Wednesday, November 25, 2015

4 GREAT REASONS TO BE THANKFUL RIGHT NOW

4 GREAT REASONS TO BE THANKFUL RIGHT NOW

On the eve of Thanksgiving, my mind searches for the right reasons to be thankful.  "They're there..." I tell myself but the eloquence of their existence escapes me and I struggle to find just the right words to share at tomorrow's dinner where, friends and family will gather to eat, watch football and clarify the very reasons to be thankful so in a rebellious stance against tradition, I will give my four reasons I am thankful with no forethought, planning or consideration to grammatical perfection.

1.  I'm Alive

Yeah, it's pretty basic but as far as building blocks of gratitude I must say being alive is the most important.  I think it goes without saying that without the benefit of actually living the discussion about gratitude and its subsequent search becomes moot.  It goes without saying that being alive is one of the most underrated things on anyone's gratitude list but just watch this guy who was struck by lightning in the video below:

Sometimes, just thinking about the alternative (theological discussions aside) being alive is a really great thing to be thankful.  With this life, I now have an opportunity to explore what I am thankful for in more specifics as well as giving me pause to think about all those people I am thankful for that have passed on and don't have the opportunity to do the same so life in of itself is a pretty good one.

2. The Time to Type This

In your case, it's the time it takes to read this but think about how much free time we have in the year 2015.  Yes, it seems like we're busier but isn't that mostly because the forty-minutes of websurfing we did during our lunch break while playing Clash of Clans on our iPad just made our lunch break seem shorter...  Studies say the average American (with children) have 4.09 hours of free time a day.  Obviously, people without children have more.    When this is coupled with the fact that Americans average 8.03 hours of sleep a night (they certainly didn't get this stat from my house) the picture of our actual day seems even rosier...  But if you're looking for even more free time then check out this article about SIX THINGS THAT MAKE US FEEL PRODUCTIVE BUT AREN'T.  After you read this article of course....


3. The Internet

Think about it:  You have the entire world at your fingertips.  Right now you can watch the mating patterns of Big Cats, check the folk dances in Kathmandu or just watch dancing cats in of itself.  For all the complaints about what the Internet has done to in person communication its upsides definitely outweigh them...


4. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving

Okay, that's a cheat but it's true.  Tomorrow is a great day that is native to our country.  A day to give thanks, think of others in a way we normally don't do in the course of busy lives, show generosity with a kind word, act or invitation for dinner, and be grateful for all those around us while enjoying a meal surrounded by those we love, like and tolerate.  It's a day with no religious connotations to separate and its message can be lived each and every day.... Give Thanks.   That's what I'm thankful for right now...



Friday, July 24, 2015

10 Sentences That Will Make You a Better Parent


Parenting is tough.  Bookstore shelves (as well as my own) are filled with various books on how to do it better.  Of all that I have read on the subject, observed from other parents, and learned by sheer accident I have found these ten simple sentences to be the most important - and most effective:

1.   HUG YOUR CHILD - Daily.  Don't stop when they get older - teens need love, too.

2.   KEEP YOUR EYES AND EARS OPEN - "Helicopter Parenting" may be bad but so is oblivion.  

3.   CATCH THEM DOING GOOD - Acknowledgement of good behaviour usually promotes MORE.

4.   CONSISTENCY IS KING:  It's hard - but try to stay consistent.  It breeds safety and calmness.

5.   ACTIONS SPEAK LOUDER THAN WORDS:  How you live your life is your child's greatest teacher.

6.   TALKING IS GOOD BUT LISTENING IS GREAT!  It's not what you say it's what your hear.   

7.   READ EVERY DAY.  Read to them.  Have them read to you.  Read together silently.  Just read.

8.   BE HEALTHY:  Eat good foods.  Get good sleep.  Get your body moving.  Do this daily.

9.   STRUGGLES ARE OKAY:   Not every struggle is bad - Life has struggles.  They help us grow.

10: FORGIVE:  Yourself.  Them.  Often. 

Saturday, March 28, 2015

AUTISM & T-BALL

My My Aspie son doesn't like sports - most of his weekend time is spent playing the Magic Gathering - usually with men twice his age and the occasional teen who also finds interest, solace and community inside of the extremely complicated game of dragons, warlocks, creatures and spells.

 But as I also have another son who is "neuro-typical" and his weekned afternoons are spent like most children his age - on the baseball diamond playing T-ball.


Today, in the middle of his game, I observed a young boy on the team that I determined to be on the Autistic Spectrum based on the simple observation that while the rest of the team sat together during the game, talking  to each other - this one boy sat by himself carefully inspecting the dirt in front of him as he mumbled to himself.  Each inning when the team was at bat he woud find that solitary clump of dirt and when it was time to take the field, he father would gently steer him towards right field while calling out for him to, "Pay attention, Jessie!"

When Jessie came up to bat, his team - trying to cheer him - started clapping in unison and shouting, "Let's go, Jessie, let's go" in unison.  Their simple chant turned to something painful in Jessie's mind  as several times during this at bat,  Jessie would step away from the T-ball stand to tell the children to stop teasing him or to be quiet.  The confrontation between Jessie and his teammates came to a head when the father, clearly feeling the anxiety and frustration of a father who simply wants to participate in the American custom of watching one's son play baseball, walked over to the plate,  escorted his son back to the dugout and signalled for the next kid to take his son's turn at bat - Jessie's 1st bat - cancelled halfway through.

I watched as the father lovingly implored his son to "Remember what we talked about... You said you were going to try your best..." and what I wanted to say, "But he is trying his best - that's the best he's got at this time".  This is not any proof of knowledge on my part but rather a shared history with this father as I have - more times than I can remember - implored, urged and even yelled at my son to, "Be good", "Do what you're supposed to" and "Don't be difficult".
"Can't you show some initiative and do it my way?!'"

That's the difficult challenge of parenting an Autistic Child:  They are born, they bang their drum and instead of marching to their beat, we, as parents, urge them to see their beat is wrong and focus all our efforts on changing the rhythm of their lives.

I saw on the father's face the same same fears, frustrations and personal shame that I have felt too many times to mention as a parent of a child on the spectrum.  I wanted to say something to him but discretion is the better part of valor so instead I walked over to his son - carefully focused on the dirt in front of him.

"You think any ants could live in this dirt?"  I don't know what made me ask him that but it just seemed like the most logical thing to wonder when inspecting dirt.

"Yes", he said without looking up at me.

"I don't know", I continued, "It's awful dry dirt - don't they need water?"

"Do you like Toy Story 3?" he asked me.

"Yeah", I replied, "I even cried.  Did you?"

"No.   The hook saved them..."                          

And we were off.... Trading notes on Buzz, Woody and the whole crew - even the alien toys.

Jessie's father looked over and later, I shared about our Toy Story 3 conversation.  We shared a laugh about the tearful end and I think we both realized - sometimes in life we think we're playing T-ball but we're actually looking for bugs or thinking about Toy Story 3...

The rhythm with our special kids may seem off but it works for them and all we have to do - if we can remember - is to not try so hard to get them to march to our beat but keep trying to learn to dance to theirs....

Alan Aymie is an LA-based writer/performer whose current solo play A CHILD LEFT BEHIND addresses autism, education and every child's first teacher.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

30 Shows in 30 Nights... No, really.... No, REALLY...!

"What am I doing?!?" 

This thought has crossed my mind more than once in the past week as I realize I have double-downed on a catchy phrase that is destined to make the month of March (not to mention April) an exhaustive endeavor where I attempt to perform...

30 Shows in 30 Nights...

Two years ago, I was performing my solo show, A Child Left Behind - an autobiographical story about my last year in a South LA school and my son's first year in a Beverly Hills school after being assessed with Asperger's Syndrome - in NYC and Woodstock in concurrent productions... (can't believe I used the word concurrent...) and during those 2 hour bus rides from the NY Port Authority and the Kingston Bus terminal, I realized that this show with all its props, set and costume in my backpack, was about as portable as it could get... So why not try to make it portable?

Last year for Autism Awareness Month, I performed the show that the LA Times called, "Compelling... A first rate education...!" at two different theaters... This year as I started to think, "I should try to do this at several different theaters..."

Then without any real reason why, that thought grew into, "Why not every night of the month of April..?"  That one thought prompted me to make a commitment to perform the entire month of April while raising money for Autism Awareness through my 1POWER4AUTISM donations page.

Currently, I will be performing my show at four different theaters in LA with more hopefully being added, along with schools, libraries and even a hospital community center... For some reason, that I don't know I am now emailing, writing and calling various spaces to host the show for a night or more - I'm not sure why, I'm not sure if I'll actually hit thirty this April but it sounded good and sometimes, that's all it takes...

video
Alan Aymie is a Boston-born, LA based writer/performer.  For more information, visit www.alanaymie.com


Sunday, November 2, 2014

The ONE thing that will change your classroom right now!

I stood there watching the new teacher...

She was shouting for attention.  The children in her class were carrying various conversations, arguments and discussions and they were completely ignoring her.

Suddenly, her demands to be quiet were now targeted at various children in her line who happened to be talking and a very interesting thing started to occur:  the line got noisier not quieter.

As she singled out various children for talking, their collective noise level only grew as they had to raise their voices above their teachers as to be heard by their friends....

While my class and I patiently waited for them to walk past, I couldn't help but feel sorry for this new teacher who was clearly trying her best to keep her class of seven or eight year-old children in line and quiet.    The pained helpless look on her face prompted me to call out...

"I really like how this young lady in pink is standing quietly in line!"

Silence.

That's all it took.  One compliment.

And the line was silent.

When I said it I didn't look at any other student.  I didn't generalize (saying "Good Job" is a terrible compliment because it's vague and children perceive vague as false).

But one compliment, specifically directed at one person, that is specific, clear and sincere can move mountains in your class.

And conversely, shouting does not.

Teachers, attention is food for children.  Good food, bad food, rotten food, if you're hungry enough it doesn't really matter what kind of food it is because those starving children have to eat something.   So whether you're yelling, praising or discussing the features of a Minecraft Rollercoaster, these children just need to be noticed.

Think about your own  class and you can probably point out the children who live in one parent homes where the parent is working all kinds of hours to pay the bills, shuttling several kids around, trying to keep their families respective heads above water and in the list of immediate needs to fill, quality time falls far down that list.

Today, try making several well-placed specific and sincere compliments to your students.  Select a few students that have been making  your day difficult and LOOK (it might be difficult but you will find it!) for that one thing they are doing well.

Then let them.  Praise them.  Sometimes in public but sometimes in private.  Just make it specific, sincere and descriptive of a behavior you want to see more of... And you will.

Because attention is food and some of your children are starving...

Alan Aymie is an award-winning writer/speaker/educator whose work has been seen across the country.  He is currently performing the critically-acclaimed solo play, A Child Left Behind about public education, Asperger's Syndrome and every child's first teacher.  For more information, please visit his website:  www.alanaymie.com













Sunday, September 7, 2014

EIGHT THINGS I DID BEFORE AUGUST 12TH...

"But at least you have your summers off...!"    

I hear it all the time.  The great defense against lousy teachers' salaries across the country - we have our summers off.

When I was going to school in Boston, MA - Labor Day weekend was the last hurrah before the start of a ten-month educational trek that had only only a week at Christmas and April as it's respite.

But I never gave thought to the fact that while I was squeezing out the last drops of Summer that Labor Day weekend, my teachers were probably already in their classrooms - cutting out letters, putting names on pencil boxes and xeroxing spelling packets.
HOW WAS YOUR SUMMER...?

I would kill to make that true today.

On July 23rd of this year, I stepped into my classroom for the first time - a bare room stacked with cardboard boxes filled with every book, pencil and dictionary that goes in my classroom. The same boxes I packed back in June because each year we have to strip our room down bare for its summer cleaning and then unpack in July in time for the first day of school in August.    
      
For the next two weeks I did the following:

1. OPEN BOXES.
 
Lots of them - over forty.  Boxes of books. Boxes of supplies.  Boxes of bean bag seat cushions.  Cleaning supplies.  Paper trays.  Paperclips. Crayons.  band-aids.  STUFF....

2. SURVEY THE MESS

Forty boxes of crap takes up a lot of space.  Sometimes its best to pause, breathe - maybe even shed a tear or two before diving in.

3. PUT BOOKS AWAY

Five different academic books for each of my thirty students.  Not to mention dictionaries, encyclopedias, Thesarus, and chapter books.  All told, over a mid-size car's weight in books that are to be put on shelves, desks and tables.

4. GO SHOPPING

It's July 29th... where are those pencils?

I have thirty students.  I've been given twenty pencils, ten packs of crayons, and six scissors. It's time to head to the 99 CENTS store, KMART and wherever else I can find a deal for the supplies I'm not allowed to ask my parents for... even though my kid's school (not in the same district) gives me a four-page list of the mandatory supplies I am supposed to purchase for their first day in September.   It's okay though, I am a teacher - I AM RICH!!!!

5. MAKE COPIES

All those packets of questionnaires, address cards, introductory letters to the parents and school policies have to be copied sometime, right?  A full day of making copies - ink cartridges, stacks of paper, staplers and hours of manpower that will only get tossed away on the same day I pass them out by parents who don't, can't read them.

6. CRUNCH NUMBERS

The days of "What I Did This Summer" are over.  Teachers are supposed to preview student abilities by looking at last year's scores and get a complete picture of their thirty students, their strengths, areas of concern and an indivualized philosophy, intervention, enrichment, and  pedagocial approach for each and every one of their thirty students.

7. CHECK MY SAVINGS ACCOUNT

Eighty-seven dollars.  Get ready.  We have not had a raise in eight years. The district proposes a 1.2 percent - we politely decline.  Union Leaders say prepare to strike and make sure you start putting savings away for the time you will not be paid... HA-HA-HA..!  Savings.... that's funny.

8. MAKE SURE MY KIDS HAVE DAYCARE, PLAYDATES OR OTHER SUPERVISION

Just because our district goes back to school August 12th, my children's district still maintains enough common sense to start after Labor Day....



Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hearing from the Experts...


When I first wrote A CHILD LEFT BEHIND, it was to express my frustration at not knowing how to do for my son what I've done rather successfully for hundreds of children over the past ten years:  Teach.

As I continued to perform the show, I saw that the show was advocating for both teachers and parents who shared the same concerns and frustrations - caring people who were looking for help or answers.

One of the benefits of performing this show has been the many wonderfully caring and insight professionals who have not only helped me but numerous others to best support those children on the Autistic Spectrum and I consider it a privilege that they have given their time to participate in a special talk-back after my last show at the Santa Monica Playhouse.

On June 20th, the Santa Monica Playhouse, will be hosting a trio of very special guests to participate in a Q&A "Talk-back" after the show.  This will be a great opportunity for parents, teachers, counselors and all those interested in learning more about Asperger's Syndrome and how to best support those children on the Autistic Spectrum.

Some of the panel that night will include:

FRAN GOLDFARB


Fran Goldfarb, MA, MCHES, is one of the first family support faculty. Ms. Goldfarb has played a role nationally in the development of this LEND discipline, and currently chairs the AUCD LEND Family Discipline Workgroup. She is a board member of United Advocates for Children and Families and served as a member of the North LA Autism Taskforce supporting the CA Senate Select Committee on Autism and Related Disorders. She trains teachers and school administrators on autism as a member the LA County Autism Spectrum Alliance (LACASA). She is the founder and co- Leader of the Los Angeles Asperger Syndrome Parent Support Group. Most importantly, she is the mother of an adult son who has Asperger Syndrome.


BETH BRUST                                   

Beth Brust is an award-winning author of 13 children’s books and numerous articles that have appeared in national publications including the Los Angeles Times, San Diego Union, Highlights for Children and The Horn Book. A graduate of Stanford University, Beth taught writing courses for seven years at UCSD Extension. When her younger son was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome in third grade, he began attending The Friends’ Club in Carlsbad, California. Founded by Dr. Cynthia Norall, The Friends’ Club teaches these children the social skills they lack naturally. This led Beth to co-write with Dr. Norall QUIRKY, YES—HOPELESS, NO: Practical Tips to Help Your Child With Asperger’s Syndrome published by St. Martin’s Press. It is the only book about Asperger’s Syndrome incorporating an expert’s and a parent’s point of view. QUIRKY, YES is reader-friendly and won the San Diego Book Award, “Best in Education,” and is now available in German. Visit www.bethbrust.com for more.

DEBRA MUNSON           


Debra Munson’s professional experience includes over 20 years of instructional opportunities in primary, secondary and college level learning environments in the United States and overseas. She has collaborated with medical professionals, school districts, and government entities to increase awareness and improve educational services for special needs children and their families. With a degree in special education (emphasis in child development and speech and language), Debra launched her private practice in Holland, Michigan. For 15 years, she was sought out by parents of children with undiagnosed speech disorders and unspecified social struggles. She learned from them and with them, growing ever more intrigued by the mysteries and challenges presented by Aspergers Syndrome. Debra’s contribution to one child’s success was cited in the book, My Child Wasn’t Born Perfect. After moving to Santa Monica, California two years ago, Debra expanded her career focus and began studying brain wave optimization. Recently becoming certified as a Brain Wave Technologist, she is eager to apply that technology to help those who struggle with invisible and often overwhelming challenges.   

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