Back to School Season

Hello everyone! With schools finally reopening, in the unprecedented format of online learning, I wanted to share Anjali’s experience as she enters this new school year. This school year includes some big changes for her, including a new grade, a new teacher, a new learning format to start the year, and other factors that are changing.

Let’s cover the biggest change of them all, which is the fact that distance learning is still present for most students across the country, and even across the world. I covered the impacts of distance learning on special needs students and specifically on Anjali in my last post. However, there have been some changes from that point onwards. This includes the fact that Anjali is getting introduced to a new classroom and teacher through the online format, something that has clearly never happened before. With Anjali entering the 4th grade, her teacher has changed, and I believe that the online learning format has not been the best way for her to get used to her new class and new teacher. She simply hasn’t been able to focus much in class sessions that are held through video calls, and meeting her classmates and teachers in person would help her settle into the classroom environment a lot faster than it is in the online setting. This is, of course, not the fault of the administrators and teachers, since they are trying to make the most of the circumstances and giving their best effort to reach and connect with their students through the online format. However, I do believe that it is only a matter of time that Anjali really settles into her new learning environment and new class, even if it takes longer than it would have if school was being held in-person. 

An image of Anjali’s iPad, which was provided by her school for the distance learning education plan. Clearly, the materials list provided by teachers for back to school shopping has drastically changed for this school year.

A new grade and a new teacher involves new learning goals for Anjali. My mother has had great communication with Anjali’s new teacher, regarding Anjali’s learning goals and what areas of Anjali’s academic knowledge they both want to focus on improving. Building a strong communication and presenting to the student’s new teacher the academic areas and learning goals that you would like to see improve for the special needs student is something I would highly advise. A new teacher in a new school year can serve as an opportunity for a parent of a special needs child to get new learning goals formed for the student, which may have not been possible with the student’s previous teacher. 

Overall, I would like to wrap this post up by sharing the same message, regarding how to develop the learning and academic base of special needs students, that I’ve shared time and time again: stay persistent. Parents and teachers will need to stay persistent by providing support as tutors at home, and as advocates for new learning goals to be implemented in their child’s academic plans for school and therapy routines. This is exactly what we are doing in order to progress Anjali as a student. 

Online Learning

Hello everyone! Hopefully everyone is staying safe and indoors during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Due to this situation, a lot of kids around the world have had their definition of school change. For a highschooler like me, this means live video call lectures, using online platforms to submit assignments, and having every aspect of school go digital. If such a drastic change is made for someone like me, what does online learning mean for a special needs child? How has Anjali’s learning through school changed while at home? Let’s dive into these questions.

Here’s another article about the topic of online learning for special needs students. The Touro College blog analyzes the feasibility of online learning for such students. Picture credit and article link: http://blogs.onlineeducation.touro.edu/5-ways-online-learning-can-benefit-special-needs-learners/

In my previous post, titled Pandemic Precautions, I covered the educational routine that we have maintained for Anjali while she is home. However, this did not cover what activities the school has planned for Anjali during the shelter-in-place. A few weeks after I put up that post, schools in our area officially switched to online learning for the rest of the year. This prompted Anjali’s teacher to create a comprehensive lesson plan for all the students in Anjali’s class. This involves sending out multiple reading platforms and games to be completed by the child with parental help, regularly sending out video lessons, and maintaining communication with parents in order to keep track of the progress each student is making during this time period. Our school district even provided us with an iPad for Anjali’s learning during this time period! I had also mentioned briefly in my last post that we are voluntarily continuing a few of the ABA, speech, and occupational therapy activities with Anjali, such as making puzzles. Anjali’s therapists have started doing weekly live calls where they conduct activities and check in with the progress of each child. Overall, we believe that both the school and therapists have done a comprehensive job when it comes to maximizing learning for Anjali, but this new routine also requires effort from our ends to make sure online-learning is sufficient for Anjali’s development.

Anjali has been using Khan Academy as a resource, since it was reccomended by her school. Such free resources can be used by parents to mantain learning of students while at home. Photo credit: https://keeplearning.khanacademy.org/

Clearly, Anjali is benefitting from a robust online learning plan implemented by her school and therapists. While thinking about this topic, I realized most special needs children across the country may not have access to such amenities, as I have explained in prior posts such as State Services. What can a parent of a special needs child in that position do? Clearly maintaining an educational routine during this time period is important for all special needs children, since not having any learning for the remaining 3 months of the school year would prove to be disastrous for overall development of any special needs child. In my opinion, the only route a parent can take to maintain learning for their special needs child is setting up their own learning schedule for the child, if the ones provided by school and therapists prove to be inadequate. Many free tools are available for parents when it comes to tutoring special needs children at home, such as Khan Academy and other platforms (no such platform has sponsored this post). Overall, it is clear that during the lockdown many parents with special needs children will have to put in extra effort towards maintaining study routines for their kids, and keeping up with the online-learning provided by schools and therapists. 

Pandemic Precautions

Hello everyone! This post will be regarding perhaps the biggest news topic of the year. Yes, I am talking about the Coronavirus pandemic. More specifically, I’ll cover what our family is doing to keep Anjali and everyone else safe. Along with this, we will also dive into what our future outlook should be regarding this viral pandemic.

DO THE FIVE: [wash hands, cough into elbows, don’t touch your face, stay more than 3 feet apart, and stay home if you feel sick]” are the major tips from the World Health Organization. Of course, the recommendation of keeping three feet space is difficult to follow when parenting a special needs child (we are still trying our best though). Besides that, our family is following all these tips in order to maintain hygiene and keep Anjali safe. Touching one’s face is a problem that not only Anjali but any special needs child with sensory needs faces. Instead of her chin, stress relief rubber items always serves a good substitute for Anjali to apply pressure on with her hands. We have also limited the times Anjali leaves home, but not at the cost of her much needed exercise routine. Anjali is still taken for bicycle rides around the neighborhood, but her visits to marketplaces have been stopped. Due to this outbreak, Anjali’s ABA and speech therapy have been canceled for two weeks, along with her school. Not having this work-period badly hurts her daily routine. In order to keep Anjali focused, we have to conduct therapy and academic activities with her. These may involve solving puzzles or completing reading homework with her. These are greatly needed for her to release energy and remain focused during this two week period.

Washing hands, along with other great tips, are discussed in this Autism Speaks article about the impact of coronavirus on the special needs community.

Clearly, the pandemic has greatly changed Anjali’s and our lives, even if only for a temporary period. Due to such changes, many parents might panic about what the future holds regarding the impact of this virus. To those people, I have one word to say: relax. Try to understand your special needs child’s routine, and what parts are altered due to therapy and school cancellations. Try to continue those activities with the child, even though a professional is not there to do it with them. As for hygiene, the same rules apply to all of us. Follow instructions of public health officials, wash your hands, don’t touch your face, and stay away from gatherings. Following these simple rules can keep not just the special needs child safe, but all individuals around us safe. 

2019: Our Journey So Far

2019. Perhaps the biggest phase of change Anjali has been through in a year. Perhaps the biggest spike in the development of this blog. Sitting here on the 31st of December, just hours away from reaching a new decade and year, all of these thoughts were passing through my head. This post will serve as a neat summary of Anjali’s journey throughout 2019, and how my documentation of her activities has played a role in our lives. 

Let’s start at the beginning. My first post in this calendar year was all the way back in April when we talked about the importance of Vacations for Anjali. I found our vacations to be such beautiful examples of how a child with behavioral and interactive obstacles could still connect with the aura and beauty of a place like Yosemite National Park just like the rest of us. This showed us how important vacations with appropriate precaution can be for a special needs child because they deserve time to unwind just like the rest of us. I then decided to share with you all the public health data about rates of Autism, ASD, Aspergers, and other such conditions rapidly rising. We discussed how being diagnosed under such conditions can be shocking for many families, as was the case for mine as well. Along with this, I shared the amendments made to the diagnostic process and why this is a possible factor in rising data. The attention of this blog once again shifted to Anjali when I had the opportunity to share her progress as a swimmer. This was another post that had an important message about how special needs children should not be treated any differently. They should still have fun in their lives through activities like swimming because at the end of the day they are children after all. 

In the latter half of this year, my content’s two categories of personal experiences and data about the special needs community started to blend together. In July I posted about the Job Opportunites our current economy offers for individuals of special needs. Hearing about a specific case sparked this idea in my mind, and I was truly invested in understanding what this big bad world has to offer for these children when they grow up. I think the conclusion of this search was that some opportunities do indeed exist, mostly from people who know a special-needs individual in their lives, but there is certainly room to improve. My next post was about State Services. The idea of government is a funny thing. We feel disconnected by it yet it affects us in every aspect of our lives. Therapy and professional help is the most important aspect of a special needs individuals life, yet so many states have failed to provide a sustainable system. I think the Job Opportunities post and State Services post asks some very important questions. How much does the world pay attention to individuals of disability? Are we recognizing their talents and why are so many of us not caring to the level we should about providing them with their needs?

  Reviewing my last two posts of this year helps me cap off this neat summary of the year. Little Einsteins served as a wonderful reminder to all of us that every child has potential in the classroom. The content simply has to be taught to them in a way that suits them, because every child is a different type of learner, especially one with special needs. Sensory Showtime also reminded us all how special needs children are no different, and as long as their needs (or sensory needs in the context of that post) are addressed, they too can partake in the wonders of life such as forms of entertainment. Those thoughts are what I would like to leave you all with as we reach a new decade and year. Thank you so much for coming all with me on this journey so far, and stay tuned for more content in the coming year! Have a great 2020 everyone!

Sensory Showtime!

Happy holidays everyone! While a lot of us here in the United States and the western world are bombarded with Christmas decorations and events throughout our local areas, my family was excited about one specific event. Our local mall had a sensory-friendly Santa meetup for kids with sensory needs. Anjali falls under this group of children, and I was very grateful that this community of kids was not excluded from these festive events. Is a sensory-friendly Santa common? What events are sensory-friendly throughout the year? What does it even mean for an event to be “sensory-friendly?” All of these questions popped up in my head and I set out for answers. I hope this post can help family members of special needs children find these events and for others to understand the importance of these events.

Sensory-friendly Santa can be a stress-free environment for a special-needs child. Explore options such as the ones provided by https://www.autismspeaks.org/santa#CA. Picture credit: https://cbceducation.net/autism-speaks-sensory-friendly-santa/

First of all, what does it mean for an event to be “sensory-friendly?” A simpler explanation would involve first looking at the word “sensory.” Many special needs children are sensitive to the sounds, lights, or colors of their environment. For example, the bustling noise of people in a mall may seem normal to us but might have an impact of greater magnitude on a special needs child. This is specifically the case with Anjali. Each special-needs child has unique sensory needs. Another example is explained by Jennifer Lovy when she writes for the Friendship Circle Organization about how her son’s sensory-friendly birthday party meant “no loud music, no dark skating rink, and no flashing lights.” The formal definition for a sensory-friendly or autism-friendly event is explained by The Place for Children With Autism as an “environment [that is] . . . moderate and structured. If you’re curious about the environmental accommodations available for a sensory-friendly event, always ask to make sure you or your child’s needs can be met before attending.” With a clear understanding of what a sensory-friendly event is, we can now look at the different options of events throughout the year.

This chart by beacons unique.com fully shows the sensory impact an environment can have on a child.

I’ll start off this list of events by making it clear that I am by no means endorsing any of these events. Nor am I suggesting every family should participate in Christmas events. I am simply informing that many entertainment options exist for special needs children. An example of this a sensory-friendly Santa. Business Wire writes about this growing trend and the “partnership between Cherry Hill Programs and Autism Speaks. Together, they are presenting an unprecedented 741 events in 581 shopping destinations across the U.S. and Canada on November 24, December 1 and 8, 2019.” The festive Christmas season isn’t the only time sensory needs are considered for special-needs kids. AMC theaters have partnered with the Autism Society to offer “[a] Sensory Friendly Film program  . . . available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Please check your local theatre listings for specific showtimes.” The Friendship Circle Organization shares more events including “a number of Major League Baseball teams [offering] sensory friendly evenings (often on Autism Awareness Night) . . . [and] local Pump It Up [continuining] to offer sensory jumps once a month”

Movies can be a sensory rollercoaster for a special-needs child. AMC and other theaters run sensory friendly shows that are a great alternative for a special needs child.

These events are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the amount of sensory-friendly activities across the country. The point I am trying to make through this post is how necessary these events are. We take for granted how our bodies and senses aren’t sensitive to the everyday sounds and sights of the world. These same aspects of society are bothersome to almost every special-needs or ASD child. Despite this, these children still deserve a variety of entertainment options just like us. So the next time you consider watching a movie or going to your local Christmas event I hope you consider options that accommodate for your special needs child. The following is a helpful link to find sensory-friendly events for your child: https://www.autismspeaks.org/events. I hope this article helped others learn about the sensory needs of special needs children and understand the importance of these events. Best of luck to all for 2020!

Little Einsteins

Hello everyone. I hope everyone is having a great holiday season! Throughout 2019 I’ve seen my mother work very hard with Anjali in order to improve her performance in school, and specifically in the subjects of Mathematics and Reading. This has resulted in Anjali scoring 99% on a mathematics diagnostic test. The journey to this accomplishment by Anjali is what I want to share through this post. Every child is different Aryan, therefore what could you possibly tell us that would help improve every special needs child? This might be a question you have regarding this post and something that I had to consider as well. It is true that Anjali’s academic journey has and will be completely different from that of any other special needs child you may know, but I believe there is an important lesson from Anjali’s experience that could help anyone else in her position. 

I’ll start from the beginning. My mother was working very hard with Anjali at home and helping her work through old arithmetic and phonics books I used to solve as a kid. Writing with a pencil was even a goal for Anjali in her school’s IEP. Therefore it is clear that a lot of effort was being put in to improve Anjali academically, but her progress eventually plateaued just like her swim lessons (make sure to check out that post). This frustrated my mother, as her effort towards this cause had stopped producing results for quite a while. Due to this, my mom decided to turn to outside help.

This is one of Anjali’s math books. This is something that we bought before Anjali started Kumon lessons.

This is when Anjali started Kumon lessons. This post is not sponsored or an endorsement for Kumon or any tutoring company. Many families with special needs children may not be able to afford such lessons, and it is absolutely not needed to pay for one. An idea that I think can be taken away from my mother switching Anjali over to Kumon is that any parent or guardian helping their special needs child learn may need to reconsider a different direction or method of teaching at some point in time. This is exactly what my mother did, and a two-person support system, one being my mother’s teaching at home and the other being of the Kumon tutor, helped Anjali elevate her learning significantly ahead of what was being taught in school. This was also the point where she scored 99% in the math diagnostic tests I was talking about earlier.

This image was linked in an excellent Great Schools article about the eligibility of your child for free tutoring , which is an alternative that should be explored rather then paying for classes when looking to improve your child’s performance in school. Source: https://www.greatschools.org/gk/articles/free-tutoring-no-child-left-behind/

What’s the next step? This is a question a parent tutoring their special needs child at home will have to ask after they see a large jump in progress. In the context of Anjali, the answer to that question would be continuing work with her reading skills. This brings me to a conclusion of these thoughts. With my mother’s hard work with Anjali as an example, I would like to say that every special needs child has potential not only academically, but in any activity in general. The key to helping them progress in that field is to be patient, be persistent, and find a balance between those two ideas. A change of direction or academic system, like Anjali’s switch to Kumon, may also be needed. Even after all of this, there will always be room to improve, with Anjali’s weakness in reading/writing skills as an example, but the key for academic progress with a special needs child will always involve hard work, patience, and support.

State Services

Hello everyone! This post is regarding something that I thought of a few days back. Every day when I get back from school, Anjali is typically in the middle of her ABA session. It was only recently that I found out that many family members of special needs children may not be able to say the same thing. This made me realize how I took this service being provided for a family member for granted, and also got me curious about how services are in other states.

Three main steps in ABA therapy according to Autism Child Development Center

To start off, I wanted to share the rankings of how states and areas fare in providing services for special needs. According to an Autism Speaks article, the areas providing the best services include “greater New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Boston metropolitan areas.” If we look at it from a state-by-state perspective, a Disabled World article finds that the order for best services state-wise is “1. Wisconsin, 2. California, 3. New Jersey, 4. Ohio, 5. Missouri.” What determines this order? If we were to go off of the Autism Speaks article, only high-income metropolitan areas provide proper services for special needs individuals. Yet states like Ohio and Missouri, which rank “36th” and “37th” respectively in income according to a survey by the U.S Census Bureau, crack the top 5 in services provided for special needs, as shown in the Disabled World article. Then what truly is the reason that helps these areas succeed in providing these services? As it turns out it, this is purely a matter of lawmakers prioritizing this initiative. 

Autism Speaks Logo

Perhaps the greatest factor in determining the quality and scale of services provided in a state are the insurance laws passed by states concerning special needs services. The same Autism Speaks article shares how “Five of the 10 ‘best places’ are in states that have enacted autism insurance reform (24 states, in total, have enacted laws). The other five states have bills that have been endorsed by Autism Speaks or have legislation pending introduction.” Clearly the states providing the least for these individuals are the ones not prioritizing state insurance laws that can enable these services to reach individuals that need them. The lawmakers that believe home services aren’t needed for special needs children, are the people I believe are the least educated about the need for professional therapy for the progress of a special needs individual as well as a break for the guardian of the child. Experts also agree with this notion, as Patricia Wright, National Director of Autism services for Easter Seals, argues that “services are not a luxury, they are a necessary service that allow families to successfully keep a child with autism in the home environment versus institutional care, and increases the overall wellness of all family members.” 

Clearly the lack of special needs services is a major problem facing many families across multiple states in America, and making a change in insurance laws might be the first priority of action in fixing this national problem.

Job Opportunities

 I vividly remember last year when my mother shared the news that one of the sons of her friends, who also had special needs, landed a job at a local Dominos Pizzeria. This led me to think of many questions. Is a longtime and stable job possible for Anjali as an adult? What industries are more considerate than others? Have any corporate giants thought of this possibility as well? These are the topics I will address with this post. 

Being the child of two professionals working in Silicon Valley jobs, it was no coincidence that I first wondered if many of the big tech companies employ or run programs for adults with special needs. Through some research I was happy to find out that some do run such programs. Perhaps the biggest one of these companies is SAP. Since 2013, SAP runs a program called Autism at Work. They claim “the program taps into an underutilized talent source, reducing barriers of entry so qualified individuals can fully develop their potential. Autism at Work employs over 160 colleagues and in 13 countries” (SAP). I must admit, I find the number of total people hired from this program to be slightly underwhelming. Yet the bigger conclusion from this still stands of how a large firm, such as SAP, has actually pioneered in this field, which is something that should be given due credit. Perhaps the biggest impact of this program is that SAP now builds products that are accessible “for everyone, including and especially people with disabilities, to access and use technology and information products. [They have]  long made this a priority and strives to make our products more accessible” (SAP). This explains why hiring of special needs individuals in all industries is so important, as they provide feedback, a second opinion in stages of development, and a perspective for products that has never been given before, since so many of these industries don’t or can’t think of products or solutions that are easy to use for the growing community of special needs individuals. This void will only be filled by more employment and feedback from this community. 

SAP Autism at Work Overview. Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RBIiRb8RUn4

Through my process of researching for this post, I had a couple of topics I wanted to cover. Should I also write about Microsoft’s program? Should I cover the opportunities in the retail industry? Though these are commendable programs, we still need to acknowledge the truth. The companies/industries I have named so far mostly provide these opportunities at an extremely small scale. That’s why I dropped all of those topics for the sake of covering this one: Autism-Focused Businesses. Verywell health writes in June of 2019 how “more young adults with autism are finishing school and struggling to enter the workforce. At the same time, more businesses are discovering the benefits of hiring autistic employees. These two factors, together, are spurring the growth of small businesses built around the strengths of autistic workers. So far, more than fifty such businesses have sprung up around the United States.” One of these businesses is SMILE Biscotti, found at multiple locations in the Phoenix and Dallas metro areas. This business was started by “ Matt Resnik, following his graduation from high school in 2013. SMILE stands for Supporting My Independent Living Enterprise, and was created to help Matt and others like him, who are impacted by autism, make advancements in life skills development, social connections and pathways toward greater independence . . . In 2016, SMILE welcomed Jon as a licensee and SMILE Biscotti DFW was created. To date, Matt, Jon and their coworkers have sold over 200,000 SMILE’s . . . Now, Matt, Jon and many others like them are being afforded the opportunity to succeed” (SMILE Biscotti). SMILE Biscotti is a wonderful example of how many small businesses are anchored by a workforce of special needs individuals, thus proving that many of these individuals are capable of creating their own financial base straight out of high school, and fit perfectly into a workplace environment.

Matt Resnik, Founder SMILE Biscotti. Source: https://www.smilebiscotti.com/about-smile

In closing I would like to say that all businesses, including small businesses and tech firms, can benefit from larger employment from the special needs communities. Individuals with special needs can complete that job with great passion and provide a fresh perspective on how to improve the product to better suit customers from special needs communities. If you know any individual with special needs who is thinking of getting a job, please take time out of your day and help them research. There are many opportunities from various industries (the Verywell health link I mentioned earlier is helpful), and if they keep looking they will find the perfect industry and niche for themselves. 

Swim Lessons

Hey everyone! Summer is in full swing and so are the outdoor activities that come along with it. These obviously include sports, camping, or swimming. The latter of these is what I wanted to talk about today, as the process of teaching my sister how to swim is something that we have put a lot of effort into and ongoing. Almost all the credit for working towards this endeavour has to go to my mother who persisted in taking Anjali to lessons, buying needed equipment, and staying patient in her development as a swimmer. It’s no small task!

Anjali first started attending swim lessons around the time I was done swimming and moved onto other sports. The swim school I was going to has an extensive history of producing olympians and had a world-class facility. Included at this facility were classes for special needs children. I highly suggest at least trying swimming for any special needs children in your family, as it is an excellent energy release, and can possibly even develop into a passion for the child!

These were two major reasons that pushed my parents to enroll Anjali in these classes. Her development as a swimmer was very slow, which we completely expected. We had a rather realistic timeline for her growth as a swimmer, as we understood that a special needs child of such a young age will take a few months to grow accustomed to water, let alone learn to float or kick! She started off well in the classes but eventually her progress plateaued. My mother was starting to run out of patience, as Anjali wasn’t focused at all during the classes. Despite showing promise in a few of her classes, we eventually realized that this class was not going to work for her, as her progress was extremely minute and underwhelming. 

The only option my mother had now was to take her out of those classes and take a more hands on approach for the situation. Along with Anjali’s classmate and his parent, my mother decided to start private classes for her. This involved having someone assist the teacher in the pool, in order to get Anjali to stay focused for the whole lesson. Private classes are currently ongoing on for Anjali, and she has benefited from them, though time will tell if these classes can be sustained in the long run.

The moral of our experience with Anjali’s swim classes is that persistence and patience is the key for involving and helping a special needs child at swimming, or any other extra-curricular activity. Such activities are excellent for a special needs child, and it is crucial to have the child try a few of them, but not pressurize them if they take time to develop the skills needed. Through patience and practice they will eventually show promise and growth with the activity. Who knows, maybe it can even be a hobby or profession they take into adulthood?

ASD Diagnosis & Affect on ASD Rate

According to the CDC “About 1 in 59 children [have] been identified with autism spectrum disorder.” For a family member of a child a under the Autism Spectrum, such as me, these new reports are deeply upsetting and scary. I can only imagine the shock and sadness experienced by those parents whose children have recently been diagnosed under the Autism Spectrum, as was the case for my parents when Anjali was diagnosed. These reports also formed a few important questions in my mind. What is the diagnostic process like, and are there any recent changes? What could be the reason for these rising rates of Autism Spectrum, and does the diagnostic process play a role?

Data stated in paragraph above shown fully in this graph. Source: https://tinyurl.com/y5mcqxwk

First and foremost, I want to share the multiple components of the diagnosis process, and the recent changes in the process. The initial component of the diagnosis involves the parents or the child’s pediatrician identifying symptoms of  ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). According to the National Institute of Mental Health, symptoms may include “Making . . . inconsistent eye contact, unusual tone of voice, getting upset by slight changes in a routine, etc.” If the child shows multiple symptoms, their diagnosis process moves onto the next stage. This stage involves regular screening during “Well-Child” checkups, provided by the American Pediatric Association.

Additional evaluation ist then conducted in this diagnostic process. A team of ASD diagnosis experts, often times including the child’s developmental pediatrician, a child psychologist, and a speech-language pathologist along with other professionals, conduct a series of tests and observations with the child and their behaviour. The child is put through a collection of cognitive thinking tests, tests for their lingual ability, and observing whether they can independently conduct day to day activities (i.e eating, drinking). “ASD is a complex disorder that sometimes occurs along with other illnesses or learning disorders,” (NIMH) which causes doctors to run additional examinations in order to rule out any other causes for ASD. These examinations include blood tests and hearing tests.

A breakdown of three levels of ASD. Source: https://abcautism.com.my/what-is-autism/

Finally, I want to talk about how this diagnosis has changed in recent years, and the possibility of these changes affecting the rate of ASD. In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) was updated. Due to this revision, patients who were diagnosed under more specific conditions, such as Autistic Disorder, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), are all now classified under ASD. These leads one to questions whether the addition of these conditions to the group of ASD cases has increased the rate of cases overall?

Hopefully this post helped you understand the diagnosis of ASD, thus helping you gain a better perspective on the condition as a whole. I strongly encourage all of you to learn more on this topic, and the possibility of the ASD rate being affected by this diagnosis change.

P.S. This is my first academic/research related post. These type of posts are intended for those readers who would want a look into the medical side of ASD and other special needs, and these post have a much more formal and academic tone. I shall release one such post every month, alongside a post sharing my family’s personal experiences. Feel free to contact me and provide any feedback.

Vacations

Hello everyone! Summer vacations are right around the corner, so I want to use this opportunity to explain how vacations unfold for our family. Our planning for vacations is drastically different, given Anjali’s condition. Families with special needs children, such as mine, have many unique and odd experiences on a vacation. This post will cover some of ours.  

My family’s preparation and packing for vacations is different and much more extensive. We have to be mindful of Anjali’s special diet, hence often need a kitchen at our destination. For example, my sister was following a gluten-free diet a few years ago. This required us to pack food like rice and other non-gluten items for our trip.  Besides catering to Anjali’s diet, our packing contained many items to keep her engaged during long drives. One such item is a CD player, and a large collection of Barney CD’s, as well as many books for Anjali to read. These items are absolutely necessary to keep Anjali engaged during road trips, such as when we drove to Los Angeles to go to Disneyland. Perhaps the most important items we have to keep are items that cater to Anjali’s sensory needs. Examples of these include straws, stress balls, and crunchy snacks.These experiences are just a small glimpse into the extensive packing our family has to do, in order to keep Anjali comfortable during a vacation.

Another factor that plays a role in our vacations is how the limitations of Anjali restricts the limits of our family’s vacation as a whole. One example of this is when we traveled to Yosemite National Park. All of the specifics of our trip, including where we stayed and our agenda for each day, was designed in order to fit Anjali’s limits. We could not stay at a cabin in the valley, which sacrificed an easier commute to many viewpoints. The viewpoints themselves were only the ones that were accessible by road, as hiking was certainly not an option.

Some of you might be wondering why I have only covered the obstacles of our vacations? It is true that the required preparation and the limitations on our travels can be frustrating at times. There have also been times when we failed to meet her needs or did not consider her endurance during these trips. Those moments sometimes have led to Anjali responding with embarrassing public meltdowns. Despite all of this, I would like to finish by talking about the most important aspect of our vacations with Anjali. That would be the many wonderful memories we have created with her. Let me refer back to the road trip that required excessive packing. The first memory our family has from that trip is Anjali gazing out into the passing landscape of Highway 5, not the long hours of packing. At Yosemite National Park, we remember Anjali enjoying the sounds of the Yosemite river, not the long commute we had to enter the park each morning.

Many of these memories include instances when Anjali surprised us all with how much enjoyed the outdoors. Our trip to Lake Tahoe revealed how Anjali enjoyed playing in the snow. We were pleasantly surprised when Anjali insisted on treading through shallow waters at Zion National Park. This shows how many children like Anjali will forget their limitations, and simply enjoy the moment. Through these beautiful moments and surprises, Anjali taught us how we can stop worrying and enjoy the moment. Just like her. In conclusion, vacations with special needs children, like Anjali, require different preparations but still create the same wonderful memories.

Introduction (11/26/18)

Hello everyone! My name is Aryan Dwivedi, and I am currently a sophomore at Lynbrook High School, in San Jose, California. My sister Anjali is 8 years old, and she is under the Autism Spectrum.

Throughout the years, our family has adjusted in many ways and learned some valuable lessons, all for the sake of providing a strong, loving, and supportive environment for Anjali. We have gone through many unique experiences with my sister. There are many ups and downs, road bumps, and emotional moments when dealing with the development of a child with special needs, such as Anjali.

This brings me to the purpose of this blog. I want to use this platform to share the day to day lifestyle of a child who has special needs. Through this blog, I hope I can spread awareness regarding the massive changes family members implement in order to cater to a special needs child, which is often an important dynamic that goes unnoticed. Such children have multiple facets to their personality, and I plan to share some of those interesting aspects of special needs children, such as Anjali. This blog is also an attempt to familiarize and educate people on the rapidly growing condition of Autism Spectrum, and other such conditions.

I plan to write about a broad range of experiences and unique instances. My blog topics may include something as meaningful as my sister’s interactions with her therapists, or something as small , but unique, as my sister’s mealtime habits.

Overall, I hope these experiences of my sister and family help you learn more about special needs children and their families.

Sharing My Story

Thanks for joining me! This blog is dedicated towards sharing the interactions and experiences my family and I have with my younger sister, who has special needs. You will even find some academic/research posts about changes in the ASD field as a whole.

“Every child is gifted. They just unwrap their packages at different times.” – Unknown

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