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!


Anonymous said...

My daughter is eight going on 9.She is in the spectrum.Talks mostly on prompt or when she wants things she really needs.She is non-verbally social especially to his younger brother and us.Smiles and plays.Most of her self stim are reduced significantly increasing her attention span.Has speech therapy,tutoring and infrequent OT.Takes piano lessons and we go to a lot of musical concerts, museums and the outdoors.Two new but related developments consists in her automatic(involuntary) urge to turn(spin) her head around looking up while walking or seating.It is usually sudden and quick and she has fallen(after loosing her balance) once in the process.She also would get up from her seat/couch and turn(spin)around and sit back quickly.She could hit her head if it happens close to an object since it is so quick.I am planning to have her EEG reviewed.She is aware of this and laughs when 'caught in the act' - but she appears to have no control over it - some proprioceptive/vestibular thing I guess.She has sensory integration issues and will spin around while walking facing up.She has and enjoys the trampoline,riding stationary bike,swinging,slides.She is very pleasant overall but needs modulation in some areas.She also has hypermobility of joints in two fingers which she can bend all the way backward.She is improving on her reading and enjoys it.Any ideas or suggestions?

K said...


Shannon Jenkins said...

Bonnie, I just found this after searching for my name (we all do that sometimes, right?). I'm Shannon, the person Monica & Ben bought the business from. It's not hyperbole to say I fell in love with Monica and Ben as soon as I met them. I had another potential buyer for my business but backed-out and told her no only a few days before they stepped into my life. The story of how we first met is hysterical and so totally appropriate. In our second meeting Ben disclosed that he suspected he "might be on the spectrum" and wasn't sure how I would feel about selling the business to him. I stated that I thought it was awesome--he had the chops I was looking for--and if I wasn't OK with it, then it would be proof that I didn't really believe in the work I did because it would mean I didn't believe the children I work with could grow up to be like him--a successful business owner. My heart remains with the family forever. I am forever grateful they walked into my life. No better match existed, I know this to be true.