Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Horse Boy: A free viewing co-hosted in Central Michigan

Having had my own child with autism enrolled in the Proud Equestrian Program for years, I am hoping to one day get a chance to read The Horse Boy: A Father's Quest to Heal his Son by Rupert Isaacson.

Further, I am a bit envious of movie goers in Central Michigan who will have the opportunity to see the documentary, The Horse Boy, for free tomorrow night, May 12, at Celebration Cinema in Mt. Pleasant, MI, 7 p.m. The event is being co-hosted by the cinema, WCMU, and the Central Michigan Autism Group (the awesome group that I was the secretary of before moving to Washington). A panel discussion will follow the one-hour film and free information about autism will be passed out.

The documentary was directed by a young filmmaker, Michel Orion Scott. Set in Mongolia, it is a travel adventure that provides insight into shamanic healing as well as a look into the autistic mind. The Isaacson's story was inspired by Rupert's experience with travel writing and their son Rowan's connection with horses. After trying several different treatments to help Rowan, his parents noticed that horse riding was the only thing that seemed to work. The Isaacsons realized that Rowan was calmer, expressed joy, and was able to give verbal directives while on horseback.

This is perhaps one of the most creative methods of coping with autism that I ever have come across. In fact, Rupert Isaacson had such a creative idea that he had no trouble getting his story told (check out the link to this excellent NY Times article for information about Isaacson's proposal and its acceptance).

I hope that there is a good turnout to see The Horse Boy in Mt. Pleasant. It seems to be a fascinating story and I'm sad that I won't be able to attend the event, which is the result of some of the fundraising activities I participated in for my group. That said, for those of you who live outside of Central Michigan, the book ($16.49 U.S.) and the documentary ($27.49 U.S.) are both available on Amazon. Of the book, Temple Grandin writes "This is a great book and everyone who is interested in autism, animals or different cultures should read it."

Author's Note: I realize that some people may object to the notion of seeking out healing (Rupert Isaacson deliberately replaced healing with the word "cure" in his title.) However, as a blog author, I realize that people have different ways of coping with autism. I feel it is not up to me to judge what is the right and what is the wrong way coping because the method that people choose has to do with their circumstances, beliefs, and the individualized aspects that influenced those beliefs.

So, some people accept their children with autism as they are. Some people seek out doctors and or various popular therapies such as Applied Behavioral Analysis. Some people (like me) embrace a mixture of therapy, experiences, and acceptance, and some people, like the Isaacsons, go on fascinating and extraordinary journeys.

P.S. The Horse Boy is scheduled to air on CMU Public Television as part of the PBS series "Independent Lens" in May of 2010. This screening event is part of the ITVS (Independent Television Service) Community Cinema program. Free screenings of Independent Lens films are held at a variety of locations through June 2010. See here for more information about the film and/or the event being held tonight.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Wemberly Worried and the First Day of School

My youngest loves Wemberly Worried by Kevin Henkes so much he has chosen it three nights in a row for our bedtime story routine. It's a cute book about a little mouse who worries about everything, especially her very first day of school. The main idea of the story is that Wemberly didn't have to worry because everything turned out just fine. In fact she even made a friend. It is a comforting message for kids and yes, it's a comforting message for adults as well.

Julie Worried

I should have remembered this book when getting ready to send my kids off to school the last week of March. (For those of you new to this blog, we just moved from Michigan to Washington.) Anyway, I worried and worried and WORRIED. I didn't worry so much about my seven year old who is a well behaved student, is social and makes friends relatively easily. I worried about my oldest son who has autism and some learning difficulties. In fact, I worried endlessly.

Moving with a child who has special needs and getting him settled into yet another school (see here for an explanation), was on the top of the list of things to worry about in terms of our big move. Yes, he had changed schools many times before but it was always in the same district. This time I had no idea what we would encounter in terms of education.

Would the nearby school be a good fit? Could they accommodate him even though they didn't have a special education program at that particular school? Would we feel welcomed at the school or not so much? Would the team listen to what I had to say? Would I have the chance to say it? And most importantly: Would C1 would behave in an appropriate manner?

The main source of my worry is that C1 had behavior problems at his old school. Though he's not a child who likes school all that much, I think he acted out because he didn't like being in a self contained special education room. He wanted to be with the students in regular education. Before we moved, the team at the old school agreed that we should try it. It was working, but I was holding my breath hoping the new team would be open to it.

I will admit that my worry about the new school not having a special education classroom was quite needless considering my son doesn't like to be in one. I guess I wanted a safety net,. I also didn't have to worry about being welcomed and having my suggestions turned down by the school team. I talked to the school team for a total of four hours (two hours at a time) and my information was well received, including my thoughts about C1 wanting to be included in regular education.

To my relief, C1 was placed in a regular education fourth grade classroom as well as in a resource room where he gets extra math and reading help. I knew about his placement and that we felt welcome by the staff and administration before his first day, but still I worried.

I was all prepared to walk to school with my two boys on the first day to get them settled in. Instead, a neighbor boy whom the boys had met days earlier showed up to walk them to school. I was a bit skeptical of the whole arrangement, so I asked him some key questions. "Can you show them the ropes? It's their first day."

"Yes, I'm going to get a pass to take C2 to class and my friend will get a pass to take C2 to class," the third grader replied. This kid has it together I thought. I also was pleased because this was the first time both boys had a friend that would walk with them to school. My boys were pleased too and were more than happy to go without me.

The great start to the day did make me worry less, though I still wondered about the first day of school. How would C1's first day go? Well, a note from his teacher made my day. This is what it said:

"[C1] had a great first day at [school]. He did an awesome job following directions and having a positive attitude. Way to go [C1]!."

So the main idea of my story is that like Wemberly, I shouldn't have worried because everything turned out just fine. C1's regular education teacher, his resource room teacher, the playground supervisor and even the physical education teacher have all told me over a span of the last few weeks that he has done well.

C1 even told me last night that he likes his new school (though I will admit worrying because there is always a grace period with C1 whenever he attends a new one). As for me, I won't let my guard down completely, but maybe (just maybe) I'll start worrying a little bit less. Well I will try to anyway.