Spread the word to end the R-Word

The R-word is the word ‘retard(ed)’. Why does it hurt? The R-word hurts because it is exclusive. It’s offensive. It’s derogatory.

The “Spread the word to end the R-word campaign” asks people to pledge to stop saying the R-word as a starting point toward creating more accepting attitudes and communities for all people. Language affects attitudes and attitudes affect actions. Pledge today to use respectful, people-first language.

Will you pledge your support?

Click Here

My story:

Matthew is a huge Beatles fan and asked me if we could go to the music store to buy a Revolver CD. He was wearing plaid shorts, a different patterned plaid shirt, white socks and work boots.

“You might want to change your shirt,” I said. “Your plaid shorts would look even better with a plain shirt.”

“I look good,” he replied, “and we’re not going to talk about it anymore.”

When we entered the store, Matthew saw an entire rack dedicated to Beatles music, and ran over to it exuberantly, bumping into another customer-hard.

He apologized profusely as the customer shook his head.

“What are you,” the customer yelled “a retard or something?”

“I give up,” Matthew replied passively.

I guided Matthew to the cash register, careful not to make eye contact with the irate customer. Matthew has always been socially awkward, and while I’m well practiced at unfortunate public scenes like these, they still upset me. I was grateful that at least this time, Matthew seemed oblivious to the conflict.

As we drove away with his music, I convinced myself that Matthew didn’t know that the guy at the music store had insulted him. I shared the story my family, and they laughed.

“Thank God he didn’t get it,” they said.

But when I put my head on my pillow later that night, I knew that on some level Matthew did get it. God only knows how many times he has heard the “R” word.

I thought back to the time when I was a teenager, and I laughed at a weird boy at summer camp who was walking funny, rocking and flapping his hands. The boy’s brother, who was also at the camp, saw me laughing and glared at me, deeply hurt.

I’ll never forget it.

I’ll bet that as soon as that guy at the music store blurted out that awful phrase, he realized that the woman with Matthew was his mother. He would have apologized if he had the chance.

I’ve already forgiven him.

***

What is you story?

 

The Messenger

Do you remember the person that gave you the news?

In this story, and excerpt from A Regular Guy: Growing Up with Autism, I share my reaction to mine:

Wanting to leave no stone unturned, I followed the advice of the presumptuous mother in the speech therapy waiting room and scheduled Matthew for an evaluation with a developmental pediatrician just a few weeks after our initial meeting with Dr. Hoffman.

“Isn’t this overkill?” asked Peter. “He was just tested by Dr. Hoffman. All this testing has got to confuse the poor kid.”

“But a developmental pediatrician will look at Matthew’s development from a medical perspective and make referrals to other specialists if needed,” I said, though I agreed that it was a little ridiculous to test him again so soon.

Matthew not looking when I call his name.

Matthew not looking when I call his name.

After testing Matthew, the developmental pediatrician started by giving us the most encouraging news of all. “Many areas of his delay are quite mild,” he said, “and Matthew has splinter skills, which are areas where he is at or above age level. With continued focus on speech and language, I’m optimistic about Matthew’s prognosis.”

Peter and I looked at each other and pumped our fists. Good news!

“This is wonderful!” I exclaimed.

“The fact that a significant delay exists is evident,” the doctor hedged.

Uh-oh.

He took out a pad of paper and a pen and sketched an arc.

“This arc represents a scale,” he said, making a small mark at the bottom of the scale. “This is where Matthew scores on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale.”

I stared at the drawing, not comprehending what the doctor was trying to tell us.

“That looks low,” said Peter.

“He is in the second percentile,” the doctor replied.

“That’ll change once the language improves, right?” I asked.

“No, this is an actual measure of Matthew’s cognitive ability,” he said, still pointing at the two-percentile mark with his fancy pen.

“But you said we should be optimistic. You said he had splinter skills. And he is now seeing a psychologist twice a week for play therapy. Don’t you think that maybe it all just hasn’t clicked yet?”

“I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said, “but Matthew is in an optimal spot at the moment. It would also be in his best interest for you to consult your local school district about placement in special-education classes. You should also contact the Regional Center of the East Bay. They provide services for children with developmental disabilities and their families.”

“Wait a minute,” I started, but Peter held up his hand to silence me.

“Just so we’re clear,” he said. “You say that Matthew has made substantial growth in all areas. But when I look at this scale, it looks like he’s retarded.”

“Dr. Davies said he wasn’t retarded,” I broke in, “and he doesn’t look retarded. He just doesn’t test well. Dr. Hoffman is going to draw him out—”

“Lau-ra,”Peter said, trying to calm me.

“OK,” I said, jumping up, “we’ll talk to the school district and the regional. . . whatever, but you know what? I’m kind of upset. We can talk more about this another time.”

Peter and the doctor sat frozen in their chairs. They looked afraid of me.

I gathered up my purse and my blank notepad and rushed out. Peter followed me to the car, where I was pacing angrily.

“Let’s walk around the block,” I said, shaking. “I’ve got to move.”

Peter tried to take my hand, but I refused it.

“I know, Laura, this is a big blow.”

“No, it’s not! He’s got it wrong! The problem is that all these people have such different ideas about what’s going on with Matthew and it’s making me insane! First, it wasn’t autism or retardation, then I get used to the idea that it might be autism, but good news! Dr. Hoffman thinks he can draw him out of it.And now this guy says he’s a retard!” I started to laugh, a crazy, stress-driven laugh headed toward hysterical tears.

“I know, Laura,” said Peter. “It’s so bad, it’s almost funny.”

“And one last thing,” I said once I had pulled myself together. “I will hurt the next one of them that uses that ‘crystal ball’ line.”

***

Who was your messenger?

 

Autism FAQ for seasoned autism dads: Advice for new dads?

dad

I asked, and did I ever get insightful answers:

Don’t blame yourself or anyone else for your child’s autism. Love and support them in their dreams, interests and aspirations…because they have them. Don’t ever be ashamed of them…even if they are 15 years old, 200 pounds of man/boy be proud when they slip their hand in yours as you enter a public place. Grow to love the unique way they think. And realize their is a special genius inside of each one of them that will blossom if their Dad cultivates it.

Craig Curtis

Man up. Be a dad, not just a father. Take your child out into the world, take them to a fenced in play ground every day you get home from work for an hour, bring a book, sit your ass down and pretend you’re reading.  Take your child to a science center, to a farmers market, to church, to football games. They are children and they model you, they do it differently but they do it, so do things with them. Put their toys away when they go to sleep in an organized fashion, line them, stage them in social settings, do it every night. Get time for yourself, and time for your marriage.

Don’t turn over all control to your wife or the child’s mother, she will soon burn out and resent you. If she can’t give up control suggest that she get therapy. Don’t assume that the schools will educate your child, seek outside tutors and programs. If you are the sole financial support for the family or the primary one, go to work, do your job, you are no good to your kid unemployed, if you think it’s too much, man up. It is too much do it anyway, it will get better, there is cake.

If your child is prone to physical tantrums, flailing about and such. Learn how to do a seated restraining hold with your child’s arms arris crossed across their chest and seated in your lap with your legs crossed in with theirs. Hold them until the stop freaking out, until it become an embrace which it will and it may take over an hour some times but it will end in love and not frustration (Dr. Maltz, the first advice and best advice I was ever given) .  Love your child. I have 2 with autism, I was divorced from their mom and received custody of them. They are doing great, both 15 yo very independent, playing sports, interested in friends, and just wonderful people.

Don Sutton

Accept your kids for who they are. Encourage them to be themselves, don’t force them to be someone they are not.

Ron Junk

I have to keep reminding myself of the poem Welcome to Holland. I looked forward to baseball games and Cub Scouts. But we do elevator rides and take tours of the bus barn. Things that he’s interested in. You have to change your expectations and just roll with it.

Jason Wiederstein

Love them the way any child deserves.

Chip McInnis

Go with your gut, it’s never wrong and mostly right. Don’t be afraid to cry, it’ll happen often and it helps. Stop asking “why him?” and start asking “what can i do?”. Whats right for that kid with autism isn’t necessarily right for mine. There are lots of people who want to help, and very few who know how, so figure out who they are and accept their help. Whatever the unsolvable problem/behavior is today… It’ll be gone next year and replaced by another one. And….
Make alone time for you and your partner.

Alex Harris

The child you walked into the DX appointment with is the same one you walked out with. A word does not change your love and commitment to that child.

John Horton

Treat them like the others with patience n understanding.Life will fill in the voids.

Jim Odwyer

Be strong in your love, slow to anger, patient in your prayers..your child is also a child of God.

Jim Harvey Jr.

Love them unconditionally. Allow them to grow. And try to keep up.

Charles Hicks

I know how busy us “autism parents” are, but it is critical to take the time to nuture your relationship with your partner.  Communication is key.  Be on the same page about your plan for your child.  If needed, assign tasks.  Autism can make a couple stronger or it can tear them apart.
There are many support groups out there for parents of children with autism.  Find one that speaks to your approach to your childs condition.  They can guide you to resources that may help you along your journey.

Michael Giammatteo

***

Thank you, dads!

Please keep sharing …

New dads, please keep asking.

 

 

 

 

 

Getting back on track

jab You may have noticed that I have been relatively quiet for the last month or so. I’ve been sidetracked in a big way by the extreme tension in the autism community. It’s hard to say anything, however benign, without someone countering it with an argument or a jab. So I’ve been quiet. But it is time to get back on track.

“People with autism are radically different from one another and members of the ‘autism community,’whether caregivers or people on the spectrum, have very different points of view about almost everything, “ Lisa Jo Rudy, the  About.com Guide to Autism, wrote recently in a post about ideas for healing the rifts in the autism community.

Read it here.

In her list of 8 resolutions for members of the autism community, number eight grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me, (Thank you, Lisa!) and helped me figure out how to get back on track:

Start the Healing Process Where You Live. 

 No one can create a single, warm, loving autism community around the world — it’s just not going to happen.  But anyone with the will to do so can improve the quality of their local autism community by setting up opportunities to work together without rancor.  Whether it’s a local family picnic, a special event at the local zoo, or just a Facebook page for sharing resources, make this year the year to make a start at healing the autism community’s many rifts.

Here are three things that I plan to do in 2014:

1) Connect people to the resources they need. Encourage them to be creative if it seems that needed resources don’t exist. When Matthew was diagnosed,(back in the day) resources were slim to none, so I had no choice but to be creative. My best example was when I could find zero helper/baby sitter types who understood Matthew. I contacted the psychology and education departments of a local college and recruited some fantastic students who were in school to help kids like mine. I still keep in touch with them (many are now parents themselves!)

2) Help emerging adults with autism and other developmental disabilities and their families with the transition to adults services: housing, community, jobs and healthcare.

3) I will listen to my son Matthew–really listen, and try to respond to him thoughtfully. I’ll encourage others in my family and community to do the same.

Laura is back. Thank you as always for your support!

(and please, no jabs)

***

Do you have questions? Contact me HERE and I will do my very best to help.

FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK , TWITTER and SFGATE.

Read my book.

I’ve been Skyping in on book clubs and we have a lot of fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering “before” autism

Do you remember the days before your child’s autism diagnosis? This is my story. When I read it, I don’t think “Oh, how sad, little did I know.” Instead, I think “Gosh, I miss my mom.”

An excerpt from A Regular Guy: Growing Up With Autism

Mom  and I sat in the dining room table while Matthew napped, narrowing down responses to the ad I had placed in the paper.

“Wanted: Loving care for my three-month-old son, two days a week.”

We set up appointments for three respondents that afternoon, and two the next. “I hope you don’t mind,” said mom, “but I really want to see these women myself. I’m a good judge of character.”

Mom with newborn Matthew

Mom with newborn Matthew

She was a good judge of character, but I knew she had another motive. She had offered to take care of Matthew while I worked, but it would mean an hour’s drive two mornings and afternoons a week, and I worried that the commitment would be too much for her. I also worried that it would put a strain on our relationship.

“If I can’t watch him while you’re working, I’ll be worrying about him, so I might as well,” she argued, “and I’ll love every minute of it.”

“Let’s just see who’s out there,” I said. “You never know.”

But one by one Mom eliminated all of the candidates, some for obvious reasons—lack of personality and experience—and others for not-so-obvious reasons.

“Did you see her nails? Do you think a woman with perfect nails cares about anyone more than herself?” or “Behind that big smile is a mean woman.”

In the end, I relented and accepted her offer, but just for one day a week. The other day, I arranged for Matthew to stay with a mom in the neighborhood who had a son his age and a three-year-old daughter.

“But guess who she’ll go to first if they all need her at once,” Mom warned. “It won’t be Matthew.”

As always, Mom softened her barbs with good humor and encouragement. “Just think how fun it will be for me. Just think how much fun it will be for you when Matthew has children of his own!” and “It’s good for you to work a little bit. Be sure to keep some of the money you make just for yourself.”

Peter and I agreed that the best thing about working was coming home to Matthew. His whole body wiggled with joy when he saw us, and his smiles and gurgly laughter were contagious. In the evenings we took walks with him, first in the Snuggli, then in the stroller and the backpack. We smiled proudly when passersby gasped, “What a beautiful baby!” Once home, after we bathed Matthew and put him to bed, we poured through our baby book and compared their estimates of developmental milestones with his.

“They say ‘sits up by the end of month four.’ He was doing that by the end of month three!” I told Peter.

“It looks like he should be rolling over soon,” said Peter, turning the pages, “and then peek-a-boo the next month. Let’s try it now. . . . And then in month eight—”

With each month that passed, Matthew’s personality sparkled brighter—sunny like the blond hair that stood straight up, impish like his dimply smile, cuddly and warm like his beautiful brown eyes.

We were in love.

***

I will not tell you the moral of this story…you know it already.

To read more of my story, click here to order my book. Great gift in case there are any holidays or birthdays coming.

 

Autism and Empathy

I had just arrived home after one of saddest errands or my life, euthanizing our three year old Labrador Buddy, when the phone rang. I let it go as I was sobbing, and couldn’t stop.

Buddy

The phone rang again. It had to be Matthew, who is 27 and has autism. I took a deep, cleansing sigh and answered.

“I tried calling you a minute ago, but you didn’t answer,” he said sternly.”Have you been to Ohio?”

“I’ve never been to Ohio, Matthew,” I said, ” but can we talk about Ohio later? I have some sad news. You know Buddy’s been sick with cancer. I took him tot the vet’s office today. Buddy was in a lot of pain so the vet gave him a shot that made his heart stop.”

“That’s what happens with dogs sometimes,” Matthew said. “They get sick and die. Besides, I didn’t like Buddy. He always barked at me and my weed whacker.”

More about Buddy and Matthew HERE.

“But you know I loved him,” I said, tears flowing so freely that Matthew could hear them in my voice. “So maybe now is not the best time to tell me that you didn’t like him.”

“You don’t have to snap at me,” Matthew said, “I just called to ask about Ohio. It’s not my fault that Buddy died.”

I ended the phone call as calmly as I could.

“Tell you what, lets talk again tomorrow,” I said, “I love you but I need to be quiet for a little while.”

“Can we talk about Ohio tomorrow?” he persisted.

I hung up and sighed. I knew that Matthew couldn’t fake empathy,  but his timing, and his insistence, wore me out.

***

The phone rang the next morning at 7:00 am, just as I was about to take our surviving (and grieving) dog Callie for a walk.

It was Matthew.

“Hi Mom. How are you doing after yesterday?” he asked quietly, “Are you still sad? It’s very hard for me when you are sad.”

I told him I was still sad, but that hearing his voice made me feel so much better. I thanked him.

“Your welcome,” he said. “We’re not even going to talk about Ohio until tomorrow.”

***

I recommend the following posts that explore the topic of autism and empathy:

Autism and Empathy, Liane Kupferberg Carter

Autism, Empathy and the Sally-Anne Test

 

 

***

FOLLOW ME on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Read the first three chapters of A REGULAR GUY: GROWING UP WITH AUTISM here.

You’ll be hooked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wanted: Special Needs Parent Role Models

One thing they don’t tell you when you become the parent of a child with special needs is that a good role model will keep you afloat.

 

(not Kathy)

(not Kathy)


Mine was Kathy. She  was the first parent of a child with special needs that I connected with. Her son John and my son Matthew were in the kindergarten together in a special day class. John, I learned, had cerebral palsy. Kathy had a bemused smile on her face when she told me this. I wondered what that was all about, but it made me feel less anxious about my situation. Matthew was developmentally delayed, and I was in the process of helping him catch up, certain that this would be the only year that he’d need special education. OK, I wasn’t certain, but I was hopeful.

I was struck by how comfortable Kathy seemed in a room full of 5 and 6 year olds with developmental disabilities. She chased after her mischieveious son John cheerfully when he bolted away with a handful of cookies, maintaining an upbeat conversation the entire time. Seeing this woman looking positive and engaged rather than downbeat and bedraggled gave me hope. Looking back, I think meeting her was my first “Aha” moment special-mom-style. I was going to be OK.

Kathy doesn’t know this, but she was the role model that I needed to get me on the path toward acceptance. I’d like to pass the lessons that she taught me by example on to you:

 

Special Needs Parent Role Models:

  1. Offer words of encouragement to new parents of children with special needs—not “God will only give you as much as you can handle” or “The limit of human endurance has yet to be reached.” They know that newbies will hear  plenty of that down the road.“ Instead, they say “You seem like a great mom. I know you’re overwhelmed but once you find helpers, and a circle of support, things will improve. I have some names right here…”
  2.  Teach others how to relate to your child by showing them how they do it.
  3. Share resources freely.  These parents pull names and phone numbers out of the air, or from scraps of paper in their purse.
  4. Treat  helpers and their circle of support really really well, because they recognize that these folks are their lifeline and their family.
  5. Know that venting is good, and whining is bad. Period.
  6. Admit it when they are going through a particularly difficult phase with their child, and ask for help. Brainstorming is good. Special moms also like to share their expertise.
  7. After a good venting/brainstorming session, special parent role models take a deep breath and remember how hard it is to be their child. They give their child the admiration they deserve.
  8. If venting and brainstorming are not enough, special parents seek guidance from a professional. They find referrals from other special needs role models or from their physician.

Who is your role model, and what have they taught you?

Are you a role model, or one in training?

***

More on role models:

Why Autistic Students Need Autistic Role Models

Colin Meloy and Positive Autism Parent Role Modeling

***

I’ll be your role model. Let me know if you have questions or need resources.

 

 

 

 

 

Applying for SSI Benefits for a Child with Autism

Does my child with autism qualify for SSI?

This is a question that I’m asked frequently, and so I am grateful that Ram Meyyappan, the  senior editor and manager of Social Security Disability Help, has offered to answer:

SSI for Children with Autism

SSI for Children with Autism

Some children who live with autism may qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, or SSI. The condition, however, must meet a certain level of severity in order for a child to qualify. Children with severe forms of autism will qualify for benefits under the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program run by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Meeting the SSA’s Blue Book Criteria for Autism

When an individual applies for Social Security Disability benefits, the SSA compares the applicant’s symptoms to the conditions that have been listed in the Blue Book. The Blue Book is a publication that lists all of the conditions that could qualify an individual for benefits, along with the criteria that must be met in order to qualify under each condition. For children, autism is covered under Section 112.10 of the Blue Book. This section of the Blue Book covers autistic disorder and other pervasive developmental disorders. According to the Blue Book, in order for a child to qualify for benefits due to autism, the following criteria must be met:

  • The autism must be characterized by qualitative deficits in the development of reciprocal social interaction, in the development of verbal and nonverbal communication skills, and in imaginative activity.
  • The must be medically documented findings of:
    • Qualitative defects in the development of reciprocal social interaction; and
    • Qualitative defects in verbal and nonverbal communication and imaginative activity; and
    • Markedly restricted repertoire of activities and interests.

You must be able to prove the above criteria are met with sufficient medical evidence. This means providing the SSA with copies of:

  • Your child’s clinical history
  • Your child’s test scores
  • Your child’s psychiatric records
  • Your child’s therapy records
  • Your child’s lab results
  • Your child’s treatment history
  • Written statements from your child’s treating physicians

Copies of this medical evidence should be submitted when you apply for disability benefits for your child.

For more information on how to qualify for benefits with Autism, please visit: http://www.disability-benefits-help.org/disabling-conditions/autism-and-social-security-disability

Understanding the SSI Program

The Social Security Disability program that children can qualify for is the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program. SSI is a needs-based program. In order to qualify for SSI benefits, you must meet the program’s financial criteria. The process of determining what income the SSA counts toward your income and asset limits is called deeming. The SSA uses the deeming process if your child lives at home, is under 18 years of age, and is unmarried. If these requirements are met, the SSA will count certain household income toward the income and asset limits of your household. In order to qualify your family’s income and assets must be less than $2,000 in a 1 parent household and less than $3,000 in a 2-parent household. Counted income includes:

  • The earned income of parents and/or a step-parent
  • The unearned income of parents and/or a step-parent
  • The resources of parents and/or a step-parent.

Income that is not counted includes:

  • Income received from providing foster care
  • Food stamps
  • Disaster assistance payments
  • Tax refunds on real property
  • Income that is used to pay child support.

To determine how much a child will receive in SSI benefits, the SSA will look at the household income and assets and the parental living allowance. As of 2013, the parental living allowance for an individual is $710 per month and $1,060 per month for a couple.

Applying for Benefits

You can apply for disability benefits either online (http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pgm/disability.htm) or at your local SSA office. In addition to the medical evidence described earlier, you will also need to provide financial documents that show your household income and assets. Copies of bank statements and pay stubs will be required in order to qualify for SSI benefits.

Social Security Disability Help is an informational resources on all things related to social security disability benefits. It contains information on how to a apply with over 400 disabling conditions as well as a forum where you can have your questions answered.

To learn more, follow Ram’s blog:www.disability-benefits-help.org/blog

Thank you Ram!!

***

You might also be interested in the following links:

When Limited Conservatorship Makes Sense 

Vocational Training Can be Fun

Autism and Community 

 

 

A Kitchen Classroom for Children with Autism

It’s a brand new school year, and if you are  the parent of a child on the autism spectrum(and anything like me), and constantly on the lookout for ways to spark communication, connection and learning, your answer might be in the kitchen. Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer,  the author of The Kitchen Classroom: 32 Visual GF/CF Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills, shares her story in this awesome guest post:

Cooking with autism

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer cooking with George

 

My son George, 10, who is on the spectrum, started cooking with me when he was four years old.Our cognitive-behavioral therapist suggested it as an activity that could help us with back and forth communication and could focus George’s attention, which at that time only stayed engaged in any activity besides putting together puzzles for a minute or so. George took naturally to cooking~the multi-sensory experience of dumping ingredients, smelling extracts and spices and tasting something yummy at the end were very motivating for him.

Over the years, George has developed in his abilities to focus and attend to tasks and cooking has been a way for us to work on the many developmental skills in which he needs support. With encouragement from friends and family who noticed Georges progress, I started giving classes to other children on the spectrum and developed a children’s cookbook The Kitchen Classroom . It has step-by step- recipes featuring full color photos and a guide for parents and teachers so that every parent (grandparent, teacher, therapist) can use cooking to engage our kids.  Some of the skills that George and my students are working on (while we cook):

 

  • Literacy: Recipes are like stories—they feature a beginning, middle and end. Reading a recipe is a wonderful way to work on sequence. If your children are not reading yet, recipes that feature pictures like in The Kitchen Classroom can help them to follow each step. Highlight words in the recipe and find the word on the ingredient label: flour, eggs, honey, oil, vanilla, etc. I make flashcards featuring new words in a recipe and go over them with George before we start cooking. (Here’s a video clip of George and me working on cooking and reading).
  • Fine Motor Skills: If your child needs support holding a pencil, writing, cutting with scissors, etc., the kitchen is a great place to strengthen fine motor skills. Stirring with a spoon, cutting with a plastic knife, kneading dough all work on the muscles control needed for tasks that require hand strength and control. After holding a pencil all day, my son would much rather work with a knife to slice up a banana for an after school snack. Spreading peanut butter with a knife does the trick, too!
  • Sensory Integration: As I mentioned above, cooking is full of sensory information. For children who are sensory seeking, cooking offers an appropriate way to touch wonderfully rich textures. For children who are sensory avoiders, cooking offers a safe, organized way to gradually adjust to different smells, textures and tastes.
  • Math: If your child needs help with counting, 1:1 correspondence or more advances skills like addition, subtraction or fractions, cooking offers a fun way to work on those skills. As you drop grapes into the fruit salad you’re making, count each one. Double a recipe to work on addition. Help your child set the numbers on a timer. So many ways to make math more fun!
  • Social skills: Children who need support engaging with others and working on communication skills can be supported by cooking together. In all cultures, preparing food is a time when people share stories and traditions. So for you, cooking can be a time to communicate with your child, from making a grocery list to sharing your reactions to how the recipes comes out. Cooking offers a fun, structured activity to try for playdates or in a group setting.

I know, school has started, and schedules are tight, but taking just a few minutes in your day to connect with your child in a simple cooking activity is as pleasurable and stress busting as it is delicious .

Please feel free to share your questions, ideas or challenges with me at gabrielle@kitchenclassroom4kids.com

Gabrielle Kaplan-Mayer is the author of The Kitchen Classroom: 32 Visual GF/CF Recipes to Boost Developmental Skills. Through skype, she leads parent/teacher trainings across the country to help adults get children of all abilities into the kitchen.

gab

Parent/teacher communication: making a connection

School has barely started. How are things going so far? Do you have a good connection with your child’s teacher?

Did you know that they really want to connect with you? I know this, because I  talk to groups of teachers often about my experience raising a child with autism, and the question teachers ask most frequently is this:

I could do a better job if I could communicate more with parents. How can I get them to talk to me?

parent-teacher-cartoon

I flash back to the year that I was that parent, and how Matthew’s teacher found a way to connect with me:

Matthew was a 7th grader at the middle school around the corner, and he was going through a particularly impulsive and aggressive stage, likely fueled by the onslaught of adolescence. While I tried my best to contain him, I had other troubles at the time that distracted me. My mother was sick (really sick) and so was my husband (cancer-he’s been in remission for over 10 years, thankfully). My two younger sons were spending a lot of time with their friends, and I missed them a lot. I picked up Matthew each day from school, averting the gaze of his new teacher, Holly.

If things weren’t going well at school, I just didn’t want to know about it.

One day Holly waved at me as she drove by my house on the way home from school. I waved back, and then panicked when I saw her car stop–and then back up.

“I just wanted to tell you something really quickly,” she said, “I know you are busy, but I want you to know that I really enjoy having Matthew as a student.”

She went on to tell me how much she admired me, and that I had done such a great job with my boys.

“I just wanted you to know that,” she said as she drove away, “let me know if I can help you with all that’s going on.”

I felt relieved and grateful and supported, and I was inspired to partner with Holly in order to make Matthew’s year a more productive one.

It turned out to be one of Matthew’s best years ever, despite the angst of the home front.

So parents, I urge you to be less mysterious and more interactive with your child’s team (teachers, therapists, etc.)

And teachers, I know it can be difficult to communicate with parents. Praise is a magical ice-breaker.

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Parents and teachers–how have you bridged the communication gap?

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