It’s only fair that I explain how Annie from Gradeschool Brains became a teacher and why she started a blog.
Working with students with Autism is what I know I have been called to do! Some days are better than others. Some days, I can’t wait to research strategies and interventions I can use with my little ones. I go nuts creating multiple projects on donorschoose.org so that I can receive the materials that will enable me to better teach them. Some days, I spend hours choosing the right book or worksheet or activity to expand on the topic for the day. Some days, I can’t believe I’ve reached my dream of educating these fascinating, unique and mysterious students! …Other days, however, I wonder if I should change careers! It’s a fulfilling field but it is also quite tiring and draining. I go home and crash!
So how exactly did I end up here?
It all started with one single video in an education class in college. I had just changed majors from Architecture to… undecided? Yeah, I wasn’t exactly sure what to do from there. Education was sort of my go to option since I had been volunteering as a Sunday School teacher for my church for many years. I figured I had some experience and it was something that I liked and that came naturally. But I still wasn’t sure what field of education to pursue. Then my professor from my “Teaching Multicultural Students” class showed a video I will never forget. THE video that changed my life for the better and led me to my calling in life. I still don’t remember what the video was called. It was the story of the family of a child who was diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. The parents spent a great deal of time and resources trying to get as many therapies as possible for their son- their first born. In the video, they expressed their frustrations and fears. They conveyed their challenges and joys. And just when they were coming to terms with the condition, they gave birth to twin boys who are also diagnosed with Autism/Developmental Delay before the age of 2. Yep! Not one, not two, but three children with Autism! They spent their life savings, they gave up other dreams, they dove into making life better and education more accessible for their sons. One of the many therapies that they were funding for their children was Applied Behavior Analysis. I was sold!!! From that day on, I looked up everything there was to know about Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis with gazelle intensity. Seven years of college, two Bachelor’s degrees and a Master’s later, I am in the field I envisioned my entire adult life.
But why exactly am I in the field?
Resources, resources, resources! The parents in the video lacked the resources necessary initially to help their little ones. As a special education teacher, not only do I get the opportunity to work first-hand with individuals with autism, but I also get to work with the families. I get to guide them and point them in the right direction. I get to provide support and hope that everything WILL be okay. That very part of my job is what makes my calling so enjoyable! And the reason why I am still around. My life’s work will always be providing resources and hope to families. For this very reason, I also started the Gradeschool Brains blog. I want to reach out to families and educators everywhere. Networking can often be the best resource, and is also free of charge!
Are you also beautifully entangled in the field of autism? How exactly did you end up here? What is YOUR beginning? Share in the comments below.
Parent to Parent of Miami, Inc.
Supporting families for over 25 years
Advocacy is an essential component to leading your child to success! The following post will help you understand what advocacy is and how you can get started.
According to dictionary.com, advocacy is “the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending”. In your case, you are advocating for your child- and so are we! In the years to come, you will learn many ways in which you can become an active influence in your child’s life and academic endeavors. I truly believe that the first step toward that is through advocating for your child. Ultimately you are an expert in your child. You, better than anyone, knows his skills, abilities, strengths and needs. This knowledge will become an excellent conduct to leading your child to success and to challenge him in a way that will bring him closer to the goals you and those in his team have prepared for him.
Parent to Parent of Miami, Inc. is an organization created and guided by parents like you. The idea was to aid families of students with disabilities with the process of obtaining services needed and understanding the educational system which can be very confusing at times. Need help with IEP and SPED jargon? Don’t just google it on your own! Parent to Parent of Miami, Inc. can help with that. In fact, more than 25 years later, parents all over the county are still receiving the information they need to become their child’s number one advocate. Their website contains a great deal of information including resources, workshops, training and motivational stories about other families and how they learned to advocate for their children.
Get acquainted with their website (which has been hyperlinked to the featured image at the top of this post) and read up on some of the free information they have available and you will feel better equipped to advocate for your child!
Since I am located in sunny South Florida this post is mostly about Parent to Parent of Miami, Inc. If you are from another state and would like information about a Parent to Parent organization in your area, click on the picture below and you will find the link to Parent to Parent USA which can better guide you to an advocacy support system in your area. Happy researching!
Here’s a great resource to add to your library!
This video provides a preview to the Starabella series. Starabella is a series of books for children between the preschool years and second grade. It is a series about autism and acceptance. This is a great addition to your library as you search to explain Autism Spectrum Disorders to your child or teach her about accepting others who may be different.
Also, these series are based on the real life of a young girl growing up with autism who used music to overcome her anxieties and fears. The series were created by a family involved in caring for the girl who is now a successful woman.
I’m looking forward to reading these myself and adding them to our classroom library! If you would like to know more about the family who put this series together here is a link to aid you in your quest.
Meet the Fialco family
Laughter, smiles and rushing feet; maybe some hopping and skipping. Not many words. My students were excited to walk into the playground just as we do every day after lunch. Following bubbles from the bubble machine, going up the tunnel and down the slide (over and over and over again), and getting tickled are some of their favorite activities to do in the playground. However, something happened today. Something that helped me realize I need to do more outside of my classroom.
As one of my students flapped his hands towards the trees—as he typically does since he enjoys the sensory input he receives from watching the branches move with the wind—a Kindergartener of typical development saw him, pointed at him, and laughed as he showed his friends. My first reaction was to become upset, very upset. My students don’t understand what it is to be bullied or to be made fun of because they’re different. They don’t understand social situations, whether positive or negative. My students have Autism…
I do not take situations like this lightly; if I don’t interfere, who else will? The anger I felt was quickly replaced by understanding. Many of our general population students have not had an opportunity to interact with our students with Autism. They have not been explained what it is to have a disability or what it is to ‘behave’ different. And this was a Kindergartener for goodness sake! As I walked toward the kid, I wanted to sit him by me and explain all I know about Autism. I wanted to talk to him about the big responsibility he has of showing respect, empathy and understanding. I wanted to let him know that he can make a difference by simply showing kindness and acceptance. So I did. I walked to him and was overtaken by a great desire to teach. My words were simple and quick. Enough to let him know I noticed him. Although he was a little scared to see me coming toward him- my demeanor might have been a bit scary- I could see I sparked some interest in him. That’s all I wanted; to plant a seed of curiosity so that they may continue to be haunted by the thought that everyone is different and that different is okay.
My students didn’t notice; but I did. It’s about time I make a difference outside of my classroom. It’s time to teach awareness and kindness to the little ones I pass by every day and ignore because I am so busy supervising my students with disabilities. Perhaps I can make a difference one student at a time, just as I did today. Or perhaps, I will get together with other Special Education teachers in the Autism Academy at my school, we’ll plan a simple informative session we can teach to grade-school students about how to treat students with disabilities; perhaps this will change their lives and they’ll grow up to be thoughtful, caring, kind and accepting people who treat everyone fairly… One can only dream.. and take action! Today was an excellent day!