Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Getting Away

The month of April is almost over and yet it doesn't feel much like spring here in the Midwest. As I write this it is 6:15 am and it's a chilly 32 degrees. I am so ready for some warmer weather. And I will get it later tomorrow as I travel to San Diego to visit an old college friend. I'm so looking forward to a time to get away and relax with a dear friend while enjoying the southern California sun and beauty. In the midst of our rush, rush culture I find scheduling in times to get away and relax a must. Sometimes all that has to happen to get to such a time is very overwhelming as you try to get things in place for your family to survive while you're gone and cover the your responsibilities; but I've found that this extra stress is worth it for the refreshment I receive when I get away.

Getting out of my day-to-day element often gives me much needed perspective on life. There's a whole big world out there with many amazing opportunities and many unique, talented and needy people. God created an amazing array of beauty in his creation that you can sometimes miss when you get so acclimated to your surroundings in the area that you live that you fail to appreciate the majesty of his creative hand. I love traveling because it reminds me of the awesome power of God in the beauty of his creation.

Getting away also helps me to remember that I'm more than an autism mom. I'm a beloved daughter of the God of all creation; I'm a valued friend who is joyously expected; I'm a discoverer at heart who loves to explore new places and learn new things. Getting out of my daily rut helps me remember all that God has placed in my heart and mind and all the possibilities that are available to me. I'm so excited to have this short respite to rejuvenate and renew.

I encourage you all to seek out your own little respites, even if it's just taking a walk around a park or lake in your area, sitting out on your deck and enjoying the hopefully warmer weather, or turning on your favorite music and singing at the top of your lungs. And by all means if you can manage a trip to a favorite destination to visit a dear friend - make the time, I fully expect it will be worth my time and effort to get there.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It's been a busy couple of weeks full of a dizzying array of activities and troubling revelations. We started our local area autism support group this past weekend with a small but passionate group of parents. We are confident our numbers will grow as word spreads and families become more aware of the support we hope to offer.

One of the passionate parents that did attend is mom to one of the students in the school system that I spoke of in my previous post. I've been talking with this mom a bit and it has been revealed to her that her son was harmed by a para educator in his classroom at school. That in and of itself is bad enough, but the even more disconcerting part of the story is that the school district has tried to cover this up. Had another para that witnessed the altercation not written this family an anonymous letter, this might never have come to light. Fortunately that para had the courage to write this letter and others have had the courage to contact local and state news organizations. So the story is getting coming to light and the school district is feeling the pressure to come clean. What exactly the district will do is yet to be seen. Unfortunately we are not hopeful that they will be completely forthright. Our suspicion is that they will do all they can to cover their proverbial back end.

In the age we live in, in which all school and therapy staff are required to go through mandatory reporter training this situation is particularly troubling to me. Is this training only to turn parents in when there are questions about abuse? Does this not protect our children in whatever setting they are in? This situation has only added fuel to the fire for me in my feelings toward our local school district and has completely confirmed my decision to homeschool my son with autism.

Aside from autism issues, which seem to consume our lives at times, we have been busy with kiddos, work and ministry. Kiddo 1 & Kiddo 2 are having a great year at school, although Kiddo 2 is getting a bit of spring fever. He's excited that baseball will begin soon. My part-time job as a musician at the Iowa Veteran's Home is a nice outlet for me to bless others with the gift of music that God has given me. Hubby's job has been pretty calm lately, with no travel since January - yippee! Hubby & I head up our worship ministry at our church. We have been excited to have a good number of new musicians join our body of believers lately. We are looking forward to incorporating them into our worship teams and getting to know each of them better.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Educational Overhaul Needed

It was a troubling weekend for me. When I started this blog last week I'd hoped to keep it balanced and not completely go toward writing only about autism. But with the information I have learned over this past weekend, I feel compelled to write about troubling things that are taking place in my local public schools. The state of the public education system in the US is in dire need of a complete overhaul. In general it seems that most schools are trying to continue with the teaching strategies and classroom structure of the 1960's and 70's. This antiquated approach is not effective in teaching this generation of children. There are still many wonderful teachers working in broken systems who are trying to make a positive difference in people's lives and there are a few schools I hear of (one that our older children attend) that are doing a great job of providing a good education in a safe and caring environment; but there is a great need for a complete reworking of the way we teach our children.

I am hearing stories in my own community about very troubling things going on in the school systems, especially with special needs students. I have several friends who are special ed teachers and aides who are completely outraged with the way in which special education is being run in our community. Teachers and aides are not receiving adequate training to provide for the very specific, very challenging needs of the children in their care. I realize that the system is overrun in general with the rising population of children with special needs, but we must adjust and do our very best to meet the needs of these most vulnerable members of our society. Instead I hear stories of students being left in "safety rooms" (basically a closet) for hours on end because teachers are not equipped and are not being supported by school psychologists to develop behavior plans to circumvent the trouble behaviors children are engaging in. I hear other stories of students being harmed by their aides because the aide does not have adequate training and a good understanding of the unique challenges of this student. I hear stories of special needs students being in the care of an aide for the first 6 months of school without a supervising, certified special ed teacher in their room at all. These situations should not be taking place.

In the area of autism education, our local school district is stuck in the dark ages and is completely discounting new therapies that are being used across our nation to effectively treat autism. A school psychologist in our district recently told a parent of a newly diagnosed child that ABA therapy is Nazi therapy. ABA therapy, the widely accepted therapy, known to be very effective in helping children with autism learn and overcome many of their challenges. The therapy which has been widely researched and which is commonly utilized by school districts all over our country. The following website will take you to a 29-page list of studies proving that ABA is effective. http://rsaffran.tripod.com/IBIrefs.html ABA has generally become accepted as the most common best practice treatment for autism. Our son was diagnosed at the Mayo Clinic and their primary recommendation for treatment was to pursue ABA and yet our local educators who are instructing parents in the best treatments for autism completely discount this therapy. This is educational malpractice!

And don't even get me started on our school districts views on biomedical treatments. The autism resource specialist in our district strongly discouraged me from trying the gfcf (gluten-free, casein-free) diet with our son, claiming that it was expensive, non-nutritious and ineffective. I'm so glad I didn't listen to her. My son would still not be sleeping through the night and his gut would be absolutely destroyed. Occasional infractions on the diet send him into a crazed mania, often make him throw up, and greatly disrupt his sleep. On the diet he is calmer, sleeps through the night consistently and is generally a happy boy (before the diet he had 3 states-sleeping, eating or screaming). I'm sure she continues to give the same advice to new parents in our district, who trust that she is the expert and discount biomedical treatments in general; treatments that could significantly help their children with autism.

I praise the Lord that there are other options available to us. We currently homeschool our son with autism and receive ABA therapy from a state agency that serves individuals with autism. Our son has 4 wonderful, caring, intelligent therapists who work with him in our home, effectively teaching him new skills on a daily basis through the use of ABA. They are so far from gestapo therapists. I work on academic skills of reading and math with Seth, which he excels in. And he receives speech and occupation therapy from caring, committed private therapists. I shiver to think what kind of shape he would be in if he were in our local public school system, devoid of the effective teaching strategies of ABA; bombarded by sensory input in classrooms with predominantly florescent lighting; and most likely eating food off his diet as the staff would discount the effective of his diet because of training from their autism resource specialist.

My husband and feel compelled to speak out on these issues and provide parents in our community updated information about autism treatments. We are excited to be starting an autism support group and hope that group will be a change agent for the inadequate special ed programs available in our public school system. But change is difficult, people like to do what they have always done, even if what they have always done does little to help children with autism. I question whether I have the resolve to be a crusader in this area, yet it would feel wrong to sit back and do nothing. Please pray with us about what our involvement should be and pray for change that will benefit the many children in our school system with special needs.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Joining the Blogging World

I've been thinking of starting a blog for awhile and here it is. My purpose in starting this blog is share the ramlbings of my heart and also to give regular updates on our family and specifically on Seth's progress as he fights to overcome autism. I chose the name of my blog to reflect my ongoing passion to seek out truth in many areas of my life. I've been challenged lately through a Bible study I just completed, When Godly People Do Ungodly Things by Beth Moore, to examine the wallpaper of my mind and heart and seek to rewallpaper with the truth of God's Word. This is not a new concept for me, but one that I know I'll be pressing on to accomplish for the rest of my life.

I am on a mission to be grounded in the truth of God's word. I am seeking to understand the circumstances of my life and light of this Truth. In the midst of life's challenges I must hold to the truth of God's love for me and my family. I am on a mission to sow truth into my children's lives by living out my faith very openly and honestly before them. I am on a mission to seek truth in my ministry commitments as my husband and I lead the worship ministry at our church, and as I reach out to other moms in our community through a general moms group and an autism support group.

I am on a mission to bring truth to light about autism and it's causes and effective treatments. God has also given my many opportunities in the past 6+ months to speak out on the issues of autism. Just in the past couple weeks I've had 2 letters "pulished" in local media outlets that speak to my concerns about vaccines and their role in the rise of autism. You will find these letters posted here on my blog. I am a "Mama on a mission for truth" in this specific area with a deep passion to see truth come to light. My heart is to protect children from the debilitating disease of autism and to find effective treatments for the children who are already suffering autism's devastating affects.

April is Autism Awareness Month. Many media outlets are talking about autism. On Wednesday, April 2nd CNN observed World Autism Day by airing segements about autism throughout the day. One of the best programs I saw was Larry King Live. Larry had Jenny McCarthy on, an actress and autism mom, along with David Kirby, author of "Evidence of Harm" and much-loved journalist in the autism community, along with several pediatricians with varying views on the autism-vaccine link. I would encourage you all to log on to cnn.com and view this program while it is still available. A great activity to commit to for the month of April for those of you who are Christians is the Turning the Tide Prayer Thrust put out by Children of Destiny ministries http://childrenofdestiny.org/pdf/Turning_the_Tide_2008.pdf. I believe that our God is a God of justice who desires to protect his children and will respond to our prayers. Please join my family as we pray through this autism awareness month together.

I welcome you to my blog and hope you will be blessed by the ramblings of my heart as I share them here in the weeks and months to come. We thank you from the bottom of hearts for your prayers for Seth and our family and hope this will be a tool to help keep you informed.