Posted on

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

 

Parents to Parents Panel: How to keep our teens/adults safe?

How to keep our teens/adults safe?

Our adults with a disability – mild or severe — what are all of the areas to consider to guarantee parents and community are doing their all?

Safety must always be #1

How can you, as a parent, avoid abuse, neglect and exploitation?

How can you avoid financial exploitation?

How can you avoid emotional abuse?

Join us. Let’s brainstorm and discuss this serious matter.  A Sheriff from Pinellas Sheriff Office will be present to answer questions!

 

The event is organized by three of the featured guests of the Regional Emmy nominated WEDU-PBS broadcast:

Autism Town Hall Meeting – Breakthrough to Hope ( watch it here: wedu.org/autism ):

Ann Millan
 www.autism-believe-future.com

Yadira V. Calderon
 www.autismhappykingdom.com

Filomena McDonald
 Gulf Coast Autism Assoc Internet: http://gulfcoastautism.org/

A reading to share emotions: The Story of Thomais

NOVEMBER 2017 – Laura Harris from WFTS – The Now Tampa Bay Interviewed Thomais!

Click the picture to watch!

 

Click the link to watch the video:    Fave page from book…

All families – diagnosis or not – are welcomed to join Thomais as she reads favorite pages from her book “The Story of Thomais”.

Thomais recently expressed: “Parents you must also share your emotions with your kids!

In a safe and child friendly environment children and parents will share, using words or drawing, their emotions.

EMOTIONS  – Thomais latest video!

NOTE:  We’ll be collecting items – canned food and/or grocery store gift cards to be given away during The Harbor Dish Thanksgiving celebration —     Details here: https://www.facebook.com/harbordish/

 

Read about her book – The Story of Thomais

Thomais has autism. She is understanding and acknowledging her EMOTIONS. She is also learning it is important to express them and there are many ways to do this…

Thomais was learning 3 languages, reaching milestones like any other child – until December 2010 when she had a massive regression. She stopped talking, lining up toys, behavior crisis began and she was sick every month.

April 2012, what we lived  –   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vfcRxgTZVHk

Almost 7 years later, after many interventions, therapies, over doses of love, patience and attention, Thomais is capable of engaging the day to day. She faces many challenges and as time passes they are easier to manage…

 

REFERENCES-

Deborah McNamara, Ph.D.  – Five Things You Might Not Know About Human Emotion

 

Background info – videos showing past experiences/reality and progress!

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

Oct 2017 – Song to Fall Asleep – After Hurricane Maria, a family member who lost her home could not sleep… Thomais has sung various versions of this for her… She’s laughed and put her mind in a different place briefly… May it bring peace and laughter to your home as well… #Autism does not stop her from feeling for others!!

Posted on

A diagnosis does not give anyone the right to insult others…

I will highlight and cheer for those who treat us with respect. Always! It is so important to give feedback and communicate with those who respect your needs, strengths and weaknesses.

I will also highlight those who do not respect the fact we are members of this immense planet and for one reason or another, seek special treatment.

What happened? Another learning experience at the park…

Kids all over, screaming, having fun, little groups here and there. My kid is by herself. Sometimes I can tell she’s fine with this reality. Other times she’s not and she goes out there and asks, do you want to play with me. My heart melts every time I hear her… 3-6yrs ago, she could not do this! Now she can. Now she has power. Now she has the tools to engage, socialize and learn from others, while they also learn with her.

She approaches this  group of kids… They all know each other. A couple of them were receptive to her request. Others ignored her – she does not like this! One flat out rejected her and began to make weird noises towards her. Of course, this bothers her and I remind Thomais — just ignore him. But she can’t!!

No one likes to feel rejected. In her case, as with many, instead of focusing on those who showed receptiveness to her request. She focused on the rejection. I let her be at this point. She has to learn to figure this out and I will not always be around.

She started to make noises at him as well and called him a bully. I laughed because I welcomed this original approach (that she can do now!) and she was being a kid.

It all turned messy when the boy decided to call her an idiot. Oh no I thought. And her reaction was pure emotion, sadness and she ran away from the group. She screamed: “No one had ever called me an idiot. Why did he do this mom?”

I reminded her: “You are not that. You are an incredible young girl. You are loving. You are fun. Go talk to his mom.”

Before she reaches the mom, his sisters start screaming… “He cannot help himself. He has a heart condition. He always does this!”

I am livid… A young boy with a disability who has not been taught to respect others and is being allowed by the adults in his family to say whatever he thinks. And his relatives are protecting his actions under the premise of lack of control and a heart condition.

I tell the girls. Excuse me, understand something; he has a disability but that does not give him the right to treat others like he just did. That is wrong. The girls kept insisting his heart condition is responsible for this.

I said no, that is not true. My daughter has autism and I teach her to treat others with respect. We do not use her autism as an excuse to cover up the challenges and many times, the lack of  filter in what she may say.

By now, Thomais reached the mom. She told her. The mom did nothing.

Thomais returns to the group and the girls made the effort to talk to her and include her in the brief game. I thanked the girls for their efforts. I reminded Thomais, let’s move on, look the girls want to play with you.

The young boy who insulted her stopped saying the insulting disrespectful word after I asked him to do so.

My heart is still heavy remembering her face, her disappointment and once in a while when OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) tries to take control of the day, she brings up that event.

I will continue to remind her — we all have challenges, we all have super positive traits, we must always be respectful of the differences. It will be very boring if we were all the same. You are a person, you have a heart and a soul  — autism does not rule your existence, please remember that.

My wish… That other parents of children with a diagnosis share similar messages, regardless of the challenges. Our kids’ apparent limitations cannot stop them from being amazing beings and it cannot be an excuse to mistreat others. None of us should accept that.

Posted on

Learning about Raffles!

Greatest experience ever…  another one!

To see my daughter being a kid and learning the big lessons in life

Enjoy her creation, words, illustrations and expression of emotions…

Video here: Raffles Really Really Stink by Thomais

Individuals in the spectrum are very literal

Explaining the concept of a raffle takes many efforts, subtleties and the classic be ready for the unexpected survival skill we parents – diagnosis or not – utilize quite efficiently…

At 9yrs old this became a fun experience, drawing it made it easier to handle…
Bottom line: Emotions shared and unwillingly comprehending she did not win and she has to deal with it…
A big plus… no behavior crisis, no torture for no one…
We continue… Enjoy!