We tell kids all the time that ordinary people can be superheroes too. This March, a tiny bit more proof of that concept came to light. Kristen Braconi took her son Carter, a 5-year-old boy with high functioning autism and ADHD, to a skate park in South Brunswick for his birthday. They wanted to use the park for about a half hour before the local group of middle schoolers showed up. According to his mother, Carter was worried that the older children would take over the park and exclude them, and that he would have to leave. Luckily for Carter, that was not the case: “[The] kids came up to him, started being super nice, playing, and showing him things” said Kristen.
Elated, Carter zipped around the park with the group of older boys on his scooter, impressing them with his tricks. The boys came together and sang Happy Birthday, bringing Kristen to tears. One of the boys, Gavin Mabes, gave Carter a mini skateboard and taught him how to use it. “When he fell, without even hesitating, Gavin picked him up and showed him how to ride. It was amazing, and they did all this without anyone prompting them,” Braconi said. She posted a heartwarming video of Carter with the boys on Facebook, which quickly went viral.
“These kids showed the care and compassion of Superheroes,” the South Brunswick police department posted on Facebook. “We want to throw them a little pizza party to recognize their Superhero status.” Luckily, the police were quickly successful in “finding their men”, and in the best of circumstances. The boys were identified on Friday as: Gavin Mabes, David Lakatos, Aaron Perna, Luis Velazquez, Damon Andon, Jiya Salman, Jessica George, Lauren Mazur, Samantha Schwab and Om Patel.
It only takes a few minutes to make a child’s day, and you may even improve their whole life. Remember how you wanted to be treated by the older kids and adults when you were a kid; a little sunshine spreads a long way! We’re lucky to have our everyday “superheroes” like this group of boys in our community.
The twelfth annual World Autism Awareness day is April 2, 2019! Blue lights will be lit all around the world to recognize the wonderful people living with autism every day. This is the start of World Autism Month, an event hosted by Autism Speaks to “increase understanding, acceptance, and foster worldwide support.”
Just what is life with autism like, though? Many of us never consider how it feels inside the mind of an autistic person because we know we could never truly understand. There is a book that provides a window into that world. The Reason I Jump is an autobiography written by Naoki Higashida, a 13-year-old autistic boy from Japan, and translated by KA Yoshida David Mitchell. When the book was written, Naoki was nearly completely nonverbal, but the way he describes his view of the world is absolutely fascinating: he communicated using a table with Japanese characters on it to spell out words to his translators. The book answers many questions that most people have been too shy or uncomfortable to ask, such as “Why do people with autism talk so loudly and weirdly?,” “Do you prefer to be on your own?,” and “When you look at something, what do you see first?”. Naoki responds with almost brutal honesty and the reader gets all angles of his daily life.
“When you see an object, it seems that you see it as an entire thing first, and only afterwards do its details follow on. But for people with autism, the details jump straight out at us first of all, and then only gradually, detail by detail, does the whole image float up into focus.”
Although Naoki’s experiences are not the same as every other autistic child, The Reason I Jump is a fantastic resource to spread awareness, understand autism more yourself, and an emotional read. Naoki reveals the struggles autism brings; he gets lost often and panics, and sometimes loses his sense of time among other things. He spends days feeling like a failure because he screws up often. Sometimes his body even moves on its own: “both staying still and moving when we’re told to is tricky — it’s as if we’re remote-controlling a faulty robot…You can’t always tell just by looking at people with autism, but we never really feel that our bodies are our own…Stuck inside them, we’re struggling so hard to make them do what we tell them.”
Impairment does not betray a lack of intelligence. There are bright shining people with colorful personalities and a lot to say inside. They just need a little help and a lot of patience. Spread autism awareness this April 2 and I cannot recommend reading The Reason I Jump enough!
We as adults are always very impressed when talking to a child with a mature speaking tone and vocabulary. Things like “they’re going to go far!”, “start saving for college!” and “they’re just like a little person!” are common to hear in circles of adoring parents commenting on their all-but-grown-up kids. That last comment though, “they’re just like a little person” is almost correct: They ARE a little person, and it’s healthy and constructive to talk to them as such.
While not going so far as to never use baby talk on infants, parents should be mindful that kids learn language by listening to us speak. Our mannerisms, social skills, conversation skills, and vocabulary are just a few things an observant child will pick up on and incorporate into their own speech as they grow. Just like reading a Spanish textbook won’t teach you the ins and outs of conversational Spanish, learning from adults speaking to them like toddlers can never completely teach a child English, or any other language spoken at home.
Whether they express it or not, children are always listening and learning. Experience molds our brain which means it’s constantly rewiring. Kids see us switch from ordinary language to high pitched nonsense when we start speaking to them or other children, they lose the opportunity to talk to us like people and say what they have to say. It’s obvious that it’s a different way of speaking to smaller people, and they may internalize that for later life.
There is a book called The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind written by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. and Tina Payne Bryson, Ph.D which focuses on helping parents and caregivers alike better understand children, respond to difficult situations, and build a foundation for social, emotional, and mental health. It talks about the two types of integration in their whole-brain approach (vertical and horizontal) that cause you to act the way you do. Vertical integration focuses on the higher (mental processes) and lower part of the brain (instinct, gut reactions, survival). Horizontal integration focuses on left-brain logic and right-brain emotion.
The first two whole-brain strategies are: 1) Connect and re-direct and 2) Name it to tame it. Connect and Re-direct focuses on first connecting emotionally and then using logic to teach lessons and discipline. Name it to tame it focuses on helping children tell stories about what is bothering them to better process and understand what happened so they feel more in control of their emotions. Talking to kids when they're having an emotional challenge or interpersonal conflict — "Someone is playing with the toy you wanted, and now you're frustrated" — helps them learn to identify and understand their feelings in a way that vaguely sympathetic-sounding gibberish just doesn't. Hearing "Aw, what happened!?" when they get hurt (probably after walking in one direction and looking in another) doesn't teach a child to not to do that again. Offering help and/or a hug while saying something like, "Are you OK? I saw you bumped into the sofa; it looked like that hurt. It's so important to always look where we're going," does. Using clear language, and talking to them about what's happening to them, helps kids figure out cause and effect, and how to prevent and solve problems.
Adults get heated when someone “speaks to them like a child” because it’s patronizing, and no one likes that: not even children. While kids do sometimes need hard facts or lessons sugarcoated a tad, we don’t necessarily need to talk down to them to express that. Kids have less experience than adults, but it doesn’t make them stupid. Talk to your child like a mini-adult: they’re experiencing the world too and have a lot to say. Listen, just like you would for anyone else.
Siegel, Daniel J., Bryson, Tina Payne. The Whole-Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child’s Developing Mind. New York City, Bantam Books, 2011.
Sesame Street has been breaking new ground year after year since it first aired on November 10, 1969. Over the years, Sesame Street has addressed various topics ranging from marriage and death, families of those in the military, hunger in America, kids with incarcerated parents, racism against people of color, HIV, and more.
Five years in the making, in March of 2017, Sesame Workshop officially announced their initiative to bring Autism Spectrum Disorder to the forefront of everyone’s minds. It was named, “See Amazing in All Children.” That same month, the book “We’re Amazing! 1, 2, 3” was released. It was written by Leslie Kimmelman whose own son was diagnosed with autism more than 20 years ago. The purpose of that book was to show that children on the spectrum are special and just want love the same as abled children. In April of 2017, a 4 year old little girl muppet with autism named Julia permanently joined the cast of Sesame Street. For the first time, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder were able to see themselves represented on television. Almost two years later and the impact on adults and children everywhere is clearly visible. Sesame Workshop has taken inclusion and representation a step further by having their theme park, Sesame Place become the first theme park to become a certified autism center.
Their entire staff goes through on-going training in sensory awareness, motor skills, autism overview, program development, social skills, communication, environment, and emotional awareness. The park now offers two new quiet rooms near Big Bird’s Rambling River if guests need relief from sensory stimulation. These rooms have adjustable lighting and a comfortable seating area for guests to take a break. They also come equipped with a code you must obtain from the welcome center. This way, guests are provided optimal privacy. Noise cancelling headphones are provided as well, but must be returned at the end of the day. On Sesame Place’s website, they also offer links to Autism Travel which is a resource provided by the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. Autism Travel gives parents the opportunity to connect with a community to share ideas, plan trips with other families, and explore travel options of some of the most beautiful places in the world.
Sesame Workshop’s efforts have hit home with Team ELM. We work with children with all kinds of special needs. Working with them on a regular basis has been eye-opening for our team members. When a company that is so visible puts the time and effort into training their team to be more empathetic and aware of others’ needs, it’s encouraging a positive change. Sesame Workshop has been changing the way children and adults view the world for 50 years. Here’s to hoping that with their passionate on-going efforts, the world continues to change in a positive way.
Who has been bullied before or has known someone who has been bullied before? Do you know someone currently being bullied? The emotional damage caused by bullying lead many people to feel like their is no other option besides suicide.
Unfortunately it's a very real and common problem among our youth today. It's everywhere from schools to sports - almost anywhere you look. Back in the day, nothing was done or said. Today, progression has been made in a solution, but far not enough. What can we do to help bring awareness to lead us to a solution?
First important questions...
What is a bully?
A bully is a person who uses power to intentionally cause harm to another person, repeatedly targeting the same victim(s). It occurs in many different forms: Physical, verbal, social and cyber bullying.
Bullying has three defining characteristics:
1. Deliberate - a bully's intention to hurt someone.
2. Repeated - the behavior is repeated or has the potential to be repeated over time.
3. Power Imbalanced - a bully chooses victims whom they perceive as vulnerable.
A recent survey found that of those who had been bullied, 35% had never told anyone, and 40% would keep quiet if someone else was being bullied because they didn't want to be bullied themselves.
So what can we do? Open dialogue with your children is a must! We want our children to feel comfortable enough to speak up. TALK with your child, LISTEN to your child, If we want to make a positive change in our communities, we all need to play a part. The only way to change this is to get involved and be aware.
Team ELM will be holding a fundraiser on December 21st, 2018 at 7 pm at the Prudential Center. We have our own section saved off to raise awareness for bullying and suicide prevention. All proceeds will be donated to Caring Contact located in Westfield, NJ. Caring Contact helps prevent suicide and bullying with training for adults on how to handle situations as well as having a local suicide hotline in New Jersey. Please come out and support the cause!
Please use the link in the flyer below to purchase your tickets!
Let's continue to keep our children safe!!!