Profiles in Experience:                                                               Living Within the Autism SpectrumThe...
PHOTO BY TOM LAVINE                                                                                       CONTENTS        ...
COVER STORY                                        Profiles in Experience:                                     Living Withi...
form of autism. Statistics collected by theOregon Department of Education for the2007-08 school year report that 1 in 89  ...
Autism                  From p. 7                                                    rological processing, and inhibits ex...
Autism                  From p. 8                                                by clinicians, caregivers, pre-school    ...
In our schools? The passage of IDEA was        Michael runs laps or does squats. He can           on tests. In the end, Mi...
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JPR Feature June 2008


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Jeremiah and his mom, Janel take a journey through life with autism.

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JPR Feature June 2008

  1. 1. Profiles in Experience: Living Within the Autism SpectrumThe Members’ Magazine of The Jefferson Public Radio Listeners Guild June 2008
  2. 2. PHOTO BY TOM LAVINE CONTENTS JUNE 2008 F E AT U R E S COLUMNSThe circulatory system of the human hand,part of the “Bodies Revealed” exhibition atTurtle Bay Exploration Park in Redding (see 6 Profiles in Experience: 3 Tuned InSpotlight p. 14 for details). Living Within the Autism Spectrum Ronald Kramer By Janel Salazar 4 Jefferson Almanac My son, Jeremiah, was born on Paula Bandy May 16, 1982 on a sunny Sunday morning in Silverton, 10 Nature Notes Oregon. He was healthy and I Frank Lang remember thinking how perfectly proportioned he was. 15 Inside the Box Actually, he was just perfect. Scott Dewing Jeremiah was a hungry little guy who grew very fast and 16 On the Scene really, the only time he cried was for more food. He was 28 RecordingsAlison Brown, former investment banker content and happy. Jeannine Rossaturned banjo master, joins Fiona Ritchie on This month’s feature is writtenthe June 29th broadcast of The Thistle & 29 Little Victories by Janel Salazar, mother of anShamrock. autistic son and advocate for Jeremiah Moore, now Mari Gayatri Stein those who live within the age 26. 30 Theater & The Arts spectrum of autism and those Visit us on the families who care for autistic loved ones. Salazar shares the Molly Tinsley World Wide Web stories of four autistic individuals at different stages of 31 Poetry development; these personal stories put faces and feelings, as Scott Dalgarno well as the frustrations and celebrations of families in front of the statistics and sound bites we hear and see in the media. 35 As It Was ON THE COVER“Simple Flower” by Kristen Willey, a D E PARTM E NTSsuccessful and talented 7th grader atHedrick Middle School in Medford. She lives 14 Spotlightwithin the spectrum of autism. Angela TorettaThe JEFFERSON MONTHLY Vol. 32 No. 6 (ISSN 1079-2015) is 18 Jefferson Publicpublished monthly by the JPR Foundation, Inc., as a service tomembers of the JPR Listeners Guild, 1250 Siskiyou Blvd., Radio Program GuideAshland, OR 97520. Periodicals postage paid at Ashland, OR.Annual membership dues of $45 includes $6 for a 1-year sub- 22 Heart Healthy Recipescription to the JEFFERSON MONTHLY. POSTMASTER: Sendaddress changes to JEFFERSON MONTHLY, 1250 SiskiyouBlvd., Ashland, OR 97520. 32 ArtsceneJefferson Monthly Credits: 36 ClassifiedEditor: Abigail Kraft AdvertisementsManaging Editor: Paul Westhelle The Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra returns to theDesign/Production: Impact Publications Elizabethan Stage of the Oregon Shakespeare FestivalArtscene Editor: Paul Christensen for a concert on June 30th at 8:30 pm. (see Artscene, p.Poetry Editors: Vince & Patty WixonPrinting: Apple Press 32 for details).
  3. 3. COVER STORY Profiles in Experience: Living Within the Autism Spectrum By Janel Salazar Marcie Dixon, and her son, Preston, age 5.M y son, Jeremiah, was born on May 16, 1982 on a sunny Sunday morning Silverton, Oregon. He washealthy and I remember thinking howperfectly proportioned he was. Actually,he was just perfect. Jeremiah was a hun- in been identified. My second was to take action in a pre-Internet era. We were referred to a new organiza- tion called The Children’s Guild, located on the campus of the School for the Blind in Salem where we lived. It was founded by Kathy Bridges who, as thegry little guy who grew very fast and mother of a child with a developmentalreally, the only time he cried was for disability, started an organization thatmore food. He was content and happy. provided services in a setting that was I went back to work soon after completely progressive and innovativeJeremiah was born, so we both experi- for its time in the mid-1980s. Jeremiahenced other infants and toddlers early on received hour-long, bi-weekly sessions for Statistics collected byin daycare. As time went by, I could see children at Speech and Occupational Therapy (OT). I joinedthe sitter’s reaching milestones like rolling over, sit- the Oregon Department Jeremiah to continue therapy at home. The visionting up, crawling, walking, talking, well before my of Education for the that Kathy Bridges brought to our reality made ason. From visits to his pediatrician, he was above 2007–08 school year profound difference in our lives.average in all of the health indicators so for a while, report that 1 in 89 Jeremiah had taken his first step onI heard and haltingly accepted that babies develop children attending public Thanksgiving Day when he was 18 months old. Hisat their own pace. I kept working with Jeremiah on schools are eligible for first word was “uh-oh” which I realized is what I wasinstinct and by talking to the other babysitter services due to an saying when he dropped a toy or food from his highmoms to teach him what I thought he needed to chair. He said a few words like “grbape” for grape, Autism Spectrumlearn for development and growth. and “doin” for “what are you doing,” but every word By 15 months of age, Jeremiah was finally Disorder (ASD). learned was extracted, one at a time. I tried tocrawling but not trying to walk. He was experi- engage Jeremiah in play but realized that it alwaysmenting with sounds but clearly was not developing speech at the ended up with his favorite plastic toy wagon turned upside down,rate of the other toddlers who were beginning to communicate in spinning the wheel endlessly. He loved to make motor noises forrudimentary language. I feel very fortunate that Jeremiah’s care- the killer Hot Wheels collection inherited from his Uncle Erik, lin-giver, Shirley, who was like a grandma to us, told me that she ing up each of the cars on the back of the couch. Jeremiah wouldthought there was something more to Jeremiah’s delays than just always stop suddenly whenever he heard the bus on 24th Streetslow development. That was a good catalyst to take more action. that to me, was just a faint noise in the distance. I used buses, cars,We took Jeremiah to a neurologist in Portland who said he and heavy equipment machinery to teach colors, words, and num-thought it may be cerebral palsy, so referred us to the Child bers because that’s what had his attention. Jeremiah had littleDevelopment and Rehabilitation Center (CDRC) at OHSU. interest in imaginative or pretend play, so action figures simply I was again, very fortunate to have access to Dr. Gene Stubbs became more objects to line up. Jeremiah loved to see Grammyand his research. We took Jeremiah for three observation sessions Shirley, but he interacted in parallel to, rather than with, the otherwhere professionals watched him carefully with toys, with his par- kids (except for his little sister, Darcy, whom he hugged and cher-ents, and with staff. Dr. Stubbs interviewed us about Jeremiah’s ished). In the mid-80s when the occurrence of autism was over 1development and personality. He seemed very serious and dedicat- in 10,000 births, I had no understanding what affect autism haded to his work which was reassuring. After the sessions, Dr. Stubbs on Jeremiah and his learning and interaction style other thantold us that Jeremiah met 8 of 16 criteria for autism. The fact that what I could observe. I taught him intuitively.his behaviors met half the criteria meant that he was high func- In 2007, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) announcedtioning. My first reaction was relief to know that something had that 1 of every 150 children born in the United States has some6 ı JEFFERSON MONTHLY ı JUNE 2008
  4. 4. form of autism. Statistics collected by theOregon Department of Education for the2007-08 school year report that 1 in 89 Things We Should Know…children attending public schools are eligi- I 1 in 89 school-aged children are eligible for autism support group to network with parents andble for services due to an Autism Spectrum autism services in Oregon, up from 1 in 98 last year. professionals. County Developmental DisabilitiesDisorder (ASD). This dramatic rise in Services provides access to supports and services I Oregon is number three in the occurrence ofautism is a double-edged sword because autism behind Minnesota and Maine. including Oregon Technical Assistance (OTAC) for fam-when my son was diagnosed, society was ilies/individuals of any age, and Vocational I The Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 1, Rehabilitation (VRD) and Creative Supports (CSI) forbarely past the Refrigerator Mother theory effective in 2007, and House Bill 2918, effective in transitioning teens and adults with job placements andthat autism resulted from the absence of 2008, to bring equality in coverage of neurological interview skills, residential services, and leisure activi-maternal warmth (it even pre-dated the conditions like autism to the same level as physical ties through Person Centered, Rainman , that although stereotypi- conditions. More policy will be introduced in the 2009 legislative session. I There is no cure for autism. But, there are evidence-cal, put the face of autism into public per- based treatments that can make a significant difference I Autism is a bioneurological condition and is not in a child’s ability to interact successfully, some to a levelception). There were fewer resources and an intellectual disability. where they are indistinguishable from their peers.general understanding because of limited I Autism is a spectrum of disorders (ASD) from I Treatment plans can include a combination ofautism awareness. Today, that is turning non-verbal to high functioning autism (HFA) toaround because autism is approaching epi- approaches from behavioral therapies like Applied Pervasive Development Disorder-Not Otherwise Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Relationshipdemic numbers Specified (PDD-NOS) to highest functioning Development Intervention (RDI), along with Autism is known as a spectrum of sen- Asperger’s Syndrome (AS). ASD is a sensory process- Occupational and Speech Therapy, to biomedicalsory processing disorders, or ASD, because ing condition that affects verbal and non-verbal com- interventions that eliminate gluten and/or casein from munication, social interaction, and presents in repeti- the diet (some people with autism have significantit can manifest in an array of hyper or hypo tive patterns or language of narrow interests that cansensory issues with varying levels of inten- gastrointestinal problems), to vitamin therapy, to range from mild to disabling. chelation which extracts toxic metals from the bodysity. Some children are born with charac- I Markers of autism: Sensitive or oblivious to stimu- that when able to cross the blood/brain barrier, canteristics of Classic/Kanner’s Autism, and lation (speech, touch, sight, sound). Lack of joint atten- result in cognitive impairment. Some families also takesome develop typically then experience tion or tracking where the parent is looking or what a naturopathic, or pharmacological approach. MostRegressive Autism by 30 months of age. they are doing. Limited to no imitation. Playing with agreement lies in a treatment plan that includes a toys as objects rather than imaginative or pretend play. behavioral therapy, OT, Speech, and possibly one or No two individuals on the Autism Parallel play alongside, rather than engaging with other more of another approach based on consultation withSpectrum are alike. Add to that unique- children. Repetitive movements or sounds. Little to no your clinician and your own research.ness, the differences that people and fami- response to name. Communicates only to get needslies affected by autism have experienced met rather than for interaction. Websites:because of their age and place in society at I Early Intervention: Engaging child at the earliest time. Following are profiles in experi- age to be most effective in behavioral interventions of living with autism from the per- designed to teach self-help and self-regulation skills to interact effectively and develop meaningful rela-spective of different generations: tionships with others. I People can learn to manage and thrive with AspergerDVDSeries.aspPreston Dixon, Age 5 autism through schedules, routines, and non-verbal cues. They are most comfortable in familiar situations. Read: Preston is the first child of Marcie and I Planning is required to meet the needs of the Recovering Autistic Children by Stephen M. Edelson,Darren Dixon. “From day two you started growing population of children, adolescents, and PhD, and Bernard Rimland, PhDscreaming. We called it colic and tried a adults with autism entering into the Social Services System for residential, job training, and supplemental Changing the Course of Autismwhole list of things to comfort you; vacuum by Bryan Jepson, MD income assistance. This figure can be mitigatedcleaner sounds, different formula, soy for- through successful Early Intervention, Oregonmula, acid reflux medicine, swaddling, Department of Education, and ESD programs, andbouncing, music, sh-sh sounds in your ear coverage for medically necessary treatment as pre-while I held you close. Nothing really scribed by a physician.worked except pure exhaustion when you’d I The exact cause of autism is unknown. A theoryfall asleep. Your “colic” lasted all day for is that it may be a combination of environmental toxins that trigger a genetic predisposition, eitherdays on end. Then magically you’d have a before or after birth. There is controversy surround-day that I could change a diaper or feed ing the use of the preservative, thimerosal in vacci-you and the screaming would stop. Then, it nations. There are no reported studies to conclusive-started all over again. Grammy said she saw ly prove this however there are many parents thatgreat patience in me that she’d never seen report regression into autism concurrent with vacci- nations for their children. Some parents who are notbefore. You didn’t like being cuddled or anti-vaccine, feel strongly that there may be tooheld. While being carried, you had to face many vaccines given at too early of an age for chil-outward to look at things around you.” dren’s bodies to process in a healthy way. Autism “By two years old you still weren’t talk- usually appears by 30 months of and refused to make signs that I was I If you suspect autism, see your pediatrician,using to communicate with you. Tantrums Asante Child Development Services, Child Eliza Littleton, age 16, at Greatwere the theme CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE Development Resource Center (CDRC), Public School Expectations Theater. Special Education Multi-disciplinary team, attend the JUNE 2008 ı JEFFERSON MONTHLY ı 7
  5. 5. Autism From p. 7 rological processing, and inhibits expres- sion in language and interpersonal connec- tion as the product. Preston is not motivat- correctly so the family celebrated over din- ner by using words that start with those let- ters. Marcie is working at rebuilding her rela- ed by pleasing people, regardless of the tionship with her son. She’s learned thatof the day. Speech therapy for two hours a consistent and loving direction that his par- although he doesn’t like light touch, he doesmonth was a nice playtime, but I think time ents provide in their efforts to teach him like deep pressure so they wrestle, roll overis what it took for you to speak three word self-help skills. He does not like to be held each other, and basically play rough!sentences at 2 ½ years old.” so Marcie quit trying to hug her son. He Preston likes board games as a result of “Then your sister was born and it made will sporadically show affection by giving hours that Marcie spent using them asit difficult to “help” you do things as I’d her a hug, but hugs have to be his idea, on teaching tools. They do a lot together as adone for you until now. Not yet three years his terms, and in his time. He has poor nuclear family. Preston enjoys getting in theold and you and I had a three-hour battle motor planning and organization. He does car seat in his dad’s pick-up and going forover socks. You refused to learn how to put not like to attempt something until he feels rides. Marcie and Darren are just now goingthem on. Your hands would go limp when I that he can do the task perfectly, like writ- out on dates again. The divorce rate for cou-tried to form your fingers to grasp the ing his name. He doesn’t join in play with ples impacted by autism is 80 percent. “Oursocks. I was calm for the first two hours.” the other kids; he doesn’t know how. family is not healed yet” said Marcie, “but “The 23-week Life Skills course at Preston will often play around others but is now we are past survival mode.”Living Water helped me deal and heal from unsure how to join them. He does not show I remember worrying if Jeremiahsome of my historical issues so that I could empathy when someone gets hurt yet has a would have enough language and interac-be the adult and care for you and your sis- low threshold for pain himself. He collects tion skills to be successful in school. I wor-ter. But still the tantrums continue.” items throughout the house by category ried about how the other kids would treat “Your medical diagnosis of High and piles everything yellow, for example, him. It was a very surreal sensation toFunctioning Autism came just after you into a heap. Although his hearing checks walk away from Richmond Elementaryturned five years old. When we were kick- out, Preston frequently doesn’t respond to with him standing in the window watch-ing the idea around last spring I was his name. He comforts himself by watching ing me as I left him there, hoping that westunned and numb for a couple of weeks. clothes spin in the dryer and when he was were all prepared.Then I was a bit relieved that there was five, he started flapping his arms andsome type of explanation for your behavior. hands while jumping in place.Relief turned to understanding and I was Eliza Littleton, Age 16 Preston received services for speechable to let more things go without fretting therapy at Asante Childhood Development Eliza is a very petite and polite youngabout them. However, that didn’t last long. Center from age two to three, but It wasn’t lady who neatly pulls back her shoulder-I’m not sleeping well at night…I feel like I until a Kindergarten readiness test given length blond hair and has an affinity forhave an open wound in my heart…” by his preschool teacher that Marcie heard pretty bling bracelets. I met Eliza this winter As a teacher by profession, Marcie was the word “autism” for the first time. She as a student of Great Expectations Theaterconfident in her parenting skills. She went home and researched online to only for Youth with Neuro and Other Diversitiestalked to other moms for advice about their to discover, “this could be the answer.” where she was enthusiastic about stagecraft.experiences. She was able to be a stay-at- Their pediatrician referred Preston to It was fun to see the excitement between herhome mom. She felt well prepared. CDRC in Eugene where he received a med- and another teenage girl student when they Today, Marcie is meticulous about plan- ical diagnosis of high functioning autism. discovered that they’re both fans of thening the schedule at home and for daily Preston started Kindergarten last fall at Spice Girls and Grease.errands. She has learned to create routines his neighborhood school where he was eval- Eliza is the daughter of Vance andand use timers to manage Preston’s ability uated by a multi-disciplinary team. He Terry Littleton, and has lived in Ashlandto cope. In addition, Marcie has learned received eligibility for special education due since she was a year old. Eliza was a quiet,how to give him options that include sched- to the impact of autism on his ability to happy baby that babbled a lot. She walkedules. Routine and schedules are very impor- learn. In December, Preston was moved to a at 15 months after minimal crawling. Shetant to help people with autism manage the site-based class specializing in autism in the was verbal and even memorized the sounddifficulties they have with sensory process- Medford School District where he has an track of Little Mermaid. People thoughting. Like our respiratory and nervous sys- Individualized Education Plan (IEP). An IEP she was shy in comparison to her oldertems, the neurologic system is another sys- may include special services for speech, OT, brother, Sam. Eliza didn’t look to her momtem of the human body that we take for autism consultation, social skills groups, for approval or use non-verbal communica-granted if it’s working efficiently. If it isn’t, and accommodations in the classroom. tion. At age 2 ½, a daycare provider sus-autism is one outcome. It may appear that Preston receives limited speech and OT, pected there was some difference in Eliza’sPreston is simply non-compliant. That is a however his parents supplement that with as development. By age 3, she engaged incommon reaction from people that are not much private OT as they can afford to echolalia which is the repetition of a ques-educated about autism. Many of us grew up increase the number of hours. Marcie said tion or phrase, immediate or delayed,and raised children in homes where com- they are seeing Preston’s tantrums decrease rather than giving an appropriate response.pliance was expected. Autism inhibits the with the sensory processing exercises that She could become fussy around noisy chil-reception of verbal and non-verbal informa- he gets from Occupational Therapy. He dren. Another daycare provider referredtion (speech, touch, sight, sound) into neu- recently started saying “f” and “v” sounds Eliza and her family to CONTINUED ON PAGE 128 ı JEFFERSON MONTHLY ı JUNE 2008
  6. 6. Autism From p. 8 by clinicians, caregivers, pre-school providers, and parents is so important. Eliza responded well to Relationship class projects. Many parents of K-12 Special Education students have expressed how meaningful it is to have a peer mentor Development Intervention (RDI) which for their child. In High School, it’s a conun-Asante Child Development Services for focuses on developing skills for social inter- drum because students that would mostevaluation. Terry made a remark at the action. These are skills that Eliza and her likely volunteer for community servicetime that she didn’t think had any real parents continue to practice. hours through peer mentorship havemerit. “It’s almost like she has autism Eliza loves instant recall question and extremely full schedules not only withbecause she’s happy to be by herself.” They answer games. It is more difficult for her to other volunteerism and activities, butwent to a local neurologist who thought understand inference. Although she is very preparing for college.Eliza may have had Rhett’s Syndrome. happy in her family setting, Eliza has strug- Eliza has good verbal skills, and herTerry and Vance were shaken to learn that gled with sensory overload at school. She mother feels she could have a career whichgirls, who are the only ones to get Rhett’s, has never been a target of kids at school takes advantage of these. Her left/right issuehave a lifespan up to 8 or 10 years. They who are generally kind to her. Eliza asked is the biggest obstacle to independent living.were referred to a pediatric neurologist at her mom, “Should I invite friends over?” She doesn’t drive. Terry and Vance areOHSU in Portland who gave Eliza a med- Not so much because she feels lonely, but actively researching options which mayical diagnosis of PDD-NOS (Pervasive because she’s learned that that’s what kids include a cooperative community and cot-Development Disorder – Not Otherwise do. Terry has organized play dates between tage industry that has minimal to no relianceSpecified) which is on the high functioning Eliza and friends, with and without disabili- on cars. Her parents realize that they mayend of the autism spectrum. ties, since she was a little girl. They play or need to create the best option for Eliza. Eliza entered a program called cook or do some kind of activity at home, or Jeremiah had many excellent teachersStructured Teaching. She was very visual they take field trips to see Dogs for the in Salem and Olympia public schools, andand did well with picture identification. Deaf, and now also the mall! Eliza was in a a couple that were ill-equipped. Despite anShe was reading words on her own by Healthy Kids program at Ashland Middle adult/dad coach that got in my face forKindergarten and sentences by 1st Grade. School where she learned that she likes to signing Jeremiah up for T-ball and someBefore Kindergarten, Eliza did six weeks of run. Now she loves running on the AHS other displays of ignorance, he has friendsApplied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) which cross country team, but always with a part- and enjoys life. Jeremiah became comfort-teaches children how to problem-solve and ner to help with safety issues like crossing able with who he is and I love him just thedevelop effective sequencing through repe- the street. Eliza has difficulty with spatial way he is.tition and reward. They are then able to motor and left/right connections. For exam-generalize these skills to other situations. ple, she writes the first diagonal line of theIt seemed like a good “jump start” in help- Michael D. Fox, Age 29 letter “x” then struggles to write the cross-ing Eliza to engage in a give-and-take learn- over line. Occupational Therapy is essential Michael was born in Southern Californiaing situation. She did well, but the for Eliza’s development. The family now in 1979. His mother, Nena Scuderi-FoxLittleton’s experience showed that it played contracts a private Occupational Therapist. noticed the difference between Michael andinto her desire to have right/wrong, yes/no Eliza is very verbal and uses questioning as his older sister, Selena, who was very verbal.answers for everything. an interaction strategy. This is a strategy The pediatrician told her that boys can “Mind-blindness” is a marker of autism that her mother is using as a teachable develop slower than girls. At age five,which is the difficulty in reading the moment with non-verbal cues to incorpo- Michael had four sessions with a top childnuances of other people. For example, we rate a variety of communication styles. psychologist in Los Angeles. He sat downcan anticipate how people respond to us by Eliza had one-on-one aides through the with Michael’s parents and told them thattheir body language and facial expressions 5th grade at Briscoe Elementary. their son was severely mentally retarded and(the pragmatics of speech). These are skills Kindergarten through the 8th grade at that to save themselves from a life longthat infants develop through joint atten- AMS was very productive. High School has heartache, he should be institutionalized.tion, or watching and imitating their par- other challenges with what Terry defined Michael’s dad had a nervous breakdown andents. Children with autism need to be as a “student vs. subject orientation” where had to be hospitalized. Nena got mad. Shetaught these skills which can still present the priorities are placed on college and flatly rejected this prognosis and tookin a scripted style of speech, but through a grade point average. The No Child Left Michael to UCLA Medical Center six monthsvariety of behavioral treatments, they can Behind (NCLB) Act does not adequately later where he was diagnosed with autism.function effectively and develop meaning- recognize practical curriculum options for Nena placed her five-year-old son inful and expressive relationships. The best students with special needs and Educators public school. It lasted three weeks. Thetreatment plan to pursue depends on the that strive to implement them. In addition reaction was that they didn’t have the timeindividual and their unique place on the to life skills, these students would benefit to handle a special needs student. This wasautism spectrum. Treatments have the from an array of vocational skills training. 1984 and ten years since the passage ofmost impact not only for efficacy and func- Eliza also attends Willow Wind School Federal IDEA legislation which provides fortion, but for future cost-containment if ini- where she is in a Global Studies class of 15 inclusion of students with developmentaltiated as a very young child. This is why students. She has no special accommoda- disabilities in public schools. Do those ofEarly Intervention, or early detection and tions and is thriving. Her peers volunteer us much over the age of 30 remember stu-identification, and an awareness of autism to mentor and include her on email for dents with special needs in our classrooms?12 ı JEFFERSON MONTHLY ı JUNE 2008
  7. 7. In our schools? The passage of IDEA was Michael runs laps or does squats. He can on tests. In the end, Michael has to achievelandmark and has resulted in a level of do 1,000 jumping jacks. He’s been swim- the grades on his own. Michael made theinclusion that makes it hard to imagine ming practically since birth. He played soc- Dean’s list last fall and is a lifetime memberpublic schools without such diversity. Nena cer at Walker, basketball, and volleyball. He of the Honors Society.placed her son in a school for the “handi- was treated like one of the team. At some Michael started as a volunteer at Roguecapped” that he attended for four years. It point, Michael’s diagnosis was specified to Valley Television and has been on staff asfocused on life skills however Nena also Asperger’s Syndrome, which is a higher the Public Access Equipment and Studiowanted an academic curriculum for functioning autism. People with Asperger’s Manager since 2005. He hosts “Mickey theMichael, so the school started sending (AS) have the communication/socialization Balloonman” show and busts the moves onhome ten, three letter words for Michael to processing delays, and perseveration on a his own “Dance Machine” program. He haswrite three times. This was the beginning given topic (like Albert Einstein on the an apartment and lives independently inof many situations that Nena used to Theory of Relativity), but do have typical Ashland. He has a checking and savingschange perceptions of how Michael, and speech and language skills. One of account, and credit card that he hasn’tpeople with autism, can learn. Michael’s Asperger traits is used. Michael hasn’t decided yet if he wantsShe bought Michael a dic- to walk on his tip toes. Nena to drive. He is interested in a girlfriend andtionary where not only did he and John worked with someday, marriage. Michael had manywrite the words, he had to Michael to walk heel to toe friends that were girls in school whom helook them up and use in a which Nena observed, less- won over with his good manners andsentence. To this day, the dic- ened his other Asperger’s respect.tionary is one of Michael’s tendencies. To this day, she Nena and her son have a relationshipfavorite books where he loves reminds Michael if he’s walk- built on communication. When Michael wasto search for new words. ing on his toes and sees a dif- about eight, Nena saw a program that sheNena learned that her son ference in his personality. was inspired to try with him that day afterhas an exceptional memory. The family moved to school. He came home and she justMichael was tutored in phon- Helena, Montana where wrapped her arms around him, strokingics during the summer when Michael started the 8th him, telling him what a wonderful person hehe was eight, and did very Michael D. Fox grade. The next year, he was is and that she loves him. After three hours,well. Nena also taught her failing classes in high school Michael quit resisting and hugged his moth-son basic math that was missing from his so John home-schooled Michael for one er back. Now they hug each other and sayschool curriculum. year. When Michael returned, he earned all “I love you” every day. It is very clear that Nena had remarried when the family A’s and B’s. Although high school was over- Michael is still on quite a journey.moved to Ashland. Michael was ten so they whelming, Nena took Michael off of an IEP, My Jeremiah graduated from the culi-went to Walker Elementary where they thinking that he’d need to learn to “make nary arts program at New Marketdetermined that based on age, he’d enter it or break it.” Michael played Woodstock in Vocational Skills School in Tumwater,the 5th grade but academically, was still in the school’s adaptation of “Snoopy” and Washington. He doesn’t drive but knowsKindergarten. So Michael started at Walker auditioned as The Dancing Magician for public transportation like the back of hisin the 3rd grade. He was pulled out for Helena’s Night to Shine talent show. After hand. His culinary skills are employed atreading, English, and math. At an IEP that performance, he was hired to do shows Pizza Hut where the homeys call him J-Dog.meeting, she asked what the other students at the community hospital and Masonicwere learning in math: multiplication Home. Michael graduated from high school This is dedicated to my Dad, Johntables. “Why not Michael?” Because he’s at age 21 with a B+ average. He was also Scherrer (1930–1997). I heard the wordsautistic. Shortly after that meeting there voted Helena High School Homecoming you were trying to say. JMwas a three day weekend. Taking advantage King by his classmates. To celebrate gradu-of his memorization skills, Nena put ation, Nena and Michael spent a week inMichael into his room with a lose bag over London and Paris. Michael said “I’ll neverhis head to eliminate distractions, where he forget that trip.” Janel Salazar leads an Autism Supportwas tasked with reciting multiplication Returning to Ashland in 2000, Michael Group that meets every second Thursday oftables. On Tuesday, the other students attended Rogue Community College for the month at 7p.m. at RVMC Smullinwere up to 3x3 and Michael could respond over two years before transferring to Center. She co-organizes projects throughwith any random problem up to 20x20 - to Southern Oregon University where he is The Autism Group Foundation, a non-prof-which Michael immediately told his mother, now a senior majoring in Communications it organization, and serves on the Boards“400.” Michael’s step-dad, John, worked with an emphasis on video productions, for Living Opportunities and Ashlandwith him every night after school. and is earning a minor in Applied Multi- Supportive Housing (ASH). Salazar pro-Multiplication was followed by division. Media. This June, Michael is going to duces Autism Evolution at Rogue ValleyMichael’s handwriting was very poor so Hawaii to film a capstone project with his Television and is a policy advisor for Rep.they worked on printing, and then cursive. class. The Success at Southern program Peter Buckley on issues related to autism.Michael would say “I can’t” and John would has been instrumental to Michael’s success For more information contactsay “Yes you can.” at the collegiate level with assistance in or (541) 324-6660. To burn off energy or adrenaline, tutoring, note-taking, and time and a half JUNE 2008 ı JEFFERSON MONTHLY ı 13