Growing Up Special

Parents of Special Needs and Adopted Children Seeking Excellence

Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Mar
05

Fashion Eyeglasses Charm Even The Most Self Conscious

By Rainy on March 5th, 2011

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Fashion Eyeglasses Accessories Add Charm

Let’s be honest, most children who are told that they must wear glasses will often not be thrilled with the idea of having to wear eyeglasses.  For many children, it is the idea that others will make fun of them or, cause them to be viewed as being different from other children their own age.  Being bullied because you are visually impaired and have to wear glasses can cause a child to refuse to wear them, out of fear of being made fun of.

No one want to be made to feel self conscious about themselves, especially at certain ages when it is most important to fit in with their peers.  We’ve come along way since the days of having  a choice between wearing heavy black plastic frames or  wire frames that were basically your only choices.

Still, everyone likes to look their best and there are many fashion frames from which someone can choose to fit the shape of their face and their sense of style.   On the other hand, if you are looking to change things up so that you don’t get bored with a certain look once you’ve purchased your eyeglass frames; there wasn’t much you could do except buy multiple sets of glasses…until now.

Ros Guerrero is the owner of a company that has solved this problem.  She invented eyeglass charms that add a bit of decorator style to your eye wear frames.  Some of these charms are classic styles that are a great way to dress up your lenses for a night out…others are kind of funky colorful and fun charms.  There are charms for adults, for girls and for boys too.  I like the fact that there are charms that a child can choose from in their area of interest of art or sports.

There are also seasonal charms, pets/animals, colorful flowers, or charms that create awareness of issues such as breast cancer.  Ros has created a variety of charms for you to choose from.   These make great gifts too for just about any occasion!  They are easy to attach and the fun is in the conversations that take place when others notice the charms attached to the glasses.  It is a wonderful way to break the ice for children who may have trouble initiating conversations with others.

The really neat thing about Ros’ company is that her daughter Gem was her inspiration.   One day, Ros designed and attached her first set of charms to Gem’s glasses and sent her to school.  Gem received so many compliments, in her special needs class, that the idea of  “Ficklets” was born.    Getting noticed wearing glasses, for a child, is not always a positive experience.   Ficklets charms can positively influence how a child perceives wearing their eye wear.  After all, if a child won’t wear their glasses how can they possibly help their eyesight?  Much of a person’s education is learned visually.   If a persons vision is impaired in any way, it is only logical that getting them to commit to wearing their glasses is important, right?

Ros & Gem~*~ The Designer & The Inspiration

As you know, children aren’t the only ones who wear glasses.  What’s really great about eye wear today is the fact that there are so many choices.  Still, it is the same for adults…who wants to wear the same old- same old look, day after day.  There are classic charms for female adults as well.  The added touch of these charms can dress up your look at work or, for a night out making you feel stylish and attractive.  Everyone is at their best when they feel confident and assured about their appearance.  Changing your look can be costly.   It’s a lot more affordable to change up the look of your present glasses by purchasing Ficklets than it is to go out and purchase an extra set of frames.

Do you know someone who refuses to wear their glasses because they are self conscious about the way they look?  Have you ever known someone whose life was changed because their vision was improved by wearing glasses?  If so, then you understand the importance that Ficklets can play when it comes to self esteem and wearing prescription glasses.  Are you thinking of someone in your life who would appreciate a pair of Ficklets?  If so…what are you waiting for?  Thanks Ros & Gem for helping us to see things more beautiful in life.

Feb
16

Special Needs Finding A Place Of Love & Acceptance (part 1)

By Rainy on February 16th, 2011

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This is a guest post by my friend Connie Baum…it is a personal post regarding her families journey.  Thank you Connie…this is part one of a two part post.

~~~~~**~~~~

Is it Synchronicity?

Any parent of children with special needs knows the management of their care can be challenging from the inside out.

If those needs are apparent at a child’s birth, there is shock and a tsunami wave of emotion ranging from fear and anger to guilt and sorrow. There is loneliness, worry, and confusion, too.

When those abate-or diminish-there is the day to day routine which can be punctuated with medical appointments and crises; sleep deprivation and difficult decisions.

When special needs children reach adulthood, it most likely means their parents have reached Social Security status. What about the perpetuity of the care of precious, special offspring?

Let me share with you a story:

Our little fellow had an assortment of birth defects that meant his birth parents were unable to care for him. He was shuttled from hospital to hospital until he was three years old, at which time he became available for foster care.

As this little boy was enduring surgeries to correct his anomalies our own family was mourning the loss of four babies who, for various reasons, did not survive their births. Because we wanted to round out our family to 4, we applied to the State to be foster parents.

Little Guy Foster arrived at our home on a blistering June day, accompanied by a social worker and her aide. Guy wriggled a lot and it was a full time job to make sure he stayed inside the car!

SIDEBAR: This was in the era prior to child car seats and seat belts! END SIDEBAR.

Guy had been described to us as a blue eyed charmer who was in need of an emergency placement. We later learned that the woman who planned to foster him for the long term had a family emergency of her own and was unable to accept this placement. We also found out that our home was the THIRD home in 21 days; the FOURTH in a month!

There was magic in the moment. He reached his little arms out to all of us and directed his greeting to me: “HI, MOM!” We all fell in love with one another that day.

Life with Guy was never dull. There were endless rounds of medical appointments and clinics; there were his strange behaviors and made-up language; we marveled at his will to do what all our kids were doing, despite the physical challenges and intellectual differences.

Along the way, Guy Foster was named Foster Child of the Year. He got to hug “his” Governor on TV the same day he ate lunch with him!

When he graduated high school and walked unassisted across the stage to accept his Special Ed diploma from the Governor of our state, another of “his” Governors, he got a standing O and it was quite the moment.

Along his journey from his arrival to our home and high school graduation he had endured many surgeries, three episodes of long term coma, in addition to many other ailments. He was a trooper who could laugh at himself. AND HE MADE US LAUGH, TOO!

Our nest began to empty but Guy stayed at home with Mom. There was Adult Day Care and he was a people person who knew everyone in our neighborhood.

When Mom remarried it created a blended family. Guy’s new step daddy had a special needs son, too. He lived in a Group Home and attended a workshop. Guy remained in the home we had shared and continued to attend Adult Day Care. We checked on him often to make sure he was eating well and managing successfully. When we found him unconscious, in need of an emergency shunt revision to correct spinal fluid, the decision was made to put him into a Group Home so he would never be alone.

He lived with his step brother and one other housemate. They all bonded and have remained close friends.

Guy’s health began to deteriorate, however. A surgery from which he did not recover well left him with memory issues, confusion, and lethargy. It was an exceedingly painful decision, but it needed to be made: To continue reading read part 2 here: http://www.growingupspecial.com/special-needs-finding-a-place-of-love-acceptance-part-2/

Nov
12

Enterprising Programs For Special Needs Students

By Rainy on November 12th, 2010

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Last night my family attending an open house for an area wide school program for high school special needs student.  This is a program that my kids have attended over the last 4-5 years.  It is run by two teachers and works with kids from our counties local school.  Here the student make wood projects such as birdhouses and picnic tables.  These are fantastic products.   The kids work hard.  The teachers work hard.  One of the teachers works the saws.  The students 16 or under must use the cordless drills and over 16 get to use corded drills.  They have many orders, especially for the picnic tables.  However, as like any program funding is always an issue.

Until recently the students only had half of the building that houses this program.  Now they have the full use of the building and the students also perform a great service to the community by sorting and recycling the cities trash.  Here again, updates have been taking place.  They sort the plastics according to their number which differentiates one plastic from another.  Then there is “junk” plastic that doesn’t get used and must be thrown away.  This is something that is not only helpful to the community it is helpful to the planet. Basically, it performs a community service project for a large group of people.

The new update or addition to the program is a glass crusher which recycles glass from the garbage.  Whoo Hoo this is fun to watch.  It is a big machine that has pipes that goes to the ceiling and ventilates any dust out of the large work space.  This machine crushes and deposits the glass into big bins.  When you feel the glass there aren’t any sharp edges.  The program is looking to different ways to help this program fund itself.  Some of the uses for the crushed glass are as material used for sand blasting as there are different degrees of the end product or “grit”.  Some of the glass is powder fine and some of it is the size of small glass beads.  Then there are some coarser pieces.  These bins sparkle with the crushed glass.   They are even using the end product for landscaping.  It is pretty to see…some of the glass is as fine as powdery sand on the beach…others sparkle along sidewalks and such.

The colors are fantastic.  They range from a clear color, to a light seafoam green to brown….there is some blue but for some reason there are not as many blue glass bottles and such made nowdays.  The prettiest to me was the bins where the colors were mixed together.  I imagined the crush glass to be used in art projects and in floral arrangements at the bottom of the vases.  Maybe used in making decorative patio blocks or cement pads.  In fact, I am thinking next summer of making a patio area around our firepit with cement and adding in the crushed glass in the surface to add a bit of style and color.

The sad part of the program to me is that there is so little funding.  The kids work with regular tools…these are not designed for commercial or heavy duty use; which is the workout that those tools get.  It is costly to keep replacing these tools.  What would be fantastic would be to have a tool company supply them with commercial grade tools.   Noone really knows of what this programs needs are in the community. These kind of programs don’t get the attention that they deserve or need.   I wish I was independently wealthy and could fund the areas that they need financial help with.  The student could be learning skills that they could use in the future to help them earn a living once they are too old for the program.  That is IMPORTANT for their personal success.

How could this program find ways to fund itself with these assets?  That is the question.  In the front of the “shop” they could set up a retail area….if only they could come up with some ideas.  Do you have any ideas?  Do you support your schools programs for your communities special needs students?

Apr
14

Include Me Please

By Rainy on April 14th, 2010

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     When you are raising special needs children you know how painful it can be for your child to be excluded from other children and their activities.  Sometimes your child’s challenges prohibit them from sharing an activity or experience that other children around them enjoy…but other times, it is either through prejudice or mis-information…or, a lack of understanding.  No matter the reason, being excluded is not fun and can actually be harmful to your child’s self-esteem and their ability to form positive social interative relationships.   Therefore, teaching how to accept and include others is a huge life lesson for families, schools, churches, organizations and agencies.

       That is why i love the book called, The Friendship Puzzle.  The children’s book is all about helping children to learn about the importance of accepting and including kids who are living with autism.   It talks about differences and how friendships are formed once we understand each other.  We have to learn to look beyond the surface of who a person appears to be different from ourselves; to see the real them.  Then, we must find ways to include each other in our daily lives for a chance to become friends.    Sometimes it is easy to misunderstand another person’s actions when we don’t understand why they do or say certain things; or, behave in a different way. 

       The Friendship Puzzle was written by Julie L. Coe and illustrated by Sondra l. Brassel.  The book was inspired by Jennifer Maloni  who’s children Dominic and Dylan are living with autism.  The boys experienced a similar real life experience that was sad and disappointing.  That experience is used in this book to make a difference in how we view people with disabilities.   You can learn more about the book and where to purchase it here:  http://www.friendshippuzzle.com/  This is not an affiliate link… it is just a book that I happen to adore. 

        That message, of accepting and including one another, is very profound.  We can all apply that message in multiple ways to better the relationships we have with others without regard to abilities or disabilities; it is something that we can all improve on.  This book and a recent news piece on an amusement park for those who are disabled reminded me of how often people neglect to include those who are different from ourselves in the things we enjoy; simply out of ignorance of how to do it.

        The amusement park I read about is called Morgans Wonderland and it is in San Antonio, Texas.  It was built by a father after a failed attempt by his daughter Morgan to interact in play with other children due to her disabilities and the lack of clear communication between the children alongside of a pool.  The other children were playing with a beach ball and she wanted to play too…but lack of communication and understanding prevented continued play.  This kind of situation can be heartbreaking…but in this case it was the catalyst he needed to dream of a place where special needs people and their families and caregivers could come and be included in all of the activities. 

        Gordon Hartman was the father and he has achieved his dream.  Morgans Wonderland is a 25 acre park that lets the special need individual be themselves and experience the joy of an amusement park just like anyone else.  They utilize volunteers at their park and they encourage families to come and enjoy their time together.  I love the idea behind this park.   If you are interested in learning more about Morgan’s Wonderland and all it has to offer…please click here: http://www.morganswonderland.com/morgans-wonderland-tell-us-about-inclusion.asp  Again, this is not an affiliate link…it is just a place where a family can go to relax and have a positive family experience with their special needs loved one. 

        I just want to thank the Gordon Hartman’s and the Julie Coe’s of this world who realize the importance of acceptance and inclusion. 

Feb
02

Unchartered Territory-Special Needs Adulthood

By Rainy on February 2nd, 2010

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With a young adult special needs person, one would think that a parent had navigated most of those unchartered areas of life that come with unplanned challenges.   Not so!  In fact, once graduation takes place there are all kinds of other challenges that one did not make arrangements for that must be addressed such as living arrangements, supervision and either further educational opportunities or employment when possible.   Keeping an active social life for the young adult is important for their well-being and yours.  Don’t let their world narrow down to just the four walls of your home. 

That is a difficulty for some parents; some social situations are difficult.  Depending on the young person’s abilities the options are open to whatever decision the parents and the young person see as being a possibility.  Take advantage of every opportunity that you can to widen their circle of interaction.  You never know where that may lead regarding contacts, volunteer situations, or even eventual employment that they may find fulfilling.

In this time of financial cutbacks and downsizings, finding funding for either additional schooling when possible; or, for a place of employment to take on a person with special needs is becoming harder to find.    Employers have had to cut back on the number of employees and hiring a special needs person may not fit their needs.   For those who are in a rural setting, it is even more difficult.   There are less employment situations.  Check with your friends, your co-workers, even with members of a church or an organization that you may belong to.   Some counties have specially trained job coaches available to work with a special needs individual to find a job that fits them and their abilities.

Finding an agency or organization that is versed in this area of help is beneficial, if you can find one.    In the meantime, dealing with the young person’s expectations of instantly getting a job can be very discouraging.  Filling up the day with activities and opportunities that keep them engaged and being productive is important.

Don’t fall into the trap of allowing them to sit in front of the television, computer or computerized gaming systems just to occupy them.  Let them dream of something bigger and better, help them to achieve what is their highest level of functioning.   It may be unchartered territory…but it doesn’t mean you have to stay adrift on the ocean with no goals or plans in site.  Their quality of life is greatly improved when goals are set and met; the individual has expectations of how life should be, help them achieve their personal best.

Oct
05

Autism On The Rise

By Rainy on October 5th, 2009

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         A huge area of concern for parents around the globe is  reports declaring that Autism diagnosis numbers are on the rise…some in fact, are saying that the numbers are doubling.  I read a recent article here: http://bit.ly/I5rII  .  This increase in numbers is frightening for those who are of childbearing years.  Baby boys are four times more likely to be diagnosed as being autistic as baby girls are; is that for real?   What is causing our children to be born with this condition?  Is it the environment, diets, or genetic disposition?  Is this an epidemic, or are our fears and faulty diagnoses at the core of the problem? 

         Frankly, if your child is one who is affected by an Autism diagnosis or label…it really doesn’t matter.  The fact is that your child is facing some serious issues both socially, emotionally, and physically.  What is desperately needed is some answers; and the only way to get those answers is through research.  Funding is a big part of the research solution.  Learn more about Autism and it’s research issues here:  http://www.autism.com/ .  If we all work together…we can improve the lives of families around the world who struggle with the effects of Autism.

Sep
05

Communication Through Sign Language Opens Doors And Bridges Gaps

By Rainy on September 5th, 2009

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 Today I did an interview with Louise Sattler who is the creative owner/operator of  http://www.signingfamilies.com.   Louise is an expert trainer at workshops and classes that teach American Sign Language to help people communicate with one another.  She is also a certified school psychologist who has an awareness of the importance of the need for families and community leaders to learn sign language.   Sign Language opens doors and bridges gaps for people who are hearing impaired, or who may have developmental delays or special needs.  Communication is something that many people take for granted.

         Put yourself in the position of a person who is hearing impaired, or a person who lives with special needs; and, consider some environments they they may experience differently than you; such as a trip to the hospital or emergency room.  How different would the experience be for you if you were the one who had difficulty making your needs known to the health care professionals.  Or say you are an elderly person who is experiencing hearing loss…how are you going to communicate with other residents or say the staff?   How about shopping or getting educational services at college or in elementary school?   How about ordering a meal in a restaurant?   Do you see how the quality of life can be improved for people impacted in this way?   Can you see how sign language could open doors for people if others in the community took the opportunity to learn it from someone like Louise or through her DVD’s?

Click on Image to listen to Interview

Click on Image to listen to Interview

        If you are interested in learning more about Louise and her educational services please listen to the interview here:  http://www.rapidcashmarketing.com/lorrainesinterview/signingfamilies.htm

Aug
18

Special Needs Families: Are You On A Trip To Holland?

By Rainy on August 18th, 2009

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                                                           Are you on a “trip to Holland”?

         The poem written by Emily Perl Kingsley was cut out and pasted on refrigerator from February of 1992 until we moved to a new home in 1995.  It was titled, “ Welcome to Holland”.  In essence, it was a snapshot of what it is like to being unprepared when you give birth to a child who has challenges, such as medical or cognitive disabilities.

         There is one section of the poem that I read over and over again, “After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”     “Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”   But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.”

My husband and I wanted to go to Italy and ended up in Holland on February 7, 1992.  I should have known that our trip to second time parenthood would be bumpy as we were told that our second born was to be a girl.   “Two girls, so nice”, my OB-GYN told me.  Guess what, we had the first boy born in 28 years in my family when he arrived via emergency c-section.  Not breathing right.  Sugar too low, heartbeat too high.  I could already feel the “plane veer” off course.

       Days later we were allowed to go home only to notice that our little “fella” was turning the color of a Sunkist orange.  Not good.  Not good at all.  Rushed back to the hospital to be told it was simple “jaundice”.  Nope, nothing in the child’s life would be simple, I found out. Days go on and before the first actual tulip bloomed that year we were in intensive care with our young guy.  Jaundice ended up to be a “liver problem” – not yet determined, but possibly very serious and could lead to severe retardation.  Respiratory syncytial virus/ RSV nearly claimed his life.  Reflux choked him every third breath.  Our nightmare continued.  You know you have a very sick baby when you can’t find room in the isolated PICU suite because of the number of doctors, nurses and respiratory therapists working with your child to keep him alive.  You also know your baby is very ill when the nurses come and ask you questions such as, ‘Is there anyone we can call for you?”  Does God have a hotline, I wonder? 

      For any new parent who has a baby you know this is the worst part of the scenario- waiting.   You wait to see if the tests are positive for illnesses that are unimaginable.  You wait to see if the insurance will cover the rare and complicated blood work, machines that are helping your child stay alive or special therapy sessions ordered.  You wait to see if you will ever have a “normal” life again for yourself, your family, your work, etc.  Will your child walk, talk, eat normally, have friends, etc.? You begin truly begin to hate Holland. 

      Then, little by little, the wait can end.  Test results come back.   Therapies begin.  Hospitalizations end and you go home.  But, for many of us, this is when you start a new journey in to the realm of Special Education.  Here is the most ironic part of this story and the reason I am writing it for this blog.  I am a special educator.  I am a full fledge, certified School Psychologist that is trained with helping parents and children with special needs.  All my training flies out the window as my mind is trying to process the months of evaluations, reports and recommendations from specialists.   Ironic indeed.  I have now changed teams!  Instead of being the intervention specialist I now am the one calling our local school district asking for help from the Early Intervention Team!   And I am so grateful when they appear at my door. But, I still have problems with paperwork and understanding all the information.  How can this be?  I do this job everyday and I am still wading through it because my head is so full of grief and confusion.  The team helps me. Everyday gets a little better. Clarity arrives with every meeting or visit from a team member. Family members come on board to help.  We get it griethrough it. 

     Now fast- forward, our son improves with therapy as he starts to talk, walk (actually run) and become quite sociable.  He has more hospital visits but he is deemed fairly healthy.  His liver has a benign disorder and we are told that he shouldn’t go without food or enter in to the military.  We can live with those two stipulations to have a benign liver disorder vs. the alternatives.

 I also become a much better psychologist.  Often I go to our refrigerator and I read Welcome to Holland.  As I do, I imagine my own fears, but also the see the faces and hear the sad, confused and sometimes hopeful voices of countless parents and children I have worked with in the past. I am a better person because I stopped in Holland than Italy.

    As for the little “fella”, he is applying to colleges now. He has had his challenges, but nothing we couldn’t handle without the help of school and healthcare professionals.

     And guess where he suggested we go on summer vacation this year?  Holland.  Well, I’ll be!

Hello Readers:  I would like to take this opportunity to thank Louise Sattler.  Louise is an expert in working with children…as she said…she is a certified School Psychologist.  She also heads up a great business known as Signing Families.  She has a website that you can access here:  http://www.signingfamilies.com.  Louise is available to do workshops and she does speaking engagements as well.  Teaching sign language helps build relationships and opens doors of communication for those with special needs.  Louise and Signing Families has a wonderful DVD which teaches beginning sign language for babies, toddlers and pre-school age children; it has over 100 signs to use. 

      I can say that she is a very engaging woman who is open and willing to share her expertise and her experiences when it comes to educating and helping families succeed in opening doors of communication for their special loved ones.  Thank you Louise for sharing your personal perspective of living successfully with challenges in parenting children with special needs!

Aug
01

Sign Language To Communicate And Strengthen Relationships

By Rainy on August 1st, 2009

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I’ve had the recent pleasure of “meeting” an extra-ordinary person with a calling on her life to teach communication skills through sign language to families.  Louise Sattler is a very interesting person who has had a variety of experiences in different settings, including the educational field where she was a licensed school psychologist, which has enabled her to work with children and their families to develop strong and effective communication skills.

I met Louise through an online contest, believe it or not.  It was run on Twitter.  I happen to have won a poetry contest; and the prize, that I chose, was a DVD that made by Louise Sattler.   Louise has a site called:  http://www.signingfamilies.com/ . There you will find all kinds of information about Louise and what she does; but, I didn’t know all of that, when I won the DVD.

I chose that DVD because of the title and what I could potentially use it for.  The title is, “Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Sign Language”.   I work with children in several capacities and I liked the idea of learning some sign language just in case I needed to know it in the future.  I was so excited when i got the DVD because, just watching it I could see the passion and the commitment that Louise had for teaching sign language to children and their families.

Bravery came over me and I approached Louise about doing an interview with me so that I could blog about what she does through her workshops, her speaking engagements and through her DVD’s.   Louise agreed to do that and I thought that I would share the news of what she does because it helps so many people.  By teaching sign language as a way of communicating it allows families to be more effective in advocating for their special needs loved ones.

http://www.signingfamilies.com/ caters to those who live and work with individuals with special education needs.  Signing isn’t just for the deaf communities…people who struggle with many issues of disability can benefit from communicating through sign language.   So if you work in education, in health- care, daycare, foster care, adoption, or you have a business or a family member who is impacted…this is a great way to brush up your communication skills so that you can strengthen your ability to communicate effectively in your relationships.

If you would like to contact Louise Sattler about her programs & her work she can be reached at Louise@SigningFamilies.com; or, you can contact her to do a workshop, give an interview or a presentation by calling her business line at:               410-715-9647       .    Louise is also on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Louiseasl . She is very down to earth and she also teaches in Spanish-she is bi-lingual.  Ask her about her programs….tell her that Writewhereyouare sent you and you will get a discount.  :)   You can purchase her DVD’s at her site:  http://www.SigningFamilies.com/  or here on Amazon. com: http://bit.ly/913i5/

Ps.

  You can always stop by and see me also at:  http://www.writewhereyouareblog.com/ .

Jul
18

Recruiting People With Multiple Disabilities For The Military

By Rainy on July 18th, 2009

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          The young man’s name is Joshua Fry and he has been diagnosed as Autistic.  He was living in a group home at the time of his enlistment; in fact, it is alleged that a Marine recruiter picked him up from the home and took him to the recruitment center to enlist.  The background of the story, as I understand it, is that this young man was born to parents who allegedly abused drugs.  He was diagnosed as being Autistic, as a young child.   Joshua was allegedly abused as a child and he had learning disabilities.   He struggled in school and had allegedly developed a relationship with a military recruiter.  Joshua got himself into trouble allegedly for stealing and having a weapon; and, he was sent away to a treatment facility for counseling. 

           In the meantime, Joshua’s grandmother had custody of him and allegedly told the Marine recruiter to take Joshua’s name off of the call list as he was “not Marine material”.   It would have been easy enough to check that out by following up with the school administrators.  Those words should have been the end of any active pursuit of Joshua, as a person to be considered as a Marine recruit.

        For a recruiter to continue to persue an individual like Joshua; it should be considered a crime.  Many special needs people would love to be in the military; however, the nature of the job requires quick thinking, reliable decision making every time, the ability to use good judgement, and, to exhibit character traits that would be of an elevated level compared to the average individual.   Some individuals able-bodied or not, no matter how how they try, are not going to be able to perform at those levels and meet those responsibilities.  It is important that those in the military be able to do so because lives depend on it!

            For many people with multiple special needs…being able to make fast, quality decisions regarding the safety and well-being of themselves, as well as others, is difficult; even under normal circumstances, but if you add into the mix, the stress and chaos of a war situation, it could be a dangerous combination.  It is heartbreaking to have someone want to serve who just may not be qualified to do so because of a physical, emotional, or developmental disability.   But encouraging that same individual to go ahead and sign up should be criminal…it is not in the best interest of that individual, the military personel who work alongside of them, or the families who love and support them, to the best of their abilities.

         It is being alleged that when Joshua got out of the facility and entered the group home; he had re-established a relationship  with the recruiter.  If it is true that the grandmother had spoken to those at the recruiting station and told them of the problems with Joshua…that should have been the end of any attempts to recruit him.   If that recruiter had the knowledge of the problems that Joshua struggled with; he should not have allowed Joshua to sign up. 

            Joshua’s grandmother had the courts approval to be his legal conservator.  Basically, meaning that he was not able to sign most legal documents because he wasn’t able to completely understand the legal consequences in doing so.   He had a low IQ, he was diagnosed as Autistic, bi-polar, asthmatic, he had learning disabilities and he had also been treated in an in-patient environment.  For all of those reasons and more…he should never have been a candidate for service in the Marine Corps. 

         Once he got to boot camp, he found himself in over his head.  He got in trouble for stealing food, for disrespecting authority, and, he was not following orders.  He told those in positions of authority that he didn’t want to be a Marine and told them of his history.  They agreed he shouldn’t be there after talking to his grandmother; but, instead of sending him home he was allowed to graduate boot camp.  Months later, he was found to have pornographic photos on his cell phone…disciplined and instructed to not do it again.   He failed and again was found to be in possession…this time with child pornography.    What he did is wrong definately, does he understand that?  That is the question…does he know what he did is wrong; and, is he capable of understanding that his actions have legal consequences?

           He was arrested and is being held on a variety of charges that he probably does not understand and is incapable of avoiding committing over and over again in the same military environment that he should never have been allowed to enter in the first place.   For heaven’s sake, this is an individual that was living in a supervised setting because of issues relating to the impulsive behaviors associated with his disabilities that didn’t allow him to live independently.  How in the world is he expected to fulfill his commitment to the military?  What will happen to Joshua and others like him?  What kind of legal discipline will he be forced to accept?  Will he be dismissed from service and returned to a supervised group home setting or will he be in the prison system?  

          While some disabilities allow individuals to perform many tasks related to military life…there is no guarantee that those are the only situations in which they will be needed to perform in.  We have to be very careful about making decisions regarding allowing those with disabilities into the military.  Their very lives could depend on it. 

           Recruiters are expected to persuade prospects to sign on the dotted line and become a member of our military service.  However, people with documented low IQ’s, learning disabilities or medical or emotional issues that would prevent them from performing their duties in a safe and timely manner should not be “encouraged to join up”.  This feels a little like it is taking advantage of someone’s lack of understanding.  It is an unfair advantage to have knowledge that they could be put into situations that are not within their capabilities of handling appropriately; and, still encourage them to join the service.

          We are in a time of war, men and women are needed to serve.  However, it is wrong to recruit people who are at a disadvantage intellectually, physically or emotionally.  This issue is going to become more of a problem because of some changes being made to the educational requirements across our nation.  Many special education students are caught between a rock and a hard place with the raising of educational requirements to graduate.  Many of them will no longer be allowed to get a diploma…they will be getting a certificate of completion instead.  Some of them will have to go to high school for 5-6 years, as the additional requirements are phased in.  This is already resulting in many students either dropping out of high school or choosing to get a GED.   Many more will try to seek a position with the military because of the lack of jobs available for special needs persons.  Just because someone is disabled or has special needs doesn’t mean that they are not patriotic; it doesn’t mean that they don’t want the respect that being in the military can give them.  Many would love an opportunity to be a hero for their country by serving.  This makes them vulnerable to outside influences when it comes to signing up.

         It is important that the Marine Corps does what is right in this situation for Joshua and others like him.   He was out of his element here; and, it should have been stopped by those in a position to do so before he ever signed on the dotted line and spent one day in boot camp.   Many eyes will be watching.  Parents, agencies, friends and educators…please be aware that your special needs students are vulnerable to the desire to serve their country.  It is admirable, but they are also vulnerable to recruiters who need to put people into the service and are more than willing to talk to your students in a way that makes them even more determined to serve; whether they are fully capable of doing the job safely, or not.

       What are your thoughts on these issues?

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