Category Archives: Autism

Autographs

After graduating from college in 2007, I moved to Maryland and learned about Kennedy Krieger’s special education program and knew instantly that I wanted to work there. Kennedy Krieger schools are geared towards preparing students to transition back into their communities and lead successful lives after graduation. I have been working at Kennedy Krieger High School (KKHS) for three years and my students never cease to amaze me. Today, I want to tell you about one of those students whom I’ve known from the start and has impressed me in ways I couldn’t have imagined when I first met him.

I was lucky enough to meet DeVante—a shy, reserved student with an autism spectrum disorder—during my first year here at Kennedy Krieger. When I first started at KKHS I was a teacher’s assistant in an Academy II classroom. During my first week, DeVante visited our classroom and asked to speak with the new staff member, Ms. Bates. He approached me with his head down and in a soft voice, he asked me to sign his “autograph book”. Timidly, DeVante explained that signing the book authorized him to share drawings with that person throughout the school year. As a teaching assistant, I was eager to get to know not only the students in my classroom, but all of the students at KKHS, so of course I said yes! This marked the beginning of learning exactly who DeVante is and who he wants to be. Continue reading

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A Different Kind of Adventure

We see a lot of special and inspiring families at Kennedy Krieger. Shannon and Kurt Berman, along with their son Cooper, are perfect examples.

Throughout the pregnancy with Cooper, and from the time he was born, his parents were determined to give him a multicultural upbringing. Having lived and worked all over the world themselves, they strongly believed in the importance of raising him in different countries, submerged in different cultures and adventure. But when Cooper was diagnosed with autism, they worried that their plans would have to be laid aside and that their goal of raising their son internationally might be impossible.

By the time Cooper had turned 1 year old, his parents had already become worried about odd behaviors, which only seemed to be getting worse. Like so many of the children I see with autism, he seemed disconnected, didn’t make eye contact, screamed and cried unexplainably, and demonstrated repetitive behaviors, such as opening and closing doors over and over and over again. At the time when these unusual behaviors began to emerge, Cooper and his parents were living on a small island of Thailand, in the middle of the Indian Ocean. People there don’t even believe in developmental disabilities, let alone offer treatment for them. Continue reading

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Finding Validation Through Hard Work

When I first started working with Kevin Sargent, he was a freshman in high school, and I was his science teacher. I knew even then that he was incredibly bright young man, who possessed immeasurable potential and a wealth of information that lay stored away, almost dormant.

But, as is so common in students on the autism spectrum, he struggled to apply his knowledge in the real world.

Diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome in elementary school, Kevin scored well on tests. However a huge part of high school learning takes place not at a student’s individual desk, but in groups that require participation and engagement. For kids like Kevin, that presents a significant challenge.

And so, for a long time, we struggled to convince Kevin to come out of his shell and join the class. He preferred solo activities and hated classroom tasks that required cooperation with others, like lab assignments. He struggled with public speaking even in small groups, didn’t want to try new things, and he couldn’t pick up on the simple social cues that many of us take for granted. You could tell that there was tremendous potential there—I never doubted his academic abilities. But there were times that many of us at the school worried about whether he’d ever be able to fully make use of that ability to build a future for himself.

That was Kevin then.

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It Takes a Family

As a social worker in one of the nation’s largest autism centers, I frequently meet families from all over who come to us seeking help for their child. They travel from across Maryland, from other states, and sometimes even from other countries. No matter where a family is from, each parent wants the same thing –the best chance for their child‘s future. Continue reading

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Against the Odds

In my experience, Erica Carter is the rarest breed of foster parent.
Many of us in the Therapeutic Foster Care program were amazed when we encountered this woman. As a single mother in her 30s with a grown son, she defied foster care statistics when she welcomed a child with special needs into her home and then opened her door to the boy’s two brothers as well. But when she chose to adopt all three of the boys—each with developmental disabilities—she outdid herself.
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