Colorado’s Joshua School for autistics

Click for school’s website.

Politicians, educators and parents in Englewood (near Denver) and Boulder Colorado are miles ahead of those who live and work in most cities in the U.S. and Canada.

Why? Because they seem to recognize that not all children and youth should be thrown into regular classrooms in the “belief” that kids with special needs cannot be prepared for a successful life outside a regular classroom setting.

In Canada, we refer to that “ideology” as inclusiveness or integration, while in the U.S. it’s called “mainstreaming.” 

For example, check out this article about The Joshua School in Englewood — which has just announced another campus will be opened in Boulder. 

As the school’s About TJS page indicates, the school provides ABA therapy and a wide variety of programming options for kids aged 2 1/2 to 21. Plus, all decisions are based on the assessed learning and treatment needs of the children and youth in their care — what professionals are now referring to as evidence-based treatment (particularly in medicine).

Why is that type of decision-making relevant? Because it bases programming and therapy decisions, not on any particular philosophy, or saving money, but on exactly, or as close as possible, to what each child or youth in their care needs.

On the inclusive integration debate, check out what Paul Bennett wrote at EduChatter last spring, as well as what I wrote regarding Harold Doherty’s radio interview on the Province of New Brunswick’s near obsession for one-size fits all.  

However, change could be in the air in Canada, New Brunswick in particular, given we are “finally” starting to hear alternative points of view. As Doherty posted a couple of days ago at Facing Autism in NB,  Yude M. Henteleff made a presentation at the Atlantic Human Rights Conference on June 15th, 2012 about the necessity for a new special education placement “paradigm” that would widen the concept of inclusiveness.

What might such a new concept of inclusiveness look like? Well, it wouldn’t be based on the rigid ideology popular now that a regular classroom is the least restrictive environment. In actual fact, a single option like that is the very opposite of inclusion — rigid and inflexible. As this online definition of inclusive states, inclusive actually means comprehensive within a wide scope, such as the numbers from 1 to 10 are inclusive of all the numbers in between.

Anyway, my point for writing this post about The Joshua School is to provide a concrete example of what Henteleff’s new paradigm of inclusion might look like. It is inclusive because children with special needs are placed in a wide range of situations that are based on their age, their grade and their their special “diagnosed” needs. 

My congratulations to Doherty, Henteleff and Joshua’s Board of Directors, for being ahead of the curve and getting it right!

Mason Stokes, who has autism, saves friend’s life with Heimlich Manoeuver.

Click on image for video.

Mason Stokes, age 15, has an autism spectrum disorder and lives in Chalmers Indiana. Recently, while eating lunch in the high school cafeteria, he noticed one of his classmates struggling to breath and coughing really hard.

Saying he is good under pressure, he apparently calmly got up and went over to his friend and did the Heimlich Manoeuver — a skill he had learned in the Boy Scouts.

Stokes says that, although he is feeling a bit uncomfortable with all the attention, he is glad he was able to help. 

Help? I’ll say. He saved someone’s life!

While it is obvious that Stokes is articulate and high functioning (see video), it just goes to show that sometimes certain aspects of autism can have a very positive outcome.

Mason Stokes, if by any chance you read this, know that you have the appreciation of a lot of people for a job well done! And, on a personal note, I’d like to suggest that its okay to be a hero for a little while. 🙂

H/T Autism News.

Jacob, blind & with autism, bonds with busker Tyler Gregory

What a heartwarming story!  An eight year old blind boy, who allegedly suffers from a severe autism spectrum disorder and known on the Internet only as Jacob, stopped to listen to Tyler Gregory.

Gregory, a regular busker in Lawrence, Kansas, at first doesn’t seem to notice Jacob. However, as the song goes on, Jacob starts to sway to the music, and the busker becomes aware.

Then, Jacob does the unthinkable for a child with severe autism, he moves very close to Gregory, a stranger, to experience the sound and feel the vibrations.

In fact, you can see Jacob touch Gregory’s leg as the musician taps his foot to keep time. Then, perhaps most touching of all, at the end of the video Jacob goes so far as to put his entire hand over the guitar strings — something he does a couple of times.

Fortunately, Gregory does nothing to stop Jacob’s exploration which was great. 

Which tells me that Jacob is very aware of his surroundings and his family might want to look into using music, particularly the guitar, as a means of helping him interpret and engage in his world.

My sincere thanks to the unknown person who taped this incident!

H/T reddit.com and gawker.com

Adam Thompson, missing ON autistic teen “found alive & well!”

Credit Tillsonberg News.

A 14 year old teen with severe autism is missing from his home in Georgetown, Ontario (which is about 50 km west of Toronto). (H/T JNW #7)  

His name is Adam Thompson and he went missing Sunday night in only his pyjamas and socks.

Police are asking that if he is seen, that he not be approached as he will become extremely anxious. And, that anxious reaction could have a negative impact on an already existing heart condition.

If anyone has any information, they should contact the Halton Regional Police immediately at 905-878-5511.

[…]

Update Monday 6pm: Thankfully, there is a happy ending to this story. The young man was found alive and well late this afternoon some six kms from home. Police say he is in good condition. It has been a blessing that the temperature in Southern Ontario today has been in the mid 20s celsius.

Conor’s housecoat, an autism good news story

Too often we only hear negative stories regarding teachers, teaching assistants and public schools — they’re not doing enough of this or they’re not doing enough of that. So, when I read about Conor Doherty’s new housecoat, I just had to share that good news story with regular readers. Check it out here at Facing Autism in New Brunswick.

Apparently, one of Conor’s favourite stories is the Cat in the Hat, so when one of his teaching assistant’s saw the “Cat in the Hat” themed red housecoat, he had to buy it for him. Now, that is the kind of dedication and commitment we all like to see in our educators. And, judging from Conor’s photo, he is excited about his gift too.

Kudos to TA Brad!

Endnote: While it is understandable that teachers and TA’s can’t buy housecoats for all their students, I am sure that in similar circumstances, a  telephone call with a heads-up to parents would ensure that they make a quick purchase for their son or daughter’s next birthday.

Kyle Forbes an autistic who saved his teacher’s life

Young Kyle Forbes was in his classroom this week when his teacher started to choke while eating an apple. He says he knew what he had to do, thanks to his boy scout training — and did the Heimlich manouver on her. It took a couple of upward thrusts but with the second try, out came the piece of apple. In other words, he saved her life.

The only thing is Kyle is also autistic and up to now has struggled to fit in with his school mates. Not any more. Watch this video (after the compulsory ad) and you will smile when he says something to the effect that, yes, its okay to call him a hero. He saved someone’s life afterall.

I agree Kyle. You are definitely a hero, something not many of us can say

Jeff Donohoo: When a child with autism grows up

Here is one man’s story of what it is like to grow up with an autism spectrum disorder. It is about Jeff Donohoo, who is 36 years old. I can really identify with his story as my son (who is 43) is also diagnosed with the same disorder. In fact, I recognized many of the same traits.

But, I am posting it because it is also a story of hope. The message is, that while adults like Jeff will never be completely independent, they can live full and satisfying lives.  And, since all children grow up, whether they have autism or not, we as a society have to do what we can to help them make the most of the one life they have.