A Letter to Special Education Teachers:

(Originally posted in a 27,000+ member Facebook group for Special Education Teachers and Support Staff)

Dear Fellow Teacher,

This group has had numerous posts and articles with hundreds of comments on the topic of Special Education Teachers being physically abused and assaulted by students with disabilities. There are so many people in this group, and so many varied answers. However, I find myself feeling frustrated and agitated with the lack of perspective and level of judgement by some professionals in this group in regards to this subject in particular. The subject, again, being violent/physically abusive children. However, please note that it does cross over into nearly ANY single negative aspect of educating a child with a disability – when that aspect is directly attributed to their disability.

First, I want to clearly recognize that there is such a thing as a child with a disability that is responding violently, and that the violence can be unrelated to any of their disabilities. I know that does exist. But for the intent of this letter, I am going to speak to the other (much larger in special education) percentage of children, the group of children that are physically violent and it is in direct relation/due to their disability.

From the comments and reactions on posts/articles, I’m not entirely sure if some of you really truly recognize that there are children out there with disabilities that affect them in such a way that they are completely unable to control their violent and physical outbursts. My daughter is one of these children. She is loving, caring, generous, and has a heart of gold. Yet her disability prevents her from being able to exhibit the self-control and whatever else it takes to not respond physically and aggressively when she is perturbed in nearly any way.

There are many children like my daughter. These kids cannot have the violence “disciplined out of them”, ABA does not “train it out of them”, fear of law, returned violence, or even threat of death cannot allow them to simply control themselves. Again, this is their disability. That doesn’t mean they won’t have good days and bad days, that at times something clicks and they are able to handle a situation beautifully. It happens. But that also doesn’t mean they can control themselves all the time and are choosing not to, or they simply “aren’t motivated enough”.

Excerpt of my daughter at home… sobbing hysterically, “I don’t know why I get so mad!!! Why do I get so mad! I don’t want to be angry, I hate myself!” Enter self harm. Suicidal ideations. Scars on arms from scissors. Yes, she also has depression and anxiety in addition to her other conditions – but these thoughts are in direct relation to her inability to respond typically, and the violent, mean, abusive, aggressive responses or outbursts she has. Teachers, I just want to give you a little view of home life. She knows right from wrong, she LOVES people. Her inability to control herself has led to a self-image that is very, very difficult to live with.

Just like a child that is perhaps cognitively impaired and unable to show control of their bladder, requiring diapers and stinky, unpleasant diaper changes throughout the day, these children have special needs that go above and beyond the care of a typical child. It’s so unfortunate that their dysfunction is painful and actually dangerous at times.

When you sign up to be a special education teacher, you are signing up to help teach all children with all disabilities, and this includes children that have conditions like my daughter. They are protected by law, which clearly states that they deserve a free and appropriate public education, just like everyone else. If you are unable to handle the physical nature of a child that has an emotional disability, I understand. It really takes a special kind of a person to be able to effectively handle and deal with that. But you need to recognize that the child has a disability – and that they deserve everything the sweet, quiet child with Cognitive Impairment has, or the funny, quirky, at times agitating child with autism or ADHD gets.

You can make the choice to work in a classroom, school, or a district where you are not going to be caring for the hardest of the hard kiddos – but again, when you run into those children that I’m speaking of, instead of belittling parents or the children themselves(!), consider the fact that you did indeed sign up for this, and that if there is an issue, it is with your level of training and education as a professional or how your school district is organizing its special education students. I’m not saying it’s a teacher issue — I’m saying it’s an educational issue or it’s a structural issue, not a student or family issue.  

I’m sorry that my daughter has hurt other people, it sucks so bad. A para I care greatly about had to have surgery on her shoulder due to an incident with my daughter that consequently led to a legal battle with insurance and her losing her home. It’s so hard not to feel guilty. I take that back, it’s impossible not to feel guilty. I just reign it in. The para hugs me, and says, “I knew exactly where I was working and what I was doing. I chose this job. It’s not her or your fault.” Ugh. But again, welcome to the world of disability. It isn’t a pretty thing. It hurts emotionally, and physically. Perhaps financially. I suppose someday they might have special education degrees that say a person is certified to teach the blind only, or autism only, or cognitive impairment only. But right now, it’s to teach children with disabilities. Period.

I’m rather tired of defending my parenting, my doctors, my decisions, and my daughter from society in general. It’s been a nearly 11-year battle of explaining, “No, really, she’s not a horrible brat. She has an invisible disability, and it makes life harder for her than for us, trust me.” It’s hard to convince people on the outside that I’m not a horrible parent. I’m also tired of my 3 years in this group, finding myself defending the fact that IT SUCKS THEY ARE VIOLENT, but hey – we parents certainly don’t pick it, they didn’t pick it, but YOU — dear teacher — you decided you wanted to dedicate your time and energy to help children with disabilities. So, yes, you did pick IT. Unfortunately it is indeed a blank check.

I find it extremely unfortunate that our higher education system doesn’t fully prepare teachers to effectively handle these students. It’s such a disservice to you and to them. I find it awful that many school districts don’t have the organizational structure to really best serve these children, and in turn, help their special education teachers out, too. It’s not fair to the teachers or the children. But regardless, there is a need for champions for these children. They deserve love, affection, attention, proper ‘care and handling’, education, and the chance to grow and stretch into the most functional people they can be.

Thanks for reading,
Mother and Special Education Teacher



Is This Blog Fair? Does it Respect My Daughter?

I’ve been wanting to post an update about Emma in here for a while now. However, along with all the other roadblocks to regular blogging, a month or so ago an interesting article halted me in my tracks. Did my attitude(s) about my daughter’s disability have the potential to hurt her? Harm her future? Affect her outcome within the general public?

I’ve questioned the public display of her/my/our lives before. However, in the end, I always felt that the pros outweighed the cons. The post by Ellen Stumbo, however, made me stop and think. I immediately went online and disabled my blog from public to private. I needed time to think and process, I needed to re-evaluate and make sure that A Vision of Autism (AVA) was indeed respecting Emma and her rights as an individual.

As I went about my own chaos, this subject churned about in the back of my mind. Days went by, and I thought about the people I had sent links to view this blog, and I thought about those that had already viewed it. Instead of feeling helpful, should I feel embarrassed? I wasn’t sure how to answer the question, and so AVA remained private.

The other day Emma and I were driving to The Children’s Hospital for a follow up at a specialty clinic. She started a game of “Truth or Dare” in the car with me, which I found funny and mildly terrifying. I had no idea what was in her head as far as truths or dares would be, and if she asked something I couldn’t perform, what kind of situation would unfold? However, things remained pretty clean and easy. She did dare me to be a REALLY REALLY bad driver, and so I did. I sped up past the semi-truck and passed it, and I did exceed the speed limit. 🙂 She truth-ed me about things like the grossest thing I’d ever seen, and I dared her to count to 100, and it was all good.

That’s when I realized I had the answer to my question. Why not just get to the TRUTH of the matter? I told Emma that I really needed her to listen like a young adult, and not a little girl, and I told her about my blog. I was as objective as possible, and I was honest. I let her know that I talked about our problems, issues she is having, and how things really are at home. I told her that I had this blog for three reasons. First, because I like having a record of our life – a sort of digital memory book of our journey. Second, I find it to be very helpful for my emotions and moving through them. (This is a concept she relates well too, as much of her life she has found writing about an angry/fearful event to help her to regain a level of calm or acceptance.) Third, I told her that I believe it helps other parents and families to understand that they are not alone, and that they can sometimes feel some sense of connection and help from my blog. I explained that some people are concerned that the person with the disability (the one being written about) might later feel unhappy, disrespected, embarrassed, and not want that writing to have been put online. I asked her, “What do you think about my blog, and how does it make you feel?”

Her first and instant response was, “I feel really happy! I think it’s so great that you can help other parents by talking about me!”

JACKPOT. I suddenly knew that this is what others needed to know. I told her, “Wait!!! I need to record this!” and I got out my phone. I clicked my instant photo button, so I could remain safe on the road, intro-ed, and handed the phone to Emma. You can watch the video and hear her answer yourself.

Summary: She thinks it’s great, and wants for other parents to not feel alone. She was also insightful, and in her own words expressed that some kids might not like the blog. But other kids, like her, won’t mind at all. I let her know that I would re-evaluate if she was still okay with my blog when she was an older teenager, and she agreed that would be a good and helpful thing to do.

In essence, I don’t think that Ellen is necessarily correct. I believe that every person is different, and will have different thoughts and feelings about their situation and how it is portrayed publicly. Like nearly EVERYTHING about autism – a “Once Size Fits All” approach just doesn’t work. So, ce la vie! AVA is staying active for the next 4 or 5 years at least. Then she and I will sit down and talk about this again.

Thank you for reading, feel free to comment! Updates on current lifestyle’s of the not-so-rich and famous will be coming within the week. XOXO


Being Here Now

It’s very hard to play catch-up when there have been so many ups and downs. So, instead, I’m just going to tell you where we are at right here and now. *note: the last 3 months might not seem ‘here and now’ but in the big picture, it is.

In the past 3 months we’ve seen:

-2 more inpatient admittances to the NSC Unit at The Children’s Hospital
-Auditory and Visual hallucinations
-A pain disorder, involving over 3 weeks combined in a wheelchair
-Physical aggression that is uncontrolled
-Cutting and other forms of self-injury

Settings for all of us have changed:

-Emma has been placed this year in our local BOCES School of Excellence, in what is called the Liberty Program. It’s a special program for children with a dual diagnosis of autism and X (usually Intellectual Disability). To give you an idea of ratio, this program serves 19 school districts. Her class consists of grades K-5 and has a total of 9 kids it it. It’s the most supportive learning environment that I know of for the most challenged kiddos in 19 districts. Last year she was in a self-contained affective needs classroom with some of the most amazing staff that could ever exist. They were fantastic, but the year was only somewhat successful due to her increasing rage and emotional regulation issues. Hence, the move to BOCES.

-At the beginning of this school year I terminated my full-time Special Education Teacher position, and took the part-time position at the school where I teach. Emma’s physical, emotional, and therapeutic needs were looking rather overwhelming when taking the time and commitment that the full-time teaching position requires. (Note, this does not by any stretch mean that we are truly financially capable of having me only work part time. Only that we saw that full-time was not going to work, and lucky for me there was a part time opening at my school.)

-We moved to Fountain, Colorado into a beautiful house, my son moved to California for a job, and my husband got a new job with a much more rewarding company.

This last quarter of life has been truly exhausting. Emma’s daily life at school consists of multiple de-escalations, restraints, seclusions, and injury all-around. Before anyone gets their hackles up, as a SPED teacher and very protective mother I can tell you without any doubt – they were all necessary and done with all of the patience, care, and professionalism due. Unfortunately, her inability to control herself require those things to happen. Regardless, nothing can really prepare a mother for the bruises that a restraint can cause. You save your tears for later, and calmly question her, “If you were having a safe body, would this have happened?” (no.) “Do you think that they wanted to do this?” (no.) “Do you think they like doing this to you?” (no.) “Do your teachers care about you and want you to be safe and happy?” (yes.) And it’s all true.

Later on in bed you can cry a little as you imagine the pavement being ground into your kids face while multiple adults keep her from kicking, running into traffic, or punching another student in the face. It’s not fun, and it’s not fair. But it’s reality.

Anyway, I’ll talk about this week.

Monday was our long-anticipated visit to Dr. A$$. We had been waiting for months to be seen by our new psychiatrist. I’m not going to spend the time right now explaining the details of the visit, but it was not successful, I was not impressed, and we won’t be going back. I took her to school at noon and by 1:15 I was getting a call from her teacher. Calm, supportive, but letting me know that they’d already had 2 incidents and she was currently in a seclusion after a restraint. I went in to pick her up, and she was still in a state of escalation, complaining that they were trying to choke her (again, not true, but her feelings about it regardless). For those that read the sentences prior and don’t have experience with “it”, I will fill you in. This is Emma, all 230 pounds, charging like a maniac after someone for no reason. Kicking, tearing, hitting, screaming and saying very mean things. Cursing. She will send you to the hospital, she is NOT in control, and she is not a little kid. There is no logic to appeal to when she’s escalated. If you don’t work directly with people with similar challenges as Emma, you would be terrified at her coming after you. Restraint means multiple adults having to get her arms and legs under control. No, this isn’t a cops episode, but if you’re imagining that its extremely charged, physical, and aggressive – you are correct. It is a horrible thing. Two of these in an hour and 15 minutes. Great.

Tuesday I drive her to school because she isn’t set back up on the bus after last week’s incident… Oh, you know, the morning she attacked another student that was provoking her, and then attacked the bus aid that tried to step in between them? I’m not sure about the details, but I was called by the police to come and get her at an intersection in a residential area of town. Emma was running around the neighborhood in the snow when the police got there. I got her from the back of the police car and took her home. But I digress, that was last week, I’m talking about THIS week right now.

Tuesday was better than Monday, without any seclusions, but still multiple, severe ongoing issues.

Wednesday (yesterday) was a real doozy. She got on some kick that she needed to bring her brother’s old skateboard to school. I said that wasn’t going to work, it was a big meltdown. She ended up leaving the house and running away. She came back, and then the physical attack on me started. It was heartbreaking and horrible, and there just wasn’t much for me to do. I finally got her to school, and spent a while crying. I wished I could have gone to work for the last 2 hours of my expected shift, but I really couldn’t see myself ‘peopling’ at that point. I felt like a hallowed shell. I got Emma from school, she had multiple incidents at school including restraint and seclusion. She was in process of trying to run away (elope) when I got there. She was a hot mess. Literally, sweating from the exertion, and not in a logical state of mind. It just plain sucks is all I can say. I cannot fully express how hard it is to remain calm and optimistic, realistic, and yet truly accept the experience at hand. There’s no way to really do it. Minimalizing the experience is the only tactic that really works.

Today, Thursday was our first day back on bus service. She got off the bus and staff was smiling and ready to take her immediately to her preferred reward – swing on their playground with the special swing. She didn’t even get inside the school without incident, as she bolted toward the back of the school, picking up big rocks, cursing, and threatening to throw them at staff members heads. She may have thrown some, I don’t know. Running around the parking lot area, it took 6 staff members to eventually get her under control and into the seclusion. When I showed up, she was still not “back to reality”. She tried to bolt again, and I can see she’s literally been tearing the seclusion room apart. She spits at people and throws styrofoam in their faces, telling them “Fuck you!” I can’t stop looking at the muddy, sooty marks on her legs and her ankles from her experience outside.

When talking with staff after we got Emma calmed down, staff expressed to me that they really aren’t equipped at BOCES to handle Emma and keep her safe. It’s true, I totally get it. But I’m dumbfounded. I thought this was the last stop, I guess it’s not. I’m not sure what else is in store for Emma right now…

She’s staying home with me until Tuesday when we meet with District and BOCES staff, because she just isn’t in a state to be controlled or safe. The last thing I want is her bolting and getting hit by a car, or sending a 1st grader to the hospital. I don’t want to get her out of a police car again, not this week, please. I don’t need any more bruises.

After leaving school, we went to Aspen Pointe to see if I can get a new psychiatrist. There are currently no medications to help assist Emma in emotional regulation or etc, we’ve run the gamut. But regardless, we need a psychiatrist. We need everything we can get at this point…

I’ve found myself saying over the past 6+ months that the autism isn’t the real game changer here, it’s the mood disorder. I’d take a little autism any day of the week. The DMDD is the real buzz kill at our house now. I’ll fill you in soon about Emma, what she’s like, and some of the sweet and funny things that she does that brighten my day. There are small rainbows that dazzle. There are some things I’ve learned these last 4 months that other parents might want to be aware of. However, I just felt that in order to get back into blogging on here – I just… I don’t know. I just needed to start somewhere.

Here’s to Friday at home with her tomorrow, hopefully it’s a nice, un-eventful day. Where I don’t get paid. Again. >>sigh<<

Emma and I enjoying hot tub moment Monday after school to chill out together. Quality time. ❤

Emma on Monday, post meltdown and seclusion, enjoying a moment at the park.

On Sharing

I recognize that a small part of my hesitation in sharing these less-positive parts of my life come from the feeling that it’s like a horrible car accident people are driving by. MY car accident. I’m on the side of the road, my underwear shat in, my car is totaled, and no one driving by can tell if it’s my fault or not. My hair looks awful and everyone around is crying hysterically as papers, dirty laundry, and other belongings thrown from the wreck hang all out for passersby to see. It’s ugly, and it’s personal; I am on fire.

You can’t help but slow down to about 2 MPH and get a good look at the gong show as you drive by with your own little traveling circus, because mine is so rich with it’s own unique awfulness. That’s for the people whose lives have never been routinely and in-depth affected by a person with an emotional and developmental disability. “Wow. I had no idea that’s what [it] looks like.” Meanwhile, I’m still kind of trying to pretend that I know what I’m doing, and living a normal life.

That’s what blogging about my life and my shit feels like, in some ways. It’s extremely humbling. Yet I don’t want pity. And even though I don’t want anyone to talk to me about it, I’m dying of isolation – I want people to talk to me about it. All the time. I can’t win.

And for the people that read and do have some idea of the different levels of hell I deal with on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis [they have their own road-side car accident, and are on fire, too] I fear judgment. I fear that my hell is WAY better than their hell. I feel that no one can really understand, and so sometimes the idea that someone thinks they might understand is annoying and frustrating. It makes no sense. None of it.

When it comes to my family, same thing. I wish that they really knew what I was going through. What life with Emma was really like. The insanity of her sweetness combined with the hysterical demon-self that ravages our lives. Yet, when they really understand – I DON’T LIKE IT. I want them kept in ignorance: maybe things are okay. Maybe Daleth is okay. It’s almost as if I need my family to have that hopeful inkling that things will turn out ‘normal’ someday and keep that thought alive FOR ME, because there is no way that I can personally keep that hope alive right now. And if I fill them in about my life, they might lose that hope too — and then who will keep that torch burning?

One of the reasons I’ve avoided blogging and talking too much about my life with Emma is because I’ve worried it will affect my career. (insert laughter here, please.) Well, my career has been ended, at least for the moment, because of Emma’s needs. Another reason is because I worry that friends, family, and co-workers will pass judgment on my ability to function and be present for them. That they will …kind of… find the strange parenting life that I have and my stresses as too much of a delineation. That perhaps we just don’t have enough in common [because of my life with Emma]. This is probably an irrational fear, stemming from an experience as a pregnant teenager dealing with losing my high-school friends. I recognize. I process as I write this. That’s why I’m doing this.

It’s like, if people see how broken my home life and mental state with my daughter really is, they will think that I MUST be as broken as she is, and treat me like I am disabled too.


Well, this week, I feel a little bit that way. Ask my husband and my two sisters. I’ve been living in a war zone. I’m feeling damaged.

I promise that future posts might possibly have more of a point, and content, and something to be gained from reading. Thanks for being here.


This Blog Reborn: You Have a Choice

Greetings readers and followers from the past…I am back, and I’m here to stay. However, I’d like to make it clear that you have a choice to make about your mental involvement with this blog. I am not exactly the same person I was when this blog was created and you started following it (likely you are not exactly the same person, either). Also, this blog will not serve exactly the same purpose it did before.

I am not here to share multiple fruitful blessings and gains, celebrate successes, and share my cute little tricks on how I got my daughter to wear socks or eat some stew. I’m only here for me. Because I am the only one that CAN be here for me about this, and it is through writing that I can serve myself as a support. Times have been hard for my daughter, and – of course – this means that they are very hard for her parents and family as well. Part of the reason I stopped blogging is because I felt so down and negative about it all. I am NOT a happy camper. No one really wants to consistently hear about my shit. It’s not a way for other autism parents to move forward with a positive attitude. *but, again, I’m not here for anyone else anymore.

It’s me, and my sanity, in a warzone against the raging forces of Emma and her constant battle for happiness in her irrational, unpredictable world of pain and victimization.

Please read my disclaimer page and know that I really mean it. I curse, I vent. You may find yourself written about on here. That includes my family, friends, co-workers, ex-husband, sisters, mother, daughter, son, etc etc etc. You get it. It’s my life. I’m simply opening the door to exposure because I need people to read what I write. I can’t explain why it helps, but again, it’s all I’ve got.

Thank you for being here for me, I have many things to write about.

Because It’s True

I’m laid up. I had foot surgery last week. Everything went well, I’m in no pain, but I can only spend 15 minutes of every hour with my foot NOT elevated. And that 15 minutes includes no contact with the floor. It’s not easy to get around!

This whole time could have been an absolute nightmare, and it hasn’t been. My dear mother, who is ready at the drop of a hat to help her children whenever possible, came down to take me to the surgery and help with the ensuing chaos.

And believe me. My house is chaos. Between me being grumpy, Emma’s insistent nature and house-destroying abilities, and my incredibly messy house… I think we about did her in. 🙂 But she was here, with grace and [usually] patience, to ask me if I needed a drink or a kleenex, or a pill, or anything my heart desired.

If only everyone was so lucky!

On Losing Therapists

[Preface: This post does NOT mean that I do not reap benefit from the support and love that I do get from my family and existing friends.  I love and appreciate you all, for everything that you do have to offer. <3]


I found out this morning that I am losing the second of Emma’s two original therapists, J1 and J2.  The first ‘left’ when Emma turned three, due to age requirements. The second one is moving to a different facility that will help immensely with her home and family life.

I found myself using all grains of mature and philosophical matter within my being to remain happy and understanding throughout the therapy appointment with J2 this morning. I had to move into a state of denial, at least for the 40 minutes or so after the news.  But after I had dropped Emma off at daycare I found myself sobbing in my car.  Looking for some healing, I bought a venti-cocoa cappuccino from SB and headed to the nearest school computer lab to write-myself-okay. Well, I still find myself in tears.

So Folks, here is a glimpse of my self talk and inner working, all live timed and personal.

I don’t think that I’m just dealing with the loss of J-2. J1 moving on sucked really bad, and I kind of just kept telling myself, “It’s okay, it’s okay, we’ve still got J2…”.  So, now I’m forcing myself to deal with both of them leaving, I guess.

For those that have not experienced this, I’m not crazy and I’m not pre-menstrual. I think the whole deal has to do with the isolating world of parenting a special needs child.  It’s an amazingly solitary act.  When you find yourself a mother of a SN child, you lose all manuals for motherhood.  You no longer have the network of typical child-rearing practices.  All the books, the magazines, TV shows, doctors?  Most of them are useless.  You no longer have satisfaction and trust in the advice and experiences of those around you either.  Your mother, aunts, grandparents, sisters, and friends have very very little to offer in the means of advice and true understanding. It’s what can make me, at times, feel like I’m an alien living on a planet of other people.  And at other times, its the same thing that makes that one or two people that live across oceans seem so close.  It’s true understanding and relating to this wild world of autism.

My therapists are the closest thing I have in my real-physical life to the book-doctor-mother-sister-aunt-manual for how to live my life with my autistic daughter.  I have an overwhelming need for them in my life; who wants to raise a child alone in the forest? Or in my case, in a dry, windy valley at 8,000 feet above sea level?

J1 and J2 stepped into my [at times, and especially then] miserable, confusing life with the grace and compassion of a goddess.  And now they are gone. They both have lives to live of their own, their jobs to do, and other beautiful people to help.

But, oh dear, what in the world am I going to do without them?