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Archive for the ‘Autism Awareness’ Category

I stand quietly while you do somersaults on the bed as you aren’t being naughty; you are just trying to get your out of sync body under control.

I stand quietly by the toilet door every time you need to go, and come with you around the house, and sometimes even just across the room, because I know you can feel truly frightened when you are not near me.

I stand quietly at the supermarket checkout while everyone stares at you barking like a dog and blowing raspberries on my arms to cope with the buzzing lights.

I stand quietly while you tell the baffled shop owner that you are looking for shoes that feel hard like splintered wood because your skin can’t bear soft things.

I stand quietly when the attendant gives us scornful looks when I ask for the key to the disabled toilet because the hand dryer noise is too overwhelming for you.

I stand quietly while the nice old lady who lives over the street tells me you wouldn’t be like this if you had siblings.

I stand quietly watching the part-cooked dinner flush down the toilet as the smell was becoming too strong for you to bear.

I stand quietly as you diligently brush your teeth even though it feels like the toothpaste is burning you.

I sit quietly while you scream at me, trying to control the panic you feel because I gently touched your head when brushing your hair.

I sit quietly while the teacher tells me she knows about autism and that you are not autistic and asks if I would benefit from some parenting classes.

I sit quietly while the GP, the occupational therapist and the paediatrician agree how bad it is but say that there are no resources to support us further.

I sit quietly while you cry because your friends say you can’t play with them anymore because you tried to change the rules once too often, even though it was only so you could cope.

I sit quietly watching you desperately try on countless items of clothing, searching your cupboards, feeling the textures, knowing that we will have to cancel your beloved horse riding lesson again because they all feel too bad to wear.

I sit quietly as you explain to me that you can go to no more birthday parties and no more clubs as people are just too scary when they are excited.

I sit quietly when my family tells me that you will grow out of it, you just need more routine and earlier bed times.

I sit quietly and rack my brains for something for you to eat as everything you try today makes you gag and wretch until your eyes stream with tears.

I sit quietly when an old friend suggests I would be better off putting you on the naughty step and taking away a beloved toy.

I sit quietly all night whilst you sleep on the cold wooden floor with your head on my leg as you are really poorly but the warm softness of the bed that should be a comfort is making you feel worse.

I sit quietly while you try to regain some kind of control over your body in a meltdown, scared and sobbing and writhing about, hitting yourself harder and harder and begging me to hit you as hard as I can too.

I lay quietly with my back to you as my smell makes you feel sick and although we both desperately want and need to cuddle, you can’t bear to.

I lay quietly beside you when you tell me that you are the wrong sort of special and the wrong sort of different and you want to die.

https://www.justgiving.com/autism-awareness-jill-finch/

It is one month until World Autism Awareness Week, so last night, rather than sit quietly googling for answers as I normally do, I wrote this open letter to share on social media.  I wonder how many times people could ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ and ‘Tweet’ this over the next month?  #istandquietly

I have had to learn to do these things quietly because my daughter needs me to.  She is seven; bright, super funny, articulate, thoughtful and loving.  She also has autism spectrum disorder.  If you saw her on a good day, you’d maybe think she was a little shy and kooky.  You’d maybe wonder why I am letting her wear flip-flops in the winter rain.  You’ll never see her on a bad day as she can’t leave the house.*

She has severe sensory processing difficulties.  A normal day exhausts her and when she feels overwhelmed, even a gentle voice trying to soothe her with loving words can be too much to process, making her feel crazy.  She describes walking into a room of people as “like staring at the sun”. She’s incredibly empathetic but you may not realise as she feels her own and others’ emotions so deeply she can’t bear it, and so sometimes she has to just shut down.  Forget about a hug.  She is also desperately trying to come to terms with having a hidden disability that few people can understand.

This is just one story among thousands of different stories of autism, not everyone is like Rainman or like my daughter.  I know it’s no great piece of prose but it’s from the heart.  Thanks for reading: and I would appreciate it if you could please share to help autism awareness.

If you could donate something – however small – to help people with autism, well, that would be amazing – thank you:

https://www.justgiving.com/autism-awareness-jill-finch/

*3 months of non-stop bad days and counting, not left the house since December 3rd 2014.

This guest post was written by Jill Finch. Jill is a blogger (I think she just came out – Not out out but out – as a blogger as mean. Her writings will make you laugh and cry at the same time. I kinda dig this chick and I hope you will too… Check out her blog Dirty, Naked and Happy. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook. Word of caution, don’t call her stupid old fatty. 

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Someone on Facebook recently shared this story with me. It’s about a group of kids playing a prank on a kid with autism who thinks he’s about to do the ice bucket challenge. Instead of ice-water they allegedly poured bodily fluids (urine etc.) over him.

Ice Bucket Challenge

I’m sharing the link to the news story and will leave it up to you to decide whether or not you want to watch the actual video. Between us, I haven’t been able to press play.

Unfortunately, as parents of special needs kids, these are things that we worry about all the time. What if this happens to our kids? Would they tell us? What about our kids who are not able to speak/communicate? How would we react if we knew?

What these kids did to that boy was, without a doubt, cruel and absolutely wrong. But this is learned behavior. They were not born with thoughts of doing these things. Now, this is not about laying blame at the feet of parents, however, as adults we all need to keep in mind the influence we have on the kids in our lives. How you talk about the disabled in your home determines how your kids interact with the disabled? You may mot be telling them to go out and do mean and cruel things, but if you speak of the disabled in less-than terms, they will be treated as less-than by your children. Teachers, what you say in your classroom impacts the relationship these kids have with each other? Playground and classroom hierarchies etc. manifest this way. I’m more empathetic towards kids (even though I struggle with it sometimes) who commit some of the horrific acts you hear about being done to our special needs kids/adults. But we all need to recognize that what we do and say has consequences – consequences which are sometimes borne out in ways we never saw coming.

At the end of the day I hope that whatever disciplinary action is taken involves these kids getting involved in/doing something meaningful for kids (and their families) with autism. So they get a feel of what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes… Something called empathy.

After all we’re not born loving fries more than broccoli.

Great news guys… Kuba told me he loved me the other day.

Image

I’ve tried but HR has already said “no” THREE TIMES to me wearing this outfit to work

Usually when I would say “I love you” to him he would just say “I love you” back to me. He still has both immediate and delayed echolalia, so I never really knew if he was just repeating what I said or not. I was working late at the office a few days ago and he called to tell me that he wanted Subway pizza… Yeah, I told you he’s very specific. Anyway at the end of our talk I said “I love you” and he said… Wait for it…

“I love you too”.

Witness me having an out-of-body experience…

I saw big cartoon hearts fading into little cartoon hearts. I think Adam’s ribbed cracked a little because my heart grew like twice the size. It was late, so it was just me and the cleaning lady. So I was able to fall apart with just a “side-eye” from her and not under the microscope of my colleagues. 

I could have just died! Although I would prefer for it to be in my sleep and not by a stab wound or gunshot, or anything else that would cause me to feel pain. Just saying…

But seriously guys… I had no doubt my kid loved me but it’s difficult for me to put into words what it felt like hearing him say it. He will be eleven years old a few weeks from now, so I’ve been waiting a long time.

I came right home to give him the biggest hug and kisses.

Thank you God for sparing my life to hear those words from my child’s lips! I’m a happy mama… My heart is filled with immense joy!

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” – Omar Khayyam 

“I’m happy for this moment. This moment is my life.” – Salma Crump

We can be as aware of autism as we are of the sun and moon, but this really only means that you’re on to it, you know it exists. It’s a good start; please know this – But we haven’t achieved anything until that awareness then evolves into something.  And that ladies and gentlemen is when we’ve transformed potential into a sort of action which then makes way for our children and the adults they will become, playing a valuable role in society, and for our society to see themselves as the beneficiary.

The thing is, autism awareness acceptance month has ended but it will never end for me. So, I ask that you please allow me to express my grave concern over the following…

Teacher Training

I’m a firm believer that there’s a need for major improvements to our teacher training program. I’ll just come out with it… It is my belief that there are teachers who have a less than positive attitude towards students with disabilities and their inclusion in general education classrooms – And this is not necessarily good or bad but… Actually, it is bad – But I say this, not to lay blame at their feet because I believe that a lot of it (not all) has to do with their training. Think about it. They are the ones who set the tone of their class. This means the success of inclusion of students with disabilities will depend on the prevailing attitudes of the teacher as they interact with these students. The implications here are far-reaching.

In our current program the special education course is what I would consider “weak”. Added to that, it’s optional. There is still such a huge separation between “regular” and “special” education with regards to our trainee program. If this orientation continues how are they ever going to get more opportunities to integrate materials taught or get a chance to experience the transdisciplinary nature of education as it should be practiced in classrooms today?

The fact that many of our autistic kids (and other disabilities) are just aging out of the school system, though certainly disappointing, should not be a surprise to anyone who examines what actually happens in our schools, and compare it to what research in other countries have clearly shown to be effective in educating these students. For quite some time now I’ve been urging the Ministry to begin collecting (accurate) data which they can then use to drive decision-making. To date, this is still not being done. Little productive change has eventuated at the policy level, much less at the classroom level.

So, what does all this mean? Teachers should be prepared for the students they are going to teach. When this does not happen both students and teachers are being setup for failure.

Ultimately though, I believe we should give every bad teacher an opportunity to train to get better, and if they don’t, they should be fired. Yes teachers, you’re special, but you’re not that special.

Ideology

In Antigua & Barbuda we have an “inclusion by default policy”. This means, that yes; officials may very well say that some students with disabilities are in the general classrooms in various schools – And this for them is inclusion. However, administrators and teachers interpret it as they choose, sometimes based on personal ideologies, and often to the detriment of students, because there are no Ministry checks and balances to ensure the intent of the “so-called” policy is respected.

So let me be clear… Inclusion is not a school or is it a class, or a student. What it is though, is a belief that regardless of labels, ALL students should be members of the general education community, having access to the full range of curriculum options.

To be honest, there is still some controversy over whether or not inclusion is appropriate, for example, for someone like my son (who’s autistic). However, in my opinion, I sometimes think that those who are not in favor of this are overlooking what is at the heart of the inclusion model. Don’t get me wrong, my philosophy is not inclusion at all costs. However, I think students must receive needed supports and services within the context of the regular classroom. When these accommodations are insufficient to insure educational success, then students can be placed in more restrictive settings. I also think it’s important for the students to have the opportunity to interact with nondisabled peers.

While I’m on the topic of inclusion; the “dunce class” – And you, yes you; don’t even pretend like you don’t know what I’m talking about. The “dunce class” in some of our public schools is no substitute for inclusion or special education either. What a shame, the way our kids are bullied, belittled, branded and forgotten because of a diagnosed/undiagnosed learning disorder.

We need to get away from this thinking that students, and this is students with or without disabilities, fall into neat categories of educational need. It just isn’t so.

The State of the Union

Yes; I’m going there.

To begin, let me state that teacher-bashing does not equal reform and I want to avoid it at all costs. So if you’re a teacher and you’re reading this, I hope you see it for what it is – A campaign for improved educational provisions for those children who have been excluded from or marginalized within our education system because of their disability.

So yes; you have a right to stand up and demand more/better for your members and I will support you on that – But – Demand more and better for our children as well. Contrary to popular belief (and not that this makes it right) you’re not the only “public servants” who are underpaid and overworked. I’m certain many of your members are concerned about this, but I have to be honest; you’re silence on this matter has been deafening. Teaching for the children is still a part of your mission, right?

Resourcing

Let me be the first to acknowledge that yes, funding is an issue – But as I’ve said before, in some instances it is not always a matter of more money; it is a matter of smarter money. We absolutely cannot continue to throw our hands up in the air and say there is no money so we can’t do anything.

First of all I think we need someone within the Ministry to “own” this; Special Education. Not that everyone don’t all play a role at the end of the day but someone has to “own” it – And overtime give that person a team to work with. This cannot be someone who’s already taxed by their workload in the Ministry. This is unfair to our students, teacher and the overworked employee because that person cannot give the Special Education the attention it deserves.

What the Ministry of Education needs to understand is that they have to take this matter seriously. Not just in thought but in deed. Not that attitude will change overnight if they do but I think it sets the stage for that change to occur. It’s a ripple effect. “We don’t have enough money” is no longer acceptable or defensible for bad educational policies.

I’m disappointed at the state of affairs with regards to special education but I’m not surprised.

Stand Your Ground System

We have a sort of “stand your ground” special education system in Antigua & Barbuda. This means when parents want to get any help in the public system they must be able to speak-up, stand their ground and know which doors to knock on, especially when help is initially denied. And when the public system fails, families with financial means turn to private options to rescue their kids. But the vast majority of our students with autism/other disabilities in our public schools don’t have that luxury. When they complain about inadequate supports to assure academic progress, they’re told that’s all the funds the Ministry has and that’s all they should expect. End of story.

As I write my final column for Autism Awareness Acceptance Month, I just want people to know that at the end of the day, no parent who has ever watched their child or another child struggle would ever want to deny an opportunity to help a child in crisis find the support necessary to thrive and succeed. My heart goes out to families whose children have been failed because of the public system. It kills me when other families approach me and ask for help because their children are suffering and they don’t know who to talk to/afraid to “stand their ground”. These are things that they know deep down goes against everything that’s right and fair with regards to the education of their child. Let me tell you – I sometimes struggle to find the quality that, thank God, is still somewhere within me to listen and not speak my mind in very unprintable terms. Because the irony of the situation is; that’s my kid too that they’re doing this to.

Solutions that tackle the above problems within our public schools are what we need, because these will help all students who are struggling, not just a few. The private schools are good to have but guess what? They’re private! They cost! And the tuitions are generally outside of the reach of the average family. Plus ask anyone of these schools who has a special education component as a part of their offering and they will tell you that they’re overwhelmed with parents (those who can pay the tuition and many who can’t) wanting to register their kids. And a school does not a policy make.

What we need are solutions that are imbedded in the public system from the outset. Yes they will take more effort but they will identify the real barriers, generate more buy-in, serve ALL children and pay the maximum long-term dividends for all students.

What we have now is a system where we do nothing about problem, provide no intervention, and end up with a significant group of disillusioned students who have lost contact with the curriculum. How about focusing our attention and resources on emphasizing the resolution of our mistakes? So this sequence of not chain of initial failure, embarrassment, disappointment, detachment and finally dropping out, that is so predictable and ongoing, needs to come to an end. Stop addressing it as if they’re all separate issues; they are not.

We still have many folks who are in positions which can effect change but they view autism and other disabilities as a leeches on the public school system who will suck resources as they are forced (by the way, this would be by our own laws) to serve our kids.

I’ve said many times before that if any of these people would just stop to think about what it will eventually cost ALL of us in society, if we do not do everything in our power while they’re in their childhood to produce a physically and emotionally healthy, self-sufficient adult. After all, we raise them to be men and women not children.

Our law says education for ALL. Not some. Not for those who can afford to pay – But for ALL children – One that’s appropriate and in the least restrictive environment.

So when we demand, in the name of our children, education over lip service, we have nothing to apologize for.

 

Hey Mister… Shut up!

I think I’ve had it up to here – Folks; I’m up on a ladder with my hands above my head so I’m right up to my limit – With the rude comments from strangers, friends (although I’m reconsidering this label) or family (unfortunately, I’m stuck with this one). So, please indulge me as I go through a little DIY therapy session and put some things in perspective.

Chief Tormentor

“Wait! Is he retarded or something?” Dear God please help me! I want to drop-kick this man. I’ve watched enough Jet Li movies; I could so do it – BUT – I didn’t. Ladies and gentlemen, I actually responded and said; “He’s autistic.” Somewhere between my mind and my mouth I dropped “you idiot”. I was so pissed!

Parent Expert

For the mom who comes up to me after he has had a meltdown… “You mustn’t let him embarrass you like that in public. You need to put your hand in his bottom.” She waits. I say nothing. She gives me the evil-eye. I continue ignoring her. She looks (disgust) at my son and shakes her head. I’m willing myself not to speak – So afraid of what may come out of my mouth.

Friends, Family and then some

Yes, we do discipline him. However, contrary to what you believe we can’t beat it out of him nor will we attempt to for your sake.

Ms. Tact Less

Did you do something to cause it? WHAT! I just had to walk away from that one.  Whatever made you think you can ask me that? Arrrggghhh!

Showoff

Kuba was babbling up until about four (4) years old. So his speech at times is still not that clear. “He’s too big to be speaking like that.” My response: “No shit Sherlock!” Like really! Do you think that I (a) Don’t already know this, (b) Doing everything that we can to improve it and (c) He wants to improve just as bad. Telling me that you have a 5 year old grandson who speaks VERY WELL because his mom makes sure of it is not advice. It’s just you showing off so… SHUT! UP!

Dr. Know It All

I was watching this program on TV and they were talking about how this gluten-free diet/ABA therapy/freak juice /jumping out of a plane can cure autism. Look… The one thing that I know for sure is that to date there is no cure. Yes, there are therapies that help, but no one thing helps all autistic people.  Take home message; not because you watch it on TV or read it in a book that it’s the gospel.

The Food Police

My kid is a picky eater, plus added to that he has a few food allergies which can sometimes make dining out a challenge. “I don’t know how you put up with how he eats. If he lived with me he would have to eat what I give him.” My response: “You should be happy then.” Tell me again why anyone would want to take this personal.

You know what? Very early I realized that I was going to have to develop some THICK skin and eventually I began to let things just roll off my back – And actually began to look forward to questions from folks because it gave me an opportunity to tell another person about autism and hopefully make them more aware and understanding. But more and more it’s becoming hard for me to keep a civil tongue in my head, especially when others can’t or won’t.

Folks, this is our tender spot here – And you’re making it so hard for us when you come at us this way.

Ahhh… Yes. That high road… Sometimes filled with jerks and meddlers who think they have a right to talk to me as the wish and ask me any intrusive question that pops into their mind. As much as possible I try not to listen to the voice in my head. Imagine that! Not listening to the voice in my head – Thought we were to supposed to listen that one? But for now, with me, it won’t be pretty if that voice takes the lead so I swallow what a part of me so want to give right back to them because I’m going to be the one who regrets it, because I’m the one that knows better. And at the end of the day, I’ve done nothing to inform an uneducated mind. Plus hopefully I’m teaching my son a lesson about advocating for himself.

Again, let me repeat… It’s not EASY for me to do this. When you sometimes want to give someone the “one-finger salute” because words fail you, and it is still illegal to drop-kick someone in a supermarket. Totally kidding – But it means that they have hit a nerve. However for the times that I’ve stopped and talked to someone about autism, nine times out of ten, I think they walk away feeling pretty foolish for the way they spoke to me and there’s been times that some folks have even apologized. And that right there, I can’t tell you how much it means to me.

So the next time you’re in the supermarket and you see a mom with a kid who’s having a meltdown… If you’re 12, go ahead and stare, I’m cool with that. If you’re 41; don’t come over and insist that I spank him, tell me that I’m a bad parent and start talking to the other folks in the aisle about how you would never tolerate that behavior or shout “Is he retarded!” Because when you do that; quiet inside-voice… Quite – He can hear you – And, most days, I couldn’t care less but really and truly, I would rather not expose him to this and have him feel uncomfortable.

You can though, feel free to give me the “I’ve been there smile”, ask if you can help or you can just ignore us. I’m cool with that.

So; are we all on the same page? Awesome! Thanks for listening.

In the movie The Lion King, Simba goes back to fight Scar for his rightful place in the Pride Lands. It’s one of Kuba’s favorite movies – And if it’s only one thing that he learns from that movie… My hope is that it’s the lesson of courage.

Courage to do what’s right and to stand-up for himself and others.

It’s also something that I hope time will tell that we did a good job in shaping in him. And I think a lot of it will come from us modeling that behavior ourselves.

Before autism, and everything that comes along with it, came into my life I didn’t consider myself to be a courageous person. I really didn’t. Actually, I’m not sure if I now do. Add to that, my private life back then was just that… Private!

Then I became mom to an autist and things changed. I realized very quickly that I had two choices; I could do nothing or I could do something. I chose to do something. Anything! Anything that I thought would help him overcome any challenges he had. I never saw it as a courageous act. I didn’t think I was doing no more than any parent of a “typical” kid would do for them. I was speaking out, I was advocating, I was demanding more for my son and for others like him. From time to time I get parents who would say to me; “I read your blog and I think you’re so brave for speaking out and advocating for your son. Where do you get the courage from?”

I say to them; because I owe it to him.

I remember when Kuba was initially diagnosed, we met with a psychiatrist and he asked what did we want for Kuba – And his dad responded and said that we wanted him to be the best he could be, whatever his best was. I couldn’t have said it better because nothing – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – in this world is more important to me than knowing that Kuba will be ok on his own when we’re no longer around. It is what keeps us up at night – It’s this fear that drives me. The fear that sometimes fills my mind with thoughts of perpetual unemployment, homelessness, drug-addiction and prison – And I was going to do everything in my power to give my child a shot at a better future than that. After all isn’t that the dream of every parent, to have an independent, happy, adult child who’s capable of living on their own. My dreams are no different for my child with autism. But the attitude here is that they will continue to live with us (parents) until one of us dies. After that it’s “Good Luck Chuck”.

To date no government agency has been able to tell us how education will be provided to our kids once they enter the school system much less what happens to them once they reach adulthood. What we know now is purely anecdotal; and the picture is bleak. There’s very little opportunity for them to fully explore their full learning potential or career capabilities. And just for the record… For those of you who, sometimes with the best of intentions, when autism is mentioned, go to your only source of reference and that is the character, Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man and offer a compliment alluding to the myth that we have nothing to worry about because our kids are smart… Thanks but no thanks. What I want you to do; before you think our situation is not so bad and that we all have little Einsteins and Mozarts who will have us rolling in a pile-of-dough soon enough and then we can do whatever we want. Think again. This is a spectrum of disorders all different to varying degrees… No two are the same and no two have the same differences.

In the process of writing this article I decided to do a bit of research to see what other people had to say about courage. How did they define it? I came across a site that described it this way: Courage: the emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, internal or external.

I like the fact that they highlight that the opposition could be either internal or external. There’s still many of us who have not accepted that our ideas of perfection have not been realized in our child. “If only she would just…” or “Why can’t he just…” When you really stop to think about this, and I hope you do. Ask yourself if you have fulfilled all the expectations your parents had for you – And not that this is right or wrong either. It’s just that sometimes; our expectations are just that; our expectations.

You see, I think that Simba was courageous all along. He just didn’t know it. He initially told Nala when she found him; “They don’t need me!” But when she told him about what his uncle Scar had done to the pride lands, he had to go back to save his people. In his eyes that was the only choice for him. I call this “courage that knows” – Knows the risks that lies ahead but still takes action anyway because the consequences of taking no action or lesser action are unacceptable.

I sometimes end up having very intimate conversation with some moms and dads who I’m meeting for the first time and I’m sure it took quite some courage for them to talk to me about certain issues. Perhaps I would have never found my courage if it hadn’t been for son. Perhaps I would have kept on thinking that courage is something only the people who risk their lives have.

So, I still don’t quite see myself as being courageous – But there is something there, whatever it is, that makes me get out of bed each day, no matter how much I sometimes want to give up and… make another call, send another email, write another letter, reach out to someone who I think can help us move forward. Because like I said; there’s nothing – NOTHING – I will not do for my kid. After all, I owe him at least that.

I have a contagious jungle fever. Some call it courage. Don’t worry though; it’s the one you want to get.

My response to comments made in this article 

I find it quite unfortunate and totally unnecessary; the Hon. Minister’s attempt to change the tone of the message to give the public the impression that I have been dismissive of the contributions of everyone in the field of special education or her defensive posture. Again, I encourage everyone to go and read the article which appeared in the Sept. 3rd issue of the Daily Observer. Everything the Minister mentioned that the Ministry has done was highlighted in the article. The intention was very clear. The state of affairs as it relates to special education is unacceptable and for too long all the ministry has been saying is that they’re working on a plan.

Would it be fair for me to interpret what the Hon. Minister has said re: “… persons who have only recently taken up special education as an interest” to mean that if I start a domestic violence interest group today that we should have nothing to say about the lack of adequate support services available because we’re a “jus come”? And if I do say that, it means that I’m being disrespectful or showing disregard for everyone who has ever done or is doing anything in that field? Farfetched don’t you think?

If a group says that we need to put a proper juvenile system in place so that when we expel our 14, 15, 16 year olds from schools that there’s a safety net to catch them because if we don’t we’re setting ourselves up for an even bigger problem because these kids don’t just fall off the face of the earth or die, they become adults – And if we’re ever to believe any stats or study that has ever been done anywhere we will know that not having a proper juvenile system in place will lead to (potentially) more criminals, over-crowded prisons; a bigger burden on society. Does that mean they’re being disrespectful or that they disregard the work that the parents who’ve tried, the teachers, the counselor, the neighbor, the community, the police have done? Am I the only one who thinks that even those same people (may) want more and are (probably) just as equally disappointed about the progress being made?

When the Minister says that issues such as a lack of parent involvement and teacher quality which tops the list of contributing factors why public schools are under-performing in the Common Entrance Exams. I’m sure the Minister hardly expects that the parents who are “involved” to feel that she’s being disrespectful and disregarding “their” efforts.

Whether or not ABILITY started last year or yesterday is a non-issue. The discussion is about the lack of any substantial progress being made in special education in Antigua & Barbuda.

So yes; I don’t expect everyone to agree with my sentiments and that is not always a bad thing but please don’t change the tone of the discussion to anything other than what it is – A campaign for improved educational provision for those children who have been excluded from or marginalized within our education system because of their apparent difficulties. I was under the impression that we had all acknowledged the importance of parents in matters relating to education and that we all agreed that we play an important role. Well, I. Am. A. Parent. An “involved” parent…

Here’s the Ministry’s current record:

Talk of a Diagnostic Centre: I’m not against this at all but as I’ve said before – After diagnosis then what? Plus it suggests a sort of narrow interpretation of our educational difficulties which to me only prevents progress in the field. It still does not answer the question why our schools are failing to teach so many children successfully.

Special Education Council (an advisory council): I have quite a few concerns with regards to the setup of this council. This isn’t an attack on the competence of the individuals who sit on this council. Absolutely not! But consider as I have that the Chair of this council is a senior executive within the Ministry of Education. How can/does this person now play the role of advisor? More than likely they are already a part of the decision-making process within the Ministry of Education – How do they then play the role of advisor? I’m just unable to see the reasoning behind this. Also, keep in mind that the Minister of Education is under no obligation to accept the advice of the council. So I will agree that the council is a step in the right direction but my concerns remain with regards to the structure of it, which is probably why we’re not seeing any real effects since its establishment. However, an advisory council is not answerable to anyone but the person/office it advises and the buck has to stop somewhere – And I say, that’s the Hon. Minister of Education and by extension the team (Ministry) which carries out their policies. 

Offering Scholarships in Special Education: I’m all for getting more qualified teachers! But it’s great to offer scholarships but they need to fit into some larger plan. 

Adele School: As I’ve said before; the Adele School is overcrowded and under-resourced. They are doing the best they can with what they have. However, I do not agree that the building of an additional classroom is the answer to what are systemic issues. It’s just adding to the problem.

Some recommendations were made in the September 3rd article. To recap, they focused on: 

Legislation: We need to make sure that our educational act emphasizes the responsibility to respond to student diversity. Antigua & Barbuda has signed onto the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since 2007. What meaningful steps have we taken toward ratification of this convention? 

Do – Let’s “Try” something: I believe that pilot projects are usually a great way to start. It gives you a chance to work on the model, to seek out the innovators, gives you the opportunity to prepare the people who can then be used to lead the implementation process. 

Education and Training: Teachers will need the skills and the self-confidence to take these new proposals into the classroom. This is how improvements will take place – And confidence comes through experience and training. They will need this so they can support each other and encourage experimentation with new ways of teaching. Currently the lack of flexibility and the rigidity in the methods of teaching does not favor the participation of children who might experience difficulties in learning. But a lot of this depends on… 

Support: If what is going on now is any indication of how important a role support plays when attempting to bring about change, I don’t know what is. Community participation is important, especially parent involvement. And finally; 

Data Collection (Research): Put simply; it’s an important quality component. The better you get at collecting relevant and accurate data the better decisions you make. Year after year we hear of an education budget but it’s difficult to say whether there is any correlation between the amount spent on the education system and its ability to be effective in responding to diversity.

I’m an ordinary mom. The only special interest I have is for my son and others like him to have equal access to an appropriate and adequate education. Actually the more I learn about this, the more I realize how reasoned changes would improve education for all kids. I’m proud to be able to speak up and out for them and even more determined not to stop, not even when change comes – After all change is constant. This is how things continue to evolve and get better. I hope I can get more people to join me.

So yes; there are folks who have contributed a lot to special education in Antigua & Barbuda.

And yes; I’m thankful for their contributions and the assistance they’ve given to so many children including mine.

But if anyone wants to know; yes; We. All. Want. More!

Hon. Minister of Education; thanks for all you’re about to do.

Salma Crump (Involved Parent)


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