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.”
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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.

 

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Cinnamon Rolls

My last recipe was sushi rolls. In the spirit of round recipes, I present my favorite thing to bake:

Cinnamon rolls.

I don’t usually enjoy baking. It is very exact and I prefer to play things by ear. And I get bored easily, so I do not normally make the same baked good twice.

But cinnamon rolls are totally worth it to me.

When I was in high school and college, I worked in my local mall at a popular specialty cinnamon roll shop.

I used to bring home “expired” day old rolls and my family was delighted.

The calories weren’t such a blessing but mmmm … they were a delicious breakfast dessert.

I usually worked customer service rather than actually rolling out the dough and preparing the product, but I did learn a few techniques and ingredients.

At home, cinnamon rolls are time consuming to bake from scratch.

They are a symbol of decadent luxury, with calories and time to spare.

The dough has to rise–twice. Just warning you.

But the aroma in my home when they are baking is a blast back to my past. And my children all flock to the kitchen because they know it is magical baked good time.

Some classic jazz in the background (Causebox has a fantastic playlist on Spotify) completes the experience.

I am also feeling smug because I misread the flour amount once, and was able to identify the dough had the wrong consistency, add more flour in, and save the recipe. My instinct was confirmed when I caught my mistake.

These were not perfectly round but thats okay. They are delicious.

The basic cinnamon roll recipe I use is from Paula Deen. Her frosting is good.

But I use this recipe for the Classic cream cheese frosting.

The secret is in the lemon juice.

Trust me.

Interactive Dinner

When our oldest was a toddler, I learned how to make and roll sushi.

Its kind of labor intensive so we haven’t made it in eons.

But we were all home this week so my husband and I decided it would be a fun menu option.

I made the short grain rice in my Instant Pot. 2 cups of rice, 2 c of water, press “rice” and walk away. Add 1/4c. sushi vinegar with seasoning and voila! Rice is ready.

Everyone took a turn creating a special roll. We had cooked shrimp and ikrab, cream cheese, avocado, and cucumbers.

Note: I sometimes refer to ikrab as the “hotdogs of the sea” but my husband doesn’t appreciate that humor so I will refrain. Probably.

The plastic rolling mat was given to me by a Publix sushi chef 13 years ago when I asked him how his rolls were so tightly packed, because mine fell apart.

My youngest won’t eat seafood (you’re eating a body!!) so veggie cream cheese rolls were her choice. That is her favorite plate–with a picture of her, a birthday gift from when she was 3!

The girls both participated and enjoyed the meal. We dined on edamame as we took turns creating rolls to share.

Our son had a ham and cheese sandwich of course. We have decided not to force him to eat unpleasant (to him) options.

We all ate fortune cookies for dessert–a novelty for the kids.

The girls had kitchen patrol duties following. They are growing up and so helpful! I am more willing to do the messy or difficult projects when the kids can actually help. Funny how that works!

New Year and Resolutions

So, what’s new for 2019?

Well, my planner is brand spankin’ new–and getting it prepped with washi tape is kind of fun.

Besides looking at a beautiful brand new open slate of blank pages waiting to be filled, the truth is:

nothing else is new.

I am still flawed. I still have dreams and goals.

My family is still, at its core, the same.

Same habits exist, some good and some that need to go.

Same teachers and homework and projects when school resumes.

This quiet Christmas space of reflection and preparation is a chance to breathe and an opportunity to set a course for when chaos resumes.

I have learned this year what and who is most important. I have discovered that God never stops caring, never ceases delighting and surprising me.

I am enjoying this family time playing new board games, listening to classic jazz while baking homemade cinnamon rolls and reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone out loud with my youngest on her first reading of my favorite series.

People talk about setting a word of the year, about creating New Year Resolutions. For me, that feels confining. I have some ideas in how I want to grow and how God can use me this year. But I am open minded.

I am setting my priorities and goals for this new year, and confident that my family and I do not walk alone.

Happy New Year!

Side note:
Here’s a referral link for Erin Condren planners because i love them so much–and I hope you will love them too!)

Advent Craze

Life feels hectic and crazy. I realized at the beginning of December that I was in over my head. My first clue was when my kids’ therapist started asking me more questions about myself and talking about self care.

My second clue was when I stopped going to the gym.

My third clue was when I found myself with a heaping bowl of carb laden pasta.

This was survival mode.

I dug in my heels and came to a screeching halt. All non-essentials moved to the bottom of my list. I decided to accept the carbs and the naps temporarily. I begged out of activities that weren’t necessary.

I took advantage of a cold and decided it was the perfect excuse to not attend the kids’ class parties and to not volunteer at the schools.

I stayed in bed more. I plowed through work and focused on getting my children’s academic requirements completed. We had a mountain of papers that hadn’t been turned in for one kid. His teacher said we should do the extra credit, too.

I told his teacher we are limping along until Christmas break and the extra credit won’t be completed. I’m not sorry. I’m desperate.

Gifts were purchased on amazon. I actually wrapped them all. Our elf moved to a new location in the home most nights.

This was a stressful season for me and I’m so glad the hectic Advent holiday festivities are over.

Why do all of my children’s clubs, classes and friends insist on December celebrations? Christmas is a beautiful, holy season. Advent, on the other hand…

Why not do a January winterfest? A March umbrella party? A June beach bash? We had 8 different activities scheduled by clubs and classes for December, most of which are nonreligious associations. It was overkill.

Now we are in the Christmas season. Santa and his elf have come and gone. It is time for family, games around the table, leftovers, and peace. My two younger kids even played together without fighting (and I have pictures to prove it!)

Its not all peace–it is boredom and discomfort in the quiet, too.

The one thing I insisted on was putting up outside lights. I did a simple line of icicle lights and threw our multicolor netting over the front garden. The symbolism of the lights shining, even in the darkest nights, remind me that God is still here, even when I feel like I’m smothering under a heavy blanket. I’m not alone, and there is always Hope just around the corner.

He should go somewhere else.

Someone repeated this statement to me in tears, notifying me a school employee had made this comment.

He needs too many services. Too much help.

He shouldn’t be here.

Where should he go then? He is legally entitled to a free and appropriate education.

Treating my child as a distraction to your teaching is beneath you.

How you treat the least of these speaks more to your character than how you treat the gifted elite.

You’re feeling overworked and overwhelmed and overloaded. So is he.

You’re unhappy he is in your class or school. So is he.

You notice he doesn’t work well in groups with other kids. So does he.

You think he’s unworthy.

So does he.

Your behavior models for the other students how to treat a child with special needs. Your attitude impacts your relationship with my son–and any other student who is wondering if you are a safe person.

To any teacher, administrator or staff member: if you feel a child can not learn without additional supports in place…then advocate for the child. Speak up at IEP meetings. Help determine what supports the child needs and would benefit from. Give encouragement and be willing to dig in to figure out how to reach him.

Join our team.

Please don’t work against us. It’s the child who loses.

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…)