Soup Du Jour! Children Are The True Educators

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the fourth one from Cristy Bobbett!

Children Are The True Educators

By Cristy Bobbett 

I have been a special education teacher in fully inclusive classrooms for the West Genesee School District since 2003.  Prior to that, I taught at Edward Smith Elementary School in the Syracuse City School District for 12 years.  My students have Autism, Down Syndrome, CP, ED, etc.  Many of my students are/were non-verbal, and many of them are no longer non verbal.  Many were non readers, and now are reading.  I have been blessed in my job and thought I would share with you some of my thoughts. 

I have been working with and teaching children with special needs for the past 18 years.  In that time I have come to the realization that the children, my students, have actually been teaching me.  I will never be able to fully explain in words what these beautiful children and their families have done for my perspective on life as well as for the beauty that I see every day in people.  Children with special needs have so much to teach us if we allow them to.

I have learned through doing, that fully inclusive classrooms (if done right) are not only successful places for all students, but actually amazing places where everyone; students, teachers and administrators become better learners, teachers, friends, and people.

I have learned that there are no limits to what children with special needs can do.  We as educators, parents and neighbors are the ones with limits.  Limits that we put on children when we can’t see the way to make a situation work. 

I have learned that the families of children with special needs are some of the most special families this world has to offer.  I have witnessed unbelievable acts of selflessness, love, courage, perseverance and grace from the parents, grandparents and siblings of the children I have had the honor to teach.

I have learned to think deeper, analyze more critically and prioritize the true goal of a situation, job or experience is, in order to adapt or modify myself, the surroundings, materials or curriculum, so that all children can reach their full potential every day.

I have learned that sometimes the best thing you can do is back away and let children figure things out for themselves.  Young children can and will make friends everywhere they go, especially if we, the adults get out of their way.

I have learned that there is no other job in the world that would allow me to spend my time trying to help others and better other people’s lives while my life is actually being improved and bettered in ways that can not be measured.

I have learned to be thankful for everyday, no matter what it brings and to look forward to each September hoping that I can give as much to the children and families that walk into my classroom as they give to me.

Cristy Bobbett
M.S. Special Education

Soup Du Jour! Autism Really – Ryan

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the third one from Jennifer Thomas!

AUTISM REALLY – RYAN

By Jennifer Thomas

 

It was December 8th, 1996 when my beautiful big boy Ryan was born.  I was a happy mother (25 years old) of two beautiful children.  I was also a certified N-8 teacher and a wife at the time.  I could not have been happier.

The first month brought on an MRI with his head growing too much in the front and on both sides.  My husband at the time chose not to come, as he did with the rest of Ryan’s issues.  My older sister took us and helped us through it.  He has hydrocephaly, where the fluid levels never rose.  Thank God.

After that, his first year of life was normal to me.  My older sister also had a child two months before, so we could see a difference; yet we chalked it up to a boy and a girl.  He hit thirty pounds a little after 6 months. Then on his first birthday, he received the chicken pox vaccine.  Immediately he spiked a high fever (106) and we ended up in the hospital for 3 or 4 days. 

One month later, he was a different child.  He would not say the words he already had (mama, dada, baba, cookie, etc.).  He started screaming for hours (4+) on end.  He would not look at you when you called him.  He would do dangerous things and get hurt, without feeling it.  He would not listen to a story, nor play with toys typically (spinning wheels, lining up, carrying the same thing).  He would hurt himself and others and was a very big child.   Another month went by and I was beside myself.  This is where my little sister came into play.  She was finishing up with her Speech Pathology and sent me an article in February of Ryan’s second year of life.  It was about twin girls with Autism who exhibited his behaviors.  She told me to get him tested.  My initial reaction was that she was crazy; yet I trusted her knowledge and spoke to his pediatrician.  I was then told that we could not until he was 18 months.

At the 18 month mark, I took him to the best hospital, Hackensack University Medical Center (Don Imus Building) to get the testing.  What a long day for us all.  The reports came back as “Severe Autism”.  I cried like a baby, for my baby.  They had many suggestions to do immediately.  I was then 26 years old, and had no idea of what Autism truly was.  I researched everything, stopped working, and began his intensive therapies within the next month. 

When hit with something like this, and you want to read about it, I couldn’t.  Every book began with “they will never this or that”.  My dear friend Chris gave me a book called “Let Me Hear Your Voice”.  That is the only book I ever read because the mommy in the book helped more than one child with a positive outlook.  I was driven at that point to do the same.

I took him to two separate facilities to concur with the initial diagnosis (another hospital and an independent neurologist).  They both said Autism.  His neurologist told me “you need to get this now because his mind is like play dough where you can form it; however after 5 years old, he will keep whatever symptoms left).  I began my hunt for his intensive therapy.  I asked one of my best friends, Chris, with much begging and pleading (because we were friends and she thought it was a conflict of interest) to be his private Speech Pathologist.  She agreed.  Also, with advice from my little sister, hired Allegro outreach to come to the house for intensive ABA therapy.  This is where Jackie Dubil came into our lives.  She loved him like he was hers.  She named her son after him too.  I also contacted Early Intervention (which at that time did not provide ABA, yet gave him Speech once or twice a week for an hour, and OT once a month).  That is all they gave him, which prepared me to deal with the public sector of special education.  I supplemented it with sending him to a private preschool the second half of the day.

He received these therapies (with funding from my mother’s family – thank you) until he was three years old and had to enter the school system.  Entering the school system offered either sending him far away to an Autistic school or the 2 hour a day Preschool Disabled program.  I chose the latter because he needed not to be with other children with Autism and learn their behaviors.  

Throughout all of this, I learned the special education law inside and out.  I researched schools, therapists, and medical and holistic options.  I needed the knowledge to fight for my boy to get what he needed. 

He entered regular Kindergarten (1/2 day) with an aide.  I went back to work (with a blessing from a dear friend) at this point.  My friend, Dara was working as a special education teacher for the Commission for our county and she was leaving.  I was hired as an emergency certified special education teacher, with nothing but what I taught myself.

The story can continue, and I tried to keep it short, but parents who deal with this have long stories to tell.  He is now entering 8th grade with inclusion academic classes.  He is doing well, playing sports, has friends, appears typical, and continues to understand his abilities.

I have to have a special paragraph for my daughter.  How it affected, and still affects her is a whole different story.  She is 2 ½ years older than him.  She was hurt by the attention he got from everyone, and still is.  I am sorry baby.  It is the cards that were dealt to us as a family.  You may not understand Autism fully, but you understand it at your level.  I love you.

I am a special education teacher in Paterson for the past five years (and have mostly children with Autism).  I divorced my husband three years ago (I thought I could beat the odds for parents with special needs children, but I couldn’t).  I am raising two wonderful children in my home.

Autism is something you will never understand unless you live it!  Love to all parents, siblings, family and friends that live it.  Do what you have to for your children.

Soup Du Jour! Puppy Paws for Colton

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the second one from Rebecca Heibein!

Puppy Paws for Colton

Colton was diagnosed last year with an autism Spectrum Disorder.  He falls on the mild side of the spectrum, and his symptoms seem to be more specific to Asperger’s Syndrome, which falls under the Autism Spectrum.

Colton experiences some degree of all Asperger’s symptoms.  In the owner’s quest to find new ways to support Colton, we looked into the use of an Autism Service Dog.  We contacted a not for profit agency, Autism Dog Services, and arranged for a home visit.  The director of this agency, Wade Beattie, came to our house with a 16 month old Golden Retriever, Aspen.  He stayed for over an hour with us, and answered all of our questions, and Colton got to know Aspen and feed her treats!  At the end of the visit, we decided that an Autism Service Dog would benefit Colton immensely!  The parents submitted on application and we were approved. The value of one of these dogs is – $18,000 – a quick breakdown on the $18,000 cost of a dog is as follows:

  • 28% ($5,040) is the basic cost of the dog, food, veterinary costs and fostering a puppy
  • 44% ($7,920) is for advanced training of the dog
  • 11% ($1,980) is for team training (training the child, the family and the dog to work together)
  • 17% ($3,060) is continued support for the dog by Autism Dog Services.  They support the family and the dog over its working lifetime.

 A service dog will help a child with autism by:

  • Improving safety and security at home, in public, and at school.
  • Prevent a child from bolting into traffic or other dangerous situations.
  • Provide independence, allowing a child to walk holding the dog rather than a parent’s hand.
  • Lend support and a calming influence to a child as he copes in highly stressful situations and changes in routine.
  • Allow greater freedom for our family to participate in outings and activities.
  • Help improve socialization skills by bridging the gap between a child and society
  • Acts as a constant companion, offering unconditional love and friendship.
  • Help with transitioning and behavior when out in public.

We’ve already been on several outings with the dog, and have been able to see how life with a dog will be.  We’ve been able to walk through the very busy Saturday morning market, which is a place we would avoid given the level of anxiety some children have had in places like this.

Cole was diagnosed with PDD-NOS around age 2- 3. He has an amazing family who embraced the challenge of learning this new path that life had offered them and navigated through the information, professional opinions and programs that were being recommended for their child.

We had the pleasure of meeting Cole and Chrissie in December of 2009. They had just moved from Texas and were looking for new, exciting treatments that could help Cole (now 9), find his way through the social nuances of “9 year old boy life”.  Cole still could not ride a bike, during swim team his strokes were awkward and uncoordinated and he struggled to play board games with other kids, because he just hated losing and would tantrum; leaving his peers baffled and not quite sure how to handle the situation. Cole couldn’t always express his feelings appropriately either.

After the comprehensive occupational, physical and speech therapy evaluations that CTW performed, we developed an intense treatment protocol, using our technology and wonderful team of therapists and off we went – on the therapy journey!

Fast forward 6 months. We have seen tiny little steps and leaps and bounds. The outcomes are:  One of the first Aha! Moment’s occurred on a Friday night at swim meet. Chrissie and her neighbor were sitting watching the kids swim when her neighbor turned to her and said something like “Chrissie, look at Cole, his stroke is even and smooth, wow what have you been doing?” This was 6 weeks after starting our programs. Each week we had mini revelations that we discussed. One week it was how much his handwriting had improved at school (we had not done any hand writing programs yet), the next time, Cole was more aware of his mom’s emotions. Then his tangential thought patterns were occurring less and less, he was staying on topic and everybody could follow his conversation without these random thoughts popping up.  During the second week of his intensive program, Cole zipped his pants up for the first time in his life – he could now go and buy jeans at the store like other kids his age.

We had many tear jerking moments during this time. But the most poignant time was when Cole rode his bike independently – all his therapists cheered as if he had just won his first marathon – and he had, he could now do what other kids his age did!

We are very proud of our children and in this particular case, very proud of our parents too. With the love, support and effort that Coles’ parents have put into him, it was an honor to be able to teach Cole how to reach his milestones and then go beyond that.

Way to go Cole!
by Rebecca Heibein

Soup Du Jour! Road to Recovery – Logan’s Story

All My Readers,

As a Chicken Soup co-author I’m always looking for your stories to share with everyone else.  Not too long ago I did a “call out” to my members asking for heartwarming stories and was overwhelmed with over 2500 submissions.  I know you will enjoy hearing from others so I am going to be sharing them with you on a weekly basis.  Here is the first one from Kristie Tait!

ROAD TO RECOVERY – LOGAN’S STORY

I remember the first time Logan was really sick. He was nearly 6 weeks old and was so congested it was restricting his breathing. I took him to the doctor’s office and we were sent immediately to Regina where he was admitted with life threatening illnesses. I was very thankful for my dear friend Tina who slept on a cold hard hospital floor and stayed right by my side as I prayed for my baby to make it through. (I was told by the nurses he may not make it through the night if things didn’t improve). Logan started to improve and within a few days we were on our way home where we were to be followed up closely by our family doctor. It turns out that Logan had Influenza A and RSV (Respiratory Syncytial Virus) what a nasty little virus that was!  In fact, it is often fatal in infants.  Logan was definitely on the mend but as I read his medical records I learned that it can take several months for it to completely run its course. We had no idea at the time what we were in for.

I remember the day I took Logan for his immunizations…I was very concerned that maybe he wasn’t quite over his RSV and wasn’t sure it was a good idea for him to get his shots until I knew he was over that and his weakened immune system had a chance to heal itself. The health nurses were not concerned at all and convinced me that it was fine and that I had nothing to worry about and that his immunizations were completely safe. NOTHING could have been further from the truth.

He had a low grade fever but other than that seemed ok, he would sit for hours in his swing and stare into space, and he became less and less interested in human contact and never cried. Logan also started doing this strange hand flapping thing that we thought was so cute at the time. We would say he was riding his dirt bike like papa and would laugh while he did this. But the worst part of it was…Logan was sick ALL of the time. He had respiratory illness after respiratory illness after respiratory illness. We were hospitalized on a regular basis and sent by ambulance to Regina on several occasions. I tried to go back to work after my year of maternity leave was up, but due to his health conditions (and the fact that the only licensed day home in our area had a cat) I had to have someone come into my home to babysit Logan. I was very lucky to have a good friend do this for me…but it didn’t take long before I could not afford what it was costing. Logan continued to be sick so I had to take an extended leave of absence from work to take care of him. We went to see some specialists in the city and ended up with a diagnosis of asthma (which I didn’t agree with at all.) We figured out that cats were not contributing to his respiratory illnesses because my mom had a cat and he was never sick from being over there so I decided to put him in the day home and attempt to go back to work. Things were going fairly well except that he was still getting respiratory illnesses a lot…croup…bronchitis etc.  Then one day his child care provider told me she was quite concerned about his speech, she felt he was considerably delayed and suggested I looked into things. I took him to the doctors and got him to a speech and language pathologist as soon as possible. We were told everything was fine, he was just a little slower to talk and that he would catch up.

By this time Logan was almost 3 and barely talked at all. His behaviours were odd and he had tantrums every day.  He would not go to bed, he would not respond to his name when we called him, he was obsessed with licking things and lined his toys up on the floor. He was obsessed with door knobs and hinges, was overly hyper and had no fear of things he should have been afraid of. He was clumsy and would often run into things and injure himself – going to the doctor’s office became a weekly occurrence for us. I found it strange there were never any concerns that something was seriously wrong. Whenever I expressed concerns I was told I was over reacting, offered parenting advice and sent on my way home. My son was clearly showing signs that something was wrong. Life was nothing but stress…illness after illness for Logan he was nothing short of nearly impossible to deal with and to top it off I was a single mom and my older son had just lost his father.

Logan continued to be sick. He had croup every winter, broke out in shingles at age 5 and was given a full time E.A. at school to help deal with the behaviours. The school Logan goes to made sure he was seen by psychologists and assessed PROPERLY! (Logan’s school has been amazing!) My Logan started getting the help and support he needed. I started being very pushy with doctors to get to the bottom of what was going on and I started researching day and night. The words AUTISM SPECTRUM DISORDER filled my computer screen time and time again and I knew without a doubt that was what was going on with my son. It was both a relief to finally have an answer and heartbreaking at the same time. Now came the hard part… finding the right doctor (not as easy as it sounds.) My opinion of the medical community is not exactly warm and fuzzy after all we have been through. But I was determined to get on the right path. I realized that all the hard work and research would be on my shoulders so I started staying up all night reading, ordering books, looking into natural treatments etc. I started researching day and night about what I could do. I pushed my doctor and got in his face to get tests done.  We discovered Logan had an immunoglobulin A deficiency, a lack (more like non-existence) of “good bacteria” found in his G.I. tract. Logan (after his H1N1 vaccine) developed food intolerances and sensitivities,   lost a frightening amount of weight and suffered several horrifying side effects that put his health in serious jeopardy. Our family doctor wanted to hear nothing of the H1N1 vaccine side effects and ignored us, changed the subject and eventually told us we needed to find a new family doctor. The devastating fact was that we live in a smaller city where there are NO doctors taking new patients, actually there is a severe doctor shortage

Well, I was not about to throw my hands up in the air and do nothing…my little boy deserved way better than that! I decided to take matters into my own hands and started learning and doing everything I could. Every day I am amazed at the results I am seeing….simply amazed! The first thing I did was eliminate wheat and dairy from his diet. It only took a few weeks to start seeing improvements, he no longer screamed in agony from the stomach pain and he stopped waking up in the night crying. We also noticed that he was a happier boy! I was filled with hope for my son!!I  Bought heavy metal screen tests and tested his urine at home, it was no surprise to find it was high in metal toxins.  We started chelation therapy using a detoxifying bentonite clay bath and gave gentle oral chelation supplements – FOLLOWING ALL DIRECTIONS VERY CAREFULLY! I also started heavy supplements, probiotics to correct his digestive issues and digestive enzymes to help him break down carbohydrates and proteins. I continued to read   and educate myself as much as possible.  One book I would highly recommend any parent of a child with autism invest in is The Kid Friendly ADHD & AUTISM Cookbook. It has been a wonderful resource and guide. It also has made me realize how vital it is to have a healthy digestive system in order to have a healthy brain. I also decided to give him grapefruit seed extract and oil of oregano to clear the yeast overgrowth from years of antibiotic use. I was shocked at the amounts of yeast that came out in his bowel movements and was disgusted with the periodic bouts of vomiting that smelled of rancid yeast.

My son has done remarkably better since this intervention and I believe that things will only get better for him. Logan has put on ALL the weight he lost and then some.  His complexion is healthy and his eyes sparkle with life again. Logan is still hyper but has many days with little or NO meltdowns! (this is a MAJOR miracle)

We still have a long road ahead of us, further testing and assessments, and will likely have to continue the VERY expensive diet and supplement regime for a long time. IT IS WORKING!!! I find myself angry from time to time that my son was not properly assessed and diagnosed when he was younger but it has inspired me to help other children like Logan and be an advocate for those who don’t have a strong voice. I hope to write a book about our journey through healing, our adventures in autism and everything in between. I hope that my story will provide much needed support and comfort to other mothers out there who have also been blamed, ignored and mistreated by doctors. These children are very sensitive and are here to teach us all a very important lesson about how toxic our world is and how deadly our medical “interventions” truly are. I will stand up and speak out…won’t you?

Kristie Tait

“Qi” for ASD: Traditional Chinese Medicine Provides a Research Based Approach to Using Medical Qigong to Help Children on the Autism Spectrum

Parents of ASD children often become advocates willing to pursue innovative approaches to helping their children.  In my case, my eclectic background as a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist and acupuncturist led me to pursue options offered by Chinese medicine for my own son, who struggles with sensory integration and social relationship difficulties.

Imagine my surprise in discovering that an American medical doctor trained in classical Chinese medicine had already charted this territory and come away with a comprehensive treatment approach that pulls forward ancient teachings of medical qigong[1] to treat ASD children.

And, this Western MD had taken her initiative a step further and was actively placing qigong in the hands of early intervention specialists and parents via a training program that honors the age old principle that Chinese medicine is fundamentally for families.  Dr. Louisa Silva has been publishing research for the past 6 years[2] showing that her intervention, “Qigong Sensory Training”, reduces sensory impairment and improves adaptive behaviors in children with ASD.   Her most recent publication[3] draws on Chinese medical theory to suggest that autism involves the interplay of impaired sensory development and delayed emergence of self- regulation.  Addressing this delay via qigong can help children fill in missing developmental milestones. My training provided a lens to review Dr. Silva’s research—which I found compelling enough to invite her to come to the Boston area for the first time to offer her thorough training to occupational therapists and acupuncturists. The training also teaches parents to deliver qigong massage.  My experiences working with children and parents in the program contributes to my enthusiasm over this approach.  We are already seeing signs of reduction in sensory impairment in the children novice practitioners are treating.

Through ongoing outreach, Dr. Silva aims to expand the reach of this Qigong Sensory Training Intervention.  If you are an open minded parent who wants to engage hands-on in your child’s wellness, consider participating in a QST training near you!

Author Bio:

Maria A. Broderick, MAOM, Ed.D., Lic.Ac., practices Chinese medicine with a focus on child and adolescent health and development.  Maria is a member of the clinical faculty of the New England School of Acupuncture (www.nesa.edu), where she supervises acupuncture interns in the pediatric in patient unit and the adolescent outpatient clinic at Boston Medical Center. Maria holds a Master’s degree in Oriental Medicine from the New England School of Acupuncture and a doctoral degree in Human Development and Psychology from Harvard University, where she previously served on the Faculty of Education. Maria is a Schweitzer Fellow for Life. She is the Director of Reservoir Family Wellness (www.reservoirfamilywellness), in Acton, MA, where she treats children with ASD with Chinese medicine.

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