Friday, July 30, 2010


The new school year is just around the corner. If your young person is attending public school or a private one, here are a few suggestions to ease the difficulties and nervousness associated with those first days of classes.

1. Coach him/her to greet each teacher by name when entering the classroom; more challenging for secondary students due to class changes, but achievable nonetheless.

2. Take a tour of the campus with him/her; school personnel will be happy to oblige you...go over the class schedule while there.

3. Arrange a time to meet each teacher/aide during the first grading period; share helpful insights if needed.

4. Get to know the campus administrators so they will know your child by face and name.

5. Inspect the girl/boy for cleanliness before she/he leaves the house--teeth MUST be brushed. Kids on the spectrum tend to be unaware of current modes of dress, so make sure clothing is up to date...this will eliminate some social problems.

6. It is my humble, albeit accurate, opinion that every student with autism attending school should be assigned to a counselor or other support staff to monitor
progress and provide trouble shooting when--not if--an issue raises its ugly head. That staff member can also teach those necessary social skills.

7. If your child is not part of the special ed program he should be, to ensure the best possible opportunity to succeed. A personal relationship with a diagnostician can prove to be invaluable. A workable BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan) addressing social adroitness, at least, should be in place.

8. A better than even chance exists that little or no training in autism has been provided to staff...lobbying administrators, all the way to the top, may be necessary.

School districts desire and are required to try to teach every child who walks through the door of the classroom...sometimes they do need some encouragement or gentle prodding.

The year will present challenges and opportunities for achievement...This little blog will attempt to discuss them from an educator's insider viewpoint.

Two first grade boys are walking home after school. One boy is obviously feeling dejected. The other one says "It's like my grandaddy says, 'Some days you're the dog, some days you're the fire hydrant.'"

bye, now

Saturday, July 10, 2010


Specialedder is intending to offer an "insider" perspective on public schools' attempt to navigate the maze that autism presents...philosophically, practically, politically, etc.....without any "sugar coating". Hopefully, any reader will not be put off by seemingly blunt statements.

I just attended my very first National Autism Society Conference. There are amazing people serving the needs of kids on the spectrum; there are amazing Aspies out there also. One the most enjoyable sessions concerned blogging about autism;, and bloggers were featured...these highly popular sites will be worthwhile reading for anyone interested in peeking into the Asperger mind.

Mr.Bob also found pleasure in positive affirmation that he's on the right track in his efforts to enable the young people in his school district...he has much more to learn, but he's going in the right direction.

As is the case anytime groups gather to discuss ASD, public schools were a front-line topic...necessarily so, since becoming educated is part of growing up. Naturally, teachers and classrooms constituted a major part of the discourse. Many comments from parents and clinical professionals were critical of the attitudes (perceived or real), policies, and practices of school districts and staff members, in particular; some expressed concerns were legitimate....some were unfair and unrealistic. While I won't elaborate at this writing (I need fodder for future entries), suffice it to say that public education is a massive bureaucratic ship turning ever so slowly, but not always so surely. And by the way, teachers desire to properly instruct kids on the spectrum--"they just don't always know how".

George and his family were close friends with my parents and sister. I liked George also, I just didn't know how to talk to him...neither did anyone else. Being the counselor guy, I saw him as non relating due to a lack of self-confidence; so I made concerted unsuccessful attempts to converse with him. It was evident that he possessed a high degree of intelligence, he had an obsession with "balancing the books," he spent an inordinate amount of time playing with my young children. After the death of my mother it was my responsibility to move "sis" to Dallas. George and family were there to help. Well, THEY were; George was disoriented, his posture was awkward, he had no idea what to do unless someone gave him explicit directions, he was constantly in the way. I was grieving, worn out, impatient...I was unkind. George is obviously on the autism spectrum. That was 15 years ago, before knowing about ASD...on my next visit to parents' grave site, maybe I'll look him up, buy lunch...see how he's doing.

Specialedder is off to the hospital for a few days--buying a new shoulder to go with the other new shoulder.

hasta la bye bye

Wednesday, June 16, 2010



Any neurotypical adult wishing to build superior communication skills should spend some quality time with an Aspie. One can never assume that boy or girl is processing your words in the manner you intended. BIP's for our school district's children on the spectrum always include an objective or strategy the teacher can use to determine whether the pupil(s) has understood the phrasiolgy employed in the directions for completing an assignment. Taking a few moments to clarify word meanings has proven to be beneficial. I try to instruct teachers to avoid a general "Do you understand?" or "Are there any questions?" Good advice for parents, also.

His assessment indicates an IQ at 140+, but performed poorly in the high school classroom; no amount of encouragement, detentions, begging and pleading yielded any effort on his part. He would tell instructors he would conform, but their "demands don't make sense." Question: by "don't make sense" do you mean difficult to understand? "No, I understand them perfectly." Question: Do you mean trite, or silly or unreasonable or something along those lines? "No." So alright already, unpack your thinking for me. "When I die at thirty, I don't want to have spent my life doing something I didn't want to do."


Expand on lesson 1....clarify, clarify, clarify. I try to teach my charges to communicate by clarifying, also....difficult for him/her to do when the student cannot read facial expressions or nuances of language or engage in abstract thought. Some Au kids work at communicating, many don't....the process can be uncomfortable, or, "I'd rather not mess with it." But, we press on.

A kindergarten teacher backs over the tricycle in the driveway. She gets out to survey the damage and exclaims "OH OH OH, LOOK LOOK LOOK." (Dick and Jane)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010


It is the practice of the blogger to try to "get in the heads" of the individuals with whom he spends the school day. Each of them has a frame of reference, a world view, a unique way of looking at life; just as you and I see life from our own perspective. A measure of comprehending "where he/she is coming from", to my way of thinking, is key to enabling each young person to function more successfully at school and the world in general. Toys, games, social lessons, role playing, etc., are employed to instruct and encourage, but, plugging in to that frame of reference is vital. Although the process can be exhausting, it's worth the effort in the long haul. Getting in on the thinking of these kids on the spectrum has provided a wealth of insight on life from their point of view

Anecdotal accounts are from Asperger and PDD/NOS middle school, high school students, usually in their own words; when school starts up readers will hear words from k-3. Parents of my charges are aware of the use of anonymous statements made by their children. In our sessions together we "unpack our thinking" (usually when playing a game of some kind) on a range of issues pertaining to that boy or girl on THAT particular day; next counseling session may be on a different topic, because he/she is thinking about something else that day..... or hour. Getting Au people to change subjects or address an issue of no interest at that time or hour can be a daunting task... but we press on.

Clarifying the meanings of words and and phrases can be critical to communicating with them. A high school student was really struggling with his term paper [may I say that long term projects or assignments are often overwhelming to these kids (more on this some other time)]; he was struggling with writing the rough draft; in a week of writing only a sentence had been written. His English teacher, content mastery teacher, his counselor(yours truly) talked, explained, reasoned almost to exhaustion. Want to know his hange-up? The word "rough" the neurotypicals "rough draft" meant practice or working draft before the final work is completed. His meaning of the word "rough"? "Hard".."It MEANS hard to do, so I'm working on it as HARD I can." Once we got passed that he went on to finish. ARD eventually placed him in a self-paced class, because English teacher refused to work with the need for word clarification , in spite of the fact that the boy's BIP(glossary) addresses it. That instructor's mind set is NOT in the majority, by the way.

Rules..."high functioning" (glossary) Au's love rules, don't they? (the reasons for loving rules are fairly well established). Our boys and girls can irritate others with their insistence on the unwayvering adherence to the rules (such obsessing serves to keep many out of trouble). My third encounter with Asperger's was a highly intelligent young fellow who should be completing a BS in physics, by now. He daily faced harsh words, derision, ostracising, numerous office refferals, due to his outbursts over rule breaking by classmates, irregardles of how minor the infraction. "They're not supposed to be talking during work." So, he took it upon himself to correct the behavior. He was kicked off the weight lifting team, because he kept yelling at team mates for "goofing off, all the time." He yelled at the coach for failing to correct what he considered wrong behavior. Ever wish you had known more, so you could have helped a kid(glossary)? Thankfully, I can now do a better job of enabling my young friends.

I digress a lot, please bear with me, that's the way my brain works.

A four and a five year old are sitting on the curb. Four year old is down in the dumps. Five year old says, "I know how you feel, I was kid once myself."

Later gator

Monday, June 14, 2010


Writing a blog expressing one's observations, experiences, etc., is not difficult at all....writing in such a way as to convey them in a comprehensible, readable fashion is an entirely different manner. Reading material in the "blogosphere" has proven beneficial; many talented, creative people are out there with proper motives, valuable insights. Autism blogs I've read are generally very personal and often emotional{understandably so, particularly on the part of parents or other care givers}. Hopefully, the perspective from a public school special education counselor will prove beneficial and sometimes entertaining.

My original stint as a special education counselor began as an act of providence-literally---a significant number of years [first teaching job was at Carrizozo,NM 1970-1975] had been spent in the classroom and guidance office when the opportunity was presented to do real counseling and behavior therapy. The world of counseling for special needs children has morphed into an area requiring specialized training. Special education counselor certification has become a thing of the past; licensed professional counselors and specialists in school psychology are in demand due in large part to the growing numbers of children diagnosed with autism. I am sympathetic toward that credentialed paradigm, so I'm updating...besides, those young adults--actually my local competition for employment averages 30 something, which is young to me-- with advanced credentials are bright, energetic advocates for kids(glossary).

Temple Grandin provided my first experience with Asperger syndrome. She had a booth at the state counseling conference displaying her books and other resources; customers were buying her books and she was autographing them....from behind a partition she had erected....she refused to come out and meet anyone; a helper would take the books to her. We didn't know what to make of her "eccentric behavior"; I hear she's much improved in that aspect of her life. A few years later a young man from an assigned school district came into my life and began to teach me about AS...he was in fourth grade, well informed about AS, willingly broadening the understanding of any interested individual. He should graduate from high school next year...he's become a dear friend.

The adventure has continued, as some twelve diagnosed aspies and PDD/NOS young people (also have two or three undiagnosed, in my view) are on my caseload. Great kids they very different from each other; about the time one succumbs to the delusion that one knows something about Autism, their uniqueness convinces him/her that he/she really knows very little. Some of us face the prospect of being humbled practically every day. The body of neuro and genetic research reveals the complexities of "higher functioning"(glossary) autistic individuals, thus making instruction in social and coping strategies a major challenge, thus explaining the humbling that takes place. Perhaps my approach makes the endeavor more difficult...we "unpack our thinking" and avoid information sharing or yes/no answers in an attempt to build some neural connections for abstraction. By the brain is gradually convincing itself (is that possible?) that care givers at all levels, parents to professionals, should take up amateur "brainology".

Thanks for indulging me today, Special edder has been in the making for years.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


KIDS: Term of Endearment...also rug rat, goofball, my main man, sweet pea, silly thing, etc...TE is a good teaching tool for abstract socialization.

BIP: Behavior Intervention Plan(some prefer Improvement, but Intervrntion is legal one) are a major issue in schools.

HIGH FUNCTIONING AUTISM: DSM-5 is re-categorizing autism; designations such as Asperger syndrome, PDD/NOS may be removed--in favor of delineating levels of severity.

FOLKS: Folks in these parts use the word all the time.

Additions ongoing