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.

I Am Not a Depressed Mom Though the Anxiety May Just Eat Me Alive

 

Yak and mom tea

Just recently, I read an old Facebook post from 2010 where I said “I have been looking for hours, where did I put my of How to Parent Special Needs Kid’s Handbook?”  Within the comments I wrote “I set Yaakov off today, so bad that he wanted to kill himself. Yelling at a car that went by to run him over.”  It is hard to believe that five years ago this was our daily life. I felt like I was walking on egg shells, so as not to set my child off. Today our lives are easier, to say I don’t set him off now would be lie, but I guess I can go with the flow better than I use to, or maybe now I don’t know if he is going off because of his special needs or if it is because he is a 13 year old boy.

When he was littler and seeing a psychologist regularly the doctor would often ask me how I was holding up. He would remind me a lot of parents in my shoes would be on antidepressants and it was okay if I was depressed. It was odd back then that I didn’t feel depressed, determined would be the word I would have used. I wasn’t going to live through hours of therapies with my son, advocating for my child just to be a parent who had a child with special needs, but wanted to be a parent that made a difference for my own child and other families. So, depressed wasn’t an issue.

Yet, looking back I can now see things that I have done because I had no control of our situation. Like my house was always clean. I worked out when Yaakov was at school for several hours. All of these things are normal to a degree, but I took it little further.  My house was always clean, I mean I woke up and cleaned it, and kids went to school and I mopped and vacuumed. Kids came home I mopped and vacuumed as soon as their homework was done. I would walk my oldest to school, run home to the gym, and spend an hour and half at the gym and run home to shower. Getting done in time to walk to school to pick him up and bring him home.  Things changed when I started working at an elementary school four years ago. My house is very rarely clean and though I run and ride bikes I don’t put 6 plus miles on daily. I look back and I see what it really was I wasn’t depressed, but the only place in my life I had control was cleaning and working out. Because everything else in my life seemed to be about raising a child with special needs.

As I said, it is different now, my house isn’t clean all the time like I wish it was. I don’t workout all the time. I only run 25 miles a week and try to get in 50 miles on the bike. I have a life outside of my family which consist of work, All in Need, chamber events, and so on. But, over the years the control has changed into anxiety, massive anxiety.  I love a clean house and there is nothing like running for fun or playing in the mud but it is a healthy love not an obsession.

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I cannot handle being around people or should I say adults. I do everything I can to avoid having to be in social situations. I can typically pull myself together if it is a one on one {1:1) situation and if I can make it into something about All in Need with people I are already know, then I can typically do it.  But put me in a room of people I don’t know, and the fear of them talking to me and me falling apart is frightening. If you put me in a room of mixed people I know and don’t know it is almost worse. What if they don’t think I have my life together. What if they know that I doubt myself as a parent of a child with special needs? What if I am not classy enough for this situation because I have a child with special needs? Hell! I don’t even know if I will use the right fork during dinner.

I know some of my social issues stems back to me coming from a small town, my family didn’t have parties and I don’t remember anything formal like a gala in the small town of Oakridge,OR that I grew up in. But, it is more than that because as my youngest got worse I dreaded having people come over for dinner or for get togethers.  It became a joke, that my son got his social issues from his mother.
Just recently I was asked to go to the We Care for Children Services gala by one of their board members and I jumped at it because more than anything I wanted to support her and show how much her little boy meant to me. Then of course the anxiety stepped in. What if I don’t use the right fork. My mom jokingly told me that I had seen “Pretty Woman” with Julia Roberts and had learned everything that I would need to know. I didn’t think I would make it through. prety woman

Meeting up before the gala I was lucky enough that the people there didn’t even bat an eye that I was shaking so bad and fighting back tears. As, we got to the gala, I recognized a lot of the faces and many of those faces knew I was pushing my boundaries further than I have ever done before.  With the support of many wonderful ladies I didn’t just make it through, but actually enjoyed myself.  I did have a laugh, because when I seemed to have issues was during transition time which seemed all to familiar. Just like when my own son seems to struggle during transition times as well.12191407_10153724168892162_841754733445004776_nI even went out after the gala for a little bit!  A special thank you to those ladies who were patient with me. I would have never made it through the night without your support. You too Vi and Audra!

 

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Yaakov’s Runner-Stacyruns 4 Autism Stacy Runs 4 My Son

How many of you have heard of I run 4? The I run 4 webpage says:

We all have friends who say, “run some for me,” because they don’t WANT to run. But what about those who can’t run for physical or developmental reasons?  Having been inspired by a close friend battling bilateral hip dysplasia, Founder Tim Boyle discovered a whole new inspiration to run.

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In a previous post I shared my story of being a runner. As I saw stories of children and their special needs I questioned signing my own stacyson up. He is on the Autism spectrum but high functioning. Many of the families, I viewed desperately needed support so I struggled signing Yaakov up to have a runner.  Finally, I did and he was paired with Stacy, who lives in New York!  She has been running for him for about two years now. He enjoys hearing from her, but her support when we were dealing with IEPs was unreal. She would send photos of Spartan runners saying as a Spartan we back each other.

We were able to go back to New York, so that I could run a race for my buddy. While were there Stacy took the time to come and met Yaakov in person. Though he was pretty rude and wouldn’t talk to her she went with the flow. She brought him several of her medals and a few t-shirts from races she had taken part in.  Yaakov’s favorite story from all the race’s was Stephen Siller’s Tunnel to Tower 5K.

On September 11, 2001,

Stephen had just gotten off the late shift at Squad 1, Park Slope, Brooklyn. He was on his way to play golf with his brothers when his scanner told of the first plane hitting the Twin Towers.  When he heard the news, Stephen called his wife Sally and asked her to tell his brothers he would catch up with them later, and then returned to Squad 1 to get his gear. Stephen drove his truck to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, but it was already closed. So he strapped 60 lbs. of gear to his back, rushed on foot through gridlocked traffic and ran from the Tunnel to the Towers where he gave up his life while saving others.

 

To read all of Stephen’s story visit his webpage.

Yaakov had no desire to go to the 911 memorial until Stacy told him the story. Once we got to the memorial he found Stephen’s name and had his picture taken with it while wearing the shirt Stacy gave him. It was a delight that she was able to spark interest from her races and for something that was important to our history.

Since meeting her, it is clear he is much more interested in her. I believe it is because the relationship is no longer on Facebook, but a real person.

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Thank you, Stacy for running for my son. Thank you for running for Autism.

To sign up for a runner or to be come a runner visit I run 4 Michael’s webpage.

Meeting My Buddy-I Run 4 Autism I Run 4 Jadhiel

How many of you have heard of I run 4? The I run 4 webpage says:

We all have friends who say, “run some for me,” because they don’t WANT to run. But what about those who can’t run for physical or developmental reasons?  Having been inspired by a close friend battling bilateral hip dysplasia, Founder Tim Boyle discovered a whole new inspiration to run.

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I have always been a runner. Through middle school and high school I ran Cross Country and Long Distance Track. After graduating I would run off and on for exerciser, but when life got busy I would quickly give it up. Once again I started running it was a needed relief for dealing with my son and his IEP and teachers.  It wasn’t too long after I started running I heard about I run4. I quickly signed up to be a runner for someone who has special needs. I figured it would give me an excuse to continue taking care of myself and in return I could share my adventures and love for running with my buddy. I was paired with Jahdiel, a boy who has Autism, in December 2013 just a few days before Christmas. I cannot express how excited I was to meet this guy and his mother through Facebook; me living in California and them in New Jersey. Before I was paired with Jahdiel I had ran a 5K color run and though it was a fun run, I had got bit by the race bug. So, in March 2014 wearing a Cat in the Hat Shirt (Jahdiel’s passion at the time.) I did my first 10K, and I struggled through it. Determined to not stop running for Jahdiel; I finished but thought I was going to die! Yet, now I was determined to run a half marathon for him and ran my first half marathon in June of 2014 where I was hoping to not get anything under 2 hours and 15 minutes for my time, and I finished2:05 and my first half for my buddy! Now I was hooked and in 2014 I ran nine half marathons, a 6 hour endurance run, and a Tri Sprint!

In 2015, I had two goals running a full marathon and running a half in New Jersey where my buddy could greet me at the finish line. In March I ran my first full marathon. It wasn’t as successful as I had hoped. I had injured myself two weeks before the race. I was able to get out and run it, but I didn’t do as well as I would have liked too.

Our familyjahdiel planned a trip to the East Coast for October 2015. I had a race planned and finally would be able to meet my buddy in person! Two weeks before we left I fell off my bike while cross training and broke my elbow! Though I told all the doctors I was going and I was running. I was told I had to take it easy, because if I fell I would be down for good.

October 3rd, I ran a half in Brooklyn, New York where Jahdiel, his mother, and his little sister were waiting for me at the finish line. I cannot tell you the emotion that ran through me breaking my PR by 3 minutes and 6 seconds and having Jahdiel there.

It was a dream come true and now going into November I cannot wait to run some Turkey Trots for Jahdiel! #irun4jahdiel #irun4autism #heismysuperhero

Get your child a runner today, signup at whoirun4.com

Making it A Permanent Decision to Bring Awareness to Autism

First I want to make it clear this not a blog post on preaching. It isn’t how AiN staff or board members feel, but the writer’s own thoughts on why she had the tattoo designed the way she did.

Many years ago Austin, my oldest son, chose this verse as his life verse: Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13. Which is interesting because watching him develop into a young man I see how he loves others unconditionally.

I struggled choosing something to represent my youngest son, Yaakov. In truth I knew I could do Autism puzzle pieces, but didn’t want to portray that Autism was our life. It is part of our life it is what led me to find All in Need but it is just a piece of the puzzle. After a long decision process I decided to have Jeremiah 29:11 which says For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.. This verse would show no matter what piece of the puzzle we no there are plans that will be used for all.

I got the Brooks running shoe, because I love brooks and because I love to run and I love to run for a child who has Autism, Jahdiel. I asked the tattoo artist to some how add the puzzle pieces in the shoe because I run for a boy has Autism. I didn’t want the pieces too big but wanted it part of the art work of the shoe.

Lastly, I wanted to show the seasons which represented two things: running year round and that no matter time of year AiN would be here ready to serve others.

When I got there the puzzle pieces were way bigger than what I thought they would be, but it was everything I could imagine! Now when hitting the road for a run I share my dedication to Autism Awareness for my buddy, Jadhiel and share my love for families and their children that use All in Need!

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Active Reading Center: A new way to help your child learn

ARC logoIf you’re having trouble finding a good resource to help your child begin reading, check out the Active Reading Center (ARC).

The ARC provides activity-based teaching and the “Reading Revolution” methodology to help children gain crucial reading skills through a series of activities. They work with children who have trouble functioning in a traditional classroom, and also work with children who have various learning disabilities.

According to their website, the ARC says that “our activity-based teaching builds progressive reading and spelling skills that develop the student’s self-confidence through a series of manageable challenges.”

Students are taught one-on-one by highly trained instructors and the program can last between 3-6 months depending on the needs of the student.

You can learn more about the ARC here: activereadingcenter.org

Parent Interview with Rachel Shirley

bridgeWhy are you thankful for All in Need? 

“I am thankful for All in Need because of the break I get during the couple of hours and the time I get to spend with my husband.” – Rachel Shirley

Did you have plans tonight?

“Me and my husband went out to dinner and went on a nice walk.” – Rachel Shirley

How long have you been a part of All in Need?

“This is my second month being a part of All in Need and I love everything about the program.” – Rachel Shirley

 

Interviewed and written by: Fatima Ali

Photo by Jacob Green

AiN Angel Fund

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All in Need, Family Support (AiN) announced their very first recipient of the “AiN Angel Fund” on December 6, 2014. Which was made possible by generous donation from an anonymous donor, the “AiN Angel Fund” is a way to help our families by relieving some of the financial burden of raising a child with special needs.

AiN’s mission is to provide support to families with children ages 18 and under that have special needs in the East Bay Area by offering respite care in a nurturing and learning environment, promoting social interaction, gross and fine motor activities all in a sensory based atmosphere.

AiN board considered all families who use AiN services. But all agreed the $1,000 Angel Fund needed to be awarded to the McClanahan Family from Concord. The money is designated to help purchase a van that is wheelchair accessible for their daughter. Their youngest daughter has Mitochondrial Disease. The United Mitochondrial Foundation’s website says, “Mitochondrial diseases result from failures of the mitochondria, specialized compartments present in every cell of the body except red blood cells. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cell. Cell injury and even cell death follow. If this process is repeated throughout the body, whole systems begin to fail, and the life of the person in whom this is happening is severely compromised. The disease primarily affects children, but adult onset is becoming more and more common.”

Elizabeth McClanahan says, “Words are still not coming to me after your generous gift toward the wheelchair lift van. We are humbled and honored to be the recipient of All in Needs Family Support’s 2014 gift to families in need. Thank you All in Need Family Support, Board Members and Autumn Green!”

AiN intends to present this gift to a deserving family who uses AiN services next December. To help support this fund, please donate to AiN’s Angel Fund. Donations can be made on our webpage allinneed.org or at:
All in Need, Family Support
25-A Crescent Ave. #214
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523
Contact

To learn more about this event, please contact:

Autumn Green, Executive Director
greena@allinneed.org
www.allinneed.org
Office: (925) 257-4246
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