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The Westview School Blog

How to Set Up Your Work from Home/School Environment

March 23, 2020
By Mimi Le
Many families are working and learning at home right now. Here are some tips to help maintain a positive work/school environment when everyone is at home during this time! Keep in mind that the “environment” that we are talking about involves not only the physical space and setup, but also our perceived overall emotional state. 
 
A successful transfer for having school at home will need the following elements:
  • Set up a school space at home that is away from distractions such as the television or loud noises. This space should have an area where students can read, write, and do activities. Also, make sure electrical outlets are available for devices and school supplies if needed. 
  • Keep a positive outlook, and incorporate fun! This time of learning should be more positive than negative. We want to motivate and encourage our kids by keeping it light and entertaining.
  • Our students will need to be able to rely on a stable emotional state from parents and their schedule for the day. Remember to remain focused on keeping an established routine at home.
  • Parents should provide support which will come in the form of guidance only as needed to overcome obstacles. We understand that you have your own work and responsibilities to take care of during this time.
  • Try to maintain cohesiveness between parents and teachers. Follow through with your teachers’ suggestions and guidance during and after e-learning takes place. This will show your children that we are all on the same page, and we all hold the same level of expectations. 
  • The work and expectations you have for your children must remain challenging enough in order to be engaging.
  • Set clear expectations and specify the purpose of every task as you follow the schedule for each day.

We understand the stresses for both parents and students during this unique time. Therefore, we will be providing scheduled times in the form of an open digital forum for Westview parents and students separately each day with our Student and Staff Support Specialists. Of course, you do not have to specifically wait for these times to ask questions. You may also email Michael and/or Mimi at any time for any questions or concerns. If you need more structured support, please contact our therapists at The Stewart Center.

For the Parent with a New Diagnosis - You're Not Alone

March 03, 2020
By Kelly Simmons

As a teacher here at Westview and a mom of a 14-year-old child with autism, I have a hard time remembering when autism wasn’t part of my life. But I DEFINITELY remember the day Pierce was diagnosed. I thought my world was over.  My husband reminded me that he was still the same little boy we loved more than anything in the world. He was right.

Having a child with autism can be so many things; it can be incredibly rewarding to see them work so hard to accomplish what might be easy for a neurotypical child.  It can be lonely and scary, especially right after a new diagnosis. You might feel jealous at times when you see other neurotypical peers your child’s age doing things you so wish your child could do.

Your circle of friends might change, and a lot of mine have. What I’ve also found is what I call “my people.” If you’re a parent of a child at The Westview School, you have likely seen the Westview shirts that say, “These are my people.” I LOVE that shirt because it is just so accurate! No one will understand what you are truly going through with the ups and downs of autism more than another parent who has a child on the spectrum.

For anyone with a newly-diagnosed child, please learn from my mistakes. First, it’s NOT your fault. Say that again to yourself, because it’s important. Next, I researched like I was a CIA agent (ha!) on every treatment out there, but nothing helped me with answers and acceptance more than my support groups.  I was lucky to have an online support group (we are all over the country, and several of us have met up in person).  I also had a “real life” support group who have become some of my best friends. 

At Westview, our People of Westview (POW) organization has an amazing group of parents who support each other.  Please take advantage of the knowledge, acceptance and love that they provide. Also, The Stewart Center and our administrators can be such a wealth of comfort and knowledge.

Lastly, it’s important to know that there is really no way to predict where your child will be in the future. Take it from me, worrying will not change that! What they can do now is rarely an indicator of what they will be able to do in the future. They continually change, and each child is unique.

Since you know your child best, I would always go with your gut. Find an amazing support system, enroll in therapies (if needed), and find a school that will support your child’s social-emotional learning as well as academics.

All of us on are on a similar journey, though challenges and accomplishments will all look different. As my friend, Sarah, said in her latest blog post, “What we all need is GRACE.” I wish everyone on this journey love, light and peace. 

1 comment

The Sister

February 24, 2020
By Helena Khuri

My brother has been, and still is, struggling with “high-functioning” autism. I’ve watched him come home from school screaming and crying because kids never stopped bullying him. I’ve grown up watching him switch schools, watching him grow frustrated with himself as he struggled to communicate how he was feeling in a way we could understand.

As we’ve grown, he’s been able to communicate his emotions better. I’ve sat in his room with him and listened to him tell me how nervous he was to go to social events because he felt like the kids wouldn’t like him. “They think I’m weird,” he’d say. “I know they do. I never understand what they’re saying half the time. They don’t understand me. I don’t know if they’re joking or being sarcastic.”

“Nobody likes me.”

“Nobody thinks I’m funny.”

“I see the way people look at me.”

It hurts.

It hurts to watch.

It hurts to listen to.

It hurts that he has to go through this stuff just because he’s “not like everyone else.”

My brother does not deserve any of this. He should not have to go through this. But he does.

In a perfect world, kids would see how cool my brother really is; how sensitive and kind he is, how genuinely sweet he is, how funny he is, how talented and brilliant he is. My brother is so smart. He knows more about space and guitars and birds and cars than I ever will.

But this world isn’t perfect. Of course it isn’t. I don’t know everything, but I know that much. I know kids suck sometimes. I know how mean they can be. They usually don’t see past the autism. All they see is a complete “weirdo.”

As his sister, I’ve always been protective of him. When I was a little kid, before I knew better, “being protective” translated into my constant bossing him around and harping on him about what to do, because in my head, I didn’t want him to mess up or “do anything wrong.” I think deep down I knew he was going to be made fun of, and didn’t want that to happen—I just wasn’t mature enough to figure out how to help. Honestly, I was a huge jerk. I don’t know how he survived.

Now that I’m older, I’m still protective of him, but he’s figured out how to hold his own. I’ve learned to let him figure things out by himself. I help him out and give him advice on how to navigate high school when he asks me for it. I give him social tips. But I also make sure his friends are nice to him, and my friends are nice to him. (God forbid he starts dating, because then I’ve got a whole new girl to keep track of.)

I find comfort in my role as The Sister™. I like the feeling that I’m allowed to be a little protective of him. I just wish I was at school with him so I could help him with social situations that he’s still struggling to navigate.

Overall, being a sibling of someone with autism isn’t too hard. I feel like it’s not too different from being a sibling to any other kid. I love him just the same.

5 comments

The One Thing I Want You to Know about My Son on the Autism Spectrum

February 20, 2020
By Sarah Chauvin

Have you heard the saying, “If you’ve met one child with autism, you’ve met one child with autism?” It is called a spectrum for a reason, and under the umbrella of autism spectrum disorder, you will find a vast differentiation of children and behaviors.

My son, Noah, is 12. As a parent, I am way past the point of explaining or apologizing for his differences in behaviors and communication.  He is an awesome kid. As his mom, I know exactly how much time and effort and money our family has invested into growing Noah into the best version of himself.  From therapy to special schooling, medications and doctor’s visits, we have ten-plus years invested. For all his weaknesses, his strengths are many, and I can honestly say that I know how hard we have worked to hone those strengths. It is still a work in progress and probably will forever be.

This started as an article about 10 things I want you to know about my child with ASD.  But, really there’s only one thing I want you to know: WE NEED GRACE.

Grace has many definitions, but let’s go with this one: “The disposition to or an act or instance of kindness, courtesy or clemency.” There’s a lot of talk about Autism Awareness. We even have a month for it in April as a reminder. But, what do you do in the face of someone who is different, and how will you teach your children to react to those differences?

There was time somewhere between his diagnosis at 24 months and now that I was more sensitive and less accepting of what I perceived as a deficit in my child. Was I doing enough? Was I doing the right things? Is everyone looking at us?

One moment always comes to mind. Noah was about 6 years old. He has always been high energy with difficulties in body regulation.  Translation: he’s super hyper out in public.   It’s funny because he’s pretty logical, and he has a good moral compass of right and wrong. He knows how he should act in particular situations but somewhere between thinking and doing, things tend to go awry. We happened to be heading into his favorite store - Target. Before getting out of the car, I gave him a little pep talk. I call it front-loading, where I prepare him for what is about to happen next. 

Me: “OK, buddy. Here’s the thing. We are about to go into Target, and I want you to have a super quiet body.”

Noah, with complete confidence in himself: “Got it, Mom.”

But, as much as I tried to front-load, and as much as Noah thought he had this, walking into Target, the excitement of a favorite place couldn’t keep his little body calm. He was immediately jumpy and chatty earning stares from the other shoppers. So, there I stood on the toy aisle,  giving up the fight of keeping him quiet. I was letting him live his best Target life by bouncing up and down the aisles.

Another mom walked up to me. She said, gesturing toward Noah “is he… (awkward pause and whisper) autistic?”

I nodded.

She continued. “Have you tried therapy? Or diet? I have this friend…”

You could ask any autistic mom to fill in the blanks here. We’ve all been in this sort of a situation.  And, man… it totally stings.

“Did you vaccinate?”

“Have you tried ABA?”

“Is he gluten free/casein free?”

“Have you seen Parenthood?”

She must have caught me at a weak moment because all I could think as I started to tear up was Noah was eight, and we had been in therapy and special schooling for six years. And, I was working so hard for him. He was working so hard. And, it just took one misplaced comment from a well-meaning fellow mom to bring up all the insecurities that in my heart said, “Are we doing enough? And is it all my fault?”

I always wonder how that particular situation could have gone differently, and why it has always stuck with me. Maybe just a “Good job, Mama!” would have sufficed. Maybe Noah isn’t something that needs fixing. As a parent, we are always trying to challenge and improve our children, neurotypical or not. That’s why it’s called “raising” kids. We are all just working on different things. And, I am so proud of my child, and he’s got so much to offer to our family and this world. He’s smart and kind. He loves his sister and pizza. He’s the fastest drawer I know, and his favorite color is red because it comes first… duh. He can pick out all the countries of the world based on size and shape, and he is an avid collector of graphic novels. And, one of the things, I am trying to teach him is showing love and acceptance to the people around him. Need something to work on with your kiddo too? It’s a good one. Take time to say, “Thank you.” Take an interest in the people around you even the ones who are different. Practice simple acts of kindness. Raising tiny humans is hard - autism or not.

And, I think the best we can do is show a little love and give a little grace and teach our children to do the same.   

7 comments

Recent Posts

3/23/20 - By Mimi Le
3/3/20 - By Kelly Simmons
2/24/20 - By Helena Khuri
2/20/20 - By Sarah Chauvin
11/7/19 - By Dr. Ken Montfort