Moms With Disabled Children Struggle To Climb The Career Ladder When Children Are Older An FYI For Employers And Society At Large

Mari Nosal another fine article
Moms With Disabled Children Struggle To Climb The Career Ladder When Children Are Older An FYI For Employers And Society At Large

It is my privilege to be featuring an article by Mari Nosal this week. She has great insight into the lives of parents and educators of special needs children–>
I have just come back from my umpteenth interview. I have a dream of working in the non profit arena in a community based program helping to empower parents and children to live the most fulfilling life possible. As many of my readers know I have a young adult son with Aspergers and ADD and spent many years fighting for his proper diagnosis ,intervention, and support. Many people with older children on the spectrum recall that Aspergers was not a household word a decade ago. Many supports and better identification techniques abound in the present that were not available when my son was young.

My older son developed a seizure disorder at age 11 which stabilized at age 18 all though is still medication controlled at age 26. The neurologist calls the medication a “band aid effect”. Grand mals were infrequent but focal seizures were frequent during age 11 to 18. For those of you that are not acquainted with focals, children can speak to you but can not answer questions that require recall such as phone numbers, where their mom or dad works etc. On other occasions these children will freeze like statues and must be gently guided to their bed, etc.

I make my statement with a point. Assisting two children let alone one born 22 months apart into some semblance of normalcy takes a toll on family dynamics, husband wife relationship, sibling relationships, and the family dynamics as a whole. Parents in this situation work hard to keep some family normalcy. It is hard work. We are just like any parent, merely wanting the best for our children. Like any parent we will go to the ends of the earth sacrificing our own needs to insure our children’s, and families needs are met.

My research shows that Moms with disabled kids experience less career growth, and tend to earn less money than parents without children with challenges because their children’s demands require extra effort, i.e. therapy appointments, i.e.p.s, and most important intensive ca-retaking demands. In a nutshell Mom cannot be in two places at once and selflessly chooses her children’s welfare over a fat paycheck and a BMW in the driveway. I love my family and would not have had it any other way!!!!!

To contribute financially when my children were young, I worked double shifts on weekends, overnight shifts, evenings during the week, resultant in small amounts of sleep in the evening so I could tend to my kids while my husband was working during the day. I know many woman have done the same thing to make sure their children were properly cared for. Thus, validating my research that woman with special needs kids earn less money.

As a Massachusetts resident this is confirmation to Mitt Romney that I was not a slacker.

Now that I have elucidated on the distinct issues that parents with special needs kids face daily, I will elaborate on my initial statement regarding Moms with older kids attempting to enter the career ladder and fulfill their long forgotten goals. As my children grew and stabilized, I decided to go back to college. This culminated in a bachelors degree in Psychology with a minor in sociology in 2005 cum laude. I continued towards my goal of an advanced degree. I completed that in late August 2009 with a 3.78 average. My thesis on education reform and school age programs cancan be found in book form on Amazon.com.

Entering the non profit arena has proved to be difficult. I specifically wish to work with special needs families. I always make it to the second interview to be number two or number three choice. The rationale is always that I did not have enough experience with special needs population. My rebuttal to the world is bold but I must make it.

Parents who bring up children with special needs possess a unique level of experience that would be an asset to any company. We have a unique reflective empathetic capacity born from walking down the path of others in our shoes. We do not get a paycheck for this work but it is work nonetheless. It is a job with no time clock – 24 hours a day. It is a job that does not receive much recognition, merely the ultimate goal of insuring that our children grow into the most independent functioning adults that they can.

Parents walk with your head up high knowing that you are selflessly performing the most difficult job in the world, assuring your child’s well being, and happiness.

To employers here are some of the qualifications I would put on a resume for parents of special needs kids. Although not monetarily compensated it is experience non the less. Never underestimate the power of a special needs parents background.

Experience:

Advocate – nurse -chauffeur – therapist – organizer – special needs advocate – cook who specializes in the palate of special needs children – mind reader and more

Special qualities :

Empathetic – reflective – doesn’t waver emotionally during a crisis – stays positive when life throws curve balls – responsible, altruistic and more

I have gone out on a limb writing an article so personal but I hope I speak for all parents who are not recognized for their unpaid experiences. My goal si to have this article reach as many people as possible on behalf of special needs parents. Education is power.

Special needs parents,you possess many skills, and some are learned through life experience, not merely within a paid job. I speak on all your behalf so you walk with your head up high and remember your fulfillment comes from within you, be proud, and never give up.

Mari N. , M.Ed., CECE

I am you an awesome poem by the truly exceptional Mari Nosal(M.Ed., CECE)!!!

I am You

I am you and you are me
For God created us all
The grass is greener on your side, but I shall climb the wall
I have many talents as you’ll see
Even though you view me differently
You laugh and sneer when I join your game
You ignore me when I ask your name
You think emotions I do lack
You talk about me behind my back
I shed many tears because of vengeful peers
I painfully endure the constant leers
But I am smart, make no mistake
I am here to say, a great friend I would make
Take the time, just be my friend
And misunderstandings, with time we’ll mend
It may take me longer to climb the wall
And along the way I may fall
But I will climb again until I get it right
And when I do you will see my plight
For I am you and you are me
We can be friends as you will see
I hope, I dream, and want to grow
We are not so different you will know
Some call me learning disabled
But I am handicapable
With a zest for life, and humor to match
That if you spend enough time with me you will catch
Just be my friend, and help me grow
In return, my talents to you I’ll show
For I am you and you are me
God doesn’t make junk as you will see.

 

What makes a good educator by the Stellar Mari Nosal!!

Mari Nosal Best Teacher
Mari Nosal Best Teacher

I really like this article, its references to ancient literature. I believe a community does need to work together, and support one another. They do not seem to, can not get the funding to get our autism arts foundation rolling, but it in a perfect world it is the right thing to do.
I find Mari’s writing to be very interesting, and compelling.

“To live with Apathy is to live with evil men”. Plato described the essential ingredient of human survival when he coined this powerful statement. If mankind does not function as an interdependent group, humanity as we know it would die. Humanity does not reside in a bubble. Society consists of people from different walks of life. Situations may vary amongst the human race. One commonality is shared amongst our society. That commonality is the need for assistance from fellow human beings.

Human design leaves all humans with fleeting moments of failure and despair in their lives. In order for those moments to be fleeting, and not long-term, emotional support from others is nonnegotiable. This is self – evident in the field of education. Team work and a positive educational system result in a fluid symmetry that benefits the student, parent, child, and society alike. A positive educational experience is dependent on a network of people that work cohesively as a unit. As Uri Bronfenbrenner believed, social, emotional, familial, and environmental issues are all part of the educational process.

A teacher cannot be expected to perform all of the above functions alone. A supportive team for the teacher is imperative when difficulties arise. Cohesiveness is the strongest ingredient in terms of a positive classroom climate. Teachers, educators, administrators, and the community must work together for a mutual goal. That goal is the successful assimilation of children into our society; the end result is children who are empowered with the skill set needed to be future productive adult members of society. As educators, one gets one opportunity to assist children in developing to their fullest capacity. Children are not commodities. If mistakes are made, they are irreparable. The deleterious out come will be a child who carries negative self efficacy into adulthood.

Educators have the monumental responsibility of mapping the successful or negative outcome of a child’s life. It is an awesome responsibility. Fluid symmetry between all people responsible for a child’s positive outcome must be supportive of each other. A teacher that lacks support will inevitably harbor feelings of futility. Futility will breed an apathetic demeanor. The end result will be a teacher who loses their zest for teaching, and a child who loses their zest for learning. My personal goal is to equip myself with the knowledge to help people within the community. I dream of a utopian world. All human beings will be assisted in gaining the tools necessary for a self productive life. Everyone in society would be equipped with the skills needed for self empowerment and positive self efficacy. The aforementioned skills are the building blocks to travel the road to success. May no one in the educational community be unsupported. May No Child Be Left Behind.

Mari Nosal M.Ed

Memoirs From Halloween – A Pumpkin Became A Classroom Learning Tool by Mari Nosal, Guest Writer Extra-ordinaire

Memoirs From Halloween – A Pumpkin Became A Classroom Learning Tool
Memoirs From Halloween – A Pumpkin Became A Classroom Learning Tool

I would like to thank the amazing Mari Nosal for adding articles to our site. As seen in the article it is funny sometimes how a simple object or statement or situation can really change the dynamics of an environment. It shows how something basic can be a great tool for education and other people.

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/06/05/memoirs-from-halloween-a-pumpkin-became-a-classroom-learning-tool/

The school age children had the day off from school. I worked a nine-hour day. My kindergarten charges joined me for the day as the kindergarten room follows the public school schedule. It was a test of my patience and energy as the curriculum was non academic for the day. I had forgotten Friday was a school holiday. I perused my curriculum and realized I would need to restructure it to keep the children engaged. I had thirty minutes before I was due to leave for work. I searched around my house for supplies I could bring in for added activities. I resigned myself to the fact that I would leave early and grab supplies from the local convenience store. As I prepared to leave, I spied a huge pumpkin on my deck.

My family used it for mere decoration I rationalized. My kids are young adults, they wouldn’t miss it. I grabbed the pumpkin and threw it in my car. Several activities could be had from this one pumpkin. I ran back in the house and found shaving cream. Another Aha moment, shaving cream puffy paint would be enjoyed by everyone. Sometimes I amaze myself at how quickly I can develop a project out of desperation and common household products. Flexibility is a major component in being a successful teacher. Successful adaptation to any situation ensures a lack of chaos in the classroom.

I dropped the pumpkin in my class and scurried down the hall to retrieve my charges that had been dropped off at an earlier time. We sat and broached the day’s activities as a team, killing time until the rest of the class came in. thirty minutes later we had a full house. We went to circle time and I pulled out a book that was on my curriculum. As soon as the children saw it they begged for me to read a book from a series we had used the past week. I took a vote. The Magic School Bus Scours the Ocean Floor Was retired in lieu of a book about children who couldn’t find their shoes and designed footwear out of the likes of meatloaf and bologna!

It was a vacation day for the kids so I decided to let them have a part in the curriculum and go light on them. After reading the book we observed and talked about the pumpkin. The children were enamored by the pumpkin carving kit I brought in. It was safe for children and I believe in a format that allows for independent exploration. In order to teach team work the children were broken into teams and I instructed them to draw four different faces that they would carve. I injected humor by stating that with four different faces we could turn the pumpkin around when we got bored with one face. After drawing their mark, we headed outside with the pumpkin and started carving. The children were extremely excited with the experience of using carving tools. After carving was done we proceeded to dig out the guts. Some children were apprehensive about sticking their hands in the guts so I offered gloves. They dug out and placed the flesh in one pan. The seeds were placed in another.

At this point the children were ready for free time and the pumpkin was temporarily laid to rest. Some children wanted to ask questions about the seeds and flesh. A mini science class ensued for the children who wished to continue our pumpkin adventure. I held the tiny seed next to the pumpkin for comparison. I explained how the pumpkin we cut open grew from a seed just like the one we held in our hand. This went on for thirty minutes or so. I was shocked at the interest. After lunch, I took the class on a field trip to the kitchen. We rinsed the seeds and flesh. The children remarked on the slimy feeling. I explained how the texture would change upon baking the treat. Cinnamon was sprinkled on our treat. We than baked these items.

At snack time I presented the items for exploration to the children. The pumpkin seeds were popular. I assume the children had eaten them in the past. The pumpkin flesh was viewed with a degree of trepidation. I inquired as to who liked pumpkin pie. The majority of the children did. When I explained that what they were looking at was the main ingredient in the pie they looked at me with confusion. I believe in exploration of the unknown, so I pushed the issue. I asked my little pessimistic friends to take one small taste. If it was not palatable they were welcome to spit it out. Most children were pleasantly surprised. A simple pumpkin had afforded the children a new experience.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Aspergers Syndrome The Hidden Disorder by Mari Nosal

autism nosal pict
autism nosal pict

This article is very valid. I am asperger’s, have always been a brainiac so was considered a bit different but normal. In 43 years, I have had few friends. I am married but other than my wife, I have had no real friends in decades. I want friends,but people do not get me. I reach out to people and ask them to help my non-profit but it is a struggle.

I hear from people all the time, that I need to work on this or that socially, or to slow down, or simplify. It really annoys me at time, why should I have to change who I am for them, why can’t they expand their level of understanding. I am told your eye contact is bad,it has hurt me many times over the years in job interviews because I talk fast, and have poor eye contact. As LMFAO says sort of, I am autistic and I know it..

I really like Mari’s article and can relate in many regards.

Lately, I haven been observing comments regarding what Aspergers is, how it effects the lives and family of individuals living with this syndrome , their family, and individuals whom they have daily interaction with. My experiences and opinions conveyed in this article are not internet and research related. They are resultant from bringing up a son who lives with Aspergers daily.

Aspergers is not outgrown, nor curable. Individuals with Aspergers merely learn compensatory strategies as they grow and silently struggle daily with their difficulty communicating, working with, and living with the neurotypical population. Aspergerers is a neurological disorder which effects many aspects of their daily lives. Because they tend to have normal to above normal I.Q.s, society perceives them as merely quirky loners.

The old phrase, “One cannot tell a book by it”s cover” is an appropriate analogy here. Ican equate their issues with a cast. When one sees an individual with a cast, they know that individual has a broken bone. In regards TO Aspergers, these individuals look like functioning neurotypicals on the exterior. I will now explain that is not the case.

Aspergians have issues impairments with communication, appropriate behavior, and socialization, or assimilation in the neurotypical society if you will. Children with Asperger’s have excellent and advanced expressive language skills. (speaking to people) Aspergians have large vocabularies and are excellent at conveying data, information, what happened on a T.V. show, etc. i.e. factual information. They often have difficulty in reciprocal conversations.

Their difficulty conversing in social situations goes beyond a lack of interest. On the contraire, they silently wish that they could socialize better. I recall my son calling from college. He attempted to join groups because he wanted to fit in with other students. He attempted to join the Frisbee club, but impaired motor skills hampered that effort. He attempted to join in at parties but difficulties with reciprocal conversation squelched that effort.

My son called me at home making me aware of his efforts to fit in, have a girlfriend and more. He informed me of his efforts to make friends and socialize. My heart broke silently when he said, “Mom I try and try to fit in but it is not working, can you teach me?” I suggested he join the computer club and he responded by saying, I only like computers because I have nothing else. My computer is my only entertainment.

Aspergers creates havoc in terms of the individual’s ability to process information, strategize, and receive information. Hence, their difficulty with receptive language. (Processing and absorbing information) Reading body language and knowing how to respond when someone is sad, despondent, or distressed is difficult for Aspergians. I recall a gentleman telling me that he wished he new what to say or do when his wife was upset.

The man told me that it hurt him greatly because he wanted to say and do the right thing in such situations but did not know how.

Individuals with Aspergers are prone to sensory overload when presented with loud noises, strong odors, office environments where several conversations are going on simultaneously, and parties where background music is playing while people attempt to converse with them. It is not uncommon for Aspergians to have tertiary anxiety disorder which rear their ugly face in situations mentioned in the latter paragraph. Aspergers is a neurological condition.

On the surface they tend to be academic prodigiesin certain areas of academia. Hence their nickname as children of the little professor. In reference to language skills, many aspergians speak in a concrete format and upon further review in a reciprocal conversation their sentences may be out of context. Due to receptive processing language deficits, many individuals have difficulty with being given more than several steps through the auditory modality at one time.

It is a misnomer that Aspergians do not warrant speech therapy. On the contrary, speech therapy can assist children in honing expressive language skills i.e. using descriptors, expressing emotions verbally, describing an experience like a trip to the zoo in more than rote terminology. Speech therapy can also assist children with deficits in sequencing. An example of sequencing would be verbally summarizing a story in sequential order.

Aspergians tend to struggle with fine and gross motor skill impairment as well due to neurological impairment. Pincer grip issues can cause issues with difficulty in cutting with scissors, tying shoes, and other fine motor skill tasks. Tasks such as bowling with one hand, midline issues, riding a bike, and climbing trees can prove difficult as well. Hand grip is generally weak and hampers ability in hanging on to jungle gym rungs, etc. Hence they tend to be ostracized by their peers not only for their social deficits, but lack of athletic prowess as well. Thus, they may benefit from physical therapy.

Aspergians may commonly present with A.D.H.D., Non Verbal processing disorder, and other maladies. They may not appear to stim. Upon further observation however on will notice that many aspergians run their hands up and down a drinking cup, have feet or legs that are in constant motion, stretch arms bent at elbows while turning wrists, tap tables and feet, and whistle, to name a few. These may be used forms of mild stimming to release anxiety.

Aspergians tend to prefer simple foods void of mixed flavors when young. This is due to sensory overload from heightened taste buds. Simplified, a spaghetti sauce can put their taste buds into sensory overload. It is extremely common for Aspergians to have tactile sensitivities. As children, a scratchy tag or rough texture shirt can drive them to the point of sensory overload, which is resultant in an emotional meltdown. A rough shirt may feel like someone is scratching their back with fingernails.

Due to mind blindness and neurological delays in development that normally place them approximately four years behind their peers, children with Aspergers are prone to being bullied. Cognitive behavior therapy may be productive in assisting children with developing emotional skills.

Please attempt to understand these children. Do not minimize nor assume that they go on to lead independent fulfilling lives. Many of these children grow up to be underemployed due to inept social skills. A college degree does not guarantee a decent due to neurologically based social, and processing difficulties. Due to popular belief not every aspergian becomes an engineer or scientist. They are as diverse as you and I. In my sons case, he is advanced in English but struggles with math and he is an Aspergian.

The divorce rate is extremely high for Aspergians in relation to neurotypical couples. Some go through life having no romantic relationship or friends due to struggling with navigating the social maze. Without society’s assistance and a nationwide education program these children will not hone their wonderful talents.

Society owes these children AND adults a fighting chance. They cannot always control their behavior and depend on us (society) to equip them with the skills, guidance, and positive support network that they need to thrive as adults. Believe in children and they will believe in themselves.

In closing, I leave you with this food for thought. Not all disabilities are as apparent as a blind individual with a cane, an individual in a wheel chair, etc. Please attempt to look below the surface and understand. Thanks and stay well.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

Tips to Encourage Development of Social Skills of Children on the Autism Spectrum in the Classroom by Mari Nosal.

Mari Nosal
Mari Nosal

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/tips-to-encourage-development-of-social-skillsof-children-on-the-autism-spectrum-used-in-my-classroom/

This is an interesting article with regards to social skills for children on the autism spectrum recently published by Mari Nosal. I wish that there were more program for autism when I was growing up, the problem is that if you do very well academically the system ignored difficulties with athletics and social skills to a large degree when I was in School in the 1980’s.

Here is the fine article–>

1) Set aside a table in the corner of the room. Make sure ample space is provided in proximity to other activities. In doing so, the child on the autism spectrum will not feel crowded or feel as though their personal space is being intruded upon.This should be left out as a long-term project and can be used to encourage non threatening solitary play during times when the child is anxious and needs space. It can also be used to gradually encourage participation in a group project, even if the child is parallel playing.Place a puzzle, snap together model, or construction project on the table. Children on the spectrum are often attracted to items like these. They are great as they can be done in groups or as a solitary activity.Children on the Spectrum will generally allow a trusted adult to assist with the project. On the first day allow the child to work on the task alone and get comfortable with surroundings. On the second day ask if you can participate in the project.Other children will inevitably wander over out of curiosity and ask to join in. When the child is engrossed in the project let him/her know that you need to step away for a moment. Make your absence short, no more than a couple of minutes. Each day lengthen the time that you step back from the group by a couple of minutes.This can be successfully orchestrated in a one on one card game as well. Play cards one on one with the child. As other children become curious and ask to join the game hand your cards to one child and step aside for a few minutes using procedures already mentioned.If this is done slowly over a week or so you should be able to start coaching versus being involved in what will have become a group project at this point. Intervening will be done at this point only during the presence of behaviors or peer difficulties.

Tabletop long-term projects can also be used to redirect a child to a solitary activity when the signs of over-stimulation appear.

2) When it is group cleanup time in the classroom, children on the spectrum can get anxious, and overstimulated if too many children are in close proximity to them. Using an example of putting wooden blocks away, discreetly place some blocks a few feet away from the other children who are cleaning up. Again, this will assist the autistic child in feeling non – threatened.Ask the child to please put the blocks away in the bin. He/she will generally comply dropping the blocks in the bin quickly and walking away. As time goes on move the blacks slightly closer to the other children during clean up time. As the child is introduced to this concept slowly and over a period of time they will generally feel comfortable after a week or two.These ideas can be adapted to group play at home as well. Invite a maximum of two or three children over as more will overwhelm a child with social, emotional, and sensory issues. Initially, sit with the children and encourage group play with a play dough kit, race track, etc. slowly excuse yourself from the activity for several minutes. Gradually extend your time without intervening in group play. Your goal will be to become a coach observing from afar, only intervening when difficulties regarding the social situation arise. This is an extremely slow process the can literally take a month or more to accomplish.

These socialization tips can be quite successful, but the child must not be pushed before they are ready. The ingredients to success are a safe non threatening environment, patience, and praise.

Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE

A Very Special Mothers Day To Special Needs Moms by Mari Nosal

Aspergers
Aspergers

I really like this article by Mari Nosal. I meant to publish it but it slipped my mind. It is quite wonderful. It takes strength to be a parent of special needs kids. For some of us it is a struggle.

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/05/11/a-very-special-mothers-day-to-special-needs-moms/

I was perusing the numerous racks of mother’s day cards recently. As is characteristic of me, my experience jettisoned into a silent analytical observation. I made mental notes pertaining to the responsibility afforded to a mother. It is a 24-7 job. Mothers must be on call to jump to attention for a whimpering baby with a wet diaper or hunger pangs. Mothers must be on constant alert for toddlers unrolling a roll of toilet paper that he is busily spreading from room to room with the roll unraveling behind him as he gleefully runs.

We are a tough breed who gets attacked with a projectile shot of vomit that lands on our bodies with the force of a speeding bullet. We wipe runny noses with an almost unlimited amount of tissue that seems to be pulled from thin air. We spend years of sleep deprivation from waking at all hours of the night to nurse sick children back to health. We spend the better part of our child’s teen years pacing the floor when our new drivers are past curfew , conjuring all the terrible things that might have happened to them within the confines of our mind.

Through challenges, trials, tribulations, childhood illness, mothers shrug it off and unquestionably support their children day after day. We never notice the first year of life when you smell like spit up, or that poopy diaper that leaked on your lap. If the child is out of baby food etc. we have all made a trip to the store smelling like the latter because our worries about looking presentable are blinded by the needs of our child.

There you have it. All mothers are special, but special needs moms are different. They are humbled, challenged, tough, protective, and cheerleaders for their children beyond the call of duty. They deal with doctors, teachers, therapists, and more who tell them their child will never meet a certain milestone. Milestones that traditional parents take for granted.

A word of caution, never say your child won’t, can’t, never will, or any other phrase which reeks of pessimistic projections for their child. Like a cat, special needs mothers have hidden claws behind their fingernails that will protrude when they are in attack mode resultant from any threat, or negativity aimed towards their child or the child’s mom.

Special needs parents will expect nothing but the best of care for their children. They are not afraid to vocalize and take action until their child gets just that. While other parents seek out babysitters for a weekly date night, many special needs parents silently stay home to care for their child’s demanding needs. It is much more difficult to get sitters for special needs children, and medical, and therapy issues can leave parents financially strapped. While other parents complain that their child did not make captain of the soccer team, these parents merely want their child to make the team and socialize with peers.

While parents worry about their child being popular, special needs parents worry about their child having friends at all. We shuffle our children to numerous therapy appointments, social groups, pediatricians, tutors, and specialists, while managing jobs, homes, and the stares from people in public.

Through it all we realize that we can climb mountains, make it to the summit and down again as we develop determination and strength to fight for our young like nothing else.

Now, back to my story about visiting the card shop. None of those cards appeared to be directed at special needs parents so I am providing my version that I would design for all of you out there.

I agree, never give up, keep trying, you never know what you can achieve if you really try.
==> A Mari Nosal Hallmark Card for Special Needs Mothers on Mother Day, simply brilliant.

To A Special Needs Mom (A Hallmark moment)

Mommies, you always look beyond my disability and see my talents

To you I am a diamond in the rough black on the exterior but shiny underneath

As my daily cheerleader you slowly buff me off to reach the shiny diamond that I am inside

Without you in my corner I would never have made it as far as I have

We have proved doctors and therapists prognosis wrong repeatedly

With you in my corner we will keep proving them wrong

Thanks for believing in me and helping me when others give up

Thanks for showing your love for me every day

Most of all, thanks for being my mommy

Happy Mothers Day Mommy from your special needs child to my very SPECIAL mommy

And from me – I wish all fellow Moms a happy Mothers Day

Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE

Myths And Misnomers Of Aspergers Characteristics – A Light Hearted Observation by Mari Nosal

aspergers
aspergers by Mari Nosal

I am Asperger’s, a brainiac, at times clueless at others. I am hyper aware of many things, do not notice some of the basics. I get it. My 3 kids are on the autism spectrum as well. I can totally relate. I have been trying for over a year to find supporters, donors, and sponsors to help us to help people with autism. We need help with technology, music like instruments, and the arts-tickets, art supplies to help people on the spectrum.

Here is a quirky but cool article by Mari Nosal an autism expert and educator:

Recognition and identification of Aspergers syndrome has skyrocketed in the last decade. Unfortunately, the way it is portrayed through the media venue has provided individuals who do not interact with families or children directly involved with a stigmatized lenses of the syndrome. ie Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory void of the ability to display emotion, Gregory House of the House series who expresses a diagnosis to a patient with apparent disregard to their feelings, Jerry the Lawyer of Boston Legal who allegedly had Aspergers and was portrayed with comorbid maladies such as grabbing his thighs standing on tippy toes and running away making odd noises.

In my opinion these television characters provide a disgraceful impression to society in regards to Aspergers. Successful Aspergians who work beside you and your peers. Aspergians who are parents, doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, students and more.

I wish to present a portrayal of some misnomers regarding Aspergers . I will draw from personal experience that I have acquired both as an educator and interactions with family members on the spectrum from both a serious and humorous perspective. These are merely my personal observations.

1) Individuals with Aspergers are incapable of lying:

This is a mistaken perception due to their penchant for bluntness. i.e. If a teacher wants to know who misbehaved in class the child with Aspergers would be ones best source of information. Bluntness is not the same as lying however. Like any other child, children with Aspergers may stretch the truth to avoid trouble.

If Aspergians can’t lie, than our family was not informed of this fact. I recall picking up my son at preschool. He was four years of age. He had been displaying behavioral issues such as sticking his fingers in his ears and closing his eyes when the teacher gave him directions. He would respond by saying, “I can’t hear you or see you, LALA,LA.”

I used a candy bar as positive reinforcement. This was a treat because candy was not freely available at home. When I picked him up from preschool, I would immediately ask how he behaved for the teacher. If the report was good, he received a candy bar.

I recall picking him up from preschool and asking how his day had gone. His eyes darted from me to his teacher. He replied with a quick, “Mom come on out in the parking lot and I will let you know how I behaved. “I foiled his intent to give me a good report when we were out of his teacher’s earshot.

I responded by telling him that I would ask his teacher directly about his behavior before leaving the classroom. My son disappeared. I heard the bathroom door slam shut in his classroom. He had evidently run in there to hide.

I would consider this an example of the capability an Aspergian has to strategize and to lie with the intent of reaping the reward of a coveted candy bar. My sons plan was foiled by my intervention. However I will add that my son’s actions were within the norm for any child seeking to avoid losing a reward. Heck what adult for that matter has never done something similar such as calling into work feigning an illness to take a day off from work:-0) (cough,cough)

2) Individuals with Aspergers cannot display empathy

I would argue this assumption. Many have difficulty verbalizing emotions hence societies perception of lack of emotion. On the contraire, Aspergians get emotional overload resultant from struggles with compartmentalization of sensory intake. I merely have to look back on the gift my son made at age six for me to confirm his capability to empathize. I had the flu and was bed bound. I woke to queries of “mom are you sleeping”? Well son I am awake now son:-0

There at my bedside stood my son. In his hand, he proudly displayed a paper plate dripping with a rainbow of food color. I will refrain from describing the state that my kitchen was in resultant from my son’s work of art. You can use your imagination to conjure up what a rainbow of food coloring spattering’s did to my house:-0)

Was this a verbal expression of emotions? No it was not. As an Aspergian, he has difficulty with naming his emotions. My son had displayed his concern and yes, empathy for me through his actions instead of words. Expressions of concern were done in his unique way via actions versus words.. It was empathy none the less.

We won’t broach my emotional state when my flu ridden body saw my rainbow colored kitchen:-0)

3) Individuals with Aspergers are not capable of manipulating their environment

I will elaborate and confirm their skill – set with an experience had during homework time in my school age class. I was tutoring a nine year old with Aspergers. Everything was going well during math homework which was compiled of rote facts. He was always compliant when homework required the use of his wonderful rote memory.

We moved on to reading passages. I was attempting to assist the child in answering questions regarding the passage he had read. He was expected to summarize the passage which required processing skills. Rote work being his forte, his demeanor quickly changed. He attempted to stonewall. I persisted. The child looked up at the clock and said, “You know Miss Mari, my mother will be picking me up very soon”. I was silently amused at his comment. What he was stating in a diplomatic manner and silently thinking was, Miss Mari, get off my back will you please? I would surmise that this showcased his capability, and attempt to manipulate his environment.

Recently my son was attempting to draw me in to one of his discussions that resemble a verbal dissertation. These verbal tugs of war always occur when we are discussing a topic that he finds distasteful such as chore requests, manners, behavior, etc. I have realized that his verbal tug of wars is the direct result of his intent to draw me off the topic at hand. My response of choice is to tell him that the discussion is over and walk away. We must pick our battles carefully to reduce what I call the deaf ear syndrome. If the discussion is going in loops walk away. No audience takes the fun out of it.

During the conversation I told my son that I would not be roped into his verbal dissertation. His response was, “you just did Mom. You answered me back”. One can see the manipulative power struggle that is evident here. I ignored my sons comment. His goal was to veer me away from the topic at hand. I continued on my way and held my ground. To continue our debate with have proved futile as we would have gone around in circles repeatedly. I attempt not to get drawn in to a rousing game of lets have a debate until mom forgets what she wanted me to do in the first place. I merely walk away and hold my ground.

4) Individuals with Aspergers have no sense of humor

This belief stems from the fact that Aspergians tend to perceive statements from a literal perspective. Dual meanings or ideas in jokes are difficult to comprehend. I worked with a I was a one on one teacher with a ninth grade girl with Aspergers. I recall excitedly telling the teenage girl that she was on fire because she had comprehended an important concept we had worked on for an extended period of time. The young lady responded with stiffened limbs. She repeatedly demanded to know why I had said she was on fire. She kept saying “I am not on fire, I am not on fire, why do you say I am?”

Aspergians most certainly do have a sense of humor. One would merely have to observe the night I came home from a nine hour shift in a group home. I was extremely tired and fumbled for my keys in the dark night. Suddenly, a figure jumped out of the bush saying Boo I am Mari. I must have jumped 20 feet. My son had apparently downloaded a photo of me, cut a mask out of cardboard, and glued my picture on the front complete with eye holes. Hence, the reason he called it a Mari mask. Upon entering the house my other son was wearing one as well. This was definitely an example of my son’s ability to create a humorous experience.

In closing I would like to convey the fact that individuals with Aspergers present with the same range of emotions as neurotypicals, they merely convey those characteristics that every human being possesses in a way that works for them.

Perhaps we could all start looking at how we are similar versus how we are different. Accept each others differences and harness them to create a more copasetic and positive society. No two Aspergians are alike anymore than two neurotypicals. Like Baskin Robbins ice-cream, humans come in 32 flavors. Embrace that individuality, forget the them and us ideology and replace it with a WE will get more accomplished than a ME. I will leave you with this question and provide an answer to ponder.

Question: Who is more important, the Physician or Trash Man.

Answer: They are both equally as important. Without a physician we could not TREAT disease and we would perish. Without trash men we would HAVE disease and become ill.

This is just a thought to ponder regarding differently abled individuals and society at large.

Regards,

Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE

My Guide- A Poem to Remind educators believe in your students and they will believe in themselves by Mari Nosal

Mari Nosal A Poem

This is a fine poem and statement that educator’s, parents, bosses need to show confidence and faith in their students, children etc, and that will inspire confidence in them. I am a parent, and president of a small nonprofit trying to help people with autism, and education via tech, music and the arts. I love it.
______________________________________________

Oh teachers listen closely

For this you need to know

My future rests right in your palm

I need you as I grow

My destiny is yours to shape

By words you choose to use

Encourage me, tell me I’m great

Your power do not abuse

Believe in me and I will shine

I will not let you down

Give up on me and let me fail

My choice will be to drown

Please teach me all you know my friend

Do not give up and leave

And I will thrive because I knew

In me you did believe

I have the talent to succeed

But sometimes feel lost

Please help me so I find my way

No matter what the cost

Don’t leave me on the tough days

I need to know you’ll stay

For you help me to grow and learn

And assure me i’m o.k.

Support me, guide me, and teach me

My fate is up to you

For with your words I’ll fail or win

It is up to you you’ll see

Please don’t leave nor write me off

I am worthy of your time

I promise I’ll not fail you

To give up would be a crime

My future is up to you you’ll see

In you I do believe

I will succeed and fulfill my dreams

If you walk with me

In order for me to succeed

I can not walk alone

Don’t give up on me and walk away

My emotions will turn to stone

Teachers listen closely

I need your help today

Help now and I promise

I will make you proud one day

MARI NOSAL, M.Ed., CECE

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/my-guide-a-poem-to-remind-educators-believe-in-your-students-and-they-will-believe-in-themselves/

A Coke And Mentos Explosion – A Lesson In Chemical Reactions a cool article by Mari Nosal!!!

Mari Nosal Science for kids
Mari Nosal

http://marimouth.wordpress.com/2012/02/04/a-coke-and-mentos-explosion-a-lesson-in-chemical-reactions/

I have actually done this experiment with my kids, they really loved it and I can totally relate. I wish I would have had someone like Mari Nosal for a teacher when I was young.

Today I set out to conduct a science experiment. My goal was to introduce my young charges to the world of chemical reactions. I attempted to present an explanation in a format that five to 12 year olds would comprehend. I prayed I would not lose control of the children. My other fear was not executing the experiment properly and making myself appear incompetent in front of the children. The experiment consists of dropping a tube of mentos candy into a two liter bottle of diet coke. If all goes well, a six or eight foot eruption laden with mentos, coke, and aspartame would be strewn about the school playground.

I attempted this experiment in June of 2008. The resulting eruption was weak. The geyser grew to a mere two feet. The children were thrilled with the end result. They were ignorant to the fact that the geyser should have been much bigger. I however, knew that I had failed. I strive for perfection in all my actions. The children were happy, but I knew I could have done better. I went home and researched my original experiment and found out I lacked a simple component. A plastic tube that slips into the neck of the soda bottle, a tooth pick is inserted into small holes on the bottom of the tube. The tube is filled with mentos. The toothpick stays in place to keep the candy from falling into the soda bottle. When the experiment is performed the tooth is removed. This allows the candy to drop into the soda bottle as I jump back.

In my original attempt, I merely opened up the roll of mentos and attempted to drop them into the soda manually. The chemical eruption takes effect as soon as several pieces of candy mingle with the soda. The ensuing eruption does not allow enough time to manually drop in the whole tube. Thus, I WAS forced to step back without dropping the whole roll in. I have learned from earlier errors as an educator. My style veers less towards being impromptu in executing lessons. I now strategize plane, and research my projects. This lesson was the product of a detailed plan. I purchased tubes on the internet, bought the appropriate soda. It had to contain caffeine to explode.

Now, on with a description of the afternoon, I went to work early. I set my tools on the table. When the children came in I wanted to be organized and ready to perform the project. I painstakingly opened up several rolls of mentos. I inserted skewers into the mentos tubes. My rationale was that they could be pulled out at a slower pace than a toothpick due to their length. I than proceeded to pick up my younger charges from the kindergarten. Seven five-year olds were lined up and taken outside to wait for the older children to arrive on the school bus. The older children arrived. Everyone was excited about our afternoon’s activity choice. As I took a head count my excitement waned. I mentally hoped that my experiment would be executed as planned and keep the children engaged.

The children were instructed to go to circle time, but leave their coats on. Hence, we could accomplish the task of getting outdoors for the experiment in a quick manner. As we sat on the floor in a circle I briefed the children on expectations they would need to adhere to during the experiment. I answered questions about why they would sit in a horse shoe outdoors a safe distance from the soda bottles. I explained that I wanted no one to get soda in their eyes during the explosion, nor have to walk around all day in clothes laden in soda.

The children were informed that if they could not maintain control of their bodies that they would be showing me that they were too irresponsible to be included in today’s activity. Repercussions were expressed. Children not capable of maintaining body control would be escorted indoors during the experiment. I told them that this was not a punishment but necessary so I could leave them under the supervision of another teacher during the experiment. I do not seek to embarrass the children. I knew they were all looking forward to this activity and did not wish to be ostracized from the project. My prediction proved correct. Everyone maintained an attentive form and no one was excluded.

Upon finalizing my expectations, and what the experiment would consist of we ventured out to the playground. The children took their places without prompting. I set out the tools for the experiment and began the presentation. I used a form of scaffolding that I devised for projects like this. Some of the children are extremely young so I described the chemical reaction as having a similarity to friends. Children choose friends that have similar interests. I set out a tray of water and added vinegar. I explained that since the water did not have chemicals the vinegar got along with it. I showed them the mixture and we talked about how no reaction took place.

I set that tray aside and poured vinegar and baking soda into a pan. The ensuing bubbling concoction received loud oohs and aahs. I explained that both vinegar and baking soda contained very different chemicals. I asked the children to visualize this as two children who don’t agree with each other. Now, the fun began. The soda was positioned with tubes in place. As I pulled out the skewers I had the children count loudly to the number three. The skewer was pulled out and I jumped back. An eight foot soda laden geyser was produced. The children yelled “again, again”. I had planned ahead, produced two more bottles of soda and repeated the experiment.

The highlight of the experiment was the finale. I produced disposable cups and gave each child a cup of mentos laden soda. This memory will be imprinted in their minds for years to come. The smiles produced outweighed the effort to execute the project. That meant a lot to me as well. Another day has passed. Hopefully, I have instilled a new-found sense of curiosity about our world in the children. If I can send them on their way after having successfully gotten them to step outside the box I will have accomplished my goal as an educator.

Always remember, if learning is fun, children will love learning.:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed.