Emma Presumes Competence!

I did not get all of my Autism Acceptance month post up for April (that month sped by!). So, we will continue to share the words of our Growing Kids Therapy Center clients in May in celebration of GKTC’s 6th anniversary and Better Speech and Hearing Month! Today’s post comes from Emma.  Emma and I have been working together for 11 years with the last 2 years focused on RPM.  Emma has a constant smile and look of mischief on her face. She is quick to laugh and always cracks up when I mess something up (which is frequent!). Her laugh is infectious, so inevitably, we both end up in giggles!

Emma is now fluent in her RPM skills but her writing continues to evolve with every session. With some of my very fluent clients, I present information without asking specific questions only asking the student to analyze and synthesize the information presented. Here are Emma’s thoughts on presuming competence.

How can you resist this smile?

How can you resist this smile?

COMPETENCE IS SOMETHING THOSE OF US WITH AUTISM HAVE BUT NOT MANY BELIEVE.  I DON’T THINK MOST PEOPLE CORRECTLY ASSUME I AM SMART. SO FRUSTRATING. SO INSULTING.

DON’T REALLY THINK SPECIAL EDUCATON GETS ME OR MY FRIENDS. I THINK ANNE DONNELLAN IS RIGHT.  TOO MUCH EMPHASIS HAS BEEN PLACED ON TESTS THAT MANY OF US WITH AUTISM CAN’T SUCCESSFULLY TAKE.  TOO BAD THAT SCHOOLS ARE STUCK ON TESTING MORE THAN TEACHING.

I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH BIKLEN.  HE IS RIGHT THAT STUDENTS NEED TO BE ENGAGED CREATIVELY.  HE IS ALSO RIGHT TO ASSUME THAT STUDENTS WANT TO LEARN. TEACHERS SHOULD HAVE TO TAKE A PLEDGE TO DO NO HARM.  I THINK IGNORING THE NEEDS OF AUTISTIC STUDENTS IS HARMFUL.

ANNE SULLIVAN ASSUMED THAT HELEN COULD LEARN AND TAUGHT HER TO SIGN. THRESHER IS AN ADULT AUTISTIC WHO IS COMMUNICATING THROUGH TYPING. HIS COMMUNICATION MAKES HIM FEEL LIKE HE IS PART OF THE WORLD.  MINE DOES TOO!

Emma, I can’t think of a better testimony to communication!  It IS what makes us part of the world and why it is so important for kids to have access to education and a communication method that works for them!

~Elizabeth and Emma

Autism Acceptance – Charles on Autism Self Advocacy!

As we continue to celebrate Autism Acceptance Month, Charles from Atlanta has something to add to the conversation.  I refer to Charles as “The Cool” because he is one of the most laid back guys I know!  Don’t let Charles’ quiet demeanor fool you. He is always listening and reflecting and has formed very definite opinions which he is always willing to share!  Here are Charles’ thoughts on the Autism Self Advocacy Network from an article on Ari Ne’eman.

Charles, whom I have nicknamed, "The Cool", and his Mom show their skills on the boards! Two star pupils!

Charles, whom I have nicknamed, “The Cool”, and his Mom show their skills on the boards! Two star pupils!

Who are we talking about? ARI

Who appointed him to a council on autism? OBAMA

What was his experience of learning he was autistic?
HE WAS DIAGNOSED AT 12.  HIS MOTHER TOLD HIM.

How about your experience?
ELEMENTARY SCHOOL WAS WHEN I KNEW I WAS DIFFERENT.

How did Ari experience the opinions of others about autism?
HE FOUND STINGING COMMENTS AT FIRST.  HE STARTED STAYING AWAY FROM NEGATIVE PEOPLE AND HANGING OUT WITH AUTISTICS.  HE LONGED FOR COMMUNITY.  I HAVE FELT THE SAME WAY.

What do you think about ASAN?
ASAN IS GREAT AS AN ORGANIZATION KIND OF LIKE ATLANTA RPM.  MY ATLANTA COMMUNITY HAS GROWN SO MUCH.  TEACHING OTHERS ABOUT AUTISM IS THE JOB OF AUTISTICS NOT NON AUTISTICS.

Ari discusses the need for community as well as assimilation in the world.  What are your thoughts on this?
FITTING IN THE NORMAL WORLD HARD TO DO.  I DO NOT LIKE CHALLENGING MY AUTISM FOR ANYONE ELSE’S COMFORT BUT I ENJOY DISPLAYING HOW SMART I AM.  I AGREE I SEE INCLUSION AS A REAL PRIORITY AND ALSO THINK AUTISTICS NEED TO BE ABLE TO COME TOGETHER TO RELATE TO EACH OTHER.  I ENJOY SPENDING TIME WITH OTHER AUTISTICS WHO RPM LIKE ME.

Charles is a leader and advocate! His voice (along with his mother’s) has attracted many new RPMers to the Atlanta community.  Keep up your fantastic advocacy Charles, the world is listening!

~Elizabeth and Charles

Autism Acceptance Month – Bella Presumes Competence!

It has been my absolute pleasure to visit Australia these last two weeks to hold workshops in Sydney and in Perth.  The Perth workshop just started today and the kids all really brought their best to the boards.  I am seeing 8 kids in the Perth workshop, 3 who are brand new to RPM.  I can’t wait to see where they end up by the close of the week!  In Sydney, I worked with 9 fantastic kids and their families, 5 were newbies.  Each of the Sydney kids made incredible progress over the week, all demonstrated that they are smart and eager to learn! It has been a pure joy to work with every one of these bright, imaginative, loving, and adorable kids! I will be leaving Australia with a full heart and many new friends (and a plan to return!!).

One of my Sydney kids, Bella, is a huge reason for my visit to Australia!  I have been following this 8 year old RPM powerhouse on the web for some time and have been a long time fan and inspired by her work with her dedicated parents!  Bella and her family have been a huge voice in the Australian RPM community. Their advocacy and support is large reason that so many Australian families have sought RPM for their kids.  It was such a treat to work with Bella and her absolutely delightful family!  Here are Bella’s thoughts on Presuming Competence!

Bella and Elizabeth.  Sydney, April 2015.

Bella and Elizabeth. Sydney, April 2015.

What do you think about the presumption of competence?
I THINK EQUALITY FOR ALL LEARNERS IS SO IMPORTANT.

Tell me what you think Anne Donnellan’s position on special education.
ANNE IS SO RIGHT!  TESTS ARE NOT A GOOD WAY TO SHOW HOW SMART I AND OTHERS ARE.  TESTS DO NOT LET ME SHOW THAT I CAN THINK AND THEY LIMIT MY EDUCATION OPPORTUNITIES.

What are your thoughts on Douglas Bicklen and his position on speech and cognitive abilities?  DR. BIKLEN HAS A REALLY GOOD POINT.  SPEECH IS NOT A GOOD INDICATION OF INTELLIGENCE!  SOME REALLY STUPID PEOPLE NEVER STOP TALKING.  SOME GENIUSES NEVER SPEAK.

We just discussed Anne Sullivan’s work with Helen Keller.  How did she  presume competence?
I THINK THAT ANNE SULLIVAN WAS RIGHT TO PRESUME COMPETENCE.  SHE SAW HELEN WAS TRAPPED IN SILENCE LIKE ME.  THAT DID NOT STOP HER FROM BELIEVING IN HELEN!  SO MANY OF OURS ARE STILL TRAPPED.  PLEASE HELP THEM TOO.  TRUSTING YOU TO WORK WITH ALL KIDS WHO ARE STILL SILENT.

Bella, help me to teach other people. Think of it as “Bella’s Guide to Presuming Competence”!  How should others do it?
BELLAS GUIDE TO PRESUME COMPETENCE.  GO OUT AND EMBRACE OUR AUTISTIC PEOPLE.  SHOW THEM YOU REALLY CARE.  SHOW THEM YOU REALLY BELIEVE THEY ARE SMART.  THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT STEP TO TAKE.

Bella, would this be OK for me to put on my GKTC blog for Autism Acceptance month?
I WOULD CONSIDER IT AN HONOR.

Wow Bella!  You have left a lasting imprint on my heart!  I will do all I can to accept your challenge to help others who are still trapped in silence. Thank you for all your hard work and leadership in Australia and now in the rest of the world!  I hope that everyone will take your advice and embrace our autistic people and show them we really believe in them!!!

~Elizabeth and Bella

Autism Acceptance Month – Sarah Presumes Competence!

Today’s blog comes to you courtesy of my friend, Sarah. Sarah is an incredibly bright and funny teen who keeps me on my toes every time we work together!  I never know what Sarah is going to bring to our lessons, but I can rely on the fact that it will include her keen insights and sharp wit!  This lesson on presuming competence is no exception!

What are we talking about today?
PRESUMING COMPETENCE

What does presuming competence mean?
ON EQUAL FOOTING … UNDERSTANDING ALL ARE EQUAL

What does the word competent mean?
BASICALLY IT MEANS SOMEONE IS ABLE

Tell me about Anne Donnellan and what she suggests.
ANNE DONNELLAN IS A SPECIAL ED RESEARCHER.  SPECIAL ED IS FAILING STUDENTS .  
EDUCATION ASSUMES THAT INTELLIGENCE CAN BE MEASURED.

Sarah, what is your experience with this?
I DON’T LIKE TAKING TESTS. HAVE TEST ANXIETY.  IT MAKES ME ANXIOUS SO DON’T DO WELL.  SO I CAN’T SHOW HOW I LEARN AND THINK.

Tell me about Douglas Biklen and his ideas.
DOUGLAS BIKLEN . HE SAYS TO PRESUME COMPETENCE.  I THINK HE IS RIGHT.  HE HAS MY WANTS AND EXPECTATIONS FOR SCHOOL.  HOW I WANT TEACHERS TO TREAT ME WITH RESPECT LIKE I AM SMART. 

presuming-competence-hippocratic-db-e1393795912647 copy

Biklen suggests that there should be a Hippocratic Oath for teachers. Do you know what the Hippocratic Oath is?

HIPPOCRATIC OATH IS FOR DOCTORS. IT SAYS DOCTORS SHOULD NOT HARM PATIENTS.

So how would the Hippocratic Oath apply to teachers?
MAYBE THEY SHOULD TAKE AN OATH NOT TO HARM STUDENTS.  SO THEY SHOULD THINK THE STUDENTS ARE SMART AND ACTUALLY TEACH THEM. 

helen-keller-quotes-21

How did Anne Sullivan presume competence with Helen Keller?
HELEN WAS ASSUMED TO BE INCOMPETENT BUT ANNE USED CREATIVE WAYS TO TEACHER HER SIGN LANGUAGE.

What about Tracy Thresher?
THRESHER USES TYPING TO COMMUNICATE.  THIS ALLOWS HIM TO COMMUNICATE TO BE PART OF THE WORLD.

Creative writing:
Sarah, how have you or do you need to be creatively and innovatively taught for you to learn best?
I HAVE NOT BEEN CREATIVELY TAUGHT BEFORE RPM AND FC.  MY EDUCATION HAS LACKED COMPETENCE PRESUMPTION.  I LOVE MY SCHOOL BUT THEY NEED TO TEACH ME BETTER.  I NEED CHALLENGING LESSONS LIKE YOU GIVE ME.  YOU THINK THAT I AM SMART.

Thank you for your always savvy insight!  You deserve to be challenged and engaged every day.  I hope that your message and your challenge to raise the bar will be met by educators, parents, and specialists everywhere!

~Elizabeth and Sarah

Autism Acceptance Month – Reece on Autism Self Advocacy

Atlanta RPMer, Reece, has something to tell us about being a “southern autistic”!  In my last visit to Atlanta in March, Reece and I talked about Ari Ne’eman and the Autism Self Advocacy Network. As soon as Reece started communicating via RPM in November of 2014, he expressed a desire to help other nonspeaking autistics.  His voice has been heard as the Atlanta RPM community continues to grow by leaps and bounds!

Reece

Reece

Tell me about what you just learned about Ari.
ARI FOUNDED ASAN WHEN HE WAS 18. HE LIVES IN DC WITH MY MOST SPECIAL ELIZABETH.

Can you relate to Ari’s experience of being autistic?
SOME PEOPLE CONSIDER AUTISM A BURDEN.  JUST SO HAPPY NOBODY HAS EVER MADE ME FEEL THAT WAY.

Ari talks about this diagnosis and the reaction of others to autism.
I KNEW I WAS DIFFERENT. CHANGED NOTHING WHEN I GOT A LABEL.

What are your thoughts about ASAN?
ASAN IS DIFFERENT BECAUSE IT IS RUN BY AUTISTICS. DEFINITELY AGREE THAT AUTISTICS NOT NORMALS SHOULD ALLOCATE THE RESOURCES FOR AUTISM.

Ari talks about expectations of fitting into the typical world.  What is your experience?NORMALS GET OBSESSED WITH MAKING US LIKE THEM.  SOUTHERNERS ARE SO STUCK ON MANNERS.  I THINK IT IS HARDER TO BE A SOUTHERN AUTISTIC!

How about the balance of fitting into the typical world as well as the autistic community?BECAUSE I AM AUTISTIC I NEED TO BE AROUND OTHER AUTISTICS.  HOWEVER AT THE SAME TIME I NEED TO FIT IN THE NORMAL WORLD.

Anything else you want to add?
ELIZABETH YOU ALWAYS HAVE A SLY WAY OF GETTING ME RILED UP. I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!

Reece, I love you too!  I was raised with Southern etiquette as well and yes, there are a lot of rules! Reece’s thoughts do make me wonder if experiences of autistic people vary from region to region.  I love that my kids always present me with new thoughts to ponder… Reece has been a tremendous leader in the Atlanta community and his new voice is being heard loud and clear far beyond Atlanta! Keep advocating for yourself and others Reece!

~Elizabeth and Reece

Autism Acceptance Month – Paul on Neurodiversity!

Today’s post comes from Paul.  Paul worked on this lesson on neurodiversity with Growing Kids Therapy’s RPMer extraordinaire, Meghann Parkinson.  Paul has a joie de vivre that is palpable! He is a mix of high energy, effervescence, and charisma with a perma-smile!  Hang out with Paul for just a bit and see if you can’t help but smile yourself. One of the many delightful things about Paul, is that you can present any lesson to him on any subject and he will have plenty to add to the conversation. Paul is incredibly thoughtful and wise beyond his 24 years!  Meghann challenged Paul to give his thoughts in response to this article on neurodiversity.

Paul and Meghann

Paul and Meghann

THE AUTHOR OPENS WITH AN EXPLANATION OF NEUROLOGICAL DIFFERENCES AND EXPLAINS HOW THEY ARE NATURALLY OCCURRING. HE ALSO TALKS ABOUT THE PROBLEMS WITH UNDERSTANDING WHERE SUCH DIFFERENCES COME FROM. 

HE COMPARES IT TO SMALLPOX AND TALKS OF CURES, BUT ULTIMATELY THE CURE IS NOT POSSIBLE BECAUSE AUTISM IS NOT A DISEASE.  I AGREE I AM NOT SICK OR BROKEN, I FIND THAT IT IS BETTER TO SEE MYSELF AS VERY DIFFERENT.

TALKS OF CURES DOES MAKE ME SAD.  NOT EVERYONE WANTS TO FIT IN THE NARROW STRIP OF NEUROTYPICAL THINKERS.  MY MIND HAS THE COLORS THIS BLACK AND WHITE WORLD NEEDS.

Paul, clearly your beautiful mind is filled with colors!  We love what you add to this world!
~Elizabeth, Meghann and Paul

Autism Acceptance Month – John on Autism Self Advocacy!

My blogger for today is John.  John started RPM in November, 2014 in a workshop in Atlanta.  I was immediately smitten!  I told his mom that John is “happiness contained in skin!”. You just can’t be around John without catching that happiness!  I find myself smiling throughout our sessions together.  In my last visit to Atlanta in March, John and I did a lesson on Ari Ne’eman, co-founder of the Autism Self Advocacy Network.  How did John get this skilled on the letter boards in 4 months? He and his mother have practiced together every day since that November workshop!!  Here is what John has to say about autism and self advocacy.  (*Note: my comments or questions are in regular font, John’s responses were spelled on a letter board and are presented in all caps).

John

John

Who are we talking about today?
ARI NEMAN

What did Ari Neman start?
AUTISM SELF ADVOCACY NETWORK

What paper did I say this article is from?
WASHINGTON POST

Tell me something about Ari in a full sentence.
ARI COFOUNDED ASAN IN DC.

Tell me what Ari said about his diagnosis.
HE FOUND OUT AT TWLEVE AND WHEN HE READ ABOUT IT HE FOUND TALK OF NEGATIVITY AND JUDGEMENT. 

How about your experience with your diagnosis and responses to you?
ONLY HAVE INTEREST IN SUPPORTING OTHERS WHO DO NOT TALK.

What is ASAN?
ASAN IS A AUTISTIC SUPPORT GROUP BY AND FOR AUTISTICS

What are your thoughts?
I DO THINK THAT NO ONE BUT AUTISTICS SHOULD SPEAK FOR AUTISTICS.

Ari talks about the effort to meet expectations in the non-autistic world, including the demand to make eye contact. Let’s talk about that one.
EYE CONTACT IS IRRITATING.

I read Ari’s thought on both assimilation in the non-autistic world and the need for community.
I AGREE THAT IT IS IMPORTANT TO HAVE A COMMUNITY TO HANG OUT IN. EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE COMFORTABLE IN THEIR OWN SKIN.  I ALSO THINK IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE A PART OF THE REGULAR WORLD.

So, what are your thoughts on autism and advocacy?
I THINK THAT WE NEED TO CHANGE HOW WE LOOK AT AUTISM.  ELIZABETH YOU NEED TO LEAD THE BATTLE!  I WILL HELP.

Thanks for the vote of confidence, John!  I have never considered myself to be an activist, but when my kids ask me (daily!) to help change the way people think about all autistic people, particularly autistics who cannot not speak or cannot speak reliably, how can I refuse?  My delightful friend and autism leader, John, has worked so diligently to develop the motor skills and control needed to point, letter by letter, has a powerful message to share. “EVERYONE NEEDS TO BE COMFORTABLE IN THEIR OWN SKIN”.  Yes, everyone deserves to be respected for who they are.  Everyone deserves to be included – in education, in the workplace, in the community!  John and I are recruiting… join us and spread the word of autism acceptance!  Share John’s words and help change the way we look at autism!

~Elizabeth and John