Consider this an unusual blog – rather an invitation.
Do you know someone with Autism? Perhaps someone who is considered “neurodiverse”? Or maybe this person is yourself? Or are you a parent with a child on the spectrum or a teacher with a student? Then this information is for YOU.
As it is my pleasure to announce that I have been invited to be one of the three keynote speakers for the World Autism Summit 2023 hosted by the Autism Today Foundation via ZOOM. This is not your “usual” online or in-person conference – as it brings together experts from various genres. There will be speakers, including Dr. Temple Grandin, discussing early intervention strategies and research. And, also financial experts to help families plan their futures when there are unexpected expenses. Educators and Mental Health providers will discuss current trends. Community members will discuss support and relationships. We will hear from individuals with Autism or Neurodiversity. And on the lighter side, panels will include people representing the performing arts of music, acting, and dance. Plus, for those on the spectrum come ask your questions to people who look to connect with potential employers!
As I said, not your standard summit! And, my keynote will focus on matters of communication and safety. (Day 1, September 25th)
There is also some very exciting news to share in addition to the speakers and panelists. First, there are great sponsors who are hosting giveaways – including aTobii Dynavoxsystem! Found Mewill discuss during my program their newest identification app and system for people, pets, and “things” – trust me this is a smart tag on steroids! And The CPD Groupis graciously sponsoring the summit to give professional credit units to our registered attendees who need to acquire certifications. AND WAIT.. there is MORE… MOVIE NIGHTS, GAME NIGHTS, and an opportunity to talk with cast and directors from award-winning films!
Did I mention that Summit is FREE?! The CEU credits are FREE, too. You just need to do the following:
When you register be sure to indicate you need CPD/ CEU credits or a certificate of attendance.
Plan to attend the sessions during the September 25th to October 1st timeframe. After that date – the sessions will be for FEE, not for free. Certificates are emailed about 14 days after you attend, if not earlier.
In closing, the purpose of the World Autism Summit 2023 is to have an open dialog about the gifts, strengths, and talents of people with Autism/ Neurodiversity. Furthermore, to create an atmosphere of access, inclusion, and support. So, please consider joining me – I promise you won’t be bored – there is something for everyone!
Hubby and I had just landed in Japan and caught a few hours of sleep when I realized it was Valentine’s Day back in the United States. I quickly logged on to hotel WiFi and wished my friends and colleagues in a group text a “Happy Valentine’s Day”. I made sure to add a few funny and snarky comments, such as how we unexpectedly and gloriously upgraded to business class for our 14 hour flight from LA to Osaka. The texts shared from the others were more of the same – wishes for a lovely “heart” day, etc.
Then came this text … “*Jane is in school where there is an active shooter happening right now.”
WHAT THE ______? My heart stopped. I reread the message at least five times before I responded. Took to CNN news and Twitter to discover, yes indeed, there was an active shooter and “Jane” was inside the school along with scores of other students.
Quickly I realized that my day of touring around the city Osaka, known for architecture, commerce and history, would be drastically altered because of a heinous crime thousands of miles away. I had to know she was OK. They were OK. I was in tears and feeling pretty helpless. They were dear friends and I wasn’t going to play tourist when we didn’t know if “Jane” was safe.
It was February 14, 2018 and the active shooting was at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. You would have to be living under a rock this past year not to know that this day was seminole on so many levels, including the way the students, parents and community responded in the aftermath.
In the end, “Jane” was on the survivor list. She saved lives by helping others to safety. She lived and helped others to do the same.
My friend, her family, their friends and their families now all mark time before and after this day. They lost loved ones in this tragedy and continue to ache in their hearts beyond measure. They are steadfast in not letting these young students and staff die in vain.
They are #MSDStrong
It is not lost on me that in the past 12 months thousands in the United States, and yes I said THOUSANDS, of adults, young adults, teens and children have died in their homes, schools and other venues due to crimes committed by guns. Now, before you spring to the comment section to tell me about gun rights, know that the debate over gun laws is not the focus of this blog. BUT… I am writing to ask for better education so we can all become part of the prevention process. I want all the “Janes” to feel that they can go to school, the mall, places of worship, concerts, etc. – without needing to figure out their exit plan in case “it” happens to them.
I am pissed. (Sorry Mom, but I have to use this strong language)
I am pissed because our children are being bullied by the very people who should be protecting them, encouraging them and nurturing their endeavors. Who should be seeing that the futures of our youth are as bright as the sun and not dark as a storm looming.
I am pissed because we now live in a society where the children need to act as leaders and the leaders are acting like spoiled and bratty children.
I am pissed because teachers who walk in to schools every day to accomplish one goal… give each of their student’s the best education possible against all odds – now are being asked to engage in gun fights. Seriously! Are we the wild, wild west?!
I am pissed because when I travel abroad people ask me if I am embarrassed to be a citizen of the United States because of our leaders’ obvious lack of common sense and good judgment?!
I am pissed because our leaders are adding to the problem by deflecting blame versus putting their high paid education to use and creating sensible solutions.
I am pissed because our leaders are not doing their job by enacting any semblance of a comprehensive and well thought out plan, but act like the “Keystone Cops” with methods of bullying and worse.
I am pissed because I work in social media with the goal to use it to make a positive difference in the world, while others may be using it for destructive reasons. Anyone who works in social media and understands its’ power will tell you that some conversations are best left OFF the Twitterfeed and BEST to be done IRL (in real life).
I am pissed because my dear friend has to live a “new normal” – knowing that each day she and her daughter will remember how a shooter nearly took this young innocent teen’s life and succeeded in taking the lives of 17 of her classmates, including close friends.
I am pissed that children throughout our world go to bed and have nightmares that aren’t “bad dreams” but are due to their daytime reality.
I am pissed that the problems of our communities, country and world are so enormous that we don’t even know where to begin to make it better.
But… perhaps I am hopeful that the youth of our world may just have the answers that the adults in our world have refused to accept. So, I look forward to the day when each of these amazing kids can VOTE and get the naysayers who believe that their views are the only views OUT OF OFFICE and make their sentiments as obsolete as the negative and non-inclusive principles they cling to.
Is 7 really a lucky number? For me it is. Or at least I think it is. You see, I realized this week that the number seven has resonated with me throughout my thyroid cancer journey. Yet, only recently did I connect the dots as to why it is indeed “lucky” or at least significant.
7a.m – The time I arrived to the surgical unit for my operation.
Seven hours. The number of hours Dr. Ralph Tufano, (my hero) performed surgery on me at Johns Hopkins Hospital.
Seven days. That was the length of time the post-operative drains remained in my neck. (Seven minutes was all had on the “patience meter” for living with said drains.)
Seven weeks. That was the time it took for me to get my voice sounding more like me and less like a prank phone caller.
Seven months. That was about the amount of time I needed to brave going out without a scarf around my neck to shield people from seeing my scar. (July is one hot month and the seventh one!)
Seven years have passed since January 5, 2011 when I had my surgery and my life was forever changed. You may think this was a tantamount day filled with dread, but in reality many amazing things have happened from that day forward.
Related articles: If you are interested in the “whole saga” here is a link.
And, per usual I will use this forum to share some life lessons. (Forever an educator) Although this year the theme may be a bit “lighter” than in the past. (Side note: read to the very end, please.)
The seven lessons I want to share in my annual “post cancer blog” are …
7 is the number of continents in the world. Go explore them while you can.
7 good friends is better than a lot of people pretending to be your friend.
7 pairs of shoes may be an Ok amount, but in reality I own three times that number.
Social media forums cite 7pm as a popular time to be online engaging with others and reading articles.
7 is considered one of the luckiest numbers, according to Quora, because there are Seven Seas, Seven Heavens, Seven Continents, Seven Colors in a Rainbow, Seven Notes on a musical scale, Seven Days in a week, Seven Wonders of the World and so on. Seven is considered to represent the “extraordinary”.
7 is the number of chakras the body possesses.
Seven minutes can be all it takes to check your neck with an ultra-sound to see if you have a healthy or unhealthy thyroid. Seven minutes- worth every one of them.
Now for the serious “stuff”…
First, be your own health advocate. If you feel that something isn’t right with your health – go see a doctor or two if you are not satisfied with the first opinion.
Next, CHECK YOUR NECK. At least once a year – have your doctor check your neck for irregularities. Are you gaining weight suddenly or losing it without dieting? Do you have a chronic sore throat or persistent cough. These are all red flags that something could be amiss and a due to a thyroid issue!
It wouldn’t be my annual “cancer” blog without a nod towards helping others via #socialgood
Cycle for Survival is the movement to beat rare cancers. Our high-energy indoor team cycling events provide a tangible way for you to fight back—100% of all money raised directly funds lifesaving rare cancer research.*
Join the Battle
*An estimated 1,688,780 new cancer cases will be diagnosed in 2017.
Approximately 50% of people with cancer are battling a rare cancer.
Rare cancers include brain, pancreatic, ovarian, thyroid, and stomach cancers; leukemia and lymphoma; all pediatric cancers; and many others.
Each year MSK treats more than 400 subtypes of cancer.
As always, thank you for reading and remember… CHECK YOUR NECK!! Lastly, If you do donate to Cycle for Survival, please let me know and I’ll be sure to thank you personally on Twitter via my account (@LouiseASL). You can leave me a message here or connect via any of my social platforms. Thank you!
2017 has seen more than its’ share of tragedy. Mother Nature was angry this year – very, very, very angry. Our world experienced multiple devastating earthquakes, hurricanes that tore apart whole islands and deadly fires that also ravaged homes and businesses. Then there was the broken hearts caused by recent acts of violence and rage – Las Vegas, Barcelona, London, throughout Africa and the mid-east and of course, New York City.
Despite the tragedy and profound sense of losses, we can still hope and seek a silver lining this holiday season by giving from the heart to heal hearts.
I have compiled a list of organizations or companies that want to help the greater good by doing good. Please consider their efforts when you are gifting others’ during the holidays or just “any day”.
This year the grape crops of Northern California were nearly obliterated due to numerous fires of unprecedented magnitude. One Hope has pledged to help the farmers and wineries and sent a note from their CEO with their vow for assistance.
The statistics are staggering as to how many animals are destroyed annually. That is a polite way to say killed. That’s right – thousands upon thousands of dogs, cats, bunnies, etc. are euthanized because of bad luck. They were throw-aways. BEST FRIENDS ANIMAL RESCUE works tirelessly to save animal lives and educate humans.
Sponsoring a pet is the perfect gift to give someone who is allergic or unable to care for a furry family member due to living circumstances. Last year I adopted a dog and horse to gift someone!
Sponsor a Classroom!
Organizations are abundant to help teachers get the essentials (and occasional perks) funded for their classroom. Don’t believe that school districts in 2017 are flush with money to help our student’s learn. Many have shoes-string budgets and can hardly cover the basics, like textbooks or science equipment. I would love to think that we don’t need a bake sale each time our students need uniforms or basic science equipment. But, that is the reality.
Here are some alternate ways to help without having to crack an egg for cookie-dough.
Click on the links below to learn more about each organization.
Last but not least, one of my favorite charities is the SANDY HOOK PROMISE foundation. They do AMAZING work – year ’round. Their goal – to stop senseless violence, especially from guns, and increase tolerance and compassion in this world.
Their store has items that would make groovy gifts!Shop here
A fun box of goodies for me to review arrived at my door this week thanks to one company that is definitely “one to watch” … Peaceable Kingdom. I have been a brand ambassador for this educational company before and have admired their creativity, so my expectations were pretty high with the items in this box.
I was not disappointed.
Let’s start with the first item that caught my eye… LISTMANIA. Quite simply, a prompt is given by one person to another (or a group). The goal is to elicit responses for questions such as… How many breakfast foods can you name in 30 seconds?Things you would want with you at the beach? And, so on.
This game is a must have for instructors to students who are English as second language learners, or who have reading, language or memory issues. As a teacher who has taught American Sign Language, I would have loved this game in my classroom. Oh the vocabulary learning that can be done with LISTMANIA!
Need a car game for a long trip? I think you will like this one as it transcends many age groups.
My favorite aspect about this game is one that really has nothing to do with kids, but with adults. Quite frankly I can envision a huge application for LISTMANIA to be used with patients who have experienced memory loss or communications issues due to stroke. Speech and language therapists may find LISTMANIA to be an adjunct component for their strategies for helping patients to elicit speech or language.
Noteworthy is that LISTMANIA won the Oppenheim Toy Portfolio BEST TOY AWARD (gold seal and all!) The price point is a very reasonable $9.99 on the Peaceable Kingdom website.
Now back to the items in my “goodie” box. The second set were “way cool” POSTCARDS for kids to send from camp, pen pals or keep in touch with family and friends. The dozen cards come with stickers and are bright and cheerful.
One set reminded me of emojis – which got me laughing for quite some time. At $5.99 a packet, they would make great “summer camp box gifts” for your kids or someone special. And, unlike “regular” postcards – these are quite durable! I think these won’t last long – so here is how to order.
Attention Therapists and Teachers!I LOVE the MY MEANINGFUL LIFE JOURNAL!
Have to admit that this nifty journal is packed full of ingenious activities. Here is the secret, it is not just for kids! In fact, I typically donate items I receive to review. This one is so engaging that I may just keep it – as it is shouting for my inner-child to re-surface!
The book of “Self-Discovery” is a 10/10! This is an excellent product that can be for just for fun or to jumpstart some real tough conversations.
Seriously, during my days as a school based Psychologist, I would have bought My Meaningful Life Journal by the dozens to have for psycho-therapy sessions with my young clients. Price point is very user friendly – $15.99
Caveat: If you are looking for a journal with a “lighter” theme – check out “The Best Ever Fun-Filled Summer Camp Journal”. (Just for girls).
And, if you are making a “care box” for kids or soon to be college freshman, consider adding the bright and fun deck of cards that were so cheerful but I really want to use them for my next poker night!
To recap – Peaceable Kingdom is not your typical toy company and these products are not just for kids’ routine play. As a Psychologist, I see so many applications for these “learning tools” from helping children through emotional challenges, to adults who have memory, speech or mobility problems. When a company makes products that cross-over age groups and application – I know they are “one to watch”.
Closing thoughts… Peaceable Kingdom products are available WHOLESALE ( PTA’s, School districts and camp directors, click here. And, note that there are opportunities for school or organization fundraising.
Disclaimer: As I said earlier, and an educator I am a brand ambassador for Peaceable Kingdom as I received product for this review.
I have started (and stopped) this letter to you a number of times. It is a note to remind some (many) of you that the person who holds the highest office in the United States is a PRESIDENT. Currently, that means that our 44th President is President Obama, not MR. Obama or even Barak Obama.
Why am I such a “stickler” for such formalities? You see, it is hard enough to be an educator and parent these days. We spend a lot of time in our classrooms and homes discussing issues of respect and the value of being positive in a world that often makes it difficult. Therefore, in my humble opinion, when we refer to our President as “Mr.” we are showing a sense of disrespect. Kids see and learn from adults, especially by means of the media. And, when there is a demonstration among adults to not show respect then our kids may not either. I believe that President Obama (and every person who holds the office of President) has earned the right to this “official title” and our respect. We owe it to our youth who look to us to model positive decorum.
What happens when a President leaves office? Is he/she still entitled to be called, President? Well, there are those who believe this person can maintain the title with “former” before it. Others believe differently. Robert Hickey from the Protocol School of Washington, wrote the following on the matterin reference to former President Clinton and even addressed the question on how to address him if his wife is elected President and he becomes known as perhaps – “First Gentleman”?
“While it is common practice in the media and elsewhere to address and identify former presidents as ‘President (Name),’ this is a mistake,” said Hickey. “Serving as President of the United States does not grant one the personal rank of ‘President’ for life. The office of President is a one-person-at-a-time role that a specific individual holds and then hands off to the next person.”
If you go to his article you will find that several people asked many other specific questions and there were even a few who disagreed with his rationale.
I, for one, needed a bit more convincing as I always thought that former state and national officials were able to keep their titles. So, I continued my quest for knowledgeby checking out an entry via Emily Post! This is what she had to say on the subject:
When addressing a former President of the United States in a formal setting, the correct form is “Mr. LastName.” (“President LastName” or “Mr. President” are terms reserved for the current head of state.) This is true for other ex-officials, as well.
When talking about the person to a third party, on the other hand, it’s appropriate to say, “former President LastName.” This holds for introductions, as well: A current state governor is introduced as “Governor Tom Smith,” while you’d introduce an ex-governor as “former Governor Jim Bell.”
Relationships between women fascinate me! I have always been a “behavioral detective” – trying to unravel the mysteries of women interactions. I have spent hours watching groups of women at events – such as PTA meetings, weddings or even my sorority get – togethers. I have had years of poolside experiences with kids and moms wondering why some women could be nice to a person one moment and then stab them with unkind words the moment they exited the group and their chaise lounge for their mini-van?
I have wondered how the adult women in our midst are teaching impressionable girls, including our daughters, about creating and maintaining healthy relationships with other females? What makes women click as friends or just become a clique?
In an effort to continue my detective skills I ask my women readers to do the following:
1) Name a person who you met in elementary or middle school who has remained your friend in to your adult years?
2) Now think of a girl who seemed to always “have it out’ for you?
Why do you think one girl was and remained a “bestie” while the other was your “foe”? Enter kid relationship expert and author, Annie Fox, who has always has been a promoter of teaching children about getting along with others. Her work on helping to end bullying in schools has been highly recognized nationwide. Her books have sold worldwide, including the MIDDLE SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL series. In her most recent book, The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship, Annie provides a format and forum to help girls learn how to be good friends to other girls -by reducing the drama, increasing the conversation in a healthy and respectful way, and promoting kindness and understanding. The scenarios she offers reflect “common day” life and the diversity of characters and situations was much appreciated by this reviewer.
Recently, I asked a series of questions to be answered by our spotlighted author – Annie Fox.
Enjoy her wisdom and sense of humor!
Louise: You are a huge supporter of preventative education when it comes to bullying- do you think we are making strides in reducing bullying in the schools? And are girls worse than boys with bullying?
Annie: I’m grateful there seems to be a growing awareness in many school districts that peer harassment is a real issue capable of causing real (and often lasting) damage to the psyches of kids. I am also grateful there now exist excellent resources for schools to help educators incorporate character development and SEL (Social Emotional Learning) into their curriculum. I am also grateful for the educators who prioritize graduating students who are empathetic, compassionate, and social courageous.Are we making “strides” in reducing social aggression in schools? Yes, of course. Are those strides being made universally? No. Is the progress happening quickly enough? Hell no! There are still many schools where teachers bully students and where teachers turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to students’ making sexist, homophobic, and racially-charged comments to other students. There are still school administrators who shrug and tell distraught parents of targeted students, “Kids will be kids.” or “Teen girls are just mean. What are you going to do about it?” (Actual statements made by school administrators as reported to me by extremely frustrated parents.)
Are girls “worse” than boys with bullying? I don’t believe so. Both girls and boys are afflicted by Peer Approval Addiction in equal measure. Both genders struggle to do the right thing while simultaneously feeling compelled to do whatever it takes to fit in… including stuff they aren’t particularly proud of. The difference, if it exists at all, may be in the methodology girls and boys use to “take down” peers, online and off. I will also say that the seeds of compassion and empathy are equally prevalent in boys and girls. So, even though I wrote this book for girls, both boys and girls need to understand that their choices matter… in peer relationships and in life.
Louise: You included quite a bit of diversity in your book (bravo). I can’t help but think they are an amalgam of the girls who write to you via Hey Terra! Are they?
Annie: Glad you noticed the diversity in the illustrations, Louise! My illustrator, the insanely talented Erica De Chavez, and I worked really hard to make sure that any and every girl would be able to see herself and her peers in these drawings. While I can’t know who exactly is sending me Hey Terra! email, (which I’ve been answering since 1997) I think it’s a safe bet that the questions I answer daily come from a very diverse group of tweens and teens. The email comes in from all over the country and all over the world.
Louise: Do you believe that girls make lifelong friends more than boys/men?
Annie: Conventional wisdom points us in the direction of assuming that the friendships of girls/women are deeper and longer lasting than those of boys/men. But I have no empirical data to prove it either way. I certainly know women and men who are still very close to their childhood friends. And I know people, (men and women) who are warm and friendly, with high EQ (Emotional Intelligence) who no longer have meaningful connections to friends from childhood, high school or college. That said, real friendships… ones in which we feel accepted, respected and appreciated, are very important to every person’s ongoing social and emotional development, self-esteem, and feelings of connection to community.
Louise: Can you share a funny experience in the writing of the book?
Annie: Erica and I had a ton of fun working on the illustrations. We would laugh and recall middle and high school friendship dramas of our own… Just letting the creative juices flow. Especially when the question we were trying to illustrate was written in very descriptive language. For example, “My friend treats me like I’m invisible.” Many girls can relate to that feeling… So we wanted to really play it up, to intensify the feeling the reader would get… whether in her own life was feeling “invisible” or if she was the one treating a friend that way. We played around with the concept of invisibility and finally asked each other the question “What if the girl in the illustration is actually invisible?!” The finished drawing ended up looking like this!
Louise: Three wishes for the book are now granted – what would they be?Annie:
That every girl currently facing an uncomfortable peer relationship and wondering, “What should I do?” would find this book under her pillow tonight.
This book gets used by parents, teachers, and counselors to help girls handle their friendship challenges in ways that make the girls feel good about who they are.
This book helps girls teach other girls about how to be a Super Friend.
Note that The Girls’ Q&A Book on Friendship is now available on Amazon and highly recommended for both the girls (and boys) in your life and the adults that live, love and nurture them. The price is easy on the pocket, too- under $5 for the KINDLE version.Help young girls find this superb book under their pillows!Thanks to Annie, my readers and girls who are great super friends everywhere!~ Louise