1. How long have you been a part of AiN and what is your position?
I have been volunteering at AiN for 6 months and attend the monthly Revive Events, as well as special events.
2. What do you hope to accomplish with AiN?
After hearing about my sister’s amazing experiences as a volunteer at AiN, I decided to join the organization. I love working with kids and young adults and have already learned so much during my time with AiN.
3. What experiences have you gained so far with AiN?
Volunteering at AiN has allowed me to gain experience with kids with special needs, a skill that I lacked before joining the organization. I have also been able to discover my love for working with kids and young adults.
4. What is your favorite thing about AiN?
I love spending time with Zoe, a teenage girl who I am able to hang out with at nearly every Revive event.
5. How has volunteering with AiN changed your perspective on volunteering with special needs children?
Volunteering with AiN has allowed me to discover the unique personalities of each of the kids. Through working at Revive, I have been able to learn how to guide activities for kids with special needs and the importance of sensory activities.
6. What do you look forward to when attending the events?
I always look forward to spending time with Zoe and the other kids. I love seeing how the kids have grown from the time started volunteering.
7. What is your favorite activity?
I love watching the kids play with the different sensory activities each month. They are always very creative and fun.
8. What is the hardest part of attending the events?
Considering that I had never worked with kids with special needs before AiN, I have struggled learning what activities each of the kids enjoyed and which ones to avoid. However, after working at AiN for 6 months, I have started to pick up each kid’s routine.
9. What do you like to do for fun?
Outside of AiN, I enjoy dancing, spending time with my friends and family, and traveling.
10. What is something interesting or fun about yourself?
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.
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!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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
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!
AiN received a $450 grant from the Pleasant Hill Community Rotary Club for a pop-up tent for our Special Events! Thanks to Joyce Blom, who put the grant request together!
All in Need plans on serving 50 special needs children and their siblings at our Trunk or Treat in 2017 and 45 children at our Cookies with Santa event.
For these children, attending holiday or other community events is so challenging that they may choose not to participate at all. Some children with special needs are unable to wait in line, or lack the motor skills to coordinate picking out candy from a candy bowl. While others cannot tolerate wearing costumes or do not have the language skills to say “Trick or Treat” or “I want ____ for Christmas”. All in Need Trunk or Treat and Cookies with Santa allows children to be able to participate in the same type of popular community events as their typical peers, but in a safe and nurturing environment that supports their needs.
May 19th brought the celebration of spring and an early Easter Egg Hunt for children with special needs and their families. AiN hosting their 3rd annual egg hunt was Saturday, where AiN volunteers and Pleasant Hill Chamber Members packed 1,200 plastic eggs for 31 kids to find. Each child received an AiN Easter Basket (this year an AiN bag) which included bubbles, slinkies, sensory toys, sunglasses and so much more.
Because we had the budget AiN reached out to two other organizations that serve children with special needs. One of the organizations used the egg hunt as an Applied Behavior Analysis social group outing. While the other organization used it as a family day out; offering networking between parents while children joined in the egg hunt.