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Get to know Kirstin McGrath, Program Director

How long have you been a part of AiN and what is your position? 

I’ve been a part of AiN since August, so 6 months now. I started as a volunteer, but have just been promoted to the position of Program Director!

What do you hope to accomplish with AiN? 

At AiN I really want to continue to help families by providing them with a safe and fun learning environment for their children while they enjoy a nice night out. I’d also love to assist Autumn in the growth and expansion of AiN in hopes of serving more families.

What experiences have you gained so far with AiN? 

SO MANY! One of my all-time favorites was watching the kids’ trunk or treat in their costumes and the smiles on their faces as they threw pies in Autumn’s face. It’s been very rewarding to see the kids learn, grow, and enjoy their time with their friends and family at each special event.

What is your favorite thing about AiN?

The mission! Helping people with special needs has always been a passion of mine and AiN has given me the opportunity to do that. 

How has volunteering with AiN changed your perspective on volunteering with special needs children? 

Although I’ve volunteered with special needs children in the past, AiN provides a different environment and learning curriculum that has shown me how much these children really are capable of. It’s been an eye-opening experience to watch the kids grow and learn over the past few months and to really see their accomplishments unfold.

What do you look forward to when attending the events?

I look forward to seeing the children’s smiling faces as they arrive. Whether they are in costumes for trunk or treat and waiting to see Santa, most kids are excited and happy to be around friends and family.

What is your favorite activity? 

My favorite part of each event is the nightly dance party where everyone shows off their cool moves!

What is the hardest part of attending the events?

So far, I haven’t found anything challenging about attending the events. I always look forward to going.

What do you like to do for fun? 

I enjoy reading (I’m a huge Harry Potter fan), also hiking, spending time with my puppy, Shadow, and traveling the world.

What is something interesting or fun about yourself?

As many of you know, I want to be an occupational therapist, but for the last 6 years I was in the military as a computer technician, however I still know very little about computers.

 

Some Bunny Loves You Egg Hunt

All in Need’s Annual Easter Egg Hunt celebrates Spring by offering an unique egg hunt for children with special needs and their families. This event welcomes 50 children to participate in finding 1,200 eggs and each child who attends will receive an Easter Basket to bring home!

 

LETTER FROM THE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR

I’m excited to share some changes at All in Need that will help us grow as we move forward. I’m pleased to announce that Kirstin McGrath is joining the AiN team as Program Director. She brings with her 500 hours of volunteer experience with pediatric therapy clinics, a hippotherapy clinic, and overnight camps for children with Autism.  Kirstin’s long term goal is to open her own therapy clinic as an Occupational Therapist. You have likely already met Kirstin over the past few months, as she has been involved in our programs and special events, so she is probably already a familiar face.

Seeing someone in the Program Director role has been a goal of ours for a long time, as it will allow me to expand into the Executive Director. In fact, now that will be my full time role. Through this growth of labor, Kirstin can focus on the many details associated with Revive and special events, while I can focus on obtaining grants — something I haven’t had as much time for in the past. This will hopefully allow us to further expand our programs and outreach.

This news comes with one additional change; my family will be relocating to Oregon in order to get my son Yaakov, who is on the spectrum, the help that he so desperately needs. As many of you know, over the past few months our lives have been turned upside down as Yaakov has faced numerous behavioral issues at school. Jacob and I know it’s time we make a change. For the remainder of 2018, Kirstin and I will be working closely together as she transitions into her new role.  I will be working from Oregon, but will be back in the Bay Area around Revive dates in order to make sure the program transition is seamless for our families.

I want to make it clear that although I’ll be working remotely, All in Need will have my full attention. In fact, it will have more of my attention than in the past. While living in California I juggled an additional full time job with the school district. Now I’ll have time to properly devote to both AiN and Yaakov.

Please know that AiN is my “baby” and the families we serve mean the world to me, and to Jacob and the board.  As I step into the Executive Director role, our programs will continue to expand and better support your families. Who knows… at some point we may even get to organize a satellite team in Oregon!

Although it’s hard to step away from the day-to-day program interactions, Jacob and I feel this is a win-win situation. We get to support our son. Our son gets his service dog. And once again because of our son and our family’s needs AiN will continue to grow and get more support!  Thank you for your understanding.

Wishing you rest,

Autumn Green

 

Parents and Educators Alike Have a Responsibility

by Candice Jensen

Parenting is hard. Parenting teenagers even harder. This is no secret. You know what makes parenting an even harder job? Navigating the parenting of a special needs child on the autism spectrum.

Many of the readers of this blog know this difficulty first-hand.

I want to share an incident in a California school involving a 15-year-old student that has my wheels turning about how we approach, educate, and discipline our kids in the dreaded arena of an awkward social topic: sex. And more specifically, sexual harassment. Recent media coverage of the ME TOO movement, multiple celebrities being accused of sexual harassment and sexual assault, and a crackdown of sorts on sexual harassment in the workplace have brought this important issue to the forefront of our minds.

Below is the account of what took place with the before-mentioned student:

The student, a 15-year-old boy diagnosed with high-functioning autism spectrum disorder, received notes from a few female students in his class asking him to allow them to perform oral sex on him for money. The student refused their requests. There was a back and forth between the male student and the female students via notes, and each time the male student replied “No”. In one instance, the student replied with a “Yes” in hopes that maybe the notes would stop. The student then ran from his high school to the elementary school where his mother works, trying to get away from the girls. The notes finally came to an end when the male student showed one to another classmate, who then dared him to “smack their ass(es)”. The student, feeling more comfortable with a dare from a friend, went ahead and smacked the girls behinds.

The incident escalated when the police showed up at the door of the male student’s home.

One of the girls had alerted a teacher, and then she and her father got the police involved. The police followed up with the school before making the home visit.

The student, most likely scared about the consequences coming to him, wasn’t fully truthful with the officer who came to question him. He finally told the officer about the notes and the dare. The officer said to the student: “You don’t even look sorry for what you did.” The student’s mother wanted to make sure the officer was aware of her son’s disability. The officer’s response was that he was fully aware of the disability. The officer later told the boy’s mother he was trying to scare her son into thinking straight and that one of the girls was pressing charges, but the other hadn’t told her parents at all. Eventually, the charges were dropped.

After the police officer had left, the student asked his mom what oral sex was.

There is so much to unpack from the incident, I find it hard to know where to start. There’s the issue of understanding that individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder have a different filter they see life through. It is difficult for these individuals to recognize social cues, and this makes them awkward around others. Imagine already feeling awkward as a hormonal teenager and trying to navigate your way through high school, then add the filter of your disability to the mix. When the student was approached by two classmates of the opposite sex asking to perform oral sex on him, he didn’t even know what the act was. Now, in my opinion, the initial passing of notes to the boy was harassment in itself. We all know kids can be cruel, and teenagers especially can be brutal to their peers. Its hard to know in the age of anti-bullying and harassment where to draw the line of “kids will be kids” and when to make an issue of these sorts of incidents.

Another thing that struck me when hearing the account of the incident was the police officer’s approach to the boy. When he said he was aware of the disability, but then made the comment about the boy “not looking sorry”, it made me a little angry. Of course he doesn’t “look sorry” his expressions are not shown like ours. His facial expression rarely changes. Even if he were feeling something so deeply, his face would stay the same.

So how do parents make sure that things like this don’t happen? How do you articulate to a teenager with autism the appropriate behaviors with the opposite sex at school and in other settings? Is this something that should be individually addressed with each special needs student when they reach high school age?

Father and son (8-9) sitting on sofa talking

There is a delicate balance between making sure that individuals with harassment stories are heard, believed, and made to feel like they are not at fault, all the while recognizing that there are select individuals that may be telling stories for attention. Recognizing each individual’s needs, and being sure their needs are served appropriately, both at home and at school, is a major responsibility with parents and their educators alike.

In the case of the student, the school and their educators failed in not following procedures in place for the student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program), and signs were missed with the student’s behavior that could have alerted all involved to the note-passing.

So what do YOU think about this particular incident and the sort of lessons learned about the approach to an autistic student in the subject of sex? Can you relate? Do you have your own story to tell?

In my opinion, the best thing we can do for our kids is to be open and available for them to come to with questions. Being truthful with them should be the practice. This will foster healthy habits and relationships between not only you and your child, but with your child and his/her peers.

 

The feelings of the writer doesn’t reflect AiN or the board members, but of the writers.

It Is Our Joy to Help Support Accessing the Life Around You!

 

Working with families at All In Need, Family Support (AiN) has taught me that parents and caregivers are strong. Each child that comes into AiN worms their way into all the volunteers’ hearts, and as volunteers we hear the parents’ stories of their child’s success and struggles.

As the Executive Director of AiN, I often times cry after hanging up with a parent hearing how their child is taking a turn for the worse or their child’s behavior is out of control. I hear desperation in the parent’s voice as they are struggling to support their child’s needs. Having a child on the spectrum, often times, I can understand their feelings and can tell parents it will get better. But, sometimes I cannot relate to what the parents are saying. All I can do is listen and try to hold it together while parents give me the latest updates on their children. Then I hang up and cry. I cannot even imagine your child having additional medical issues on top of the daily fight of Autism. I cannot imagine the fight of a wheelchair, because your child is too tired to stay on her feet. I cannot imagine hearing the words “your child will not make it to adulthood”.  So, this parent tries to relate to what parents must be feeling, but instead I crawl under the covers and cry for the families who are hurting. Yet, I see these parents go on and advocate for their children. Knowing they are exhausted, but amazingly strong.  Yet, as a spectator in their lives, I get to learn what love is and what dedication and strength is. It is humbling that these families allow us at AiN to be part of such an intimate detail in their lives.

At AiN, we know we only can help carry their burdens, and we do that through offering respite care to the families. Their child has an opportunity to socialize with others and play games. We also offer three special events a year. This gives them the opportunity to participate in mainstream events and parents to network with one another.

Lastly, we offer the Angel Fund. We choose one family who has attend at least one Revive event in the last year.  The goal of this fund is to help the family who is in need of additional support due to unforeseen circumstance. We are proud that we were able to provide $750 to the Hazlett Family to help cover a FM system which will hook into our winner’s cochlear implants which will allow her to hear what is being said.  The child has the system in place and it has been reported by teachers and parents it has helped. However, this device isn’t covered by insurance.  It is our joy and pleasure to be able to support the Hazlett family so that their family can enjoy all aspects of life!

–Autumn Green, Executive Director and Founder

Trunk or Treat 2017

Austin Green teaching kids about archery

38 children and their parents came and joined AiN for their 3rd Annual Trunk or Treat!  This was made possible by more than 40 volunteers coming together volunteering their time!  Children were able to Trick or Treat at 27 different trunks.  One trunk the kids were able to try to be Robin Hood. While another trunk they could visit Alice and Wonderland.  Other trunks setup a zoo or AiN (Animal in Need)  This year, AiN had a contest for the best trunk where the children could pick their favorite trunk. Kimberly Gillem won a $100

Best Trunk

gift card to Dead Fish donated by Bank of America Anti-Freud Department.

Many of the kids lined up and played JENGA with the College Park Interact Club while others played Connect Four and Corn Hole.  This year AiN added Carnival games. One carnival game was made by Nate Klug from recycled materials from his home. Jacob Green made a pig race from an old table. They also could catch rubber ducks, ring toss.  Several family stopped by the green screen for pictures.

Of course, we cannot forget that many of the kids and several of the adults took a moment and threw pies at the Executive Director, Autumn Green in one of their newest fundraisers!

AiN was able to offer this event because of our sponsors: AHA Movement and Land Home Financial Services, and from two grants: Pleasant Hill Community Center and SMPS Family!  Thank you to those who donated for our drawings!

Enjoy looking at some of this years fun!

 

Spread compassion for special needs children

The high school boys purposely kept the frisbee just out of the reach of a special needs student. Ariana knew she had to step in. Thankfully, her experience volunteering with All in Need came in handy. “I simply asked if I could play with him instead…it made me realize how much unfair and underserved treatment the special needs community receives.”

Ariana Whitmarsh had no experience working with individuals with special needs when she found All in Need. She had been introduced to the special needs community through a high school program and knew that was where she could make a difference. After two years of consistently volunteering with All in Need, Ariana currently volunteers at respite sessions when her schedule as a nanny, marketing coordinator and student at the University of the Pacific allows.

During the three hour respite, Ariana likes to spend one-on-one time with a special needs student, although she also helps out with arts and crafts and story time. She says “The best part of volunteering for AiN is to see the development of the children throughout the years.  You form relationships with the children and the families, and to see new accomplishments every month is very rewarding.”

We need your help! With your support, we can serve more children and attract more kind volunteers like Ariana. Your contribution is fully tax-deductible and several payment options are available. We appreciate all donations and recognize all our contributors.

Our success depends on the generosity of the community.Please help us work to be a resource for families who face extra challenges — after all, everyone deserves a break here and there!

 

 

Help Spread the Word!

Provide support for families of children with special needs

Zoe, a 14 year old girl with special needs had a tight bond with Tyra’s sister before she left for college. Now Tyra is excited to continue that volunteer relationship. There aren’t many non-profits that with multiple volunteers from one family, but All in Need is one of them.

Although they recently met, Tyra, a high school student, and Zoe already have a tight bond. During All in Need’s three hour respite session for families with special needs, they happily play with balloons or watch all the fun activities other children are participating in. This allows Zoe’s parents to go to dinner, spend time with siblings or just have time to themselves.

I was unaware that so few programs like AiN exist to support special needs families and I want to continue to work with this community and help in any way that I can.” she says. Most of all, Tyra’s looking forward to creating many happy moments with Zoe. “I am very thankful that Autumn has organized this amazing program and feel very lucky to be a part of it.”

We need your help! With your support, we can serve more children and attract more kind volunteers like Tyra.. Your contribution is fully tax-deductible and several payment options are available. We appreciate all donations and recognize all our contributors.

Our success depends on the generosity of the community. Please help us work to be a resource for families who face extra challenges — after all, everyone deserves a break here and there!

Don’t Say NEVER-Medication is now part of our lives

It was Yaakov’s freshman year he tried out for the high school soccer team and didn’t make it. We noticed some depression happening, and his anxiety was becoming evident in his daily life. Even teachers were complaining about his behavior.

We felt he needed to be involved with some sort of activity, and he didn’t like high school track. I had heard that a local competitive soccer club was still looking for players. He played for the team several years ago but we have removed him from the team when they were short players for a team. As we were driving to his tryouts he tells me he wanted to play for Heritage Soccer Club, so his skills would improve so he could make it onto his high school team.

When we got to the field he panicked! The panic was bad, worse than what I ever I had seen in the past.  In the past, we always had coach/teacher/friend  there that could step in and allow me to walk away. Taking me out of the equations was typically enough to jump start him. Yet, there wasn’t someone there that could offer him or me that support.  I’m was trying to get a run in around the track,  so he can do the tryouts and he’s yelling at me don’t make me do this mom don’t make me do this!  Yet, on the way there he had told me he wanted to play so he could get on his high school team.  And to be honest I yelled at him and used language towards him that I don’t do with my kids. I told them I was tired of his bull shit  and we are always putting so much extra time in with him and it obvious was a waste of my time when he wasn’t grateful for all we have done for him. Somehow or another I use the word hell in there. Another words I was not helping him be successful and I myself had a massive meltdown and this may have been the first one towards him ever. (I have meltdowns, but they are in the shower were no one can see me crying. So, he doesn’t know how much I struggle with dealing with certain situations with him.)

His dad and I been talking about doing something for his anxiety, but we had no idea what to do. The tools that been working for years were no longer working and the next step was medication.  After seeing him paralyzed with fear knowing how much he loves soccer I had to make a decision.

The coach later came over and told me that Yaakov has enough skills to play, but there is probably a better fit for him.  He told me to go ahead and take him to the following day practice with a team that was older, but a little less aggressive and see how he feels about it. The next day Yaakov was excited about being able to tryout and that the coaches saw that he could play will enough to be successful to tryout. But, that all changed when we got there and once again like the day before he started melting down. This time,  I left the field to go run I came back forty five minutes later and he had not moved, but this time there was no coach to help him get over his anxiety. I told him to come to the car told him I’m done trying to help support him and that  we are going home we will pack up his computer and he won’t be playing his video games and computers anymore. I know it’s harsh and I knew once again it was anxiety but I also knew he needed a big push to get him out on that field. He started crying he asked me to pray with him. I did, and then I sat in the car and cried as he went back out in the field.

After tryouts the coach came over with form and said he wanted Yaakov on the team. With the coach standing right there I felt it was important that Yaakov to say he wanted to play, so if another meltdown happen it was clear Yaakov want to play and I wasn’t making him. So I asked him, “do you want to play for Heritage?” He said, “yes.”

As we left the field,  I told Yaakov that we’ve been considering putting you on medication for his anxiety. I asked him,  “how do you feel about that?” He asked, “what does that mean and what will it do?” So I explained,  “when things are bad and we use our tools like prayer, like hugs, taking deep breaths, and everything that has worked in the past is no longer working you possibly need more. A couple of these tools maybe medication and even some therapy.  I also told him that fear,  being scared, and nervous is all natural.  As  a Christian, I believe it is a way for us to check in with God and ask for help. But, with that being said when your anxiety is so bad and you can’t function God has given us other tools and that is having good doctors who can work with your symptoms”.

As all of you guys know of for my past post this was very hard for me because I’ve been so against medication for my children. Yet him hitting his teenage years,  I’m realizing that he needs more tools than what I can give him,  and my own fears cannot control his life. So another words I had to do exactly what I’ve been telling him to to do trust God and move on and get him help.

We did put him on medication and he’s been on in about 3 months now and I can honestly say it made a huge difference in our lives. It wasn’t too long after we put him on medicine that we lost his dog. And though we thought he was going to have a huge meltdown and there was a big possibility that the police would have to be called he said what he had to say,  he cried and he is moving on. In June he had to have surgery;  don’t get me wrong he was nervous, but he went in there with quick prayer and faced what was coming and did a wonderful job. I guess what I’m trying to say is there is a time and a place for medication and I’ve always thought that for other families. But it was very hard to accept that same reality with my own son. Yaakov cannot tell any difference, but with less meltdowns and less anxiety attacks our house is a little bit calmer. Yaakov is a little more at peace.

Lastly, I want to make it clear this not a blog post on preaching, or trying to put my beliefs on others. It isn’t how AiN staff or board members feel, but the writer’s own thoughts.