Globe and Mail as we neared the end of autism awareness month:
Teaching people about my autistic son
As I try to calm my screaming child on the sidewalk, I feel other parents’ eyes on me. They don’t know the whole story
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail Published on Tuesday, Apr. 27, 2010 6:01PM EDT Last updated on Wednesday, Apr. 28, 2010 7:59AM EDT
It’s almost the end of Autism Awareness Month, and what have I done?
I want people to understand my son and all the kids like him. But when people ask me questions, suddenly I’m the one with communication and social problems.
“What should I tell my son when he asks why your son doesn’t have to sing O Canada?” another mother asked one day a few years ago. We’d run into each other in the change room of our fitness club. I clutched the white towel closer to my chest and opened my mouth. Nothing came out.
She continued: “I told him some children are slower than others.” Here she looked at me sheepishly. “But my son said, ‘No way, Mom. Thomas is not slow. You should see him do tricky math!’ ”
As we laughed, I lowered my defences. We talked about Thomas’s sensitivity to noise, how brassy music blaring over the loudspeaker and the voices of 20 classmates, not all in perfect harmony, had sent him into hysterics the first day of senior kindergarten in a new school. How we were letting him stand in the hall and would slowly move him back into the classroom.
I described serenading him with our national anthem each night while he was in the tub. Without making a big deal about it, of course. That would trigger his anxiety and make it impossible for him to learn the lyrics.
For a moment we shared a tiny piece of what it’s like to have a child on the autism spectrum, where the simplest thing can be difficult. And I saw that she understood.
Too often, when we’re out in the world and something’s gone off the rails, I can’t turn to strangers around us and explain: What you’re seeing is not the whole story. But I feel the looks. And I think, If only you knew. Where we’ve come from. And how hard it’s been to get here.
Picture this: A mother crouches on the sidewalk beside her distraught son. He’s screaming, “I can’t have you in my life” at the top of his lungs. Other parents hold their children’s hands tighter and walk past, staring straight ahead. Mom seems calmer than the situation warrants. “Your voice is at a five,” she says. “It’s hurting my ears. Let’s take it down to a three.” The boy bats her on the arm. “I can’t have you in my life!” he yells again.
Please don’t think badly of these two. It’s just my son and me with our autism showing. One morning, he decided he wanted to walk to school by himself. The day before he had watched a movie with his older sister Emily in which a rebellious teenager told her parents, “I can’t have you in my life.” Thomas’s brain never, ever forgets a scene from a movie. So his thorough, but non-traditional, filing system retrieved this phrase to communicate today’s desire for independence.
But I didn’t know all that yet. “Try to say it another way,” I begged, folding him in a deep hug to calm him and keep him from running into the street. “Try to say it another way.” Slowly we found the words to understand each other.
“Say it another way. Show him. Give it a number.” This is the advice I share with the people in our lives. I translate convoluted instructions into simple, concrete words. Draw stick figures on scraps of paper. Thomas manages well when he knows what’s expected of him, and falls apart when the world makes no sense. We teach him to talk through the things that make him nervous. “Five rows of six questions,” he whispers, pulling out his homework. “I can do that.”
I learn to love incremental change. To realize we are all making progress. Last time we visited my parents I watched my father prepare to take Thomas to the store. He took a yellow sticky note and wrote a number on it. “This is how much money you can spend on a toy. Okay?” Way to go, Grandpa! I thought as I watched them head out, Thomas clutching the piece of paper in his hand. One potential meltdown avoided.
One night, as we struggled through a reading passage, I sighed. Thomas slammed a hand on the table. “You want to scrap me!” he said. After all our years of watching train videos, I immediately got the reference. I shook my head. No way. “How can you want to scrap me, your own son?” he asked, with a hint of a smile.
I was beginning to clue in that he was pushing my buttons when from the living room we heard Emily laugh. “Who would want to scrap a human being?” she asked. We shrugged our shoulders and got back to work.
I remind myself that children on the autism spectrum grow up. I read Temple Grandin’s books. Listen to Matt Savage play jazz. Watch Clay Marzo surf. They’ve all found their place.
My favourite blogger, Mom – Not Otherwise Specified, recently wrote about a visit to her son’s classroom to answer the children’s top 10 questions about autism. “Why does Bud say the same things over and over?” “Why does Bud run in circles?” My personal favourite: “How can I be a better friend to Bud?” Now there’s a mother who’s making a difference.
Here it is Autism Awareness Month. What have I done? Finally it hits me. This is the way it has to start. In one classroom. With one grandparent. In the change room, with two women realizing they are both just trying their best. Maybe, with a story.
Next time you see a mother and son creating a scene on the sidewalk, an understanding smile would make my day.
Posted on CBC website:
More money for autism services a surprise
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 | 12:17 PM AT
An extra $308,000 in last week's provincial budget was a pleasant surprise, says the president of the Autism Society of P.E.I.
Jeff Himelman would now like to see some of that money go to giving people working with autistic children a raise. Currently, early intervention therapy is available through a preschool program, or parents can opt to hire a person on their own and apply for a grant to offset wages.
Either way, the province pays about $200 a week for the employee.
"Working only 20 hours a week, 10 bucks an hour: it's very hard to earn a living at those kinds of hours and wages," said Himelman.
"If they move on to another opportunity then parents are put in a situation where they have to go out and find a new person. There's a gap in the services, and then you have to re-establish that personal rapport between the therapist and the child."
Parents suspecting their children are autistic are waiting up to a year to have their children tested and diagnosed. The Autism Society says around a dozen children are participating in the early intervention preschool program, while a dozen more are waiting to be accepted into the program. Another 160 autistic children receive help in the school system.
Himelman expects the province to announce a new autism strategy once the budget is approved.
Read more: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2010/04/28/pei-autism-budget-himelman-584.html#ixzz0mmI9bHu3
From the Sun papers, a miracle to share:
Autistic girl escapes abduction
By KENNETH JACKSON, QMI Agency
Brenda Zion hugs her daughter Katrina at the site where the 6-year-old girl was grabbed by a stranger on Saturday.
OTTAWA - A six-year-old's autism disorder may have been what saved her from a predator who family say tried to abduct the little girl.
Like some autistic children, Katrina doesn't like being picked up. After luring the girl away from a play area, that's what the man tried to do.
When he did, she started screaming, said her mother, Brenda Zion, 43.
The cries were heard by Zion's friend as the pair scoured the area Saturday night in Lowertown trying to find the missing girl.
"She just screamed automatically and that is what drew the attention of my friend to go that way. He yelled, 'Hey!' and the man dropped Katrina. He booked it," Zion said Wednesday.
The friend tried to give chase, but he was slowed down by Katrina.
The man got away, but police were given his description.
"Bad man grabbed hand," Katrina said after she was back with her mom. Zion said the man grabbed her daughter so hard he left a bruised handprint on her rib cage.
The man first took Katrina from a play area about 80 metres from Zion's home around 8 p.m. Saturday.
Back over at Zion's, a large group of adults and children were having a barbeque.
There were a couple of other children with the girl playing with Katrina's dog, Marbles.
The other kids got distracted when Marbles ran off and the man came up and took Katrina by the hand. He walked away with her toward the 300 block of Murray St.
Zion said she has trained her daughter to walk with people when they hold her by the hand.
Her children normally go to bed at 7 p.m., but Zion said she let them stay up for an extra hour.
"When you call my daughter she comes. When there was no response that's when I knew something was wrong," said Zion.
That's when she and her friend started their frantic search.
"He was walking away. Going somewhere with her," said Zion.
The man made it about a half kilometre.
The same man had come up to the girls minutes prior and petted Marbles.
Two days earlier, a man fitting the same description approached four young girls and asked them to dance for him. A neighbour chased him away, said Zion.
The suspect is white, in his late 30s, about 5-foot-10 with a shaved head and a muscular, stocky build. He was wearing a dark green sweater and light grey or blue jeans. He also had a dark goatee.
Anyone with information is asked to call police at 613-236-1222, ext. 5944 or Crime Stoppers at 613-233-8477.
I try to stick to Canadian published stories regarding anything autism. However, I am sharing this article from Maine, it's yet an another reminder of how important is is that we keep a watch on each other..... If you are feeling low, call or send an e-mail to someone. If you are not comfortable explaining this to close family or friends, then make contact with someone within the autism community, we understand each other better than anyone else. Let's all try to help each other keep each other and our kids safe.
Press Herald in Maine, USA
Police say the man, who also shot himself, may have been worried about
his son's care in the future.
By Dennis Hoey
GRAY - A father shot and killed his autistic son Tuesday at their home
on Yarmouth Road before turning the rifle on himself, Maine State Police
Cumberland County sheriff's deputies found the bodies of Daniel
McLatchie, 44, and his son, Benjamin McLatchie, 22, in the family's
driveway at 227 Yarmouth Road around 2:30 p.m.
The driveway, which is several hundred feet long, slopes down from
Yarmouth Road -- part of Route 115 -- before ending at a white,
two-story, Cape-style home surrounded by woods.
State police Sgt. Chris Harriman said the sheriff's deputies responded
to a 911 call. He did not say who made the call.
He said it appeared that Daniel McLatchie was upset about what would
happen to his autistic son after he and his wife died. He was a
stay-at-home father, Harriman said.
Daniel McLatchie's wife, Allison McLatchie, 45, was at work when the
Harriman said she is a teacher at the Collaborative School on the
Pineland Campus in New Gloucester. According to its website, the school
serves students from ages 5 to 19 who are eligible for special education
services because of emotional or related disabilities.
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Marguerite Dewitt examined the bodies in
Gray. She determined that McLatchie and his son died from gunshot
wounds. A rifle was found near the bodies.
The bodies were taken to Augusta, where the state Medical Examiner's
Office is expected to do autopsies today.
Harriman would not characterize the shootings as a murder-suicide, but
said during a press conference, "We do believe there were no other
Mary Keith has lived nearby on Yarmouth Road for 10 years, but said she
never got to know the McLatchies. She said the family moved into the
neighborhood about six years ago.
Ginger Taylor of Brunswick, who writes the blog "Adventures in Autism"
and whose 8-year-old son has been diagnosed with autism, said she
doesn't know the McLatchies, but noted there are pressures for families
with autistic children.
"Having an autistic child is, on a social level, very hard because it
can be very isolating. You don't get to be part of those social circles
anymore and you can't participate in the life of the town. There are
just so many challenges," said Taylor, who has organized Greater
Brunswick Special Families, a support group for parents of autistic
She said there is "a huge tidal wave of autistic children born in the
1980s and 1990s who are coming of age." Parents who care for autistic
children at home need greater support, such as respite care and
counseling, she said.
Taylor said one of the most common fears for parents with autistic
children is what will happen to the children after the parents are gone.
"That is the big question -- what happens to our child when we die," she
said. "We understand their needs better than anyone else. It really
breaks my heart hearing what happened to this family. It shouldn't be
Staff Writer Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:
Last week CTV morning show ran a week long series about autism. Here is the link to their online version of the coverage:
Facility lacks permit to operate above garage
By Brenda Branswell, Gazette Education ReporterApril 26, 2010
Teacher Dayle Wiltshire writes notes in student journals as her son, Zachary Tremblay, plays after the end of the school day at Interact Alternative Learning Centre Monday.
Photograph by: John Kenney, The Gazette
MONTREAL With just two months left before the end of classes, a tiny private school in Notre Dame de Grce is being forced to close because it doesn't have a government permit to operate.
For the eight students who study above a garage at the Interact Alternative Learning Centre Inc., it will mean finishing the school year somewhere else as their parents scramble to find an alternative.
It's the most terrible time to have done this, said Raj, who didn't want his last name published so as not to identify his son, who has Asperger syndrome.
It's a trauma (for) the kids. They're really, really worried, said Raj, who said he wishes the government had waited until the end of the school year.
The school caters to students with special needs from Grades 1 through 8.
The Education Department revoked its permit at the end of last August because its new location on Girouard Ave. isn't zoned for a school.
Interact director Margaret Blair said it kept operating because we thought we were going to be able to get the rezoning and then I could go back to the ministry and re-apply for the following year at least. Parents were told of the situation, Blair said.
The government initially gave the school 10 days to close in March, but Blair said it got a reprieve until Friday.
The school teaches Quebec's curriculum and has had a permit in the past, Blair said. It moved into its current space in September 2008 and discovered it wasn't zoned for a school when they went to renew their permit, which expired in 2009, Blair said.
The school had started working with the city on the rezoning issue, Blair said. An official with the C´te des Neiges/Notre Dame de Grace borough told The Gazette its preliminary analysis deemed it was an acceptable change.
There really aren't any bad guys in this, Blair said.It's just incredibly bad luck.
Blair acknowledged the school wasn;t aggressive enough in the matter, adding she looks after teaching duties during the day as well as the administration work. Her daughter, Dayle Wiltshire, teaches at the school.
Blair founded the school in 2000. It's typically behaviour issues that land students there. We have the bullies and the bullied working together. Some of them are just high anxiety.
All these kids need is somebody to say, 'You're okay and you can handle yourself okay.' And (these are) just a few little things that you have to remember along the way.
And they fly. Most of our students now are in CEGE.
Some of the students may be home-schooled for the rest of the year and school boards may find other schools for them for the two months, Blair said.
Parents are still hoping to save the school.
I feel good in it, said Grade 2 student Felix Brown, 8. It's just a nice place to be. I like the teachers.
His mother, Zoe Brown, said the public school system couldn't meet his needs and accommodate his learning style. But at Interact he's thriving. He was devastated to know Interact will be closing, Brown said.
Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION
Province still contemplating funding for autism program
By: Sean Ledwich
30/04/2010 1:00 AM | Comments: 0
Hailey, Wendy and Kevin Augustine, with their dog Bleue, at their home in Oakbank.
TREVOR HAGAN / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image
Hailey, Wendy and Kevin Augustine, with their dog Bleue, at their home in Oakbank.
Parents of autistic children are anxiously waiting to hear if the Selinger government will continue to offer a specialized program to their school-age children after their eligibility expires in June.
The program, introduced in June 2008, provides a consultant from the St. Amant Centre to assess autistic children and develop individualized strategies to help students behave and learn. The consultant works directly with educational assistants in the school and with parents in the home.
Yearly cost of specialized autism programming per child
Home tutor -- $6,000
St. Amant Centre consultant and administration -- $23,000
Educational assistant -- $19,000
St. Amant Centre costs and home tutoring are funded by the Department of Child and Family Services. A home tutor allows the school-age program to continue at home on evenings and weekends for 10 hours a week.
An educational assistant (EA) is funded by the Department of Education and in most cases would be provided to an autistic child regardless of the program.
A full-time EA is required for each student in the program, but moving out of the program does not necessarily affect that child's elegibility for an EA.
-- Source: St. Amant Centre
Children are currently eligible for three years of programming or until they reach the end of Grade 4, whichever comes first. At the end of this school year, 38 children will become the first batch to lose their eligibility.
Kevin Augustine, president of Manitoba Families for Effective Autism Treatment, said some of those 38 children will continue to need the programming.
"There's probably a high potential for regression, and you'll see (negative) behaviour coming in," said Augustine, whose daughter Hailey, 10, will exit the program in June. He worries teachers and educational assistants without the training and background to deal with autism will result in children being removed from classrooms.
In November 2008, the province asked the association, which represents 146 families of children with autism, to provide input. Augustine said a proposal was delivered to government in September 2009. The proposal, created in collaboration with St. Amant Centre and provincial representatives from multiple departments, included ways to save money.
"The government won't be on the hook until these kids are 18," he said.
"Some kids in the program now are doing really well and can transition to regular support, but for the ones who aren't, you can't leave them hanging."
Education Minister Nancy Allan said the government is working on an answer.
"I know they are tired of being patient, but they just have to give us an opportunity to work through it," said Allan.
Tory Leader Hugh McFadyen doubts the province will extend the program.
"It's clear this is a therapy that works for autistic kids and their families. The NDP is pulling the rug out from under (them),'' McFadyen said.
From the Edmonton Journal:
GPS tracks autistic son who runs
Fearful family relies on device when teen disappears
By Jodie Sinnema, Edmonton JournalMay 2, 2010
Edmonton Journal / Gord Wyatt, rear, tests a GPS system to keep track of his autistic son, 17-year-old Ian.
Edmonton Journal / Gord Wyatt, rear, tests a GPS system to keep track of his autistic son, 17-year-old Ian.
Photograph by: Shaughn Butts, Edmonton Journal
Ian Wyatt is an experienced runner.
Across six lanes of highways, miraculously unscathed. Into a stranger's house and onto the couch to watch his favourite shows on the Treehouse channel. Sometimes barefoot or shirtless. Often in his pyjamas. Always to the horror of his family.
Ian has severe autism and limited speech -- although he can dramatically recite the opening of the Law & Order TV show -- and each year, his family knows he'll bolt out of his secured house and disappear.
Until recently, the running episodes typically happened during daylight hours in the spring and fall. The Wyatts work on preventing the escapes by having a complex system of locks on all their doors leading outside, and even keep the keys in a locked food pantry that can only be opened with a numbered code.
But this January during a -30 C night, Ian disappeared in his pyjamas, boots and coat.
Gord and Gail Wyatt went immediately to Ian's usual running targets: neighbourhood houses that, for some reason, Ian has become fixated on. But there was no Ian munching on an apple, pillaged from a stranger's fridge.
Then they called police.
Ian eventually -- and for the first time -- returned home on his own, where his parents found him in the garage.
"He was either scared or really cold and knew he was in trouble," said Gord Wyatt, father to the 17-year-old. "It's absolutely terrifying."
Those heart-pounding, fearful moments prodded the Wyatts to try a GPS system that is capable of tracking Ian when he runs.
The Eye-Zon device, made available to three local families through a pilot program at the Autism Society of Edmonton Area, is smaller than a cellphone and can be tucked into a pocket or slipped around the neck with a lanyard. It sends information by satellite to a computer or cellphone, and provides Ian's running path and location on a map, as well as his speed.
"When people go missing, it takes a lot of resources to find them," said Karen Phillips, program director of the autism society.
Phillips worked with Edmonton Police Services to find solutions. The autism society borrowed three GPS devices from Eye-Zon to test them out. Eye-Zon is also considering contributing a portion of their proceeds from the devices to the autism society to help families who can't afford the units, Phillips said.
Although Ian wears the device around his neck at school, it's too big and awkward for him to keep it on in bed at night. Sewing little pouches onto various pieces of clothing to hold the device might only work in some situations.
"Short of a GPS chip like what Jason Bourne had in his back, what do you do?" Gord Wyatt said in jest, referring to the action film featuring a secret agent who is tracked through an electronic chip implanted under his skin. Yet Gord Wyatt is still optimistic the Eye-Zon device could help keep Ian safe.
"It has the potential to be very valuable for families who have kids who run," Gord Wyatt said.
Richard Rosenberg, a retired computer science professor from the University of British Columbia who works on technology and privacy issues for the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, agrees, even though he questions the use of such tools in more typical families.
"These are the special cases that are important to take account of," Rosenberg said. "I'm not an absolutist that you should never use it. Clearly, the cases with autistic children, with Alzheimer's patients or old people, they are the ones that need special care and such devices are very useful in monitoring where they go because they really can't take proper care of themselves."
In regular families with able-bodied children, using tracking devices -- such as a new system called Amber Alert GPS developed by a Vancouver-based company -- restricts freedom and indicates a lack of trust and unhealthy family relationships, Rosenberg said. Believing that such a system would save an abducted child is an error, he added, since the abductor would likely be aware of such technology and immediately destroy or disable it.
Gord Wyatt said he would never dream of using the GPS device on his 18-year-old daughter or 13-year-old son.
Ian doesn't know about road safety. Luck kept him safe in Calgary when he ran away barefoot near the busy intersection of Macleod Trail and Anderson Road. Six people driving by called 911 on their cellphones.
"Usually, Ian depends on the world helping him," Gord Wyatt said. Strathcona County RCMP officers have delivered Ian in their squad cars. The families who routinely find Ian in their house have been kind and phone the Wyatts to alert them. But Ian is becoming a bigger teenage boy and could legitimately scare people should he walk unbidden into their house.
A listmate shares his business venture
I am contacting you regarding my math learning tool called Tactico which is a board and computer game in 71 schools including corrections Canada. Tactico has had rave reviews from senior scientists to school officials. My son john has Autism and Tactico has helped him with math. In fact he can beat most people at the game. Tactico is great for special needs children. and is a great family strategy game as well. See my web mytactico.com.
PBS vaccine show link:
A fundraiser for New Haven:
Dom Pérignon is proud to be hosting a fundraising event for the New Haven Learning Centre. The event is priced at $175 per person and will be taking place at The Berkeley Church. From 6-9pm, Dom Pérignon will be providing their high end and specialty brands of champagne, complemented by hors d'oeuvres and live musical entertainment and a live auction. This event is a wonderful opportunity not to be missed!
To view the invitation and get further details please click the link below
Hope to see you all June 1st!
Here is a link to a website for autism awareness items. Also note the impressive list of organizations they have donated the proceeds to. This is a parent making a huge impact in awareness and donating all the proceeds of her work back into the community.
A quick update from www.AutismAwareness.ca !
We have a few new products in our line up.
~Puzzle Ribbon style earrings
~A new style Enamel Ring
~A new style puzzle ribbon cell charm
And don’t forget the seasonally popular golf towels and ball caps!
Also, we have extended our FREE HAT and FREE BAG special for one more week. See the website for more details! www.autismawareness.ca
Info shared by a listmate:
A new Centre specializing in services for children with Autism is opening in Vaughn in Early April.
Autism Therapy and Training Academy (http://autismtt.com) is a private school specialized in Intensive Behaviour Intervention (IBI) using Skinner’s analysis of Verbal behaviour.
It is located at 6175 Highway 7, unit 18A (Hwy 7 and Hwy 27) in Vaughan.
There will be an open house on July 5th; Registration is already open and will continue until June 2nd.
The founder of this Academy, Chaza Attar, is in the final stages of getting her BCBA.
You can contact Chaza at 416-723-3464 or via Email at chaza@AutismTT.com
Visit: Phil Morrison @ Sussex Home Improvement