Susan's Blog

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Professional Development

The following is the proposed text for my professional development brochure. Anyone have any feedback for me?

Inside an Autism Family: What Every Professional Should Know

By Susan Senator, former school committee member, journalist, and author of Making Peace with Autism: One Family’s Story of Struggle, Discovery, and Unexpected Gifts.

I am a writer, public speaker, political activist, and advocate for children and the disabled. My work has appeared in a variety of publications, from educational journals such as Education Week and Teacher Magazine, to the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times. I have covered topics such as my autistic son’s bar mitzvah, his transition to adulthood, my middle son’s adjustment to the high academic expectations of sixth grade, and the day I volunteered in my youngest son’s kindergarten class. From 2001 to 2006 I served on my town’s School Committee.
I talk to groups of any size and make-up.

  • therapists
  • parents of newly-diagnosed children
  • educators
  • physicians
  • the general public

I have a PowerPoint presentation I can use or not as appropriate. I speak about autism, special education, parenting, living well with adversity and challenge, and taking care of yourself while taking care of children, using my book, Making Peace with Autism, as a jumping off point for discussion. Professionals will be able to complete their picture of the families they work with, and understand better how their efforts translate into family life.

[picture of me, and book cover]

What can the Making Peace with Autism Workshop do for your staff?
The Making Peace with Autism presentation uses a family story with universal truths about struggle, coping, discovery, and acceptance to convey to educators the family perspective of autism. This workshop will

  • give professionals a parent’s perspective on autism and family life
  • help build understanding as well as provide insight into dealing with autism.
  • appeal to any educator who wishes to become familiar with the great challenges as well as useful strategies and resources to help families.
  • illustrate, from a mother’s perspective, how to ease a family’s pain and confusion in the early days of diagnosis,
  • describe what to do for siblings
  • detail what it is like to deal with the school system and other professionals
  • give insight into how ultimately achievement, connection and relationships are possible for people with autism.

The Making Peace with Autism Presentation includes:

  • PowerPoint slide show
  • Reading and commenting on excerpts from Making Peace With Autism
  • Resource guide
  • Question and answer time
  • Making Peace With Autism tips and talking points on what is most important for autism families to know, so that you, the educator can best help and support them:
  • -Trust Your Gut: You know what is true about this child
  • -Determine Your Priorities. Strategize to achieve them
  • -Find Your Supports.
  • -Be As Eccentric as You Need to Be. Use humor, turn obsession into hobby, experiment
  • -Give Yourself (And Everyone Else) A Break.
  • -Define Success Your Own Way

See what others in the field have said about the Making Peace with Autism Presentation:
“My deep appreciation for your exquisite presentation. People were raving about it all day and we have received many comments about your sincerity, honesty, and hopeful perspectives.”
— Dr. Rich Robison, Executive Director, Federation for Children with Special Needs

“Your presentation was both touching and inspirational. We have received many positive comments from the professionals, family members, and students who were in attendance. I found the answers you suggested in response to attendees insightful. Hearing your tips and guidance first hand – from a mother who understands – I am sure offered hope to many struggling families.”
— Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey, Executive Director, The Barber Institute, Erie, Pennsylvania

“Thank you very much for your excellent presentation. Many people commented that they appreciated your candor and insight. Several people also commented that it was reassuring to hear someone talk about gaining confidence even though things did not always go smoothly. I felt your presentation added a valuable dimension to the information this year.”
— Mary Powell, Executive Director, The Autism Society of Minnesota
[pictures from past presentations, television appearance]

Endorsements of the book, Making Peace With Autism:

“Autism is capturing our attention at an almost exponential rate. As more children are diagnosed correctly, more people are coming into contact with children and families who wrestle with autism. As Senator explains, at some point almost everyone will encounter a person or a family confronting the demands it makes on their lives. Fortunately, she has used her own experience as a parent, writer, and advocate tell a moving story, but, more importantly, to offer encouragement and helpful strategies to parents, families, teachers, and friends. This is one of those rare books that not only advises readers how to cope, but also presents very specific ideas families can adapt to help their children and themselves. Educators will find the book particularly helpful understanding both the students and the parents who care about them.

This is, however, much more than just a touching family story. Senator has done her homework – lots of it. She shares the fruits of her research and collaboration with professionals and caregivers who include everyone from physicians and psychologists to physical therapists and professionals who deal with the delicate topic of prescribing drugs to children. She confronts head on the nagging question of whether to medicate, how best to use discipline, just how far to push teachers and caregivers, how to keep one’s own mental health in tow, and how to balance the needs of the rest of her family.”

–Glenn Koocher, Executive Director, Massachusetts Association of School Committees

“This honest account of family life will give great insight into coping successfully with the challenges of raising an autistic child.”

—Dr. Temple Grandin, author of the NY Times Bestseller, Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior

“There are so many elements of the book that I found compelling—Senator’s capacity to mix eminently practical ideas like Nat bo
oks, with profound internal experiences like desperation and frustration; the capacity to chart a path between challenging society to do better and recognizing the special difficulties of Nat’s condition; the capacity to make autism come alive but retain the book as a story about Nat and her family, not about a disease; the capacity to share the joy of being Nat’s mother while never glossing over the stress. Senator has a huge amount to offer folks who live in the autism world, but also so much more. Somehow, I hope the book succeeds in finding its way onto the bedside tables of many mothers and fathers, teachers and administrators, politicians and doctors. Regardless of whether they have anything to do with autism, they’ll learn a lot about life from Senator and Nat and her family. And what they would learn about acceptance and love would make the world a far better place. I’m hoping…”

—Timothy Shriver, CEO, Special Olympics

A Few Notable Events related to Making Peace with Autism from the Past Year:
Oct 1, 2005: Weekend America, NPR
Oct 2, 2005:The Today Show, on NBC TV nationwide
Nov 17, 2005: WBUR radio, wrote and read a commentary about the Supreme Court decision ruling against special education families.
Dec 28, 2005: MSNBC, interview
Jan 12, 2006: Brandeis University, Genetic Counseling Program, presentation.
Mar 19, 2006: Sudbury Valley Jewish Special Needs Educational Initiative, Annual Best Practices conference, Acton MA, keynote
Mar 4, 2006: Federation for Children with Special Needs annual conference, Boston, keynote speaker.
Apr 11, 2006: Autism Awareness Day, Massachusetts State House, Boston MA, guest speaker
May 3, 2006: Autism Society of Minnesota, 7:30 pm, keynote speaker
Jul 31, 2006: Massachusetts General Hospital, presentation and discussion, Boston, MA.
July 10, 2006: Dinner Guest, The White House, Event Honoring Special Olympics and Eunice Kennedy Shriver

For full list of articles, excerpts, resources, events and engagements, see


I think it’s very good and captures you well. One thing–I really hate the term “the disabled”. How about “people with disabilities”?

— added by Anonymous on Tuesday, October 31, 2006 at 10:18 pm

I see a lot of women out on the circuit, but very few male voices…like from fathers and brothers of autistic kids. I think I’d like to see more of that from the Autism community as a whole.

Just my 2 cents. It all looks great, though.

Still trying to find time to read the chapters, BTW…many projects on my lap right now.

— added by Wise Young Friend on Thursday, November 2, 2006 at 4:33 am

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