A family's bond is one of the strongest, purest forms of love. Each component is essential - parents, siblings, and extended family. When we consider a family consisting of a child with autism, the familial ties become increasingly vital. Parents and caregivers definitely become surrounded by more demands than anticipated and have limited time for other tasks and relationships. There is also a heavy reliance on extended family and friends for physical and emotional support. A sibling can become heavily involved in the development of their brother or sister with autism by helping foster social, emotional, cognitive, and physical development. However, throughout the process, siblings may be overwhelmed by the mature role they play in their sibling's lives, feel overshadowed by their sibling with autism's required parental attention, or struggle to understand the ramifications of having a sibling with autism. So how can we support the siblings of children with autism? Here are strategies that can help:
Kristy Johnson is a mother of a child with significant special needs, as well as a researcher in the field of neurodevelopmental disorders. While she has always been very involved in science and engineering, her son greatly influenced her decision to pursue research in this field. Her current research is focused on designing a device that engages children who have neurodevelopmental disorders using the gold standard principles of therapy. Kristy provides wonderful insight into being a parent of a child with special needs (and a parent to an infant), conducting research in her field, being married to someone who also works in academia, and balancing these aspects of her life. Kristy has a strong passion to provide children with the materials they need to thrive.
Sarah Scruton is an English teacher at Triton Regional High School in Byfield, MA. Although Sarah is a general education teacher, she provides excellent insight into how to make accommodations for students with special needs within an inclusive classroom, the pros and cons of being a teacher, alternative assessment, and advice for future educators. Furthermore, Sarah strongly believes that if a student is separated from the classroom due to their learning needs, they are also being separated from the overall school culture.
Timothy Jepson teaches chemistry to sophomores at Triton Regional High School in Byfield, Massachusetts. Although he teaches general education, it is imperative that he make accommodations within his classroom for students who have special needs. Additionally, Timothy has a strong belief that high-stakes testing can interfere with the quality of education. Throughout our conversation, Timothy provided excellent insight into being a general education teacher, providing accommodations for students with special needs, and advice for aspiring teachers.
As a behavior analyst, Stephanie Hicks experiences the field of special education through multiple lenses. Stephanie works mainly with classroom teachers, parents and a variety of therapists on how to manage and teach behaviors to children with autism. In addition to observing behaviors and writing plans to increase or decrease those behaviors, Stephanie finds it extremely important to consider other factors while writing a plan for a child. She carefully considers developmental milestones, relationships, school anxiety, sensory issues and anything else that may influence behaviors. Additionally, Stephanie conducts workshops regarding new research and strategies for working with students who have autism.
Interviews from the field
As a Special Education Associate Professor at Lesley University, a parent of a child with special needs, and a previous K-12 educator, Janet Sauer has many insights into the field of special education. Janet has a passion for social justice, as well as inclusive education for all students. Through our conversation, it was clear that Janet believes that the structural aspect of our education system can sometimes be what hinders inclusive education. Therefore, a major focus of her research is to find a way to change the system to benefit all students.
Interviews from the field
As a speech-language pathologist working in Early Intervention, Casey Bryn McCarthy has a passion for communication and expression. Her passion for communication developed at an early age after working with children who have special needs. At fourteen years old, she began working at summer camps and volunteering at daycare centers, where she gained experience working with children with a diverse range of skills. Through these opportunities, Casey became particularly interested in children who have autism and cerebral palsy, and she now works with these children on a daily basis.
|Casey Bryn McCarthy|
Casey attended Wheelock College for her undergraduate education where she studied Developmental Psychology with a minor in Early Childhood Education. She then attended the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Health Professions where she received a Master’s degree in Speech-Language Pathology. During graduate school, Casey participated in a 6-month clinical placement within the Augmentative Communication Program and Autism Language Program at Boston Children’s Hospital working with children with complex communication needs, including those with autism spectrum disorders. Casey has been working as a speech-language pathologist for almost a year now, and it was clear from our discussion that she has a strong belief that all children deserve access to a means of communication.