BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING * TEXAS FERTILIZER EXPLOSION * FLOODING IN MIDWEST *
BOSTON MARATHON BOMBING * TEXAS FERTILIZER EXPLOSION * FLOODING IN MIDWEST *
I am posting today an “Open Letter” written by Jen Martelle Heicklen. She is the wife of a New Jersey First Responder who has been working tirelessly to save lives of people that are in need of rescue following Hurricane Sandy. Her letter addresses a serious issue – First Responders risking their lives to save those who refused to follow evacuation orders. I find that this letter is poignant, raw and one that I wish to take the liberty to reprint (with permission from Jen). I believe others may agree or disagree with Jen’s point of view, but , as a person who works with and deeply respects First Responders, I felt compelled to reprint it. Respectful comments welcome.
Disclaimer: I did not edit the content or the “strong language” written. I respect her right to voice her opinion and write as she wishes. If curse words offend you, stop reading now.
While you were sitting deciding to stay in harms way and “ride out the storm of the century,” my husband was packing his gear preparing to go save your sorry asses. As you were playing drinking games while watching The Weather Channel, taking a drink each time you heard, “hunkering down,” my husband
H20- Water. A very common element in our world. Often to be admired from a sandy shore, used to quench a thirst or to bathe. However, for children with Autism- water represents a much different element. It is soothing. Calming. Therapeutic. Quiet. And, sometimes dangerous.
Children on the spectrum have for years been offered water therapy to help with sensory integration, enhance communication skills and improve socialization. There is no doubt that water therapy is often essential with helping children with Autism and I have seen for myself the outstanding benefits. Yet , because water is often familiar and a preferred environment for these children, it also can pose some significant concerns.
Note that it has been reported that over 90% of children with Autism wander which is why if a child is missing in your neighborhood or school- check local pools and other waterways- quickly! Annually, children with Autism who have fled a scene due to curiosity or fear are sadly found on the bottom of pools. For some states, such as Florida, promotions for water safety courses for children with special needs have been implemented. What a wonderful idea! BRAVO!
First Responders who attend my presentations often are surprised to learn how a child with Autism may flee. Many are unaware that during an emergency situation or even something as commonplace as a child pulling a fire alarm by accident, that they need to be extra mindful of keeping tabs on children with special needs. Often EMS learn for the first time about the threat water poses to children who have heightened sensory awareness. They often are unaware that Autistic children may use water/pools as a way to seek calm and quiet from the chaos that ensues during school evacuations or other emergencies.
I have found a several interesting references and articles. Here are just a few:
To learn more about Louise’s presentations please connect via her website: SIGNING FAMILIES
To sign up for the SIGNING FAMILIES NEWSLETTER CLICK HERE
April is Autism Awareness Month and I wanted to take this opportunity to introduce all of you to a new joint venture between Debi Taylor, Spirit of Autism, and myself. Together we are trying to help educate and potentially save the lives of children with Autism. For a number of years I have trained emergency medical personnel on how to interact and communicate with children with special needs, many who use sign language. Debi, is a paramedic and the mother of a son with Autism. We are “Tweet pals” and have become fast friends and colleagues. Our mission is to help EMS and others be able to assist children and adults with Autism during medical emergencies or disasters.
If you are interested in learning more about our programs please connect here via SIGNING FAMILIES: INFO<at>SigningFamilies<dot>com
To be able to receive our two emergency cards below for the sweet price of $1.99 (US customers only receive free shipping), again send us an email: INFO<at>SigningFamilies<dot>com
For bulk rates for Schools/ PTOs, Hospitals and EMS organizations please also connect at the email above or via SigningFamilies.com
This has been quite a year! So, as usual I will defer to photos instead of words to capture the year – end synopsis. From many traveling opportunities such as to Mac World with The PaperShow, EMS trainings, Parent- Child workshops, to creating educational videos for abcteach.com, products for SIGNING FAMILIES (hence all the kids in photos), and including tons of time working in media and social media and with Education.com, expanding my professional horizons with the co- creation of 411 VOICES and my joining The Linicomn Agency – LA Division for Exceptional Talent, to time time with family and friends and battling the beast (cancer) only to turn those lemons in to a Twitter-esque lemonade, and much more!… WHEW..
This year has been one of grand high points and some that were a bit… not high. Despite some of the events of the year that I would like to put way behind me, such as kicking cancer out the back door, I was so fortunate to put on a bunch of air miles for work (which really is loads of fun!) I was invited to be a guest speaker at several conferences, workshops and expos this year. I had a wonderful time at MACWORLD 2011, EMS conferences in many states and much more. I truly enjoyed meeting and greeting thousands at conferences where I was asked to speak about helping children with special needs during disasters or medical emergencies. It was an unbelievable privilege for me to work in tandem with many in the EMS community this year. I wish I could name each person individually who took time out of their day to learn sign language in order to effectively communicate with a child or adult who is deaf or uses sign. I snapped a zillion photos this year. These are from visits to California, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Wyoming and Colorado. And, a few are from my own “backyard” here in the metro DC area. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!
Wednesday, November 9, 2011 has been designated as the National Emergency Alert Test Day. This will be only a TEST. Information that is IMPORTANT for our deaf friends can be found here (The video includes American Sign Language- ASL)
Below you will find the SIGNING FAMILIES Sign Expressions Emergency Card that was created for EMS, Firefighters, Law Enforcement , to name a few, to help facilitate communication with ASL users and Spanish speakers. Send an email to INFO@SigningFamilies.com to learn how you or your organization can receive one or more cards for less than 75 cents each (this weeks special).
It is almost the anniversary of one of the saddest days in American history. A day when time seemed to have stood still. When the morning started as a day so crisp and clear it was almost too good to be true, yet ended full of darkness. And, the day which I asked myself over and over again…How are First Responders helping people who can’t hear, speak English, or are non-verbal -such as in the case of Autism?
Much has been written about 9/11 except for stories of what happened to those who couldn’t easily communicate with First Responders. A few films were made. Some tangential interviews. Yet, not much was made public about how First Responders communicated ten years ago and how they would, if need be, interact, react and communicate today. A recent publication by SAVEtheCHILDREN.org indicated that many states continue to be without viable plans in place to help special populations, especially children during disasters. I was astonished as from my own personal experience I would have suspected the opposite findings!
Since 2001, I have had the privilege of talking to thousands of First Responder. Most who were intrigued and accepting of the idea that learning sign language (the fourth most common language in the United States) should be a priority for all EMS, Firefighters and Law Enforcement staff. Thousands have now sat in my SIGN LANGUAGE FOR EMERGENCY SITUATIONS workshops to hear about techniques to use during a disaster or medical incident to help a child with Autism, Down Syndrome, or Deafness. The participants have taught me as much as I have shared with them. So while I believe that there is room for improvement, I am certain that progress has been made throughout many regions in the United States including making September Disaster Preparedness Month.
Perhaps many, including myself, have learned these lessons…
1. Communication is key during a disaster or medical emergency. The first ten minutes are crucial. No one is asking to replace an interpreter or translator, but during exceptional circumstances, such as those of 9/11 or recent hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes – safety and help is tantamount.
2. To facilitate communication and help a child who has learning and/or developmental challenges, use people in their surrounding area who many be of assistance to help with interaction between the non-verbal / English speaker and yourself.
3. Gestures can come in handy, although be careful, some gestures may be considered obscene by some cultures.
4. Helping children is not the same as helping adults. They will react differently. Children with Autism may drop and rock, scream, lash out (in fear) and/or flee. The latter is the most dangerous as some new information shows that children who flee often will go to water, thus a child may seek out a pool or pond during a disaster.
5. The first ten minutes of any disaster or medical incident is key. Knowing ten signs (ASL), words in Spanish/ Chinese/ French/ Vietnamese (among others) can save help to evacuate people to safety, find a child, or save a life.
In order to make safety an inclusive priority I have added some resource links below. My biggest wish – we never need to use them as that would mean another disaster or medical crisis has occurred.
Inclusion - Help for Disaster Preparedness
Spirit of Autism by Debi Taylor. Paramedic, mother of a child with Autism
SLINKY- yes, you read it right. One SLINKY can help to transition a child who is fearful or non-verbal from place to place. Children with significant Autism may become engrossed in the shiny and round aspects of this non-personal object and be more willing to go with a First Responder/
SIGNING FAMILIES™ has a new sign language series of materials ready to roll from our place to you home, school, hospital or organization. Throughout the next few months we will be announcing contests to give away FREE products to few lucky winners. Today we announce the EDUCATOR CONTEST- A CLASSROOM SET OF American Sign Language (ASL) Materials…. details are here:
To be eligible simply comment below or on the SIGNING FAMILIES FACEBOOK page by May 1, 2011 (6 pm EST) on why your classroom, your child’s teacher or some educator you know would love to get the ASL classroom set (enough for twenty students). This will include sets of the SIGNING FAMILIES™ new ASL- English and Spanish folder , bookmarks, ASL charts and a free DVD (either Baby, Toddler and Preschool Sign Language or Sign Language for Emergency Situations). The value of this prize is well over $150.
I also will randomly pick two other educators to win a free set of bookmarks for their class and SIGNING FAMILIES DVD.
I will know next week if I was one of their Winners….
I have written now a few blogs about women who I admire because of their fascinating, inspiring and amusing blogs. Today, I want to feature blogs that are dedicated to our friends within the special education community. As an educator, I admire the people who are in the trenches of special education beyond measure. These are three of my favorite blogs….maybe they will become yours, too!
Tiffani Lawton is the mom, educator and drive behind one of the best websites for families living with a child with Autism (or on the spectrum). Tiffani recently described OJTA as follows, “Where professionals and parents meet up…. We bring in the private practice community like OT, PT, ST, Sound Therapy, etc. We bring in personal perspectives from individuals on the spectrum. We have mama’s sharing their journey. We have holistic moms sharing their resources.”
Tiffani is tireless. She makes my ADHD self seem in slow motion. Tiffani has added a short-radio program and teleclasses to her platform. This is a must visit site!
Bravo to this dynamo and please support her efforts by connecting the following way:
The Spirit of Autism is another site generated by the love of a parent and dedicated to helping others. What makes this site extraordinary is that the author is also a paramedic! I have used the amazing materials for First Responders on this website to help others in the medical field understand how to approach a child with autism who during a critical incident or a disaster. I adore this website and think that Debi’s spirit is contagious. Although a niche, this site should be considered a “must bookmark”. Educators take note- there is tons of info here for you , too!
Follow Debi on Twitter as @spiritofautism
This group is a wealth of information for so many! A group of parents and experts joining together to be a support and resource for each other! Their social media presence is second to none. On Twitter they conduct frequent forums open to anyone with the hashtag #TCK. Topics range from information about different disorders, to educational assessment, to behavioral strategies recommended by parents and professionals- and much more! Also, they have a presence of FACEBOOK and BLOG TALK RADIO. Note- If you want to know the pulse of what parents are asking or need – look no further than this organization!
Please feel free to add your favorite special education blogs in the comment section!
ALSO…. read a ton of my favorite women bloggers on the *NEW* HerInsight website: