Posting of new content will be on hiatus. Delays in adding blogs may be lengthy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Question for our Readers: Please Help!

:-) Hi everyone. If you could take a second to read this email and offer some suggestions?




Good Morning,

I need a little bit of help and was hoping that ABD could help. 
A child I know has seizures. His seizures had been under
control for the first 1/2 of the school year, he only had 2 from
September to December but his medications were changed and his
seizures have increased to several seizures per week. His parents have
decided to put him on a Ketogenic diet and take him off his mediations
to see if that will help decrease or regulate his seizure activity. I
have done research on-line, but I haven't found anything helpful other
than little info on the actual diet itself. I was wondering if anyone
on the ABD has had experience with their child on the Ketogenic diet
an their opinions of it. Also, if anyone has any food recipes for the
diet because this child is particularly picky when eating and I am
concerned that lack of food intake will increase the amount of
seizures as well.

If you can help in any way I'd appreciate it greatly. Thank you.

Part D'Oh of Autism Now


Watch the full episode. See more PBS NewsHour.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

When Restraint Abuse Warrants Little Concern And Less Attention: Is Florida Paying Any Attention?

 On April 14, I wrote an article about the improper demonstration of a full-body restraint system being used in a Florida public school on disabled children. I followed up this article with a series of emails to Gillen Industries, who manufactures the restraint device to the school principal and to the Associate Superintendent of Exceptional Student Education for Orange County Public Schools, and to the bureau chief for Exceptional Education  & Student Services

Last year Florida passed a law regarding restraint and seclusion of disabled students, and parents ought to be concerned, especially if the number of restraints that Orange County has engaged in this year, are indicative of the concern for the rights of their most vulnerable charges. According to the Orlando Sentinel, students in Orange county were restrained “1,910 times this school year — representing nearly a quarter of the 8,222 cases in Florida. No school district employed the method nearly as much as Orange, where some students were restrained repeatedly, according to new data from the Florida Department of Education.”

Leslie Postal and Lauren Roth, the reporters of the Orlando Sentinel piece on Orange County restraints, quote Ross Green:
“‘That's proof that what we're doing isn't working,’ said Ross Greene, a psychiatry professor at Harvard Medical School.
An expert on child behavior, Greene works to reduce restraint at schools and residential programs.
‘Restraints are inappropriate 99.9 percent of the time they are used,’ he said."


The piece also contains the assistant principal demonstrating how to use the “wrap mat” restraint. Not only is the restraint used incorrectly, with the person placed face down rather than face up, the assistant principal has engaged in a euphemism, renaming the “Ultimate Restraint” system the much more friendly sounding “wrap mat.”
According to Gillen Industries and PXDirect, the restraint system is available in three sizes, of which the smallest will fit individuals 4’8” and over. Readers will no doubt find tremendous comfort in Gillen’s pride in the fact that this restraint system “Can be cleaned easily for quick turn around service.”

Sheriffs.org provides information on this restraint and notes that it is for use with "combative/violent psychiatric patients" in psychiatric hospitals on the East Coast. Is this really an appropriate device for disabled students to spend hours in?: “Several times this year, students at Magnolia were held in these devices more than two hours.”

Below is my email to the principal, W. Thomas Oldroyd:

I have several questions regarding your school's use of the restraint device as demonstrated by your assistant principal in a news video.


I believe that this is the restraint device showed in the video http://www.orlandosentinel.com/videobeta/?watchId=6903ee18-7a19-4141-a86b-ee0cda354905:


http://www.pxdirect.com/fullbodyrestraint.htm



 That's a grown woman being shown to the mat, but she's too small for it. In addition, the woman is placed face down into the mat, which would put the individual at risk for suffication. Is this how the mat is being used? It's not how it's intended to be used.


What ages are the students at risk of being placed in this particular restraint and what particular safeguards are being used?


 If the assistant prinicipal can't even demonstrate it correctly, what is the training of the individuals who place students in this?


What level of supervision is used while the student is in the restraint device? How long is a student left in the device?


What behaviors merit the device? Who makes the decision on when to use the restraint and what level of accountability is in place to protect students from unnecessary restraint?


At what point are parents informed that their child is in restraint?


Thank you for answering the questions. I appreciate it.


Kim Wombles
Concerned parent and educator



I then followed up my letter to the principal with a letter to Dr. Anna Diaz, the Associate Superintendent of Exceptional Student Education for Orange County Public Schools:



Dr. Diaz,


I am a mother of three on the spectrum, an educator, and am active in advocacy for the disabled, mostly through the use of scholarly pieces on Science 2.0 and on the Autism Blogs Directory, and a personal blog, Countering. My writing partner and I have been examining the Orlando Sentinal video of Assistant Principal Denise Calio demonstrating the use of the ultimate restraint system, and I am currently working on a piece for Science 2.0 on the use (and misuse) of restraints in Magnolia School.


I am including below the email I sent the principal of Magnolia School. I have not heard back from him.


I would appreciate answers to the questions I pose below to the principal, as well the following:


How many children under the height of 4'8" have been put in the ultimate restraint system? The restraint shown appears to be adult sized and was too large for the woman put in.


Have they been put in face down? That's the incorrect positioning.


What behaviors lead to the use of this restraint and what is the longest someone has been in it?


Why do you wait 15 minutes before summoning a nurse to monitor the student?


What accountability are faculty and staff held to to justify the use of this restraint?


How do you account for the high number of restraints in this particular school and what are you doing to decrease the number?


Has any staff or faculty member been disciplined for using the restraint for times where it was not justified (let me tell you, if the assistant principal is deciding, since she couldn't demonstrate the device right, I'd be concerned about her ability to decide when it's appropriate. After all, she thinks they "can practice their relaxation techniques" in there).


Below is my email to the prinicipal. I appreciate your timely response to this matter. (The above email to the principal was included).
In response to my questions, sent both to W. Thomas Oldroyd, the Principal of Magnolia School, and to Dr. Anna Diaz, the Associate Superintendent of Exceptional Student Education for Orange County Public Schools, I received the following statement from Principal Oldroyd. Readers will note that none of my questions were really answered.

“Magnolia School Restraint
Magnolia School is a Special Day School.  The educational needs of students that attend Magnolia are extensive.   Some students that attend Magnolia have Behavior Intervention Plans. Behavior Intervention Plans are developed during an Individual Education Plan meeting with parents or guardians.
The intent of the video was to educate the public regarding the use of mechanical restraint as a safety intervention. It is used only as a last resort during times of crisis (continuous self injury or continuous physical aggression.) The mat in the video is one of several sizes made for Magnolia School and is used in accordance with the manufacturers guidelines.
Safeguards are put in place when implementing manual restraint or seclusion.  Safeguards include trained classroom staff in the use of restraint, behavior specialists/analysts, administrators, and experienced nurses. Data is collected and reported on the same day to parents and guardians via email and in writing as well as the Department of Education.”

After receiving this statement, I sent the following email to the bureau chief; the questions and answers are provided below.

Below are the questions posed to the bureau chief of Exceptional Education  & Student Services and the answers I received today.

    1.      I'm writing a follow-up article to the article ;http://www.science20.com/countering_tackling_woo_and_science_asds/absolutely_no_justification_use_restraints_florida_school-78130, I wrote about the improper demonstration of a full-body restraint system at Magnolia School in Orange County. I was hoping you could either help me or direct me to the right person for summary and detail reports for the use of restraints in Florida schools this school year.
 -      Please see the two attached files. 
**One file breaks it down by district, Orange County had 1910 incidents involving 244 students.
** I'm inserting the word doc file that summarizes the restraints:


Incidents of Restraint and Seclusion Cumulative Through March 2011

Restraint Incidents Through March 2011,
districts reported
· 8,222 incidents of restraint involving 2,944 students
Distribution of Restraint Incidents by Grade Levels· Grades PK-3: 42%
· Grades 4-8: 40%
· Grades 9-12: 17%



Distribution of Restraint Incidents by Exceptionality



· Emotional/Behavior Disabilities: 46%
· Autism Spectrum Disorders: 22%
· Intellectual Disabilities: 10%
· Specific Learning Disabilities: 5%
· Other Disability: 16%

Seclusion Incidents Through March 2011, districts reported
· 3,386 incidents of seclusion involving 1,047 students

Distribution of Seclusion Incidents by Grade Levels· Grades PK-3: 35%
· Grades 4-8: 47%
· Grades 9-12: 18%

Distribution of Seclusion Incidents by Exceptionality

· Emotional/Behavior Disabilities: 69%
· Autism Spectrum Disorders: 10%
· Intellectual Disabilities: 11%
· Specific Learning Disabilities: 2%
· Other Disability: 8%
                 
    2.      Also, I'm interested in what training has been given to faculty and staff who utilize the ultimate restraint system, what safeguards are in place to make sure that students aren't improperly restrained and if their is any video documentation of the classrooms where restraints are used.
 -      Regarding the training that the faculty and staff have received should be directed to the Orange County School District.  Dr. Anna Diaz, is the Associate Superintendent for Exceptional Student Education. Dr. Diaz may be reached at 407/317-3229.
 **I have a follow up request under FOIA into the specific school district.

    3.      Does the state purchase the ultimate restraint system, the district or the individual school?
 -      No. The state does not purchase any restraint systems, nor does the state "purchase" training in crisis management for school district staff. Such purchases would be made by school districts.  
         4.      How many schools in Florida own and use this restraint system that the Sheriffs.org says is "designed for combative/violent psychiatric patients and is in use at various psychiatric care facilities on the U.S. east coast. Currently, the system comes with a stiff board that gives it rigidity.

-      We do not have this information.                

5. Does the state purchase the ultimate restraint system, the district or the individual school? How many schools in Florida own and use this restraint system that the Sheriffs.org says is "designed for combative/violent psychiatric patients and is in use at various psychiatric care facilities on the U.S. east coast. Currently, the system comes with a stiff board that gives it rigidity.
The manufacturer has a new model that was unavailable for review specific to Fire/EMS that can be used with a standard backboard"?

-      We have no information on this.             

 6.      The manufacturer has three standard sizes, with the smallest fitting no shorter than 4'8''; what safeguards are in place in the schools that use these restraints that the student is the appropriate size?

-      If a school district has acquired a specific system, then it would be incumbent on the district to make sure the restraint is being used appropriately.               

 7.      How closely is the state monitoring the restraints and investigating these restraints?

-      Beginning with the 2010-11 school year, school districts have been reporting data regarding the use of seclusion and restraint. The Bureau of Exceptional Education and Student Services (BEESS) has been reviewing this data received throughout the year. Additionally, school districts provided BEESS with copies of their policies and procedures related to incident reporting procedures, data collection, monitoring and reporting of data collected. Lastly, we have begun to field test on-site monitoring procedures.                 

8.      Does the state keep statistics on how often the ultimate restraint system is used, for how long, if it was used appropriately, and for what reasons it's used?

-      The Bureau receives information on the type, duration of the restraint, and the student’s behavior leading up to and precipitating the use of restraint. Because type of restraint is currently a text box, we are unable to aggregate and report data on the specific types of restraint used.  
I also spoke to John Gillen, the head of the company who makes the restraints, and he does not provide training or guidelines for the use of the restraints. He sells the ultimate restraint for face-up use, but acknowledges that institutions may and do use the restraint face-down with violent clients to protect the staff and the client from the client's aggression. He does not make the ultimate restraint smaller than the 4'8" size, but notes that the wraps are meshed nylon and that the top restraint does not have to be fastened.

After nearly two weeks of looking into this story and trying to find satisfactory answers that the device, when used, is being used correctly, I am left with no assurance that this is the case. The school system did not respond to my specific questions and the vague promise that guidelines are being followed is a cold comfort in light of the video demonstration that the school system had to know would be scrutinized. If they can’t acknowledge that they did nothing short of screw the pooch with that demonstration, then why should parents feel confident that when they do decide restraint is appropriate that their child is placed in the device properly and that appropriately supervised.

If the video demonstration is indeed how they’re using the device, then every parent of a child at Magnolia School should be seriously concerned about their child’s safety. With no consistent guidelines, no statewide supervision of the types of restraints purchased and the training provided, there's a definite problem of oversight and accountability.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let There Be Light: Todd Drezner's Loving Lampposts, A Contrast to MacNeil's Autism Now


Having examined PBS's Autism Now in an earlier posting and noting its overall negativity, I'd like to turn to a documentary on autism that I can recommend: Todd Drezner's Loving Lampposts.
Released March 29 on DVD is a new documentary called Loving Lampposts. The director, Todd Drezner, has  recently written three posts at Huffington Post, "Learning to Embrace Autism," "Reconsidering the Nature of Autism," and "Autism: The Most Popular Disability" to create awareness of his documentary. This film is well-crafted and for folks familiar with the autism community, many of the more well-known autistic adults and activist parents are featured in the film, as are Richard Roy Grinker, Paul Offit, and Simon Baron-Cohen.

Much like Kathleen's and my Autism Blogs Directory, this documentary is all inclusive, with most points of view represented. Parents who think vaccines are to blame, who use all manner of biomedical and alternative treatments, to parents who support a neurodiverse perspective are represented and treated respectfully, as is a father-daughter duo who have been a part of the facilitated communication movement since its inception in America.

I enjoyed watching this documentary and actually viewed it all the way through three separate times in working on the posts relating to it. It held up very well through all three viewings, and I think, based on my children's reactions as they wandered in on me viewing it, that it is an appealing documentary across the board. The children showcased in this piece are charming and engaging (and again, some of them are known to the community at large).

Watching Kristina Chew with Charlie was a neat experience, and being able to tell the girlies that there was my friend Kristina with her son was lovely experience; the kids like to listen to the blogposts I share with them (and I try to do that, to give them the chance to connect with other autistic kids, to see others like them so that they know they are a part of a wider community).

This is a documentary that most of us in the community can watch with our families and walk away with a positive feeling.

What isn't here, though, what must be acknowledged, is that the darker sides of autism are not focused on. Severely disabled autistic individuals are not represented here, nor are the struggles of those families, and I think that will strike those families who live in that reality as an oversight that is unforgivable. However, I think that the reality is that more families deal with mild to moderate disabilities than deal with the severe, and that this documentary represents the perspective of the director and his experiences with autism.

In the end, we see the world from our own vantage point. Drezner worked to widen his perspective and ventured out into the autism community; he met and talked with a pretty good swath of that community, although he avoided the harshest landscapes. But it's because he did so that I can recommend this documentary as something you can safely view with your children, and something that you probably should view with your family. It's a great launching point for more serious discussions.
Kathleen Leopold and I were able to put together some questions for Todd Drezner, director of Loving Lampposts.

Kim: In my review, I noted that you had avoided the harshest landscapes of the autism world while still surveying a wide swath of it. In your director’s statement, you write “I've met parents of severely autistic children whose patience, acceptance, and support of their kids are truly inspiring.” Did you meet parents who didn’t accept, who weren’t coping well? Were there families that you met and interviewed that didn’t make it into the documentary?

You also write that you “can't help but be optimistic” at the end of making the documentary; I think that many watching the documentary will feel that way, as well, but that those families whose situations are grim, who are struggling to help children who are severely impaired with multiple co-morbid conditions, who reject the concept of neurodiversity (because they define it differently), will reject the documentary and the optimism. What would you say to those families and individuals? What do you think the autism community and the larger community could do to help these families?

Todd: It's true that the film does not show any autistic person engaging in harmful or self-injurious behaviors. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Partially, it's because I didn't happen to film anyone who engaged in those behaviors. This wasn't a choice; it just worked out that way (although there are a couple of families who I filmed who didn't make it into the movie, it had nothing to do with the severity of their children or their lack of acceptance of autism).

But perhaps a more important reason is that I felt that that kind of behavior has been shown too much in recent portrayals of autism. I started my film in 2007, shortly after "Autism Every Day" came out. I have a lot of problems with that film and with other portrayals of autism that suggest it is always and only horrible. As someone says in my film, "The scales have been tipped too far in the direction of misery." I think the wider world needed to see a different view of autism.

That being said, I think it's not entirely accurate to say that "Loving Lampposts" doesn't address issues of importance to severely autistic children or their families. I'm thinking particularly of the interview with Ralph James Savarese, who specifically says that advocates of neurodiversity need to do a better job of reaching out to parents of children who "bang their heads against the wall and punch holes in the wall 40 times a year."

Although he's not a child, I also think about 60 year old Lyndon and his mother Lila. Here is someone who didn't speak until he was ten years old, who grew up in the 50s and 60s when autism was unknown, and who was recommended for institutionalization. In other words, a fairly "severe" case. Although I don't say this explicitly in the movie, the issues that Lila has been dealing with for years--how to give Lyndon as much independence as possible, how to provide him with the support he needs--are the same issues that parents of severely autistic children will face as their children get older. The fact that Lyndon is doing relatively well now doesn't make his and Lila's challenges any less relevant to parents who are struggling with severely autistic children today.

Then, too, there is a problem of definition: what exactly do we mean by severely autistic? A viewer of my film might look at, for example, Charlie Fisher and see a minimally verbal child with limited reading and writing ability and occasional "challenging behaviors" and think of him as severely autistic (he was probably one of the people I had in mind when I wrote my director's statement). And if we don't think of him that way, then why not? Because Kristina Chew doesn't refer to him that way? Because Kristina and Jim are fairly happy? Or for some other reason? Whatever the answer, it's clear that like autism itself, "severe autism" is not easily defined and is largely subjective.

It's also important to note that no one's place on the autism spectrum is static. The film spends a bit of time on this point when I talk about "high functioning" and "low functioning," but it's worth bringing up here as well. Autistic people, like anyone else, can have a bad day, week, month, or year. A child who is engaging in harmful or self-injurious behaviors today may not always be doing so. A family that's feeling very grim about its situation may feel better about it a year from now (and vice versa).

To try to sum up, neurodiversity is not a philosophy that only applies to optimistic people whose autistic children are "doing well." It's an approach to thinking about autism that is as relevant to a parent of a severely autistic child as to a parent of a child with Asperger's. I hope that families whose situations are grim and whose children are impaired with multiple co-morbid conditions are able to get their children help for those conditions. But if and when those conditions improve, those families will still have autistic children. How will they think about autism? I think neurodiversity offers the best approach.


Kim: How long has the documentary been complete and what have you learned in that intervening time that you wish you had been able to show in your documentary?

Todd: I finished filming in the first part of 2009 and finished the final edit in April of 2010. We've certainly seen some more developments on the vaccine front and the Andrew Wakefield saga since then, although I'm not sure how much of that I would have put in the film. One point that comes up in this weekend's NY Times Magazine story about Wakefield is that there is some research that shows that autistic people may have more gastrointestinal problems than other people. However, doctors have been reluctant to address parents' concerns about this because "doctors associated those concerns with quackery and vaccine fears and the false hope that a diet could cure the autism itself." I think I would have put a point like this into my film because it shows how our obsession with cures is actually setting back scientific research that could help alleviate medical problems that autistic children are more likely to have.

Kim: What surprised you most as you made the documentary and met autistic individuals and their family members?

Todd: We all hear a lot about the great variety of the autism spectrum, but it's something else to see it. What was always the most interesting was to meet a new autistic person and find out what was unique to him or her. At the same time, as different as they all are from each other, I could usually find a trait or two that they had in common with each other and/or with my son. One of the great benefits of making the film (and I hope of watching it) was to understand that I'm not alone. And neither is Sam. He has a community, and we will be raising him to take his place in it.

Kim: Is there anyone you wanted to interview for your documentary who you didn’t get? Do you hope to do a sequel in the future?

Todd: I was very lucky that just about everyone I approached agreed to be in the film. As for a sequel, autism is obviously going to be a lifelong interest of mine, and I would never say never. But from a filmmaking point of view, I think I need to try something different, and so I think my next film or two will be about other topics. 

Kim: Who do you hope to reach primarily with this documentary: members of the autism community or the wider world?

Todd: Well, yes. Both. More and more, people from the wider world will be meeting autistic people, and I hope that they will not view autism only as a terrible tragedy. And of course, some people from the wider world will eventually become part of the autism community. I hope my film might be helpful to parents or other family members who've just gotten a new diagnosis for a child or even to potential parents who are worried about autism. I think many people in our society could benefit from thinking in new ways about autism.

Kathleen: What inspired you to make this documentary? What made you do this now, while he was still so young?

Todd: Partially, it was because I had edited other documentaries and was looking to make one of my own. This topic was on my mind, and my son's obsession with lampposts seemed like a good way into asking some central questions about autism. Although there are many great documentaries about individual autistic people, I thought there was room for one that looked at how the culture thinks about autism at a time when it's more well-known than ever before.

As for why I made it when Sam was so young, doesn't every parent of a newly diagnosed child have a fantasy of talking to everyone else who's ever dealt with or thought about autism? I actually got to live out the fantasy, and making the film was part of the process of coming to terms with Sam's diagnosis. It's not like I was expert in all of these topics when I started. I may not be an expert now, but I can bring what I learned to my parenting of Sam, and if I hadn't made the film, I might be parenting him from a much more scared or confused place.


Kathleen: Has your son seen it, and if he has, what does your son think of it? Did he like it? Did you explain to him what and why you were doing this?

Todd: He's seen some of the parts that he's in and especially likes watching himself at the lampposts. But the central questions of the film and my reasons for making it are over his head right now, as they would be for any kid his age. I plan to show it to him when he's old enough to follow it, and I'll be very curious to hear his opinion about it.

Kathleen: What audience did you make this film for? What are you hoping to accomplish with this film?

Todd: I think I covered this one in the earlier question about who I hope to reach with the film.


Kim: Is there anything else you’d like to share about this film, any concluding thoughts you’d like to offer?

Todd: No, I think we've covered a lot of ground. Thanks for the thought provoking questions.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Autism Science Foundation: IAN Wandering Survey Results

http://myemail.constantcontact.com/New-Data-Show-50--of-Children-with-Autism-Wander.html?soid=1102564308585&aid=NGS7girZqxM Reposted with permission from http://www.autismsciencefoundation.org/
April 20, 2011 
New Data Show 50% of Children 
with Autism Wander
32% of Families Report a "Close Call" with Possible Drowning
Today, the Interactive Autism Network(IAN), www.ianproject.org, the nation's largest online autism research project, reported preliminary results of the first major survey on wandering and elopement among individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). The wandering and elopement survey found that approximately half of parents of children with autism report that their child elopes, with the behavior peaking at age four. Among these families, nearly 50% say that their child went missing long enough to cause significant concern about safety.

"This survey is the first research effort to scientifically validate that elopement is a critical safety issue for the autism community," said Dr. Paul Law, Director of the IAN Project at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. "We hope that advocates and policy makers use this research to implement key safety measures to support these families and keep these children safe."

"Gathering this information is the first step toward implementing public policy changes that will protect our children" said Alison Singer, president of the Autism Science Foundation. "We need to increase awareness and action among first responders, school administrators and residential facility administrators; we need to develop a medical classification code for wandering; and we need to expand the AMBER alert systems to protect children with autism."

In just three weeks, more than 800 parents of children with autism completed the survey. The findings highlighted below summarize the compelling results and crucial safety concerns identified by parents. For the preliminary findings in their entirety, read the IAN Research Report: Elopement and Wandering.

Dangers of Elopement
The tendency of individuals with ASD to wander or "bolt" puts them at risk of trauma, injury or even death:
More than one third of children who elope are never or rarely able to communicate their name, address, or phone number verbally or by writing/typing
Two in three parents report their missing children had a "close call" with a traffic injury
32% of parents report a "close call" with a possible drowning

Effect of Wandering on Families
Wandering was ranked among the most stressful ASD behaviors by 58% of parents of elopers
· 62% of families of children who elope were prevented from attending/enjoying activities outside the home due to fear of wandering
· 40% of parents had suffered sleep disruption due to fear of elopement
· Children with ASD are eight times more likely to elope between the ages of 7 and 10 than their typically-developing siblings

Resources, Support for Families
Half of families with elopers report they had never received advice or guidance about elopement from a professional
· Only 19% had received such support from a psychologist or mental health professional
· Only 14% had received guidance from their pediatrician or another physician


Motivations for Elopement
Despite speculation that summer is the peak season for elopement, 67% of parents of elopers said they saw no seasonal pattern at all; only 25% felt summer was the peak season. The top 5 reasons parents believed their children eloped included:


Enjoys exploring (54%)
Heads for a favorite place (36%)
Escapes demands/anxieties (33%)
Pursues special topic (31%)
Escapes sensory discomfort (27%)

After further analysis of the data the IAN Project will publish additional findings, such as how children with ASD who wander differ from children with ASD who do not, the financial and emotional burden on parents, and the steps parents take to prevent elopement. 

This research was funded by the Autism Research Institute, Autism Science Foundation, Autism Speaks and Global Autism Collaboration.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Part 4 of the PBS Autism Now: Demand for Educational Resources for Children Outstrips Supply

Loving Lampposts

Last night,  I wrote a piece on three documentaries on autism currently circulating, but I wanted to stop and focus here on just one: Loving Lampposts.




Released March 29 on DVD is a new documentary called Loving Lampposts. The director, Todd Drezner, has  recently written three posts at Huffington Post, "Learning to Embrace Autism," "Reconsidering the Nature of Autism," and "Autism: The Most Popular Disability" to create awareness of his documentary. This film is well-crafted and for folks familiar with the autism community, many of the more well-known autistic adults and activist parents are featured in the film, as are Richard Roy Grinker, Paul Offit, and Simon Baron-Cohen. 


Much like Kathleen's and my Autism Blogs Directory, this documentary is all inclusive, with most points of view represented. Parents who think vaccines are to blame, who use all manner of biomedical and alternative treatments, to parents who support a neurodiverse perspective are represented and treated respectfully, as is a father-daughter duo who have been a part of the facilitated communication movement since its inception in America.


I enjoyed watching this documentary and actually viewed it all the way through three separate times in working on the posts relating to it. It held up very well through all three viewings, and I think, based on my children's reactions as they wandered in on me viewing it, that it is an appealing documentary across the board. The children showcased in this piece are charming and engaging (and again, some of them are known to the community at large). 


Watching Kristina Chew with Charlie was a neat experience, and being able to tell the girlies that there was my friend Kristina with her son was lovely experience; the kids like to listen to the blogposts I share with them (and I try to do that, to give them the chance to connect with other autistic kids, to see others like them so that they know they are a part of a wider community). 


This is a documentary that most of us in the community can watch with our families and walk away with a positive feeling.


What isn't here, though, what must be acknowledged, is that the darker sides of autism are not focused on. Severely disabled autistic individuals are not represented here, nor are the struggles of those families, and I think that will strike those families who live in that reality as an oversight that is unforgivable. However, I think that the reality is that more families deal with mild to moderate disabilities than deal with the severe, and that this documentary represents the perspective of the director and his experiences with autism.


In the end, we see the world from our own vantage point. Drezner worked to widen his perspective and ventured out into the autism community; he met and talked with a pretty good swath of that community, although he avoided the harshest landscapes. But it's because he did so that I can recommend this documentary as something you can safely view with your children, and something that you probably should view with your family. It's a great launching point for more serious discussions.



Thursday, April 14, 2011

SILVERLINING GIRLS NIGHT OUT! A SHOPPING EVENT


FOR YOUR CALENDARS

SILVERLINING, in Culver City invites you to GIRLS NIGHT OUT! SHOPPING EVENT

Join us for great shopping, great prices and a great cause.  Don’t miss out on our amazing selection of beautiful new, vintage and gently used designer spring clothing and accessories and a 15% discount on every purchase made at the event. 

Come join us for fashion, food and fun and a chance to win a Silverlining gift certificate and other prizes.

Silverlining is a designer resale boutique & innovative training center for students with autism, learning differences & other challenges.

Thursday, April 28
4:00-8:00pm

Silverlining
12095 Washington Blvd
Culver City, CA 90066

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Update on Restraint Video

I have emails out to interested parties and am awaiting their responses, but while we wait, I wanted to share some information.


In addition to the video, there is this story on Magnolia School. They have engaged in 448 incidents of restraint in the first two and a half months of the year. A comparable school has engaged in 11 during the same time period.


The restraint shown in the video appears to be this restraint: Ultimate Restraint System.



Go back to the video. The restraint is demonstrated incorrectly. The person should go face up. Note that the grown woman is too small for the restraint. Note the potential for suffocation. However, the school is putting them in FACE DOWN; the news story notes that: "These are padded mats with a stiff board inside. Students are immobilized while standing up, then laid facedown on the device. Thick flaps are placed over their shoulders, midsection and legs to hold them in place."


Now, back to the story:

 "Several times this year, students at Magnolia were held in these devices more than two hours.
Magnolia staff said they follow a strict protocol, bringing in a nurse after 15 minutes to watch the student's breathing and focusing a fan on the child's upper body. If the child is restrained for more than an hour, an administrator must sign off on it."

Again, there's no justification for this. And the fact that they are using the device wrong, may be using it on children too small for it, and are using it for hours ought to give reasonable people pause. Especially given that a similar school in the district somehow manages to deal with the issues in a different way that does not involve restraint.

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