Sunday, June 17, 2007

Autism (ASD) Students Inclusion/Mainstream in the General Education Classroom - 2006-2007 - (Updated 06/14//07)

One of the most difficult things to do is to keep an ASD student in the General Education Classroom. Special Education Aides have a very tough time battling the ASD student, Teachers and Special Ed Administration officials who many do not understand students with Autism.

Autism students cannot be lumped into one category where one solution fits all. My experience has shown that most Teachers are afraid of the unknown and “non-predictability” of Autism students and most importantly (and rightly so) the disruption that may develop in their classrooms. Special Ed Administration who make the decisions on plans for the students are not with the students enough to be able to “predict” the best course of action.

Special Education Aides are not looked upon in many cases to have the credentials, expertise or the know-how to "predict" because they are the least paid employees in many school districts. School officials and employees are all about credentials and hierarchy for self-preservation and protection.

Notice I have used the word “Predict” thus far 4 times. During my business and instructional days I have always preached that “Predictability” is the best skill a Manager or Leader can develop for making good decisions.

The problem is many people in leadership positions do not understand predictability. Most will tell you if your system is “Stable (consistent)” then you are in line to be able to predict outcomes. This is a very dangerous assumption made in business and in education, especially with Autism Students who are trying to be mainstreamed.

Stability is a very important first step but it does not always mean good. You must understand what your outcome goal is and then be able to determine if your process or person is “Capable” of meeting the desired goal.

A Process or Person can be stable and consistent in a poor or unsuitable manner. Bad habits and root causes are engrained within that consistently produce negative out comes. The key is to be able to identify the negatives and turn them into positive stability that will then drive a capable process that then can be called “truly” predictable.

What ultimately happens in both business and education are leaders, and so-called experts stand on the sidelines or in the stands shouting out plays, plans and directions without coming to practice day in and day out that is required to make positive solutions for stability and capability. Like Business in many cases the Educational system ignores the people who do the day-to-day work with the product, processes or person. Sure they will ask for input from the worker who does the job everyday but are the workers included in the ultimate decisions? Are Special Education Aides allowed in parental IEP meetings, are they even allowed to talk to parents without getting the OK from Special Education officials?

Like most things in life there needs to be a Balance in the way we approach solutions that involves so many different perspectives on what is best for the Autism student to be mainstreamed. On one hand we know that mainstreaming is highly beneficial for both autistic and general education students so that both can learn and obtain socialization skills about different kinds of people. For any child regardless of the situation in order to reach their potential in life needs to feel love, have friends, develop social skills and have the feeling of really being included. If education is the mode for this to happen who are we to say just because someone is different they are not allowed to participate.

My Goal is simple, create a learning environment for Justin (actually this is about 5 ASD boys rolled into one for privacy concerns), his classmates and teachers, any less is failure in learning for all involved. There must be a balance between academic and social behavioral learning.

My Objectives are few --> Inclusion, Socialization and Independence from "Me"
by the end of 6th grade.

Now the big question is at what cost? I don’t mean monetarily (different subject) but how much time is taken away from a teacher’s daily schedule to educate 25-30 other students. Do we sacrifice the whole for one piece? Is the piece greater than the sum of the parts? No wonder this is such a difficulty decision and dilemma facing our educational system.

What about School Districts who don’t provide a Follow-Me-Aide for the autistic child. How can you expect a Teacher to do his/her job? One Follow-Me-Aide is worth more than one Admin Assistant to the final product (educated student) in a School District. Just like one hourly skilled worker who does the job day in and day out with the product is worth more than any District, Divisional or Vice President in a large/big organization.

Why, because Aides and Workers provide the Balance, Expertise and Skills to identify stability and capability in order to predict and prevent the “Triggers” from happening that will cause negative outcomes.

Wise up Parents and demand that your child has the support people required to do the job for your children. Demand to know the job function, job pay and job responsibilities of the people in your school districts.

Yes, Autistic students who are eligible can be mainstreamed, but only if there is a balance and some common sense.

Another Post from 2005 - 2006 by qualityg on Mainstreaming (including Case Study) can be found @

Very Rough Start to 2006/2007

It's been a little over a month since school began and it has been a very rough start. Justin did not go backwards over the summer nor did he progress. He remains the same in all ways since I saw him at the end June.

The problem we are having this year is the environment. It has changed and thrown not only Justin into a number of difficulties but also the whole Resource Room. Whole is the optimum word. In their best efforts to serve one child (piece) all the other children (whole) are in a tailspin.

Please understand that some children (piece) require more support, but it must be done in a "systemic manner" that considers all the pieces, interrelationships and outcomes that comes when a new process is implementd into a system.

The AI children in particular are having the roughest time with the rapid and ever changing decisions on what to do with the one piece. Justin for example (new child two years behind) wants to play more and does not want to stay in the general classroom. He has reverted to old tactics to be removed from the room.
This will change soon.

The problem here is Leadership in their best efforts do not understand "Systems Thinking" (
or ASD children. The sudden changes in their safe room (Resource) are worse than entering a new grade with a new teacher.

Another cause is the State MEAP Test. Justin is now in a grade where MEAP testing takes two weeks (just completed) and throws normal schedules in the toilet. The ASD children do not take the Standard MEAP Test. They take a so-called equivalent test (for their capabilities) in a separate room from their general education classmates.
The equivalent test is a joke.

Efforts have been made to communicate concerns but have fell on deaf ears until last Thursday when qualityg spoke up in a not so friendly manner. Some changes (band aids) have been made but not the ones required to solve the problem.

The result of these two major root causes are the children, aides, general education children and their teachers are all losing. Disruptions by many of the pieces in the general Education Rooms could have been avoided or prevented if "all" Special Education Personnel would have been involved and communicated to in a consistent and open manner (sounds like your workplace doesn't it).

The Experts and Leaders drop by and provide comments on how to set up and handle the new piece with out any concern for the whole.

MEAP has ended but the Resource Room remains the same. For me and Justin it will be like starting over today in our continual effort to stay in the mainstream and learn without disrupting our peers and teachers.

As for the Resource Room I will be finding new places to take Justin so that he can return on a path to learning and socializing with his peers, all his peers.

Update 11/06/06

I get this question all the time …

What will happen to Justin if I leave for a different position or job? Some experts say consistency with one person while mainstreaming and ASD child is good, where others say one person should not be attached to an ASD child because of the fear of dependency.

What do I say? This has been a question that has been on my mind for over a year. My answer has always been to make sure Justin receives the education he deserves AND that each of his peers and teachers are able to learn and teach at the same too.

Part of my strategy is to create an Interdependency type environment where Justin will be part of the whole and not left to be a dependent outlier as he matures. He must be part of the system that creates a stronger whole rather than an outlier that is used as a pawn for excuses as to why ASD children should not be mainstreamed.

I am committed to the task and I know there will many setbacks, but Justin and I always agree to never give up no matter how hard it seems at any particular moment.

Do I have a plan or a strategy for making this happen – Yes and I hope to share it with you over time as we continue our journey. For example, most days I go with Justin and Jeremy to lunch recess and introduce socialization and how to make friends and then I leave him alone for a day or two but observe through a window so that I can determine if learning is taking place. We have a ways to go …

Partial Social Breakthrough

Since last year and into this school year I have been working with Justin and another ASD student (Jeremy) to try and socialize more with their peers during lunch recess. Most of the boys play kick ball and others break off into groups running or jumping on the playground equipment.

As I wrote over a month ago above I stay with the boys 2-3 times a week and observe the other days through a school window from the second floor. One day last week I saw Justin playing and leading a group of 1st graders on the slide and playing tag as they ran around the black top. Justin being a third grader looked very big next to the youngsters but he took care on how he played and approached each child.

Jeremy on the other hand was in the middle of the kick ball game running and jumping like the other kids. He was not sure how to play but his peers were patient and kind and I could see the enjoyment on his face.

While I can't say this happens everday I can tell you the boys are gaining more confidence that they belong. We still have some bad days but I see progress, slow and steady and that makes me mighty proud of my boys.

I received a very nice Email from a person ( a true expert - A Mother) who writes about autism in a direct and humorous way that explains the joys and tribulations of autism.

This mother has a web site that I hope you will visit and read the {translations} for yourself, you will be glad that you did.

Updated 12/18/06

Old Shoes --> No Socks!& New Shoes --> No Like!

Old Shoes --> No Socks
Trying to stay in the General Ed room for classes has been tough the past few weeks. One of my primary goals is for Justin to keep up with his peers in class work. Many times I have to prioritize what needs to be done first because when he comes late to school we must play catch-up. I concentrate on the subjects he has showed an interest in like Science and Spelling. In general Justin is late 2-3 times a week that range from 15 – 30 minutes. Usually it is because he won’t take his medicine in applesauce.

However, for the past couple of weeks he has been late everyday and sometimes up to 2 hours. His Mother will call ahead and give a warning that he is having a bad day. I knew something was wrong a few weeks back when Justin’s shoes became a problem in class with him suddenly whining about his feet. I wrote his parents a note in the daily log as I usually do when something new pops up causing a disruption.

One day he showed up late a few weeks back with no socks and I could tell from the look on his Mom’s face and his that they had gone more than a few rounds that morning.

This went on for a few days and then one day in Spelling he decided to take the shoes off because they were hurting so bad, it was obvious he had outgrown them and he rationalized that socks added extra inches to an already cramped shoe. You can imagine a tennis shoe that has been wet and damp in the Midwest during winter and how the smell was when he took of the shoe. Eeeeew was the first response from the row in front of ours. “My feet stink,” says Justin. No Doubt (actually I thought of a different word) put your shoe back on. “You do it” (keep in mind this is taking place in a manner to keep him from not disturbing the class and the teacher). I got the shoe on but knew this would not be the end so we hustled to the Resource Room.

Once inside the Resource Room off went the shoe and he went to a corner “I’m not wearing it anymore – NEVER” Eventually I convinced him that if we put some tissues and paper towel in the shoe it might help. I let him do it since history has shown when I do it manipulation takes over to do it again and again. He did put the show on but the rest of the day was trying to prevent a wildfire from erupting at anytime.

The next morning he came without socks again and his Mother told me she was going to buy him some new shoes, He wanted Velcro like the current ones and she knew this would be hard to find. Many would inquire why she does not take him with her to the shoe store. Well, imagine taking one of your kids and they want a certain kind and you say no. Most time the child will whine and eventually settle on a pair. Now, for Justin he would cause such a commotion if he spotted a pair that did not have his size or cost too much money. Oh, you can’t imagine, trust me you will go yourself the next time.

The next day, late again, same shoes no socks – “I hate my new shoes, they are not Velcro and they are black – NEVER!

New Shoes --> No Like

Justin was late again and suddenly the School Secretary called me over the intercom. Justin is here and causing a commotion. As I ran down the steps and turned the corner there sat Justin with an angrier than normal angry look. His first action was to throw (the already crumpled tardy slip) to the ground, walk over to it and stomp on it with his new shoe. “I hate em.”

I took him into the lunchroom where we could be alone and discuss the new shoes. First I asked him to go out and pick up the tardy slip because his teacher Mrs. LaCoda would need it for record keeping. He stomped back out picked up the slip and threw it again further down the hall. He came back in and looked at me with a look that resembled KissMA and sat back down. This went on for two more times until I eventually told him the “Battleship Game I had for him upstairs would be lost.

Finally we talked about his shoes and he said they were stiff and ugly. I asked him to take one off (Socks On) and I would soften it up and told him this was how my new tennis shoes were too. As I crunched I commented how sturdy and cool they look, I turned it over and told him the treads were like a trucks and he would be able to run faster and we would try them out at recess. I did notice some dirt (?) on the bottom and I quickly asked if he had walked in his backyard this morning (he has a big dog). He said no, but a thorough cleansing of my hands would be required when we got upstairs.

We finally agreed the shoes were not so bad and he says, “Guess what I saw this morning by the recycle cans, a broken car.” I replied, Justin I park over there and I did not see one this morning. Another diversion to not start school but I was not about to try and win this battle so we took a stroll outside to find a crumpled front guard laying between the cans. All of a suddend he likes his shoes so it was me who went on the muddy grass to check it out. We agreed it was cool and headed to the Resource Room to gradually work our way back into the General Ed Room.

Along the way to the room he stopped every person he could and showed them his new shoes. “Think everyone in the school will want them now.” For the rest of the day he showed off his shoes and at recess we were convinced he could run faster.

Now I need to find a pair in my size.

Updated 12/26/06
Yes Justin There is a Santa Claus

Last week was a hectic one at school with “all” the kids geeked about Christmas and having a two-week vacation. As expected the older grades (5&6) want the time off and the younger grades waiting for Santa Claus and the end of week parties.

For ASD children normal emotions and senses can be tough at times but when you add in the excitement of presents, parties and not normal routines and schedules you get a ton of fun both at home for the parents and at school for the teachers.

I for one love it! It’s both challenging and fun watching the excitement grow until Friday’s parties and festive events being done at school. For Justin and the other ASD children it was a week where their classmates acted most like them with emotions ranging from geeked to frenzied and the “ON” button never turned off.

We always a have Santa Shop in the Resource Room for the kids so they can take play monies from the Resource Room and buy presents for their families by paying the appropriate price listed on the gift and making the correct change. They then get to wrap the presents and take them home on the last day of school before the holiday break.

Justin was not thrilled about waiting to take his gift home. He picked a “Battleship” game out for himself (I mean his father) and wanted to take it home last Wednesday. I sent him to the Santa Shop with a big smile and he came back crying and mumbling that he hated Mrs. so and so and the usual threats and “Never.” When he found that his manipulation would not work on me (hardly ever does anymore) he sat and cried the crocodile tears for another 20 minutes. He finally walked over to me and said “Fine” I will take it on Friday. That’s good Justin I told him and you better not change that tag to your name when you put it under the tree. He assured me he would not and that his Dad did not know how to play but he would teach him.

Justin always wants to tell me what he got for me for Christmas. Now you must understand the reason I'm being told is that he wants reciprocation from me and I will tell him what I got for him. I love this war of the wills and I love it when I give him many ideas and then he prioritizes them for me. "I saw a train at the store with my Papa the other day, I sure would like that train."

When Friday arrives he can’t wait until he gives me his present and wants me to keep it on my desk in plain sight for everyone to see. He marvels at my gifts from other people and wonders if I will give them to him. I remind him that his present sits in his locker all wrapped pretty and I tell him he must wait until Christmas morning. I know he will open the present as soon as he gets home or in the car on the way home from school but that is OK. Folks who work with ASD children know their expectations hardly ever match the reality of the gift and this trigger is best done after school.

While each classroom in the school is having parties and kids are getting sugared and pizza upped the Resource Room is rather quiet. You see our days are never normal and that is why I like them. Most people would think our ASD children would be out of control. This is not the case, sure they are excited but they do all their morning work with little nudging and await the fun in the afternoon and are content to sit and play and watch Rudolph and Frosty on the TV. Kind of boring so Justin and I go to our homeroom for another party and don’t stay long because his classmates are just too loud and annoying (go figure).

What was the highlight of the day for me? When Justin leaned over and told me that he will “miss me” during the break. I responded "I will miss you too and I can’t wait until January 8th”

Thank You Santa!

Updated 1/15/07

New Year - Brings Old Problems and New Situations

Unfortunately the New Year is starting where the past year left off. Justin was late for school on Monday (3 hrs) and Tuesday (2hrs). This makes a difficult situation for his parents, school, teachers and himself.

Too many absences require the parent to go to court and pay a fine. Being late causes disruption to the class and being late makes it difficult to keep Justin on pace with his peers in core subjects. I am determined to do this and I will use all my peers of manipulation to battle Justin’s during this day-to-day battle. If I can’t I should turn in my School ID ASAP and move to another area in the Special Education Department.

Along with getting back into a routine Justin is faced with disruptions at home. He is very sensitive to the situation and will state a clue as to what is going on in short statements throughout the day. Coaxing more out of him will not work and will result in “just kidding” or “the ghost” made me say it.” I share this information with the proper people and do my best to make sure the parents are provided all the assistance/services that is provided to them by law (some are low cost or nothing at all).

A few of our ASd students have good parental parenting that makes a huge difference in the development of their children. A good percentage of the ASD students come from dysfunctional situations that leave the Mother alone to raise and support the child/children. Some are young with no post high school education and little help from their own family. The pressure these parents are under daily is … (well let me say you need the patience of a Saint and an Angel to guide you through the day).

It is very important for the school support (admin, teachers, aides, special dept) to not take sides in these types of situations. Leave family guidance to the professionals and the school must do their part in providing the best support at school with social workers, aides, and teachers.

Communication between the support structures is vital so that all are on the same page. You would be amazed how often this does not happen. Hierarchy of letters (PHD, MSW, Specialist) after ones title also gets in the way sometimes of doing what is best for the child. I heard one ASD aide who spends 7 hours a day with her student complain again that I am never invited to any meetings and when I give others input it is always accepted with the arrogance that they already know. Besides what can an Aide with two children (non AI) of her own know anything about special needs children?

Providing help and assistance as an AIDE can be difficult situation if you become emotionally attached (how the hell can you not) to the child/children. I just tell myself that I will error on the side of what is best for Justin and BACK OFF with the professional non-sense and it’s just a job attitude.

Updated 2/08/07

On Time--> NEVER!

Justin leads the school in Tardys. After so many tardys they turn into days missed.

He has only been on time for school about 10 days so far this year. He will come in sometimes 15 minutes late and other times 2 hours late.

There are a number of causes this behavior. Number one is his reluctance to take his medicine in the morning. He is also late because he stays up late and takes his time in the morning and he wants to wear the clothes he wants rather than what his Mother would like him to wear. This causes her stress because like any good Mother she thinks others are not dressing him right or that she doesn’t care.

We (teachers, aides, mother, grandmother) have all tried various rewards and incentives to get him back on track by just coming in three days in a row. He has only made two times in a row twice this year.

I don’t mind his tardys and I have explained that to the Truant Officer and that he should be exempt from this rule. After so many tardys and absences his Mother has to go to court and pay a fine.

Will this money fine deter Justin from coming in late? I believe not, it’s not like his mother gets up each morning and says which excuse can I have today for having him come in late. She is doing her best with little support in the mornings.

In order for me to keep him up with his studies requires me to take him to the Resource Room or another spare room that is not being used. This is necessary because it takes a lot of verbal prodding and banter going back and forth that would not bode well in the classroom. I will not let him fall behind; this is what certain people want to prove their case that ASD children don’t belong in general education classrooms.

The key is finding the correct trigger(s) to change his behavior. Last week we got a new trampoline to help those children who can’t get to gym or recess to have some exercise. He seemed quite excited and decided this would be more fun than writing our spelling words. Thinking this might be help the tardy problem I told him it was the on time trampoline and if he came in on time each day he would get to use the trampoline during free time. We decided the next morning we would start; he has not used the trampoline.

Earlier in that same week I took Justin to the pre-school room so that he could see the goldfish in the big aquarium (more like a small pool). The little ones were trying to catch the goldfish for an activity. Justin jumped right (not in the aquarium) in and had a boatload of fun. It was hard trying to get him out of the room and return to ours in time for Science. Convincing him that his Science Teacher would love to hear about the fish was enough to get him focused back on his studies.

Thinking that fish might be the trigger I’m looking for I told Justin the following Monday I would bring in a fish and it would be his responsibility each morning to care and feed the fish and eventually the fish would be his to keep. The “catch” was he had to be on time to feed the fish. He was very excited and told me how he was going to take his medicine and move quickly for his Mom (yep, he knows what he is doing). He had one request and that was he wanted a BLUE fish.

So this past weekend I bought a Blue Beta fish and a Beta Fish Aquarium (green) with green rocks and yellow weeds. My wife asked what would be his name and I said “Blue” just Old Blue, I was 100% sure this is what Justin would name his fish.

All weekend I kept thinking would Justin be on time, will he forget, will he decide to not care like every other effort and still be late? The weather decided to get involved and with 0 degree weather school was cancelled Monday & Tuesday of this week.

The odds of him being on time after a four-day weekend was doubtful. At first I thought I would wait a day so he could have another chance. I decided to bring the fish and take my chances. I packed his small aquarium in a box and then in a handle bag and took off for school. Other than the aquarium water spilling over the sides and leaking through the bag and box all down the hall I finally had Blue situated in the Resource Room.

I didn’t see Michael in line as I passed the kids waiting inside for the bell to ring. Once it did the stampede began as the kids hurried to their lockers. I glanced down at the locker that Justin and I share and there he was looking at me out the corner of his eye pretending he does not see me. I walked over quickly and said we have just enough time to feed your fish and get to homeroom His eyes lit up and he said "you get my books out of my backpack" and he took off for the Resource Room.

Once inside the room he looked the fish over and said “Only One?” I explained that Beta fish did not like company and that he was happier being alone. As the other children came by Justin proudly told them about Beta Fish and how they want to be alone. What’s his name Justin someone asked? “Blue, just Blue.”
He fed Blue and we took off for his homeroom to start Math. “I really like my fish” he told me as we walked. Then he said if my fish dies I would like a Nemo fish next, no, he paused and said, “Just get me another Blue one.”

Stay tuned …

Update 2/10/07

Three In a Row

I know it has only been a few days since my last update but Justin is working on a three day on-time streak, and you know what? This has been a success even if the streak ends next week.

Another Win --> I met with Justin's parents and the District's Truant Officer a few days back and it was agreed The Tardys would be tallied but there will be NO associated fine or penalty.

The Officer was very understanding and knew from the data and information provided by his parents and the school that getting Justin to school is the most important factor in his on-going education. This removes some of the added pressure for his parents. I also know that one of his Mom's main goal is to have him enter and leave school with his class.

1 in 150

The News on Autism continues to get front page and magazine headlines. New studies now show that 1 in 150 children may be affected by an Autism Spectrum Disorder in the United States and not 1 in 166 as previously reported.

I don't usually write about the causes and so-called cures on Autism. It's not that I am not concerned it's just my focus is on providing the best education possible for those afflicted. There are a tremendous amount of people and organizations leading the charge on Autism, but there is little written on the experiences and sharing that needs to be done on what happens to these children for 7 hours a day and for 8 months of every year.

If you would like to read the study go to

If the numbers are truly correct (I can say yes by the ratio at my school) then much much more is needed in education on ASD for mainstream teachers (why should we expect them to know what to do when the so-called specialist don't know what to do). I say they MUST now take classes on ASD as part of their graduation requirements. Special Education Teachers and Aides must also have more education and experiences but it is the mainstream teachers that are at the heart and success of Inclusion in the general education classroom.

Unfortunately, many of our so-called higher institutions of higher learning are already creating additional requirements based on dollars they will receive and not for the sake of the children when setting up degrees, classes and additional certifications. For many of the people, primarily working mothers who for years have been educating and caring for ASD children at school will be penalized for their so-called lack of education and not given credit for their application and knowledge which far out weighs just a few letters after a name.

There needs to be a balance and credit given for both (learning and application) so that the children don't suffer while the government, colleges and universities develop long-term costly regulations and requirements.
Shame on you SOBs.

Justin continues to come in on time for school. I know he is making an extra effort because he sometimes is tired or comes in crying because he does not like the shirt he is wearing. Rather than trying to take it off one day I convinced him if he would tuck it in like mine it would feel much better. That seems to have worked but I need to have him do it itself.

Socialization is better in some areas. For example; like going to the restroom without having a problem with a classmate. Usually I will hear his voice echo off the walls with a loud "Shut-up" and come stomping out mad and frustrated. This will be a major accomplishment if this good behavior becomes consistent. Piece by piece we will go with patience and understanding being the key.

Updated 3/17/07

A Week of Surprises

Reading Out Loud In The Class

One of the more difficult goals I have had for Justin for the past two years is for him to read out loud in the class. As soon as the question is asked “Who Wants To Read?” his hand goes up in the air and he can hardly sit in his chair. Once he is called upon he puts his head down and sinks into his folded arms like a turtle in a shell. Time and Time again he will do this and with answering questions too when he does not no the answers.

I have been trying to get his confidence up to read in class by sometimes providing answers for him when a question is asked. Many times after he works a problem in math I urge him to answer and we have been doing this for months.

Other times the students takes turns reading in the order of their desks and when they hit Justin’s row he tells me I’m going to read this time, “Are you sure?” –Yes! As each student reads a paragraph I try to keep him focused as to where we are in the reading, Sometimes I use my finger, his finger, highlights, rulers and colored film to keep him on track, when it is his turn he turns to look at me and whoosh back in to the shell.

Well this week he read out loud twice! The first time his voice was barely audible as he read with his head down 12 inches from his book. When finished his classmates all turned and smiled as both of us beamed with a smile. The next day in Science he wanted to read again and raised his hand. He got the paragraph that highlights the four phases of how Coal is formed. Kudos to EB for being so understanding.

I’m not going to write them because I can’t write them any better than I can pronounce them. The only one I knew was “Peat.” As he began to read he pushed my hand away, raised his head with his voice much louder than the day before. He was still very slow but did a remarkable job with some words that were very difficult. As for the four Phases he stumbled along over them, as would have any of his peers.

Great Job Justin! Hopefully we have jumped over another hurdle of our journey. The next day he had reverted to his old form and raised his hand with no idea as the where the reading was in the book. When called upon he looked at the teacher and waited for him to tell Justin where to start. Instead the teacher scolded Justin for not paying attention and told him he would lose his turn next time. I waited for the eruption, the books flying from his desk and the loud “Never” and Growl while he would stomp out of the room. Justin always treats aggression and anger with more aggression and more anger. Instead he put his head down into his arms and sobbed quietly. He finally raised his head and said I hate her and she is mean. As we walked out of class Justin quickly exited the room without looking toward his teacher or waiting for his turn in line.

I told his teacher inside the classroom that even though Justin was wrong there was a win because he did not erupt. When we exited the room Justin was waiting and told his teacher that he was sorry and would pay attention next time.

Social Wins

Standing at the back line after getting a drink during a gym break one of Justin’s classmates (a girl) told him to get back into the gym. I was far enough away that I could not intervene so I expected the worst. He does not like taking orders and especially from girls. Rather than scream in the girl’s face with a Growl and start yelling he calmly walked towards me (we have been working on this for two years) down the hall. “I don’t want to jump rope.” Jumping Rope is a very difficult task for an ASD child. I told him to go tell the gym teacher that you were going back to class with me. As we walked back to class I told him how proud I was that he came to me rather than yell at Suzi. “I don’t like her, she is a meany.” He says that to me too about five times a day so I was very pleased with the outcome.

At one lunch recess this past week when the weather cooperated the students were allowed to go outside (blacktop only). As I walked out with my usual entourage I quickly zeroed in on where Justin was playing. He usually is with me or likes to play with Kindergarten and First Graders because they will sometimes chase him. This day he was with a couple of classmates chasing each other and some girls running zigzags across the blacktop. I watched intensely as he ran like a Rhino out of control. I was worried that one of the little kids would get into his path and he is not agile enough to stop or dodge out of the way. When he got close to me on one of his orbits I called him over and asked what he was doing. He excitedly told me he was playing with Tyler and Joseph and they were chasing girls. I reminded him what happened last time (scared a girl while chasing and screaming at her). He promised he wouldn’t and off he went having a lunch recess that was one for the record books. His shirt was soaked with sweat when he took off his coat by his locker. Did you see me playing with Robert and Tommy and I didn’t even get in trouble! I had some sweat too but I think it was from around my eyes.

They Still Just Don’t Get It

One of the other young boy’s I work with frequently was the topic of many discussions this week. Jimmy has ASD too and other than being the same age as Justin is totally different in 90% of his mannerisms and characteristics. Justin is big and strong, Jimmy is small and frail and will only eat when I sit next to him (like a bird). Justin is good in Math and Jimmy can read at a level three grades ahead of all his classmates. Jimmy also scored a 100% on his Science test this week and has also scored a 100% on a Social Studies test just a few weeks ago.

These scores sparked some talk that perhaps Jimmy will no longer need a Follow-Me-Aide next year because of his scores, funding from the Federal Government and more ASD Children are in Grades K – 2. Many of the people who work with Jimmy came to me and asked what can be done to prevent this from happening. Data, Information and the Law was my response.

We have to combat there findings with our 7 hour a day, 5 days a week with of data and information we enter in our daily behavioral logs that go home each night with the student to be signed by a parent.

The problem is the same that face the General Ed Students and that is the Administration makes most of their decisions of need and funding based on test scores. Educational Leaders and many Teachers are still mislead to the fact that an ASD student’s major disability is Socialization and not Academics. ASD students do fine as long as they are kept on task, stay focused, and can handle the thousands of Sensory things thrown at them each day. Have you ever tried to keep a horse on a trail when they smell water or see the barn? It is an impossible task for someone who does not know horses, it is the same for ASD students who are distracted and do not want to stay on task or focus.

ASD student’s academics may be very good in some subjects and will often differ between ASD students (same as general ed). The one common denominator for ASD children is Socialization and they are all well below average in this area. However, this subject too can be improved upon with continuous help and understanding. Is that not what Education is all about?

Updated 4/2/07


Blue was a good fish, he did his job as Justin continues with coming to school on-time about 90% over the past month. Unfortunately for Blue he had a tragic death last weekend. As the school opened Monday morning it felt like someone left the oven door open. I mean it was hot; I’m talking sticky, humid and sweating hot. It seems the valve on the boiler furnace blew over the weekend and steam and heat poured out for at least two days.

As I mounted the stairs for the second floor it got hotter with each step, it was then I thought about Blue, as I hurried to the classroom I could see the other teachers opening their windows and turning on their fans to let some cool air start circulating.

When I looked over at Blue's bowl on the file cabinet he was floating face-up in a pool of hot water. The file cabinet was so hot you could only keep your hand on it for a few seconds. As others walked in their immediate reaction was “What will Justin do when He gets here?” I looked at the weather thermometer on the wall and it was 99 degrees in our room. I took Blue to the boy’s room for his flushing farewell to life. I cleaned the bowl and through the old rocks away and put the fish bowl in a hiding place for the rest of the day.

Fortunately, Justin was sick that day and did not make it to school. As scheduled children entered the room they all noticed Blue was gone. I said; “I took him home last weekend because he was not looking so good on Friday.” This was more for Joey one of our younger ASD students so that he would not become upset. He and Justin fed Blue daily and liked the fish bowl on their desk as they worked.

My mission after school was to stop at the pet store and get a new Beta fish. However, this fish was red and not blue. I went to school early the next day and had the new fish and new rocks all set out for Michael’s arrival. I met Michael at his locker and explained that Blue was at my house so I could take care of him.

As Justin entered the Resource Room he went to see his new fish. Everyone thought it would be Red for obvious reasons. I think I’ll name him Green! Justin he is not green he is red? I don’t care the rocks are green and blue so his name will be Green.

Welcome Green

High and Low


I am fortunate to work with a great bunch of people (aides and teachers). They are all professional and deeply care for all the students, not just the General Ed kids.

We Aidesare all over protective of our ASD children as if they were our own (heck, they are). We try to educate teachers and other students not familiar with the disability and fiercely take on the ignorant and bias when they show their cards.

The weather has been pretty nice and we are able to go outside for lunch recess. I have written before about the socialization that is slowly taking place with Justin and Jimmy and their General Ed classmates.

It has been wonderful to stand back and watch them from afar interact more and more each day away from the sounds of my voice but not yet from my sight. At times their hands still touch or grab others when they shouldn’t but overall they have done very well.

The best part was the two times Justin got into a confrontation once with a teacher and once with a classmate. Both times he remained quiet and walked over to me with his head down and told me what happened. Even though he was in the wrong he did not lash out, yell, stomp or cry, he just came over and told me what happened. WOW!

I often think is the reason they seem to be doing better is because of them maturing, or could it be their taking their medication regularly or by some small hope that my inclusion theories are taking hold inch by inch. Whatever the reason is, it hardly matters, it is so cool to watch them grow.


I have been dreading the day when the incident was going to happen between one of our ASD Students and two of his general education classmates. There was no doubt it would be coming I just didn’t think it would affect me like it did. Jimmy is one of out most timid and shy ASD student. He is frail and small compared to his classmates and eats just enough to keep a baby bird alive.

Last week two of Jimmy’s general education classmates called him a dummy and that he was stupid that is why he gets extra help. This quickly got back to the Resource Room and Jimmy’s homeroom teacher. Swift punishment was handed out but the deed had been done and there is no going back. There is only time for further education and understanding for this who teaches and befriend ASD students.

Jimmy is anything but stupid. In the past two weeks he scored a 100% on his Social Study Test and 100% on his Science Test. Out of 60 students he was one of five to have such scores. He is a Marvel.

Now for the culprits, as they were sitting outside the office in desks doing there two day in-house suspension I walked over to them. I have worked with these boys for over two years and they are good kids. As we discussed the incident and promised to not let it happen again I started to walk away and then turned and said guys “No one messes with my boys, NO ONE and if they do they will answer to me.” Little did I know a number of adult educators ( not his teachers) were near by and looked at me with faint smiles?

The Line in the Sand has been Drawn!

Updated 4/5/07

Oprah, Charlie and a Whole Lot More ...

The last couple of weeks Justin has done well in both behavior and academic achievements. On his Science Test he received a 97% and his Spelling test a 80%. The best part was no helping on the Spelling Test and only some slight help on a few questions of the Science Test (he still becomes frustrated when he can't spell a word even though he knows the answer - this time it was Hail as in frozen rain).

At the beginning of the Science test I told him and the kids that sit around us that today I was the Momma Bird pushing her Baby out of the nest to be on his own. As the test started and I stood behing him in the back and gave me the wave to go away and not behind him. When he got to third question he was waving me back. He was having trouble with the placement on some of the answers. He pointed at an answer and waited for me to smile or nod. I did either and shrugged my shoulders and said guess if you have to; he never guesses, he either knows it or he doesn't and will put an "X" on the sheet. Like I wrote above I helped him by reading some of the questions for clarity even though he used this as an opportunity to manipulate me for help - SORRY!

Charles Gibson on his World News Tonight Report and Nightline ( plus Oprah Winfrey doing a whole show on Autism today was special. I went to the Oprah show because I was watching the closing of Wall Street on CNBC and the President of Autism Speaks ( being interviewed and he mentioned his wife was on Oprah as he spoke.

I quickly flicked to ABC and watched with great interest. Ms. Winfrey did a great job interviewing and showing clips of some parents with Autistic youngsters and a Pediatrician who had two autistic children of her own. It was fair, enlightning and sad all at the same time.

Charlie Gibson always does an outstanding job too, I miss him on Good Morning America but he is an outstanding Newsman too.

The children highlighted on Oprah had the same characteristics as the boys I work with only more severe in all areas (Nightline was closer with Aspergers). To watch the pain in the parents eyes was tough to watch but the love that exploded from their hearts as they talked about their child was like none I have seen before.

I urge you to watch this segment and send it to others.

4/6/07 - Currently on TV right now on "The View" is a full long hour on Autism. Some of the same people who were on Oprah are also on this show. Singer Toni Braxton who has an Autistic son is also sharing her story - here is the website

We left for Easter (Spring) Break today. Justin told me he would miss me and said it will only be 9 days. A couple of my great co-workers set up an Easter Egg Hunt at the end of the day for the boys. I also provivded Michael with a new book "Mighty Machines." He was anxious for the Bunny to arrive on Sunday, I'm anxious for April 16th.

Oh yeah, I also packed up "Green" and took him home for the Holidays, I was not taking anymore chances on another "Fish Fry (i.e., Blue)."

I found and joined a new Autism Forum Today. It is a wealth of information - Please Check it out at:

Updated 4/14/07

I watched an informative special on my local NBC affiliate in Detroit "The New Faces of Autism."

They also have a web site that has more videos and information - Check it out at

Updated 4/24/07

The last 4 days have been the best as far as weather goes this year. Last Friday I took the boys outside for the last hour of the day and we had a blast. For about 15 minutes we had the whole playground and equipment to ourselves. We ran from the monkey bars to the slide to the "bouncy thing (I have no idea what it is called)."

We grabbed some hula hoops and skipped them across the blacktop, we even played hoop a teacher (me) that displayed many laughs. We ran across the filed until we hit the baseball diamond and ran around the bases causing a mini dust storm that delighted the boys, but was heck on my contacts.

Playing Hop Scotch and walking on the railroad ties playing Trains was great for gross motor skills and having a blast at the same time especially when we crashed.

For a quick moment we layed in the grass and rested, then we popped back up and ran around playing tag. It was fun, it was warm and it was four friends just playing --> It was GREAT!

First thing Donny said to me today was "Are we going outside again this Friday?" Absolutely, we are even buying some Plastic Bats and Balls, a Frisbee, a Soccer Ball and some Hoop Tossing Games. Somehow I think creating a dust storm will still be the favorite activity.

Updated 5/4/07

Oh Thank Heaven for 7-Eleven

We didn't play baseball on Friday because of all the rain earlier in the week. However, we did plan a walking field trip to 7-Eleven for Slurpees and some snacks.

All of the boys did well and had a great time as we walked the side streets and marveled a passing trucks, lawn ornaments, investigating truck tracks and on the alert for Bees.

This was also a test for the end of the month when Justin celebrates his birthday. I plan on walking the boys and their guests to the Ice Cream Shop.

Updated 5/6/07

ran a very informative front page article on Autism. Here is the web site:

Updated 5/12

Setback Week

My confidence has been shaken this week by a series of setbacks in the Socialization Area. For two years I have had ups and downs in my efforts and ideas to educate the boys on how to be a good friend. The past 4 months have been really good but this past week was one for the record books!

I'm not going to go in to specifics or who did what but I will tell you it had to do with kicking, hitting, giving the finger, not listening, leaving the room without permission, yelling, screaming. I hate you, you are mean, I don't like you anymore, pounding fists, refusing to work, head down on desks, NEVER, keeping the ball and won't play and not listening to anyone with authority until I had a very nice/firm conversation (many). Not sure I got them all but you get the picture

For most of you parents I know you must be saying "Welcome To My Daily World."

Next week I will have a turnaround - "I Hope."


Mon - Wed - Bad, Thursday and Friday - Good

This past Wednesday was the worst day of this school year. Justin and I both went home mad at each other. Thursday morning I was now pretending to still be mad. I took Justin to a room where it could be just the two of us and I gave him his work for the morning and I said "go at it" as Iwalked and sat down at a desk on the other side of the room.

After an hour had passed with no work being done I put away my mad act and had him lay down on the carpet as I sat next to him. We mainly discussed behaviors ( non-appropriate hand gestures, not listening and being rude and verbally abusive to the lunch aides, yelling and pushing classmates, coming to school late again that had left Justin and his Mom exhausted as their daily morning battles had excelerated...) that had remained dormant for this school year and why have they returned. By 9:30 Am we were back on track and had a really good two days back in the general ed classroom.

I just finished a list of triggers that were present the last two weeks and some were all on one day (Wednesday - worst day of year).

  • Missing Medicine

  • Increasde Dosage of Medicine

  • Wednesday - 1/2 day, new seating arrangement in general ed classroom, schedule changes in classes and the big one a 30 minute Simulated Emergency Exercise that had us in a lockdown situation with all of us sitting quitely in the back of the room.

  • Trouble at Home

  • 3 substitute teachers in one week

  • 2 unscheduled assemblies - Petting Zoo (worse than Christmas morning for excitement, no elephants but there were sheep, baby cows, lizards with a blue tongue and a baby wallaby) and singing concert two days later.

Many have been telling me it is the end-of-school year excitement settling in that is the major cause. I disagree, Justin has a hard time determing how long it is past a week.

I believe it is the changing of seasons from Winter to Spring. Why, because earlier this year Justin was tested for allergies and was found to have more than 40. He receives no special medication and I just know he is tired from that and his mood is greatly affected.

I need to get a better handle on many of these triggers so that a prevention plan and method can be implemented for the rest of this year and the next ...

Updated 6/04/07

The Year is Winding Down Like a Roller Coaster

The past few weeks has been a roller coaster ride that is more up than down but the downs have been really steep.

A few weeks ago Justin continued to struggle to make it through a full day of school (8:30 – 3:30). His morning fights with his mother continues as they battle about taking medicine and wearing presentable clothes. His Mom feels terrible when he insists on wearing his old clothes that are old, small and have chew marks on the collar just under his chin. He has even stuffed an old shirt in his backpack when he gives in at home only to change it at school.

For a couple of weeks his behavior was like it was when I first started working with him a few years ago. Non-focused, confrontational, tired, doesn’t listen and can’t sit still for more than 5 minutes. Even flapping, stimming and high walking has returned.

Has all my work been in vain? Are the trial and error methods that resulted in slow but positive results gone? Do I start all over? There are many questions that need answers and plans for improvement before the end of the year (3 weeks).

When I first started working with Justin my goal was to instill positive behavior that would keep him in the classroom. This was prior to him taking any medication for ADHD. It took about 4 months to keep him in class without having to leave because of an outburst. Focusing to keep on task was still a problem but I had preventive methods to keep his triggers in place to keep him on task.

When he did start taking medication for ADHD at the end of last year his focus became much better and his school grades improved.

My main goal for this year was to concentrate on Socialization with his classmates and adults at school. What excited has excited me the most is his positive relationships behavior in less structured classes like Art, Gym and Lunch Recess. Sure he has struggled at times but his progress has been good and even his teachers have noticed his improvement as well as his grades (consistently receiving Bs and some Cs). Reading and Comprehension are the only areas he still needs help with in the Resource Room.

I constantly get asked if Justin (remember Justin is five ASD kids rolled into one) could stay in class without an aide? No is the answer, five times NO. He (they ASD) needs help to stay focused, on task and continuous coaching on Socialization when the environment gets out of whack and quick changes are required to get the class back to normal.

My goal for next year (if I return) will be to have Justin be alone for 50 – 70% of the class day with minor monitoring from an Aide. This will be a daunting task but one I feel is obtainable (my long term goal is to have him independent of me by the time he is ready for middle school). One reason this must work is because we have more ASD children entering Kindergarten and First Grade than we have Aides (especially experienced) to serve them.

Many of the so-called school experts do not believe Justin and the others will succeed and the others that do say they will are planning on pulling the aides next year because they feel they no longer require and Aide.

Both sides are wrong and refuse to look at the facts and information documented. They feel qualified enough to come around for about 20 minutes a week and determine what is best for the children.

This is Bullshit and people hiding behind initials after their names that makes them experts. These types of experts are “Chicken Livered Assholes.”

All of the Aides keep a daily log that details behaviors by the hour and class for each day. It is sent home each night for the parents review and signed and returned the next day. This sounds good but after each semester the Logbooks are sent to the Administration Office to be Shred (and not before they are looked at, that would take up too much time).

So many of the so-called expert people who hide behind their degrees feel qualified to make life decisions rather than to include the data and information of people who spend 5 days a week for 7 hours each day for nine months. It would not be so bad if they would discuss our findings as input for their meetings. I was also told our previous behavior logs get shredded.

I can testify as long as I am working with these children I will not let this happen without a fight. Perhaps I am looked at as an Aide (I have 4 degrees), but my past working life was not made of sitting around and watching bad decisions made without providing facts and data that can not be disputed (I have copies of all my Logs and Data). Stay Tuned.

Ice Cream Field Trip

Justin’s ninth birthday was recently celebrates and I took the ASD boys and their Aides on a walking Field Trip to the local Ice Cream Shop to celebrate. However, Justin accepted no singing or congratulations as this makes him angry. I would have liked for Justin to bring cupcakes for his General Ed classmates but he refuses and I know to honor this request (made a mistake before by not listening to him).

The trip went well and the boys stayed together and made sure we all looked each way before crossing a street. Big Trucks and Trains that went by were the big hit of the trip along with the ice cream.

It has taken two weeks to get Justin back on track at school and I feel better that we just hit a snag rather than a total regression of our successes.

A class picnic is planned for this week and Field Day next week will provide more excitement. I am already starting to miss the boys.

Update 6/17/07

The school year ended Friday and I must say I look forward to next year. Many changes will be taking place at school in the Special Ed Department but I will wait until then to write and discuss them.

The class picnic went very well. It was hot and the boys kept me bust but we had fun without any incidents. We even got to eat at a freshly painted "BLUE" picnic table that Justin spotted a 100 yards away. We walked to and from a local park and it was great to see Justin and Jeremy and the others walking hand and hand with their classmates.

Field Day started slow for Justin, he came late and did not want to participate in the first few events. Not wanting to get close to his class we watched and sat in the shade from a safe perimeter.

Finally I got him involved at the Face Painting Station. He got just close enough to see that there were no elephants or trains available and he bolted to the outer sidewalk. I asked one of the ladies if they could possibly draw a train and could it be done in blue. One of the ladies was glad to oblige but Justin still refused until we went into the school in a secluded spot.

How would you like your train Justin? On my arm with an engine and two cars cars and in Blue! Uh Oh, I hope this could be done or this day was finished before it got started.

The rest of the day went well with Justin participating in a number of events. The last day of school was bittersweet. I will miss working with my peers, teachers and the kids. However, I look forward to next Fall when we will all be together again.

I won't be taking the Summer off this year I signed on to work part-time in our Summer School Program working with Dual Disability Students. New Job, New Students, New Learning, I can't wait.

See my post - Documenting my experiences and learnings while I work at a Disability Learning Center this summer (June - August) 2007.

Clarification on using the word "Epidemic"

NOTE – Epidemic – I would like to clarify why I use the term epidemic when it comes to ASD. I don’t mean it in the long-established sense that an Epidemic is a “contagious/infectious disease that attacks people at a brisk pace and induces fear in the general public like the Plague, Swine Flu or the most recent AIDS.

ASD is a Disability and not a Disease and it is not contagious. So is it fair to say ASD is spreading like an Epidemic? In my posting I say yes for the simple fact that far too may cases have been reported and continue to be reported each day. If perception is reality (as I believe it is), then ASD is an Epidemic.

In addition my writings will not debate the causes, symptoms and *criterion* for Autism. All I know is that many school children are afflicted and my purpose is to learn and apply my knowledge to help others gain a Quality education.

CRITERION: I must mention this term because it produces many more falsehoods than truths when it comes to people or groups using statistics and numbers to make their point/case. Please be careful when Criteria often changes (i.e., ASD) when it comes to comparing sample groups. Believe me when numbers or criteria that do not have the same “STANDARD” data set chaos and falsehoods develop that create more problems than they do solutions. This is a common practice in business when people’s backs are against the wall and they need to prove their innocence or deceit at the expense of others. Some people are just ignorant to statistics and sample criteria and sizes and will believe any numbers that serve their purpose.

To read all my post on ASD please CLICK on the ASD Label below this post and they will all pop-up.


Anonymous said...

Bravo! And Bravo again. How fortunate we parents are to have such dedicated professionals caring for our children. Burn out be banned. I cannot imagine what could change to support spec ed teachers in their endeavours, but if they tell us, we shall do our best to support and engineer a solution for all our students and their support team.

Anonymous said...

I particularly relate to the lack of recognition and exclusion of Aides input when the big decisions are to be made, as part of the school Districts policy.
Every Aide that has worked with my boys has been exceptionally talented and professional. Their dedication and devotion to their vocation is generally overlooked.
At least by many.....Best wishes

Anonymous said...


You are lucky, my school District prioritizes who gets aides because of money.

I do agree about the aides but many don't stay long because in my area because they get no support or training.

qualityg keep up the good work, based on your other writings you must have made a career change?

Thanks for that!

I also like your site too mcewen.


Anonymous said...

Thank You so much for sharing your thoughts and examples. My son starts school next year and I am scared to death that he won't get the support he needs to be mainstreamed.

Your Blog provides Hope.


Anonymous said...

hi! Im currently taking up Special education classes on the internet,and i was researching on something about behavior of teachers towards autistic children and i come across your article.I read it from beginning to end....without realizing my tears were falling. I was touched about the story of Justin and how the Special Education teacher really cared about him. Thanks for opening my eyes.... anita ..Philippines

qualityg says said...

Thank you for the very kind words.


Anonymous said...

Did you ever consider publishing some of your experiences?


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