Autistic boy, nine, is attacked by a gang of bullies who nail a plank of wood into his HEAD

A gang of bullies nailed a plank of wood into the head of an autistic boy as he walked home from visiting his grandmother.

Romeo Smith, nine, from Ma nsfield, was approached by the group who were waving sticks and calling him cruel names he climbed a tree to try and escape.

But when he tried to make his way home one of the yobs threw a plank of wood at him with a large nail protruding.

The piece of wood hit the youngster at the back of his head and the nail embedded itself into his skull.

Romeo Smith, nine, from Mansfield, was approached by the group who were waving sticks and calling him cruel names he climbed a tree to try and escape

Romeo was taken to Manfield King's Mill Hospital where doctors gave him morphine and removed the nail which had bent as it hit his skull

Romeo was taken to Manfield King’s Mill Hospital where doctors gave him morphine and removed the nail which had bent as it hit his skull

Romeo Smith, with his mother Natasha Smith, from Mansfield. Romeo had a nail stuck in his head after bullies attacked him on a walk home

Romeo Smith, with his mother Natasha Smith, from Mansfield. Romeo had a nail stuck in his head after bullies attacked him on a walk home

Mother Natasha, 30, a nurse, had been walking home with Romeo and her three other children after calling at her mother’s house nearby when Romeo was targeted.

‘Romeo had lagged slightly behind,’ said Natasha at the family home in Mansfield, Notts.

‘It’s usual for him to trail behind me a bit, he does it a lot because of his autism and it’s something I’m used to him doing.

‘He likes to stop and look at things. So I was ahead of him slightly.’

When she got home Natasha realised Romeo wasn’t behind her so his father Craig, 35, immediately went to check on him.

He found the Chelsea fan minutes away from the family’s home, trapped in a tree by three boys who were brandishing sticks and were calling him cruel names and taunts.

As his dad approached Romeo came down but as the pair walked away one of the boys picked up a plank of wood which had a nail attached to it and threw it at the youngster.

Romeo was rushed to hospital by his terrified parents after they realised the rusty nail, which was covered in bugs, had lodged into the back of his head

When she got home Natasha realised Romeo wasn't behind her so his father Craig, 35, immediately went to check on him

When she got home Natasha realised Romeo wasn’t behind her so his father Craig, 35, immediately went to check on him

He found Romeo minutes away from the family's home, trapped in a tree by three boys who were brandishing sticks and were calling him cruel names and taunts

He found Romeo minutes away from the family’s home, trapped in a tree by three boys who were brandishing sticks and were calling him cruel names and taunts

A one inch section of the nail embedded itself in the back of Romeo’s head with the wood still attached. His dad carried him home and Natasha decided it was too dangerous to remove it on case it caused further injuries.

Romeo was taken to Manfield King’s Mill Hospital where doctors gave him morphine and removed the nail which had bent as it hit his skull.

Natasha added: ‘My partner was terrified, and I was so upset but Romeo has been so brave. He is a very lucky little boy because it could have been more serious.

The 8inch-long plank of wood which was stuck in Romeo's head after the attack

The 8inch-long plank of wood which was stuck in Romeo’s head after the attack

He has been given some antibiotics because the nail was so dirty, it was covered in bugs. The doctors were really amazing and he seems fine now but it was a horrible thing to happen.

‘I don’t know whether it had anything to do with his autism, but I think they did see him as vulnerable.

‘If I could speak to the boys responsible I would tell them to stop bullying others.I would tell them to stop the name calling and the violence. I don’t want this to happen to another child.’



How I Learnt to Thrive Living with Autism

6 years ago, back in 2011, life was very different for me. I had just been diagnosed with a form of autism, as well as an anxiety disorder and OCD. I was stuck in a school where I was not understood and subject to vicious bullying. I couldn’t do anything but feel helpless. However, this was until I learnt how to not only accept my diagnoses, but to thrive in spite of these conditions. This saw a new, positive chapter in my life begin.

What It’s Like Getting the Diagnosis


Being diagnosed with an illness or a disability, and proclaimed as ‘different’, isn’t easy for anyone. But when I had these labels slapped on me, my mind grieved for ages. As an adolescent in a community comprehensive school, I knew that any sort of difference would be picked up on and seen as an excuse to be bullied. I was not normal anymore, or so my peers seemed to think.

I would be in class, and people would shout abuse my way. All I heard was variations on: “You freak, you retard, go die!”, which really hurts at a young age. Want to know the most shocking thing? Not even the teachers understood. They were pretty much indirect ringleaders – ignorant of understanding and, even with specialist support, unwilling to adapt to a student with different needs. I would cry myself to sleep and hope to be accepted, to be some degree of normal, again.

It became clear that this was not acceptable, so after years of my parents fighting for what’s known as a ‘Statement of Special Education Needs’ – basically, a document outlining what support is needed that’s bound by law – we won. Within just a week or two, I moved to a more understanding mainstream school, which was a relief.

The Challenges of Living with Autism


The challenges of living with autism differ on a person-by-person basis, as people with autism exist on a highly complex spectrum. With Asperger’s Syndrome, I’m at the higher end of it. I have average/above average intelligence in certain areas, but still find social situations and adapting to them hard.

For example, I’m very driven to succeed in my career as a writer and journalist, but I can find it hard to adapt to new surroundings and to not seem socially awkward. But once I get used to a place or a community of people, I’m fine. To me, it’s about assessing a situation and coming to terms with it, whether that takes seconds, minutes, hours, days or even longer. You need to feel comfortable and safe, which is extremely hard if you’re on the spectrum.

Other challenges? There are many. I can be very persistent. This can be a good thing, in that I can demonstrate how passionate I am about something. But others can find this to be, quite frankly, annoying – which is understandable, because we’re all busy and have our own agenda. Still, I sometimes wish people would be more understanding and empathetic. I – and others with this condition – don’t mean any harm. We’re just trying to get by.

How I Learnt to Thrive Living with Autism

I’m not going to lie: it took me ages to adapt to living with autism. And I certainly never thought I’d thrive with it, even though my parents, close family and friends knew I could.

I’ve always loved being creative, especially with words. So, being stuck in my own mind and not knowing anything of the future, I decided to set up a personal blog. I wrote about coping with autism and the things going on in my, well, random mind. Soon, though, I paired this with my technical interest and set up a tech reviews site.

I would nag PRs for gadgets to review – under an alias, actually – and they obliged, which felt so enriching because clearly they believed in me and my blog. It soon become clear that I loved doing this and decided that journalism was for me.


When I had to find a work placement in Year 10, I took it upon myself to contact the local newspaper. A few days later, I received correspondence saying I was too young to conduct a placement. But this was not enough. So, yes, I did what any persistent person would do and contacted the paper’s MD. It turned out he understood autism having a son with the condition, and had me in for work experience.

This was so encouraging, and I felt so at home. Also, the fact that he replied showed me that, yes, I do have what it takes. And perhaps more importantly, that yes, I am different, but who cares? It was a major boost to my self-confidence, which had been left in tatters from being in a school where I seemed destined for failure.

Soon, my GCSEs came and I got into college to study English along with a BTEC in business. I’ve now come to the end of my college studies and have a place to study English at Swansea University. I’m very excited to start in September.

The lesson from my story? As with people not on the spectrum, using your interests to find a sense of purpose in life is paramount to thriving with autism. If you’re autistic, you’re capable of doing anything that a non-autistic person can do, whether that’s excelling at your studies or job, or having a meaningful relationship. Don’t let anyone make you think otherwise, as no one ever really thrives if they only listen to other people.

Final Thoughts

I’ve learnt so many things on the road to where I am today. The most pivotal has been being able to not only accept my condition, but to look at it in a positive light. I no longer see my autism as differentiating me from society, but rather as a part of my identity – that this is me, and that’s OK.

If I didn’t have this outlook, I’d be a totally different person, and know I wouldn’t be as focussed as I am. I genuinely believe that I’m spurred on by my interests more than anything else, but the support of those around me has also been crucial. Ultimately, the thing I’d say to anyone with autism is to just be yourself, surround yourself with people who understand and care, and follow your passion. That’s all you can do, really. But then isn’t that all anyone, autistic or not autistic, can do in life?




These 8 Inspiring People Will Change The Way You Think About Autism And Asperger’s

In 2009, a shy, 47-year-old Scottish woman touched the world with her breathtaking rendition of Les Misérables’ “I Dreamed A Dream” on Britain’s Got Talent. After the performance, Susan Boyle catapulted into a singing sensation, selling more than 14 million records worldwide.

But despite her meteoric rise over the past few years, Boyle has, more recently, been coming to terms with a more private matter. Last week, she revealed to The Observer that she was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome by a Scottish specialist about a year ago — a revelation that she calls “a relief.”

“Asperger’s doesn’t define me. It’s a condition that I have to live with and work through, but I feel more relaxed about myself,” she said in the interview. “People will have a greater understanding of who I am and why I do the things I do.”

Asperger syndrome is one of a group of developmental brain disorders, which are collectively called autism spectrum disorder or ASD, according to the National Institutes of Health. Asperger’s affects the ability to socialize and communicate with others, the Mayo Clinic reports, and is characterized by symptoms that may include one-sided conversations, unusual nonverbal communication, obsession with one or two specific subjects and difficulty “reading” others. Other ASDs include autistic disorder (or classic autism), pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, Rett syndrome and childhood disintegrative disorder.

While many people in the public eye are speculated to have an autism spectrum disorder (among them, Courtney Love, Mozart and Tim Burton), Boyle joins a group of famous faces who have spoken out publicly about their diagnoses. Read on for seven more inspiring people with an autism spectrum disorder.

James Durbin
james durbin
The American Idol alum (from season 10), who recently released his new single, “Parachute,” was first diagnosed with Asperger syndrome and Tourette syndrome at age 10. “Right around the time when I was diagnosed, I got a hand-me-down guitar with a chord book and a cheap busted tuner,” Durbin told Autism Speaks last month. “I think music is like medicine and can be a benefit for anyone no matter what genre. There’s just so much you can learn. It’s all about focus and for me, not only on the Autism spectrum but also the Tourette’s spectrum, focus was something I needed help with. Music is my focus.”

Music also became a way for Durbin to cope with bullying growing up. “Throughout this process, I figured out that no matter how bad of a day I had at school, I could come home and create my own world within the music,” he wrote on CNN. “I could make the music as happy or as sad as I wanted it to be. I used the pain from being bullied to transform me into who I was meant to be.”

Daryl Hannah
daryl hannah
Earlier this year, the actress opened up to People magazine about being diagnosed with autism as a child, and how it contributed to a fear of fame as an adult, HuffPost previously reported. That fear caused Hannah to retreat from life in the spotlight. “I’ve never been comfortable being the center of attention,” she told People. “It’s always freaked me out.”

Dan Aykroyd
dan aykroyd
The actor and writer told the Daily Mail earlier this week that, like Durbin, he has been diagnosed with both Tourette syndrome and Asperger syndrome. And he says the latter actually helped to inspire the movie Ghostbusters. “I also have Asperger’s but I can manage it. It wasn’t diagnosed until the early 80s when my wife persuaded me to see a doctor,” he told the Daily Mail. “One of my symptoms included my obsession with ghosts and law enforcement — I carry around a police badge with me, for example. I became obsessed by Hans Holzer, the greatest ghost hunter ever. That’s when the idea of my film Ghostbusters was born.”

Heather Kuzmich
heather kuzmuch
When America’s Next Top Model cycle nine began in 2007, the audience met 21-year-old Heather Kuzmich, who was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome. “It was a point in my life where I was thinking either Asperger’s was going to define me or I was going to be able to work around it,” Kuzmich told The New York Times of her decision to join the competition show. “At first I was really worried people would laugh at me because I was so very awkward. I got the exact opposite.”

The contestant finished in fifth place, and was voted as the viewer favorite eight weeks in a row. “I was at the bottom of the totem pole,” she told People about her time growing up. “I wanted to be a role model for girls who aren’t the most popular and are picked on.”

Dan Harmon
dan harmon
The Community creator started learning more about Asperger syndrome while developing the character of Abed for the NBC show. “So, in a very naive way — and I’ve never told anybody this before — I started researching the disorder,” Harmon told Wired in 2011. “I started looking up these symptoms, just to know what they are. And the more I looked them up, the more familiar they started to seem. Then I started taking these Internet tests.”

Wired reports:

Eventually, Harmon met with a doctor and came to understand that symptoms of the disorder lie on a spectrum, and that in fact there is a place on it for people with inappropriate emotional reactions and deep empathy. Harmon now sees that he may fit somewhere on that spectrum, though figuring out exactly where could take years.

Alexis Wineman
alexis wineman
Earlier this year, Miss Montana became the first Miss America contestant with autism to compete in the pageant. At age 11, Wineman was diagnosed with pervasive development disorder, CNN reported.

“My path may not be one that another person would choose, but I challenged myself to enter the Miss America competition because it seemed like the peak to my own personal Everest,” she wrote for CNN in January. “It also seemed kind of ironic: a girl who was told she was different and considered an outcast by many, in the nation’s biggest beauty pageant.”

She reached the top 15 in the competition, and won the America’s Choice Award, according to CNN, for garnering the most online viewer votes. “So many people expect autistic people to all be the same — that it’s a brain disorder so we can’t function in society,” she told Time. “I want people to realize there’s a whole spectrum of people who live with autism. There are high-functioning people and low-functioning people.”

Temple Grandin
temple grandin
A professor of animal sciences at Colorado State University, the university calls her “the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.” According to her website, Grandin didn’t speak until she was three and a half years old, “communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping and humming.” After receiving a diagnosis of autism, her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She wrote in her book, Emergence: Labeled Autistic:

I have read enough to know that there are still many parents, and yes, professionals too, who believe that ‘once autistic, always autistic.’ This dictum has meant sad and sorry lives for many children diagnosed, as I was in early life, as autistic. To these people, it is incomprehensible that the characteristics of autism can be modified and controlled. However, I feel strongly that I am living proof that they can.

In addition to her work in the animal sciences (among her other accomplishments, Grandin developed corrals to improve quality of life for cattle), she has become an outspoken advocate in the autism community. In 2010, TIME named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world, and HBO produced a biopic based on her life called Temple Grandin, starring Claire Danes as the title character.



My Asperger’s is an asset on Autumnwatch: Host Chris Packham speaks about his lifelong battle with autism and how it’s helped his career

Just before the cameras begin rolling live on Autumnwatch on Monday, Chris Packham will start reeling off facts to his fellow presenters Michaela Strachan and Martin Hughes-Games.

They might be about the battle of the Alamo, or some fascinating details about an obscure creature. His favourite is to list battles of the Second World War. Strangely, they seem to quell the jitters for his co-hosts before they’re beamed live into millions of homes.

Michaela and Martin are used to Chris’s idiosyncrasies, having worked with him for years. But earlier this year, in an astonishingly candid autobiography called Fingers In The Sparkle Jar, Chris ‘came out’ to the wider world as autistic.

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham, 55, talks about Asperger's Syndrome. He 'came out' to the world as autistic in his autobiography this year

Wildlife presenter Chris Packham, 55, talks about Asperger’s Syndrome. He ‘came out’ to the world as autistic in his autobiography this year

He knew he was different from a young age, when he was bullied, and contemplated suicide several times. It was only later in life that he discovered he has high-functioning Asperger’s syndrome, and it was only then he could start to see his condition as more of a blessing than a curse.

‘There are problems Asperger’s presents but it’s also afforded me enormous opportunity,’ says Chris, now 55. ‘If you’d asked me when I was aged 17 to 26 if I could change it I would have said yes. But after 26 I decided to learn strategies to deal with it, even though I didn’t know what I was dealing with.

Now I see it as an advantage. I have a retentive memory, which is a huge asset when you have to talk about the biology of animals on shows like Autumnwatch. If I’ve read it, it’s stored.’

While he struggles with humans, animals have always been Chris’s best friends. He first became depressed at 14 when a kestrel he’d hand-reared died. It was the death of another pet, his poodle called Fish in 2004, that plunged him into depression again shortly after he’d split up from a girlfriend.

He only resisted attempting an overdose because he only had 39 pills, and he didn’t think they were enough to do the job. It was then that he sought help.

Today, as we talk in a dark basement at the BBC’s Broadcasting House, Chris struggles to maintain eye contact – a common trait in the autistic, although it’s something he’s worked hard to correct. He doesn’t smile much either and talks in long, convoluted sentences. But as he prepares for this year’s four-day Autumnwatch, he insists he probably wouldn’t be sitting here if it wasn’t for his autism.

‘In this field I meet a significant amount of people with Asperger’s, it’s a mode of mind that suits an interest in wildlife and science,’ he says. ‘I think if you can overcome what some people call handicaps – I call them tasks – you can get on and achieve great things.’

A young Chris with his pet kestrel. While he struggles with humans, animals have always been Chris’s best friends. He first became depressed at 14 when a kestrel he’d hand-reared died

A young Chris with his pet kestrel. While he struggles with humans, animals have always been Chris’s best friends. He first became depressed at 14 when a kestrel he’d hand-reared died

Chris is well known for being outspoken and has had his knuckles rapped by the BBC for writing controversial statements about emotive subjects such as badger culling. He’s never been one to keep his mouth shut, but insists he’d never let his views affect his work.

‘I don’t work for the BBC all the time and there are other platforms where I can make my feelings clear,’ he says. ‘I don’t talk about them on Autumnwatch or Springwatch because I want to protect the BBC’s impartiality.’

His impartiality will no doubt come under scrutiny during this year’s Autumnwatch. One report will look at the hugely controversial issue of badgers passing bovine TB to cows, which has resulted in culls.

The show will analyse the results of a fresh study that tracked both badgers and cows and found the two never actually meet. ‘This is brilliant new science and we’re bringing more information to the table so people can be better informed,’ says Chris. ‘We’re not getting involved in the exterior debates; we’re just looking at the science.’

Autumnwatch has moved to a new home for this series, the RSPB Reserve at Arne in Poole Harbour, Dorset. It’s officially the most biodiverse region in the UK. Among the live highlights planned are cameras focused on the herds of sika deer that live in the area and will be in rutting season. The show will be looking at a mysterious seasonal gathering in a disused quarry on the Isle of Purbeck.

Today, as we talk in a dark basement at the BBC’s Broadcasting House, Chris struggles to maintain eye contact – a common trait in the autistic, although it’s something he’s worked hard to correct

Every autumn 15 of Britain’s 17 bat species come together for a few nights there. The motivation for their ‘swarming’ behaviour is unclear – is it to feed, to breed, or to prepare for hibernation? With a bat detector and state-of-the-art thermal imaging, the Autumnwatch team hope to find out.

A golden eagle chick who became the star of Springwatch earlier this year will also return. ‘We’ve got a tag on it and we’ll be following it to find out where it goes,’ says Chris.

‘We’ll also be giving the public the chance to name it. I had the extraordinary opportunity to handle it before we sent it off. I even smelled it.’ Smelled it? ‘Yes, it smelled really nice – a dry, powdery, musty smell. For me it’s always interesting to smell things otherwise it’s a wasted sense.’

There are also plans to film moles live for the first time, with tiny ‘molecams’ in their tunnels. ‘It’s a tough ask,’ says Chris.

‘Moles are sensitive to vibration. Their sense of smell is profound and they’re repulsed by the smell of anything they’re not familiar with. But if you don’t try you’ll never succeed.’

Chief mole watcher will be Martin Hughes-Games – who recently caused a kerfuffle when he tweeted that he’d been fired from the show, although the producers denied this. ‘There may be some evolving but he’ll always be part of our presenting family,’ they responded cryptically, before Martin then tweeted, ‘I’m very happy to say I’ll see you in October on Autumnwatch.’

And what does Chris have to say about this particular controversy? For once, not a squeak.



5 Signs Your Kid Has Overlooked Sensory Processing Disorder

A lot of kids, dare I say all of them at one point or another, have freaked out about the texture of a particular food, the itchiness of a sweater, or the volume of the radio when their parents’ favorite ’90s jam comes on. But, if you have noticed that happens regularly, and is almost always accompanied by epic meltdowns, it may be a sign your kid has overlooked sensory processing disorder (SPD).

According to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder, sensory processing disorder exists when your child’s sensory signals are not detected, or are not organized into appropriate motor or behavioral responses.In other words, children with sensory processing disorder may have a much greater or much lower response to stimuli as their non-SPD peers because their brain has trouble receiving and interpreting sensory information. A lot of kids who are the autism spectrum also have sensory processing disorder, but there are also many children who do not fall within the spectrum that struggle with sensory issues.

Kids with undiagnosed sensory processing disorder may be labeled “picky” or “difficult” or are thought to have behavioral problems. They are are often punished or ridiculed when what they need is patience, understanding, and occupational therapy. Here are some red flags that your child may have an overlooked case of sensory processing disorder.

1. They Are Over-Responsiveness

Kids with sensory processing disorders may be hypersensitive to sensory stimuli that is typically unoffensive to others. Brain Balance Achievement Centers notes the following examples of hypersensitivity: fear of sudden, high-pitched or loud noises, distracted by background noises, fearful of surprise touch, and more.

2. They Are Under-Responsiveness

When a child with sensory processing disorder has hyposensitivity, he or she may seek out stimuli, according to Brain Balance Achievement Centers. Some example include a constant need to touch people or textures, clumsy and uncoordinated movements, and the inability to sit still.

3. They Have A Fight Or Flight Response

Have you noticed your child suddenly running away from something that makes him uncomfortable? Kids with sensory processing disorder often have, what the Child Mind Institute called, a “neurological panic response” to everyday sensations, causing them to flee or become aggressive when in sensory overload. These children may run toward something that will calm them, such as a teacher, without noticing that they are pushing or shoving other kids along the way, according to Understood.

4. They Suffer Dramatic Mood Swings Or Meltdowns

Kids with sensory processing disorders will often have radical, inexplicable shifts in behavior, according to the Child Mind Institute. This is usually in reaction to a change in environment. Brain Balance Achievement Centers noted that sensory meltdowns are not the same as temper tantrums. Sensory sensitivity to noise, lights, crowds, or touch can cause those who have sensory processing disorder to become frightened or confused. Parents of children with undiagnosed sensory processing disorder may misinterpret these signs of sensory overload as behavior problems.

5. They Have Co-Occurring Disorders


Because the majority of people on the autism spectrum also have significant sensory issues, the Child Mind Institute noted that sensory processing problems are now considered a symptom of autism. However it’s important to note that most children with sensory issues are not on the spectrum. Kids who have been diagnose with ADHD, OCD and developmental delays may have sensory processing disorder, as well. In some cases, kids with sensory processing disorder are misdiagnosed – and inappropriately medicated – for ADHD, according to the STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder.



A Letter to Parents of Children With Special Needs, From a Pediatric Nurse

I’ve worked in pediatric nursing for more than a decade. This work has changed me more than anything else I have experienced in my life. My patients and their families have taught me more than I could have ever taught them. I am so grateful for this extraordinary life.

For most of my career, I have worked with children with special needs. During my shifts, I have given G-tube feedings, administered medications, held children while they seized, suctioned airways to ensure a child could continue to breathe, moved their limbs so they didn’t stiffen, coordinated all of the child’s therapies and all of the many other tasks needed simply to keep the child alive and comfortable for another day. At the end of my shift, I am always dripping with sweat and exhausted — ready to go home. I give a report to the you, the parents, at the end of my shift, and even though you may have already worked a full day at your own job or worked beside me with your child, you do not get to rest. You are the parent of a child who needs round-the-clock care, and there is not rest for you. I have seen your tired eyes and weary bodies day after day, and yet, you never give up on your child. 

In my career, I have sat beside parents while a doctor gave them the news that no parent should hear — that their child is not long for this world. I have held mothers while they wailed the most horrific, animalistic sound of grief after their child took their final breaths. I have placed a morgue tag around the toe of tiny bodies. I have waited until my shift is over to run to my car and desperately cry into my steering wheel with grief for my patient and their families.

 But, even though I was grieved, I got to go home to my own healthy children — you had to live the remainder of your life with empty arms. 

The parents I have worked with have often shrugged away my compliments at their strength and tireless work to benefit their children. They have reminded me that they did not ask for this life, but that they love their children enough to keep fighting. 

You may not have asked for this life, but you have taken it on with such grace and persistence, even in the face of steep odds. Your incredible strength inspires me in every area of my life.  

I have worked with children when new medications, therapies and treatments did not work, or worse, were detrimental to the child’s health. I have seen you agonize when doctors give you choices and you aren’t sure which to choose for your child. I have seen you search the internet with sleep-deprived eyes to find every bit of information you could before making your choice. You often know more about your child’s condition than any doctor or nurse ever could. I have held you while you wept when the choice you made did not turn out the way we had all hoped it would even though you were never, ever at fault for any treatment that failed. 

I may have administered the medication or treatment, but you were the one who held the emotional burden of the choice and lost sleep praying over the outcome. No matter how many people are involved in your child’s care, I know you carry the heavy, heavy weight and desperate wanting for your child’s health and well-being. I know this weight is carried 24 hours per day on your already weary shoulders, but you carry it with such grace that many do not notice. 

The very first family of a child with special needs I worked with told me to never take away their hope. That has become a mantra of sorts in my life — to “never give up hope” in my personal life and my work as a nurse. I have watched children walk, talk and achieve many things the doctors deemed impossible. I have seen children live for many years beyond what many specialists said was possible. I have seen children beat odds in extraordinary ways that is nothing short of a miracle. I know your child could not have achieved these miraculous things without you, their dedicated parents. 

The children I have worked with are some of the most extraordinary children on the planet. They inspire me beyond words. Over and over and over again these children — your children — have reminded me what a true miracle is. I am so thankful for them. Just as much so, I am thankful for you– the parents of these children. Many of you are so humble that you may shrug off my words, but I wish to say them anyway. 

You are amazing, strong, compassionate, incredible people. Your children would not have made it this far without you. You are the backbone of your child’s life. I see how absolutely, back-breakingly exhausted you are and how weary you are with the constant, unyielding stress of this life. I can only imagine how hard your life can be. I see you. You are not invisible in your struggle, although it must often feel that way. You are my heroes — cape-less but no less amazing. There are no words that can truly tell you how extraordinary I think you are.  

I know an open letter on the internet from a stranger is a cold thank you for you warriors. I know. It is simply too hard to continue to stand aside and not tell each and every one of you how amazing you are, and I have no other way to do so. I know how invisible and lonely you must feel at times. I want you to know that I see you. Many see you. We are inspired by you, each and every day. You make this world a better place, not only for your child but for all of us. You thank us, your nurses, at the end of every shift, and I wonder if we should be the ones thanking you — for giving us the extraordinary gift of getting to know your amazing children and their phenomenal parents. Thank you, from the very bottom of my grateful heart.

All my love,

Nurse Mandi


Boy with autism writes ‘I am odd, I am new’ in poem celebrating differences – Online Psychology Program

Benjamin Giroux isn’t usually one to express much emotion.

“When we ask him how his day went when he gets home from school, we don’t get much more than a one-word answer,” Sonny Giroux, Benjamin’s father, told

The 10-year-old boy, who has Asperger’s syndrome — a form of autism — came home from Cumberland Head Elementary School in Plattsburgh, New York, on April 7 more excited than ever. To celebrate National Poetry Month, his fifth-grade teacher asked her students to write a poem about themselves, beginning every few sentences with “I am.”

Benjamin couldn’t wait to start writing, so he sat down at the kitchen table and didn’t look up until he was finished. A few hours later, he showed the poem to his parents, who immediately got choked up.

“I am odd, I am new,” Benjamin wrote in the poem. “I wonder if you are too. I hear voices in the air, I see you don’t and that’s not fair.”

“I feel like a boy in outer space, I touch the stars and feel out of place,” he went on to write

“At first, we felt sad and hurt that he feels isolated, alone, misunderstood and odd at school,” Giroux said. “As the poem went on, we realized that he understands that he’s odd and that so is everyone else in their own way, which is what Ben wants everyone to embrace.”

“I am odd, I am new, I understand now that so are you,” the poem reads. “I say I ‘feel like a castaway,’ I dream of a day that that’s OK.”

Benjamin was supposed to read his poem aloud to the class the following day, but upon waking up that morning, his anxiety took over and he instead stayed home.

He didn’t think his poem was any good, so his dad posted it to Facebook in hopes of getting some encouraging comments from family and friends. Once the National Autism Association saw the photo, they posted it to their page, where thousands of strangers shared how much the poem inspired them.

“We try to read him as many comments as we can to show the impact he’s had,” Giroux said. “It makes him happy too, which is always nice to see.”

The family has heard from hundreds of parents thanking Benjamin for shedding a light on how their own kids may be feeling at school.

“Ben’s goal was to have people understand that being odd is different, and different is amazing, and people shouldn’t be afraid of who they are,” Giroux said. “And that makes me one proud father!”



Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom

When I talk with parents for the first time, they often have questions about why their child can’t read, comprehend, remember math facts, follow instructions and why they aren’t excelling in the classroom. They know something is missing, but they can’t put their finger on what. I often have moms and dads tell me, “I know my child is smart, but I just don’t know why they aren’t reaching their potential.”

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom | ilslearningcorner.com

As I begin asking questions, I try to first focus on the educational aspects of reading, writing and spelling, but as the conversation continues, I then veer off in a different direction, asking questions that seem unrelated to learning. I ask parents if their child has sensitivity to light, texture or sound; if they fidget in their chair or if they ask “huh?” or “what?” when the teacher asks them to work on an assignment. We talk about how athletic the child is and if they can skip, bounce, run and cross the monkey bars. We also ask about the child’s birth and if they crawled as a baby and reached all of theirdevelopmental milestones.

Many parents often find it curious when I ask these types of questions and are even more surprised when they come to our center and see all the bouncy balls, balance beams, hula-hoops and jump ropes. As I see the wheels turning in their head, I’m sure they often think, “How is this going to help my child to read, write and listen to their teacher?”

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Unfortunately, in today’s world, there is a lot more pressure on our children to excel at higher academic levels than what their brain and body is prepared for in the classroom. Children are now expected at younger ages to be experts at subjects and topics that even just 10 years ago wasn’t required. Many schools have even limited recess or have removed recess altogether from their curriculum and kids are now expected to sit still in their chairs, listen to the teacher and learn at a faster pace.

Play-based Movement

Now why is this a bad thing? “We just want our students to be better prepared,” most educators would say. The problem is, we are beginning to see more learning challenges like Sensory Processing Disorders (SPD), ADHD, Autism, Dysgraphia and Dyslexia because we are taking away play-based movement from our classrooms. I’m now seeing more and more children with poor posture, deprived vestibular systems (balance and coordination), sensory overload and above all, almost no core muscle. Sitting inactivates these muscles and makes them weaker or or leads to developmental delays. Many researchers are now finding that children in mainstream schools have immature motor skills, which is directly related to educational achievement.

Poor Core Muscle

While many exercises can be used to help your child’s brain and body work together, as you may have already read in our “Crossing the Midline” article, we also want to make sure our children build strong core muscles in their neck, tummy, legs, eyes, arms and fingers. Each body part plays a key role in triggering the brain for higher learning concepts. For example, I hear parents tell me that their child struggles with copying information from the chalkboard to their paper, only to find that their child has poor muscle strength in their neck and shoulders and they struggle with hand-eye coordination activities. They can barely do a sit-up or collapse when I ask them to lie on their back and lift their head to look at their toes.

Another problem I am often asked about is why their child can’t attend and focus in the classroom. Usually they are clumsy, they run into walls or furniture, they fidget in their chairs, lean over their desks, and they can’t process what their teacher is saying because they are focused on other distractions in the classroom. These can all be issues related to their vestibular system, which is their balance and coordination. When we see these issues, we know the child isn’t getting the movement they need to help improve their inner ear and core muscle. To perform well in an educational environment, kids need to strengthen their motor skills and core muscle to manipulate a writing instrument, control their eye movement to track words on a page, and calm their bodies so they can attend and focus on the instructions the teacher is giving.

Another problem I am now seeing is that many of these children who struggle with poor core muscle and learning challenges often like video games. While there are many video games that are educational and great for kids, too much sitting causes the muscles to become weak.

These children are at risk of under-achieving in school, not because they aren’t bright, but because they don’t have the physical skills and core muscle strength needed to support their intelligence in the classroom. Plain and simply, their motor skills are under-developed.

Another issue we see with children who have poor core muscle strength that affects learning is retained primitive reflexes that stem from birth, which could cause toe walking or children sitting in the W-position or bed wetting, but we will discuss it in greater detail with more exercises in later articles.

Miracle Grow for the Brain

In a recent Washington Post article, there is a school where teachers and educators are getting their students moving in the classroom with play-based activities to build their core muscle while working their brains.

I couldn’t have put it better when one of the teachers said, “There is another neurotransmitter that is directly connected to muscle movement in the body. That’s like taking miracle grow and putting it on the brain. And what we need to do as teachers is plant the seed in that well cultivated brain. And, that well cultivated brain comes about by movement and exercise.”

Core Muscle Activities

Now that we know how important core muscle strength is and how it is connected to learning in the classroom, what can we do to test for poor muscle strength and what exercises will help improve our child’s core for higher learning?

How to Test

Testing for core muscle strength isn’t too difficult. Here are some easy ways to check:

  • Can your child move their head from side to side and up and down without moving their whole body?
  • Can your child hold their breath for a long time or is it too difficult?
  • Do they grip their pencil correctly?
  • Do they have poor handwriting?
  • If they are standing still when you slightly push them, do they remain standing or do they fall over?
  • Can they throw a ball or kick a ball?
  • Do they spend too much time playing video games causing hyperfocus?
  • Do they use both legs and arms in sports, or do they only use one side of their body?

Strengthening the Core

Now that we have completed some quick checks to test your child’s core muscle, let’s talk about some fun and easy ways to strengthen your child’s core. All exercises should be completed at least 10 times for 20 minutes a day.


You are probably all familiar with the superman, but it is a great activity for helping your child build the muscles in their neck, tummy, arms and legs. Have your child begin on their stomach. Count to three and then have them engage their tummy muscles and bring their legs, arms, and head off the ground just like Superman. Have them hold this position for as long as they can (10 to 20 seconds) before coming back to the ground.

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Wrong way or what to watch for

If your child cannot bring both their legs and arms off the ground because their core muscle strength is not yet ready, first have them lift their arms and head only while leaving their legs on the ground. When they are ready, add the legs. If your child wobbles or if they can’t physically lift their head, position yourself on your knees in front of your child and help keep them still or hold their head straight until they develop the muscles to complete the exercise on their own.

Knee Crosses

This is a great activity to not only help your child build core muscle, but to also help them cross the midline (to see why this is important, click here). Have your child begin in a plank position with their arms extended and legs straight. Then have your child bring their right knee to their chest and cross it over their body to the left side. When they have crossed over the body, have your child bring their leg back to the plank position. Switch sides and have your child complete the exercise for the left leg.

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Wrong way or what to watch for

Some kids tend to do this exercise too quickly and rush through it. Help your child use slow and controlled movements. This will strengthen the core and help them properly cross over the midline. If they cannot cross their body and tend to do same arm to same leg, help them cross their knee to the other side. If they fall over, you may need to help steady their bodies.

Leg and Arm Reach

This exercise may be a bit tricky for kids so you may need to help them. First, have your child begin on their hands and knees. Then have your child extend their left arm straight in front of them and lift their right leg straight behind them and hold for about 10 seconds. Remember to use opposite arm with opposite leg. After 10 seconds, have them return to their hands and knees and then lift their right arm and left leg.

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Wrong way or what to watch for

This is another exercise where your child may wobble or lose their balance. You may need to start them out with arms only or legs only and then add them both together as they build their core muscle. You may also notice your child using the same arm with the same leg. This doesn’t engage their core as well so you will want to ensure they are using opposite leg with opposite arm.


Now these aren’t just your normal every-day crunches. You will be watching for a few other things. Have your child lie on their back and place their hands behind their head. As they lift their head to do a normal crunch, have them look at the ceiling and engage their tummy muscles. You want to help them hold their head still and also have them hold their breath for about 10 seconds. Release after 10 seconds and go back to the ground. The reason for holding their breath is to engage their core even more and it also helps with speech, language, anxiety and attention issues.

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Wrong way or what to watch for

If your child’s neck muscles are physically not strong enough to lift their head, you may have to lift it for them at first, but eventually you want them to do it on their own. Make sure if you lift their head that they are still engaging their tummy muscles. You may also see your child want to lift their legs or feet off the ground. Make sure they are firmly planted.

Air Kicks

This is by far my favorite exercise and one of the best for core muscle. You will need a medium-sized ball for this activity. It may be difficult for the kids at first, so you will probably have to help them. Have your child lie on their back, but prop themselves up on their elbows (children must be on their elbows, not laying flat on the floor). Have them bring their legs to their chest in the ready position. You will be standing in front of them with the ball. When they are ready, throw the ball toward their feet. They must kick the ball back to you with both feet. When they have the hang of it, complete this exercise at a faster pace.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom | ilslearningcorner.com

Wrong way or what to watch for

You’d be surprised at how many kids can’t do this exercise. They may have a tendency to come up off their elbows or lie on the floor, but make sure they stay in that ready position. Some children will want to kick the ball with only one foot, usually with their dominant leg. We want to ensure they are kicking the ball with both feet at the exact same time. Your child may also have a tendency to kick the ball behind you or to the side. This is a sign of proprioception issues that we will discuss in later articles. Help your child kick the ball straight back to you, instead of to the side or behind you.

Why these Core Muscle Exercises Help Prevent Learning Challenges in the Classroom | ilslearningcorner.com

These are just a few exercises that can help your child build their core muscle, but there are many others. As a reminder, keeping your child involved in sports, gymnastics, swimming lessons and other fun activities all help their balance, coordination and muscle strength.





Home Sensory Gyms Provide Another Tool For Children With Sensory Processing Disorder

Annie Pagni, 6, plays in a Southpaw acrobat lycra swing in a sensory room designed by Alexander Lopiccolo in Gig Harbor.Alexander Lopiccolo has been modifying his environment since he was a toddler, creating obstacle courses and forts both inside and outside his family’s home in Michigan, where he grew up.

The fact that he now creates similar — though more specialized — home environments for new generations of children to explore and adventure in does not surprise him at all.

Lopiccolo, 30, is the owner of SensoryDigest.com, a company that specializes in creating home sensory gyms for children with sensory processing disorder (SPD), though he adds that anyone can benefit from the environments he creates.

“It’s like a custom designed indoor play gym for therapeutic use,” Lopiccolo said. “I think any person can benefit from these (gyms).”Alexander Lopiccolo sets up equipment in a sensory room.

Lopiccolo — who is also a certified occupational therapy assistant at Harbor Children’s Therapy in Gig Harbor — first started building home sensory gyms for clients when he was living in Denver.


Alexander Lopiccolo, owner of SensoryDigest.com

The gyms are fully customizable and construction costs start at around $800, designed to fit around the budget of most families.

Annie Pagni and her brother, Alex, play in a area designed by Alexander Lopiccolo as part of a sensory room. Lopiccolo tries to design the sensory rooms using equipment and features of the original rooms.

With the help of a contractor, Stan Riddle, Lopiccolo works to utilize the available space to meet the sensory needs of his clients, providing options such as swings, scooter boards, ball pits, rock walls and more — all without requiring drastic home renovations.

“I use what people have in their house and I modify their environment with sensory equipment to make it the most universally satisfying experience,” Lopiccolo said. “I never want it to be boring.”

These gyms can either be used for periods of high intensity movement — to help regulate sensory systems and prevent fidgeting during school — or for a place to relax and decompress with specially designed hideouts.

“With a lot of the gyms I do, the kids are either lethargic or hyperactive. They’re not in that middle ground,” Lopiccolo said. “A lot of the kids I see are on the verge of a meltdown.”

In addition to helping children with SPD, these gyms can help children on the autism spectrum or with ADD/ADHD learn to self-regulate by modulating their nervous systems through the different movements and uses of the equipment.



Annie Pagni, 6, bounces while sitting in a Southpaw acrobat lycra swing in a home sensory room designed by Alexander Lopiccolo, left, in Gig Harbor.Judy Pagni, a client of Lopiccolo’s, has seen the benefit a home sensory gym has had not only on her own children, but also on their friends.

“There’s been a big improvement in (them) being able to relax, sleep better at night, focus,” Pagni said. “I compare it to myself when I need to go to the gym and get a run in to get my head focused.”

Pagni and her husband had a home gym constructed for their children — Annie, 6, and Alex, 4 — to provide a healthy outlook for the natural energy and exuberance her children possess.

“I have really energetic, active kids — like their parents — and I wanted a way for them to get their activity in,” she said. “Kids need to get wiggles out.”

She added that after Lopiccolo finished the gym, her daughter was more likely to sit still and be able to focus on reading and other activities.Annie Pagni, 6, plays while Alexander Lopiccolo installs equipment in a sensory room in Gig Harbor.

“I think that’s the beauty of a sensory gym; it looks like a big indoor play area, but it’s so beneficial,” Pagni said. “There’s a lot of things we can do to make (our children’s) experience at school or at home more successful.”


Judi Pagni, client

Anyone can benefit from these kind of sensory stimulating environments and that the need for movement and “tummy time” is not limited to children, Lopiccolo said.

Along with the home sensory gyms, Lopiccolo also creates multi-sensory environments in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to help provide similar stimulation to older adults. The benefit of such environments can include a decrease in inflammation, relaxation of the nervous system and an improvement in overall mood.

“You’re bringing them back to a more positive memory,” Lopiccolo said, adding that he uses the client’s favorite music, color and wall projections to calm and decrease tension.

For those adults looking for some sensory-beneficial movements, Lopiccolo recommends activities that are commonly categorized as tumbling — somersaults, crawling and log rolling — or spending a designated time in a relaxing space to unwind. Other beneficial activities include sleeping with a weighted or heavy blanket, chewing two pieces of gum to stimulate the TMJ regulator in the jaw or to engage in an activity that puts the head parallel to the ground, a different plane of gravity than is typical for most adults.

“A child’s occupation is play,” Lopiccolo said. “I take what they do naturally and make it more powerful.”

He added that he engages in similar activities with his children — Sawyer, 3, and Sage, 1 — and has tried all the activities first himself. Lopiccolo and his wife, Brittany, moved their family to Gig Harbor less than two months ago, seeking a more family friendly and welcoming environment.

“I want to encourage movement as a way of therapy so (children) can have a better quality of life,” he said. “I see a lot of kids that have low self esteem … I try to coach them to be more confident in their abilities.”


Man With Autism Spectrum ( Autistic Genius ) Who Graduated From Law School Passes Bar Exam!

A few months ago, we shared the story of Erik Weber, an adult with autism from San Diego. Erik was diagnosed with autism at age two.

A few years later, his parents were told to institutionalize him.

Thanks to his family and a great teacher, Erik began to learn language. He is now a law school graduate from Cal Western Law School. Erik said in an NBC San Diego exclusive about graduating, “People call me the trailblazer — the icon — but really I’m an ordinary person doing extraordinary things.”

Now, Erik has passed his bar exam — and on the first try!

“When I first opened it up on May 15th, I closed it down and checked it again to make sure I wasn’t hallucinating,” Erik told NBC San Diego.

He was at Starbucks checking his score on his laptop.

“When I found out I really did pass, my keyboard got wet with tears of joy,” Erik told NBC.

He hopes to one day practice in special needs law to help the disability community.


Source: goingviralposts.biz