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.