Sunday, April 22, 2018

Inspired by History

By Meredith and Chana Altschuler


Chana learning about Jackie Robinson

In August 2014, my husband and I pulled our then 14-year-old daughter Chana, who is autistic and non-verbal, out of the school system. We weren’t sure what we were going to do as homeschoolers, but we knew Chana was making absolutely no headway in public school. She even seemed to be regressing.

Because of the severity of her autism, I didn't believe at that time that Chana understood what I was saying to her. Though I was always kind and cheerful, I didn’t make an effort to prepare her much for daily life. It seemed useless to have discussions with her since I didn’t even think she understood a phrase as simple as “we are going to the store.” Her regularly hitting her head and crying was further proof to me that she wasn’t capable of “getting” was what going on around her.

In late September, one of my daughter’s former therapists told us about the incredible success a student of hers was having with Soma Mukhopadhyay’s Rapid Prompting Method (RPM). Soon our lives were completely transformed by RPM. Our homeschooling went from rote repetition of basic skills to almost grade-level learning. I couldn’t believe what was happening! Our autism journey had never been a real success story, no matter how many therapies we had tried (and we had tried them all). Now our daughter was making the strides we had only dreamed of. Her head-hitting and crying basically disappeared. We were connecting with her on a level I could never have imagined.

One of the things I love most about Soma’s method is that it is an academic program. So everything is based on learning — language arts, math, social studies, science, etc. I especially love that students are studying history. How amazing it is for our kids to learn about life, their hopes and fears, in context of what others have already experienced. Frankly, our whole world would be better off if more people learned from the experiences of our past! For autistic students, thinking about issues via academic subjects has the added bonus of decreasing anxiety, a huge struggle for so many of our kids.

April is not only Autism Awareness Month, but also the month America celebrates Jackie Robinson Day. Chana and I recently did an RPM lesson on Robinson, the first African American baseball player to play in the major leagues. When Jackie was approached by the Brooklyn Dodgers’ manager Branch Rickey to join the team, they both knew that breaking the color barrier would be an incredibly tough journey for Jackie. He received taunts and jeers on the field (and even private death threats), but through his grace and fortitude became a champion for equal rights.

Chana rarely talks about her autism and I do not usually bring up topics which could be emotional for her. But when I told her she was invited to write here for Autism Awareness month, she became extremely passionate about sharing. So I thought it would be very interesting to ask her about her autism experience in relation to what we learned about Jackie Robinson’s life:

Jackie Robinson was judged based just upon his appearance. How does that relate to your experience with autism? Do you feel judged?

CHANA: I UNDERSTAND WHY PEOPLE WOULD NOT BELIEVE IN ME. KNOW AUTISM IS NOT STUPIDITY. AUTISM CONTROLS ME. FEELS LIKE HAVING A KNOCK OUT PUNCH. MAKES ALL OF LIFE INSANE. I MUTE ALL IMPULSES.

Interesting you mention impulses. Branch Rickey told Jackie not to fight back when others were attacking him. Do you think Jackie had to also “mute his impulses?”

CHANA: YES, KNOWING WHEN TO APPLY PATIENCE INSTEAD IS KEY.

Jackie was able to break the color barrier which helped lead to the civil rights movement. What do you see as the future for autism?

CHANA: AUTISM MAKES HEADWAY. AUTISM WILL FIGHT PROUDLY, MEANING IT IS ALWAYS A FIGHT FOR LETTING PEOPLE WIN A VOICE.

Everyone was not against Jackie Robinson. Many good people in our country supported him as he bravely stood up for what is right. What can others do to support people with autism?

CHANA: DON’T LET AUTISM GIVE YOU A MISIMPRESSION ABOUT SOMEONE. TALK TO THEM.

What if the autistic person has no way to communicate? For instance, they are not even using the letter board yet?

CHANA: [YOU CAN STILL] HAVE A NICE CONVERSATION. TELL THEM GOOD THINGS. THAT MAKES ME HAPPY IN MY HEART.

In honor of Autism Awareness Month, Chana and I hope you will initiate a conversation with someone with autism. Maybe a non-verbal or unreliably verbal person who would commonly be misjudged. Sit and read a great story from history together. Talk about “good things” from the lives courageous figures like Jackie Robinson who will inspire them and whose stories will sustain them as they fight to win a voice.


Chana lives with her parents and 3 younger siblings in the Washington, DC area. She loves music, working out at the gym, and the approaching warm weather. Chana is very thankful to Philip and his mom Lisa for giving her the opportunity to share her thoughts.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My Martian Body

By Pablo Hernandez

Pablo

So many, so many, have interested themselves in the way my mind works. Not so many understand. They can’t. They may not be able to face something so hard. It is not so much that they can’t understand. It is that to wrap their mind around the way we think, they have to be open to the idea that something so really not like them is too smart to care so much about what other people say. So people may be inclined to think that we do not understand.

My message is for some people who think we are too dumb - thinking sometimes that we really move in strange ways and that we really make strange noises that they cannot understand. To them I say, ”My life is important. Do you want to have a happy life? Well, I do too. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to make real change for understanding people like me.”

My Martian body is forever telling you that I am Pablo, a boy who understands nothing, but my perfect mind wants to tell you that I am just like you.

Pablo is an 11 year old non-speaking autistic boy who blogs at Not Too Trapped In My Head Anymore. He uses a letterboard or a keyboard to communicate.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

My Autism Secret

By Luke Burke

Luke, age 9


Thanks Philip for inviting me to write on your page.  My name is Luke Burke.  I am nine years old and communicate using a letter board. Am also autistic and thankful to have found a way to have my words and thoughts expressed letter by letter.  I want to share with all of you what I experience on a daily basis.  The autistic brain is different but amazing all the same. Mainly I experience a sensory disaster during daily activities.  Each autistic person is unique but some of us experience similar disregulation within our sensory systems.  A big one for me is sound sensitivities.  I hear everything and I wish sometimes I didn’t.  Want my ears to get a break.  I also always hear secrets and I don’t mean to.  Can I keep a secret?  Yes!  But I never am voluntarily told one.  Anyway I value friendships and I also want a meaningful life.  Autistics are wise and kind and if given the chance make amazing friends.  Am also a wonderful listener and I won’t butt in while you are telling me that secret. Kidding not kidding.  Am hoping I have told you something helpful on autism awareness month.  Till next time Luke B. 

Luke Burke is 9 years old and in 2nd grade. Primarily, he uses a letterboard or keyboard to communicate. Luke’s hobbies include swimming, going to concerts, & reading. Being a music teacher at a school is his dream occupation. Luke is passionate about educating & advocating for those who haven’t found their method of communication yet. Luke's message to the world is, "I will try to always educate now that I am able to. Want people to accept our differences. Am wanting a world that accepts autistics the way they are. Presume competence always."

To read more of Luke's writings, visit his Facebook page  Different not less - Luke B.




Thursday, April 12, 2018

A True Friend For Life

By Coby Khodosh



Coby Khodosh an 8 year old boy with autism and apraxia who has been learning and communicating with RPM since he turned 6 years old. Coby describes himself as AUTISTIC AND ARTISTIC and he wants the world to see the non-speaking and minimally-verbal autistic people as the FORCE OF CHANGE AND ENERGY WHICH IS LOVE. Coby resides with his little sister and family in Northbrook, IL. He is a 2nd grader at Countryside Montessori School where he is fully included and is the only student with an alternative communication support. Coby and family will be relocating to the San Francisco Bay area this summer.

My name is Coby and my handsome self is 8 years old. I am autistic. I wanted to write this to maybe give some insight into my experience.  Most of the time my autism makes it arduous to speak or make meaningful conversation so I rely on RPM to organize my mind and get my thoughts out one letter at a time. People see me spelling my real thoughts and really can’t make sense, why doesn't he just speak. Believe me people so wish I could. My autism sometimes makes it hard to even enjoy things I love and prevents me from showing my gentle nature. My body is unpredictable and so my impulses get in a way of simple pleasures like sitting through a movie or finishing building a Lego structure on my own without getting sidetracked. I truly try to connect to people but all they can see is a disconnected uninterested exterior and lack of eye contact. Getting anxious and getting bombarded by sensations and my own overwhelming loud thoughts feels like a war zone sometimes. Seeing wonderful colors and experiencing the world through my synesthesia can be a distracting and relentless nuisance. Always figuring what to pay attention to and what to ignore leaves me trailing and confused. Autism can wear on you. It is always gruesomely difficult for my body to remain in my control. Like so wish I could relax like you normals, I can do without the people frequently reminding me I am too loud or too hyper. I also see it is just as strange to you normals to be affected by my autism as it is strange for me to try to fit in into your sensory frightening pressure cooker world. My family is in this with me truly everyday, we are like a tribe of outsiders not fitting in as easily. We do things like other families seemingly but autism like uninvited friend can take up energy and space and we have to deal with it. Wherever I go I am at its will so pressuring myself to fit in doesn’t work. I am this way for a reason, I know this in my heart and mean to find that reason someday. God loves me and He sees my faith and goodness. Despair and rhetorical questions haven’t helped so far so I choose to see something within myself that is lovable and seriously phenomenal. Truly like to write poetry and dare I say I am pretty good at it. I heavily always make an effort to be pleasant when people are patient with my spelling. I seriously care about people and animals because if I can’t show it at least I can radiate a loving energy and the world truly needs more love. Maybe a lot can be learned from people like me. Maybe thinking differently about what it means to be more human. Maybe laughing at others and calling someone a dreadful and offensive word means more about your limitations and my autism just exposes that cruel side in you. Seeing me for my abilities can definitely help you see the hidden potential in millions of others with disabilities. Me depending on your help can teach you grace and patience and give you a lesson on your own dependability as a person. Have an open mind and heart and you might just make a true friend for life. 



Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Road Less Travelled

By Rohit Dixit



My name is Rohit. I have autism. I like writing short stories, articles, journals and travelogues. My dream is to become a free lance journalist.

The road less travelled is the road with many Hurdles.

On this journey of living with autism the road has no end to it.
I feel there is lot to accomplish. One road leads to another; out of which I think there is a road that leads to some destination. But I am wrong.

Over the years I have seen people with disability trying to get recognition for their accomplishments. Few have succeeded but many have to travel a long way to reach their goals. I am one of those people who is still struggling to get through many hurdles on the way. I have been working hard to bring myself to reach the goal of becoming a journalist. Oh boy! It’s not an easy road for me. On this journey I am going through lot of difficulties to get through my days. It’s not the work that is hard, but it’s my mind and body disconnection. I am working my level best to overcome this disability. Over time I feel I can overcome my weakness to reach my destination on the road I have chosen.

I started this fun ride with lot of support from my parents, teachers, aides and therapists. Yet there is lot to learn through the road of life. There is so much to accomplish. To me it’s hard to do my day-to-day work yet I am determined to do my work. I am so thrilled to be part of this lovely society that God has gifted to all mankind. Oh boy what a journey it is, the road less traveled is the road of my accomplishments.

Going forward I need to gear up for my new achievements. So much stress to my parents to get me to reach my little goals. Yet it is my journey; with their help I will eventually reach my dream destination.


You can read more of Rohit's writings on his blog Sinking Into Popular Thoughts.


Sunday, April 8, 2018

This Has Changed My Life

By Brielle Stewart

Brielle, age 10



There once was a writer who couldn’t speak.  
She gave the problem to God.  
Then her mom became able to do RPM.  
Then the writer was free.  
She could now tell the world her thoughts.  
This has changed her life.


Brielle Stewart is a 10 year old girl who enjoys writing, the beach, EDM music, Literature, poetry, yoga, horses, being in nature, and playing with her twin and their Boston terrier.  She began RPM when she was 8 years old.


Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Friendship Lane

Guest Blog by Noah McSweeney

Noah, age 17


FRIENDSHIP LANE

WE WALKED TO THE RAINBOW
ME AND LINDA HOLMES
I HELD HER HAND
MY GLORIOUS BONES

MY SHADOW FLUTTERED
I SAW HER HEART
MY EYES MELTED AT THE SIGHT
HER GLORIOUS FACE SMART

WE STOPPED AND KISSED
A BLISSFUL MOMENT
MY HEART WAS FULL
HER THOUGHTS COMMANDMENTS.


Noah lives in Northern California and is a 10th grader who is homeschooled using RPM. He likes bike riding, jumping, and anything INDEPENDENT!