Friday, October 30, 2015

Ignorance and Judgement is Present in Every Type of School

It is common knowledge among the special needs community that as special needs parents we accept a level of ignorance and judgement from the public when it comes to our children; we even accept it from our family. While it shouldn't be so widely accepted now a days, it is and it seems to be spreading. This week I felt ignorance and judgement from a place no parent should ever feel it, one of my son's teachers. I know a lot of us have been there but that doesn't mean we should or that I am going to accept this as being normal.

Here's a little back story:

I've dealt with ignorance before. I've even written about my family's experience with the school districts we've dealt with in the past and it leading us to choose homeschool, Until now I'd never dealt with it from a homeschool teacher. I hope to never deal with this again. My family uses the K12 program which heavily pushes a General Education and Special Education curriculum for their students, as most schools do; however in our case my son's teacher doesn't require the General Ed class be attended if we can't make it. Now before you get all up in arms over this lack of inclusion-K12 is homeschool. It isn't exactly the same as a brick and mortar school.

With that said, this is what happened:

During Math class this week my son's teacher, whom has nothing to do with his case, asked us to wait ten minutes after class in the blackboard room. Of course I did as asked. When she finally came in she was full of attitude from the start. She immediately asked how Z was doing in General Education to which I replied that he wasn't going because his teacher doesn't require it seeing as though Zain is schooled with his little brother on the same level as him. I was surprised when she replied that she had only asked to see if she "had the right kid."

Now pay attention, this is where it gets good.

She followed this up by putting her nose so deep into things that are none of her business that I am surprised she didn't suffocate. She began by trying to tell me what is best for my son as far as his schooling and scheduling goes. Keep in mind this woman has never met my child or me nor has she looked at his case in depth. She is just a teacher that takes my son's homeroom teachers kids for Math. She didn't stop there though.

To sum it up, she went on to tell me that while making school and real world schedules meet up is hard it's something that must be done. I'd just have to try harder. Let me stop here and tell you that I home school two children with one computer. Between these two children I have 20 classes a day (some that are more than an hour long a piece), no less than 2 class connect classes with a teacher everyday, and 2 therapy sessions a week-all on the computer. Yet I'm suppose to find time for multiple additional classes that are 3 grade levels above where my son is all based on one woman's personal preference. Needless to say I was fuming at this point but she didn't stop there. She went on to tell me that "My choices are causing my son to be behind" [his peers in school]. At this point I was borderline homicidal.

I am extremely proud of myself for how I handled this, if you know me you will be too. I excused us from her class; told her to have a nice day; then emailed the teacher that is in charge of my son's case. His case manager was more than apologetic, which I appreciated more than she'll ever know. She also said she was going to have a talk with the teacher in question. Now let's just hope she does and this doesn't happen again. Until this point we were enjoying the K12 program.

Now this is my question, my point: When did teachers start thinking that it was OK to talk to a parent in this fashion? We know our children are behind, we set through IEP meetings, therapy appointments, and Doctors visits and listen to the percentages and levels several times a year. Did she say this stuff for fun? Did it make her feel better about herself to tell a mother that has worked her butt off over a decade that she was the cause of her child being behind? I'm assuming this teacher has no children of her own or she wouldn't have opened her mouth.

What is for sure is that she left this special needs mother confused. I felt every emotion a person can feel when she said these things. People need to think before they speak. I think it comes down to that. We are losing the ability to stop and think. When that happens people get their feelings hurt and families pay the price. While with this particular subject I desire for liberosis when it comes down to it this is one that we all must care about. The public needs to realize that this isolation we feel, this condemning judgment shown to us special needs parents extends into our schools as well.

Want to read more from Brooke? 

Friday, October 23, 2015

Assume is Such a Nasty Word

I was suffering from writers block a few months back. I was so busy and stressed out over life, yet to my dismay my normal stress reliever (writing) wasn't producing results. I'd sit down in front of the computer and nothing, and more nothing followed that... after that, you guessed it, even more nothing. I was sure my brain had broken. It has been driving me insane. My conclusion to this problem?

I decided to start writing about my life instead of trying to come up with topics that'd grab attention.

My life, after all, is pretty awesome. Most days that is. Why not share it?! 

My Family

With that said: Here you go....

Please Forgive Me, I Woke Up Today Inside of Someone Else

When a bad day becomes a gift:

I wake up exceptionally early each day in order to get things done before my demon spawns fly out of their rooms and wreak havoc. Waking up that early isn’t fun but it is literally the only quite time I get a lot of days. Most days this desire seems to fall upon my children's "deaf ears" though. This morning was no exception.

I awoke at 5:45am and preceded to listen to music while I picked up the house and looked over their home school plan for the day. Looking over the plan and getting it ready is imperative to the day going smoothly. In case you don't already know, Zain has autism and can be a handful at times. He requires sameness each and every day. This routine is important to him being able to function. None of this diminishes how amazing he is though. In addition to Zain’s autism, Dryden has ADHD and as a result is beyond hyper and inattentive. At times it is way too much to take. I honestly think it is a whole lot for him to deal with too. His poor brain never stops. It is so extreme that he hurt his neck months back due to his hyperactivity.

Courtesy of:

Courtesy of:

But I digress…
Fifteen minutes after I got out of bed Zain sensed my presence missing from my room and came stomping into the living room. With utter selfishness I thought, "There goes my hour of alone time. No quite time today. Another day without it. I do believe this is a record by now." Of course I didn’t say any of this. Not saying the selfish things that we think is part of being a good parent. So, undoubtedly this isn't what I said. Instead I carried on with the mommy thing and said good morning, hugged him, and made breakfast.

Let me just take a moment to ask you this: Are there any other mothers or fathers out there that plead for that hour of quite time, even if part of it is spent cleaning? If you said you don't and you love having you children around you 24/7 I am here to tell you that you're a damn liar. We all entreat for that time. We love our children but it’s how we keep ourselves sane. You know that invisible "line" that tells you that you are a parent and a productive member of society, you know, the one that also reminds you that you aren't a rock star that has no responsibilities? You know that "line," it’s called reality. Yeah, that hour of quite keeps that line from blurring. So you see, knowing this makes it understandable that I was somewhat irritated by the whole day at this point.

Shortly after Zain woke up Dryden did too. He came out of his room rubbing his eyes, in nothing but underwear (which were in no way what he went to bed in.) He immediately asked if it was really a school day or if he dreamed it. To this Zain replied by saying, "Yes there is school Dryden, we have to do school every day. No stop." This came out in an extremely smart-ass tone. To which Dryden snapped back, "Nuh uh Zain, we get breaks." Now it is on. Zain's authority and his word have been questioned. Blood must be shed. (While I am kidding, in a way I am not.) It’s the one-sided thinking that Zain lives with as a result of his autism that caused this fight. He wasn’t giving up and the exchange lasted for about 5 minutes. What am I doing during this you may ask? I was laughing inside, yes, ok... I admit it. This has become such a common occurrence in our home we have to find the humor. I definitely found the humor in this, right away. I might as well have popped popcorn. It is hilarious the things a 9 and 12-year-old will come up with. I do believe I was compared to a disgraceful slave driver, a callous Police Officer, and the President of the United States.

Instead of getting mad in that moment I surprisingly realized that this is a boon, definitely a desirable state of mind to find yourself. A certain way that I can tell I’m a good mother. You see, nowhere in there did my children accuse me of being their friend. Obviously I'm doing something right. Amazing insight for me in my life. My point? Don't always assume something is going to ruin your day; those moments of stress can in turn be a piece of good fortune. I'm just now learning that. Sometimes assuming can cause you to wreck your day. What I assumed was going to end up being a stressful day ended up being made before 7 am. I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to have such a learning situation thrown at me again for a while but I'll take this smile and wear it for as long as I can.

Then again it seems maybe I haven't learned my lesson about assuming after all.

Want to read more from Brooke? 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Our Home School Family

As we sit down and let our evening wind down I find myself reflecting on our home school experience. The last few months have flown by. One moment I was anticipating the beginning of the school year, now here it is. Where did the summer go? It seems like it gets shorter every year. With the beginning of this new year I find myself reminiscing about our summer break. I bet you find yourself looking back on your family's summer as well. If you're anything like us you had a crazy summer! Ours consisted of both of our children having minor surgery, lots little league games, tons of biking and skateboarding, hikes, visits to Volcanoes, climbing on the Fremont Troll, and having several family members come out to visit us from the east coast. It was definitely fun for the most part BUT it's that time of year when we have to pack those experiences away in our memories and shift focus and priorities.

First Day Picture

School in Our Home

 In most families the start of school consists of buying new clothes and making sure everything is ready for your child's return to their brick and mortar school. In my home things are very similar but also quiet different to the normal school routine. You may be asking why?! You see, I teach my children at home using the K12 program. Some of you may have heard of it, some not. This program has been wonderful for our family. In this method the student uses a lesson plan that the chosen k12 school provides. The student must have a "learning coach" in order to help them and instruct them during their lessons. In our case I am the primary learning coach. K12 solved a lot of problems we had with our home school district but with all of it's allure you mustn't forget that it's also a huge commitment. Research and more research is needed before deciding on any alternative education method for your child, this program being no different.

While K12 is a free online public school it isn't all together hassle free. Your research will show you that. The school doesn't provide all the supplies- including but not limited too: paper, crayons, pencils, poster board, in some cases a computer, your internet connection, random crafts material, calculators, etc. (Of course this list changes based on your child's grade.) Our children are still in elementary school. You also need to be extremely prepared for what exactly it means to be a learning coach. Looking at the schedule everyday is daunting but do not over work yourself and focus more on percentages then daily work. Also, make sure to take into account the time needed to complete the required class connect and therapy sessions (if your child needs therapy) each day.

A little about my K12er's

My oldest son, Zain, is autistic. When at his local school he required a one-on-one paraprofessional with him all day long; with K12 and our school he is able to succeed with his teachers and myself aiding him only. We joined K12 as a last resort to end the bullying Zain was experiencing- as well as remedy his paraprofessional's inability to show up to work. This is his 2nd year with K12, meaning we are still technically "newbies". We love their program though. Zain's just about 12 years old and currently working on 3rd grade level work. He is technically a 5th grade student; however he would be in 6th grade had he not been held back.

Zain and Myself

My youngest son, Dryden, is typically developing and just started his first year with K12. Dryden didn't require any extra help while in his local public school; the choice to attend K12 was made by Dryden on his own. He is 9 and in 3rd grade. Dryden is working at his expected level for his age. However he does have a touch of ADHD. By a touch I mean it oozes out of his pours most days. It's just part of his overall charm, got to love him.

Dryden and our dog Dug

Getting Ready for the School Year 

Of course having access to a computer and the internet are two of the highest priorities for this fashion of schooling. Since those two elements are not necessarily an issue for my family I really don't have any worries concerning them. Just be aware that these two required elements are not provided by the program (in some cases a computer may be, that depends on the school you go through and the state you live in) Another important point when homeschooling with any program is providing the right environment for your children to learn in. I try to remember that a messy home leads to a messy mind. Part of this environment includes having a functional set-up in order to teach effectively.

In our family's given situation having an area that has a separated teacher and student area works best. One that is somewhat like a regular classroom. Given that our oldest son is diagnosed with autism having a situation that is as close to a classroom as I can provide is important. In our home there is an area for me to work out problems with them on a board and there are areas for both of them to work independently. Both of my boys and myself also decorated the areas in a way that reflected an area they would enjoy learning in. This main learning area is simple, has visual aids for my oldest son, and is comfortable for them both.

Our learning area

Their preparation shelves

What they see as they are learning

They can clearly see their schedules

Our First Day of This Year

Now that the first week of school is here don't worry if you use K12 and are confused. The first few weeks of school are always confusing. If you aren't left wanting to pull your hair out I have found it is a good implication that you are doing something wrong. At least in these introductory weeks. I have to keep reminding myself that we have to pace ourselves and learn at our speed, especially with a special needs student. I must say that last year with one student was a faster process for me, I am finding so far this year that having two students is vastly different but doubly as rewarding. It does takes longer to complete the daily work because they both need my help; however it is nice to watch my children help keep each other on task while I am teaching. Who knows maybe this school year will end up bonding our family even more closely than we already are. What I do know for sure is that once class connects start and we fall into a routine things will go much more smoothly for us. That applies to both my children and myself.

As our first day ticked on we found ourselves finishing lesson after lesson, class after class. While we did experience our own hick-ups we are able to say we persevered and finished up our work without overworking ourselves. Now to move onto day two. Here's to hoping for another successful day for all of us learning coaches and our students.

Working on our school work on day 1

Self Portraits

Sites of Interest: 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments to Treat Autism?

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment is one of those treatments that is used for more conditions than just autism. It’s also one of those treatments that any parent would question when they first heard about, leading to a need to research it and the claims. An article I wrote earlier this month covering MMS treatments for autism led to comments about hyperbaric oxygen treatments from a parent in an autism support group I co-run. I had to research these claims. To my own surprise, my research has now lead me to a place of interest- I want to know more.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments
Whenever a “normal” person has to focus on a completing a task there’s an upsurge in blood flow to the brain. The increase in the blood flow that’s seen supplies their brain with more oxygen and glucose which, in turn, gives their cells the energy that’s needed to accomplish their task. In children with autism, however, several studies have shown the contrary. Shockingly in a lot of cases they actually present with diminished blood flow. When autistic children’s brains are attempting to accomplish a task their blood flow doesn’t increase which deprives them of the oxygen and glucose needed for their cells. This lack of blood flow and glucose is a result of cerebral hypoxia resulting from hypoperfusion.

The difference in cerebral blood flow after HBOT... Photo Courtesy of

According to a study releases in ScienceDigest by a Mr. Daniel A. Rossignol, "Numerous studies of autistic individuals have revealed evidence of cerebral hypoperfusion, neuroinflammation and gastrointestinal inflammation, immune dysregulation, oxidative stress, relative mitochondrial dysfunction, neurotransmitter abnormalities, impaired detoxification of toxins, dysbiosis, and impaired production of porphyrins. Many of these findings have been correlated with core autistic symptoms. For example, cerebral hypoperfusion in autistic children has been correlated with repetitive, self-stimulatory and stereotypical behaviors, and impairments in communication, sensory perception, and social interaction.” This is where Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatment (HBOT) comes in. While HBOT has only been used to treat autism for around 2 years it isn’t used just for autism.
Over the years doctors have started using HBOT for things such as: 
  • Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
  • Gangrene
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
  • Closed Head Injury
  • Stroke
  • Severe Burns
  • Severe Anemia
  • Injury from Crushing
  • Brain Abscesses
  • Skin Grafts and Flaps
  • Delayed Radiation Injury
  • Flesh-Eating Disease
  • Skin Infections that are causing Tissue to Die
  • Thermal Burns
  • Central Retinal Artery Occlusion
During the treatment the individual with autism lies down on a table in an “enclosed chamber” and breathes in 100% oxygen, subsequently the pressure in the “chamber” is slowly changed. The typical protocol for autism is to breathe the pure oxygen for about one hour. Pressure inside of the chamber is set at 1.3 to 1.5 ATA. These numbers compare to a depth of ten to seventeen feet of seawater.
When done in a hospital setting, properly, HBOT is considered to be safe; nonetheless many critics still advocate against using it for treatment of autism. However fires associated with HBOT have been known to have caused 80 deaths worldwide over the years, including a grandmother and her grandson who died whenever the chamber exploded in Florida in 2009.

An example of a HBOT chamber../Photo Courtesy of

The Parental Claims
The claims that parents make concerning their children being in HBOT are rather amazing, to say the least. Of course more studies need to be done to correlate the claims of these parents. It must be said that the studies currently available are quite remarkable though. There are claims of almost completely cured children to children that had unbelievable results within 20 hours of receiving their first treatments. Though I personally doubt the validity of these claims to their fullest the thought of them being accurate certainly induces hope.
Some of the Claims for using HBOT:
  • Improved Sleep
  • Calmer and More Affectionate Children
  • Improved Focus and Attention
  • Improved Bowel Function
  • Being More “Present”
  • Less Sensory Disturbance
  • Improved Cognition
  • Increased Speech
  • Improvements in Language
  • Improvements in Eye Contact
  • Improvements in Socialization
  • Increased Appetite
  • Improved Digestion

HOBT Side Effects and Precautions
As with almost any other therapy there are side effects associated with Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments. These treatments mostly include things such as fatigue, ear pain, and/or lightheadedness after treatments. There are other, less common, side effects associated with HBOT.
Less Common Side Effects:
  • Damage to the Lungs
  • Rupturing of the Middle Ear
  • Damage to the Sinuses
  • Changes in Vision causing Myopia
  • Lung Failure
  • Fluid in the Lungs
  • Seizures
It’s important to also note that it’s recommended that you avoid having HBOT if you have a pacemaker, are pregnant, have certain lung diseases, take chemotherapy, or have a collapsed lung, have heart failure, a cold or fever, are claustrophobic, and if you take the drugs disulfiram or sulfamylon.

As a parent of a child with autism standing on the outside of this treatment looking in it seems quite risky. Quite risky but also quite interesting. If the claims of the parents are proven to be true over the next several years than I would be interested in possibly looking into the treatment for my son. Not at this time though. I don’t believe that-at this time-the proven positive results outweigh the possible negative consequences associated with this treatment. This is simply my opinion though. Over the next several years I do believe that scientist may be able to make more sound correlations between what can be proven by medical science and the claims of the parents who use this treatment on their own autistic children.

ScienceDirect: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy might improve certain pathophysiological findings in autism
ScienceDirect: Hyperbaric oxygen therapy may improve symptoms in autistic children

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Using Cannabis to Treat Autism; is this the Answer?

In an effort to advance it seems science sometimes looks to areas that make the general public choleric. If you’re an individual with abhorrence for “thinking outside the box” then I can assure you the direction researchers are leaning, in regards to THC as an autism treatment, is really going to agitate you.

The Studies

A 2013 Stanford University Study looking into the different affects certain genetic mutations related to autism have on the brain of mice resulted in findings they didn’t expect. The 2013 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine co-awardee- Prof. Thomas Sudhof, Dr. Csasa Foldy, and 2010 Goldman-Rakic Prize in Neuroscience winner- Dr. Robert Malenka all set out to acquire a further understanding of how various mutations in the brain may or may not contribute to autism. They focused their study on two types of NL3 neuroligin mutations (NL3 KO and R451C KI) with a few main goals in mind; two expressly:

  • ·         Find a mutual phenotype between the two different NL3 mutations

  • ·         Test if NL3 KO and R451C KI mutations cause different phenotypes, even in divergent synapses on the same neuron. 

Photo Courtesy of Nanotechnology and Neuroscience

While looking at the NL3 KO mutated mice they noticed their tonic endocannabinoid signaling was disrupted, as were they in the R451C KI mutated mice. These finding are exciting: before this study researchers knew so little about tonic endocannabinoids that their existence as an unambiguous process was actually unclear. Given that this phenotype is found in both mutations of the NL3 neuroligins used [NL3 KO and R451C KI] this clearly shows that the NL3 molecule is the very first known molecule essential for tonic endocannabinoid signaling, subsequently substantiating the fact that tonic endocannabinoids aren’t “accidental” transient endocannabinoid leakages. In addition, this also gives strong credence to the theory that loss of endocannabinoid signaling may be a component to autism.

When the researchers shifted focus to the RC451C KI mutated mice they were strongly motivated to prove R451C KI mutations can cause “loss of function”. They were irrefutably able to prove this theory which enabled them to say that autism may be caused by a disruption in the child’s brain’s ability to send clear communications. This strongly suggesting that cannabinoids, such as THC, may be productively used in treating autism [by unblocking the disruptions].

In 2012 Dr. Daniele Piomelli, of the University of California Irvine and Dr. Olivier Manzoni of INSERM (French National Research Agency), took “Fragile X mice” and treated them with endocannabinoid compounds that corrected the endocannabinoid transmitters in their brains. (Endocannabinoid compounds made in your body share a significantly similar chemical structure with THC)

Once treated with endocannabinoid compounds the “Fragile X mice” exhibited immense improvements in maze tests aimed to measure anxiety and open-space acceptance. Overall the study points towards potential cannabis treatments for the cognitive deficits and anxiety found in autism as well as other disorders. All 5 researchers across the two studies are in agreement that more research needs to be done.

Bringing the Research to Life

Currently 14 states allow cannabis use in children. One California mother has become a pioneer in the use of cannabis in children. Her courage has given other parents the courage to speak out ultimately creating a movement.

Improvements Seen from Cannabis use in Autistic Children:

  • ·        Improved Sleep

  • ·         Diminished Hyperactivity

  • ·         Minimized Irritability

  • ·         Decreased Stereotypy

  • ·         Diminution in Seizures

  • ·         Decrease in Violent Outbursts

  • ·         Minimized Inappropriate Speech

  • ·         Initiating Physical Contact

  • ·         Improved appetite

Of course the mental image of an autistic child smoking a joint is incommodious; certainly you’ll be relieved to find out that’s not how they administer cannabis to children. There are two active ingredients in cannabis: THC and CBD. Either type can be administered numerous ways.

Administering Cannabis to Children:

  •  ·         Edibles (Brownies, muffins, suckers, etc.)    
  • ·         Drinks (Tea, Lemonade, Soda, etc.)

  • ·         Honey Sticks

  • ·         Capsules

  • ·         Oils and Lotions

There are studies on medications relevant to cannabis use in autism worth citing, Dronabinol and Epidiolex. Dronabinol is a THC based medication given to chemotherapy and AIDS patients to battle weight loss and loss of appetite. In autistic children it has shown exceptional results in all areas referred to above. Epidiolex is a CBD based medication that has shown to improve symptoms of epileptics. Currently there are studies going looking into its effectiveness when used in autism.

In Conclusion

It’s realized more research needs to be done, also, that there are side effects to cannabis usage. The prospect of any new treatment is exciting, this one more than most. Not because of the cannabis movement in America today, but because there are a lot of things on that list my child suffers through and no medication has ever helped with. I’ve set up 7 nights a week for 11 years crying because my child won’t sleep (literally), I’ve held my baby in basket holds while he tried his hardest to hurt himself or me-knowing he didn’t care which way it went, and I’ve watched my angel seize continuously having to be put into a coma to calm his body while his mind continued to seize. Yes, I’ve begged in my head for him to want to be hugged all while wishing he’d calm down and I’ve cried while he struggled to speak. He’s gone through more in his 11 years than most do in their whole life. So you see, this prospect interests me as a parent in an impossible situation with a child that few understand.

The principal arguments made in opposition to this treatment are the side effects and potential for addiction. As I see it, a vast majority of medications used to treat autistic children aren’t approved for use in minors, a great deal don’t help or have preposterous side effects and some are addicting as well (all ostensibly worse [to me] than the side effects concomitant with cannabis use). It seems that, perhaps, it’s time we open our minds to other approaches since none of the treatments we have now are up to par.


Cell: Autism-Associated Neuroligin-3 Mutations Commonly Disrupt Tonic Endocannabinoid Signaling
University of California Irvine: Boosting natural marijuana-like brain chemicals treats fragile X syndrome symptoms

Other Sites of Interest: