Posted in School governance, School Leadership, Self-Care

Seclude/Restrain and Other Pointless Forms of Discipline in Schools

[Image: eighteen wooden, red-tipped matches are lined up in a semi-circle (that presumably continues outside the frame) against a black background. The eighth match from the right is lit] image from Pixabay]
Not again.

We have a school district not too far away that keeps doing things that make no sense.

A few years ago, this district had a situation where the principal decided a meltdown didn’t end fast enough and she sat on an elementary student’s legs and held him down so she could, in her eyes, force the meltdown to “peak” so it could end faster.  That was about 2.5 years ago.

Last month, the district decided to hit the news again.  This time, a young child (this district only has grades K-3 in these schools, so these are little elementary kids besides) took one of the other students’ play-doh and decided to throw it at people.  The teacher called in the principal when the kid wouldn’t give it back, and the principal dragged the child down the hall and put him in a closet.  Okay, now it’s a “time out” space, but it was effectively built to be a closet, so…it’s a freaking closet.

For throwing play-doh.

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Posted in Self-Care

Holiday Meltdown: Withdrawal as Self-Preservation

Here’s last year’s Thanksgiving melt-down.  If any of you are feeling like I did last year, I hope it helps someone to feel like you’re not alone.  If you’ve read the blog recently, you know I’ve made some progress on these points, but I left this post untouched to point out the sheer and utter MESS I was in last year, this time, due to anxiety.

I usually work over Thanksgiving.  The beauty of having a job in the standardized testing industry where you primarily work in tests for the college-bound is that it’s generally predictable: in the fall, it’s busy.  You work Thanksgiving, the whole weekend, and you may or may not work Christmas.  The rush begins between August and September sometime and ends sometime in December.

This schedule means I don’t have to do holiday stuff except on my own terms.  We live in a culture in the U.S. where work drives everything, so if you have to work, you work.

So when my aunt decided to host Thanksgiving, I declined for all of us.  My husband and son can sometimes do Thanksgiving alone at my parents’ or my sister’s house since they feel somewhat comfortable there.  My parents’ house is so easy I usually just bring the laptop and work.  But not my aunt’s house.  My mother kept pestering about maybe we could just have my husband and son go over and I can work, but they wouldn’t and honestly, I didn’t want to and since I had the work excuse, I didn’t have to.

Then they cancelled work.

This year, we finished the administration before Thanksgiving and I had Thanksgiving and the day after off.  This never happens.

I ended up lying and keeping us safe from having to go.  I feel bad because I usually don’t mind holiday stuff, but I’m so low on spoons right now due to working the new job, having the writing teacher causing me grief, and other such fun, I just needed the time away from lots of other people.

I was having a great time playing Rift and watching old tv shows.  I was tired since I’d gotten up at 4 to write, which sometimes happens, so I was in bed for a nap by 1.  Of course, this was when my parents called.  No one answered.  Shortly after that, I was melting down.

Here’s what happened and what I’m learning from it.

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Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Parenting, Self-Care

Assistive Technology Can be Ugly: Focus on Aesthetics, not Bully-Potential, to Build a New World

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism recently posted a great deal on ear defenders (ear muffs, headphones without plug-ins) from Boing Boing at its Facebook group.  The deal is still there for a few days, and I snapped up 5 for my students at school.  By the way, leave and come back until they give you 10% off on your first order.  It almost paid for my shipping which was $9.95 on 5 of them, the maximum it would sell me at a time.

[Image: Those big, bulky but effective and ever-prevalent ear defenders from 3M. They’re oversized and yellow. If your head is large, they might not work since they’re not adjustable, but they’re reasonably comfortable. But they are bulky. And that yellow makes SURE people can see them on your ears. But heck, they work and Amazon can get them to you quickly.  We have two pairs around here.]

Anyway, some “helpful parent” was complaining about how ugly and bulky they are and that it’s basically license to get your kid bullied as a result.  Later, she said, not realizing I was trying to help her not come off as a jerk, that there would be plenty of times it would be “inappropriate” to wear these headphones because of the bulk.  She kept silencing the voice of 1) a more experienced Autism Mama than her (me; my kid is clearly older) and 2) MOST importantly, an ACTUAL AUTISTIC PERSON.  Yeah, she’s new to this game.

She kept backpedaling to defend herself, rather than realize she was normalizing a systemic problem with society rather than focusing on her child’s needs.

Here’s why she’s wrong and how you can make the same point without enabling bullying or accepting the cruddy world we all of us are forced to live in.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, leadership, Self-Care

Masking, Anxiety, and Other Everyday Woes of the Autistic Woman

I wrote a piece yesterday that I set back to private regarding a parent-student interaction thing.

I walk a tight line with confidentiality and trying to help inform other leaders about Autism in education.  I think I was alright with that post, but if I get “outed” by identity, my school is so small, each player in that post will be instantly recognizable.  That’s not okay.

While that post gave me some good feelings because it helped me to justify why it will be okay whether the child in question stays or leaves, I have spent all of today in Autistic overload due to anxiety.  I don’t think it’s because of the post per-se, but because of dreading the follow-up conversation with a neurotypical parent which will happen tomorrow morning.  As a Catholic institution, we remember that parents, not schools, are responsible for their own parenting decisions.  It is his mom’s right to do whatever she sees fit, and I do applaud that right because I profit from it as a parent of a homeschooled child.

But as an Autistic who lives with anxiety as a “normal” fact of life, the implication that I know less about her child’s neurology than she, herself, or the neurotypical establishment doctors know, hurts me, too.  (By the way, Autistics, for “fun” look up anxiety symptoms…you’ll probably find you live like this ALL THE TIME.  It’s actually NORMAL for you, so you don’t think these are actual conditions neurotypicals do NOT experience all the flipping time and if they suddenly do, they ask for help.  Who knew?)

Here’s more on anxiety and masking: the endless cycle.

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Posted in Parenting, Self-Care

Bad Advice: Autistics and Sleep

My little guy stayed up all night again last night.  He’ll sleep eventually, either later today or tonight.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is we can just work around these phases.

They do happen to kids who are traditionally-schooled, too.  They just have to deal with it (sadly) and go to school in their increasingly zombified states.  I imagine a fair number of times they have meltdowns at school.  (Speaking of meltdowns, I’ll repost something on those soon.  The brief version is they LOOK like tantrums, but unlike tantrums, they cannot be controlled by the Autistic.)

[Image: A British Shorthair with Siamese-like Markings (Black ears, paws, parts of the face, with whiter upper arms and head) sleeps on a sofa. This is a close-up of the cat’s face and front paws as he snuggles against the cream fabric that has orange and yellow capped-mushrooms on it;] image from Pixabay

The last time we went through this no-sleeping or limited sleeping phase was a few weeks ago.  In the middle of it, his neurologist’s office sent us an e-mail that I found bordering on offensive about trying to keep a routine to avoid sleep problems.  You see, the experts believe that if we keep a routine going then somehow, magically, our Autistic kids will sleep.  They think if we take away screens a million hours before bedtime, our kids will sleep better.  This is true, perhaps, of neurotypicals, but the amount of screen time our son has each day (Microsoft sends me an e-mail each week with the total of our son’s computer time) doesn’t seem to correlate at all with his sleep.  Take a moment and think over your own, adult life.  Do you always have a predictable routine, or not?  Doesn’t life happen?  Do some of your insomnia nights connect to being on the computer all night, but others just…happen?

It’s worth noting that sometimes when our bodies are growing, we either sleep a lot more or a lot less.  When my little guy was younger, he slept more.  Now, it seems, he sleeps less.  We also noticed, in speaking with my aunt who has a probably Autistic daughter around my child’s age, that the days she uses less executive function, she stays up later.  The more choices she has to make, the more she sleeps.  She used to sleep very early, like around 7 p.m. when she was traditionally-schooled, but since she’s been homeschooled, she’s calmer and gets a whole lot more schoolwork done…but some nights, she just can’t sleep.

So it can’t be JUST about routine.

Why should we keep our Autistic kids in a bubble of routine, exactly?

Continue reading “Bad Advice: Autistics and Sleep”

Posted in Catholic education, Self-Care, Teaching

Neurodiversopia: A School Where We Can Be Ourselves

When you’re in the middle of just running your school and living your life (and often fighting for the opportunity for your school to stay open), you forget sometimes to appreciate what you have.

I administrate and sometimes teach in a tiny Catholic school and my kids are in, currently, a one-room schoolhouse configuration, from Kindergarten through 8th grade.  There aren’t many of them, and they learn together and separately, on their own work, at their own paces.

At times, when people come to my school, such as the guy who comes to read the gas meter, he asks whether school is open.  Oh, it’s open.  They’re just upstairs and not that loud.

The thing of it is, it’s not that quiet ever.  My kids love to run and jump and play like everyone else.  My girls shriek, and I have a student who struggles with modulating her voice.  They can be very loud.

But it’s not really all that loud as compared to a school with mostly neurotypicals.  As it happens, I maybe have one or two neurotypical students, I think, and that’s not because I chose to have them; those are the kids who stayed after I became principal.  And the kid I think is neurotypical is a sibling of one or more Neurodivergent siblings, so he is growing aware of how to live Neurodivergently.

Anyway, we went to a very, very large Mass this past week, and it involved people from all over.  It’s helpful for young Catholics to see they are not alone in a highly secular world, so on a theoretical level, I was glad to go.

In practice, it was very overwhelming.  Here’s what happened, and what we learned from it.

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Posted in Catholic leadership, Self-Care

Preventing Overload or Not: The Guilt of Being an Autistic Leader

Just a quick note to say since our school reduced numbers, it has been quieter and the classroom that the family was in is now much more peaceful.   We did the right thing.

Meanwhile, it is hotter than average and I’ve had longer days again than usual, with extra meetings.  I’m getting over a bad cold (which was at least relatively quick in passing).  My pre-arthritis (I can’t bear to call it arthritis yet…) is twingy.  I can feel myself heading for overload.

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Posted in Mutism, Self-Care

Unable to Speak: Being Cautious When the World Spins Out of Control

Self-care is important, especially for Autistics.

I’ve been semi-following the events going on on Autistic twitter lately: the Nazi rally and deaths, the watching and decrying of that Netflix series, Atypical, which hasn’t had any Autistic consults so it generally is cringe-worthy, sucky television.  This is on the heels of the health care debate and also in the midst of whether we’re bombing North Korea and/or Venezuela and I had college friends from Guam so I actually know where that is and….

So, yeah, the world right now is getting a bit spinny out of control.

I’ve noticed that we Autistics, likely because we can’t go out as much as neurotypicals, will obsess online with what’s happening in the world and how it’s showing us how the world is going to end.  I’ve been trying to just say some prayers and let God fix it.  Why?  Not because I don’t want to help, but because I know what is likely to happen to me if I’m not careful.  We start school in a little over a week, I can’t lose my voice now.  I can’t have a melt-down now.  There’s never a good time to struggle Autistically, but some times are worse than others.

So I’m careful about how I interact online.  I have to be.  And honestly, with today being the feast day of St. Maximilian Kolbe, the priest who gave his life for another prisoner in Auschwitz, who refused German citizenship just because he couldn’t handle the white privilege and got locked up just because of that, well, I’ve gotta believe he’s got this.

What follows is my account of the first time I was unable to speak.

A few times when I was younger, I remember not speaking because I was mad about something and didn’t want to speak, lest I say something stupid.  I think it was a conscious choice, but now I wonder if it was or wasn’t.

Last night, when I got to my evening class, I realized that I left something at home and as I was searching for a virtual copy, I was struggling to come up with the right search terms.  I was going to have to come up with another version of what I would have brought to discuss, or admit I couldn’t present.  Not a huge deal, since my teacher is understanding and I could have submitted it upon returning home where I would surely have found what I was looking to find.

But during this, I think I stumbled onto the Facebook feed of one of my former students.  A Latina, she has three daughters.  They are all citizens (not that it matters).  Her eldest daughter was legitimately scared, and asking over and over again whether they should be packing since they’re going to be sent back to Mexico.  This, clearly, freaked out the younger girls.

Around this time, I realized that I wasn’t able to speak.  I talk to myself a LOT.  I like to hear the sound of my voice and rehearse things I’m going to say.  I was sitting alone in a room, and suddenly, I couldn’t speak.  I couldn’t decide if I was faking or not.  I started panicking.  Then, I remembered the Autistic Twitter Universe talking about how people were internalizing the pain of others today (moreso than usual) and it was going to be a hard day.  I remembered my husband losing his voice at work when he was stressed.  In his case, it got better when he came home.  I texted him and then decided to tell my teacher, in writing.  Fortunately, he’s easy.  We had a conversation while I wrote and he spoke and he said I could leave or stay and we’d make things work.  We did, as it happened.

Here’s how the experience went:

Continue reading “Unable to Speak: Being Cautious When the World Spins Out of Control”