may seem to act inappropriately in certain social situations. Furthermore, the failure to read and understand visual cues can also lead to the inability for the child to model such visual cues. For example, one way that a child with ASD may react in a stressful situation is they may smile or laugh instead of model uneasiness or embarrassment.

A child with ASD may not understand the conversation at hand. therefore they may gear the conversation toward their own key interest. In order to address this issue, educators may need to redirect the student. For instance, if the teacher is speaking about trains, but the student knows nothing about trains; the child may change the topic of conversation to dinosaurs. The teacher must be gentle in the way she addresses the child. Therefore, they may say “Wow, that is very interesting. However, we are currently speaking about trains. After we are done talking about trains, you can tell me something about dinosaurs.” This alleviates stress from the situation and gives the child a reason to stay on task. However, the teacher must remember to keep his/her end of the bargain, or the result could be an emotional outburst from the child with ASD.

Section 6 - Behavioral issues

Teachers must learn to recognize and understand that children with ASD may exhibit the following behaviors: ritualistic, compulsive, impulsive, stereotypic, aggression and inappropriate social interaction. These behaviors are often stress induced and can be very frustrating for the teacher. However, if he/she realizes the child is not trying to be bad, it will be easier for the teacher to calmly redirect the student.

Though most behaviors must be addressed, the behavior that requires immediate reaction from the teacher is aggression. This is not always exhibited as aggression toward others, but can be exhibited as self-injurious behaviors. The latter is normally the case. Because the child with ASD is considered a threat to himself and others, then the behavior must be immediately addressed. This can be done by the following: removing the stressor, restructure stressors, clearly indicate the specific task at hand, and provide clear and precise directions.

Section 7 - Restricted interests

Because children with ASD have interests that border on obsession, then they should be allowed to explore their interest at some time during the day. The teacher can either tie homework to the child’s interest, or give examples that include the child’s interest. If this is not applicable, then the teacher may have books in the classroom about the child’s interest and allow him/her quiet time during the day where they can read about their interest. This can enhance the child’s learning experience.

Another way to help the child with ASD get into a daily routine would be to allow him the beginning of the day to work on something that deals with his special interest. For instance, teachers can start the class out with 5-10 minutes of independent learning. Some suggestions are to have the child write something they find fascinating about the interest in a daily journal, have the child tell a peer about the interest, or start the class out with reading time. Toward the end of the independent learning period, the child should give a 1-2 minute warning that the class will be moving on to another task.

Section 8 - Future directions/research areas

Because the incidence of ASD is on the rise, the need for future research and funding is needed. research topics include:

characteristics of autism and associated research related to genetic markers and the cause or etiology of the disorder – according to the NIMH autism is carried on the same gene as ADHD and bipolar disorder;

screening protocols for early identification of children with the disorder – the earlier the child is diagnosed with ASD, the better;

identifying effective early intervention strategies – the earlier the child can begin specific therapies to help the child adapt to his/her environment, the more effective the therapies will be;

school and community interventions – the schools and teachers must be educated on how to deal and work with children with ASD; they must also understand how to control and manage the child’s behaviors;

specific treatments – because ASD are spectrum disorders, ASD will manifest in different ways in different individuals with ASD; what works for one child with ASD will not necessarily work on another, this includes medical;

neuroscience – children with ASD will generally have an underdeveloped frontal lobe; furthermore, children with ASD often have seizure disorders;

environmental factors – some families may have multiple family members with ASD while others may have only one case; therefore, it is unsure as to whether ASD is hereditary or not; furthermore, some areas may have more children with ASD per capita than others; therefore, it is unsure as to whether there are environmental factors;

epidemiology – just a few years ago the rate of children with ASD was 1 in 160; it has been recently reported that autism affects 1 in 150 children.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Critical Autism Spectrum Disorder Research Needed

There is a great need for more research on the cause and development of treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorders. In order for one to understand the need for research, one must first understand the affliction. All Autism Spectrum Disorder children experience problems in “1) social interaction 2) verbal and nonverbal communication and 3) repetitive behaviors or interests” (National) often called ‘key interests.’ These children do not follow normal patterns of development. Therefore, it may be possible to detect Autism Spectrum Disorders from birth. They tend to fall behind in communication skills and social skills with parents as well as strangers.

Fortunately, there is a checklist of possible indicators that were identified on the Public Health Training Network Webcast, Autism Among Us:

Possible indicators of Autism Spectrum Disorder:
  • does not babble, point, or make meaningful gestures by one year of age
  • does not speak one word by sixteen months
  • does not combine two words by two years
  • does not respond to name
  • loses language or social skills
Some other indicators:
  • poor eye contact
  • doesn’t seem to know how to play with toys
  • excessively lines up toys or other objects
  • doesn’t smile
  • at times seems to be hearing impaired (National)
Autism Spectrum Disorder is more common in children than diabetes, spinal bifida, and Down Syndrome. Yet, less is heard about Autism Spectrum Disorder. It is estimated that there are two to six per one thousand children affected with the disorder. Therefore, there is a great need for earlier testing. It is common for parents, teachers, and even doctors to overlook Autism Spectrum Disorder because they may feel the child is just a little behind. As with any other medical problem, the earlier the diagnosis, the earlier the treatment can begin. Thus, the sooner the treatment can begin the better the outcome of the child.

Percentages of people afflicted with Autism Spectrum Disorder have recently been on the rise. For instance, in California alone, “autistic disorders has nearly quadrupled since 1987, rising 15 percent in the past three months alone” (Cowley 48) and nationally the percentage “rose by 556 percent during the ‘90s.” (Cowley 48). Because of the steady rise of people diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, there is a sense of urgency for a possible cause and cure.

Autism Spectrum Disorders can usually be detected before age three and are sometimes detected as early as eighteen months. Parents usually are the first to notice the strange behavior in their child. I, myself, am a mother of a child diagnosed with this disorder. Damien fit all of the criteria on the above checklist. Like Damien, several Autism Spectrum Disorder children will begin life normally and suddenly withdraw or become silent. Some will even begin to hurt themselves. Pervasive Developmental Disorder or Autism Spectrum Disorder will range from autistic disorder to Asperger Syndrome. The autistic spectrum is a very large spectrum spanning from low functioning to high functioning autism. Low functioning individuals are often institutionalized and unable to live in society. However, those who are high functioning are able to adapt and perform well in society.

It has been speculated that a few well-known cultural icons in history may have been afflicted with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Though many feel they were odd and eccentric, Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, and Andy Warhol all were able to adapt to society. Dr. Tony Attwood believes all of these men were long-time sufferers of Autism Spectrum Disorder. While speaking of writer Val Paradiz, Attwood states, “In her memoir, Elijah’s Cup, she theorizes that Andy Warhol, Albert Einstein, and the late comedian Andy Kaufman all suffered from Asperger’s Syndrome.” (87) These three men had many of the same pitfalls that other sufferers of Autism Spectrum Disorder face on a daily basis. These people have many difficulties in engaging “in the give-and-take of everyday human interaction.” (National) They may not mutually relate socially and evade eye contact. They may seem awkward and tend to be loners. Autism Spectrum Disorder children tend to pull away when is doted on. They prefer to not be snuggled and rarely seek solace in stressful situations. Parents have a hard time being able to tell when the child is being affectionate. On the other hand, the children have a hard time distinguishing emotion from others. Because it is hard for them to be able to read faces, they have a difficult time telling whether or not a person is angry, happy, sad, playing, or in pain. Damien often asks me, “Momma, are you happy or sad.” To make matters worse, it is difficult for those with Autism Spectrum Disorder to be able to see things from others’ points of views. These people may also have trouble controlling their emotions. They frequently are disruptive in social situations. They can have a tendency to be physically aggressive. After all of these problems are added together, these people generally find themselves with very few social relationships.

Though the common behaviors of Autism Spectrum Disorder have been identified, there is great uncertainty of a specific cause. Theories on causes range from absolutely absurd to very possible. One such theory is that, “…researchers have found abnormalities in brain structure and function in individuals with autism that may be the result of severe infections during early infancy such as celiac disease, phenylktonuria, encephalitis, meningitis, and tuberous sclerosis; illnesses in the mother such as rubella or cytomegalovirus; or chemical exposure during pregnancy.” (“Autism” 83) Many other researchers have related Autism Spectrum Disorder to Fragile X syndrome. These researchers state that “if a child with ASD also has Fragile X, there is a one-in-two chance that boys born to the same parents will have the syndrome.” (National) Dr. Andrew Wakefield of Britain has other ideas about the cause of Autism Spectrum Disorder. He believes there may be a link between the measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccination and Autism Spectrum Disorder. Though many parents agree with his study, there is still great controversy due to his findings. However, “Wakefield himself continues to stand by his research…" (“Autism Study”) As stated before, chemicals used to benefit expectant mothers may actually cause harm to the fetus. As Cowley states, “Dr. Eric Hollander of New York’s Mount Sinai School of Medicine noticed several years ago that 60 percent of the autistic patients in his clinic had been exposed in the womb to pitocin, the synthetic version of a brain chemical (oxytocin) that helps induce labor. “ (52) I feel this may be the cause of Damien’s Autism Spectrum Disorder. My delivery with my son was induced. This included the use of a pitocin drip for a period of twenty-nine and a half-hours before Damien was born. Unfortunately, there is not enough research on the correlation of the use of pitocin and Autism Spectrum Disorder to stop the potential harm to other fetuses. For a matter of fact, there is not enough research on Autism Spectrum Disorders to neither support nor debunk any of these theories. There are many other possible causes of this disorder as well, such as environmental factors. Specific areas of the world have higher percentages of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder that other areas. Until a true cause can be established, a cure cannot be found.

Though there is no cure for Autism Spectrum Disorder, the problem can be treated. It can take years for doctors to find the right cocktail of medications for the treatment. In our case, doctors have been trying to find the right mix of medications for Damien for over four years to date. Many different diagnoses can coincide with Autism Spectrum Disorder; therefore many different medications may be given at once. Often people with this disorder are also diagnosed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or impulse control problems such as Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Others are diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, Audio Processing Delays, Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, and Generalized Anxiety Disorders, just to name a few. It is also common for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder to develop seizure disorders, as is the case with Damien. All of these disorders are just a handful that Damien has been diagnosed with over the last 7 ½ years. In order to treat these problems, “Tranquilizers and antidepressants can help ease the anxiety and compulsiveness that autism causes, and stimulants such as Ritalin can help affected kids shift their attention more easily. But no medication can correct the disorder itself, and none is likely to take the place of intensive schooling.” (Cowley 52) Because of this, children may have to take many different medications at one time. Parents do not like to see their children on so many medications with many possible, harmful side effects. I know that I do not. Damien is only nine years old and must take seven different medications daily so that he can function properly. He must endure an over abundance of stressful blood tests as well.

The need for more research and a cure is very great. Autism Spectrum Disorder affects many children that cannot distinguish fantasy from reality, right from wrong, happy from sad, and pain from comfort. With more research, these children could live more healthy, happy, and ordinary lives.

Works Cited

Attwood, Dr. Tony. “Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, and Andy Warhol: The Controversial Disorder They May Have Shared.” Biography Magazine. Dec. 2003: 86-88,114.

“Autism.” ASHA. May 1994: 83.

“Autism Study Branded ‘Poor Science’.”  Reuters. 23 Feb. 2004 <>

Cowley, Geoffrey. “Understanding Autism.” Newsweek. 31 July 2000: 46-54.

National Institute of Mental Health. Autism Spectrum Disorders (Pervasive Developmental Disorders). <>

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Damienism #38

"I don't understand why so many people are spending so much time and money looking for a cure. To be cured means that you have a disease or you're sick. I'm not sick."

~ Damien A. Brown

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)


ODD is a psychiatric disorder that is characterized by two different sets of problems. These are aggressiveness and a tendency to purposefully bother and irritate others. It is often the reason that people seek treatment. When ODD is present with ADHD, depression, anxiety disorders, or other neuropsychiatric disorders, it makes life with that child far more difficult. For Example, ADHD plus ODD is much worse than ADHD alone, often enough to make people seek treatment.


A pattern of negativistic, hostile, and defiant behavior lasting at least six months.

  1. Often loses temper
  2. often argues with adults
  3. often actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
  4. often deliberately annoys people
  5. often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
  6. is often touchy or easily annoyed by others
  7. is often angry and resentful
  8. is often spiteful and vindictive

The disturbance in behavior causes clinically significant impairment in social functioning.


Has occurred at all during the last three months-

5. blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehavior
8. is spiteful and vindictive

Occurs at least twice a week-

1. loses temper
2. argues with adults
3. actively defies or refuses to comply with adults' requests or rules
6. is touchy or easily annoyed by others

Occurs at least four times per week-

4. deliberately annoys people
7. is angry and resentful


No one knows for certain. The usual pattern is for problems to begin between ages 1-3.


ODD is diagnosed in the same way as many other psychiatric disorders in children. Sometimes other medical tests are necessary to make sure it is not something else. It is common the children with ODD will have other problems, too.


A lot of children! This is the most common psychiatric problem in children. Over 5% of children have this.


It is exceptionally rare for a physician to see a child with only ODD. Usually the child has some other neuropsychiatric disorder along with ODD


If a child comes to a clinic and is diagnosed with ADHD, about 30-40% of the time the child will also have ODD."

I have included only information that pertains to Damien. Click here for more information on ODD.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Tragedy In The U.S.

My mind was still reeling from the local news reports Friday  morning. On Thursday morning, local business man drew a gun on police officers that resulted in his death. I responded by saying, "This can't be happening here. Not in this town. You hear about this kind of thing happening in larger cities, but not here." The more I thought about it, I realized that it does happen here; and we have been directly affected by it.

Several years back, a gang war erupted in our small city. A young mentally disabled child was killed by gunfire, and the war grew out of hand. My husband and I were shopping with the children in the local mall when the battle came to it's peak. There was fighting, and guns and knives were being waved around as we tried to protect our boys. The stores closed their doors locking us amidst the violent altercation. All my husband and I could do to protect our boys was back them into a corner and shield them with our bodies. Officers soon got the skirmish under control, and we were directed out of the mall. I never realized until now, that it was a good two years before I would walk through those mall doors once again.

Though it was a horrifying experience, I never thought that I would hear of a person shooting at police officers in my town. But, it did happen, and the result was the loss of the life to the local business man along with the discovery of 131 firearms and 63,000 rounds of ammunition. The gunman's family members are in mourning, and the officer who had been left with little choice but to fire back is undergoing the required treatment for officers that take a life. Two families are in turmoil because of this needless altercation.

My mind was still reeling about the battle that ensued on the other side of the freeway from my home. I thought of how lucky we are to be safe from gun violence when the news broke about Newtown, Connecticut. I cannot begin to imagine how the parents must feel. As I watched the news in terror, tears flowed freely from my eyes. Those poor innocent babies, teachers, and faculty ~ Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, and Allison N. Wyatt.

Today, the news is still engrossed with coverage for the horrifying massacre. My heart aches for the family and friends of the children and faculty of the small school, as it aches for the family and friends of the gunman. We could never understand what drove him to draw one of his four guns on the students and teachers ending their lives. What traumatic event did this young man undergo to make him feel the need to take the lives of others? It was recently released he was the victim of bullying at a school he attended. Could this be the reason for his mental anguish?

I am further horrified at the probable repercussions toward children and adults with autism due to guessing game the media is irresponsibly playing about the possible mental health issues the gunman may or may not have had. I have extensively researched, bipolar disorder, ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), and Reactive Attachment Disorders (RAD) both in University and through my employment as a Child Protective Services Investigator. Each of these four disorders are often misdiagnosed, meaning a person with these disorders exhibit traits with another one of these disorders. I find it hard to believe that this man had an ASD, as children with an ASD are less likely to be violent toward other people. For a matter of fact, most people with an ASD are likely to be law abiding citizens and have a need to follow laws and rules.

If people with autism do exhibit violent tendencies, it is more likely to be in the form of a self-injurious behavior or an INSTANTANEOUS outburst due to SUDDEN frustration and stress. They are not likely to plan out a violent event. The truth is, no one is certain whether this man had any of these disorders because diagnoses can be incorrect; but it is more likely that it would have been a disorder that a symptom is a risk taking behavior such as ADHD, RAD, or bipolar disorder. I want to make it quite clear that I am not saying all people with these disorders are dangerous. Anyone, even people with no history of mental illness or mental health issues, can snap, just as they all can be perfectly fine.

My fears are founded as my son with autism has worked so hard throughout his life to be accepted, and now, we fear that people are going to treat him like there is something wrong with him because of the media's quick response to put the blame off on autism. Just to think that all of these 17 years of hard work for my son could be all taken away because of one man's actions and the media's misrepresentation of autism breaks my heart.

Regardless, it is clear that something is very wrong with this country. While I was learning of our local gunfire incident, I also learned of the mall shooting in Oregon, where Cindy Ann Yuille and Steven Forsyth lost their lives. Then, of course there is the Newton incident on Friday. Saturday, California was rocked by the gunfire at an open air mall where twenty shots were fired in the air luckily not hitting anyone. Sunday night, two police officers, Corporal David Gogian and Jeff Atherly, were shot in the head and killed by a gunman in the parking lot of a grocery store in Kansas. This shooter has lost his life in another standoff with police officers in Topeka, Kansas. In November, a thirteen year old girl, Lourdes Guzman, was shot and killed in front of her seven year old sister on a private school bus in Florida.

We, as a country, still have not healed from the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin where Bhai Seeta Singh, Bhai Parkash Singh, Bhai Ranjit Singh, Satwant Singh Kaleka, Subegh Singh, and Parmjit Kaur Toor lost their lives. We still have not healed from the Aurora theater shooting where Jonathon Blunk, Alexander "AJ" Boik, Jessie Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, Rebecca Wingo, and the unborn child of Ashley Moser lost their lives, as well as the numerous people injured (Petra Anderson, Adan Avila, Brandon Axelrod, Tony Billipando, Christina Blanche, Maria Carbonell, Alejandra Cardona-Lamas, Louis Duran, Craig Enlund, Alex Expinoza, Jacqueline Fry, Yousef Gharbi, Zachary Golditch, Munirah Gravelly, Eugene Han, Jay Jenkins, Bonnie Kate, Jasmine Kennedy, Marcus Kizzar, Patricia Legaretta, Brenton Lowak, Ryan Lumba, Caleb Medley, Ashley Moser, Stephen Moton, Joshua Nowlan, Pierce O'Farrill, Prodeo Patria, Rita Paulina, Christopher Rapoza, Carli Richards, Dion Roseborough, Carey Rottman, Lucas Smith, Heather Snyder, Ferrah Soudana, Catherine Streib, Jamison Toews, Denise Traynom-Axelrod, Marcus Weaver, Michael White, David Williams, Allie Young, Jansen Young, Samantha Yowler, Gage Hankins, Mckayla Hicks, Stephen Barton, Nickelas Gallup, Evan Farris, Jennifer Avila, Jarrell Brooks, Amanda Hernandez-Memije, Kelly Lewis, Bonnie Pourcian, Anggiat Mora, Ethan Rohrs, and Nathan Juranek).

These are only a few of the violent shootings that have rocked our country and ripped at the hearts of mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, and friends country wide. I have no answers as to what should be done. I have no clue what motivates people to take the lives of innocent people. I do know that all of the people who have fell victim to such violence need to be remembered because once we realize that this could have been us, and it could be our families suffering, then, and only then, can we do something to attempt to end the violence.

Original Poem by Isha Jade

Facts About Autism:

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (NIV Matthew 19:14)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Bullying in Headstart

Originally posted on April 16, 2001

"Damien got his hand smashed with a shovel at school!

I have had many talks with the teacher about Damien being picked on at school. I do realize that he is different and may bring some of this on himself. However, I am tired of him getting beat up on a daily basis. He is only five years old and in Headstart! I went to the principal's office this morning and explained to her what is going on. I told her that I DO NOT send my child to school to be unsupervised. I just want him to be safe!

Damien has run off from school twice and nobody noticed! Enough is enough. I have been up there twice during recess to look for him.

Damien had an appointment, so I went to pick him up. The teachers were all in a little huddle talking and did not know where he was. I had to go find him. This was one of the times he was missing. He was outside of the fence looking for ladybugs.

Damien has stated to me that every time he gets hurt, it is on the playground. He says he tells the teacher, but she does nothing. When I picked him up on Friday, his finger was very swollen, black, and infected. He has been on anti-biotics every since. The teacher thought that since he did not cry, it was not serious. I have told her numerous times that he doesn't cry, even when he is hurt. He hasn't cried in a very, very long time.

When I arrived to pick the kids up from school, the teachers seemed upset with me for talking to the principal. What else was I supposed to do? They are obviously not doing any thing about it."

Over the years, we have had to deal with consistent bullying like this. What breaks my heart is that it has been going on since Damien first started school. We are currently in Damien's thirteenth year of school, and the bullying has not stopped. For a matter of fact, Damien was recently targeted by a child with firecrackers that were thrown at his head, and he has had milk thrown on him after teachers learned that the girls (yes, I said girls) in his Bible class had set Damien up to be kicked out of the class. They told him to tell the teacher a dirty joke. He did not understand or recognize the words in the joke, so he told the teacher the joke. It was after Damien was suspended that the truth came out, and the mark was removed from his permanent record.

Well, I hate that the bullying has not stopped back. It did stop once, and that is when he was in middle school. Damien became so angry from being bullied in gym that he punched the locker. When he did, the locker dented. Although the boys did not bully Damien and Dylan for the remainder of the year, I found myself at the end of another heated discussion with the principal, who warned me that next time he will make us pay for a new locker. I responded that I feel I am not responsible for the damage to the locker, that the principal, himself, was responsible. I told him that I am sick and tired of him telling me, "If we do something about the bullying, the bullying will just get worse." This was not the first time that we heard this. We had also heard it from the three different elementary schools that my boys attended.

Unfortunately, the bullying has extended over the years to Dylan as well. It has put a strain on the relationship between the two brothers. Dylan has difficulty with Damien's foibles, and he does get embarrassed from time to time. Sometimes, I have to remind him that the behaviors stem from Damien's autism, and I also help him recognize how Damien has grown and matured over the years.

I do agree with Dylan that it is not fair that people pick on him because his brother is non-typical. Being the sibling of an non-typical sister myself, I can totally relate to how Dylan feels. But, as a mother of a child with autism, I do not feel it is fair that Damien is treated the way that he is either, nor is it fair to DJ and me.

Bullying affects all of us, and we all have to remember that no matter how difficult it is for us, we have no clue as to how it effects Damien. It is difficult for him, especially when he realizes that he was set up or taken advantage of. With that being said, I am very proud that Damien has decided that he is okay with his eccentricities and has decided that he will be himself now and try not to worry about what other people think of him.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Autism Is A World Video

Autistic does not mean mental retardation. Susie was thought to be mentally retarded with the age equivalency of 2.5 years old. This misconception about individuals with autism is common. However, once Susie learned to communicate, her IQ level was well above average. She graduated high school after taking and passing the regular education classes. Susie is now in her Junior year of college as a history major.

Some people with autism will have to have support, and this video demonstrates what a support system to an individual with autism may look like. Susie has an entire 24-hour support team that works with her. She lives across the street from her psychologist. Jeanine is her support system coordinator. Ashlin helps her take notes at school and prepare for school. Danny is her "outlet for fun," or buddy. Lisanne helps her by working on presentations. Sue also receives support from her parents. Susie states that even though she has autism, she has never felt alone. Each person in Susie's support group also makes sure that her basic needs for survival are met.

What facilitated communication is and how it works. Facilitated communication is the use of adaptive technology and intensive training from a facilitator. When Susie first used the keyboard, her progress was very slow. She stated though, “as I began to type, my mind began to wake up.” She now is able to communicate with other people, but still requires a little assistance. Susie states that she will always need others in her life in order to communicate.

How does Sue explain how autism feels? Susie starts of telling us that it is difficult for a person who does not have autism to understand what autism is like. She says she feels “lost in some way.” She can be self-abusive and it is explained that this is an urge that cannot be controlled. She retreats into her own world. Susie carries spoons with her because they are her comfort. She uses water in order to blank her mind. Susie enjoys going to the racetrack because she can blend in with everyone else. When she is in class, Susie explains that it takes every ounce of energy to sit still for such a long period of time. Susie later explains that autism is not a “social way of life.” Furthermore, to Susie, emotions are the most difficult to talk about.

There are still many unknowns about autism. Autism has something to do with the way the brain is wired. Some parts of the brain may work extremely well while others do not. Nobody knows why this happens. The use of items for comfort cannot be explained either, not even by Susie.

"'Araid' is a country with no exit visa."

~ Audre Lorde

Monday, December 3, 2012

Why We Don't Support Autism Speaks

There is an Autism Extravaganza in our area every year as well as the Autism Speaks walk. Autism Speaks hosts the Extravaganza, and all of the local advocacy groups are tied to Autism Speaks in one way or the other. My son and I used to go to these every year until the year they had gotten Temple Grandin to speak. We never heard anything negative through Autism Speaks up until then.

The local mother they had to speak started speaking about how hard it is to be a mother of a child with autism, and how she can't go anywhere are do anything because of her child's behaviors. Her child was supposed to be high functioning. My son started writing in my notebook about how bad of a mother the woman must be. He wrote that it sounded to him like the mother hates her child. I agreed with him.

When my son was diagnosed at 16 months of age, he was low-functioning. It was very difficult for us, but we got compliments from people when we were in public about how well behaved both of my toddlers were. I could take them in public because they were never treated any different than one another. They knew to not act up in public because they knew that if they didn't I would take them home, and we were often at a place that they wanted to be at. I thought about how the mother must have not disciplined her child at all. I didn't realize that I was not the only person that felt that way.

When Temple Grandin got up to speak, she stated very early in the speech that the biggest problem with many parents of children with autism is how many of them refuse to discipline their children in any way shape or form, and that is why many of the children with autism act up in public. She also stated that the parents often spend too little time with their children with autism, and due to that, the parents did not know the triggers that make their children act up, and that leads to undesired behaviors.

For us, I always knew the triggers, and the biggest one is that my son cannot deal with really crowded places. Instead of shopping at Wal-Mart, where it is super, super busy, we shop at K-Mart or Hastings, where it is relatively uncrowded and busy. Any place that is super loud, such as Mr. Gatti's are places that we do not go. Instead, we go to Pizza Hut and then to the dime arcade, which is less crowded. This has always helped us, and is probably why my son has never acted in public.

Dr. Grandin also spoke about how her mother was more like me. Having autism does not mean no discipline. Unfortunately, I have a lot of friends with children with autism, and it is about 50/50 with whose children act up. Those that are unruly are never disciplined and are allowed to act improperly in public. Those that are well behaved are disciplined, have a structured schedule, and are very, very happy children.

Later, Dr. Grandin spoke how she dislikes Autism Speaks. She stated, "I have been listening to you talk about how all of your money goes to trying to find a cure for autism, when you should be spending the money on funding transition centers for children who have autism. Children with autism becomes adults with autism, and in order to be productive members of society, transition services are in great need." I never thought about it that way.

Needless to say, my son was enthralled with Dr. Grandin. He listened to every single word, and agreed whole-heartedly with her. He wrote in my book, "I don't like that they are looking for a cure, and to have a cure means that the person is sick. I'm not sick. I'm autistic."

My son and I have not attended another autism walk for Autism Speaks, and we have not attended another Autism Extravaganza because the funds raised go to autism speaks. Instead, we do fund raising for places like the Autism Society of America, who spend their funds on transition services for people with autism. Autism Speaks will never sit right with me again.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Damienism #23

"No, Momma, I don't have a cold. I'm quite warm thank you."

(He looks at words depending on their literal meaning. At the time, he only new cold as being a physical state of being and not an illness. Therefore, when I asked him if he had a cold, this was his response.)

COBPD (Childhood Onset Bipolar Disorder)

"All those with bipolar disorder experience mood swings that alternate from periods of sever highs (mania) to severe lows (depression). However, while these abnormally intense moods usually last for weeks or months in adults with the illness, children with bipolar disorder can experience such rapid mood swings that they commonly cycle many times within a day. The most typical pattern of cycling among those with COBPD, called ultra-ultra rapid or ultradian, is most often associated with low arousal states in the mornings followed by increases in energy towards late afternoon or evening.

COBPD is usually inherited." I do have a family member with bipolar disorder.

"Many parents report that their children have seemed different since early infancy. They describe difficulty settling their babies, and they note that their children are easily over-responsive to sensory stimulation. Sleep disturbances and night terrors are also commonly reported.

Later in a child's development, hyperactivity, fidgetiness, difficulties making changes and high levels of anxiety (particularly in response to separation from the child's mother) are commonly seen. Additionally, being easily frustrated, having difficulty controlling anger, and impulsiveness (difficulty waiting one's turn, interrupting others) often result in prolonged and violent temper tantrums.*

Rarely does bipolar disorder in children occur by itself. Rather, it is often accompanied by clusters of symptoms that, when observed at certain points of the child's life, suggest other psychiatric disorders such as ADHD, OCD, ODD, and conduct disorder.**

An estimated 50% to 80% of those with COBPD have ADHD as a co-occurring diagnosis. Since stimulant medications often prescribed for ADHD have been known to escalate the mood and behavior fluctuations in those with COBPD, it is important to address the bipolar disorder before the ADHD in such cases.

Several studies have reported that more than 80% of children who go on to develop COBPD have five or more of the primary symptoms of ADHD - distractibility, lack of attention to details, difficulty following through on tasks or instructions, motor restlessness, difficulty waiting one's turn and interrupting or intruding upon others."

I included information that only pertains to Damien. If you would like more information on COBPD click here.

Researched via D.F. and J.D. Papolos

If you feel that you may have a loved one that is bipolar (manic depressive), here are some signs to look for.

"Symptoms of a depressive episode:

  1. depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day, as indicated by either subjective report (e.g., feels sad or empty) or observation made by others (e.g., appears tearful). Note: In children and adolescents, can be irritable mood.
  2. markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day (as indicated by either subjective account or observation made by others)
  3. significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain (e.g., a change of more than 5% of body weight in a month), or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day. Note: In children, consider failure to make expected weight gains.
  4. insomnia or hypersomnia nearly every day
  5. psychomotor agitation or retardation nearly every day (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down)
  6. fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day
  7. feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt (which may be delusional) nearly every day (not merely self-reproach or guilt about being sick)
  8. diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day (either by subjective account or as observed by others)
  9. recurrent thoughts of death (not just fear of dying), recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide***

Symptoms of a Manic Episode:

  1. inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  2. decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  3. more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  4. flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  5. distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
  6. increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  7. excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., engaging in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)

Symptoms for a Hypomanic Episode

  1. inflated self-esteem or grandiosity
  2. decreased need for sleep (e.g., feels rested after only 3 hours of sleep)
  3. more talkative than usual or pressure to keep talking
  4. flight of ideas or subjective experience that thoughts are racing
  5. distractibility (i.e., attention too easily drawn to unimportant or irrelevant external stimuli)
  6. increase in goal-directed activity (either socially, at work or school, or sexually) or psychomotor agitation
  7. excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences (e.g., the person engages in unrestrained buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or foolish business investments)"

*Damien has been witnessed doing all of these things.

**Damien has been diagnosed with all of these disorders.

***Damien was, at one time,  considered suicidal. His counselors, psychologists, and doctors all feel he is a threat to himself . Damien has often stressed to us that everyone would be happier if he were dead. He has tried to overdose on medication, walk out into traffic, and threatened to burn the house down. I made the mistake, before any diagnoses, of telling him when he drank some mouth wash, "If you drink anything like that, medicine, cleaners, whatever; you could die." I didn't know that I was giving him ideas and feel guilt for this.

With that being said, Damien is much more in control of his moods and behaviors than what he was when he was young. Though he often has suicidal thoughts, he has learned to go for a walk to cool down. He understands that getting away from the problem and thinking about his options does help. He also understands that we would be hurt and sad if he is gone, and he has said that he doesn't want to hurt us. This diagnosis has been since removed by Damien's psychiatrist, as she believes the behaviors were not due to Bipolar disorder but more related to the difficulty in effectively expressing himself.

Friday, November 30, 2012


Many people do not realize that most children with autism may also have a seizure disorder. Back when we first moved to Texas, we had difficulty getting professionals to diagnose Damien's autism. Though he had been diagnosed at 16 months of age in Indiana, the diagnosis was not accepted in Texas. Therefore, we had to go through all of Damien's testing all over again. I guess the professionals in Texas thought, at the time, that autism does not cross state lines with the child.

Actually, after going to school, I realize what was going on. Diagnoses through the school districts do change crossing state lines. Different tests are done as determined by the state's education agency. Furthermore, the ages as to which the diagnoses can be given change. Because Damien was younger than seven years of age, the state would not recognize his autism. Therefore, the doctors in the state were reluctant to give us the diagnosis we had begun with. Now, that autism is on the rise, and we have become aware that early diagnosis is key, the rules have changed.

It was while we were going through these tests, that we discovered Damien's seizure disorder. Below are the posts from when we first learned of Damien's petit-mal epilepsy. They range from May 10, 2001 to June 14, 2001.

May 10, 2001
I had Damien at his counselor's office just a few minutes ago. Damien came in while we were talking and kind of zoned out. The counselor tried to get his attention, but couldn't. Damien all of the sudden got up like nothing ever happened, but he was wet. The counselor thinks he may have had a petit-mal seizure. We got Damien a doctor’s appointment set up for 10:30 in the morning.

May 12, 2001
At Damien's doctor's appointment yesterday, we found out that he did have a seizure. The doctor asked how long he has been staring of into space like that. I told him that he has every since he was an infant. He asked me why I did not inform him of this. I told him that I told Damien's previous doctors and they told me it was just Damien's way of tuning me out. They said it was not anything serious. The doctor thinks now that everything seems to be tied in together. He said that the memory loss, wetting, and aggressiveness might be very well caused by whatever is causing the seizures. The doctor seems to think now that Damien may not have Asperger's Disorder, ADHD or COBPD. That is kind of a relief, but also kind of scary to since we don't know what is causing this.

When Damien was a baby, I noticed that he would stare off into space and then just come back. He only did this once, maybe twice a month. Then in late September of 1997 Damien had a high fever which caused a Grand Mal seizure. Then it became more frequent to where it was every week, then every day. Now, since March, it has been more than once a day. He is up to doing this four or five times a day that we have noticed, maybe more. Apparently, everything has begun to progress at a very fast rate, and most likely will not slow down or stop progressing.

The doctor has scheduled a MRI and EEG for May 17, 2001 at 8:45 a.m. The results for these tests won't be in until about 1 to 1 ½ weeks later. The doctor is got Damien in to see a neurologist sooner than July. He will be seeing him on May 15, 2001 at 3:00. I don't know how long it will take to get the results back on this testing.

May 15, 2001
Damien had his appointment with the neurologist today. The neurologist wants to do additional testing. He said he is almost certain that Damien is Autistic. He said, "However, it could be much worse." He said there are signs of other problems as well. He also said that there are petit-mal seizures, and they are not related to the other problems. He was totally disturbed by the thought that Damien's previous doctors did no testing whatsoever on Damien. We won't begin new medication until after the MRI and EEG scheduled on Thursday. I am so glad that I am finally getting answers.

May 17, 2001
Damien had his MRI and EEG done. We are still waiting for the results. During the EEG, the technician printed up a page just for Damien to show to everyone. He pulls it out and asks people, "Do you wanna see my brain?" He had four seizures yesterday. He seems so out of it. I cannot wait till we can find out what exactly is going on.

June 6, 2001
I have forgotten how difficult it is to care for Damien all day now that school is out. We finally have a definite diagnosis for him. He has PDDNOS (pervasive developmental disorder non-specific). In English, they don't really know what the hell is wrong with him. I have been doing quite a bit of research on all of his diagnosis's and found many similarities with these and Damien's behavior. I am going to use my next few blogs to relate to everyone my findings in my research.

June 11, 2001
We were told today that Damien has epilepsy. I am to take him to see his neurologist on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. I hope it is not too serious.

June 13, 2001
Every day becomes more and more of a struggle with Damien. I have not been able to get him to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning for the last four nights. No, I am not letting him stay up that late. I start telling him to go to bed around 9:30 to 10:00. Around 10:30, I have to physically put him in his bed. He still gets up. This goes on for about an hour or sometimes two. We argue until I cannot argue about it any more. I just end up turning off all of the lights and going to bed myself. This is where our second argument begins. He has started wanting to sleep with me again. He has been wetting himself so much, I will not let him. The Desmopression does not seem to work anymore to stop this. When all is quite, Damien tries to sneak in bed with me. He finally told me that he is afraid that the bugs are going to eat him. I told him that we don't have bugs that eat people; just crickets and a few rollie pollies. I am beginning to fear for him. I am really nervous about where this all is heading. His fears are getting too great for me to even begin to understand. He often screams real loud in a shrill voice like he is being hurt badly. I feel the neighbors are beginning to think there is abuse in the home. Some have actually made comments. I wish there were more I could do for him. I am living my life on my last nerve. I am never going to give up on Damien. I just wish I could get him to help me understand. "I love you, Damien!"

June 14, 2001
Today was the big appointment at the neurologist. We haven't found anything out, but that he definitely does have epilepsy. He has been put on Tegratol and I had to buy him one of those medical alert necklaces. The neurologist did say that it was a problem, from what he can tell, from birth. He said that the neurons in his brain are like a computer that has been wired wrong. I am kind of sickened, however, that it has taken so long for the test results to come in.

The neurologist told me that the reason Damien has regressed and started forgetting things is due to each and every seizure causes damage to the brain. He said that Damien is consistently in seizure mode while he is sleeping. The neurologist seems to believe this is why Damien is wetting the bed every night. He said that since Damien wets himself each time he has a seizure, that is most likely what is going on. I just pray the medication helps.

Though the journal entries are from years ago, seizures had been persistent throughout Damien's life. We say that we have been seizure free since Damien was 12, but we cannot be certain if that is the case. What I can say is that Damien has been on seizure medication to help with his headaches and mood swings, so it is quite possible that the seizure disorder is still there. It is possible that the medication is just preventing the seizures. Whatever the case, I can say, for sure, that I am glad he is progressing, and the seizures are not preventing him from doing so.

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Pervasive Development Disorder Non-Specific

Deficits in Social Behavior

"Some infants with PDDNOS tend to avoid eye contact and demonstrate little interest in the human voice. They do not usually put up their arms to be picked up in the way typical children do. They may seem indifferent to affection and seldom show facial responsiveness. As a result, parents often think the child is deaf. In children with few delays, lack of social responsiveness may not be obvious until well into the second or third year of life." Damien was never what you would call a clingy child unless he was very sleepy or sleeping. We had to teach Damien what emotions were. We often felt that Damien may have a hearing problem. We had him tested and he passed with a 98% on his hearing test. This lead to speech therapy. Now he knows when he is supposed to laugh, smile and cry, however, you can tell it is not sincere. He laughs because others are laughing , he smiles because others smile first and he cries because he knows he is supposed to but there are never tears.

"In early childhood, children with PDDNOS may continue to show a lack of eye contact, but they may enjoy a tickle or may passively accept physical contact. They do not develop typical attachment behavior, and there may seem to be a failure to bond. Generally, they do not follow their parents about the house. The majority does not show normal separation or stranger anxiety. These children may approach a stranger almost as readily as they do their parents many such children show a lack of interest in being with or playing with other children they may even actively avoid other children. A lack of response to other people's interest and emotions, as well as a lack of understanding of humor, often results in these youngsters saying or doing things that can slow the development of friendships." When you hug Damien, he does not hug back. When tickled, he doesn't laugh and very seldom does he even crack a smile. The scariest thing about his behavior is he will talk to anyone even if he has not ever met him or her before. He knows no stranger. No matter how much we try to teach him not to talk to strangers, he does anyway. Damien will only play with other children when prompted to. Children often will not play with Damien because they feel he is rude and odd.

Impairment in Nonverbal Communication

"In early childhood, children with PDDNOS may develop the concrete gesture of pulling adults by the hand to the object that is wanted. They often do this without the typical accompanying facial expression. They seldom nod or shake their heads to substitute for or to accompany speech. Children with PDDNOS generally do not participate in games that involve imitation. They are less likely than typical children to copy their parents' activity.

Some children do develop imitative play, but this tends to be repetitive.

Generally, children with PDDNOS are able to show joy, fear, or anger, but they may only show the extreme of emotions. They often do not use facial expressions that ordinarily show subtle emotion." We are lucky if we get any kind of emotion out of Damien.

Impairment in Understanding Speech

"Children who have less severe impairments may follow simple instructions if given in an immediate context or with the aid of gestures (e.g. telling the child to "put your glass on the counter," while pointing to the counter)." I have to give Damien explicit instructions on what needs to be done. If I ask him to do something, I have to go through all of the steps. For example, Damien wants a glass of milk, and wants to get it for himself. I have to say "go get you cup out of the cabinet. Put it on the counter. Open the fridge. Get the milk out. Take off the lid. Pour the milk in the cup. Put the lid back on the milk. Put the milk in the fridge. Close the fridge." If I leave out any of these, he forgets. I have often forgotten to tell him to put the lid back onto the jug and have found the milk in the fridge with no lid. He has finally learned all of the steps to getting himself milk and I don't have to instruct him on it anymore.

"Humor, sarcasm, and common sayings can be confusing for individuals with the most mild PDDNOS." Damien does not get joke at all. When people try to pick on him, he says, "you better be kidding;" or he will ask, "are you just kidding."

Impairment in Speech Development

"Infants with PDDNOS may begin to babble in their first year but them stop. A child says words or phrases repeatedly without a communicative purpose." They may get their comments out of context. "For instance, when the child is asked "How are you?" he or she may answer "You are fine." This was a tough one to correct. Damien would either answer questions in this manner or just repeat the question. "Odd breathing rhythms may produce staccato speech in some children.

  1. some objects may be labeled by their use
  2. new words may be coined
  3. prepositions, conjunctions, and pronouns may be dropped from phrases or used incorrectly

Their speech does not usually convey imagination, abstraction or subtle emotion. They may talk excessively about their special interests, and they may talk about the same pieces of information whenever the same subject is raised. Ordinary to-and-fro conversational chatter is lacking. Thus, they give the impression of talking "at" someone, rather than "with" someone.

Unusual Patterns of Behavior

  1. resistance to change Many children are upset by changes in the familiar environment. Some children line up toys or objects and become very distressed if these are disturbed.
  2. ritualistic or compulsive behaviors rigid routines (e.g., insistence on eating particular foods)" Damien must have peanut butter-jelly sandwiches and a bowl of cereal every day. "Some children develop preoccupations.
  3. abnormal attachments to odd objects" Damien must have a dinosaur around at all times he often acts as if he is a dinosaur.
  4. unusual responses to sensory experiences may seem under responsive or over responsive to sensory stimuli." Damien doesn't really like to be touched. one of the only ways we can get him calmed down is to get a cold wet wash cloth and roughly rub it on his face. "They may be suspected of being deaf or visually impaired. They avoid gentle physical contact, yet react with pleasure to rough-and-tumble games. They carry food preferences to extremes with favored foods eaten to excess. They limit their diet to a small selection and do not seem to know when they are full.

The typical motor milestones may be delayed but are often within the normal range. Young children with PDDNOS usually have difficulty with imitation skills such as clapping hands. They may exhibit grimacing, toe walking, lunging, jumping, darting or pacing, head banging. In some cases the behaviors appear only from time to time; in other cases they are present continuously.

Intelligence and Cognitive Deficits

Generally, children with PDDNOS do very well on tests requiring manipulative or visual skills or immediate memory, while they do poorly on tasks demanding symbolic or abstract thought and sequential logic.

Associated Features

The emotional expression of some children with PDDNOS may be flattened, excessive, or inappropriate to the situation."

These are the traits that only pertain to Damien.

Also, many different disorders may fall under PDDNOS. Damien has all of the following: clinical depression, audio processing delay, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder), COBPD (childhood onset bipolar disorder), descriptive behavior of childhood with anxiety, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), ODD (oppositional defiant disorder). I have also found similarities in Damien's behavior with Autism and Asperger's disorder. The most important thing that I have found being stressed with all of these is that the "parents do not cause any of these disorders." So those of you that may think that I must have done lots of drugs or drinking while pregnant or that I must abuse my child, you are absolutely wrong. I get that a lot. Anyway, if I did cause this, why is Dylan so much different. The only problem he has is excessive whining.

Sunday, November 25, 2012


This is a free PECS program for people who work with kids with autism. I thought all of my special education teacher friends out there might be interested, as well as my moms with kids with autism.

PECS For All

Friday, November 23, 2012


This is a good site for all of my English teacher friends out there, my special education teacher friends, and my friends with children with learning difficulties. I know with some students they understand a story more if the hear it than if they read it due to being audio learners. I use MP3s in tandem with the books for Damien. It is great because the MP3s can be put on his iTouch.


I have used this technique with Damien, and it seems to work. He had been reading The Scarlet Letter in his AP English class. He was just reading the book, and he was not passing any of the quizzes. I suggested that he go ahead and listen to the book while he read because he would be putting what he read into two different parts of memory in his brain, auditory and visual. He complained, but tried it anyway. The next day, he received an A on his quiz.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Book Writer

How I long for control over a people
I could scream my dominance from a steeple

Write my laws from my deck
Inspire fear like Glenn Beck

I have no will to hurt men
But I can scare people from my den

Strike deals like the company Dell
And make life a living hell

No one will die this day
And the war will hit the hay

So presidents make room for this
Damien Brown the bookwriting terrorist

by Damien A. Brown © 08/20/2012

This is a poem that Damien wrote. I love it so much that I had to share.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Autism Site Store

Do you need some autism awareness gifts? Check out this site. They have great gifts.

The Autism Site Store

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Unconventional Foundation for Autism

Autism / Special Education

Are you researching autism and/or special education? Here are some articles that have really helped Damien and me over the years:

“Autism.” ASHA. May 1994: 83. The article explains in detail the cause and diagnosis of autism. The article also explains how the developmental disorder affects the communication needs of those afflicted with the disorder.

Ahlgrim-Delzell, Lynn; Browder, Diane; Flowers, Claudia; and Spooner, Fred. (2005). "Teachers’ Perceptions of Alternative Assessments." Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 30.2, 81-92. The authors state the purpose of the study is to “examine teachers’ perceptions of alternate assessments.” The authors surveyed 983 teachers from 5 states by using two inventories one with a 5-point scale rating and one with a 4-point scale rating to determine what influences the alternative assessment outcome and the impact of alternative assessment. The samples used were representative for each of the five states surveyed. The study shows that teachers often agree that students with disabilities should be included in general education settings and should be held accountable, but they did not agree that the alternative assessments were beneficial and added more paperwork and time to their schedules. Therefore, the researchers suggest that more resources should be offered to alleviate the demands of alternative assessments. The researchers state limitations to the study include confounding factors, and a lack of evidence that suggests their findings would improve the outcomes of students with disabilities. Also, the researchers warn about generalizing the results to states that were not sampled.

Attwood, Dr. Tony. “Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, and Andy Warhol: The Controversial Disorder They May Have Shared.” Biography Magazine. Dec. 2003: 86-88,114. Many people that others may feel is strange or unusual may have been afflicted with autism. Dr. Tony Attwood seems to feel this is the case with celebrities such as Albert Einstein, Andy Kaufman, and Andy Warhol. Attwood walks us through one of the many autism spectrum disorders, Asperger’s Syndrome. This is a high functioning autism.

Baird, Gillian, Simon Baron-Cohen, Tony Charman, Antony Cox, Auriol Drew, and John Swettenham. “Predicting Language Outcome in Infants with Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorder.” International Journal of Language & Communication Disorders. July-Sep 2003: 265-285. This article is compiled of research done on a worldwide scale of the effects of autism on young children. The research was compiled in order to determine if the language abilities of autistic adults could be predicted from their language abilities as infants. A direct correlation in the studies has been noted in this article.

Baron-Cohen, Simon. “Need to Know Autism.” Pulse. 16 Feb 2006: 40-43. Professor Simon Baron-Cohen walks the reader through frequently asked questions on autism and autism spectrum disorders. These questions include topics such as causes for autism, the rise in the amount of people diagnosed with autism, possible risks to siblings, the prevelance of autism, etc

Cowley, Geoffrey. “Understanding Autism.” Newsweek. 31 July 2000: 46-54. The article gives a detailed description of what autism is, what symptoms autistic children have, how prevalent the disorder is, and treatments for autism. The article also explains how autism effects all types of language: verbal, non-verbal, and written.

Craig, Holly K., and Ann Sexton Telfer. “Hyperlexia and Autism Spectrum Disorder A Case Study of Scaffolding Language Growth Over Time.” Topics in Language Disorders. Oct-Dec 2005: 364-374. This is a case study about a young man that has developmental disorder that causes only single-word recognition and diminished comprehension skills. It teaches clinicians how to use what language skills those with autism have and how to use their skills to build new skills.

Crisp, Cheryl. (2007). "The Efficacy of Intelligence Testing in Children with Physical Disabilities, Visual Impairments and/or the Inability to Speak." International Journal of Special Education, 22.1, 137-141. Crisp indicates that the design of intelligence assessments may inhibit an accurate score for students with disabilities. Crisp states that the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 requires all students, even those with disabilities to be held accountable on academic assessments, but it does not acknowledge that some of the students with disabilities may never attain the academic level of their peers. Crisp asserts that each person with a disability is an individual and must always be put before their disability, and each disability is different in that individual. Crisp argues that standardized tests fail to take the nature of the disability into consideration, and many fail to allow accommodations to be made to the test because doing so would hinder the integrity of the test. Crisp provides a list made by Fagan of those who are unable “comply with the requirements of standardized testing: cerebral palsy, all of the muscular dystrophies, dystonia, brain injury, some language disorders, developmental disorders, mental disorders, and cultural differences. Crisp provides several more appropriate options for measuring intelligence.

Downing, June E.; and Peckham-Hardin, Kathryn D. (2007). "Inclusive Education: What Makes It a Good Education for Students with Moderate to Severe Disabilities?." Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 32, 16-30. The authors of the article are Professors with the Education Department at California State University. The purpose of the study was to identify the outcomes of inclusive classrooms on the education of students with disabilities. Although the study included a diverse focus group, the group used was not representative of the population as a hole. Furthermore, the study was isolated in a metropolitan area of southern California. Also the study was done with a small group of 58 participants at only 3 inclusive educational sites. The interview questions were open-ended which allows room for less objectivity and staff interpretation. Other problems in the study include the gathering of observation data in which the observations only lasted from 20 to 60 minutes and were not repeated. Therefore, the students being observed may not have acted normally since they were not desensitized to the presence of observers. The study shows that students with and without disabilities benefit from inclusive programs, a positive outcome is evident when the parent/teacher relationship is formed, and teachers in inclusive classrooms often need more support than what they receive. Unfortunately, the study does not address educational issues faced by all students in an inclusive setting.

Dykeman, Buce F. (2006). "Alternative Strategies in Assessing Special Education Needs." Education, 127.2, 265-273. Dykeman states that Response to Intervention relies on standardized, norm-referenced assessment to determine special education needs of students with disabilities. Dykeman argues that functional assessment, authentic assessment, curriculum-based measurement, and play-based assessment should be used within the RTI model, but psychometric issues of reliability, validity, and fairness have become issues when determining the needs of students. Dykeman explains how students with disabilities are assessed and outlines the guidelines of diagnosis according to IDEIA 2004. However, Dykeman argues that IDEIA 2004 does not tell how assessments and evaluations are to be conducted. Dykeman argues, as does Crisp, that standardized, norm-referenced tests cannot always be indicative of the cognitive abilities of students with disabilities. Therefore, Dykeman suggests the use of the alternative assessments he discusses, which the language of IDEIA does encourage. Dykeman suggests more evidence based assessments be used that address the individual needs of students in order to allow fairness while determining special education needs.

Friedlander, Diana. (2009). "Sam Comes to School: Including Students with Autism in Your Classroom." Clearing House, 82, 141-144. Diana Friedlander is a special education inclusion teacher in elementary education in Ridgefield, CT, and a doctoral candidate at Western Connecticut State University. The article tells the story of a boy with autism, Sam, and the issues faced by him and his teacher when he began school. The author covers in detail many struggles students with autism have as well as giving an in-depth definition of autism. Friedlander recommends communication with the parents of children with autism both before and during the school year. The author’s definition of the parent/professional relationship is supported by Downing and Peckham-Hardin. She goes over the supports and intervention strategies that can help a student with autism adjust to the environment around them such as organization, visual cues and supports, sensory supports, social supports and models, and behavioral intervention plans. Friedlander asserts that an inclusive education is beneficial for a student with autism, which is also supported by Downing and Peckham-Hardin’s article.

Gross, Thomas F. “Global-Local Precedence in the Perception of Facial Age and Emotional Expression by Children with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities.” Journal of Autism & Developmental Disorders. Dec 2005: 773-785. Gross explores the inability of most autistic people to read facial expressions. He tells us that autistic patients can be taught how to appropriately use facial expressions.

Keane, Elaine.; and Roberts, Jacqueline. (2008). "Making Inclusion Work." TEACHING Exceptional Children, 41.2, 22-27. The authors of the article are leading specialists and consultants in Australia on autism spectrum disorders and education. The project discussed in the article is centered on the Autism Spectrum Australia Satellite Class Project in which students with an autism spectrum disorder are put into small specialist classes and eventually transitioned into a more inclusive environment. At the time of the article, the project had been in operation since 1992 and had expanded to 57 classes throughout the Sydney, Australia area. The program has shown a sixty-one percent success rate in transitioning students with autism from the specialist classes to the general education classrooms. Of those students, 95% remain in general education and several students have gone on to continue their education past their high school education. Students in the program benefit from mainstream and special education supports, resources provided to educators, ASD consultants and ASD specialized teachers, as well as ASD-specific skills-based programs.

National Institute of Mental Health. "Autism Spectrum Disorders" (Pervasive Developmental Disorders). This publication gives detailed information on what autism is, how prevalent autism is, how autism effects every aspect of those afflicted with the disorder, how to diagnose autism, possible causes for autism, etc.

Pearson, Sue. (2007). "Exploring Inclusive Education: Early Steps for Prospective Secondary School Teachers." British Journal of Special Education, 34.1, 25-32. Pearson coordinates the MA (SEN) program in the School of Education at the University of Leeds. Her article explores the importance of preparing future secondary educators for an inclusive classroom setting. The 5 phase plus follow-up approach was a simulation of the development of provisions that form active learning required for special needs students in an inclusive classroom. The author stresses the appropriate resources will create problems for the students and a “lack of clarity about the role of teaching assistants can impact on the teacher and pupils.” The study shows that university-based learning activities can provide a foundation to assist prospective teachers in an inclusive setting. Though the study was only done in one subject area, Pearson asserts that the findings can be generalized across the curriculum. Therefore, the addition of such programs can enhance the initial teacher training of secondary teachers, thus enabling them to be more prepared for an inclusive classroom. The limitations to the study is that the study was centralized in one university. Because the programs in other institutions may or may not better prepare prospective educators for an inclusive classroom, the program may not be an effective approach.

Roach, Andrew T. (2006). "Influences on Parent Perceptions of an Alternate Assessment for Students with Severe Cognitive Disabilities." Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities, 31.3, 267-274. Roach states the purpose of his research was to “understand the variables that influence parents’ perceptions of the Wisconsin Alternate Assessment.” The study included special educators in both elementary and secondary systems across the state of Wisconsin. The sample of students included was representative of the gender population and grade levels in which the study was done in Wisconsin. Demographics on parents were not gathered, but parents were given pencil and paper rating scale surveys to ascertain their understanding of the WAA. The findings show that parents were positive about the WAA process, supportive participation of all students, and pleased with the alignment of the WAA to Wisconsin’s academic standards. Roach also found that student age was directly correlated to parent’s perceptions of the WAA. Parents with older students were less likely to be satisfied with the WAA, which mirrors parents’ perceptions of inclusion. Furthermore, Roach found that parents were confident in the WAA results, and those parents who were more involved with their students education were more satisfied with the outcome. Therefore, Roach suggests that resources, support, training, and support materials be provided to facilitate parent understanding of the WAA.

Schwarz, Patrick A. (2000). "Special Education: A Service, Not a Sentence." Educational Leadership, 64.5, 39-42. Patrick Schwarz is an associate professor and chair of the Diversity in Learning and Development Department of National-Louis University, Chicago. The author advocates that segregation of students with disabilities into a special education classroom is can be detrimental to the development of the students. The author feels that all students should be in an inclusive classroom setting. The author believes an inclusive classroom setting is the least restrictive environment for all students. However, the author does not take into consideration the impact of a student with special needs on the other students or the impact on students who are far behind their classmates. Some students may be disruptive or some students may not be able to keep up with the curriculum in the general education setting. The author offers a process developed by Udvari-Solner that takes into account the range of learners in a classroom and honors diversity to help with the unification of the inclusive classroom. The author concludes that the betterment of the students can be found in a fully inclusive environment.

Vacca, John J. (2007). "Incorporating Interests and Structure to Improve Participation of a Child with Autism in a Standardized Assessment: A Case Study Analysis." Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 22.1, 51-59. Vacca, an assistant professor of Individual and Family Studies at the University of Delaware, states that research indicates standardized assessments fail to predict concrete suggestions on supporting students with autism and fail to offer insight as to how behaviors of these children will be manifested in multiple environments. Vacca also points out that some attempts to assess children with autism by using standardized testing is unsuccessful, so researchers are looking at alternative assessments, which include interest areas to provide supports and instructional strategies for students with autism. Vacca accommodated the Bayley Scales of Infant Development-Second Edition by using interest areas to assess the developmental level of a child with autism, who was once deemed untestable. Vacca found that the use of the interests particular to the child helped the child complete the BSID II. Therefore, Vacca recommends that assessments for children with autism be accommodated by using the child’s interest area.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Uncle David

When I was born, my uncle, David, was only eleven years old. I never realized he would become one of my closest friends, and an inspiration to me. David’s story is a unique one, just as is all stories of people with autism. David also has cerebral palsy. To fully understand autism, a person has to understand that they, too, are individuals.

Growing up with David was so typical that I failed to realize he was different from me. In my early years, I thought I was the one who was different than everyone else, and David was neuro-typical. My grandmother worked in a living center for people with disabilities. I grew up spending several days a week with the people in the living center. Grandma was a cook and could take me to work with her if I wanted to go. Needless to say, I always wanted to go. My closest childhood friends were people with developmental disabilities, and my uncle, David.

At home, David would hum and rock. He would pace the floors and get aggravated if people messed with his stuff. David had problems reading, but he could read. He had no problems, though, with math and numbers. David knows all of the birthdays and anniversaries of all of the people in the family. He can do difficult calculations in his head. However, David still had trouble writing and tying his shoes. Things that were easy for me seemed to be difficult for him, but things that were difficult for me seemed to be easy for him. I was perplexed by our differences, but I knew that we complemented one another.

Not until middle school did I realize David was not like other people his age. I did not realize it the way other people would. Thinking back, I think it was because I was too close to the autism. I was the niece of a person with autism, and I did not realize that people with autism did not exist in every family.

Anyway, David was driving us to school because we lived a little way from the school. I played the Bass Clarinet, and it was too heavy for me to carry to school if I walked. The case of the instrument was heavier than the instrument itself. I could not take the instrument to school on my bicycle because it was too bulky. Therefore, David offered to drive us to school.

We excitedly rode to school in the backseat of David’s banana yellow Grenada. I gave David a big hug good-bye and barreled out of the car towards the steps of the entryway. The weather was still warm so I had left the windows down in David’s car. As I approached the boys lounging on the steps of the entryway, one of them yelled to David, “Retard!” The other boys laughed and circled me. They danced around me singing, “Pam’s got a retarded uncle… Pam’s uncle is a retard… retard, retard, your uncle is a retard… no man will ever marry you because you will have retarded babies…” I broke from the center of the circle and ran away as fast as I could with tears rolling down my cheek.

I never asked about David not being neuro-typical, because I never realized he wasn’t. I do not know today if I was more upset because of being teased or because I saw the saddened look on David’s face when that boy yelled ‘retard.’ I could tell he was hurt and bothered by it. From that day on, David dropped me off across the street of the school. I do not know if it was because his feelings were hurt, or if it was like he said, “I don’t want the boys to pick on you because of me.” I really believe it was because he did not like to see me cry.

As the years passed and I began to mature, the bond between the two of us grew weak. I became interested in boys and was very involved with school. I played in the band, was in basketball and track, and I worked as a waitress. David married my dad’s cousin, Donna, (no blood relation, my mom is David’s sister), and he became involved in his own life. David owned his house, and he worked in the kitchen of a cafe. Donna is also a person with a disability.

Although our bond was weakened, it was still there, and it was never severed. We visited occasionally, and would frequent each other’s place of business. I would hang out at his house when I had time, and David would tell me Donna and he wanted a baby. He said they wanted a girl, and they were going to name her Laura (after one of Donna’s nieces) Nanette (after me).

Unfortunately, David and Donna divorced after several years because she could not handle the isolation that David craved. The routines and collections also seemed to be a problem for her. As for me, I graduated high school, went to business school, married an abusive man and soon divorced him, joined the Army and got a medical discharge, experimented with drugs, and met the man of my dreams during my darkest hours. Within a year, my man and I married. Two months later I gave birth to my first son, Damien. This is where our story begins….

Thursday, November 15, 2012

My Name Is Damien

Damien's first self-advocacy video.

Uncooperative Teacher

I have had my fair share of uncooperative teachers over the years. However, on teacher has always stood out from the others. When Damien was in the sixth grade, his math teacher was unreasonable and often punished him by using detention for various manifestations of his disabilities. I had written the following letter to the administrators of the school. The teachers' and administrators' names have been removed in order to protect their identities.

December 28, 2007

Damien's most recent ARD went well. We got everything that I asked for in his IEP, and the teacher that has been picking on him is no longer teaching him. When Damien gets back to school, he will have another math teacher. Here is why we got everything:

Dear Sir,

I am very concerned about a problem that my son is having in school. My son is a sixth grader in your school, named Damien Brown. On Thursday, my son received a referral for an incident that happened in his math class. Apparently, the teacher said that Damien was sleeping in class. I came in and talked to Mrs. Xxxxx about the problem. Afterward, I agreed on discipline before I had a chance to speak with Damien. Unfortunately, I know that I have made a mistake.

Mrs. Xxxxxx had told Mrs. Xxxxx that Damien had fallen to sleep in her class. She went on to state that she and the other students tried to rouse him, but he would not wake. After he regained consciousness, Damien was sent to the office for disciplinary action. I am confounded as to why this is considered a discipline problem, and here are my reasons:

Damien said that he did not fall to sleep. He said that all of the sudden everything went black; and when he came to, the teacher was yelling at him.

If the teacher could not rouse any other student than Damien, that student would have been sent to the nurse's office, because medical attention may be warranted.

Damien has epilepsy. His seizures are absence (petit mal) seizures. (Medical Definition – seizures characterized by a short lapse in consciousness. According to Introduction to Special Education: 6th ed., "…a teacher might wrongly assume that the child is merely daydreaming, or not paying attention"). According to Damien's neurologist, Dr. Xxxx Xxxxx in Lubbock, any child that experiences a seizure episode my be groggy and may loose consciousness afterward. Again, had it been any other student, then they would have been sent to the nurse.

Damien has begun a new medication that has fatigue as a side effect. This would also be considered a need to send the child to the nurse instead of the office for disciplinary action.

The teacher told Mrs. Xxxxx that she has spoke with me about Damien sleeping in her class on numerous occasions. However, the last time any problem with Damien sleeping in class was mentioned was on November 8, 2007, and I have attached that email conversation. Furthermore, I have not heard anything about Damien sleeping in the classroom for the last two weeks as Mrs. Xxxxxx has suggested. The only two emails that I have received from her since then were to tell me when tutorials were cancelled. Therefore, I thought that everything was going great.

One thing I heard from both Mrs. Xxxxxx and Mrs. Xxxxx deeply concerns me. They both had the nerve to tell me that allowing my child to get away with something that he CANNOT control is "not fair to the other students." The first thing that my Teaching Special Education professor taught us in class this semester is that making accommodations and modifications for students that fall under the IDEA and Section 504 umbrellas is that the laws are made out of fairness. It is fair to allow accommodations and modifications for a child that already has to work twice as hard as everyone else. Special education is not about the other students; it is about making sure that every student gets what they need. Is it fair to punish Damien for something that he cannot control? It is unfair and illegal to punish a child for their disability or a manifestation of their disability, whether it is mental or physical.

According to the Americans with Disabilities Act, it is illegal to punish a student for a disability. In regards to discipline, Section 504 OCR 1991 clearly states, if there is a manifestation (meaning there is a connection), the child cannot be disciplined. This keeps the child from being punished because of his disability. If there is no manifestation (meaning there is no connection between behavior and disability), then the child can be treated like any other student.

Furthermore, Section 615 (k) (1) (E) of IDEA and 300.530(e) backs up this claim. According to the Federal Register Vol. 71, No. 156 dated Monday, August 14, 2006, "the Act recognizes that a child with a disability may display disruptive behaviors characteristic of the child's disability and the child should not be punished for behaviors that are a result of the child's disability."

When Damien was attending Lee Elementary, he was allowed to sleep off the effects of a seizure in the nurse's office. I feel something like this should be put into place for Damien now. Therefore, I am calling for a manifestation determination committee to determine whether or not Damien's behavior in the classroom, "sleeping," or "passing out" is a manifestation of his disability. I contend that the cause of his behavior is either due to his physical disability, epilepsy, or it is due to his mental disability, autism. It is my intention to prove that Damien's medications for the comorbid disabilities and disorders of autism are the result of his behavior.

I feel like Mrs. Xxxxxx went behind my back and played me off as an uncooperative, unconcerned mother, which has never been the case. I have been very cooperative and taken action on every problem that has risen in her classroom. It is because of how much I care for Damien's future that I am just now attending college. I gave up my dreams so I could get him the therapies that have taken him this far. I do not understand why she is the only teacher that has complained to me about Damien's behavior.

I am frustrated, because Mrs. Xxxxxx constantly complained about Damien's behavior before we put him on the medication that he is on now. The first time I met with her, she asked if we ever had Damien on medication for ADHD, which I know now to be an illegal question for her to ask. Federal law states that a teacher is to never discuss or suggest medication for a child, because they are not a medical professional. Damien does not have ADHD and according to the American Autism Society, "autism is often misdiagnosed as ADHD." This is due to the similar characteristics. However, Ritilan, Concerta, and Adderall have the opposite effect on most children with autism. This held true for Damien. Furthermore, the last time Mrs. Xxxxxx said anything about his behavior, she told me that Damien was doing great. She said, "Also, he is staying very focused during class and tutorials, he is being quite the busy bee on his makeup assignments and the daily assignments in class." This is right after he began taking Zoloft. Now, that I have put Damien on medications, she is still complaining about his behaviors. These behaviors are the result of the medications, which, in turn, are a result of her previous complaints.

Furthermore, on several occasions I have made suggestions to her in order to assist him, and she told me that she did not have time, or that it would not be fair to the other students. As a resource teacher, it is her responsibility to make the accommodations and modifications for her students in the least restrictive environment. However, her methods with my son have made his learning environment so restrictive that he was constantly depressed and crying. I am beginning to feel as if her behavior toward Damien is more of a personal attack, and she is targeting him, because she does not know how to deal with him. Therefore, I request that Mrs. Xxxxxx take a class on Autism, and I know, by law, my request must be adhered to. And, I would also like a functional behavioral assessment done on Damien so that we may be able to teach him alternative behaviors for the negative ones that he exhibits in her class. If we can determine the function of Damien's negative behaviors, we can teach him alternative behaviors.

In Mrs. Xxxxxx's defense, I do know how difficult and frustrating it is to work with Damien. I have been going through this for a little more than twelve years. From the day this child was born, caring for him has always taken extra effort. I know that she may have good intentions for her methodology, but the expense is far too great. On November 5th, I found a method to help Damien; I tried to share it with her, as well as his other teachers, in order to make their jobs easier. I suggested having a step-by-step checklist for him. Mrs. Xxxxxx had said that she did not have time to do a checklist, but the other teachers were receptive and compliant. Mrs. Xxxxxx must have misunderstood; it was not for her to remind him what to do every day. It was for him to make sure he put his name on his papers, and make sure he turns them in. Also, it was so that he would remember to get his assignment sheet signed. Organizational skills are a major problem for children with autism. Therefore, I made the checklists, I paid for the materials, and I bought the color-coded folders for his classes. There was nothing on her end that needed to be done except to tell me if we left out a step for her class, but she said she did not have time. After Damien began to use them, he went from failing her class, to now making a B. Furthermore, I keep hearing from her that Damien needs to be responsible, and he will not get reminders from her. If she does it for him, she will have to do it for everyone. I feel as if the two of us keep butting heads and cannot reach a consensus.

Unfortunately, Damien's psychologist, Dr. Xxxx Xxxxxxx, said that Damien might never develop organizational skills. She said that when he is an adult, he will most likely be able to live on his own, but with support. What Dr. Xxxxxxx meant is that Damien will always have to have someone to remind him to do the routine things that to the rest of us is rote. I, however, am more optimistic and hope that he will be responsible for himself when he grows up. But for now, everyone needs to take into consideration that this is a child that has to be reminded to wash his face, every day. He has to be told to shower every day, to brush his teeth every day, to put on deodorant every day, and to flush the toilet every time he goes. Damien is a child with autism, and there are many more like him. Autism is a hidden disability, which makes it difficult to remember that he is different. It also makes it easier for us to expect much more from Damien than what we get.

If we must make more changes to Damien's IEP, I request that you attend. I will also have a case manager, and may be able to get an advocate from the TEA to attend on our side. I did not want to have to resort to calling an advocate in; but I do not feel that Damien is getting his education in the least restrictive environment, which No Child Left Behind requires. I have found some teaching methods for children with autism and have tested them at home. These work for Damien, and he is thriving at home. I would like to have these worked into Damien's IEP, so that he is a successful student.

If we cannot get what Damien needs from Abilene Independent School District, then I request that the District transfer him to a school in which he can get what he needs, which I also know is my legal right. This is not about you, it is not about Mrs. Xxxxxx, and it is not about me. The problem is about Damien and his future. It is about making sure that he gets to fulfill his dream of going to college and being a marine biologist. It is about making sure that he is able to thrive in the least restrictive environment. I only want what is best for my son, which should be your goal as well. I humbly ask for your assistance in giving Damien the same opportunities, which children without learning disabilities receive.

Thank you,

Pamela N. Brown

The letter worked. I do find it sad, however, that the school was not willing to work with me until they discovered that I not only know special education law, but I also understand and have been formally trained in it. What came of the letter was that the summer after Damien's sixth grade year, the teacher was put in two classes paid for by AISD. One was a basic special education law class, and the other was a class specifically on autism.

The following fall, Damien had the same teacher for math. However, she was more attentive to Damien's needs, and they both started fresh as if they never had met before. She ended up being Damien's favorite teacher of the year, and she stated that he had been a model student as well. I almost felt guilty for pushing the issue, but I am happy that I helped a special education teacher be a better teacher. I also helped a young boy to gain the education he needs to be a successful future adult.