13 years old, loves chicken nuggets, fries and pizza. His favorite book is "Go Dog Go" by P.D. Eastman. He plays music by ear. He hears a song and plays every note until he finds the keys, then its history. His Mother, Milisa Fowler is launching the Social Acceptance Youth Development Center in 2012.
Social Acceptance YDC
"The Autism Book: What Every Parent Needs to Know About Early Detection, Treatment, Recovery and Prevention"
Robert W. Sears, MD, FAAP
Author of "The Vaccine Book"
"FOODS THAT ENHANCE THE
BIOMEDICAL APPROACH -
These healthy plant chemicals have potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer (pretty much anti-anything bad) properties that can improve many of the immune and metabolic problems in autism. Most parents know that fruits and veggies are good for their children, but for children with autism, they are essential. The phytonutrients in green veggies and berries enhance neurotransmitter production and function. Try to make raw fruits, veggies, nuts, and berries a routine part of your child's snacks and meals. Juicing can be a convenient and good-tasting way to get more of these into your child's diet."
The Holiday season brings such joy as we expect to gather with family and friends to celebrate. We in the autism culture are ushering in new traditions as we carve out the particular activities, foods and surroundings that bring our children comfort. My boys (diagnosed with autism), Carter who's now 15 and Bakary who's soon to be 13 do not eat turkey, stuffing, yams, greens, pies, etc. Last year we had KFC and Chinese food for Thanksgiving dinner. It was wonderful! We usually spend it at the beach. We fly kites and draw in the sand and wander endlessly without being bothered. No one is there except us. It's like our own private backyard. This year we road bikes at the beach. Bakary is learning to peddle so he & I road tandem. We've done and will do, on occasion, the typical traditional Thanksgiving with loved ones. But we are thankful for what we've evolved to embrace as our very own unique way of celebrating ;-)
Get it Started!!!
Often we are faced with challenges that show us what we are made of. Methods of educating our special needs children constantly stick us parents with opportunities to fight, stand up and GET SOMETHING STARTED. Whether it's a proactive or reactive stance, every time things seem to be moving along nicely we find ourselves going, "What ... ???" Sometimes silently, other times louder than we expected. Then we make a choice to let it go or step up.
Milisa Fowler of Fayetteville, NC is like me. We try to stay involved. We like to visit our kids' classrooms to see how the Teachers and Aids are working to meet IEP Goals.
An, "Individualized Education Program," the IEP is a legally binding document between parents and the school district. It's a federal requirement for all Special Ed students. It defines the specific direction of a child's course work focusing on his/her individual level of developmental strengths and deficits. And it is created annually by the IEP Team which consists of the Teacher, Parent(s), School and/or District Administrator (s) and designated Specialists (i.e. Speech, Occupational Therapists, Behaviorists, etc.).
Melisa, an uber-strong Single Mom , and her family which includes 15 -year-old Monique (a typically mature and doting daughter) and 13 -year- old Jamaul (a keenly astute son diagnosed with autism) joined my True Life Kingdom Ministries' Bible Study group Thanksgiving Day. We prayed and bonded for what seemed like forever. Isn't it wonderful when there's someone you meet for the first time and learn that you have a lifetime of experiences in common? Well that's what happened to Milisa and me.
When she went to her son's school and recognized that Jamaul was not being taught to read she set about determining why. A Reading Goal was outlined in Jamaul's IEP! Why they weren't following the IEP was very strange. Well, her inquiry found an administrator stating how some children with autism never learn to read. In this venture she was also told that her son's learning had stagnated .... (WHAT???)
Believe it or not, when Milisa told me this story she and I laughed and laughed over this little conclusion. It really did crack me up. I had met Jamaul so I knew he was bright. I asked her if the administrator had met him. Milisa said no. How interesting ;-/ This is why we must be the CHIEF ADVOCATEs for our babies!!!! People who don't really know, actually think they are doing well, and God bless them for trying, but they don't realize the potential damage they can cause!!!!!! (Sorry, I got a little heated there.)
Well, we really found it funny: the perception that Jamaul's development had stagnated. Because, it made perfect sense to us ... as we laughed. With no reading instruction - the result is stagnation! That was hilarious to us. How right they were.
Milisa removed Jamaul from that school and his reading skills are advancing daily! (Sing with me.) She Got it Started - Ha! She got her son in a new school! Let's get it started, Ha! Let's get it started, my Dears.
We parents must trust our instincts and do our homework. Believing we have the power to advocate for our children is the key. Many times the opposition is huge and the experts may not be supportive of our views. I've actually thought, at times, that I had to be out of my mind to hope that I - lil' ol' me - could figure out how to make life better for my boys. I know other parents who just get mad and the fight is on. Their anger propels them into action.
For me, the thought of really taking on big challenges makes me think I might be crazy. Knowing I must forge ahead, I work myself into it and eventually I own it. By admitting that I must be crazy to think I could actually go up against the powers that be. Right now it makes me reflect on the powerful words of super soulful Seal ... "No we're never gonna surviiiive, unnn-lesssss, we are a little craaa-zy. Oh no, we're never gonna surviiiiive unnn-lesssss we are a little .... Craaa (Rock out to the beat with me) ... in a sky full of people only some want to fly isn't that cra-zay?"
And that's the point! Who wants to fly? Our children want to fly.
We have to assist their efforts any way we can. It's not crazy to help them improve. They will grow every day and every year of their lives. We have to believe we can elevate ourselves above the circumstances to find ways of helping our children excel. Yes, we take it one step at a time.
Caring takes courage. Most people consider the courageous a little crazy anyway because of what we are willing to endure in order to create the future. We have no desire to just let the future happen, which is the choice of some parents who simply aren't ready or conscious. Sharing our issues inspires others to reach out and help. Because it is crazy to think that a parent may have a better plan of action than working professionals in the field - the doctors, therapists or educators. But it's true. As wild as it seems, WE must take all the experts' views and data into consideration and in the end it is OUR job to make the final decision.
Like Milisa, who has also created Social Acceptance YDC ,an after school center for children, Douglas Baker, Financial Advisor with Waddell and Reed, Inc. and the father of a 21- year-old son diagnosed with autism, was inspired to specialize in servicing the special needs community. (Yey us!) Douglas said, "Three years ago when my son, Scott, finished high school, I was com¬pelled to seriously plan for his long-term future. My advisor at the time did not understand planning for special needs. I sought other advisors who could guide me through the complicated process, but I did not find that person. It is a service that I wanted and a service most special needs families need in some form or another." So Now Douglas is The Man!
That's what challenges do! Leaders rise to meet the call. Melisa and Douglas are parents that are making a difference. They give me hope. They've provided families like mine with valuable resources. Their wisdom in times of trial lifted them into positions of service that not only benefit their children but ours as well. God bless them and keep them prospering! (See links to their organizations)
We are the CEO's of our child's team of developmental impactors! We may not get it right all the time, but as long as we allow ourselves to be the modern day Superhero - build our knowledge base, do the research and align ourselves with like-minded movers and shakers, we shall prevail! Cape or no Cape ;-) The word of God gives me power to pull myself together and see His vision - which is far greater than anything I could imagine. Primarily, I do the work, like many other parents. The way may not always be clear, but the purpose is. We are building an accessible future for our children. And we are doing it with verve! Or did I mean nerve ...
Psalms 145:18 "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He also will hear their cry and save them."
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Thank you for your time.
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Vana Thiero, Autism Advocate and Documentarian, also serves on the Board of Directors of two non-profit organizations: The Samaritan's House Foundation and Safe Passage. To learn more about these charities visit thesamaritanshouse.org and safepassagelives.org.