I have no clue what made me think of this idea, but I thought I would share what I would do if I won a million dollars and could use it on anything, tax free. I’d give $10,000 to my church; I feel like they are family and show God’s love to others well. I find comfort and joy in attending and purpose; I really think they would put the money to good use. I’d give $20,000 towards each of my siblings (4) college education. They all deserve a chance to pursue what they want, and this would help. It would be an investment in their futures, college educations would help them get careers. $10,000 would go to the Autism Society of Tidewater. They help me and many others in the community. Also, they treat everybody with respect, whether you’re on the spectrum, a parent, a professional, or anybody else. I think they could use the money and I’d really like to see them be around for a long time. I’d set another $100,000 aside for furthering my own education the rest of my life and training. The rest I’d use to open my own autism center. I’d provide daycare/activities for all ages and levels of functioning at a sliding scale rate. I’d also like to employ as many people on the spectrum as possible, from everything from computer services to building to cleaning. I’d pay people to give lectures in some meeting rooms open to the public in areas of their interest. (not necessarily on an ongoing basis, but I think it would provide pride and show people in the community how people on the spectrum can be talented) I would also hire a staff for people to receive help from, ranging from therapists to OT to educational consultants at prices affordable to community members. I would also try to make a library area where people could go to relax and make it sensory friendly. I’d also hire people to work at a café there that served a delicious menu with GFCF options, so people could have jobs and families could have somewhere to eat when they have appointments. I’m not entirely sure *how* to do all this, but I think it would be nice.
This webcomic makes me giggle; I can see myself as a kid in a few of the strips. It's by a dad of two autistic boys and he puts his life with his boys into the comic. I'm not posting a preview strip because I don't know if he would mind, but go check it out.
1. Please stop asking if I'm like Rain Man. No, I'm not. And I do not count cards. 2. I suck at math; savants are rare and I'm not one of them. 3. Staring at person who is obviously stressed out and are covering their ears is rude. (I thought *I* was the one who had bad social skills...) 4. On another note, quit staring at a parent with a kid in meltdown mode; if you want to say something; say "Can I help?". 5. Don't assume I can't hear you when I'm with somebody else. I can, and I'm an adult. Please address me, even if I seem "odd". Sometimes I just need a little help. 6. I'm not stupid; it takes me longer to learn some things. 7. When I hurt your feelings, tell me! I don't know I did. 8. Please, please don't pat me on the back; especially on my left side. It scares me, I can't see you and dislike it. 9. When I ask you to repeat yourself, I am trying to make sure I heard you correctly. 10. I try to say things that interest you, but can't tell if it's boring you. Say something, or I won't stop.
I heard about Kicking the Spectrum on Twitter and was interested right away: autism and karate? I was thinking it would be awesome if there was an autistic Karate Kid. Then I got lost in daydreaming about how the original movie would have differed. Anyways, after snapping back into focus, I asked the people at Kicking the Spectrum if they wouldn't mind an e-mail interview. They didn't mind at all, hooray! So we get to learn more about this program and the people behind it:
Background information-personal connection to the special needs community
Working with children with special needs has always been something I have been pulled towards. When I was in the 6th grade, I was asked to be a “helper” in the classroom for children with special needs one day a week. I loved it! The following year, my younger cousin was diagnosed with autism. I was intrigued. I started doing research and learned everything I could about autism. I would visit my family and sit in on my cousin’s ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) sessions and soak it all in. I knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life. I continued to volunteer with children with special needs in both my town’s summer school program and the local Challenger League, a softball league for children with disabilities. By the time I entered college at the University of Maryland, I knew without a doubt, that early childhood special education was going to be my major and when I graduated I would work with children with autism utilizing ABA. I had seen this methodology help my once non-verbal cousin become a high functioning individual in a typical classroom. Once, I graduated from Maryland, I found my way to an ABA classroom at a special needs preschool in Brooklyn. I worked there for two years and started my Master’s degree at NYU. During my time at NYU, I worked as an ABA therapist doing 1:1 therapy with children in their homes around NYC. Finally, I landed at the McCarton Center for children with disabilities, where I work as an ABA therapist.
Working with children with autism and other disabilities is not only a job for me, it’s a passion. I love the look in a child’s eyes when the “light bulb” goes off. Or when a parent witnesses their child have a breakthrough. It’s not often that a person loves what they do when they go to work everyday, I consider myself very lucky!
I started studying martial arts at 7 years old. It was recommended to my parents after I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Though I was unaware of the diagnosis, I took to martial arts. It helped teach me the focus that I needed in my everyday life. As time progressed my love for the sport increased and my desire to give back increased. At 15 years old I began to teach, mainly the younger students. My instructor, World Champion Tokey Hill, began taking me to do demonstrations with him; this was when I first was exposed to children with special needs. I was able to work at St. Mary’s Hospital for Children. St. Mary’s Healthcare System is one of only a handful of organizations around the country that is dedicated to providing intensive rehabilitation, specialized care, and education to children with special needs and life-limiting conditions. Subsequent to my encounters with St. Mary’s, I also worked with a child with Cerebral Palsy at a sleep away camp for 8 weeks.
I continued teaching throughout my remaining days in high school and through out college. I also have taught on and off through out the past few years and martial arts has never been far from my heart, however it hasn’t been until now that that spark has been reignited.
WHAT IS KICKING THE SPECTRUM?
It is a martial arts inspired program developed to teach and motivate students with special needs to combine fitness and wellness for life. This innovative program incorporates the fundamentals of Japanese Shotokan Karate. This unique program combines a martial arts instructor with an ABA (Applied Behavior Analyst) therapist in every class.
HOW WE CAME TO THE DECISION TO START KICKING THE SPECTRUM
The concept was formulated when David took a trip with his father (who is also a practitioner of the martial arts) to Ohio, for the Arnold Classic. This is a competition that is put on every year for many different disciplines, karate being one of them. While waiting for his dad to participate (yes at 67 he still competes), He had the privilege to watch several students with special needs participate in Kata. A kata is a series of movements that are choreographed patterns of movements.
Martial Arts is something David and his father did together for many years, so it was only fitting that David would take the trip with his dad when he decided to compete in this huge event. While at the Classic, David saw something that both intrigued him and energized him. He watched while children with special needs competed in this competition and he saw the look of pride on not only their faces but their parents as well. David came home and immediately told Stephanie what he saw and he thought it would be amazing to start a program to teach martial arts to children with special needs in NYC, specifically children with autism and other developmental disabilities. David excitedly told Stephanie how martial arts has been proven to help with focus and discipline and self-esteem. Having grown up with ADD himself, David felt that martial arts really helped him feel empowered and helped him learn how to focus and stay disciplined. These skills carried over to the classroom and helped him become a better student as well. However, David knew from Stephanie’s stories and from interacting with Stephanie’s cousin that children with these disabilities learn differently. Many conversations later, Stephanie and David came up with a program that was unlike any other program currently available. They would co-teach the martial arts classes, utilizing both a modified martial arts curriculum and the techniques of ABA that have been proven a very effective methodology in instructing children with developmental disabilities. This program would combine the passions of both David and Stephanie and would potentially help many families with children on the spectrum.
WHO IS WELCOME TO JOIN THE PROGRAM AND WHERE ARE WE LOCATED?
The program has been designed for children ages 4 and up, but exceptions can be made based on each individual. We are located on the Upper East Side of New York City.
At this point in time we are still in the early stages of the business. We have only been open a few months, but as time goes on we would love to share our success more with you and your readers.
We just want to say thank you so much for taking interest in our program. It has been a long journey to get this off the ground and we have high hopes that Kicking The Spectrum will be able to benefit the special needs community. If you ever find yourself in New York City you have an open invitation
I'm sure this will be an unpopular post, especially among my autistic readers. Guess that's okay, it wouldn't be a good blog if I only said things people like.
Other autistics have questioned why I support Autism Speaks, both through Twitter and e-mails. I believe they deserve an answer, that took some thinking to phrase it correctly.
Autism Speaks has a rocky history with autistics, after all they used to be a group with the name of "Autism Speaks" while not having any actual autistic members. However, I honestly believe they are trying to change for the better, repair the relationship. They added John Robison, a well known autistic and author. As well as other steps and gladly answered an e-mail from me.
Here is the contents of the e-mail Q&A: How do you think involving Mr. Robison in Autism Speaks has affected your organization? John Robison joined Autism Speaks’ Scientific Advisory Board and Treatment Advisory Board earlier this year. He has been a great asset to our organization and in addition has posted some very insightful blogs on both our site and his own popular blog. John expressed his feelings about why research is important and what it means to him and the autism community – his insight has been great. We continue to be very pleased to have him onboard.
Has the response been overall positive or negative? Overwhelmingly positive
What kind of actions is Autism Speaks planning or already doing to greater include people on the Autism spectrum? Our new blog and facebook page has really opened us up to encouraging people to comment on all aspects of our mission. In addition, we invite family members as well as individuals on the spectrum to submit stories. John joined us this year at IMFAR and brought Wrong Planet’s Alex Plank, an adult with Asperger. They interviewed scientists, parents and organizers to learn more about the science. Alex has been posting portions of these interviews on his site. In addition, college student Kerry Magro has been hired by us to blog about events related to his major. He is on the spectrum as well and wrote about the Autism Speaks 400 in Dover, the NBA Awards event and many more. This has been a very natural progression for us as we hit our fifth year and it’s been very exciting to see this new collaboration within the community. (e-mail exchange with Dana Marnane from Autism Speaks)
Are they perfect? No, of course not, they are a group of humans. I've yet to meet a perfect human. However, I think it would be in the advantage of the autism community to work WITH a large, well known group that seems to be reaching out to people on the spectrum. Realistically, I don't picture a parent of a nonverbal kid being very comfortable in a GRASP meeting or even relating much to it. However, they are likely to hear of Autism Speaks; because they do a lot of advertising. I'd really rather a parent go to them than go Google "autism treatments" and feed their kid some random snake oil. Or get so frustrated they do something they regret.
Autism Speaks is not my favorite group. I'm lucky enough to have a well developed Autism Society nearby who I can easily call or e-mail and get support from. (if you're in the Tidewater area of Virginia, that would be Tidewater ASA ) However, I've heard from parents in other parents of the country that don't have a local Autism Society that they feel they can go to. (yes, my favorite group would be the ASA)
Autistics need to be a bit more tolerant of Autism Speaks; they aren't trying to be an enemy or exclude us; in fact they are trying to work with us.
(Comments are welcome, please refrain from cursing)