How many of you remember this absolutely delightful and magical story from the early 70’s? I loved it since the beginning and have listened to it over and over and over again. What might it be that makes it so appealing? Well, that would be aside from so many delightful aspects of the story of a little boy, Oblio, born with a round head when everyone else in his village had pointed heads. Can you imagine such a dreadful thing?
Although his mom and dad loved him very much, they felt sorry for him, so his mom made him a cap with a point in it so that he too could have a point and be accepted by the other villagers. He did have a wonderful little dog though, and his dog’s name was Arrow. Now, like most dogs (and other creatures), Arrow was His Owner’s best friend, and they played all the time happily together. Arrow did not care if Oblio had a point or not.
As you can imagine, eventually trouble follows the one little guy who is different from all the other folks, because he has no point. And so of course, an evil Count comes to dislike Oblio because Oblio won a game of Triangles that was only meant for those with points, and the Count’s son just happened to be one of those. Don’t you just feel the chill of what is about to happen?
That’s right – Oblio and Arrow are banished by the Evil Count because, well just because, to the Pointless Forest, the dreaded place where no Point person had ever gone. But sturdy little boy that Oblio is, he and Arrow set off on a journey with a good amount of bravery, or perhaps some kind of adventure to the Pointless Forest. Along the way he meets many characters in the Pointless forest, and one of them is Rockman, who gives him a good life lesson.
Well, there you have it. Oblio and Arrow have a long and exciting adventure with lots of amazing creatures and things in the Pointless Forest, none who have points. He returns to his village and is happily greeted by all the people with points, or so it seems. And he tells all the people with points how everything in the Pointless Forest DID have a point. They all cheer because somehow they all knew that even though they could not see it, that it did exist. Oblio had a point all along! Well, I have to save the rest of this wonderful story for you if you don’t already know it, and so I will leave you with this thought. Even if you have no verifiable proof that something exists does not mean that it doesn’t. Arrow always just knew this.
All of my quilts come from a spiritual place or from something that tickles my funny bone. They come from things I think about and work out in a symbolic way for my own self.
I was thinking about trees in a spiritual way, and I suddenly experienced an epiphany. I realized that not everything needs to be seen to be understood, or to have faith that it exists somewhere. I cannot see any of the great Gods of the world, except as man himself has presented them, and I have no way in reality if any of those things are actually those Gods or not. I guess that would be a belief that Gods are those representations of Gods that existed in their times and places in the universe. But the reality is that if I am accepting any of them appearing as man presents them, then I am believing and trusting man and not the Gods themselves. But if I feel in my heart and soul that there are Gods, have always been Gods, and that I, and everything that exists in this world is sacred, and that we too are aspects of God, then that is faith.
And so this tree in the piece has places where you cannot see the branches, but it has places where you can see the branches. Is this tree then a belief, or is it perhaps faith?
One of the best interaction books for young children is “Yoo-Hoo Lady Bug.” With this book I recommend scanning the lady bug pictures and showing the pictures as you read on a Projector screen. This way the whole class can look for the lady bug as you read. Make sure you have the students to shout, (Yoo-Hoo Ladybug! Where are you?) before showing each picture.
My heart work is with special needs children which I did for some 15+ years. Sometime in the early 70’s or late 60’s my younger brother and only sibling came home from Vietnam 100% disabled with a TBI, a spinal injury, and permanent PTSD. It gave me that heart to work not only with the children, but with people with all forms of challenges – physical, developmental, and emotional. I have done that for the rest of my life to this day.
I was a Regulatory Compliance Specialist at 64, working for a major pharmaceutical manufacturer of plasma derivative products. I had done quality assurance for some years in my own business. I was a certified quality manager/certified quality auditor, so I knew what to look for wherever I went and whatever type of business it was. This would be to my detriment when the company decided to to sell to a company in Spain to get out from under a FDA action against the company for fairly major quality issues. When the company in Spain decided to purchase the company I was working with, I got laid off along with 400 others.
At 64, on unemployment and with no prospects of a job because of that title, I founded a very tiny and penniless nonprofit to assist physically challenged fiber artists with getting exposure and sales for their work and to assist them with professional development. I did this successfully on the side, always as a volunteer with the other volunteers for some 10 years. Shortly after I founded the nonprofit, I remembered that I had a certificate that would allow me to work with special needs children. I became a substitute for two different school districts, and I absolutely loved all the work I did in school. Life was good in those times. I had just enough to live on very modestly; spirit does not need a lot of money.
These were truly some of the happiest days in my life. When I was not at work with the children, I was providing assistance for the physically challenged artists with two other people – my paraplegic best friend, Barbara Williamson, who lived in Paradise, CA, the secretary of the nonprofit, and her caregiver, Rob, the treasurer, whose job was easiest of all since we had no money in the treasury. I had figured out how we could do a lot with nothing and so we did that for more than 10 years until we both suffered worse physical and mental challenges that made it difficult to continue that work.
We did write a book on the subject to get good closure. Last November, Barb and her caregiver had to escape with their lives from the horrible fire in Paradise that destroyed their home, the entire town and all of her art. I will never regret any of that work because she now has skills and knowledge to help her rebuild her life from what she learned during those years.
Most of all for me, there were the children. Some of the children I worked with were not only developmentally challenged; they had such major challenges as MS and childhood arthritis. There is something so special and beautiful about these children. If I had been married then and had an adequate home and finances to do it, I would have adopted as many of them as I could. Raising special needs children is no easy task nor a romantic one. Not only do they provide challenges throughout the days and nights; most of the time they will be in the care of the parents one way or the other for the remainder of their lives.
Special needs children often require bathroom assistance into and through their teen and even adult lives, as well as things like “failure-to-thrive” children, who must be helped to eat enough to help keep them alive. This is not a psychological issue; it is one that they are born with. I have had children I had to give enriched milk or other liquids to through a tube in their stomachs, and others who had to have a bucket accompany them to their lunch so they could throw up in it after eating a little. And then there is the physically reactive child. Some of them are runners, and will run off the playground if they can (and not even because they are unhappy, etc. but just because it is part of their makeup, and they are not running to a specific place, but just needing to run). And there are those who can deliver a huge punch; I was punched in the face and had my glasses broken, was bitten, had my hair pulled, was kicked and painfully pinched and slapped, pretty much all without warning. Some of the children are very strong for their sizes. If a child’s routine is broken in any way, or the child is unable to express his/her needs, you can expect that the child will react, sometimes violently.
But we become good at dealing with these issues, and most of us who work with them can see the beauty of the children and the wonder of their lives through all of the challenges. Sometimes their own parents cannot cope with them, or the parents do things that are not beneficial for the child such as over/under or irregularly medicating them or putting them into group homes when they become overwhelmed. It is one of those great societal issues where it is difficult to place blame, for anyone who has to deal with these issues day AND night every single day of the week without a break is going to have a true challenge.
As caregivers for special needs children, we are all referred to as mandated reporters, and it is our duty and legal obligation to report any type of abuse of any child. I honestly can’t tell you how many of those reports I filled out over the years for things I personally witnessed. And I can’t tell you how many of them were “shelved.” The schools in California at least are financed by children being in school, not when they are out sick or parents refuse to bring them to a specific school because of the behaviors of teachers or aides or others. I am pretty certain that most people reading this will understand the implications of this policy.
There are a lot of really wonderful and dedicated teachers, aides and others who work with special needs children. But there are also a lot of horrible ones, and I am not certain that situation will ever change in reality. There IS training available for how to work with such children and young people, but not all of those who work with them get that training or learn from it if they do get it. Most of what we learn to deal with well is learned from real-time experience along the way, and if a person’s heart is not in it, it will at best be mediocre.
At home, as I noted, parents are often stressed to the breaking point and there is no one generally to spell them or for them to talk to regularly – even support groups are very far and few between. The first sad thing too is that some children are labeled special needs because perhaps they are slow to learn to read or write, etc. Once they get such labels, they will have them through their entire lives. For me, that ensures that even the children who might otherwise have done well will just give up and not try to much.
I have long since realized that children grow at different rates, just as some walk really early, learn to use the potty really early, etc., and some take a long time. It is just the nature of life in this world. My daughter was potty trained when she barely started to sit up, and that was her own doing. She would put her tiny hands together and clap any time she was successful in her efforts. She could read well and talk well at age two, and she could memorize her storybooks too. My two sons were very different from that – slow to learn to do everything and slow to read. It is normal for children to progress at different rates.
One of the things that happens from the stress and other issues parents face is that special needs children are more often abandoned, abused, and even murdered than regular children. They are also very highly bullied. The problem however, is that the tallies on these crimes are all thrown in together with those of children who are not special needs, so as a result, no one knows the true figures. But some people who have studied and worked with the children have long thought that the figures are higher and it makes total sense. And if a special needs child ends up being institutionalized because of abuse or abandonment, there is little chance that the child will ever do better in this life. And the people (if parents) who do these things to special needs children, at least in the past, often did not get severe jail sentences if any at all. There used to be a young man who likely had Asperger’s, a high functioning level of autism, who wrote posts regularly about these issues. These young people can be and often are highly intelligent, but are unable to deal with socializing and interacting with others.
Even the best of parents with special needs childrens do not know all they need to do about what happens when their children grow up. Not all parents with older special needs children know about estate planning for the children. There are three very specific and important reasons that this needs to be addressed.
First is the fact that these children will need special physical and mental/emotional services all their lives, even the most proficient of them. This will involve very careful financial planning to ensure that the parent can provide such services.
Secondly, a special estate plan is the only way to ensure that the child can be provided for without having them become ineligible for government and private benefit programs.
And finally, if the parent is no longer alive or available, without such planning, the child can end up in an institution, or worse, can become homeless and at the mercy of every transient out there. I have actually witnessed such cases, and I am pretty certain that no parent would wish this on any child of theirs.
The best way for parents to plan for a special needs child is to set up a Special Needs Trust. In this instance, the parents appoint Trustees to manage the Trust for the child’s benefit. This person needs to be trustworthy, and someone who is capable mentally and emotionally, as well as financially to direct and manage the child’s care through the remainder of his/her life.
I am retired from working with the special needs children now since I was diagnosed with severe PTSD from heavy-duty traumas followed by cancer (cancer-free following surgery in 2016), but I still tutor privately, often as a volunteer these days with special needs or ESL (not always Spanish either) children and adults. I completed a degree later in 2016 in Criminal Justice with a minor in law, but could not work as a mentor/advocate for juvenile delinquents because of my age and the PTSD. I always keep trying to do what I can and I have been happy for whatever I have been able to contribute to the lives of special needs children as well as others with special challenges. It is not going to change what they go through overall, but it does help them for a moment in time and I am not sure what more any of us can do.
When we work on a painting, we often work from the center or point of focus outward, and when we work on a puzzle, we often work from the outside edges inward. There is no rhyme or reason why we do it, but it is just the way we tend to see things. If you look at the picture above, you are drawn to the center, and if you were to paint it, you would likely start from that point.
As we go through our lives, many things happen to us that start at the outside edges- some absolutely beautiful like making friends and falling in love, and some start at the center, like losing a good friend or loved one who may be lost in some unexplained way. And then there are the horrible things that happen in life – wars, or people with mental problems who hurt others mentally and physically, perhaps even ending their lives. These things affect us both on the outside edges and the center, until no part of the puzzle or painting feels safe.
I guess in my lifetime, I have lived both sides of life. I’ve been through the utmost joy in life – falling in love, bearing children, and working to serve others. And I have been through the horrors of life too. I have had those bad days when I did not believe I had the strength to go on, but life somehow had my back. There was a purpose for me in the long run. Perhaps suicide was an attempt to rid myself of those horrors in life, to reach out and fight them in the only ways I knew how at the time.
But in the end result, despite those things, I have taken the high road. I have served my fellow human beings – women, men and children, all of my life. I taught illiterate and ESL adults how to read; loved, cared for and protected special needs children for 15+ years; and advocated/mentored physically challenged artists with starting their own own art businesses for 20+ years. I have served as a volunteer in one capacity or other since I was 14 years young, and will likely serve through whatever time I have left here.
“We resonate with one another’s sorrows because we are interconnected. Being whole and simultaneously part of a larger whole, we can change the world simply by changing ourselves. If I become a center of love and kindness in this moment, then in a perhaps small but hardly insignificant way, the world now has a nucleus of love and kindness it lacked the moment before. This benefits me and it benefits others.” ―Jon Kabat-Zinn, Wherever You Go, There You Are: Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life
Instead of warning parents that there might be something a child should not read in this post, I would rather talk straight to the child. If you are a child who is old enough to read this, I want you to understand that this is a true story of my own life. If you are having any challenges in your own life, I want you to be sure to find someone you can trust to talk to. If you are being bullied, I want you to understand that you are not the problem. You are a wonderful young person, and others who might be bothering you may have their own problems and they don’t like others who they believe have what they don’t have.
If you have problems with your parents, please call 211 and let them know that you need to talk to someone about it and they will help you. Don’t allow anyone – your parents, your friends, or bullies – to ever hurt you. There is nothing about you that deserves that, OK? You are a miracle in this world, and you are here because you are needed here. And especially, I never want you to ever hurt yourself – ever. You might not know it, but if you hurt yourself, you WILL hurt other people who love you. The earth needs you to help take care of it. And other children who hurt may need you to help them too. Be good to yourself and take special care of yourself. If you read this and it makes you feel bad, please talk to someone about it and why it makes you feel so bad. You are loved by others in this world. I love you and want you to be ok. Thank you forever for finding me.
“The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and where the other begins?” – Edgar Allen Poe from The Premature Boundary.
What makes a person think about taking his or her own life? Is it a matter of confusion of his or her identity, whether physical, mental or emotional? Or is it something that is caused by others – parents, friends, or even people we really don’t know? Is it that the person cannot think of another alternative to stop his or her pain?
When we think of people wanting to end their own lives, we tend to think of adults. But children, some very young, think of and sometimes end up taking their own lives. It is really sad because this world needs all of us here to help it live. And we are here by some great and magical design.
I reached that point when I was just ten years old. One day, and I am not even honestly sure what happened to bring me to that point, I went into the bathroom at my uncle’s apartment where I was staying with him and his boyfriend, and I cut my wrists. My uncle and his boyfriend were at work, so there was no one there to help me afterward. I can’t say I felt sad. I couldn’t feel anything mentally or physically. Luckily I guess, I did not cut them deep enough to die, so after watching the blood coming out of my wrists for awhile, I got some bandages and put them over the cuts. That night when I went home and sat at the table with everyone in my family, no one seemed to notice or ask me any questions about why I did it. This was how my family was, and what I lived with every day I still lived with them.
I want to say that this would not be the last time I would do this or try to end my life some other way. I think there were a lot more than 20 times of doing this. I am still here to tell this story, so I was not successful, but there were several times in my life that nearly truly ended my life. But as I have told you, we are all on this plane because of some miraculous design. We need to be here to help each other and to help this earth. If we were not meant to be here, we would not be here.
So no matter how bad your pain is or how much it seems like a good idea, trust that it is not. You do not deserve to die. You need to live like me. Yes, I suffer with mental pain all the time, and it is hard for me at times to want to live, but these days I try very hard because I know that I might just save one other life, or I might find a way to help someone or some animal that might make a difference for someone else. This is the way the earth works. And so we can all live here and find something good to do for each other and for the world. LIVE!
Anne’s Special Needs Classroom with Children’s Art
I love special needs children. And I love art, so I have tried to infuse my classes with art through the many years I did this work. This particular project was a call for art to cover a gas station in New York used specifically for that purpose one time. The project was a fiber arts project, 3′ x 3′ square from each group that contributed one. The project, chosen by the children, was a world with lots of hand prints on it. The world was painted onto quilt batting painted blue, and the children’s hands were hand prints they all made. The hand prints were cut out and stitched onto and around the world and each child wrote his or name on the hands. They also helped put the name of their school on the piece.
The children learned much beyond just creating art. They learned how to do a project together with minimum guidance. And they learned what it was like to have something they created go across the U.S. and got to see it online up with all the other projects. They got to have a sense of pride in doing something so much larger than their own little world. I am so glad I got to help them do this project.
All children should get to experience art, just as reading out loud to them is good for their growth too. They need to learn to be ok if they make mistakes, and to accept and appreciate the miracle of what they have made, even if it is not perfect in adult eyes. How many art projects have any of us who create art made with imperfections? Imperfections are what makes art that is truly unique and fantastic. In the same sense, special needs children are unique and amazing people with so much to offer the world. Thank you one and all, and bless each of you for the New Year and all the years that follow.