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Testing Questions

  • Posted on November 11, 2013 at 10:00 AM

We don’t have a deadline, but we have a plan. Vaughn and I are writing a book about tests used in special education. If you read it, when it’s done, it will help you understand the various tests used to qualify a child for services and to help determine goals and objectives for those services. And, perhaps most importantly, which is which.

Is there a particular test you would like to learn more about?  Is there something about testing that you don't understand?  Provide feedback now and we'll do our utmost best to meet your needs!

Aggression: What It All Means

  • Posted on April 12, 2013 at 10:00 AM

Kathleen and Kim wrote a post for The Autism Channel about aggression. I’ve written posts about Ben, Alex, and Willy. Now, let’s think about this a bit more.

Aggressive behaviors happen. They’re easy to judge, but difficult to understand and redirect when you’re in the midst of them. They’re often associated with either communicative deficits or puberty or both when in association with autism, at least that’s what I’m told by the professionals.

The way I look at it with my three boys—one with “easily” applicable communicative purpose, one with (maybe) a baffling purpose, and one who directs it inward instead of outward—I think aggressive behaviors (or the lack thereof) are a lot more complicated than the literature and professionals like to make them seem. It’s definitely more complicated than the generic (i.e., not autism-specific) professionals like to claim—CPS being a prime example.

I don’t have the answers. I have yet to meet anyone who does—after all, if I had, then aggression still wouldn’t be an issue for us. What I do know is that aggression (on the part of a child with special needs) isn’t the result of bad parenting, uncompassionate caregivers, or a lack of discipline. There’s nothing simple about it. There’s nothing shameful about it either and I refuse to let anyone make me feel as if there is. I assure you, we’ve tried all the “normal” stuff. We’ve tried a lot of abnormal stuff, too. We’ve discussed the issue with highly qualified staff familiar with our children and highly qualified professionals unfamiliar with our children. We’re still trying, we haven’t given up, but the “answer” hasn’t made itself apparent, yet.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I can tell you some of things the answer is not. The answer is NOT that the child is “bad.” The answer is NOT that we’re not trying hard enough. The answer is NOT one-size-fits all. The answer is NOT to cure autism. After all, aggression exists throughout our society and manifests in children all across the spectrum of needs.

Where there is aggression: Children need support. Adults need support. Their families need support. We all need compassion, understanding, and encouragement.

A little empathy goes a long way.

Aggression: Understanding Alex

  • Posted on April 8, 2013 at 10:05 AM

Kathleen and Kim wrote a post for The Autism Channel about aggression. I followed it with an initial post of my own about my son Ben. Now, I want to focus on Alex.

Alex is a more difficult “puzzle” to solve when it comes to aggression. For those who’ve been following along with my family for a while, you may remember that Alex used to be a very happy, contented child, who was also rather oblivious to his surroundings. When Willy and Alex were little and would “compete” over the same stuff, Alex refused to compete. If Willy took a toy from Alex, then Alex was content without it or would simply get something else. If we tried to give it back to him, he’d often simply set it aside and Willy would claim it. The only thing Alex was ever particular about was VeggieTales videos—which ones to watch, which parts to watch, ect. (He was also particular about touch, sound, and people, but not things.) Alex was genuinely, consistently happy.

At first, Ben’s birth changed little. Willy soon outgrew the toys that captured Alex’s interest. They veered further apart developmentally. Meanwhile, Ben was slowly catching up to Alex. At some point, Ben’s and Alex’s interests overlapped and there was once again “competition.” Ben would take from Alex and Alex would turn to something else.

Then, one summer, from seemingly nowhere, a switch was flipped. Alex started asserting himself. We encouraged this, because we had become quite concerned about how easily Alex could be taken advantage of without adult oversight and interference. A little assertiveness would be a good thing for Alex. Except, with Ben and Alex both having very limited verbal and social skills, this battle of assertiveness escalated rather quickly. At first, Ben was always the aggressor. The strife between them continued to escalate despite our interference and Alex “figured out” that aggression could help him get his way. Now, they both act aggressively when they want the same thing. They can go from being completely uninterested in each other to full-scale battle in a few seconds, skipping all the steps in-between.

We’ve developed strategies—mostly separating them and ensuring we have two of any highly desirable items, like Kindles—that reduce these incidents. Though they’re both still significantly delayed, Ben has surpassed Alex in language and social skills development. So, unless he’s having a bad day, Ben is usually able to avoid instigating incidents. Unfortunately, Alex is intentionally (or so it seems) instigating incidents, and not only with Ben.

Several months ago, Alex took up pinching—seemingly as a pastime. Even though we are people who understand that behavior=communication, we’re stumped as to what Alex is trying to communicate. Sometimes the message is obvious: You’re bugging me, get away. But sometimes it’s not: Like when he “greets” me by grabbing the underside of my arm and pinching me with his whole hand. I’m not the only target, but at home I seem to get the brunt of the “happy pinching,” meaning him pinching me when he’s happy and smiling as if in greeting. He’ll even echo “stop, no pinching.” It doesn’t seem as if he understands the words, but as if that’s the response he’s trying to get and he’s happy to have gotten it.

It’s not just happening at home, either. He’ll pinch anyone, from people who are helping him to random strangers. In the last few months, he’s added biting. If he can’t pinch, he’ll try to bite. I’m at a loss of what to do with this. I’ve worked with the school, but they don’t seem to be making any progress either. We don’t know what Alex is trying to communicate, nor do we really understand the function(s) of the behaviors. The only resource in our area that we haven’t tried that I’m aware of involves signing my child over to CPS, which is not going to happen. Ever.

I look back on the Alex we used to know, who was always happy, always peaceable, always so easy to please. It’s not that I really thought that could last, but… Aggression can escalate and become an even bigger problem than it already is, especially with puberty, and that’s exactly where Alex is right now—starting down the path of puberty. I fear if we can’t solve this problem soon, then it’s going to get worse, possibly much worse.

The lack of support is a big problem, but what’s worse is the lack of understanding and the tendency to place blame. Nothing is simple, certainly not aggression.

What Are Accommodations?

  • Posted on July 17, 2010 at 9:25 PM

For anyone out there waiting with bated breath for my third post on organization, I must apologize; this isn’t it.  I got distracted—not a good commendation for my organizational skills, but there it is.

Recently Astrid wrote a response post, on which a certain blogger made the claim that accommodations are insufficient for people with LF autism.  (I’m side-stepping the debate on whether HF/LF is a fair and reasonable distinction.)  Instead, I will jump right to the part where the example cited by this individual—which was intended to demonstrate the inadequacy of accommodations—included accommodations as a means of achieving a satisfactory outcome.

This implies to me that “accommodations” is a word that is flung around far more often than it is understood.  So, what constitutes an accommodation?

Let’s go back to our friend, the dictionary:

ac·com·mo·da·tion –noun

1. the act of accommodating; state or process of being accommodated; adaptation.

2. adjustment of differences; reconciliation.

3. Sociology. a process of mutual adaptation between persons or groups, usually achieved by eliminating or reducing hostility, as by compromise or arbitration.

4. anything that supplies a need, want, favor, convenience, etc.

5. Usually, accommodations.

    a. lodging.

    b. food and lodging.

    c. a seat, berth, or other facilities for a passenger on a train, plane, etc.

6. readiness to aid or please others; obligingness.

7. a loan.

8. Ophthalmology. the automatic adjustment by which the eye adapts itself to distinct vision at different distances.

9. accommodation bill.

Take a close look at definition 4:  “anything that supplies a need, want, favor, convenience, etc.”

If a person can’t communicate verbally, providing them with a Picture Exchange Communication system is an accommodation—it supplies a needed means of communication.

If a person can’t walk independently, providing them with a cane or a wheelchair is a form of accommodation—it supplies a needed means of mobility.

If a person can’t shout loud enough for somebody in the next state to hear them clearly, providing them with a telephone with long distance service is a form of accommodation—it supplies a wanted means of communication over long distances.

If you change a situation (whether that involves physical or procedural change) to satisfy an unmet need or want, or to increase the convenience of a situation, you are providing an accommodation.  If accommodations were provided to individuals with disabilities, their potential would not be hampered by the same limitations they face without accommodations.  The crux of the accommodations argument, in my opinion, is two-fold:  Do we prioritize accommodations sufficiently to meet the needs of members of our society?  Do we prioritize the design and development of accommodations sufficiently to meet the needs of members of our society?

Accommodations could be used to assist every individual in our societies to succeed if appropriate accommodations befitting our technological development were designed and distributed to those who need them.  Even in socialist countries this does not occur—neither the design nor the distribution—because individuals who need such accommodations are not sufficiently valued to justify the expense.

In short, by raising the value of individuals with disabilities (acceptance) and advocating appropriate accommodations, I seek to enable individuals with all abilities to live up to their potential.  For some, the accommodations they need will be easily come by.  Others will need more accommodations—perhaps even accommodations that do not yet exist.  That does not mean that accommodations are, in and of themselves, inadequate to meet the given needs; that means we need to improve our design and distribution of accommodations to meet the existing need for them.