Educating the world about Reactive Attachment Disorder through experience, hope, humor and love.
(Warning: nothing here should be taken as medical advice)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Blocking inappropriate web content

I think I'm no different than most parents when I say I wish my children would always make the right decisions.  But they don't, and trying to stay two steps ahead of them at all times drives me crazy.  With my youngest daughter getting to *that age*, I'm constantly asking her to change something on her Facebook page, or remove things, or whatever.  I know, some parents say they would never allow their 12 year old to go on Facebook, but there are some battles that I know can't be won.  If they don't do it here, they will do it somewhere else and at least this way I can keep tabs on what they are up to.  Personally, I would rather attach a webcam to their head that they can't remove, but that isn't exactly practical so I do what I can to keep up with them. 

Of course, an online presence presents a whole new set of issue that our parents didn't have to deal with.  Cyber-bullying and pornography are the two that immediately come to mind.  Making sure that I am "friends" with my kids on Facebook allow me to keep tabs on the first one, but the second one isn't quite that easy.

Last week I had some downtime at work and figured I would look into things.  I did quite a bit of looking around and researching web content filters.  There are a LOT of products out there that will help keep our kids from seeing inappropriate content, but I didn't want to spend any money (I just moved and really don't have it to spend if I don't have to!).  Initially I considered putting a separate box with the filter on it between their computers and the Internet, forcing all their traffic to go through that.  That would be the most secure and easiest to maintain since I would only have a single installation to configure.  But that would require another computer to be on all the time, and although I have plenty of computers sitting around and am certainly tech-savvy enough to pull it off, I started to think about what if they took their laptop to somebody elses house?  All my filtering plans would be worthless. (Of course, they could always use other peoples computers to bypass the filtering, but I can't stop that no matter what...)

Eventually what I settled on was K9 Web Protection... (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/) - the price is right (it's free!), and it does what I need it to.  Not to mention, you can just install it and it works right out of the box.  Of course if you want, it's highly configurable and you can set it to block all sorts of things.  Another nice thing about it is that it logs all attempts to access anything that's blocked, so you can see what your child is up to.  I don't ever want this blog to be in the business of product placement, but this is one utility I highly recommend!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Educating the clueless...

The night before I moved two states away and brought my younger daughter with me, her and her older sister got into a bit of a fight.  The younger one was left bruised and, as instructed by the older daughters case worker, we called SFPD.  Now, violent behavior is not typical with my oldest daughter - she is actually anything but.  But I guess the stress of my moving with the other daughter and her staying behind (albiet temporary while her and the wife finished packing up the place) was too much for her.  Considering I'm the one she's most attached to and I was leaving her behind, I can see why that would cause her to act out.  (But it does seem to have paid off)

Anyway, the cop arrived and I explained to him what happened.  He wanted to know if she was violent so I began to try and explain to him her issues.  He pretty much shut me down saying he didn't believe in "all those therapists and their diagnoses", claiming she "sounds like pretty much every teenager".  He then proceeded to "talk" to her.  And by "talk" I mean give her a 15 minute lecture on how "it isn't ok and the next time the officer might not be so nice, and in Washington things might be different and blah blah blah".  I was watching and could literally pinpoint the moment when she tuned him out.  Was at most, 3 minutes into his speech.

I couldn't help but shake my head and think about how useless he was.  He left, all smug and convinced he had made a difference, but he accomplished nothing except in his own head.  If it never happens again, it certainly won't be because of him.

Fast forward a week.  I'm two states away enrolling my oldest in school.  The local High School is 1100 students and I'm signing the consent form for them to get my daughters psych eval from her Day Treatment Center when I see the counselor.  She's heading into her office and I slip in behind her just as she's closing the door, telling her I need to chat with her about my daughter.  She has apparently already spoken with my daughters case manager and read the I.E.P., although she (obviously) hasn't seen the eval yet.  So I express my concerns - that 1100 students is FAR to large a school, my daughter will get lost and give up.  That she needs more individual attention.  That emotionally she's about 10 years old but with the body of a 16 year old which is a dangerous combination.  That she bases her self worth on how much attention she can get from boys, and is too naive to protect herself.  I could tell she sort of got it, but not really.

So I asked her if she was familiar with attachment disorder.

And got a blank stare.

She then proceeded to tell me they have a great special ed program at the school that they actually bus students into from all over the district.  That it's a "school within a school" where the students can go when they are feeling overwhelmed or out of sorts, but they do integrate them into the regular classrooms as much as possible. 

That isn't going to work.  I know exactly what is going to happen.  My daughter will get there, become overwhelmed, she'll make sure her blood sugars are so high that she can't focus, which helps her not have to deal with the things that overwhelm her, and she will begin the same downward spiral that I fought so very hard to break her out of by getting her into the DTC in the first place.  I tried to explain this to the counselor and got nowhere.  "We have a nurse that will come in and help her with her blood sugars"... uhh..hello?  She's had "a nurse come in and help her with her blood sugars" ever since kindergarten.  If that was the answer, I wouldn't be in this womans office in the first place.

So what do these two experiences have in common?  Simple... the world needs more education with special needs children.  I know, I know.. people don't want to learn about things that make them uncomfortable or don't benefit them.  Special needs children are not typically the kinds of things that make people feel all warm and cozy inside, so human nature tends to try and put them out of their mind.  Once you learn about something, you tend to recognize it and see it.  Special needs children can be depressing - after all, they're just children and they are going through so much.  That's sad.  If that doesn't break your heart, well.. I dunno what to say about you.  And who wants to go through life seeing sadness everywhere?  Not many people.  So they become good at tuning it out, and resist knowing more about it.

But it has to be done.  There are no cookie-cutter children, they aren't robots, they are innocent children who need our help because they can't do it on their own.  And yet, many of the people tasked with helping them seem to turn a blind eye to their individual difficulties and treat them as though they are all cut from the same cloth.  It's time we, as parents, stand up and educate them.  Mental health issues in children need to be addressed and faced.  Even if you can't do much, you can do something.  Even if it's something as simple as "accidentally" leaving a website up on a computer at the library, or leaving a book out.  Join a support group if you have any nearby (strength in numbers ya know), or attend school district counsel meetings.  Maybe, even just go in and have a chat with the school counselor. 

We may leave frustrated, but eventually we can win. And when we win, our children win.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Moonbeam Jerry does right by children with autism...

I am Governor Jerry Brown
My aura smiles
And never frowns
Soon I will be president...

Ahhh.... Even though I'm now all "grown up", I still love the Dead Kennedys.  And having Jerry Brown as the governor of California again has caused me to pull out all the old stuff (although now I have it on CD instead of vinyl).  It was easy to make fun of him back then - after all, I was a teenager and knew everything!

But he just signed a bill forcing insurance companies to provide coverage for children with autism and other developmental disabilities, and I find myself thinking he's not such a clown after all.  Currently in California, insurers can deny coverage for developmental disabilities because they are classified as an "education" service.  This all changes next July!  Although neither of my children suffer from autism, I am ecstatic for those parents who will be helped by this.

When I first started this blog, I really delved into the world of Special Needs Parenting blogs, and a vast majority of them are by parents dealing with autism.  I had *no clue* how common this problem was (and is), despite a family member being affected by it, and it makes me sad.

I am no longer the young punk who just wanted to play his music and ignore the world - I want to make a difference.  In my life, my childrens lives, and the lives of those around me.  But although I can fight and kick and scream for change, I'm no politician.  I don't have the power they do.  And although the punk rocker inside me still dislikes "the establishment", I at least feel better knowing that at least one of them has taken a step forward to provide help for the children who need it the most.

Go Moonbeam!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Moving... from one battle to another

Well with the big move almost complete (the younger daughter and I are in Seattle now, while the wife and older daughter are still in San Francisco for another week or so), I finally have Internet access and am back.  Before the move I decided that I would only bring the younger daughter up with me for several reasons.  One being the thought that the older daughter would be more helpful with packing things up and getting the old place ready to hand back over to the owners (we felt the younger one would just hinder that process).  Another being that she would be able to remain in the day treatment center for that much longer before transferring up here where we have no idea where she'll end up.  Another big reason is one-on-one time.  The younger one needs more alone time with me, and the older one needs more alone time with the wife.  Both of them work really hard to divide the family into two teams (younger and mom vs older and dad) so we figured this would take them out of their element and force them to rely on the parent they are always fighting against.

And it seems to be working - without the other sibling around, both girls have been fairly cooperative and RRFTBA (Responsible, Respectful and Fun To Be Around) which is really all we ask of them.

Of course, this isn't to say things have gone smoothly.  The week prior to the youngest and I heading up to Seattle, things ramped up quite a bit.  The oldest began acting out, which we expected, but we weren't quite prepared for the intensity of it.  A week before the initial move I received a call from her case manager who told me she was becoming violent at school.  Of course, usually when she acted out at school we had "quiet time" at home - she rarely acted out in both places.  Not so this time.  What they were seeing at school was exactly what we were seeing at home.  It got bad enough that the day before we left, we ended up calling the police (as instructed by her case manager) due to a physical altercation between the two girls.  Who started it I don't know, but it quickly escalated to the point where the younger one had bruises on her neck from being karate chopped several times (and the older one doesn't even know karate!). 

It was pretty apparent that the older daughter was acting out because she didn't want to stay behind and she figured if she could make mom upset enough, she would just HAVE to come with me.  And boy did she try to make that happen!  But we didn't give in, and although she continued to act out for several days after we left, she eventually eased up and mellowed out.  Last I heard, she was actually being helpful with packing things up!  Of course, I kept trying to tell her that the more she helped out, the easier it would be and the sooner we could get them up here, but reasoning and future planning isn't exactly a strong point with most RADs.

Are things easy?  Oh hell no... but they are getting better.  I still have my concerns about where she'll end up here - the local High School that she would normally attend is 1100 people.  Far too large for her - she'll get lost in the crowd.  Her IEP states that she needs to attend a "non-public day treatment center", but I suspect the school is going to try and get around that.  So I know I have a huge fight ahead of me.  Granted, this particular HS allegedly has the best Special Ed program of all the HSs in the district (we really did luck out with the schools here - all the Junior and Senior High Schools around here are 5 star) but she doesn't want to be in Special Ed.  She wants to be in mainstream classes, which have been proven NOT to work for her. 

So although the work to get her into the right program for her is just beginning, at least the " battle for supremacy" at home has faded and I no longer have to stress on that - I can now use all my spare energy fighting the schools again.  And hopefully get something in place before she comes up here and again pushes her boundaries trying to see what she can get away with in a new  place....