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Thoughts about teens, tweens, parenting and this adventure of living on Earth in the 21st century.

Annie Fox, M.Ed., is an internationally respected parenting expert, award-winning author, and a trusted online adviser for tweens and teens.

Podcast for Parents: Advocating for your special needs child

August 16, 2009

''Schuyler's Monster: A Father’s Journey with His Wordless Daughter'' by Robert Rummel-Hudson

''Schuyler's Monster: A Father’s Journey with His Wordless Daughter'' by Robert Rummel-Hudson

All living things, with the exception of clones and genetically engineered corn and soybeans, are unique. Of course that includes children. Every kid has a collection of traits, quirks, interests, annoying habits, talents and abilities that makes him or her truly special. That’s why education should be “special” for every child. Unfortunately it’s not. Far from it.

In spite of the “Everyone turn to page 57 in your math book” approach to learning that is so 20th century and still going strong, typical children will muddle through their K-12 years and come out the other end having succeeded to one degree or another.

But for the millions of “special needs kids” who are entitled by law to receive truly special education, many are being grossly short-changed. Why? Crippling state budget cuts aside, the crux of the problem is sometimes in the approach of educators who prejudge a child’s ultimate learning potential and design programs based on what a special needs student “can’t” do rather than acknowledging what he or she may not be able to do “yet.” Education is about opening doors. No one can map out the limits of any child’s potential. That boundary line has been drawn yet.

All kids need parents to advocate for them. Special needs kids need especially loud and pushy parents to go to bat for them at school and help them get what they require to succeed.

In this week’s podcast I talk with Robert Rummel-Hudson author of Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey With His Wordless Daughter. We talk candidly about his daughter Schuyler, born with a rare neurological disorder that makes language acquisition extremely difficult. We discuss the challenges of connecting with a special needs child and the obstacles parents often encounter when dealing with schools. We also talk about what every parent of a special needs child needs to know in order to be your child’s most ferocious and unyielding advocate.

Have a listen here:

If you have iTunes, you can subscribe to this podcast in the iTunes Store.

Or, you can download an MP3 version here.

Upcoming guests include:

Wednesday Martin, author of Stepmonster: A New Look At Why Stepmothers Think, Feel And Act The Way We Do

Ayelet Waldman, author of Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities, And Occasional Moments of Grace

Izzy Rose, author of The Package Deal: My (not-so) Glamorous Transition from Single Gal to Instant Mom

Diane E. Levin, co-author (with Jean Kilbourne) of So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualized Childhood And What Parents Can Do to Protect Their Kids

Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence

Special thanks to our friend and musician/composer Curt Siffert who let us use his song, “Broken Frost” for the opening of this podcast.

*What’s a podcast? “A podcast is a series of digital media files, usually either digital audio or video, that is made available for download via web syndication.” – Wikipedia… So, in this case, there’s an audio file for you to listen to (in addition to reading the above).


Day 3: Since it’s you, I don’t mind

June 10, 2009


The "lost" wallet

My “gift” from the Universe hasn’t arrived yet. I’m imagining Ms. U in line at the post office. She’s waiting, doing some re-centering breathing, and feeling herself age as she watches the wall clock creep forward faster than the queue. When she finally gets to the counter, she discovers she hasn’t got the correct postage and can’t pay the overage. (What? You thought the Universe carries a purse?)  Annoyed,  she goes back to her 2 bedroom flat on Cosmos Circle, her contribution to my 30 Day Annoyance Challenge, tucked under her arm.

It’s OK. I’ll wait. In the meantime, the only thing annoying that happened yesterday wasn’t even all that.

Scene: I’ve just ensconced myself on the living room couch, a blanket for my feet (it’s unseasonably cold here in Northern California) and a cup of hot chocolate to fortify myself against the ice storm threatening outside. I’m all set to continue reading Schuyler’s Monster: A Father’s Journey with his Wordless Daughter by Robert Rummel-Hudson.

Pause. You may be thinking: “Laying on the couch reading on a Tuesday afternoon? No offense, but what kind of sloth is this woman??” No offense taken. I’m the self-employed kind. A writer who also does the seasonal work of student assemblies and parent education events… none of which happen after early May. But don’t worry about me, I’ll be back at it in September.

Unpause. I was reading Rob’s book in preparation for my podcast interview with him next Wednesday. (See… legitimate work! Unpaid, yes, but totally valuable.) I’m only sixty seconds into this cozy reading session when the phone rings. And the phone’s way over there, in the kitchen. So, yes, I’m feeling a bit annoyed at the interruption, but we free-lancers don’t let a ringing phone go unattended so I hop up, taking my annoyance and cold feet with me and run into the kitchen. But the kitchen phone’s not in the kitchen. (Did anyone see the phone?) Ringgggg.  (David?! Hmph. Must be on his office phone.) Ringgggg. I race into the family room and pick up that phone.

Annie (annoyance under control, professional voice in gear): Hello, this is Annie.

Ezra: Hey, Mom.

Annie (all annoyance instantly disappates replaced by love, joy and curiosity): Hey, Ez. What’s up?

Seems Ezra believes he may have left his wallet in our car after our weekend road trip to LA. Would I please take a look? What a question! Of course, I’ll look!  I’m his mom. I live to serve.

So I put on my shoes, search for the garage door key, find it, trot out the front door, close the door, skip down the front steps, open the front gate, close the gate, use the key to activate the garage door, duck under as it yawns, open the back door of the car, see the wallet lying on the empty back seat, grab it, exit car, slam door, push garage door button, duck while it closes, open gate, close gate, trot up steps, open front door, close it, run back into family room, pick up phone. Elapsed time: 45 seconds

Annie: Hey Ez, if you wanted to play a game, you should have done a better job hiding the wallet. It was on the seat. Next to where you were sitting.

Ez: Cool! Thanks Mom!

Annie: You’re welcome, sweetie.

By the time I made it back to the couch, the blanket, the (less than) hot chocolate and the book, I started thinking: If that was a telemarketer I would have been pissed. Even though it would have taken much less time to say “Sorry I’m not interested and could you please take me off of your list and NOT CALL AGAIN!?”

But because it was Ezra, I immediately dropped my annoyance and replaced it with an eagerness to help him.

So, here’s the Annoyance Challenge probing question of the day: When you say “certain things just annoy me” that’s only half the story. It’s not just the occurrences, but who’s doing what. Obviously there are special people in our lives who may get a free pass even when they do something that would otherwise annoy us if someone else did it. Likewise, I’m thinking that there are certain people, that no matter what they do or say (“Hi. How’s it going?” “Nice pants.”) we automatically feel annoyed and might lash out. Seems unfair. Unproductive. So what’s with that? And how can we gain better control over those feelings because the world doesn’t need any more irritated, irrational folks (with or without guns).

Universe: ‘Nuff of them!

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