Sunday, May 30, 2010
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Monday, May 17, 2010
I am always delighted to see families of typical kids who make an effort to explain autism and our kids with autism to their own kids. Michele Spring Fajeau is one of those parents helping to make the world a little more accepting for our children. Here, she reviews My Brother Charlie by Holly Robinson Peete and Ryan Elizabeth Peete. This post was originally published in April on her blog. —Jean
Nearly 1.75 million Americans have autism. Two of those “Americans” are family friends – little guys who I have known since they were born, rocked in my arms and chased around the yard with my own son. The boys are my son’s age and as my son grew more articulate and playful, they became more quiet and introspective. Nine years later, they each are challenged with friendship and navigating new situations. They are also kind and funny and very smart.
In the beginning, my son and I talked a lot about autism. What? Why? How come? Having little to no experience with autism, I choose my words carefully – often wondering how to explain the unexplainable. But, what if a child could explain autism to another child? At 12 years old, Ryan Peete delivers her twin brother’s story of autism in a new children’s books, “My Brother Charlie.” It’s a simple and genuine story.
Ryan Peete wrote the story with her mother and actress Holly Robinson Peete to raise awareness and understanding of children with autism. Ryan’s authentic voice as a child tells both the difficult and hopeful story of her twin brother, Charlie. She explains how hard it is when Charlie doesn’t play or speak or look at her. She celebrates when Charlie unexpectedly tells her for the first time, “I love you.”
“My Brother Charlie” is a must-read for all pre-school children. Told from the perspective of a child, the story explains autism in a way that kids can understand. It also models how to be compassionate and patient with children who have autism without the preachy overtones that an adult might interject.
For the last week or so, this is the book my 5-year old daughter has chosen to read each night. Even after finishing the story, she continues to ask me about Charlie and his sister. She is captivated by them – the real brother and sister. He is a kid with autism and she, a girl who writes. “Turn the book over, Mommy,” my daughter commands. On the backside, there are two photos of Charlie (whose real name is RJ) and Ryan, who have each become role models for character and kindness in our house.
As April draws to a close, you still have time to enjoy a book of compassion and cup of cuddles with your “littles” in honor of National Autism Month.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Whatever type of program you are looking for, be sure to research widely, following up on ideas from teachers, therapists, friends, and neighbors, and getting feedback on programs from social networking groups for parents of children with disabilities. You may be surprised at how many program options you can find when you search for programs at camp fairs, county recreation departments, community centers, private schools, and the many private providers of activities in the arts, sports, outdoors, travel, science, technology and more.
JSSA (Jewish Social Service Agency), a nonprofit, nonsectarian community agency, partners with other organizations to provide day camps—Camp Shalom in Fairfax County and BFF (Building and Fostering Friendships) Camp in Montgomery County. Both teach social skills within a fun, recreational environment for children of all faiths with learning disabilities, ADHD and Asperger’s Syndrome.
Depending on your child’s age and interests, you may also want to look for choices beyond the Washington area. A variety of sleep-away camps provide a supportive environment for children with special needs. Two to consider are Summit Camp in Pennsylvania, whose campers have ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome, learning disabilities and social skill needs, and Kamp A-Kom-Plish, an inclusive camp in southern Maryland whose campers include those with developmental and physical disabilities.
Remember that much of the information you may need to evaluate camps and activities for your individual child isn’t found on websites or in brochures. Supplement those resources with direct inquiries by phone or email so you can introduce your child’s specific needs to the program’s organizers and discuss important concerns.
Questions like these may help you zero in on whether a program is a good match for your son or daughter:
Philosophy and Staffing
• What is the camp’s philosophy on serving children with different abilities? Do they modify activities so all children can participate?
•How much supervision is offered? What background or experience do the staff have in working with a child like yours? Does the camp provide its own special needs training?
• Is the camp willing to work with you to learn how to give your child the necessary support?
• Is the camp open to you hiring an aide to help your child if the camp is unable to provide one?
• Can parents communicate with the staff to get updates on the child’s experiences?
• Is there a nurse on staff for children taking medications or who have medical issues?
• What facilities does the camp have? Are they accessible to children with physical disabilities?
• Is there a place to cool off if the weather gets too hot?
• How long do individual activities last, and how many transitions do the children make during the day?
• How many community outings or out-of-camp field trips are offered? How long do they last?
• Do children make their own choices of activities, or do they move with a group from one assigned activity to another?
• How much time is spent outdoors and indoors?
Jamell White, LCSW-C is clinical director of special needs and deaf services at JSSA. For more information about JSSA’s broad range of programs and services for children, teens and young adults, please visit www.jssa.org