Sunday, October 21, 2012

Help Somebody

Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey Toney
Help Somebody
I saw a sign on Facebook recently that said, “If a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.” This is profound for all children, not just those with disabilities. This is the mentality that I think the teachers are going to have to adopt in order to work in the mainstream classroom.
The average child in the classroom has evolved in recent years. This is obvious, but when you look at a report for the U.S. Department of Education; “47 percent of students who have disabilities spend 80 percent or more of their day in general education classroom settings.” This is an increase from 14 percent less than a decade ago. Many things can cause this number to change, but the fact remains that there are a huge amount of students who need some sort of help in the classroom.
We all know that people have different ways of learning. I teach a Freshman Orientation class at the college and one of the things I talk about is the different learning styles. People, especially children, take in information in different ways. If a teacher has gone through a teaching program in college they will know that they need to stimulate the different styles with the way they teach. Some are auditory, some are visual, some are kinesthetic and so on. Because of this the instructors change, or modify, the way they teach in the class to help everyone.
Modifying, according to the dictionary, is a small alteration, adjustment, or limitation. Now, I understand that modifications for a child with a disability may be more than just a “small” adjustment. These are also part of the Individualized Education Program for a student. It will include many things that need to be changed for the child. However, it is also necessary to give them an education they deserve.
We have been very fortunate to have great teachers for Konner. They have been willing to go above and beyond to provide him with what he needs to learn. They all have done what they think is best for him, and that’s really all you can ask from a teacher.
However, there are some teachers who do not want to change their routine for one child. I have heard of teachers who refuse to change the way they run their classroom. Granted, some of these have been teaching for a while and they have an old-school mentality (pun intended). The problem is that they will not modify unless they have an IEP in place. This of course is why IEPs were put into place. However, you don’t have to have an IEP to modify. I’ve seen some great teachers who modify their classroom because a child needed something different to help them learn, and didn’t wait for a piece of paper to force them to make changes. On the other hand I’ve seen teachers who don’t change even though they have been given the IEP.
This makes me question some teacher’s intent. I know this is a little unfair sometimes, but I just want to ask, “Why did you get into teaching?” I know it wasn’t for the pay. My wife is a teacher, we don’t have money. I know it wasn’t for the social interaction, the social status, or the benefits (despite the summers off this is not why most teachers actually get into the profession). So why then?
Most teachers want to help others. This is their ultimate goal. They want to make the world a better place by helping educate the masses. The problem is that the masses are not all the same. You can’t use a cookie-cutter approach to teaching.
You will have children who really do well in some areas, but others they struggle. This isn’t new though. I like to think that I’m a pretty intelligent person (at least that’s what I like to think). I think I’m a pretty well rounded student. I was pretty good in English, history, science, and most other subjects. When it came to math I stunk. I passed, but I struggled. I saw the problems as some sort of cuneiform and the teacher sounded like the teachers from the Peanuts cartoon. So I had to ask for help from the instructor and other students. My teacher, when asked, was more than willing to help because she knew that I needed it. This is the way it should be with any child, regardless of being labeled with a disability. Should that change the way we look at our children/students?
The other issue with this is that sometimes the child either can’t, or won’t, ask for help. This is where the teacher needs to take it upon themselves to work with the child just because that is their job.
Now, I want to take the time to say thank you to Konner’s teacher Mrs. Williams, and his aide Mrs. Mindy. They have both done exactly what I have been talking about here. They have worked to give Konner many modifications in the classroom that have helped him stay calm and give him the Least Restrictive Environment, which is not only what you should do, but it’s the law. This was not because it’s the law, or even because it was in an IEP, in fact they have done things that were not in the IEP. They did it because they saw a need. I’m pretty sure they would do if for any child.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

Working For The Weekend

Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey Toney
Working for the Weekend
Another weekend with Partners in Policymaking equals another two days chocked full of good information. The problem is I don’t know where to start. I’m going to have at least a couple weeks’ worth of information to share though. I’ll start by talking about our first speaker for the weekend Kathie Snow.
According to her biography that we were given, Snow is the mother of two young adults, one of whom has a disability diagnosis. She spoke about the ideas of changing the way we think and act by acquiring new attitudes. I’m going to try and share some of the highlights that I found interesting.
One of the things that made me think the most during her presentation was about how we see people with disabilities as different (something I’ve recently written about), and to an extent they are, but we shouldn’t point out their disabilities or weaknesses. Sounds obvious right? Well sometimes we do things that we don’t even think about how they will hurt our children. When we talk to others we tend to say things like, “This is my child, he has autism.” This is something I talked about a couple weeks ago, but her take on the subject was; why even bring up a disability until you need to?
When we first meet someone we’re often too quick to apologize or explain our children. This can sometimes give a false idea of your child. I’ve frequently said that if you walked into a classroom that Konner was in you probably couldn’t tell he was any different from others until you stayed for a little while. With so many myths and stereotypes about people with disabilities why should we give others an opportunity to form an opinion before they actually get to meet the person?
We all have needs. Some people wear glasses, hearing aids, braces, etc. In fact one of the best things Snow said during the presentation (at least for me) was that she was at a conference recently and was speaking to a large group in a hotel conference room. At one point she had the staff turn off the lights and made it pitch dark. The crowd was really uneasy, and as she started to settle them she explained that “electric lights are only assisted technology devices for people with sight.” I thought this was profound. Think about it. We all need something.
Another example that she gave was that we would start a conversation with someone by telling about our downfalls. We don’t go up to someone and say, “Hi I’m John and I had a tumor removed,” or “Hi I’m Mary and I had a hysterectomy.” Why should we just tell all about our children? Treat it like a job interview. You wouldn’t go in and tell all your bad qualities. You would explain what you were good at and what you like. Why not do that for your children?
She also explained that the number one need for people with disabilities, before the services, equipment, and funding, is relationships. This is a huge issue that we need to take a look at. She explained that quality of life is equal to relationships. Most people with disabilities only have contact with family, therapists, doctors, etc. Most of these are hired help. Everyone wants to have friends no matter who you are. The problem is that we tend to do one of three things. We either think they can’t have fiends because nobody wants to cope with them, we force people to try to mentor, or we put them with others who have disabilities similar to theirs. The intention is good, but the end result is usually not very good.
The first one is just segregation. We keep them away from other for their own good. They won’t get hurt. They won’t get upset. They won’t embarrass us. All these things, whether we want to admit it or not, actually go through our heads.
On the other hand we don’t know that there are people out there that don’t mind the quirkiness and eccentric actions. We’re not the only people in the world that can deal with our children. We like to think we are, but others can if we just let them.
Forcing people upon our children, whether for good intentions or not, even if they are great people and would be good for them is not the best idea. Sometimes it works out, I’m not going to say it doesn’t happen, but statistically it just doesn’t work out. They don’t get along, or the other person doesn’t know what they’re really getting into. More times than not the person mentoring loses interest and then the other child feels hurt by the situation.
When putting the child with another person with disabilities it’s segregating again. Snow explained that if you put people with autism with other people with autism they are never going to understand the social cues and aspects that we want them to know. It’s kind of like putting people in prison, said Snow. They go to prison to learn how to be better criminals.
Snow suggests that you find people with similar interests and put them together. Find clubs. If the person is into trains then find them a train club. It doesn’t have to be a train club for people with disabilities, just a train club. Get them involved with people with the same hobbies and pursuits.
As I said, this is only scratching the surface, but a few things I thought were interesting. I only hope that I have given a clear view of what I learned. I will tell more over the next couple weeks.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column.

Famous In A Small Town

Pervasive Parenting
By Kodey Toney
Famous In A Small Town
In recent columns I’ve been talking about some serious stuff. DHS ballot questions, inclusion in the community, people first language, and “normal” children have me thinking that I need to touch on some less serious issues. I actually want go back to the normal question a little though. Let’s look at some people who are either affected by autism, or are suspected to have autism.
I do an autism workshop every once in a while and one of the last things I have on the slideshow is a list of famous people, or parents of children, diagnosed with autism. I include this for a couple different reasons. The first reason is to show that this disorder affects everyone. It does not know prejudice. Famous people are not excluded from the 1 in 88 diagnosis ratio.
The other reason is that there are some famous people who have overcome this disability (a word I use very loosely). There are many people who have been diagnosed that have gone on to be very successful in this world. These people I include as hope. There is hope that, with work and understanding, anyone diagnosed can live a full life.
There are so many people these days affected that I’m only going to hit on some of the more famous.
Actress Daryl Hannah, best known for her roles in Splash, Blade Runner and Kill Bill was diagnosed as a child as being 'borderline autistic. According to an interview, she says that the autism caused many to actually blacklist her early in her career.
In May 2008, Peter Tork of the band the Monkees announced he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.
Matthew Laborteaux, who played Albert on “Little House on the Prairie” was not only diagnosed with autism, but was also born with a congenital heart defect. According to an article in the Philadelphia Enquirer, he suffered from sensory issues, and didn’t walk or talk until he was three.
In a 2004 interview with Terry Gross on NPS’s Fresh Air, Dan Aykroyd stated that he was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome and “mild” Asperger’s. Thanks to therapies in his adolescent years he has overcome.
Craig Nicholls, the lead singer for pop band The Vines was recently diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. The diagnosis, according to the, was given following erratic behavior toward fans on tour. In 2008 the band cancelled several shows because symptoms had worsened.
Satoshi Tajiri, the creator of Pokemon, was recently diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome as well. He cites the disorder as helping him with his creative vision.
Temple Grandin and John Elder Robison who have come to the limelight because of their autism have led the way for people with a diagnosis to continue to succeed.
There of course are many people in the limelight that have children diagnosed with autism. Many of these have led the charge in awareness, advocacy, and research for their children and others with autism.
One of the leading supporters is Jenny McCarthy. After her son was diagnosed she became the spokesmom for the masses and has written several books on this subject and others.
Holly Robinson-Peete and her husband, former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete, have written books and spoke about the subject heavily throughout the media following a diagnosis of their son.
Other athletes with children who have autism who have started organizations to help include golfer Ernie Els, and former NFL quarterbacks Doug Flutie and Dan Marino.
Other parents include: Gary Cole, Toni Braxton, Ed Asner, Aidan Quinn, Joe Mantegna, John Travolta, Sylvester Stallone, and Richard Burton.
Now some famous historical figures have been suspected of having autism. Though they can’t actually be diagnosed their actions and data collected from biographies lead experts to believe it is possible they would have been. Some of these include: Hans Christian Andersen, Lewis Carroll, Charles Darwin, Emily Dickinson, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, George Orwell, and Andy Worhol.
Again, I felt this might be a little lighter than recent articles, and I wanted to let everyone know that you are not alone. There are many more that I didn’t mention because of space and time constraints, but I felt this was some interesting information. Hope you all like it.
Disclaimer: I am in no way claiming to be an expert. I’m just a father who is trying to learn as much about Autism as I can to help my child. I hope that you all can learn from me, and I from you. I ask anyone who has questions or comments about something I have written, or autism, please contact me at I will try to answer questions as I have time, and if I find it interesting enough I may touch on it in my column. You can also find all columns archived at