Yes, The United States is starting to reopen more fully. California recently reopened at full capacity. Life is coming back to normal for many people. However, lets make is a very inclusive new normal for all. Masks can be uncomfortable, however for some individuals who are immunocompromised, they can be a life saver and the pandemic hopefully will make them feel more comfortable as mask wearing is becoming more accepted by the public.Yes, I understand that being fully vaccinated you do not have to wear a mask, but we should still let individuals wear them if they choose, even way after the pandemic ends. Please keep your candy chutes. Candy chutes have helped make halloween more accessible for children with physical disabilities who may not be able to make it up the steps to get their candy. Yes, distance learning has been a disaster for most children as in person learning is the best option for most and children need that social interaction. However, some children thrived with distance learning. Distance learning can be especially good for children with chronic illnesses, medically fragile or have severe allergies or illnesses such as cancer or cystic fibrosis. So yes, majority of children the in-person way is the better way, but there should always be some access to distance learning for some children, especially for the reasons I mentioned above.With school being fully in-person for most in the fall, many children will be very behind from being out of the classroom for a long time. Children with special needs can have an even harder time. That is why investing in services so all children can succeed will be more crucial than ever. Children with special needs have long been marginalized years before the pandemic. Let’s change this!
Individuals with disAbilities of all ages have long been marginalized. Though the pandemic was stressful, we should look at the glass half full instead of half empty and be optimistic. There is a silver lining…. The pandemic has made some things more inclusive for the disAbility community.
So as I mentioned before, lets move forward, not backwards and create a more inclusive new normal. We should go back to normal, but lets add these new elements as well.
As April comes to a wrap, we round up autism acceptance month. I say acceptance instead of awareness because as individuals on the spectrum, we want to be acceptance by people rather than people just being “aware” of us. We are just like anyone else and want to be treated equal. We can for sure make a difference.
The pandemic has been a major adjustment for all of us. For all of us, the pandemic, indeed has been a major change in our daily living routines. I am someone who tends to do best with routines and structure and change is hard for me. I was never resistant to wearing a face mask and I began wearing face masks very early on in the pandemic. Coming from a mostly medical family, I’ve always been ahead on the health protocols, however, it was also my mindset as well. I care about helping myself and others. I care about my husband, our cat, our family, our friends and our communities, as well as doing what is right. These experiences make us better and stronger as we grow during hard times. However, even after the pandemic is over, one thing that worries me is that individuals with autism and other disAbilities will be left further behind. Whether its school or employment or socialization, individuals on the autism spectrum often have lots of obstacles to get through. There are many challenges many individuals with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) face on a daily basis (pandemic or no pandemic). Face coverings have been hard for many individuals with ASD as it makes comprehending social cues even more difficult as you can only see peoples eyes through the face mask rather than their whole faces.
I hope to really bridge the gap Despite face masks making social cues difficult, it is very important for everyone to wear them, even individuals with ASD as it helps slow the spread of coronavirus and especially the new variants. You do not have to agree with me on everything I say. We have our own opinions, but I am just saying my point. We can all get through this and I have faith in everyone.
Some tips to help wear a mask for Children with ASD can include:
-Using face masks with fun designs
-Practicing using face masks on dolls, stuffed animals, etc
Wow! What a year! The pandemic for sure was an unexpected disruption. Moving to another state during a pandemic and starting a new job and graduate school during a tumultuous time was quite the experience, but tough times build us stronger. I hope to make a difference in 2021 and help make strides with neurodiversity as well as in the classroom with the children whom I teach. I am so grateful to have a supportive husband and family. Sometimes you may hit rock bottom, but that just makes you stronger, as the only way to go from there is up! Then you reach sky high. Tough times makes us all stronger. I like to look on the bright side. I have high hopes for 2021 and know it will be a great year!
These past two months have been difficult for everyone. However, for children who are on the autism spectrum, things can be even more difficult. Transitioning from being used to instruction in the brick-and-mortar classroom to virtual school at home can be difficult for any child. However, for children with autism, any transition can be very alarming. Routines are very important for individuals with autism. Without routines, many individuals with autism (including myself) can really get frustrated and go stir crazy. Here are some great apps and ideas you can do with your child at home.
Otsimo: Otsimo is an app designed for children with autism with a lot of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) features. It includes a lot of personalized learning for your child. https://otsimo.com/en/
Best Buddies: Best Buddies normally provides one-on-one face-to-face friendships between individuals with and without intellectual and developmental disAbilities (IDD). However, with the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic going on, Best Buddies is shifting virtual for now. They have a lot of virtual activities and events going on that could benefit as a social outlet for many individuals on the autism spectrum. https://www.bestbuddies.org/
Wow! I cant believe that it is already 2020! It is a new decade! The 2010’s just went by in a flash! Now welcome to the 2020’s! I am hoping that this year is a big year for disability rights and autism awareness. I have high hopes for this upcoming year and decade that we will have lots of opportunities for accomplishments. There is always progress to be made and progress being made.
All my life, I have always waned to
work with young children in the classroom, especially with young children with
disabilities. I myself received special education services growing up and am on
a mission to help provide the same services to children that helped me become
who I am today. I was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and didn’t start
speaking until the age of two and a half. In elementary school, I began to develop
anxiety disorder and a learning disability and struggled with attention. I had
trouble focusing in middle and high school. I have also struggled a lot with my
social skills. My parents have been told by people that they do not know if I
will be successful or not, but they always knew that I will be successful and
can beat the odds. I love and trust my parents, and they were correct. Despite
all of these setbacks, I did beat the odds and have proven that nothing can
stop me from being on a path to pursue my dream. Some school personnel didn’t
know if I would be able to graduate from high school with a standard diploma.
Well guess what, I did it! It was uncertain I would be able to graduate from
college with a bachelor’s degree. Well guess what, I did that too. It was
uncertain if I can have a healthy relationship and get married. Well guess
what, that has also happened and my husband and I are living happily together
with our sweet cat that we adopted from the local humane society. I am now a
teacher assistant at an Early Head Start center in Utah working with high-needs
children from low-income families and children with special needs. I feel that
having autism helps me be successful with teaching young children with
disabilities as it helps me see their needs from a different perspective, as I
can relate to them as I too have a developmental disability, in which I view as
a different way of thinking rather than a “limitation” or a “disability. My
autism makes my teaching style unique as it adds character and a distinct
personality when working with the children. I feel that whenever I interact
with children, they sense my animated personality as well as my natural
demeanor of accepting each child for who they are individually. I know each
child’s special interests and personalities and embrace each child as equal. I
have always believed that education starts from a young age and that tolerance,
social skills, kindness and acceptance are just as big of an importance as core
academic subjects, such as reading and mathematics. Without these personal
traits, it is often hard to be successful. There is so much no-so-good-news
that the last thing we need is intolerance and exclusion. I feel that I have
experienced a lot of this myself and it has made me a stronger person instead
of bringing me down. I feel much of this adversity has built up resilience in
myself and has made an impact on how I help the children I work with become
resilient as well. Although the children I work with are very young, with many
still in diapers, they can still learn resilience as resilience helps overcome
trauma and adversity one may be facing. The early years are the most important
years to become resilient and to educate about acceptance of individuals with
disabilities. Not only do I
educate the children, but they also teach me as well. I hope to get the message
out to more and more people about my message. I aspire to become the head
teacher someday and always want to remain in the classroom on the floor with
the children because I have always believed that makes the most impact as an
activist, and I am an activist. I do not sit on the sidelines and wait for
things to happen, I make things happen. The children look at me each day and
look up to me as their superhero to help change the world. Many people may not
realize this, but these children are going to be the next generation to make an
impact in the world and we have to help them foster their skills, which is what
teachers do. Autism doesn’t stop a child from pursing his or her own dreams or
being successful. That is just a mindset. It comes from the heart and only the
sky is the limit. Hopefully one
day there will be no labels or barriers. I can see one day where inclusion
classrooms will be the norm and more individuals with autism being employed and
going to college. I know the future is bright for individuals with disabilities
and I can feel it.
Growing up with autism has made me have the ability to think on the level from the perspective of a child who has autism.
I know you already do a lot of work, and teaching is no easy job. However, I have something you may want to know about me: I have a disability. I may be a special needs child and my needs may be greater than other children, but I still love to learn. You may sometimes wonder if you are doing enough to support my learning needs and worried if you are doing things the wrong way… but please, don’t worry!! You are putting in great effort to help me learn and grow. You are the most powerful superhero I know. You believe in me and other children with special needs. You help make us become champions so we can make a difference on others just like you do. I like how you believe in us and it’s important to keep believing in us, because we will keep showing you how incredible your superpowers are and the influence it had on us. A disability is not an inability, it is just a different ability, an ability in which we do things a bit differently. We want you to keep doing the amazing job you are doing to help us someday beat the odds and have jobs that make a difference to the world just like you do to us.
October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. This is a great concept, however, we need to take more action than only just spreading awareness. Although many efforts are in place to help individuals with disabilities become successfully employed here in the United States, we still have ways to go. According to disabled world https://www.disabled-world.com/disability/statistics/2019-chart.php, 37% of adults with disabilities are employed, while around 77% of adults without disabilities are employed. Often times, many of these employed individuals with disabilities are working part-time (not full-time) and are paid only minimum wage, or even worse, paid a sub-minimum wage. A sub-minimum wage is a separate minimum wage that some states have allowing employers to pay individuals with disabilities less. In Florida, its $2 an hour. However, efforts are being put in place to get rid of sub-minimum wages. I am thankful I am employed full-time with benefits and above minimum wage. Although I am beating the odds, I want to help others beat the odds as well.
Lately, We have heard a lot of young people around the world protesting, demanding that their countries’ government officials take action on tackling climate change. It is not about politics, its about creating a better world for everyone, which has nothing to do with politics. Greta Thunberg is such a powerful force for demanding environmental action in tackling climate change. Yes that is a big issue, but what about Disability Rights? Although we have come a long way here in America when it comes to the rights of individuals with disAbilities, I personally feel that we still have ways to go. Just like the climate change protests, this isn’t about politics, it is about the people and is a people issue, not a political issue. Public Special Education, in particular, is very under-funded and a lot of services for individuals with disabilities are very expensive. Luckily, there are many new laws that are being created to benefit the families of individuals with disAbilities to help them have the financial support for therapies. I am telling all of you families out there of individuals with disAbilities that I am on your side. I am very vocal and am committed to changing the lives of individuals with disAbilities and making the world a better place for people of all abilities!!!