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

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.

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AiN’s 3rd Annual Egg Hunt for Children with Special 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.

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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.

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#AiN #AllinNeed #AiNEggHunt #SomeBunnyLovesYou

AiN is Awarded Two Grants

egg hunt rath 8All in Need, Family Support (AiN) serves families with special needs children, ages 18 and under, who live in the East Bay area. AiN offers support in a nurturing and learning environment that promotes social interaction and gross and fine motor activities, all in a sensory based atmosphere.

The “Revive” respite care program gives parents the chance to take care of themselves, so they can take better care of their children.

Their “Special Events” are held several times throughout the year for the entire family to enjoy. These are age appropriate activities, offered in a mainstream setting, allowing for kids to participate in events in a safe and positive atmosphere. Whether enjoying decorating Cookies with Santa, exploring for eggs and prizes at the annual Easter Egg Hunt, or dressing up in the costumes and participating in safe and fun trick or treating at Trunk-or-Treat, these events are a unique and fun way for kids and families to get engaged. Because it is so important for families to share their stories and support each other, these events not only encourage friendships among AiN Children, but offer an opportunity for parents to network with other AiN families.

AiN was award their first grant from SMPS Family Fund for $3,000 last month. The money is to be used for their special events program.   They were shocked to also find out they were rewarded a $250 grant from the Jim and Sharon Walker Family Fund that they were unaware of. Autumn Green, Executive Director and Founder, says she cannot express her gratitude enough for these two grants.

If you would like more information on AiN programs or how you can support AiN visit their webpage at www.allinneed.org.

Cookies with Santa 2015 an Event for Children with Special Needs

Santa had contacted AiN’s Executive Director, Autumn Green explaining that he couldn’t make it to Breakfast with Santa this year. Autumn was disappointed she had already planned on making Green and Ham for the Dr. Seuss Christmas theme.  She understood the schedule conflict, so she agreed to have Santa join the kids on Saturday, December 12, 2015 for Cookies with Santa.

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What a hit! 30 plus kids registered one of the two 45 minute sessions.  Kids rotated through four stations: Cookie station, art station, sensory station and Santa station. While they waited to see Santa they were able to look at books.logan2

With donations from Maggie Wolf each child received a stocking stuff full of goodies, and of course Santa had presents for each child. (2 books) which was possible by the sponsors of this event. Santa, Mrs Claus and Karen De Jager at Spectrum Photography worked extremely hard to make sure every child had a positive interaction with Santas Claus.  Santa was even willing to pop out from behind a chair so that the family had one photo with Santa and their daughter.

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Thank you to all our sponsors: Matt Rinn at State Farm, Debbie Smith at AHA Movement, Margret Miner at VinoCruising, Joe Stokely at Stokely Properties, and Michael Bronies at J. Rockcliff Realtors. We cannot forget all the other 1volunteers that put hours into preparing for this event. This event wouldn’t have been successful without you. A special thank you to Jen Tipton, who made dozens and dozens of cookies for this event.

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East Bay ABA logo karen mattrinn MBrionezLogo_1115

Strength of the Special Needs Parents-Angel Fund Awarded for 2015

angelfund2Working 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.

angelfund

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 $250 to the Cook Family to help cover medical expense for their son who suffered a stroke early in 2015.

 

Photos taken by Karen De Jager: Spectrum Photography

 

I am a Mother! I am a Mother of a Child who has Special Needs & it is Time to Give Thanks!

I am thankful! I am a mother!  Us mothers have those moments that we look at our child with pride and are grateful that they were put in our lives.  As a mother of a neurotypical developing child, I want to give myself a high five or a pat on the back because I rock! I look at myself in the mirror and think no one can do it better than me! I am raising this boy, who is now 15 years old to be the man he was designed to be! A sophomore in high school he is already planning on moving to Oregon, so he can study to become on Occupational Therapist. He has a love for children and kids love him. His desire is to work with kids that have special needs. Of course, I know there are many wonderful mom’s out there and I would have not gotten this far if it wasn’t for my son’s father. Lets face it, it took both of us to bestow our values onto our son, and with guidance from us and our son’s own spiritual beliefs he is where he is today. I am not saying he will not have hard times, and I am not saying these next two years as he becomes more independent I will not go crazy with his rolling of his eyes, or snottiness. But, hey I cannot help but be grateful for the young man he is turning out to be. How can I not be thankful for this gift from God! As a mother we love unconditionally and only our own children can teach us this love! I am thankful! ( The oldest makes faces when it is time to take pictures because he is too cool to hang out with mom.) austin and me

 

I am thankful! I am a mother! I am a mother of child with special needs. Our life hasn’t always been easy, but I would be crazy not to be thankful for this gift from God. This gift has taught me to love unconditionally; this love has been thrown in my face by my son. Fear has tested the love, love has brought away from the shame that at times would eat me alive while being in public with a child who was out of control, frustration that my love wouldn’t be enough, at times feeling helpless knowing my love wasn’t sparing my child from a life his brother was living.  Yet, I am thankful my love accepted the adventures we faced raising a son with special needs. Thankful for the struggles we faced as a family; it was those struggles that allowed me to share our story with others and to be able to offer respite at All in Need. This same little boy set the stage for his older brother to have a desire to serve others with special needs. I am thankful!

yaakov and me

 

I am thankful I am a mother of two amazing boys who bring me joy that I could never have imagined. I am thankful that my path was paved by a very special child who has taught our family to love unconditionally other families who have similar issues. As Madam Blueberry said, “A grateful heart is a happy heart!”

kids and me

Happy Thanksgiving from the Green Family!

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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