Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Dr. Carbone

I am attending an extremely interesting and beneficial workshop this week. Dr. Vincent Carbone is the founder of the Carbone Clinic in New York. He is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. The workshop is specifically about shaping difficult behaviors to produce language (spoken words or sign) and promote learning.
About three weeks ago, I wrote on paper some things I would like to get off my chest. Sometimes I want to say these things to parents, but I can't because I am too emotionally involved in the situation and would not be able to remain objective and professional. I debated whether or not to put them here since the subject is quite controversial, but since I have had some time to stew over it, maybe I can write it here as a generality. I was prompted to think about putting it here again listening to Dr. Carbone. This rant was prompted by a well meaning mom who gave me a book called "Ten Things Your Autistic Student Wishes You Knew."

So, here is my response:

Ten Things Your Autistic Child's Teacher Wishes You Knew:
1. I love your child.
2. I have been teaching for 14 years. My Bachelor's degree is in Speech Language Pathology and my Master's degree is in Elementary Education with a specialization in Special Education. I have worked with at least 17 Autistic kids (that's about 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, 180 days a year in most cases) and have been to at least five in depth workshops dealing with Autism, including one that was 7 days long. The team of professionals that is working with your child (usually including a regular education teacher, special ed. teacher, Speech Therapist, and Occupational therapist) have many more total years experience than I do. We have a pretty good working knowledge of children with Autism.
3. I go above and beyond on a daily basis to find what works best for your child.
4. Advocacy groups make me angry. I wish we could all work together for the good of your child. Unfortunately it is about more than your child.
5. When you start throwing around the "L" word (lawyer), I shut down. I might have been extremely friendly with you and confided in you previously, but now I will be guarded and very careful about what I say to you, especially if we are one-on-one.
6. I know it is easier to give in to your child's tantrums/whining/etc. than it is to stick to your guns, but we do stick to our guns at school, and we would appreciate you following through rather than tearing down all our hard work. And please don't ask us to do things at school that we know good and well you don't do at home.
7. There is no 'cure' for Autism. Special glasses, chellation therapy, bariatric chambers, gluten/casein free diets, sensory integration therapy, etc. don't work. If they were proven effective for all children, we would all know it (and have more data proving it so) and someone would have a Nobel Prize. Some of those things work for some children, but take ALL advice and choose what is best for your family and your child. Please don't believe everything you read online.
8. We don't have to do all the crazy things your Doctor (who may be an expert on diagnosing but not working with), outside OT, PT, and Speech tells us to do. These are recommendations. These people are not part of the IEP team, and we as a team are making your child functional in the educational setting. We are not a rehabilitation setting. It would be nice if we could do everything, but we can't. Schools don't have unlimited funds, so in the end you as a taxpayer are paying for all your demands. If you don't like the Free Appropriate Public Education we can provide, there are some great private schools and services for you to explore.
9. I agree that we need to raise money and research and find the best practices and find long term solutions and preventions. But we all need to keep our focus and work together, not stir the pot, make trouble, and point fingers.
10. I still love your child.


mynewthing said...

Wow, Michelle. That is bold, but it's wonderful! I hope this helps countless people...

Mrs. Hatten said...

YEAH!!!!!! Girl, you hit the nail on the head! Michelle, I am on both sides of this issue since I am a mother of a child who is on the Autism spectrum and also a teacher. Everything you said is true. No fad diets, chambers, or treatments will cure my son and what I have found to be the most beneficial route is good old fashioned tough love. We have had to push him hard enough that he doesn't break but keep on pushing so that he will grow. We know he's always going to be eccentric, and to be quite honest, I wouldn't want to change that since that is part of who he is. But making him mind, having him conform socially so that he doesn't stick out like a sore thumb during sensory-rich events, and following through with discipline has helped him grow, mature, and come into himself. He is a happy child who feels an overwhelming amount of pride and success in knowing that he CAN do these things he couldn't do before. It was hard, and a lot of times I felt "mean," but the end result is that he CAN FUNCTION on an age-appropriate level and isn't that "weird kid" who can't sit and watch a school performance. He is happy, has more friends, and knows he is loved. What more can you ask for? Michelle, this is my favorite post you have written and I think you should share it with some of your parents.