Thursday, January 30, 2014

Writer's Block Removed- Book Proposal Almost Finished!

Sometimes the answers to my problems are simple.  I took a long look at my manuscript and realized I was writing the very book I swore I wouldn't.  I was writing "An Idiot's Guide to Gabe".  I had written a memoir about Gabe's triumph over his autism.  That is not what I wanted to do.  There are plenty of those types of books out there already.  I am proud of my amazing son but, in reality, he is no different than thousands or millions of other kids.  Gabe is not a genius like in the new book "Spark".

The reason Gabe succeeded where others like him has more to do with the wonderful support system we have and our basic attitudes towards his disability.  Gabe benefited from his grandparents' life work.  They both dedicated their lives to educating children with disabilities.  He benefited from wonderful teachers and therapists who looked beyond his labels and pushed him.  He benefited from having an older brother who just wanted a playmate and who never let me forget to treat them the same.

This all sounds simple and in many ways it is.  Our way was cheap mainly because we didn't have money to spend on specialists or private therapists.

*Aside from when he was diagnosed, Gabe never saw a specialist for his autism.
*Never taken medications for his autism.
*Never had ABA.
*Never had special "treatments" for his autism.

So, why is Gabe called a "Modern Miracle" by many who know him?

I listened to the simple and old fashioned advice of people who had worked with the disabled for decades.  I followed their advice even when it was difficult. was very difficult.  My son went from a functionally nonverbal toddler who couldn't do the simplest of tasks to a high school honor student studying consumer confidence in our nation economy in his spare time.  This is the same child who didn't learn to count until he was seven years old.  Eight years later he is studying the workings of Wall Street.

Most people credit me with his success.  I did work hard to help him but the philosophies that I used were what I learned from others.  These philosophies and words of wisdom can be applied to any child, disabled or fully abled.  I now know how to write the book I want to write.  I started by throwing out the title page and table of contents.  I started from scratch with a fresh outline.

Now I can write the book that will help millions. Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Writer's Block

A photographic mistake but it reflects my lack of focus.
I have hit a roadblock.  I have been writing about Gabe's journey for years.  I started taking notes and writing when we still didn't have a diagnosis.

I wrote because it is what I do.  I write.

About 10 years ago, I decided I should write a book about what we learned helping Gabe overcome his autism.  I knew we had advantages that most do not.  I wanted to share the wisdom of my parents and others.

Now that Gabe is in high school and is doing wonderfully, I can seriously think about finishing the book.  Until now, I could not expect anyone to seriously believe I had something of value to say.  Gabe has exceeded all of my expectations.  When he now tells me he wants to move to New York City and be the CEO of a large bank, I believe he can.  I also think he should think about being the chairman of the Federal Reserve.  He can do it.

So why am I having such difficulty writing?

I am afraid I will sound pompous and arrogant.  I don't have all the answers but I do have some.  We had advantages that others in our situation don't have.

What I have to say will not be popular with many people.  I think many of our programs do more harm than good.  It is a problem in special education and in general education.  We have lost our perspective.  We focus on minutia and lose sight of what should be our goals.

I have to finish this.

There were no miracle cures for Gabe.  It was hard work and determination.  I believe others can also achieve the same level of independence.

I used to worry incessantly about Gabe's future.  Who would take care of him once I died?  I no longer worry about his future.  I fully expect he will be taking care of me in my old age.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Columbus has 17 charter school failures in one year

Columbus has 17 charter school failures in one year

How is this possible?  All the money and time wasted sickens me.  The broken promises to the families and disruption to the students' education are inexcusable.

Who is profiting from these halfhearted attempts?  What regulations determine the opening of a charter school?

Educational Service Centers are in place to provide support to the districts.  They are not intended to become districts in their own right.

From their website:  The Mission of the North Central Ohio ESC is to meet the needs of our educational partners through excellent service."

A couple years ago NCOESC opened a beautiful new facility in Tiffin, Ohio.  The space was about 1,000x larger than the old space.  My mother worked for years at the NCOESC.  She was shocked at the new space and baffled.  Why did they need that much space?  Why did they have a marketing department?

Traditionally, the ESC provides support to the local school districts.  This support is usually centered around special education, testing and service.  In our area, the special education supervisor and school psychologist are contracted to us through the ESC.  The physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists are also arranged through the ESC.  Other types of services are the special education preschool teachers and aides, the vision specialist and braille tutor.

Instead of overstepping their mission statement, the NCOESC needs to focus on their partner schools and ensuring that the students' IEPs are all being followed and the teachers are prepared for the incoming students.  They should also ensure that state regulations that require scheduling team meeting when parents can attend are followed, parent requests for information are fulfilled and parent requests for team planning meetings are not ignored.

I can tell you from personal experience that all is not perfect in their partner districts.  If it were I would not have files filled with emails and legal information.  My husband and I would not have been excluded from a very important evaluation meeting.  Being excluded from that meeting severely and negatively impacted my child's education and emotional well being the following year.

The ESC needs to focus on the realities of their partner districts and work to fix what ails them.  Often those fixes are simple and cheap.  Open and honest communication between the teachers and the parents is essential.  The ESC should be working as a facilitator in that. regard.  The ESC should also be working to improve teacher preparedness and effectiveness in the various learning styles.  They should work in the classroom with the teacher to improve teaching.  All teachers need improvement including me.

Until their own house is in order, the NCOESC should restrain from sponsoring charter schools.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Wrestling is Blind All but Skill & Endurance

Wrestling is blind to all but skill and endurance.  It is one sport where favoritism and prejudice is not found (at least not often).  In baseball, football and basketball so much of what position a player is given or if he gets any playing time depends upon the coaches' opinion.  Too often it is based upon a family's reputation as good athletes.  If there was an older sibling that was good, the younger one is given more of a edge.

In wrestling, each wrestler has to prove that they are the best at their weight class.  Having an athletic family may help by having more experience but the athlete still needs to win the wrestle offs. The results are not subject to interpretation.  The score is the score.

I have always respected wrestlers and wrestling.  My brother wrestled.  My sister wanted to wrestle but girls didn't wrestle in those days.  Honestly, I didn't pay very much attention to the sport.  I was only really interested in watching the boys.  As a high school student, I was too absorbed in my own head to really think about anything else.  Only when my sons started wrestling did I really start to appreciate the sport.

Nate started wrestling in 7th grade.  His best friend, a long time wrestler, encouraged him to wrestle to join the team.  That year everything about the sport was new and unknown.  I realized just how much I didn't pay attention to anything in high school.  I had no idea just how hard the wrestlers train and condition.  Much of their preparation for a match involves building stamina.  Without huge reserves of endurance, winning is not about skill or knowledge.  All the technical skill in the world pales in comparison to the stamina needed to three or more rounds against a tough opponent.

My second son started wrestling when he was in the 8th grade.  Gabe would have started earlier but he had obstacles to overcome.  Late in elementary school he began to have difficulty walking.  The bones in his feet had shifted out of place because we forced him to learn to walk "correctly" and not be a toe-walker.  His 7th grade year was spent having major surgery on each foot and physical therapy to regain strength.  Less than a year after his last surgery, Gabe joined the wrestling team.

This was the year that my true appreciation of wrestling began.  Many people doubted Gabe would be able to wrestle.  The surgeries on his feet were not the only reason for concern.  Gabe is autistic.  He has made tremendous progress academically and socially but he still has quirks and issues.  One of those issues has always been touch.  He does not like casual contact with people.  How could a boy with tactile issues wrestle?

I forgot one of the benefits of autism.  Rules.  Gabe structures his world through rules.  Following rules is extremely important and the main way he maintains control over his autism.  The only caveat is making sure he understands the rules correctly and has not created quirky rules that cause problems.  The rules of wrestling say that wrestlers must touch  each other in order to win.  So, Gabe allows touching...during wrestling.

Two hurdles overcome.  But...could he actually wrestle and win?

Like all new wrestlers, the chances of winning are very low.  Gabe's inexperience and his low muscle tone made his chances very slim.  He did have one advantage, his height.  Even in 8th grade he was well over 6 foot but only weighed about 140 lbs if that.  I'm sure he remembers his weight but I don't.  All I know is that he was usually at least a foot taller than his opponents and once he was spread his arms and legs it was nearly impossible for them to turn him and pin him.

This picture shows his first win.  Yes, it is very blurry.  I could not stand still long enough to get a clear shot.  The win was perfect in every way.  It was during a duals meet.  For those who don't know, during a duals meet two teams wrestle through each weight class usually one one mat.  It is very much a team competition.  Each win, loss or forfeit earns points for the team.  During this match, Gabe and his opponent were fairly evenly matched.  They fought and the crowd cheered.  More important to me and probably to Gabe, his teammates were lined up on the edge of the mat yelling encouragement.

If this had been a tournament with our team wrestling on many different mats often at the same time, the level of excitement and the significance of the event would have lost on most of the kids and the audience.  With only one mat and one match to watch, everyone followed this match.  We live in a small district and most people know Gabe and his struggle with autism.  His team knows about his surgeries and that it was his first year.  They knew how difficult it was for him.  The referee didn't know any of this.  To him it was just another match.  Gabe won without any allowances made for his disability.  He proved to himself and everyone else that he could compete and win.

Friday night I had the great fortune to attend at a large tournament.  There were at least 31 teams there and about 700 matches on 10 different mats.  I didn't have a copy of the brackets or know which teams were there unless I recognized the uniform or logo.  Nate was wrestling at 170 lbs. and worried since there were so many former state qualifiers there.  Four of them were on our team.  I watched match after match. One match caught my attention.  One of the wrestlers had dwarfism.  We noticed him walking the full length of the mats to get to the one where he would wrestle and waited to see his match.  It was at the far end of the arena and sometimes difficult to see.  What I saw amazed me.  Far from being an easy win for his opponent, the wrestler had more upper body strength than I thought possible.  Where Gabe uses his long arms and legs to his advantage, this wrestler used his short limbs.  I'm not sure of the ending since there was so much happening at once but I am fairly positive he lost by decision.  He was not pinned.  Every time his opponent got him in position to pin him, he twisted his body and rolled.

Yesterday I found out that I knew the wrestler.  My husband and son went out to eat after the second day of the tournament.  The wrestler with dwarfism was there with his team.  My husband told me that the team our former town was there.  We both thought it was ironic and wondered if we knew any of the wrestlers.  It had been 11 years since we moved and I doubted we would remember any of the students.  Last night Nate asked if we knew anyone from there that was especially short. He seemed to have a vague memory of someone.

Bingo.  It finally clicked and I remembered a boy that had not been on my mind for well over a decade.  On our little dead end street, there was a boy with dwarfism.  I didn't know his family very well and we moved after only a year.  I remembered him.  He was roughly the same age as my boys which means he was about 3 or 4 years old then.  I can't say as I really knew him but I do remember thinking he didn't let his height interfere with anything.  It definitely didn't interfere with his wrestling. Striving for Independence: Ways to Help Children with Disabilities Learn to Function More Indepedently eBook: Kristan Payne: Kindle Store

Thursday, January 9, 2014

New Year, New Hope

Building our future.

New Year, New Hope

With the end of ever year I have one ritual.  As soon as the Christmas presents are unwrapped and the kids are happily engrossed in their gifts, I tackle the mess of our year's worth of paperwork.  I find the paper shredder, grab a garbage bag, and fill my coffee cup.  I sort through every pile.  Toss what can be tossed.  Shred what contains personal information and doesn't need to be saved.  Find all tax information and swear that I will be better organized next year at this time.

This year I can honestly say I am more organized than most previous years.  I still have several piles of papers to sort and shred but overall I am making progress.  My family has come to terms with my yearly ritual and they may understand it is necessary.  They don't realize the emotional significance of it for me.

Each time I shred old bills and statements, I feel a weight lifted.  I am one paper lighter.  The mountain of papers that threatens daily to drown us is tamed ever so slightly.  Yes, it would be better to do this process monthly or even daily.  I do try but sometimes the months slide by faster than that wind that brought the polar vortex to Ohio.  Before I know it January has become March and then June is here.  Two days ago our high temperature was 7 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.  In what will seem like a mere week, the temperatures will soar and the flowers will be blooming.

This year I will watch the flowers bloom and my paperwork monster will be controlled.

There is a major reason that this year is different.  I faced a monster otherwise known as a credit card bill and destroyed it.  Our lives have not been easy for the past few years.  Between factory closings, relocations and surgeries our finances have been drastically reduced.  Our practice of never carrying a balance on credit cards was a thing of the past.  One card in particular, which I won't name, was a burden.   The rates were high and mysterious fees had begun to appear.  The weight of it overwhelmed me and I am forced to say I didn't fix the problem immediately.  I did try a couple times but didn't get very far. Last month that changed.

My husband and I decided that we needed to get rid of that debt even if it meant withdrawing money from our retirement account.  We did and I paid off the credit card.  That wasn't enough and I decided to cancel it.  I found the number and called to cancel it.  I told them why.  They quickly transferred me to a supervisor.  I had a history of large debt and they really didn't want to see me close the account.  The supervisor arranged to cancel the program that was charging me and refund all the money I'd paid it over the years.

Yes.  Years.  I have been ignoring it for years.

Since we paid off that card and I fixed the problems with it, I have been able to calculate a way for us to be credit card debt free by next Christmas!

Hope is a powerful force and hopelessness is just as powerful a negative force.