Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A BIG Shout-Out for Parents!

CBS and ABC news are reporting a horrifying incident in New York city yesterday around 2 PM. A 7-year-old little girl, who her mother thought was sleeping, apparently crawled out her bedroom window and was dancing on the window air conditioning unit. (The entire sequence is captured on video.) THREE STORIES UP. She slipped and fell three stories. A bus driver named Steven St. Bernard saw her falling. When he was interviewed yesterday said, I just prayed, "Lord, please help me catch her." He did catch her with God's help.

That is wonderful but not the focus of this post. "The rest of the story" as Paul Harvey used to say: This little girl has autism. The focus of my heart today is that there are thousands and more children under the age of 18 in the United States (Some sources say as high as 1 in every 88 children somewhere on the autism spectrum.) who have some form of autism.

These children have parents. Usually one or more of their parents are participating in caring for this child which is often an extremely challenging and extremely intense responsibility. Like for the little girl's mother, just a moment can make all the difference.

I know personally that just about any child can get into risky situations. One of my sons has been a risk-taker from birth including being born three months early. Just one story: when he was six he hid behind my car and I backed over him accidentally. I could tell a thousand or more other stories that are almost as dramatic. Fortunately God took care of both of us like He did this little girl! No question that Mr. St. Bernard was in the right place at the right time by God's design.

I totally get that even vigilant parents cannot always prevent accidents. It's like what my grandmother used to say, It is much harder to raise race horses than cabbages but then you have more when you get through! My guess is that this little 7-year-old is a race horse just like my son!

This mother probably has many, many challenges with her daughter. The point of this post is to raise awareness in some small way for the parents of children everywhere and especially children with some form of autism. These moms and dads are heroes in my book! They face exhausting challenges all day long!

The challenge for the rest of us is to search out ways to encourage these parents!

My sister and her husband are care-takers for my very fragile 91-year-old parents. It is a 24/7 kind of job that requires incredible love, vigilance and energy! I recently spent a week helping and came home exhausted! During that week I realized that a very important thing to do was and is to encourage and appreciate my sister and her husband! I know they were grateful for two more hands, but I also know they appreciated the encouragement I could offer with words and actions.

As with the old TV show, Mission Impossible - Your mission for today (and beyond) - if you choose to accept it - is to do what you can to support a parent with a special needs child especially a child with autism!. Here's a great big shout-out for them far and wide!

Monday, July 9, 2012

An Awesome Life!

AND the truth is that I give huge joy way beyond my size! My heart for people is as big as all outside! I have lots of love and joy to spread around! (That is, if pictures could talk.)

Isn't she adorable? I don't know her or her name but I have some special friends who - like her - are defined by their happy love not by any diagnosis including a beautiful granddaughter!

I praise You for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. --Psalm 139:14

Friday, July 6, 2012

To Include or Not to Include???

To include or not to include? Include in what? Include where?
Basically the term inclusion is used to describe an educational model (applied in various settings) where students with special needs spend most or all of their time with more typical students. The concept becomes difficult in determining how to implement this practice.
I approach inclusion with more subjective than objective thoughts because I have a granddaughter who has Down Syndrome. She attends school in the same building she would attend if she did not have a Downs diagnosis. However, she goes to a single classroom. Her classroom is not bright and cheery. It is a bit dark and, from my observation, more baby-sitting than educating. There are no more than eight others in her "class." There is a "teacher" and an aide. But, from what I can see, the "teacher" doesn't do much teaching.
Vania doesn't get to change classes like other middle school students. She doesn't get the mental challenge of inter-active learning even on a modified basis.
Vania comes to school every day dressed very typically if how the other students are "decked out" is the indicator of typical. In fact, she makes a teenage fashion statement. Truth be told she loves knowing she looks cool!
I don't know what her typical day looks like but from just stepping into the classroom there didn't appear to be anything much going on. There was no music or books. There were no cheery bulletin boards. There were no learning or activity stations. It almost seemed to me like school for Vania is a time warp she walks into each day. The other students - some who appear to have more profound needs than Vania - don't seem to be doing much of anything either. The classroom is off down a fairly long dark hall. It's about as far from inclusion as a classroom setting could be!
I do understand that there are challenges to inclusion in an educational model. Just like for more typical students (whatever typical means) there is a wide range of ability among students, the same is true with students categorized as special needs.
Have you ever seen a truly typical middle school student? Personally I'm not at all sure what typical looks like in a middle school setting! The other day I was just hanging out with some middle school students who would probably pass for typical. There was not one single cookie-cutter kid in the bunch. Some even looked a little strange with all kinds of piercings (tongue, ear, lip, cheek and other unnamed places) and tats anywhere and everywhere. The style of dress can only be described as eclectic.
At home Vania has lots of stimulation in activity, media and family time. One of her very favorite things to do is take care of her new little baby brother. She loves him and he loves her! She gives him very good care. She is very responsible with her baby brother.
There is no one size fits all in any educational model! Inclusion is not achieved with a cookie-cutter mentality. In my opinion, inclusion that is effective requires educators and parents coming together to think outside the box and step outside their comfort zones to maximize the educational experience for every child!
The challenge goes to educators in both school and the church. The challenge goes to parents of both typical and less traditional students! The challenge goes to friends and advocates! The challenge is to dialogue and ponder and evaluate how to include every child in every possible way at school, at church, and in life in general!
I sit in on some special need network parent meetings. Sometimes there is so much pain in the room that I can hardly bear it! The stories Moms tell ................ Moms of mainstreamed kids at a local high school tell about their kids in regular classes for most or all of the day but then ostracized at lunch to sit at a table alone or with their "peers"! It's heart-breaking!
My Vania is very social! She loves people! Whenever I hear these stories, what I hear in my heart is the pain because I know my Vania needs to be included in every possible way! She is being raised by loving parents (and extended family) along with her three brothers and included totally.
We HAVE to find a way to be more inclusive! It matters all the way around! We ALL need each other with all our diversities! That's what gives depth and texture and color to the mosaic of life!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Frightful Times in the Land of the Free, Home of the Brave!

Yesterday we had a wonderful celebration with very special friends in our home!
Part of our discussion as we were eating had to do with Obamacare. As I looked around the table with people from 20-somethings to 60-somethings and somethings all in between, I realized that every single one of us is impacted by Obamacare in a unique way. Every single one of us deals with a "hidden disability"!
Some friends sitting there discovered for the first time that Obamacare - to their great surprise - has provisions in the Obamacare bill that might well prohibit necessary medical care for some of us due to age or need or past medical history. The thought came to me that more than one of us might not be around to celebrate another Independence Day simply because the greatest medical care system in the world may be in for radical changes even in the next year!
It was a great discussion with no one getting unduly exercised and all giving respectful attention to all the views expressed!
It was a microcoism - what exists in a large sense in society represented in a much smaller sample - of our America and how we the free and the brave should celebrate this Independence Day 2012. It was a demonstration of how change to our world comes on a personal relational level emanating from the heart!
And a great time was had by each of us in spite of 95 degree plus weather outside!
We ended the evening with a rousing game of "Take Two" - judged unanimously more fun than fireworks downtown or even more nearby!