4 Ways to Protect Your Non-Verbal Child in School

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By Claudia Hailwood

It can be so difficult to not worry about sending your child off to school every day knowing they can't truly tell you what is going on in their day because they are non-verbal.  And in light of the latest news, it is a very real concern for every parent of every child these days.  There are some things you can do to protect your non-verbal child however...

1. GET INVOLVED

Involve yourself in your child's school. Become a well-known presence there.  Take part in all of your child's school activities during as well as after-school as much as humanly possible.  Get to know who the PTA is, who all of the Staff in your child's Classroom are, as well as your child's Head Teacher and School Principal, Special Education Director, and School Superintendent.  Attend parent meetings held by your child's school as well as their district.  If your child is close to Transitioning, meet his future teachers!  Build a rapport with them as much as your personal time permits.  The more you are involved the better off your child will be.  DON'T BE SHY!

2. KEEP A COMMUNICATION LOG 

Keep a record of every conversation you have with every person involved in your child's daily education plan.  WRITE A DETAILED LOG of the nature of every conversation had over the phone.  Save all emails.  You never know when they may come in handy.  STORE THEM IN A SAFE PLACE.  Lock them up if necessary, to prevent accidental destruction or loss of them.

3. VOLUNTEER

Become a Parent Volunteer in your child's classroom.  Sometimes these spots fill up fast at the start of the school year so be sure and SIGN UP EARLY!  Also, in the case of Self-Contained Classrooms, it may become a liability for parents to be volunteers there, so in this case you may want to consider writing up a waiver of your OWN attesting you will NOT hold the school district liable for any injuries you may endure while Volunteering in your child's classroom.

Sometimes children in a Self-Contained class may undergo Psychotic Episodes while having a Personal Crisis.  If you promise you won't hold your child's school accountable and you sign off on the form, they may approve you as being a Parent Volunteer. Special Education Teachers and their Staff are very busy and very stressed, so your help may be just the trick for them, if only just by making copies for them!  You also may want to contact your District Special Education Director as well as your Superintendent should you hit a brick wall with your child's School Principal. 

4. STAY STRONG

Trust your instinct!  If you suspect something is wrong, do NOT HESITATE to ask.  Nobody knows your child better than you do.  If he/she had been doing well and all of a sudden you are noticing a change in their behavior, do not hesitate to ask what has changed in their classroom.  New Staff Members/Change in the Schedule/Change of Class Roster, etc. can bring about new Problem Behaviors in your child.  But when you notice something in your child that just doesn't set right with you, ask to come in and OBSERVE.  You have a right to do that.  You just can't show up unannounced, but you can reach out to your child's District's Pupil Services and Special Education Department and schedule an observation.  If you come up against another brick wall, seek a free consultation with an ADVOCATE.  Most importantly, trust your gut! 

Your Child with Autism is a "runner." What Do You Do?!?!?

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By Claudia Hailwood

It can be SO FRIGHTENING to REALIZE YOUR CHILD IS MISSING!! To top it off he/she is NON-VERBAL or HAS LIMITED VERBAL SKILLS!! Here are some things you can do to ease your mind:

MAKE A FLYER

That's right, make a flyer. Put the MOST CURRENT picture of your child's face on it. Add to this flyer: their first name, if your child is verbal/non-verbal. Then, describe what your child looks like while they are "stimming." In other words, does your child MAKE SOUNDS, ROCKS BACK AND FORTH, FLAPS HANDS, etc., or all of the above? Most IMPORTANTLY of all, add to this flyer how to APPROACH your child and how to GET THEM CALM. Mention what their favorite song is if you sing to them to get them calm, or whatever you yourself use that you know WORKS to calm your child in a personal crisis. 

This can be extremely helpful as most people like to help a neighbor out! 

SAFETY ALERT SYSTEMS

Safety Alert, Inc. S.A.I. is one example of this. They are a company that is San Diego County Based. See what your county offers if you don't live in San Diego. These systems can literally be a LIFESAVER for your child. S.A.I. for example, is a 24/7 Program that works in conjunction with PERT (Psychiatric Emergency Response Team) as well as Regional Center. Bear in mind S.A.I. is not to be used in place of 911. 911 is 911!! There is no other replacement for it. You can find them here: http://www.safetyalert.net/

For non-San Diego residents, you may want to look up "safety alert systems" or keep on scrolling. Here's some good ones: http://nationalautismassociation.org/meet-the-police/ and  https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Family-Members-and-Caregivers/Finding-a-Missing-Loved-One

DISABILITY INDEPENDENCE GROUP

As your child becomes an ADULT they can have a pre-made ID card that they can show persons when they are in a crisis that will basically "spell it out" for the other adults should they lack their words because, um, they are having a crisis!!!  Disability Independence Group will personalize ID cards for your child and if they are a young adult/teenager, they can carry it around in their wallet. You can train your child to use it when their words aren't coming out in a time of personal crisis (e.g., there has been an un-expected change in their schedule, or, if they are drivers, they've just been pulled over for the first time, etc.). Look them up and click on "THE WALLET CARD."  https://www.justdigit.org/

TAKE ME HOME PROGRAM

In case you didn't know, there are programs out there that you can register your child into that have a database and once in their system, your child's name will appear each time you dial 911 to report them missing/having a crisis/etc. Persons can self-enroll (if your child is an adult) or you, the parent can enroll your own child. It is a very personalized and specialized  file where you can tailor it to describe your child exactly to the tee for Officers of the Law. This program was started by a caring man who was an Officer of the Law himself as well as a parent of a child with Autism. As his child grew into an adult, this father became more aware and concerned by the real possible DANGERS persons with Autism can run due to potential MISCOMMUNICATION with the LAW. Does your child like to give cops hugs? Does he/she like to invade a person's personal space and lock eyes with them? Do they like shiny objects, AKA badges, or has a fascination with guns? Maybe? Read on.

Here is the Take Me Home Registry: http://www.sdsheriff.net/tmh/index.html

But, what if I don't live in San Diego County????? Read on for what you can do...

CREATE AN INFORMATIVE HAND-OUT

That's right, just like your FLYER that you have made and distributed to all your new neighbors (hopefully), you can also make a one-page handout. But, why?? So you can hand it to your local Police Chief, silly!! That's right, give your local Police Chief a call and ask to meet with them in person if they aren't too busy. Otherwise, go to your local Police Station (if you live in a small town, even better!) and introduce your child to the staff. Get the staff familiarized with your child as much as humanly possible. DON'T BE SHY!!  This could be a matter of Iife and death down the line if your child has a crisis and some unknowing terrified pedestrian calls 911 on them. YOU DO NOT WANT your child to be reported as another ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING, do you? Cops are trained to use aggressive force and are on the alert when they get called into action for a "situation."

Unless they know your child's name, they will assume it is a dangerous situation until they arrive and (hopefully) recognize your child. IF HE/SHE was IN THE SYSTEM as a person with AUTISM with a full description of what they look like when they are having a crisis and HOW TO APPROACH THEM SAFELY, the police might be better prepared to help your child out. BE PROACTIVE, it may just save your child's life.  

Aggressive Behavior in Children with Autism and What You Can Do As A Parent

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By Claudia Hailwood

Does Your Child Have Aggressive Behaviors?

Imagine for a second that you are in a room filled with incredibly annoying sounds or music you hate the worst (you choose what annoys you the most) and you have an everlasting mouthful of peanut butter, and have to ask the person in charge of that room to turn it off!! But, in a foreign language you aren't too good at yet. So, not only are you annoyed beyond comprehension, you are also limited in your speaking abilities due to the horrible peanut butter in your mouth, and you have to speak in that foreign language course you took back when you were young. Frustrating? This is what our children with Autism are experiencing when they experience Sensory Overload. We all experience Sensory Overload to some degree, but we have the verbal skills to communicate (hopefully) with people around us to just "make it stop already!!!"

How Do You Solve It?

The one thing our children with Autism tend to have the biggest delay in is in their Speech/Verbal Communication Skills. Not every child with Autism experiences this delay, and it tends to run prevalent in BOYS. The younger the child, the larger the delay gap tends to be as they are still developing growth-wise. The number one best thing you the parent can do to ease your and their pain is to get them SPEECH THERAPY ASAP!! Speech and Language Pathologists (SLP) can work wonders with your child. If you aren't sure where to start here is one option, in California we have this thing called First Five California, which provides parents of children with Autism or suspected of having Autism, with free testing, free Speech & Occupational Therapy (OT) services. This program is only available to children 5 and under, but if you ask your child's paediatrician for a referral, they may be able to point you in the right direction. Shop around, and don't settle if you aren't satisfied with the first professional you contact, there are tons of them out there!

What About at Home?

The number one best thing you can do in your home is to be CONSISTENT. As a Special Education Teacher in a school for children with Intensive Behaviors brought on mostly by Autism, CONSISTENCY was key. Another thing we said almost RELIGIOUSLY was: "USE YOUR WORDS," and praised our students (e.g., "I like how you used your words that time Johnny") for even approximating what they were trying to say to us. As opposed to a primal screech, a regular favorite of a large number of the new students we took in. The more we praised, the more our children with Autism wanted to use their words, and the calmer they appeared in class.

What Words?

You first have to teach your child these words. Words like: "Please Stop" or "I need a break" or "I don't like that." And you as the parent need to say what you don't like as well: "that is NOT OK" or "No thank you" and be...you guessed it: CONSISTENT. Even if you feel like you want to tear your hair out. Do NOT "jump to it" when your child screeches or throws tantrums. Be STRONG and FIRM in your expectations. Children with Autism, like any other child are seeing how far they can make you jump and push your buttons until you are almost ready to snap. Add to this their high level of intelligence and you have a master manipulator of YOU. The ball is in YOUR COURT.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) can be a wonderful tool for you to have in your back pocket. Stay Strong and Positive and don't be afraid to reach out to organizations dedicated to families living with Autism.  

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/treatment/applied-behavior-analysis-aba