Monday, April 27, 2009

Meet Monica

I recently met Monica Fliehmann at a local special needs conference. My ears immediately perked up when she mentioned that she is a reading specialist using the Linda Mood-Bell Visualizing and Verbalizing curriculum.

We have used this with Geoffrey after hearing great results from friends. I would like to start again, but the Arnwine budget has to stay balanced, I bet you can relate!

Anyhow, Monica mentioned that her students have been averaging over 5 years of progress after 12 months in the program. After talking awhile I realized Monica not only has a fascinating professional story, but an inspiring personal story as well.

I asked her to share it, this is it in her own words:

My husband, Ben, is unlike anyone else I've ever known. Most people have trouble “thinking outside the box.” He hardly ever thinks “inside the box.” He has an amazing ability to hold to his own perspective, regardless of the thoughts and opinions of those around him. He’s creative, innovative and eccentric.

Leaving the security of our jobs for the unknown of self-employment was Ben’s idea. During the first few years of our marriage, we both worked for our local school district. We loved working with the kids, but felt it wasn’t quite the right fit for either of us. I thought, “Nothing’s perfect. We should make the best of the situation we’re in,” but Ben said, “The right thing is out there.”

Ben did a great deal of searching until he found Shannon Jenkins, a Lindamood-Bell® reading tutor who specialized in serving kids on the autism spectrum. She was moving out of state to pursue her own dreams and was looking for successors to carry on her work. We met with her in July of 2007 and everything fell into place. That fall, Phoenix Education Specialists became our new business and an amazing new chapter of our lives began.

Ben has always had a unique ability to connect with students with special needs, especially kids on the autism spectrum. Over the last year and a half, we’ve both been amazed by the progress our students have made, especially in the area of reading comprehension . On average, our students made over 5 years of progress after 12 months of working with Ben. I believe this is largely due to his ability to bring out the best in them.

Last fall, Ben and I began talking seriously about something we’d both been wondering about for quite some time - why is it so easy for him to connect with the kids we serve and yet so difficult for him to connect with others. Social interaction is a strain for him. He communicates in ways that others often find difficult to understand and vice versa. And yet, all of this seems to melt away with our students.

Ben and I started looking at the characteristics of individuals on the higher functioning end of the autism spectrum with new glasses. We both saw Ben. We sought the help of a clinical social worker we know and she confirmed what we suspected. Ben has Asperger’s.

Ben’s diagnosis has confirmed my sense that we’re doing what we’re called to do. He recently told the parents of one of our students, “I want to give Alex* the help I wish I’d gotten.” I’m grateful that he’s able to do this for our students, and I’m honored to have a role in making this possible.
*not his real name

Lindamood-Bell® is a registered trademark.

I love Monica's story and am so grateful that she was willing to share it with everyone. I also want to introduce National Autism Resources new t-shirts:

Neurotypical is Overrated

The Neurotypical is Overrated t-shirt was inspired by my son. When he hit Junior High and realized how different he was from his peers it was very hard for him. We spent a lot of time talking about his strengths and weaknesses and the strengths and weaknesses of others. Over time he came to accept that he like everyone else has things he is good at and things that are challenging. During this time he became inspired by Einstein and we came up with the saying, "Neurotypical is Overrated." I hope you enjoy our design.

On the Spectrum - Outside the Box

This design was created by a close friend of our family. After learning about autism he was inspired to design a shirt that reflected the original thinking of many people on the spectrum.

Both t-shirts are available now at National Autism Resources and if you order by May 15th you will receive a free gift with your order!

Friday, April 17, 2009

You've Gotta See Susan Boyle Sing

This is absolutley incredible and inspiring. Susan Boyle is a 47 year old quirky woman with an incredible voice. Click here to watch her sing on Brittan's Got Talent.

Speaking of talent, I have none when it comes to singing. So for those of you like me, may I suggest our Bubble Mic. It blows bubbles anytime you make a sound. So its a party no matter what you sound like! OK just kidding, we carry them to encourage kids to start vocalizing. Kids make a vocalization and they are instantly rewarded with bubbles.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Looking for a House

Well the Arnwine family is looking for a new house. Yesterday we visited Benicia, CA. Its a smaller town that is known for its art glass. They have great schools and the Realtor we are working with is very involved with Solano County ARC. Here is what we looked at so far...

This house was very old and needed a lot of fixing up. Fixing up wouldn't be too bad, but the neighbors have some dogs that were barking the whole time we were there. That definately would not be workable for us.

This house is sort of interesting. Its older, and kind of OK. I'm not sure why, but I'm not excited about it. The rest of the family seems interested so far.

This house looked good, but no garage! No garage would mean no place for me to do my product testing - OK no place to play with the new sensory toys w/o looking like a wierdo...

This condo was a possibility, until we drove by. Its near the water, and a water treatment plant. The area smelled funky. We decided not to even get out of the car...

We will be looking again Sunday like anything with us slow and steady wins the race.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Faith in what is Unseen

Bonnie & Bev at the Japanese Tea

I had an interesting talk this week with a wonderful professional woman. As we talked it became clear that she was a christian. She made the comment that as a professional its hard to know if one should or shouldn't associate themselves as "christian" since being a christian has a negative stereotype associated with it. I've met a lot of people like myself, who are not what a stereotypical "christian" is suppose to be. They are regular people who have fallen in love with Jesus. OK reading that I know it sounds weird, let me put it this way, the more I learn about Jesus the more I want to learn about Him AND there are a lot of people out there who feel the same way I do.

The thing is I don't know how to be different. Sometimes my life is a train wreak and the only way I can get through it is through the strength and help my faith provides. One of my closest friends died this week. I've cried like crazy because I'm missing her sooooo much, but I'm comforted because I know I will see her again. This comfort allows me to be thankful in the midst of my pain. I'm thankful because the last time she got out of the house was with me and we went to an amazing Japanese Tea together. I'm thankful that a couple days before she died I made a cake she loved and she was able to eat some of it. I'm thankful we visited together on her last day inside her earthly body. I can't get through these things without Jesus. I wish this didn't offend people, but I can't live any other way.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

World Autism Day

Today, April 2 has been designated by the UN as World Autism Awareness Day (WAAD). This UN resolution is one of only three official disease-specific United Nations Days. The other two are diabetes and AIDS. The goal of WAAD is to raise awareness about autism throughout society and to encourage early diagnosis and early intervention.
This is a good, but why just encourage early intervention? Don't get me wrong early intervention is important. However, as I have stated before time and time again, there is no cure all for autism. While many people respond incredibly well to early intervention, many don't. As a society we need to support individuals living on the spectrum. They don't need pity - who wants to be pitied for who they are??? However, depending on the individual, they may need services, accommodations and a little understanding to be successful.
In the end we are all better off if everyone has the support to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Happy World Autism Day