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?
I recently had the pleasure of witnessing the power of seeing special needs students who were trained at doing a job and felts a sense of empowerment with their purpose. It was a simple program that is funded by donations from their customers or clients. The group of Autistic students get “hired” to go to homes and businesses and steam clean carpets.
This local program is in danger of being phased out. A new person took over and therefore did not have all of the contacts that the previous person had. However, in the last couple of weeks of this summer’s program things picked up. The students get booked by an organizer and they go to local businesses or homes at an appointed time and they steam clean. They were excited when they arrived and they were diligent in doing their jobs. There was a team of 2-3 students and a couple of adult supervisors. This worked out wonderfully. Was the carpet cleaning equal to a professional cleaning? No, however they didn’t charge a professional price either. I felt that the service they performed was worthy of being a paid job. They used regular upright steam cleaners that anyone could buy and cleaning solution that you could buy in a box store; but in general the results were clean and fresh.
It was awesome to see pride on their faces when thanked for performing the carpet cleaning service. They had a passion for doing their “job” right. They appeared to feel happy to have a purpose. In fact, the teacher told me that she was concerned about how they would feel for the rest of the summer when they didn’t have a job to get up for; she said there were some students who would get filled with anxiety when there were no “jobs”.
I would love to see more programs developed for special needs individuals…both those who are in school and those who are older. Everyone has abilities, skills and knowledge…why not harness the best opportunities that will enrich the lives of a special needs person? Do you know of any programs that exist in cities or rural areas that build up the life of a person who was born with challenges? Tell us about it please.
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.
Guy began to leave his bed for longer periods of time. His appetite improved. He became strong enough to participate in a sheltered workshop program. Then he went to his workshop eagerly and more often.
The most amazing wonder of all was that after ten years, Guy Foster LEFT the nursing home to live in a Group Home setting, where he earns spending money from his job in a recycling center. He has a network of people with whom he exchanges letters and jokes; he has a standing invitation to drum with a group of Indian friends. He even enjoys regular visitors to his apartment and phone chats. He is proudly learning normal life skills.
At this writing, Guy Foster is 42 years young and full of vim, vinegar and vitality. He encourages others every day with his greeting cards, his empathy and his love. He also believes the world’s entire population should be drinking “his kind” of water!
What I would like to impart to anyone whose eyes have fallen on this page is this: Feed every family member organic whole foods when you can; pure, filtered water and lots of it. Get adequate amounts of sleep and rest and balance that with movement, exercise. Supplement everyone’s diets with whole foods supplements and add in green super foods and highly mineralized juices. Not just fruit juices, but the supplemental juice products used by the ounce. Use as much fresh, raw food as you possibly can because we all need the phytonutrients, anti-oxidants, enzymes and vitamin/mineral content that is so plentiful in fresh foods. I’d also encourage anyone to boldly immerse yourselves in the study of body work-Reiki, Ortho-bionomy, massage therapy- whatever strikes your fancy. Investigate the wonders of energy medicine. Learn all you can about herbs, homeopathic remedies, Macrobiotic foods, Ayurvedic methods, and whatever else resonates with you. Find a good chiropractor who understands that the body heals from the inside, not the other way around. Any health practitioner worth his salt will teach you a variety of complementary ways of working with bodies that may not be “perfect” according to someone’s standard. One more thing: Make the kinds of memories that cause you to laugh so hard your face and belly hurt!
Families who avoid artificial sweeteners, MSG, soda pop, processed, packaged and micro waved food products as well as fluoride-laden dental products will notice a huge improvement in the quality of their lives. These changes will be remarkable where issues are noted involving the nervous system, digestion, and elimination.
As soon as the physical body gets its needs met, the mental needs fall into line, along with the emotional and spiritual. When those requirements are satisfied, fewer behavior issues are problematic, sleep is more refreshing, cheer is the order of the day and peace can reign in the busiest household!
Thank you Connie for sharing with us the experiences that you have had and the knowledge that you dont have to accept life as status quo…you can seek therapies that enrich the lives of our special needs loved ones.
There is a disturbing story today regarding a young disabled man, with multiple disabilities, who was recruited into the Marine Corps for service. I have to preface this story by saying that I love the Marine Corps. I have many friends and family who have served and I am proud of them and the Marine Corps. However, this story is disturbing because of the potential consequences for anyone unfortunate enough to be in this situation.
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?
Our local school told us at the IEP’s this year, that with changes in special education requirements(sound like national or federal changes)…that students in the special education program are now being encouraged to pursue a certificate of completion, as opposed to a diploma, when a special education student nears the end of their high school career. The reason being that for many of the students, the classes that they have already taken are not going to count towards graduation requirements. Therefore, they will end up going to school longer. For some students, it will mean that instead of 4 years of high school…they could end up attending classes in high school for up to six years.
I think this is very unfair. From what we have been able to understand so far, for those who insist upon a diploma as opposed to a certificate of completion…it will be almost impossible to attain. In our school here in Michigan, the special education students will be blended into some regular education classes; and, then they will have what they are calling a workshop, which is supposed to be more like a 30 minute homestudy class, where they are supposed to get more help with problem classwork. The issue is that many of those workshop teachers will be regular education teachers who are not trained to work with the special education students who require more help and in some cases specialized teaching techniques–something that will require more than 30 minutes time from a teacher who has to divide up those 30 minutes with a classroom of students who need help.
This feels like a social experiment that is going to go horribly wrong. I am frustrated because I have a child who is going to be caught up in the middle of these changes. I have a son who also is a special education student who graduated in the last few weeks…he was able to get a diploma. This is no small feat. In this day and age of financial uncertainty, anything you can do to improve your employability is important…having a diploma is better for getting a job than a certificate of completion when it comes to getting hired.
I was told by an administrative person that employers and schools of higher education are aware of these changes and are cooperating with these changes by honoring certificates of completion when it comes to going off to college or for getting jobs. I do not believe this is true. I firmly believe that most employers are unaware of these graduation requirement changes and will view a certificate of completion as being “less qualifying” for a job than a diploma.
First off, at this point…even many teachers and administrators are still trying to figure out exactly what all of these changes will mean for both staff and students. Many parents of special education students are not understanding how these changes will impact their families. It is the students who were already in high school and have completed a year or two or three towards graduation that are going to fall between the cracks. I am already being told of students who were Juniors this year, who have discovered that this impacts when they will “graduate” and are dropping out of school because they do not wish to go to school for an additional year, or two longer, than they had expected. When they also discover that many of them will not be able to get a diploma after all of their hard work….and will get something that appears to be less than a regular education student gets; I believe that even more students will drop out of school.
This is devastating; special education students are already at a disadvantage in many areas socially and in the job market. This is just one more (large) obstacle to having some level of independence and success. There needs to be a public outcry at the injustice of it all…on a local level and on a larger scale. Do you have any knowledge or experience with these changes?