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Let’s follow Ghana’s example!

I do not cease to be amazed by the brilliance and resilience demonstrated in so called (incorrectly) third world countries.

Presently, the country of Ghana has an incredible group of mothers (some fathers) who knock on all doors to guarantee future educators have the opportunity to listen about autism and the needs of their kids – – based on their reality!

This is one novel concept and one such group is the Special Mothers Project in Ghana. I have interacted with Mary Amoah, the incredible and power house mom of Nana Yaa. Nana is now a teen, on the autism spectrum, non-verbal. Their experiences in the last 15 years led Mary to pursue advocacy at its maximum level and share the many lessons learned with the upcoming number of parents raising children on the spectrum.

But, the main goal is to educate future teachers about autism and what their children actually need.

From what I understand, in Ghana (or the United States) there are no University courses educating about the academic and social needs of students on the autism spectrum. This is where Mary and her Special Mothers come in.

These super heroes have surpassed the  boundaries of bureaucracy and nepotism and have convinced academic leaders to open the doors to offer workshops to future and current teachers — yes, parents educating teachers to be about autism and learning how to learn — regardless of behaviors and countless challenges the diagnosis presents.

I mega applaud them. They have succeeded.

University settings in Ghana acknowledge they need to transmit a variety of messages to the future educators of their country. They also realize autism prevalence in their classrooms and the lack of trained educators. They realize they do not know what autism is all about and it is advantageous to work with those surviving it every day.

Say it with me… The PARENTS!!!

Why do I write about this?

I will continue to write to all universities in the USA requesting similar projects become a part of the curriculum of education.

These experiences shall determine how prepared teachers will be when reaching the classroom and realizing that 10+ of 25 students are capable of learning  but need to be taught differently.

Right now, the United States must replicate projects like the Special Mothers Project in Ghana.

What have I done?

Below find the letters sent to the Departments of Education of various universities in Florida.

Only one university responded – UCF.

We have not had the opportunity to meet.

I urge all of you to send similar or completely different emails to these individuals. They need to hear from all of us.

Changes will only take place this way. Books and researchers cannot be the only way future educators shall learn about autism and its realities.

We the parents shall always be a part of this equation.

 

———- Forwarded message ———
From: YADIRA CALDERON <racayadi@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, May 3, 2018, 11:26 PM
Subject: Fwd: My daughter speaks… Teachers in Florida…
To: <Brindley@usf.edu>, <dnull@usf.edu>, <mbrownell@coe.ufl.edu>, <ggood@coe.ufl.edu>, <pamela.carroll@ucf.edu>, <wsecada@miami.edu>, <heithaus@fiu.edu>

 

Greetings

Representatives of Education in Florida

I have a simple request…

Please read this email carefully.

My daughter and I are ready to meet with you to discuss the reality of many in Florida’s schools.

Our basic need…

Better training of future teachers.

What is being taught and highlighted does not reflect what the system is and prioritizes or what the actual needs of the students are.

Particularly, students with a variety of diagnosis who need Multisensory methodology so they can be taught how to learn.

Many parents end up investing in tutors outside of the school system in order to see our children reading, writing at grade level.

Additionally, teachers to be need sensitivity training to avoid situations like the ones described below.

Yes, I am the kind of parent the school system does not like because I give less praise and do more complaints.

My daughter and her needs represent money to the school. These funds are not properly used and federal law is being violated.

But you know this.

I welcome the opportunity to meet.

Thank you for your time.

Yadira Calderon and Thomais Moshopoulos

Palm Harbor FL

Read about us here…

Www.autismhappykingdom.com

I was a featured guest in a WEDU PBS broadcast

Wedu.org/autism

 

 

Below find emails exchanged with the school administration after a variety of events my daughter experienced.

———- Forwarded message ———
From: YADIRA CALDERON <racayadi@gmail.com>
Date: Wed, May 2, 2018, 10:03 AM
Subject: Re: My daughter speaks…
To: Atkins Belinda <ATKINSBE@pcsb.org>
Cc: Mowatt Evelyn <MOWATTE@pcsb.org>, Monica.Verra-Tirado <Monica.Verra-Tirado@fldoe.org>, +Superintendent’s Office <Super@pcsb.org>, +Board Office <Board@pcsb.org>, Commissioner <Commissioner@fldoe.org>, Kon Mosh <soloupohsom@gmail.com>, Kennedy Ward <KENNEDYW@pcsb.org>, Nancy E. Bailey <nancyebailey@bellsouth.net>

 

Your response still does not explain why the words and actions my daughter expressed —   why were they used with the students.

What is not insensitive or inappropriate to all of you, it is to a child.

Your words what they explain is what I have always seen with the school system protecting those who are supposed to be protecting and educating our children.

Not acCeptable.

I am aware this is what your superiors and the legal department approved and what  is put in writing.

The system still does not hold accountable the actions of the teachers.

Three incidents in 2 weeks, these are not inventions from a child.

I’m the one who will listen to my child every other week reminding me…

my PE teacher called us idiots

my music teacher yelled at us even louder this time

the assistant told Jacob his behaviors are pathetic

A reminder is not enough.

Sensitivity training, realistic, needed now.

Yadira Calderon

Parent/Advocate

 

On Wed, May 2, 2018, 7:56 AM Atkins Belinda <ATKINSBE@pcsb.org> wrote:

Mrs. Calderon,

I can assure you that we follow up on all claims and the 3 you brought to our attention were fully vetted. We found that there was more to the circumstances where staff was addressing students and were found not to be insensitive or inappropriate to the level first thought.  With that said we have reminded our staff to be cognizant of what they are saying to students and also the tone they use so all who are privy to conversations interpret as they are meant.

Please know that Mrs. Downes and I are always available to meet with you about any concern and I am very willing to speak to you about this matter further if you wish to do so.

Best Regards,

Belinda Atkins

Principal

Ozona Elementary

727-724- 1589

www.facebook.com/ozonaes

“Ospreys Reach Higher!”

 

From: YADIRA CALDERON <racayadi@gmail.com>
Sent: Saturday, April 28, 2018 10:24:30 PM
To: Atkins Belinda
Cc: Mowatt Evelyn; Monica.Verra-Tirado; +Superintendent’s Office; +Board Office; Commissioner; Kon Mosh; Kennedy Ward; Nancy E. Bailey
Subject: Re: My daughter speaks…

 

Mrs Atkins responded

On another note, I did fully investigate the PE incident with Coach Grab and would love to speak to you about that.  Is there a good time for a phone call??

 I need to receive all responses in writing and then I can speak on the phone.

More details provided by my daughter…

I am so fortunate that my daughter can speak and it is frustrating to hear  about those situations that confirm she is not in a healthy academic environment.

She just told me…

On Monday…

Ms Sean – asst in her room said:

She told Jacob that his anger issues were pathetic…

 

She also said…

The music teacher

Always yells at them

And yesterday after the kids dropped the drums

Many of them

Her reaction was to get mad

And she yelled really loud

Louder than other times

 

Again, sensitivity training for all teachers and assistants is desperately needed throughout the district

As I said, I believe my daughter’s words.

Her awareness, level of consciousness and sensory needs more than make her understand what is happening around her.

When something is different she tells me about it and I couldn’t be more fortunate.

At the same time, this is not the conversations I should be having with my kid in a quiet Saturday night.

So what is going to happen here?

In less than 2 weeks, 3 incidents.

With a PE teacher,  music teacher and an assistant with completely inappropriate behavior in an academic setting.

Verbal abuse. Adults not being able to handle the pressure and the fact they are kids in an elementary school.

If it was one of our kids with an IEP and without a behavior plan, this kid would have been thrown on the floor, held against his or her will and would have been Baker acted.

This is not working.

Your efforts do not suffice.

Yadira Calderon

Parent/Advocate

 

On Apr 21, 2018 7:54 PM, “Atkins Belinda” <ATKINSBE@pcsb.org> wrote:

Good evening Mrs. Calderon,

I am glad that you shared this with me so that I may address this right away on Monday.

We at Ozona share the belief with Pinellas County Schools that the social and emotional well being of our students is paramount.  Teams of teachers from Ozona will be participating in trainings centered around culturally responsive teaching practices to ensure sensitivity and equity for all students.

I will speak with you on Monday regarding my investigation of this incident.  Thank you again for bringing this to my attention.

Best Regards,

Belinda Atkins.

Sent from my iPhone

On Apr 21, 2018, at 7:19 PM, YADIRA CALDERON <racayadi@gmail.com> wrote:

See link below… Sharing my daughter’s words, emotion.

Her expression and understanding must be accepted.

Her humanity and role in a community must be based on mutual respect.

When an adult calls children idiots, such adult cannot expect respect.

Such adult must not be working with children.

Such adult must ask for forgiveness and accept the mistake made.

In past similar experiences in Pinellas schools, my daughter became the responsible one when she revealed realities and abuse lived.  She was forced to change her story based on the fact the adult had to be protected…

Not this time.

https://youtu.be/50-vBgrZ630

Decision-makers in Pinellas County schools are not keeping children safe.

One more time I ask, what are you going to do about it?

Situations like this can confirm to the new ESE Director why are kids with IEP’s using the McKay or being home schooled.

Enough…

Yadira. Calderon

Parent/Advocate

 

**************************************

On May 4, 2018, at 8:29 AM, Jesse Mendez <jpmendez@ucf.edu> wrote:

Hi Yadira,

I’m happy to meet and thank you for sharing your and your daughter’s story with me. Please contact Kellie Tabor at your convenience for either a conversation over the phone or in person.

 

Best,

JPM

 

 

My latest letter to UCF personnel:

Greetings

I hope everyone is having a fantastic summer.

I am sharing a photo from Ghana

An incredible initiative

Product of parental frustration and horrendous experiences their children with a diagnosis had in early childhood schools.

It may get worse when the child begins elementary school.

If Ghana does it

How come this has not been done here?

Real life experiences surpass knowledge acquired in books

Practicums are useful but parental involvement must be a part of the process… To make it meaningful, productive and guarantee the educator will be better prepared for the variety of situations they will face.

My opinion

My experience

Take care

Yadira Calderon

 

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The Community needs information!

As I have said many times… My daughter was diagnosed with autism in a time period where access to information was unlimited (if anyone chose to!).

January 2011 was that month when I began to research about autism — what it could be, how to deal with it, what will the future hold. I found that a lot of the scientific information was overwhelming. The material from academia read too cold, as if they were talking about aliens. Information from therapists somehow always felt as if they were selling something. Testimonies from parents were gut wrenching and too sad.

I took it all in. I read as much as I could. I focused on what I could handle (financially and physically) and understood.

Nowhere did I find a detailed explanation then, why did my daughter within a month changed drastically and was not the same happy, fun, full of laughter kid she was.

This is my daughter now   https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Df-TLSVHfp4

This was her reality in 2012    https://youtu.be/vfcRxgTZVHk

I kept reading tons more.

We were in Greece then. Light was shed by a Ph.D. in Neuro Linguistics. She was sharp and objective. But no clear direction.

Other assessments by therapists and organizations working with kids on the autism spectrum did not make sense or offered hope.

The support from the tribe in Puerto Rico — family and friends  — opened the door to see two developmental pediatricians. Both said – – Autism is medical, address the medical issues and your child will come back!

I wondered what they meant. They provided basic scientific info. They both said — read a lot, learn, be patient, not everyone who says they know about autism, actually knows what they are talking about.

And I read and read and read. Social media became my best friend as I filled a void  – emotional and social.

The more I read, the quicker I understood what the doctors in Puerto Rico said — not everyone knows what they are talking about —  What I was living with my daughter, her needs as a kid with a diagnosis had nothing to do with the material being shared by the press, by academia, by the scientists.

I decided to trust my instinct. Prioritize her needs and how to incorporate her into real life without hurting her or others.

I left Greece July 2012 and returned to the USA seeking the supports she needed. Many of her needs have been fulfilled by existing services. At the same time, many of her needs were not covered by existing services and I proceeded to act accordingly.

Her medical issues were many — dysbiosis, immune deficiency, mitochondrial dysfunction, Pandas, Pans, SIBO, etc. With Medicaid – I did not find an easy way to address these and seek better health. I pursued alternative medicine to address most of these issues. Details in a future blog!!!

Nutrition:  From the get go, we were told – nutrition must change. Blood work was done, confirming she was gluten and casein intolerant. An elimination diet was done — she did not eat eggs, bananas or rice for three years (she could not handle it). Trying to introduce new foods was torture due to sensory issues. We stuck to basic clean nutrition – potatoes, sweet potatoes, chicken, steak, she ate broccoli thank goodness, gluten free bread and tons of olive oil Once in a blue moon, a papaya smoothie was accepted. She still has foods she will not eat. Little by little she’s trying new stuff – last week she tried calamari and chicken wings!!!

Therapies:  We only paid for private occupational therapy in Greece (we found a recent OT graduate – we trained each other).

She received occupational therapy at home for 6mths thanks to Medicaid.

A psychologist came home for 6mths thanks to Medicaid (I was struggling with potty training and she was 5).

At school they gave her basic OT, basic Speech therapy which then became language therapy as she began to talk.

We paid for one year – one session per week –  an incredible tutor who used multisensory methodology and taught her how to read at almost 9 years old.

Day to day functional skills — I read tons (science and practical). I created our own therapy lifestyle actions and steps. Everything we did was therapy. Every game played fulfilled a therapeutic need she had. Every social interaction supported the existing gaps.

Has it been easy? Not at all.

Has it been frustrating? Many times, yes.

What are the rewards? Too many… My child is back (see videos below).

What is the greatest lesson? What I’ve done, how I’ve done it – not everyone does it. Stay close to like minded people. Help others.

Be resilient. Be patient. Don’t pay attention to the nay sayers. Breathe. Be ready to sacrifice. Let love guide you.

 

Biggest lesson:

If your child has been recently diagnosed and you’ve been told your child will never say I love you, your child will need to be institutionalized — Leave that office immediately and look for another professional.

If you have been told there is hope, there are many therapies and resources — listen closely, get ready to act, don’t stop. Find or create your community, you will need it.

Without community we would not be where we are. Social media included!!!

Find and create your community.

Yes, I must repeat it!

************************************************************

Below find videos and links to our news…

 Some of the countless videos we have…

Dec 2010 – massive regression —
 July 2011 – 1mth after diagnosis was confirmed and began nutritional change, giving supplements
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nfi0VGZDIJM
Dec 2011 – repetitive behaviors
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=reTiQuy-UGk

2012 – semi apraxic language, not knowing how to hold things properly 

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csbOUvaqGiA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlJq27UZbUI
2013 – not capable of socializing, interacting with other kids, seeking danger
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZNk8KPDn8o

May 2016 –  Empowering Moments
https://www.facebook.com/specialbooksbyspecialkids/videos/750678288367487/

Aug 10, 2017 – First day 4th Grade
https://www.facebook.com/yadira.c1/posts/10103196423608604

Sept 2017 – Surviving Hurricane Irma
https://www.facebook.com/yadira.c1/videos/10103269090054464/?permPage=1

November 2017  – interview with a local reporter promoting her book!

Events I’ve organized:

How to keep teens/adults safe?   https://www.facebook.com/events/295726114270619/

A reading to share emotions   http://autismhappykingdom.com/index.php/event/a-reading-to-share-emotions-the-story-of-thomais/

Special needs and marriage   https://www.facebook.com/events/462401544158549/

Benefits of Therapies and Nutrition   https://www.facebook.com/events/249138882246966/

Autism and Legal Matters   https://www.facebook.com/events/1721731438136957/

Autism and Employability   https://www.facebook.com/events/192420104495454/

Autism in Film!   https://www.facebook.com/events/981683005219491/

Autism Awareness is Everyday   https://www.facebook.com/events/1069008736477255/

Film Screening – Just Autism… No Panic Right!   https://www.facebook.com/events/1492697921025014/

 

TV appearances:

Featured guest – WEDU PBS broadcast – Autism Town Hall Meeting – Breakthrough to Hope – wedu.org/autism

More news here

 

Posted on

The Ambassador of Autism Tourism!

My daughter wants to travel. She wishes to discover the world. She says all the time, you went to China and you did not take me… not fair!!

We have read posts about families raising children, teens and adults on the autism spectrum who have succeeded planning trips. Yes, even with autism on board they were capable of enjoying a vacation. Above all, not allowing the diagnosis control the dynamics.

Here is our effort. We must share what we are learning and enjoying.

I am aware not everyone can do what we do, how we do it. The purpose here is not to compare since we have something to learn from all of you, I firmly believe that. The purpose is to share how we accept the awesome and the challenges of our day to day. Above all, how we seek quality of life.

Enjoy the latest posts…

Ambassador of Autism Tourism

Real Practices, Solutions

Practical Advice – What works for us

NYC Here we come!

Conquering NYC and Autism

Visiting the American Museum of Natural History

How Autism Friendly can NYC be?

Emily = Dakota = NYC = UN

Is Tampa an autism friendly city?

 

What are the future. dream locations she wishes to visit? Read this:  Art Inspires the Ambassador

She loves to draw. She is very original. She has not been to these places. She may have seen pictures of these places. It is her interpretation.

Questions, suggestions? Email:  autismhappykingdom@gmail.com

 

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I HAVE AUTISM! ACCEPT ME…

Thomais has autism. She can now speak – after a massive regression in Dec. 2010.

As time passes, her prowess with language and body expressions is obvious and beyond enjoyable. At the same time, her message is clear, concise and beyond real.

I HAVE AUTISM… ACCEPT ME!

Thomais wants to be acknowledged, accepted, understood, respected – she wants to belong.#Autism can present challenges. The rest of the world needs to hear from those living it, to better understand what it can be about.Find out more about Thomais here: www.autismhappykingdom.com#twominutewonderclip

Posted by Autism: The Happy Kingdom on Thursday, April 12, 2018

 

She wants to be acknowledged, accepted, understood, respected – she wants to belong. #Autism can present challenges. The rest of the world needs to hear from those living it, to better understand what it can be about.

This was Thomais’ reality in 2012… behavior crisis that could last 2 hours… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfcRx… It is no longer the case… Now we celebrate her!

Find out more about Thomais here: www.autismhappykingdom.com

#twominutewonderclip

NOTE: I am aware not every family can have their child communicate the way Thomais does. We have been there. We survived the not knowing or understanding. May Thomais’s words help those around you understand what your child/teen/adult could be experiencing.

 

 

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SAY IT WITH ME – WE WANT ACTION NOT #AWARENESS

Last April I wrote this… AUTISM REALITIES

It saddens me to confirm, progress is not always a reality in many households.

Parents are being told to light it up blue, to pay for walks or to use a puzzle piece to show awareness towards autism.

These meaningless symbols do not represent actual needs. These meaningless symbols do not create opportunity to enjoy quality of life. These meaningless symbols keep parents in a circle of false hope as autism continues to challenge everyone’s existence.

Autism is not easy. Autism is complicated. Not everyone understands autism.

Economics, politics, science, philosophy and all the forces of the universe have us in this conundrum and we the parents do what we can to the best of our abilities.

My thoughts this year:

We want action NOT #awareness
We need #mediainclusion
We need real options, steps to follow to seek quality of life…

Don’t dare highlight blue lights in April when…

A parent tried to kill her child with #autism
A teacher verbally abuses a student
School districts violate federal law
Law enforcement is not 100% trained
Bus drivers and teacher assistants rape girls
30% of marriages end separated or divorced
Moms have #PTSD and #Depression due to lack of support from doctors/therapists/academia
Academia is behind in thought process and suggestions how to live/handle/manage the diagnosis

Doctors diagnosing still tell parents there is no hope, this is how your child is going to be and will end up in an institution
Ignorance and fear reign rampant

Insurance companies limit or do not cover the wide array of therapies that can help achieve quality of life

Teachers to be do not receive appropriate training prior to working with our kids!

Individuals with severe autism are poorly served by the organizations claiming to support their needs
Poverty reduces the possibility to seek quality of life – parents are not given the opportunity to learn about self-entrepeneurship or become acquainted with their rights
Per the CDC – now, 1 in 36 kids have developmental disabilities
and tons more…

Talk to my daughter and I, we have tons more to share… We do not demand a perfect world. We simply want things to improve and we are ready and willing to be a part of the process.

 

THE EYE (12/2017) by Thomais V. Moshopoulos

This creation is the result of a question asked to my daughter – now that she can talk —

I asked: “What do you see?”

She answered: “I used to see rainbows”

I asked: “Do you still see rainbows?”

She answered: “Not anymore”

I asked her to draw what she saw and this is the result.

 

Read:  THOMAIS MEDIA CHALLENGE