Recognition and identification of Aspergers syndrome has skyrocketed in the last decade. Unfortunately, the way it is portrayed through the media venue has provided individuals who do not interact with families or children directly involved with a stigmatized lenses of the syndrome. ie Sheldon Cooper on the Big Bang Theory void of the ability to display emotion, Gregory House of the House series who expresses a diagnosis to a patient with apparent disregard to their feelings, Jerry the Lawyer of Boston Legal who allegedly had Aspergers and was portrayed with comorbid maladies such as grabbing his thighs standing on tippy toes and running away making odd noises.

In my opinion these television characters provide a disgraceful impression to society in regards to Aspergers. Successful Aspergians who work beside you and your peers. Aspergians who are parents, doctors, lawyers, scientists, teachers, students and more.

I wish to present a portrayal of some misnomers regarding Aspergers . I will draw from personal experience that I have acquired both as an educator and interactions with family members on the spectrum from both a serious and humorous perspective. These are merely my personal observations.

1)      Individuals with Aspergers are incapable of lying:

This is a mistaken perception due to their penchant for bluntness. i.e. If a teacher wants to know who misbehaved in class the child with Aspergers would be ones best source of information. Bluntness is not the same as lying however. Like any other child, children with Aspergers may stretch the truth to avoid trouble.

If Aspergians can’t lie, than our family was not informed of this fact. I recall picking up my son at preschool. He was four years of age. He had been displaying behavioral issues such as sticking his fingers in his ears and closing his eyes when the teacher gave him directions. He would respond by saying, “I can’t hear you or see you, LALA,LA.”

I used a candy bar as positive reinforcement. This was a treat because candy was not freely available at home. When I picked him up from preschool, I would immediately ask how he behaved for the teacher. If the report was good, he received a candy bar.

I recall picking him up from preschool and asking how his day had gone. His eyes darted from me to his teacher. He replied with a quick, “Mom come on out in the parking lot and I will let you know how I behaved. “I foiled his intent to give me a good report when we were out of his teacher’s earshot.

I responded by telling him that I would ask his teacher directly about his behavior before leaving the classroom. My son disappeared. I heard the bathroom door slam shut in his classroom. He had evidently run in there to hide.

I would consider this an example of the capability an Aspergian has to strategize and to lie with the intent  of reaping the reward of a coveted candy bar. My sons plan was foiled by my intervention. However I will add that my son’s actions were within the norm for any child seeking to avoid losing a reward. Heck what adult for that matter has never done something similar such as calling into work feigning an illness to take a day off from work:-0) (cough,cough)

2)      Individuals with Aspergers cannot display empathy

I would argue this assumption. Many have difficulty verbalizing emotions hence societies perception of lack of emotion. On the contraire, Aspergians get emotional overload resultant from struggles with compartmentalization of sensory intake.  I merely have to look back on the gift my son made at age six for me to confirm his capability to empathize. I had the flu and was bed bound. I woke to queries of “mom are you sleeping”? Well son I am awake now son:-0

There at my bedside stood my son. In his hand, he proudly displayed a paper plate dripping with a rainbow of food color. I will refrain from describing the state that my kitchen was in resultant from my son’s work of art. You can use your imagination to conjure up what a rainbow of food coloring spattering’s did to my house:-0)

Was this a verbal expression of emotions? No it was not. As an Aspergian, he has difficulty with naming his emotions. My son had displayed his concern and yes, empathy for me through his actions instead of words. Expressions of concern were done in his unique way via actions versus words.. It was empathy none the less.

We won’t broach my emotional state when my flu ridden body saw my rainbow colored kitchen:-0)

3)      Individuals with Aspergers are not capable of manipulating their environment

I will elaborate and confirm their skill – set with an experience had during homework time in my school age class. I was tutoring a nine year old with Aspergers. Everything was going well during math homework which was compiled of rote facts. He was always compliant when homework required the use of his wonderful rote memory.

We moved on to reading passages. I was attempting to assist the child in answering questions regarding the passage he had read. He was expected to summarize the passage which required processing skills. Rote work being his forte, his demeanor quickly changed. He attempted to stonewall. I persisted. The child looked up at the clock and said, “You know Miss Mari, my mother will be picking me up very soon”. I was silently amused at his comment. What he was stating in a diplomatic manner and silently thinking was, Miss Mari, get off my back will you please? I would surmise that this showcased his capability, and attempt to manipulate his environment.

Recently my son was attempting to draw me in to one of his discussions that resemble a verbal dissertation. These verbal tugs of war always occur when we are discussing a topic that he finds distasteful such as chore requests, manners, behavior, etc. I have realized that his verbal tug of wars is the direct result of his intent to draw me off the topic at hand. My response of choice is to tell him that the discussion is over and walk away. We must pick our battles carefully to reduce what I call the deaf ear syndrome. If the discussion is going in loops walk away. No audience takes the fun out of it.

During the conversation I told my son that I would not be roped into his verbal dissertation. His response was, “you just did Mom.  You answered me back”. One can see the manipulative power struggle that is evident here. I ignored my sons comment. His goal was to veer me away from the topic at hand. I continued on my way and held my ground. To continue our debate with have proved futile as we would have gone around in circles repeatedly. I attempt not to get drawn in to a rousing game of lets have a debate until mom forgets what she wanted me to do in the first place. I merely walk away and hold my ground.

4)      Individuals with Aspergers have no sense of humor

This belief stems from the fact that Aspergians tend to perceive statements from a literal perspective. Dual meanings or ideas in jokes are difficult to comprehend. I worked with a I was a one on one teacher with a ninth grade girl with Aspergers. I recall excitedly telling the teenage girl that she was on fire because she had comprehended an important concept we had worked on for an extended period of time. The young lady responded with stiffened limbs. She repeatedly demanded to know why I had said she was on fire. She kept saying “I am not on fire, I am not on fire, why do you say I am?”

Aspergians most certainly do have a sense of humor. One would merely have to observe the night I came home from a nine hour shift in a group home. I was extremely tired and fumbled for my keys in the dark night. Suddenly, a figure jumped out of the bush saying Boo I am Mari. I must have jumped 20 feet. My son had apparently downloaded a photo of me, cut a mask out of cardboard, and glued my picture on the front complete with eye holes. Hence, the reason he called it a Mari mask. Upon entering the house my other son was wearing one as well. This was definitely an example of my son’s ability to create a humorous experience.

In closing I would like to convey the fact that individuals with Aspergers present with the same range of emotions as neurotypicals, they merely convey those characteristics that every human being possesses in a way that works for them.

Perhaps we could all start looking at how we are similar versus how we are different. Accept each others differences and harness them to create a more copasetic and positive society.  No two Aspergians are alike anymore than two neurotypicals. Like Baskin Robbins ice-cream, humans come in 32 flavors. Embrace that individuality, forget the them and us ideology and replace it with a WE will get more accomplished than a ME. I will leave you with this question and provide an answer to ponder.

Question: Who is more important, the Physician or Trash Man.

Answer: They are both equally as important. Without a physician we could not TREAT disease and we would perish. Without trash men we would HAVE disease and become ill.

This is just a thought to ponder regarding differently abled individuals and society at large.

Regards,

Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE


Oh teachers listen closely

For this you need to know

My future rests right in your palm

I need you as I grow

My destiny is yours to shape

By words you choose to use

Encourage me, tell me I’m great

Your power do not abuse

Believe in me and I will shine

I will not let you down

Give up on me and let me fail

My choice will be to drown

Please teach me all you know my friend

Do not give up and leave

And I will thrive because I knew

In me you did believe

I have the talent to succeed

But sometimes feel lost

Please help me so I find my way

No matter what the cost

Don’t leave me on the tough days

I need to know you’ll stay

For you help me to grow and learn

And assure me i’m o.k.

Support me, guide me, and teach me

My fate is up to you

For with your words I’ll fail or win

It is up to you you’ll see

Please don’t leave nor write me off

I am worthy of your time

I promise I’ll not fail you

To give up would be a crime

My future is up to you you’ll see

In you I do believe

I will succeed and fulfill my dreams

If you walk with me

In order for me to succeed

I can not walk alone

Don’t give up on me and walk away

My emotions will turn to stone

Teachers listen closely

I need your help today

Help now and I promise

I will make you proud one day

MARI NOSAL, M.Ed., CECE

I have been pondering exactly what autism awareness means. As a neurotypical living within a family sprinkled with aspergians, I have learned most likely more from my family than them from me. Mostly, to step out of my own little box and attempt to perceive the world from the eyes of an individual other than myself.

Awareness means knowledge, acceptance, and tolerance. Making an attempt to fix an individual is not acceptance and tolerance. It is merely attempting to make an individual fit into a perceived social mold, created from social mores and societal expectations. Allow me to make an analogy. It is commonplace for English speaking individuals to expect others to speak English when visiting foreign countries. When foreigners visit English speaking countries we expect them to speak our language as well. If we expect others to speak our native tongue is it not socially appropriate that we attempt to understand theirs as well?

In the case of an Aspergian living in a society where neurotypicals are the majority, the same principle should be used. Aspergians struggle everyday of their lives to conform to a neurotypical world. Wouldn’t it merely be appropriate that neurotypicals extend them the same reciprocal understanding? Embrace differences and the qualities that Aspergians bring to the world.

Aspergers cannot be cured, nor should it be. Individuals with Aspergers are not faulty computers that we repair with a few adjustments to their hard drives. They are individuals, just like the rest of society, who have done great good and brought great advances to our world throughout history.

They are the analytical thinkers of our world, inventors, engineers, scientists, actors, mathematician’s, husbands, wives, fathers, mothers, and children. We can thank aspergians for many great contributions in the world.

Some of the individuals thought to have or have been confirmed with Aspergers or high functioning autism are:

The world renowned Temple Grandin: An author of many books that have expand and awakend the worlds knowledge and acceptance of autism. She is also a food handling systems designer, and much much more. Miss Grandin has given the autism community a great deal of respect and reduced the stigma associated to the autism spectrum through her candor regarding her life and public presence as a professional

James Durbin: American idol contestant- He brings us the gift of music through his wonderful voice

Bill Gates: Founder of Microsoft whose gift for technology brought us Microsoft. FYI without Mr. Gates wonderful development of Microsoft we would not be interacting with the world through in a literal millisecond via electronic communication.

Thomas Edison: He was the forefather of inventing the lightbulb, phonograh, and motion pictures.

Albert Einstein:  His theory of relativity unlocked the mysteries of the world and set fort a path of exploration for future scientists.

John Elder Robison: Author of many books such as “Look Me In The Eye” Through his brave willingness to publicly tell his story from childhood to adulthood, he became a role model for other individuals on the spectrum. He exemplifies the ideology that yes; aspergians strive for and do experience success within society.

Dan Akeroyd: He is brought a gift of humor and entertainment into many lives at times when they did not think they could laugh.

Holly Peete, and Toni Braxton: Just to name a few stars who have become awesome advocates for the autism community as a result of having children on the spectrum. They are perhaps the most humble and grounded public personalities in the entertainment business. Hence my comment earlier that we can learn as much if not more from our children on the spectrum than they learn from us.

Last but not least, an individual with Aspergers that is my hero and famous in my eyes. My young adult, determined, creative, electronics whiz son. He will always be a celebrity in my eyes:-0)

I could ramble on in regards to all the wonderful people who have Aspergers or are assumed to have it but would end up with a novel here. I believe I have made my point and you the reader get the idea.

I leave you with a thought to ponder. If Thomas Edison had been “cured” or shall I say “fixed” according to societal expectations we would be living in darkness, we would not have music cd’s which he paved the way for with the invention of the phonograph. We would not have movies on demand which were born from his interest in developing motion pictures. Without Bill Gates our ability to communicate thoughts via electronic technology would be minimal or nil.

Without the Holly Peetes and Toni Braxton’s of the world who use their fame within a positive venue to better the world for the autism community due to their wonderful children, awareness Autism awareness would be minimal. John Elder Robison breeds acceptance and takes away stigma through his wonderful books and public speaking. Without Dan Akroyds gift of humor, the world would be a sadder place.

James Durbin’s voice can light up a room. Without crooners like him we would miss the gift of music. Without the Temple Grandins of the world we would miss out on an exemplary human being and role model who not only spreads awareness and knowledge of the autism community but spreads knowledge for the neurotypicals who work and play side by side with these fine individuals.

In closing, and as a parent of a young adult son, a young man who incites my passion for children on the autism spectrum And is my hero with Aspergers (And no, he is not my ASPIE son. He is simply my son with Aspergers) I wish to remind parents that it does get better and yes many children on the Aspergers spectrum will grow up to be successful. You will find that some of the behaviors which are irritating in children with Aspergers will prove to be their golden road to opportunity as adults.

The child who over focuses as a child will turn that into perseverance towards inventing or fine tuning better ways of existence as an adult. The child who demolishes and corrupts your computer as a child resultant from their incessant drive to tinker, dismantle things, and put them together again will turn into our great thinkers. I.e. mathematicians, scientists, architects’, and research scientists.

The stubborn child will turn into the adult who perseveres and problem solves until they come up with answers and never take know for one when trouble shooting. The child who obsessively collects one item i.e. fans, dinosaurs, radios, baseball cards, will turn into the adult that uses their wonderful analytical mind to make sense of things like equations, cell mutations in cancer through a microscope, and more.

Upon my presenting my case here, would the world be better if we could “cure” Aspergers. Nah, I think not. Perhaps our other option is to step out of our own personal soapbox, fraught with personal perceptions of how people should act and accept each other for the contributions that our differences bring into society. Aspergians must attempt to understand neurotypicals, but we neurotypicals must learn to embrace and accept the wonderful contributions of Aspergians as well.

To all individuals past and present with Aspergers and their wonderful parents who did or still do encourage and strive to understand their children, I salute you and tip my hat to you for the awesome individuals that you all are.

May we all grow to live in a utopian world of commonality born from respect and acceptance for each persons individuality and an understanding of what would happen if society deleted the them and us ideology and replaced it with WE.

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

A Message to Parents with Young Children with Asperger’s From A Seasoned Parent of A Young Adult With Asperger’s

As a seasoned parent of a son with Asperger’s, and please note I have a son with Asperger’s, not an Aspie son. I define him as a young man not Asperger’s. You will also note that I do not refer to Asperger’s as a disorder. I refer to it as a syndrome. A disorder alludes to something or someone who is broken and needs to be fixed. i.e. a computer virus that can be repaired. A syndrome is a challenge that one must adapt to and live with. Compensatory strategies may be taught to ensure a level of success. But Asperger’s can’t be fixed.

I have most definitely experienced a multitude of emotions in terms of parenting my son to young adulthood, and still do.. If I named every emotion I have felt, they would most likely have a length span which would originate on earth and reach as high as the furthest star in space.

To name several, I have experienced apprehension which was resultant in my fear for my son’s future. I felt pain from the inevitable ostracism he endured at the hands of peers, and adults. I have experienced sadness which originated from my sons struggles and not conforming to my perception of who he was intended to be, the person I visualized he would become, and the things I felt he should think and feel.

I have felt the uncertainty resulting from naysayer’s comments and predictions of who my son would become as a person both developmentally and behavioral. Naysayers predicted how my son would develop and what his future achievements or lack thereof. One would think professionals and society at large had psychic abilities and peered into a crystal ball to make predictions.

To parents with newly diagnosed children, I am here to emphatically implore you never to give up hope. If you give up hope, your children will certainly give up as well. You will get frustrated, feel the uncontrollable urge to bang your head on a wall, cry, and yes at times even wonder why you were blessed with a child with Asperger’s. You may even, (horrors) wish that your child would go away.

You may find yourself feeling intense pangs of jealousy when you see your child’s schoolmates walk by in a clique laughing away as they enjoy their day of play together. You may even experience intense anger and jealousy towards other parents while you silently wonder why their child was not born with challenges.

These feelings are all normal. Parents are human beings. Wishing your child would go away while you are under duress does not mean you really want him to disappear. On the contrary – it means you have invested so much love and expended so much effort into doing what is best for your child, that you merely crossed the line from loving them to the point exhaustion.

If you are the parent of a younger child, please do not surround yourselves with, nor listen to the naysayers who predict a life of doom, gloom, and anguish for your child. After all, you know your child better than anyone. You live with them 24-7. Trust your instincts. A parent knows what is best for their child. You are your child’s best advocate. Your child will take two steps backward for everyone they take forward. Adjust your expectations. Do not be hard on yourself and note merely the steps backwards. I f you adjust your expectations and look hard enough for the small steps forward you will be surprised at the growth that was not seen.

Children with Asperger’s do develop and succeed within the right environment. The anxiety stems from basing our expectations on what the Jones’s kids down the street are doing, what our friends and neighbors think of our children and us as parents. If we let go of those expectations and gauge successes on our child’s developmental and cognitive level and not other children their age, we will be pleasantly surprised.

Note your child’s achievement’s in baby steps. Do not worry about what your child will achieve ten years down the line. i.e. will they have a girlfriend, kids, get married, have friends, or simply get a decent job that will enable them to live independently. Remember that the average child with Asperger’s has a developmental age that lags 4 years behind their chronological age.

As the parent of a young adult son with Asperger’s I am hear to tell you that they have many attributes to appreciate. On a humorous note I will start with my son’s knowledge of electronics and computers. This sense of awe I now have for his computer talents were a sense of frustration when he was young. I cannot count how many computers he corrupted and how many mother boards he damaged while dismantling our computers, rebuilding them, and programming them with incompatible hardware.

As a little boy with Asperger’s, my son imitated people with foreign accents in public places. His lack of discretion would cause me to become flush from embarrassment. His knack for impersonations has come in handy when telemarketers call. My son convinces them that he is from a foreign country and doesn’t understand English. The telemarketers inadvertently hang up. I will emphasize that he has learned the fine art of discretion and outgrow public renditions of impersonations.

That young man has grown up to be a computer whiz and can now install modems, set up our new computers, and install programs safely. His talents have saved us a princely some of money for cable personnel, phone personnel, and computer repairman that did not warrant calling due to his self-taught expertise. My fondest memory was when the cable company wanted to come out and set up our new digital cable box. My so offered to do it for free. My digital system was set up in all of 12 minutes. My son was the ripe old age of twelve at the time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Thus, what was deemed a negative and aggravating personality trait as a child has proved to be an attribute as a young adult.

As a young child my son was prone to emotional meltdowns from sensory overload. As a teenager he would provide a verbal debate for any topic or request directed towards him. If I sent him to his room for being argumentative, his debate often continued in a solitary dialogue as a soliloquy. His strong personality allowed him to walk away from children who were doing drugs, etc. Yes, a sense of nonconformity can have its merits. His debate skills turned into a talent for writing.

A humorous example from his childhood would be when we attempted to use the magic 1, 2, 3, program to teach appropriate behavior skills. Our son would act inappropriately and we would put up 1, 2, 3, fingers. When he continued to voice his opinion we sent him to his bedroom. After several weeks of implementing the behavioral program we realized that he would act up ,hence get sent to his room right before we were due to leave for church. We realized he goaded us into implementing the 1, 2, 3, program so he would not have to go to church. We quickly modified that and informed him that he would be expected to go to his room AFTER church. My son walked away and yelled, “That magic one, two, three doctor is a quack” :-0)

I am proud to say that by injecting a little humor, perseverance, venting occasionally to anyone that would listen, and most importantly adjusting our expectations to my sons needs he recently received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from college with a struggle, but much perseverance on his and our part. He successfully lived in the dorm. Again he struggled, but we were 45 minutes away if he needed us but wanted to give him a taste of independence. Independence that did not include the normal socialization of college life by neurotypical standards. But being with peers and fending for himself nonetheless. As I mentioned earlier, process and accept it in baby steps.

My son has a driver’s license. He passed after three failed attempts, but along with us he persevered and never gave up. Make no mistake our family still struggles, worries, and gets frustrated just like other parents. But as time has passed we have learned not only the art of teaching our son to accommodate us but to realize we need to accommodate him as well. I equate our quest with accepting my son. If we expect him to learn societal mores of the neurotypicals than we must attempt to make adjustments for him as well.

When in a foreign country Americans tend to expect foreigners to speak English so we can comprehend them. Shouldn’t we make the same accommodations for individuals with Asperger’s as well? They speak a different language than neurotypicals  hence they can learn the world of neurotypicals but we can learn about the Aspergian lifestyle as well.

Parents, I leave you with this. If you have not pulled so much hair out of your head from frustration at this point I salute you. Yes, it does get better:-0)

Rock on, give your selves a pat on the back for a job well done as parents, and know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Mari Nosal, M.Ed., CECE

Today I taught in every room from toddlers to school age. Staff was extremely short handed. I was asked to stay and work extra hours to assist in filling in the staff gap. I actually enjoy the variety and break in my routine. My personality veers towards seeking constant challenge and change. In my opinion this is a great trait to possess. As an educator, the ability to respond to constant change is non negotiable. The day is controlled by the children’s moods, and attention span. Without a flexible personality on the educator’s part, nothing would ever be accomplished. Adults have off days, and need to comprehend that children are human beings who succumb to the same mood shifts as us.

When working in different rooms, my eyes always scan, and my mind silently trouble shoots. I emphasize the word silently because a teacher’s classroom is their kingdom.  Suggestions by another educator are heeded with the same welcoming tone as criticism about their own children. That would be with defensiveness. I sometimes have to remind myself of the latter fact as I work in various rooms. Keeping my thoughts to me will protect future cohesiveness and camaraderie between the teachers. Negativity amongst staff is sensed quickly by children and breeds nothing but a negative classroom climate for the children.

My first stop was the infant room. It was a nice day and the door to the infant room was open to let in fresh air. The mobile infants were crawling towards the door. The door abuts a gated outdoor infant sized playground with a foam floor. Thus children can’t be injured by crawling into the road. However they do need to be supervised on the small equipment so their wobbly motor skills do not cause a calamity on the low little tike’s equipment. Staff stated that they were tired of chasing infants who constantly crawled towards the door. My observations found an obvious way to save the staff stress. When the weather is nice, put a safety gate across the opening to the outdoors. The staff will not tire from constantly retrieving the infants. The infants will be free to roam safely and freely. I made a mental note to make an anonymous suggestion to the director.

My next stop was the pre kindergarten room. The class was in the midst of a rousing rendition of “One Two Buckle My Shoe”.  Many children were engaged in playing with cars and toy farm animals. I silently felt that choice based creative curriculum does not mean playing with toy cars during circle time. Could choices made for children not interested in finger play and songs be restricted to more educational choices? Perhaps if the child does not wish to participate in the activity, other activities could be limited to using stencil letters, manipulatives, and other educational items.  This is just an observation. I respect the classroom teacher who developed her pre Kindergarten curriculum. I would never correct her. Who knows if my observation is wrong and her way possibly correct. I would not want a teacher coming into my school age room and doing such a thing to me.

My next stop was the preschool room. The children were transitioning into nap time. One child cried incessantly. I sat by her to comfort her. The staff referred to her as a whiner. This was a typical case of labeling. The child is two and one half years old. She transitioned to the preschool room in early September. Apparently the child is going through an adjustment period transitioning from the toddler two room where pacifiers are common. Instead of calling this toddler a whiner, perhaps observing the whole picture is warranted. How can one expect a child to transition to such a different environment so quickly? The crying jags are obviously based in the little girl’s fear of the “big girl” demands that are being expected of her.

As children arose at the end of naptime, a teacher actually told the little girl that she kept the other children up with her crying. The little girl was told to stay on her rest mat for five minutes while other children got up. I thought this statement was deplorable. How can one even expect a two year old girl two comprehend the concept of five minutes. In using time frames with small children a visual should be used. I have been known to put five strips of paper up on the wall. Each minute of time would include the removal of one strip of paper. The child would know that the time to get up was coming as less paper strips were visible. My week has been long and tiring. I will end with this entry.

Have a great week:-0)

Mari N. M.Ed., CECE

 

Hello – I have been observing opinions of the public at large regarding the state of our educational system. I have decided to express my opinions regarding this topic. Some may like my opinions some may not. That is the perogative of human individuality. One thing I believe we can all universally agree on is that we need to discard our THEM AND US IDEOLOGY  AND CHANGE IT TO A WE. All societies are dependent on one another for successful existence. May we all become a united front and remember our ultimate goal – our childrens future! Merely a thought to Ponder.

Education reform has always been dictated by societal needs. The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 was born from a need for high tech, academically savvy Americans who can compete in our interglobal society. The next generation of capitalists must be trained. American corporations are interdependent on foreign trade to survive. Foreign countries experience financial growth through interactions with America. Land Rovers and Lexus have Toyota Engine parts. Chevrolet Geo has Suzuki engine parts. Gas hails from Arabian oil wells. Patients from other countries frequent our hospitals for high risk, state of the art surgery. American educators travel the world teaching English to foreigners. American icons such as McDonalds, Pepsi, and Spiked hair cuts are noted in foreign countries. These examples are a miniscule representation of the relations and dependency that countries have on each other. Prosperity is the ulterior motive of these relations.

The ideology of No Child Left Behind is not new. Expectations in education have been cyclical throughout history. The influx of immigrants in Horace Mann’s era necessitated a curriculum that focused on Americanization of immigrant children. The intent of Mann was not altruistic. It was the assimilation of immigrants into American society as positive contributors to our economy. During the cold war era, emphasis was based on academics. A similarity to modern day schools is noted. Gone was the emphasis on the whole child. Education was reformed to produce American engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that could compete with the Russians. We had to build a bigger, better, space craft than our Russian neighbor’s.

In modern day America, as with our predecessors, molding and training students guarantees the survival of our country. In the fifties the economy depended on competing with other countries for prosperity. In modern day America, the goal is to be sought out by other countries. What deleterious effects does America’s preoccupation with growth and prosperity inflict on our society? “It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it.” This phrase speaks a thousand words. The American ideal of survival of the fittest warrants focusing on the strongest members. The weak and assumed useless people are weeded out. Rather than find compensatory strategies that give all kids the same chance to succeed, each child is left to sink or swim. The ones who succeed will be our future leaders. The students who flounder will be left to languish in a hand to mouth existence with no skills. Children have become statistical data on an achievement graph.

Intelligence can’t be measured merely in academic form. A child may be musically inclined, athletically inclined, or artistic. A child’s learning may be impeded by learning disabilities, emotional disabilities, or a dysfunctional household. If compensatory strategies are taught the child will succeed. The standards used to assess a gifted child should differ from those for a learning disabled child. High expectations are non negotiable. However, what those expectations are differ from child to child. Challenges should be safe and individualized for each student. A challenge should create social and academic growth. If the challenge is too high, the child will shirk their academic responsibilities, and suffer irreparable damage to their self esteem.

Accommodations for individual children need to be in place in order for the academically challenged child to score within the median range on assessments. Unfortunately, accommodations cost money. In terms of education the basic mindset is less is best. A society, who will spend $150.00 on a ticket to a Football Game, yet will wage war at the threat of having real estate taxes raised for education. It is much easier to play the blame game. Blame the parents, society, teachers, and administrators. Taking personal responsibility for America’s educational dilemma would mean admitting that we all have a stake in children’s education. Not a comfortable idea for the majority of the population to ponder.

Teachers carry a huge weight upon their shoulders. The goal of the No Child Left Behind Act is to achieve success. A teacher who has the threat of her job dangled in front of her like a carrot on a stick is not going to feel success. They will experience burn out and become less productive educators. A child who does not pass the M.C.A.S. repeatedly will experience a sense of failure that will haunt them through out life. Watching peers graduate will breed a sense of futility. In the scenarios above, the outcome is predictable. For educators and children alike, frustration leads to apathy, apathy leads to indifference. The end result is that everyone loses.

Intelligence is genetic. However, it is manipulated by the environment. A bright child who receives no stimulation will underachieve. A learning disabled child who is safely challenged will rise beyond expectations. The chance of success can be increased in the right educational setting. Introduce safe challenges that a child is sure to succeed at. A domino effect will occur. Once the taste of success is felt the child will not be adverse to more challenges. Experiencing failure can cause even the brightest child to recoil from academics. Nurture can beat nature. It merely takes the right environment, realistic expectations, and an appreciation of each child’s individuality and learning styles. We all have a function to fill in society as an adult. In our democratic society, the government and stake holders should not decide what that function will be. Accept each child for who they are, and they will be accepting of themselves. No child should be left behind!

This is merely my opinion.

Stay well

Mari Nosal M.Ed., CECE

1) Trapped gas experiment: This experiment provides an elementury and fun way to engage kids in learning about chemical compounds, and the creation of trapped pressure. i.e. What goes in must come out:-0) Provide children with a standard sized water bottle. Have the children drop six tablespoons of baking soda in the bottle. Provide each child with a balloon. Make sure the balloon has a good sized neck as the children will need to spread the neck of the balloon securely over the water bottle to trap the pressure.

I normally allow the children to insert the baking soda into the bottle independently. It gives them a sense of self empowerment and engagement in the experiment. I than encourage the child to hold the balloon in their hand while I insert baking soda into the bottle for them. My rationale is that the chemical reaction occurs rather quickly and if the child already has the balloon in their hand they will be capable of sealing it over the mouth of the water bottle rather quickly. Young kids will most likely lack the dexterity to pour the baking soda and seal the bottle with the balloon quickly enough. Hence, we do it as a team so they still feel independently involved.

Now for the fun part. When the balloon is sealed over the perfectly safe and nontoxic chemical mixture, the pressure will have no where to go but up:-00 Thus, the balloon that is sealed to the water bottle will inflate as if by magic!!!

This activity is an all time favorite learning experience, from the smallest kids to the eldest. The hands on component and seemingly magical quality keeps kids happily engaged in the activity.

2)Magnetism exploration: Have the children create a race track with posterboard and markers.

Tape a paper clip to the bottom of a small toy car. Provide the children with various size magnets and magnetic wands. Wave the magnets over the toy car to move them across the track.

For comparison, remove the paper clips and have the children wave their magnets across the toy car again.

This will create a springboard for a comparison and contrast discussion.i.e. Why did the cars move within the set we taped paper clips underneath of, and vica versa.

3)Weights and measures: Provide the children with objects of varying sizes and weights. Allow them to drop objects into a bucket of water. Ask the children if their object floated or sunk in the water. This is an excellent segway into a conversation and exploration into weights and measures. Perhaps children could weigh their objects before dropping them into the bucket of water to reinforce the idea that heavier items like a spoon will sink in the water, before light objects like a balloon.

4)Smelly Volcanoes: Provide the children with modeling clay after reading a picture book on volcanoes. The book will layer and reinforce concepts the children will apply in this activity. Encourage the children to create a volcanoe out of the modeling clay to provide a container for their eruption.

I am sure we all remember creating a volcanic eruption in a homade volcanoe by mixing baking soda and vinegar together in grade school.

We are going to add a little pizazz to an age old experiment that has been popular throughout time. Have each child add five tablespoons of baking soda to their volcanoe. NOW HERE IS THE FUN PART. Add several spoonfuls of red koolaid to the baking soda, than have the kids pour in the vinegar. The end result is a bubbly eruption that is the color red to simulate a real volcanic eruption. It will have a cherry oder as a result of the Koolaid.

As you can see, I attempt to encourage children to be as independently involved in their project as is possible. We must remember it is their project and learning experience, not ours. Yes, there will be spills and mess. However, that is merely a sighn of a hands on learning environment where children feel safe to explore. And Isn’t exploration the very thing that will shape our future thinkers and leaders of the world?

Have fun

Mar N. M.Ed., CECE