Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Positive Reinforcement

Joey has discovered Facebook. No, he doesn't have his own account, he isn't old enough for one. I haven't let him start a side page from my account, either. However, he has figured out that Facebook communicates with people. It's kinda awesome.

It started with photos. I started asking him if it was OK to put photos of him on Facebook. Although the response was almost without exception the "yeah" he gives that makes me wonder if he actually processed what I said, or just gave a vague answer because he knew I had asked a question and expected one, I now suspect he was paying more attention that I was crediting him. This is, unfortunately, not an unusual situation for Joey. I did continue to ask, just in case- and now I am so glad I did.

Then he started asking for me to put photos up, then videos. "Facebook it, Mom!" became a common request. "Let's make a video and put it on Facebook!" And people started "liking" them. Positive feedback is something Joey lives for. So now he asks "how many likes did I get?" Or I will cheer him up by showing him likes to a photo or video.

Now he is dictating status updates. "Mom, I want our friends on Facebook to know..." "You're on Facebook! Say..."

So if you are following me on Facebook, and you see "Joey wants you to know...", rest assured a little man is at my elbow, eagerly awaiting those "Likes." They totally make his day.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014


I have advice for every sane person on the planet: never read the comments on news sites. Comment sections have becomes fuming bastions of ignorance, hate, and widespread evil, stewing in tempting little bites of illogical nonsense that make one want to scream at the computer at 2 am.

Heaven forbid that article bring up the issue of special needs services or mental health services. Or both.

The general consensus out there appears to be that people who need help for their kids should go out there and get it. What's wrong with those parents, anyway? Lazy, selfish beasts raising brats to run wild, and then don't go out there and get them therapy if they need it. Or they over-diagnose their kids so they can drug them into oblivion. One or the other- and both opinions often from the same mouths.

What they don't know is that it isn't that simple. One, you have to know what services you need. Two, they have to actually exist.

I've been impressed by the growing range of services available to kids (mostly kids) who need a lot of support to make their way in the world. We have seen a lot of programs (relatively speaking) for non-verbal kids, kids with severe behavior issues, kids who need to be taught how to learn and respond, so that they can be taught skills they need to get through life, such as bathing, toileting... even simple things like walking. There are whole schools dedicated to teaching kids basic life skills, skills of daily living, and basic academics. There aren't enough, but there are more than there were. Or maybe we just know about more of them.

Then we get told Joey is "too high-functioning" for their "program model." Then they start listing off other programs, pause and note he is "too high-functioning" and "too verbal" for those programs, too.

Joey's school is having trouble keeping him safe. The problem is, most of the time, he is fine. But every few days, sometimes with a break of a couple weeks, he is not fine. Those are the times we need to address, so that when he finds himself in trouble, he has skills and strategies to fall back on. We need him to use that good time to learn to cope with the hard time.

You know, like everybody else. Funny that.

After all, waiting until a child melts down to try to address melting down isn't much of a help, is it? It is far better to teach someone a skill, rather than wait for them to fall on their face and then say, "oopsie, you should have done this, then you wouldn't have broken your nose!" Thanks for nothing there.

So we have decided he needs alternate educational placement, and are on the hunt for a school. The most poignant part of that meeting? Listing schools, to watch everyone frown and say, "well, that one won't be a good place for Joey..." Why? Because he's "too high functioning."

Except he isn't functional. That's why we are having to take him out of school.

What do you do with a child who is highly intelligent, yet has occasional behavior issues due to anxiety and depression? Where do you get them the mental health and behavior services they need? Where are the programs to address kids who are "high functioning" yet not functional?

Even if you could find such a program, who pays? Is this an educational program, or a medical intervention? Guess what. The schools will tell you its a mental health issue, to be addressed by medical insurance. Guess what the medical insurance tells you. Joke's on you.

In other words, there are cracks in the "system." They aren't the great yawning chasms they were only ten years ago, but they are too wide to always jump across. People get stuck in them. People like Joey.

You know that saying, if you can walk, you can dance, if you can talk, you can sing? Well, what if you can't? Where is the help to bridge the gap?

You can't enroll in a program that doesn't exist. You can't get a service that doesn't exist. All the money in the world cannot pay for an intervention that does not exist.  Those are the true cracks in the system- the services that simply are not out there. At all. Anywhere.

Then people complain that people get stuck in the system of dependence, welfare, government services... well, what do you with a child who is fine most of the time, but might melt down suddenly? Unless you can teach that child to cope, how will they ever get decent employment? How will they become a functioning, taxpaying citizen? Where are the services to help them overcome these lower hurdles, that are still too high for them to get over themselves? It is like the government building that has ramps everywhere, except the front door, where there is a step. Not a huge one, not a very big one, and only one, but there it is. Then they wonder why people in wheelchairs can't come in and pay their taxes, which have to be paid in person, no proxies allowed...

So don't read the comments in news articles. When you are caught in the cracks, you don't need to know how ugly and ignorant people are of them. You are too busy trying to claw your way out, with people who keep dangling ropes just out of your reach. You don't need more.