Thursday, April 22, 2010

Reauthorization of what act?

Looking at the comment from "wise educator" on this Inside Ed Post, I realized it had been a while since I tried to spark up some City Schools discussions. I got an email today that seems a perfect opportunity. I've pasted the text below the break. You can go there if you haven't already received and read the same email. If you didn't receive this email it's not some super secret list of people in the know. All you need to do is add yourself to the email list here.

Now, onto the discussion.

I feel like I'm not exactly clueless on education, but I had no idea what the "Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act" was. It was only a few google search clicks away to find this and this. I don't mind doing a little digging and all, but you'd get more takers on the invite if there was a little bit of an explanation, like "the Obama administration's take on the federal government's role in education and revisions to the No Child Left Behind Act."

As a parent of a special needs student, I've been none too impressed with Mr. Duncan. There have been a lot of other issues to get through on the president's plate, though, so I'm trying to remain optimistic. I'm hoping that this meeting will outline some vision and generate some discussion to keep me optimistic. I'm not sure how much useful discussion there will be in this setting, and a "roundtable" discussion with 200 people seems pretty unmanageable to me. Plus, I wouldn't mind an agenda. But those are quibbles.

Regardless, someone from this household will be there. Given the eleven years we've invested in City Schools and the seven to ten that we've still got to go, we'll be there.

April 22, 2010
Dear City Schools Colleagues, Staff, Partners and Friends,

The Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners and the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools invite you to a Roundtable Discussion on the Reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and what it means for City Schools. The discussion will take place this coming Monday, April 26, 2010, 3-5 p.m., in the auditorium at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture at 830 East Pratt Street, Baltimore MD 21202.

A reception will immediately follow the discussion.City Schools’ leadership will be joined at this important event by:
  • Michael Casserly, Executive Director of the Council of the Great City Schools
  • Gary Huggins, Executive Director of the Aspen Institute's Commission on No Child Left Behind
  • Charmaine Mercer, Senior Education Policy Advisor for the House Committee on Education and Labor
If you would like to attend, please R.S.V.P. to Kerry Whitacre Swarr at 410-396-8803 or by noon on Friday, April 23, 2010. This event is limited to 200 R.S.V.Ps, but there are still plenty of open slots.

Parking is available directly across the street on the corner of Pratt and President Streets at the Dodge PMI Little Italy Garage (815 E. Pratt Street).

Thank you. And I hope to see you there.

Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D.CEO, Baltimore City Public Schools

Saturday, April 10, 2010

How's that weight loss resolution going?

So the weight loss program at work had a three part homework assignment for this weekend. I'm posting part one - Saturday morning - here:

Why I’m committed to a healthier lifestyle and loosing weight:

I know that I am a strong person, but carrying around all this extra weight is going to soon take its toll. It might be knee problems, high blood pressure or something else, but given how heavy I am something is going to give. I really need to be healthy and able for the long term for my own goals and for my responsibilities.

Another thing I know is that the majority of my weight gains periods have had to do with stress and frustration. I know that I have choices in dealing with stress and I choose to meet it head on with a joyful attitude. I know that this requires conscious effort, but really – what’s the point of being alive if you are not consciously involved in life? I know that if I see my weight is in an unhealthy place and I am not moving towards a healthier weight I am eating out of stress.

What I’ve gained so far in my effort:

- I am empowered – I know I can loose weight and I know what does and doesn’t work
- I feel a big mood boost when I am successful – this morning my total loss is >16 lbs and this week is going to be back on track for a weekly loss of 1 – 2 lbs. I’m really happy about that
- I’m starting to fit better in some clothes and it won’t be long before I can get some summer shorts that are a size down from the ones that were tight last summer.
- I’m looking for ways to fit exercise in my life and because of that in my kids’ lives. I think this will keep them on a healthier path than I have been on

Conclusions & re-commitment:

I hit a plateau a few weeks ago during a period of stress. I’m happy that I didn’t gain back the weight I had lost, but I did get stuck for the better part of a month. The weather is nice and even though the workload isn’t going down I know that I can find time every day to exercise and every night I can find other things to do besides eat to de-stress. I’m on a good path and it’s a long term change I’m committed to, not just hitting a specific weight or BMI.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

So proud

So, for post #2 in autism awareness month - I just want to post a picture with a brief description. Here's msk in full joy mode. Joyfully engaging in perseverative behavior - climbing on a plant stand and jumping over and over. I love the total and complete happiness that simple activities can bring him. This behavior is not in any way "recovered" from autism. As I sit and watch the over and over and over process that defines what msk does to relax and unwind, I've stopped worrying about what people think or wonder about him. I'm just watching out for him and soaking up the joy in existence.

So the instruction from @shannonrosa was to "Tweet it loud, blog it proud: I love my child with autism" and that's exactly what I'm doing.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Moving beyond awareness

April is Autism Awareness month and today, April 2nd is World Autism Awareness Day. Raising awareness is all well and good, but isn't time to set our goals a little higher?

At this point isn't everyone aware of autism? Awareness is such a vague word, with such a low criteria. If you've watched Rainman or Mercury Rising aren't you aware of autism? If you've heard something, but haven't followed court cases and you think that vaccines cause autism I guess you are aware of autism. I can't speak for more than the people I come in contact with, but I think amongst them, autism awareness is a done deal.

That's not to say outreach and communication isn't required - it's just that we need to move forward. Here's my list of goals in order of difficulty.

Beyond rumors and feelings about autism, we need some real understanding and education. Some high points for me are:
  • Basic facts need to be spread - typical traits that help others distinguish autism from "spoiled" kids would prevent many hurt feelings. Witness the whole SmockityFrocks debacle.
  • The diversity of autism needs to be communicated - if you base your understanding of autism on a single individual you need to know that autistics can be all over the map: Verbal, non-verbal or limited speech; Frustrated or joyful; Social or reclusive. You get the point.
  • When we talk about autism we need to make it clear that it is not a death sentence - Autistics can live long rich lives. They may need support through that lifetime, but that doesn't mean they or their parents need to be pitied.
Along with the understanding and knowledge, how about instilling some empathy? Autistics and their caretakers may seem different than you, but they have feelings. Put yourself in their shoes for a few minutes. Try to understand a sensory overload meltdown or frustration with being unable to communicate effectively. How would you feel if you were forced into isolation because you didn't seem normal enough?

Once you see the humanity of people with autism it should be clear that they, like lots of "different" people will enrich society if we can make a place for them. Neurotypical kids grow through interactions with autistic kids. Strengths, for example msk's mind-blowing artwork, need to be celebrated. Providing accessibility to people with sensory sensitivities is as important as ramps for people in wheelchairs.

Civil Rights
This is the pinnacle in my mind and a point that we must reach sooner rather than later. msk needs to be seen as a member of society with all the rights that entails. Discrimination and exclusion are not just morally wrong; we need them to be recognized as illegal. The law needs to have teeth and be taken seriously. There are too many stories of pain, suffering and even death. We need to be understanding of other viewpoints, but my kid can't afford complacency in the face of injustice.