Archive for March, 2009


Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

Here’s a head-scratcher:

Children who live in homes with vinyl floors, which can emit phthalates, are twice as likely to have autism, according to a new study by Swedish and U.S. researchers. Scientists call the discovery “intriguing and baffling.” Experts suspect that genetic and environmental factors combine to cause autism, which has increased dramatically in children over the past 20 years.

What’s strange to me is that I don’t know how to react to articles like this anymore.  Should I just dismiss it, as I have vaccines and advanced paternal age? Or is this the real McCoy?  Is vinyl flooring the real culprit?  Hard to tell after reading further:

The researchers found four environmental factors associated with autism: vinyl flooring, the mother’s smoking, family economic problems and condensation on windows, which indicates poor ventilation.

Is there perhaps something else at play?  Mine is not to question.  Mine is to be BAFFLED. Which I am, more and more, every day.

What a Difference a Day Makes

Monday, March 30th, 2009

After reading this I was relieved to read this. S had been having a rough week and when I went in to pick him up at his pre-school he threw himself on the carpet, laid there stiffly and started to cry. Wha, how, who? I intoned as he refused to move. Had I interrupted him at the wrong time? Did he want to finish his snack, play some more with his friends? Was he tired of me forcing him to kick, pass, punt after school? “Come on. It’s fun!  You can do it!” Yes to all of the above. Then on Sunday when Mama tried to take him home from a playdate, he gave her a whack. It disturbed me a little. My God, my son’s a Diane Arbus character. Run for the hills! When I ran into this it didn’t take much to push me over the edge. The wonderful Kristina Chew pointed me to her post on the subject, stating that when all is said and done we can never know how things will turn out. Now I’m all about long-term studies. Give me some statistics, I shriek. If I’m going to have a feed reader, I’m going to make it work. Today it came up with this and my son was an angel, his true self. My tune has changed: boys will be boys; he’s just four-and-a-half.  What a difference a day makes.

Sunday was wrong.  Monday is right.

Podcast 18

Sunday, March 29th, 2009

Talk to You Later: Notes to My Son, March 27, 2009,
Throwing Homework in the Trash

CMA (California Modified Assessment)

Thursday, March 26th, 2009

Having first heard of the CMA (California Modified Assessment) test last year, I got a real taste for it today at a meeting for resource specialist teachers. Basically, it’s a test for kids with disabilities to be given in lieu of the CAT6/CST, those nightmare tests I’ve been torturing kids with for years. (Try giving state tests to kids who are two or three years behind without any real accommodations, ADHD and SLD kids who two days into the two weeks of testing are ready to jump out of their skin. No fun.) As I noted to a colleague “This test is revolutionary.” Imagine: a test that lets kids use calculators without penalizing them, that shortens comprehension passages without dumbing them down. A TEST THAT ACTUALLY LETS THE STUDENT SUCCEED. Of course, there are certain provisos, which I share below, but the idea that students may be getting testing relief soon is very encouraging. A teacher at the meeting who piloted the test last year sang its praises, the Johnson Baby Shampoo of state exams: “No more tears.” We were all getting pretty worked up when the presenter told us it was too late to give the test this year; it has to be specially ordered. She also reminded us that only 2% of the school can take it. But I say, Who cares! It’s a start. And if I had a school-aged child who had  struggled with state tests in the past I’d be banging on the principal’s door. This new exam? This CMA? This is the test I want my child to take:


The CMA is a new grade-level assessment for students who have an individualized education program (IEP), are receiving grade-level instruction, and, even with interventions, will not achieve grade-level proficiency within the year covered by the student’s IEP. The purpose of the CMA tests is to allow students with disabilities greater access to demonstrate their achievement of the California content standards in English–language arts (ELA), mathematics, and science. Eligible students in grades four and seven also complete a writing assessment—the CMA for Writing—as a part of the CMA for ELA.

See the California Department of Education’s California Modified Assessment Web page for more information about the CMA.

Who Takes the CMA in 2009?

Students in grades three through eight may take one or more of the CMA tests if they:

  • Have an IEP that specifies that they take the CMA for one or more subject; and
  • Scored below basic or far below basic in a previous year on the CSTs for any subject and may have taken the CSTs with modifications (these students may take one or all of the grade-level CMA tests); and
  • Are not eligible to take the California Alternate Performance Assessment (CAPA).

Students shall not take the CMA if they:

  • Do not have an IEP; or
  • Are eligible to take the CAPA.

Some Things Never Change

Sunday, March 22nd, 2009

I found this NYT clipping researching a novel about a Depression-era school.  It was written in 1939 but the wisdom of  this quote by Dr. G.D. Strayer of Columbia’s Teacher’s College is timeless.  I will post these interesting tidbits as I come upon them…


Podcast 17

Saturday, March 21st, 2009

Talk to You Later: Notes to My Son, March 20, 2009
The Day We Saw the President
(Photo by SLP)

Podcast 16

Wednesday, March 18th, 2009

Talk to You Later: Notes to My Son, March 18, 2009

Kiss Me; I’m Irish

Tuesday, March 17th, 2009

Thanks to my wife’s tireless efforts and by virtue of my grandmother’s birthplace (Newcastle, Ireland) I am now an Irish citizen. Eight months after compiling birth, death, and marriage certificates from all over the world (each requiring official seals), after sending and resending all of the documents to the Irish Consulate in San Francisco, my wife called me yesterday at work and asked, “Guess what?” The day before St. Patrick’s Day. Never having been to Ireland, I spent the evening thumbing through travel guides and surfing the Emerald Isle’s autism resources (my lifelong dream to become a gentleman farmer on some craggy plot of Irish land). From IAA (Irish Autism Action) I perused the following service alternatives offered by the DoES (Department of Education and Science):

In Ireland at the moment, the following options exist at Primary School level:

  1. The Department of Education and Science (DoES)  are to deliver what they call the eclectic model in one of three settings;a) ASD Unit in a National Primary School
    Typically, these classes have 6 children with ASD and the educational intervention is delivered by a National School Teacher who has the assistance of a Special Needs Assistant (SNA) whose primary responsibilities are to assist with issues such as toileting, arranging the child’s environment etc.

    b) Special Needs School
    The interventions are the same as outlined above but it is likely that your child will be educated alongside children with other intellectual difficulties.

    c) In a mainstream class in a national primary school, with some assistance (typically some Resource teaching and an SNA)
    In our experience, this setting is only suitable for high functioning children whose diagnosis is extremely mild or High Functioning Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome.

    In all of the three settings described above, there may be a limited input from a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) and Occupational Therapist (OT). The amount of input seens to vary widely in different settings throughout the country. A list of the classes above are available on the DoES website

  2. The DoES also fund what they describe as 13 ‘Pilot Projects’ which deliver intervention to the children through an educational philosophy known as Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). These centres of education, which have on average been in existence for 5 years or more, deliver intensive one-to-one (where necessary) scientific intervention to the children. The majority of the tutors in these centres of education have Primary Degrees in Psychology with many also holding Masters Degrees and Doctorates in Psychology. These centres of education deliver both a longer school day and a longer school year to ensure retention of the skills acquired by the children and to prevent regression during the long school holidays.All of these centres of education were set up by parental lobbying and in some instances, court cases. A list of these centres of education can be found under the Services section of this website, entitled ‘Regional Services’.Whilst there may be some slight variances in enrolment policies, most of the centres of education insist that a child is between the age of 2½  and 7 years of age at point of entry and will require your child to have an Educational Psychological Assessment, which recommends an ABA placement. The DoES will not place your child in one of these centres of education without this report.The centers of education also seek to employ full time SLT’s and OT’s.Unfortunately, there are currently in excess of 345 children awaiting placements in these centres of education and there are 12 parent groups in different counties around the country lobbying to have 12 more centres of education opened. Contacts for these groups and their geographical locations are listed in the Services section of this website.

Preliminary verdict: before becoming an Irish farmer  it might help to visit the place first.  And although our McAutie lad would apparently receive similar services to the ones he has started yesterday in Cali, there is no Koegle Institute in Ireland, no UCLA or UCSD.

So for now, to my beautiful family especially, this lovely Irish toast:

May the sun shine, all day long,
everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
and may all the wishes you wish come true!

Podcast 15

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Talk to You Later: Notes to My Son, March 12 & 13, 2009

And Another Thing…

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

And since I have waved the white flag as a blogger I will simply let other people express my opinions.  This gentleman does so solidly in reply to Nicholas Kristof’s union bashing post:

Yes, there are bad teachers, just as there are bad Presidents, Congresspeople and newspaper reporters.

Bad teachers should not be teaching. Period. I am a teacher and a member of the United Federation of Teachers and I do not want to work with bad teachers. I just want to be sure that the definition of a bad teacher and designation of a person as being a bad teacher is done on a fair and consistent basis,

Are we going to define a bad teacher as someone whose students don’t do well on standardized tests? If that’s the criteria, how are we going to find all the bad art, music or gym teachers? Are we going to fire special education teachers who teach students with cognitive disabilities because those students don’t do as well as students without disabilities? If so, how are we going to replace them?

Shouldn’t we also fire the principals who hire those bad teachers? How about cutting off funds to the colleges that turn them out with teaching degrees? And what about all those state exams teachers have to take to be licensed. I had to take five. Shouldn’t they be able to screen out the bad teachers? If not, why did I have to take them?

Sure, we have to start somewhere, and teachers and teacher unions are an easy target. But blaming teacher unions for the education problems that exist is like blaming the auto workers union for Chrysler going broke.

— Deven Black