Get to know Tyra

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?

I have been a competitive dancer for ten years.

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.

 

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

AiN Recieves $450 from Pleasant Hill Rotary Club

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.

 

Thank you, Pleasant Hill Rotary!

 

Photo taken by Allen Vinson

No Medication For Our Son!

Our son’s original diagnoses was pediatric bipolar and because of the diagnoses and what seemed to be extreme self-hurting behaviors we had decided to put him on medication. Let me explain, when we put him on medication it was one of the hardest decisions of my life. I was always against medicating children. Yet, when your child is trying to jump out of moving cars, run into the street, and all he keeps saying is I want to die. Then you turn around and he is scrubbing a spot on the floor​ for an hour, I was at a loss what to do. We tried many different cocktails, but nothing seemed​ to work for him. During his Kindergarten year another diagnoses was added to his records along with Bipolar. He was also diagnosed with Aspergers.

March of his kindergarten year was a living hell. There was academic placement issues. We couldn’t get the cocktail figured out. The doctor had put him on Lithium and after a blood test had us increase the dose. The first night after raising the dosage he showed signs of lithium toxicity. We rushed him to the hospital. At that point, my husband and I made the decision to remove him from all medication. We were questioning the diagnoses of Bipolar by this point. After reading about Aspergers and hearing further information on Sensory Processing. We were pretty sure the behavior we were seeing: trying to jump out of moving cars, run in front of cars, and pushing me down stairs all had to do with overstimulation. With a new doctors help we tapered him off all medication understanding if he indeed did have bipolar we would have to be put him back on medication.

The first year, we spent time building trust with him. So, if he said he was done and ready to go. We left or removed him from the situation. It didn’t matter if we were visiting my friends and family, on a playdate, or even somewhere fun with his brother. If Jacob, my husband, was around one of us would take Yaakov and other would take Austin, his brother. This way Austin wasn’t always paying the price.

As time passed, we saw that he didn’t need medication for Bipolar but really was suffering from Anxiety. Yet, after the last experience with medication I didn’t want to go that route. We had a huge support system. Coaches, teachers, friends, and family would help us in dealing with his anxiety. So, we had been able to give him the tools to be successful!

As time passed, I was gratefully that we didn’t have to put him on medication. With that being said, it wasn’t that we didn’t have meltdowns we did! Medication just didn’t need to be a tool for the meltdowns. We talked through the anxiety and we pushed him to be successful even when he didn’t think he was going to be a success. Through this experience, I recognize there is a time for medication, but I also believe research is very important. The doctors hadn’t asked me the right questions. Before trying to jump out of the car, how long were you in the car? 6 hours. Before he bit you and didn’t let go what were you doing. We were driving for hours and hours. He was getting more upset and wanting to jump out of the car. If these questions were asked we would have saved ourselves and Yaakov a lot of heartache and fear.

Pleasant Hill Community Grant Recipient 2017

AiN received a $500 grant from the Pleasant Hill Community Foundation for our upcoming Trunk or Treat.

All in Need plans on serving 50 special needs children and their siblings at our Trunk or Treat in 2017. 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”. All in Need Trunk or Treat allow 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.

This year, we are adding carnival games to the nights events! Nate Klug, a young man who is 15 years old and lives with ADHD, who is talented leather maker, and is learning how to work with wood designed and made a fishbowl game for AiN!

The intended benefit is to expand All in Need’s current special event programs to serve more children and families in the local community. As an underserved population with limited community supports, children with special needs and their families will have greater opportunities to participate in the same types of events as their typically developing peers. Gaining the foundation in which they can move towards participating in the community based events which offer no support.

Thank you to the grant selection committee.

Pleasant Hill Community Foundation Grant Recipient

GrantAiN received a $1,000 grant from the Pleasant Hill Community Foundation for our upcoming Trunk or Treat.

All in Need plans on serving 100 special needs children and their siblings at our Trunk or Treat in 2016. 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”. All in Need Trunk or Treat allow 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.

The intended benefit is to expand All in Need’s current special event programs to serve more children and families in the local community. As an underserved population with limited community supports, children with special needs and their families will have greater opportunities to participate in the same types of events as their typically developing peers. Gaining the foundation in which they can move towards participating in the community based events which offer no support.

Thank you to the grant selection committee.

grant 1

Bunny Stopping by for a Visit

Autumn’s oldest son, Austin, dressed in the bunny costume to send love to one of our AiN kiddo’s.  We also wanted her to know that the bunny will be stopping by for a quick visit.

The following day, Autumn and Juliana, who was dressed as the bunny, hopped over for a quick visit and drop off her Easter Basket.
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#Praying4rebecca #thinkofrebecca #praying4urebecca

The Giving Tree-Volunteer’s Rock Party

As much as I love my volunteers. Giving parties aren’t my thing. So, it was a very quiet night. However, I tried to do a few things to show my volunteers how much I appreciate them.

The theme was The Giving Tree. Each one of my youth volunteers received the book. I quickly recapped the book, and told the volunteers that I know often times as volunteers  we feel like give and give until we feel we don’t have anything left to give. But, often times families just need us to allow them to sit down and let them regroup.  It seems like so little on our parts but it is huge for the families.

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Jennifer Tipton catered the meal for us. We did a mash potato bar using martini glasses, and she did pudding in shot glass.

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The best part of the evening for me is that our volunteers got together and did a dance for one of our kiddos who is no longer able to join us at AiN.


Thank you to all my volunteers. Thank  you for supporting AiN families, and thank you for making my dreams come true.