About Me

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D. H. Starr is a clean-cut guy with a wickedly naughty mind. He grew up in Boston and loves the city for its history and beauty. Also, having lived in NYC, he enjoys the fast pace and the availability of anything and everything. He first became interested in reading from his mother who always had a stack of books piled next to her bed. Family is important to D. H. and his stories center around the intricate and complex dynamics of relationships and working through problems while maintaining respect and love. His favorite books tend to fall in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, paranormal, and coming of age. To learn more about D. H. Starr and his books, please visit his website at www.dhstarr.com if you are 18+. To view his young adult work and resources, visit www.dhstarrYAbooks.com.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Experience With Autism and Special Needs

Fact about Autism
There is no blood test, no scan, and no image that can detect autism. Diagnosis relies on behavioral observation and screening



As an educator, I have come into contact with autism in all of its multiple forms. In fact, I love the term "spectrum" which is used to describe the wide variety of degree and impact this condition has on the individuals affected. Students diagnosed with autism generally receive special education services and have Individualized Educational Plans (IEPs as they are called in schools). Like any child with special needs, there are multiple hurdles which must be overcome in order for a person to reach their full potential. Some of those hurdles are addressed by professionals who are trained in supporting people with autism, but other obstacles can only be overcome if people change their views on what it means to have "special needs".

Just about every group of people who deal with people with special needs, have misconceptions about what that actually means. Students fear being labeled and parents fear their students will lose self-esteem or get stuck in a track that will hold them back from achieving their full potential. Unfortunately, even some teachers hold different standards and expectations for children with special needs. I can't tell you how many times I've heard, "Well, that would probably be okay work in this class, but this is really good work since it was the special ed class who did it."

People with special needs can achieve everything that people without special needs can achieve, they just require modifications to how material is presented because they learn differently. My experience with autistic people is they can fall between the cracks because they are quiet and don't draw attention to themselves. On the opposite end of the spectrum, they can be highly functional academically, outperforming students at their grade level or even in higher grade levels, but who act out due to a different sense of socially acceptable behavior. These kids get labels as quiet and average or smart and trouble-makers. But if a person has autism, they are neither. Instead, they require the correct set of supports to adequately challenge them and to present material in a manner which suits their personalities and needs.

If I could impart one message to everyone, it is to remember that if someone has special needs, whether that classification is given due to autism or any other condition or diagnosis, it doesn't equate to lesser abilities. So when you hear people holding lower expectations for people with special needs, even if they are doing so with good intentions at heart, speak up, educate people and let them know that we all have special needs from time to time. Heck, I'm a bitch at least once a day so, when that happens, people need to adjust their approach with me or risk getting their heads snapped off. I may not have an IEP, but that doesn't mean I don't have specific needs at different times.

My two protagonists in my newest novel, Feed, Prey, Love which is now available through Ai Press, amazon.com, All Romance, and Barnes & Nobles, are very similar to people with autism, actually. Talib, a two hundred year old vampire has isolated himself from society, not feeling like he belongs and feeling misunderstood by both humans and other paranormals. Conley, an understated human, wants to find someone to accept him for all his quirks, but has learned that men only see him for his beautifully sculpted outer shell. Once they get a glimpse at his peculiar intellect, they run for the hills. It isn't until these two men meet that they find the person who provides what the other needs and then both are able to flourish. Of course, I had to throw a villain into the mix to threaten their happiness, but what fun would a romance novel be without that kind of tension?

For more information about my new release and other books I have written, you can visit my website at www.dhstarr.com. If you would like to purchase Feed, Prey, Love, you can purchase a copy at www.ai-press.net, at amazon.com, All Romance, or Barnes and Noble.

I will give a free copy of Feed, Prey, Love to someone who responds to this blog. I'm interested to hear what your experiences have been with people who have special needs.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

28 comments:

  1. One of my neighbors has Asperger's, and it's been kind of a challenge (he doesn't get why the cats stop playing with him) but he's growing up to be a nice young man. We've all learned some coping strategies.

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    1. That's awesome. It's great he has people who care enough to understand him.

      Doug

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  2. I love this post Doug. My oldest son is a special needs child. He's got a Mild Developmental Disability, an anxiety problem, has a social phobia, and is a little obsessive compulsive, on top of having a learning disability.

    He in fact gets an IEP, and is in a special class, and gets bullied on an almost daily basis. He also get's labelled as the trouble maker because of his anxiety when he's truly such a great kid (most of the time ;-p). It's so frustrating.

    Unfortunately, correct set of supports to adequately challenge them aren't always there and they suffer for it. Or, in other cases such as my own they're there but ignorance interferes and sometimes it does more damage than good. (Long story)

    I love your message though, I just wish everyone held the same oppinion.

    HUGS

    1jenniferlabelle(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for sharing your story Jen. Unfortunately it's one I've heard all too many times. On the plus side, I've been in education long enough and have done enough research to give you hope...

      The largest contributing factor contributing to a child's happiness and success in life (no matter what their needs) is a loving and supportive famile.

      Much love.

      Doug

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  3. Doug, I have to say even though i am not a parent of special needs. I see what these parents go thru everyday with their children. The sad part is that there is not enough being done in the educational system to give parents enough resources and support.

    I hope in time things will get better for children that are special needs and their families.

    Thank you Dough for this post and I hope it reaches more families of special need children.You sir are a great asset to the Educational Community.

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    1. Thanks for your comments, Lupa. I hope so too.

      Doug

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  4. Thank you DH for taking part in this and for your insightful article... HUGS XXXXX

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    1. Thanks for conducting this blog tour.

      Doug

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  5. I remember clearly the day a psychiatrist told us our little girl had autism and an extremely high IQ. She told us this was not Aspergers, but full blown autism.

    The doctor also said something that was enigmatic at the time but made complete sense as the years passed. She said this child would bring to our lives our highest highs and lowest lows. The highs would be with our child and the lows would be from the world's response to our child.

    Thirty years later, I can tell you the doctor was right.

    Thanks for all you do. Education is the key for all of us.

    Donna

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    1. Thanks for your post Donna. I think people are becoming more and more aware of the different classifications of special needs and are seeing diversity in a new light. Still, there's a LONG way to go.

      Doug

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    2. Donna: You won a free copy of Feed, Prey, Love. I just don't know where to send it to. Could you email me at dhstarr@dhstarr.com to let me know where you want the story sent to and what format?

      Doug

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  6. My son has Asperger's and after years of stressing with doctors to finally get him diagnosed and the help that he needs. I also just got his IEP adjusted and it's been a tremendous help for him. Thank you for your very informative post.

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    1. I love hearing stories of parents who are such strong advocates for their kids. Keep it up. From an insider's poiint of view, I can tell you that parents who are the strongest advocates get the fastest results.

      I'll be honest, it's mostly because they are the biggest headaches to deal with, but who cares, your child is all that matters right?

      Doug

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  7. I am also an educator and have taught many a student with an IEP and Autism and Asperger's. Although each experience has been vastly different, each has also been extremely rewarding and fulfilling in my teaching career.
    Yvette

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    1. With an attitude like that, you should consider getting an admin license and become a supervisor of special education.

      Doug

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  8. After years of asking why my son wasn't doing well in school, it took a special teacher to finally fight for my son to be tested. Once it was found that he had a learning disability, with his IEP in place made all the difference in the world. I am so thankful there are teachers out there who fight for their students.

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    1. Great success story. It's wonderful you have connected with someone who paid enough attention to your son to help you follow the right path for him.

      Doug

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  9. My uncle had down\s syddrom but he was a wonderful person, most couldn't understand him but I could, you justhad to listen hard. He was wonderful and he died at 60.

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    1. First, I'm sorry for your loss, but still, what a wonderful tribute to him. I have only had the pleasure of working with one child with DS. She was so outgoing and commanded everyone's attention and love. Not through awkward or attention seeking behavior, but through an inner charm. We called her the Governor since she would shake everyone's hand and seemed to recall each detail about people.

      Doug

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  10. All kids are wonderful no matter their problems. my unclehad down's but he could not talk very well but he still liveda long life he died at age 60 but was one of the happiest people I every seen

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  11. Your experience is amazing to me. You get to help mold these precious people intowho they will be and how they will learn and process things for the rest if their life. it's inspiring. Thank you!!

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    1. Aw. I'm blushing. Thanks for the compliment. I truly love what I do. I was one of those freaks who knew what he wanted to be way back when I was a toddler playing role-games. I was always the teacher. Oddly enough, my best friend was always the nurse and now she's a nurse.

      Doug

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  12. When I was a child there was a young man with Down's that I was afraid of, he was the son of my aunt's best friend and went to the same church so I saw him often. If you were female, no matter what age, you had to hold onto your skirt when he was around because he would lift it high. He was always with his mother and she did nothing to try to stop him. This was over 50 years ago and I guess the general public didn't know that much about this condition. I believe that today this would have been handled much differently. It colored my feelings about Down's people especially for many years until my daughter started working with handicapped adults. Through her I got to know a young man with autism and a couple with Down's and saw how different they were from my memories. Knowledge is freeing, it freed me from some bad memories and opened my mind to understanding.

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    1. That's a wonderful testament Nancy. So few people are open enough to give people or situations a second chance. Kudos to your daughter. She must be a special person with a really cool mom.

      Doug

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  13. Hey everyone. I've had so much fun reading these comments and even more fun responding and sharing a little bit about myself.

    Huge thanks to RJ for putting this whole thing together.

    Doug

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  14. Hi Doug :)

    My daughter Jordan has high functioning autism, and is such a lovely & loving gal, with a penchant for memorization, solving jigsaw puzzles, and talking about toys ;) I was so happy to get her into the public school system for her IEP this school year, because it really did make the difference between her Service Plan the past 3 years and what her teachers and Paras could do for her. She is so excited about school now, she wants to go all year round, so I signed her up for Summer School :) Thank you for all the work you do with the kiddos (I know I as a parent couldn't function without people of your expertise) and congratulations on your book release!!

    Tame

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    1. As always, my thanks goes out to you, Tame, for bringing sunshine to my life whenever you reach out. You are a truly wonderful person.

      Doug

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  15. I just realized I never followed through with the free book giveaway. I entered all the names into a random name selector I found online and Donna is the winner.

    Congratulations.

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