Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Prevent an Autistic Child’s Baker Act

Another 8 year old was just “Baker Acted” in my county.

I want to say bad words.

Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to share what I have learned the hard way to help prevent psychiatric institutionalizing from happening to anyone else.

It’s not fail safe, and I am not an attorney.

I am a mom who is angry, sick and scared that parents of children with special needs not only have to worry about IEP meetings, social skills, physical care, emotional well being of their children but ALSO they have to worry about an overzealous person removing the child unnecessarily from their home.

I get it: Sometimes Baker Acts are necessary. This act exists to protect a person who is danger of physically hurting themselves or someone else. AND the law also states that this is only to be enacted if “it is not apparent that the harm may be avoided through the help of willing family members, friends, or the provision of other services.”
img_6812-1.jpg
How to determine if the individual appears to meet baker act criteria.

So here is what I have done to help prevent a Baker Act in the future.

  1. I met with school staff to explain my child’s diagnoses and behaviors. A  school employed behavior analyst walked the staff and teachers through my child’s Behavior Intervention Plan. I explained that my family can and will supervise my child 24/7, we have no weapons in the home, my child is under regular care of a psychiatrist and we have resources to hospitalize him other than the awful county facility should we agree he need hospitalization.
  2. An attorney friend sent me the website of the Citizens Commissions on Human Rights on preventing Baker Acts, which has helped me with step #3.
  3. I filled out and had the form from the website above^^ notarized, and put in my child’s school file after the guidance counselor signed acknowledgement of receiving this. I keep a copy, too.
  4. I scheduled a meeting with the school resource officer. I brought a copy of my son’s IEP and Behavior Intervention Plan. I spent an hour talking to him about my son’s behaviors, what to do if he had a meltdown, and gave him a copy of the notarized form from #2 and 3 above. I talked about our ability to care for him, our family support, and that we have insurance and resources to choose which hospital our child should go to if it was necessary. I made it clear that we would employ litigation if my son was Baker Acted unnecessarily. The SRO thanked me and suggested all parents of children with autism or behavior difficulties should take the time to meet with SROs.
  5. I let the IEP Team and the SRO know that the SRO is not to become a preferred person for my child. The less interaction, the better, per our advocate from Florida Disability Rights.
  6. At our IEP Meetings, our amazing advocate reminds the team that a Baker Act for a child who has known statements and behaviors consistent with autism is inappropriate. Autism is a developmental disorder, NOT a mental health disorder.
  7. I check in via email weekly with school personnel, so they know I am continuing to be involved even if I am not physically present at the school.
  8. One thing I would *like* to have in place is a psychiatrist willing to sign release on Baker Acts in the future. Our current provider will not involve himself in “legal cases”. I’m working on changing providers, because I think it’s really important to have this “Uno Wild” card just in case. A psychiatrist is the only person with legal authority to sign a child out of a Baker Act situation once the process has been initiated.
  9. I pray daily for my child and the people who surround my child. God can cover what I can’t.

What do you do to help prevent this? I’d love to hear your ideas.

 

Advertisements

School Lunch

My 8 year old usually brings a lunch to school instead of purchasing one from the cafeteria.

I enjoy helping her pack well balanced, fun and tasty food. It’s one way I know she is cared for at school.

Sometimes I add in a little prize or notecard or game to brighten her day. It’s a little touchpoint for me to communicate that I love her and am thinking of her even when I am not with her.

She loves lunchables and I don’t. I think they are not great quality, not nutritious, and overpriced.

But our pantry was low on normal staples so I decided to pack a “Build Your Own Pizza”, Inspired by grocery store lunchables.

I split an English muffin and placed it in a bento lunch box with separate compartments. I love Amazon, by the way. They have everything.

I added a little container of pizza sauce (also known as leftover marinara), with a cocktail spoon to spread the sauce.

I took cupcake paper/foil covers and used them as containers. I added a Monterey Jack/Parmesan blend into one cupcake paper (I had those cheeses from other recipes) and put pepperoni slices in the other.

To make it extra fun (and entice her to try the English muffins which I knew she wouldn’t be super thrilled about) I added a note with the steps to make the pizza and some fun encouragement on it and stickers to fancy it up.

The notecard was the key to her enjoyment of her meal.

I also added some “would you rather” questions.

She came home delighted. She told me she didn’t think she would like the English muffins but it turns out she does!! And she loved showing her friends the notes I packed.

Mom win!

And I still haven’t made it to Publix so she gets it again tomorrow! (But never 3 days in a row, don’t worry…)

Autism and Shame

There seems to be a heavy dose of shame dealt to families with autism.

Do we tell strangers? Casual friends?

Did we unknowingly cause autism in our child? Could we have prevented it?

Do we brush off the child’s quirks, hoping they won’t be noticed?

Do we protect the child’s privacy?

When do we push for mainstream education and when do we accept that a more restrictive classroom would benefit the child more?

And what does the child internalize?

When my son was wrongly “baker Acted”, he was sobbing and terrified. He told my husband and the police, “please! No! I’ll be good!”

But he is good.

He made a bad decision using inappropriate language.

That doesn’t change his worth.

He is sensitive and funny. He is talented at drawing and comics. He knows more about the Bible than most adults.

And even if he was none of those things: he is precious. He was created with purpose. He is loved.

There is no shame in autism.

There is shame in treating people with special needs as inferior.

There is no shame in loving someone with autism.

There is no shame in advocating for your child.

There is no shame in doing your best–and wondering if it’s good enough.

Guilt says I did something bad. Shame says I am bad.

There is neither guilt nor shame in autism.

There’s stress and meltdowns and fear. But there’s love and sensitivity and joy, too.

Let the guilt and shame go. You are exactly right, just the way you are.

Autism Moms get lonely, too

It’s a blessing to be a mother. With the joy comes responsibility, pressure, and big challenges–intensified when a child has special needs.

Having a child with special needs means wanting to protect them, and their privacy. They want to be treated as “normal” but they don’t act normally.

It’s made friendships with other families with neurotypical children challenging. We operate under a constant layer of behavior management with positive/negative reinforcement.

You can’t just sit and chat with moms–you have to make sure your child is using appropriate language and actions. Kids easily and often unintentionally can exclude or “gently” tease which results in meltdowns that leave the parent embarrassed and quickly gathering the children to leave. Bad words, screaming, crying, shouting “I want to kill myself” happen regularly. And it’s frightening as the parent.

Will someone judge me for having a “spoiled” kid? Do I look like I can’t control my kid? Is someone going to call DCF on me?

Anything out of routine can cause a meltdown–even something positive like going out for ice cream. That’s a whole separate blog. 😉

After sharing about our horrific experience with my sons first day of middle school, I am beyond grateful for the reminders that our family is not alone.

I’ve received messages from so many people, some who I haven’t really spoken with in years. I am grateful to know that other parents care and see the injustice that was dealt to my son.

It helps to know we aren’t alone.

Women in the UMC

The United Methodist Church recently failed to add language to the UMC Constitution affirming women’s equality and a commitment to inclusivity and diversity.  https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/news/united-methodist-women-annual-conference-votes-unfinished-gender-justices

It felt like a punch to the gut, to be honest.

I have worshiped in churches that have denied women decision making abilities for the church and leadership of both women and men regarding Scripture in teaching and preaching. I have felt the sting of being trivialized and excluded, based on the fact that I don’t have a penis.

It feels demeaning that my talents, abilities, experiences, education and Calling have been disregarded and instead church leaders positioned me (and many women more gifted than I) in subservient places where our callings could not be fully embraced.

My hope to pursue a seminary degree is ironically on hold as I pay off debt accrued by or family for the years I was a stay-at-home mom, raising babies and supporting my husband in his role as Bread Winner. Our culture expects women to be the Home Keeper, Baby Raiser, Breast Feeder, and also supplement income because living off one income in this day and age is quite the challenge.

I do understand that there are two sides of every story. I was grateful to read an African UMC representative’s statement, further explaining the language they disagreed with.

However.

Our church is at an impasse. I don’t know what’s going to be left of the UMC come next year. I interpret Scripture using contextual information about the culture for which it was written, the Spirit of the writing, and what I know about God from my personal experience. My God embodies both male and female, as Scripture does refer to God using feminine analogies as well as masculine. My God loves all people; and all people struggle to align their faith and their actions with Who they believe God to be.

I realize that there are two divergent perspectives and this comes down to interpretation of Scripture. I pray for the Bride of Christ and the Body of Christ . . . because a house divided cannot stand.

Take a Breath.

I wrote this in 2016. It’s lovely to remember these moments. 🙂

Mornings are difficult in my home. I am not a morning person. Before I had children, I was blessed with jobs that didn’t expect me until mid morning. Nights are much more my style. So how I ended up with a situation where my kids and I have to be out the door by 7:20 is beyond me. I’ve often considered it a curse, but perhaps it’s a blessing in disguise.

We have to be organized for early mornings. Clothes need to be laid out the night before. Homework needs to be packed. Snacks need to be prepared. I need to know where my travel coffee mug is.

(Thankfully, my husband has coffee ready to go for me. He gets up really early to take care of the horses and chickens. The puppy is my responsibility, as are the kids. It’s an equitable distribution of labor, in my opinion.  )

I’ve learned that even if I plan ahead, there will always be a wrench thrown in the works. Someone changes their mind about their shirt. Someone doesn’t want the cereal we have. Someone else isn’t happy with having to wake up. Aye yi yi!

One morning, my youngest didn’t like the pink leggings that were to go with her brown and pink dress. She walked around undressed as I helped everyone else with necessities. She finally came out to the car, wearing BLACK printed leggings. They didn’t match. Whatever. Get in the car and go!!!

I had two choices. I could harangue her for changing her mind, being difficult, making us all wait for her. Or I could build up her self esteem.

For once, I chose wisely.

I said, “Juliette, I am proud of you.  You solved a problem! You didn’t like your leggings and instead of pouting, you found a solution and put on different leggings by yourself. Thank you for taking care of yourself.” She didn’t reply, but I feel like choosing to see the positives and support my 5 year old was one of my better moments.

I am learning to be a peace maker. I am finding peace in my own heart and choosing to promote it, rather than contributing to chaos.

I’m back!

After a long hiatus from blogging, I’ve decided to pick back up, a little wiser, with one more child than when I was last here. I’m now a certified doula, childbirth educator and mother to THREE!!!!  Currently I am recovering from an umbilical hernia repair, and am at the stage where I don’t need the painkillers but can’t do more than walk for the next several weeks. No lifting (including my toddler) and I’m trying to stay out of trouble as much as possible. Which leaves me to my armchair and laptop, and in my condition I think blogging will be good to take my mind off things!