My Child’s Meltdown Belongs in Your Classroom


The following essay popped up in my Facebook feed this morning.  I originally wrote it in 2013 after we had to pull my son out of a creative arts summer camp.  He was easily frustrated, cried a lot, had to take lots of cool-down breaks — all things that are normal for a child with autism (which we didn’t know he had, at the time) and an emotional disorder.  I’d put two weeks of my summer aside so I could be there as his coach, but it still didn’t work out. The art teacher treated him (and me) like he had a contagious disease, and the administration (my employer, and friend, at the time) threw up her hands, because what can you do, you know? We have to think of the other children.

I cringed when I saw it again this morning — not because of what I said in it, but because this is a problem – a prejudice – that we’ve been battling all his life. In 2011 it was summer camp at the local Lutheran church — nice people, not equipped to handle him.  In 2012 it was the sports camp sponsored by the City of Newark.  Before his diagnosis, it was the school system that dumped him in an “intervention” room (closet) for most of the school day, or suspended him.  Last year it was the new gifted teacher that didn’t want him in her class, even though his test scores are through the roof and rote remedial learning bores him (literally) to tears.  Why should the other gifted children have to listen to my son cry, right, or witness him being removed by a para, or do their work like good boys and girls while my son audits the class because he’s too stressed that day? That’s not fair, is it? We have to think of the other children.

But you know what? No.  No, your child doesn’t need to be sheltered from my child.

My Child’s Meltdown Belongs in Your Classroom

(Summer 2013)  I’m trying to be professional and understanding about things that have happened this week, but as a parent, my heart is a little broken.

When asked to consider the place of children with emotional and behavioral disorders in an educational setting, the first concern of most people seems to be for the benefit of the other children, and the teachers, and the harmony of the group. Which makes sense, right? When you first think about it.

But I ask you to consider this. A generation ago, even less, these same arguments, based on misunderstanding at best, prejudice at worst, kept children with developmental delays and other handicaps from attending school. It was only with activism on the part of parents and child advocates that this attitude was challenged, and changed, resulting in laws that protect the right of ALL children to an inclusive education, in the least restrictive setting, with all possible and reasonable accommodation.

These days, we don’t much dispute the right of a child with physical challenges to take part in the same activities as healthy children. When it comes to children with emotional and behavioral disorders, however, there is still a pervasive prejudice. There is a perception that such children are bad, that their behavior is willful – they are punished, rather than worked with, and they are marginalized.

The truth is, such a child has as much control over his condition as a child with epilepsy, or with Tourettes, or with Autism, or Cerebral Palsy, or with any other host of impairments can control theirs. That is to say, given an opportunity, and a conducive environment, and appropriate supports, they can succeed as well as any child.

The questions I am asked, as a parent of a child with an emotional and behavioral disorder… Why should other children have to suffer when such a child acts out in the classroom?

– Because these people exist together in the world.
– Because discomfort over differences is healed by familiarity, compassion, and understanding.
– Because segregating “normal” children from “abnormal” children when it is not strictly necessary will not prepare either one for living in an inclusive world. It can only further misconceptions and prejudice. It can only distance the special needs child from a sense of belonging and success.

Why should teachers have to interrupt their class to deal with a child who acts out in the classroom?

– Because every child is different. Some have learning disabilities and need help understanding their assignments. Some children have physical challenges and need help maneuvering their world. Some children have language barriers, cultural barriers, problems at home, problems of self-esteem, problems keeping their breakfast down, problems sitting still, problems paying attention, problems with you.
-If you are a teacher, presumably you are so for a reason. Please don’t shy away from something because you don’t understand it.

With the rate at which children in our society are being diagnosed with behavioral and psychiatric disorders, and in the wake of national tragedies that have dragged the state of mental health care into the limelight, I believe this is something that needs to be said. This is a conversation we need to be having. This is a situation that needs to be challenged.

At the very least, it’s something I need to get off my chest.


This article has been re-posted with permission.  It originally appeared on the author’s blog at


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Italian Police Prepare A Pasta Meal For Elderly Couple Disheartened About The State Of The World


(PCM) Get ready to grab your box of Kleenex because here is yet another heartwarming story that is sure to turn on the waterworks. The police in Italy responded to a call about crying coming from the apartment of an elderly couple and decided to pay the couple a visit to do a wellness check.

It turns out that 84-year-old Jole and her 94-year-old husband Michele had been watching television and became so upset about the state of the world that they began to cry after seeing all the horrific stories playing out. It also turns out that they were feeling quite lonely as well, so of course that led the pair to shed even more tears. We can’t stress the importance of calling your grandparents and other elderly loved ones, in our busy lives we sometimes forget that they get lonely and can at times feel forgotten about. It is important to remind them that you are thinking about them and that they are truly not alone.

The police decided to call an ambulance to further check-up on the couple, but instead of just leaving them alone to wait for the transport medics the police decided to spend a few extra minutes with the couple and cooked them a lovely pasta dinner while they waited. Such an amazing act of kindness on behalf of the Italian police officers. The officers shared photos of their dinner party with the couple on the agency’s Facebook page and it has since gone viral being shared over 25,000 times.

Many people commented on the post praising the officers for their good deed and thanking them for showing concern for the couple, who sadly do not receive many visitors these days. Hopefully, Jole and Michele are feeling some better now and perhaps they will receive some more visitors in the future.

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Grab The Tissues! Husband And Wife Married 63 Years Die 20 Minutes Apart In The Same Room


(PCM) Such a heartwarming, yet saddening, end to a beautiful life-long love story! Henry and Jeanette De Lange were married for 63 years and both sadly passed away a mere 20 minutes apart in the same room. 87-year old Jeanette passed away first at 5:10pm after succumbing to her battle with Alzheimer’s and was quickly followed in death by her husband 86-year old Henry who passed away at 5:30pm after his battle with prostate cancer.

After Jeanette passed, one of couples son’s looked over at his father and told him “Mom’s gone to heaven” and he claims that at that point his father knew he didn’t have to fight to stay alive any longer. He says Henry opened his eyes one last time to look at his wife and then he too passed away just 20 minutes behind her.

The family claims they could not have asked for a more beautiful way for their parents to leave this earth and thank God for showing mercy on the couple who couldn’t bear to live without one another. A joint funeral was held for the couple who are hopefully spending a true eternity with one another.

The post Grab The Tissues! Husband And Wife Married 63 Years Die 20 Minutes Apart In The Same Room also appeared on PCM Lifestyle.

New Jersey Man Receives A Double Obituary From Both His Wife And Longtime Girlfriend


(PCM) An Egg Harbor Township, New Jersey man by the name of Leroy Black passed away at the age of 55 and his death is creating quite a stir due to the fact that he has received dueling obituaries from both his “loving wife” and “long-time girlfriend”. Oh, to be a fly on the way at this upcoming funeral service!

Both obituaries include the fact that Black passed way due to “cancer of the lungs due to fiberglass exposure” and was surrounded by his family and loved ones at the time of his death. However, one keen reader of the “Press Of Atlantic City” noticed that there were some key differences between the two published obituaries.

One of the major glaring differences between both obituaries was in the list of survivors. In the first obituary, Black’s “loving wife” Bearetta Harrison Black is listed first as his survivor, however in the second obituary Bearetta’s name is nowhere to be found and it has been replaced by the words “survived by his long-time girlfriend, Princess Hall”.

When a call was placed to the funeral home, the director claimed that the reason there were two obituaries was due to the fact that the wife wanted it one way and the girlfriend wanted it another. He goes on to say that he does not anticipate any issues during the funeral service as both the wife and the girlfriend were completely aware of the situation.

Something tells us there will still be some sparks flying at Mr. Black’s funeral, but let’s hope his is now resting in peace!

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Caring Author Changes The World One Child At A Time

MoreHeavenbookcover(PCM) When a young, determined special education teacher takes on the impossible task of teaching six so-called “unteachable” children, she not only transforms their lives; she also opens the doors for all future exceptional students who followed.

This is the premise of “More Heaven: Because Every Child Is Special,” the riveting new book, by International Bestselling Author, Dr. Jo Anne White, a noted motivational speaker, TV & radio executive producer and host of “Power Your Life.”

The book, published by Outskirts Press, has won numerous honors, including the Mom’s Choice Award Honoring Excellence and the Best Ever You Books Blue Ribbon Award for Excellence. It’s also an Amazon top 10 International Bestseller in three categories.

In 1975, the federal government mandated that all children, regardless of disability, be given the right to a public education.As a result of this historic mandate, this young pioneering teacher – with heaping doses of pluck and perseverance – stepped into a Philadelphia classroom of exceptional learners and transformed their world.

This “true life” experiment took place when Dr. White was hired by the Philadelphia Board of Education as the first teacher and program coordinator for children who were either expelled or had never entered the hallways or classrooms of a public school.

The cutting-edge program, which initially was not embraced by the typical education teachers, parents or by the administrators,began slowly. Its success paved the way for more special education classes to open in the public arena. “Not only did we persevere,” Dr. White explained, “we conquered skepticism and won victories for these children to live and thrive in society.”

Dr. White says that she fought hard, alongside the children and their tireless parents, “to restore dignity in their lives. This dignity, the birthright of every human being, had been denied them. The time had come to make things right.”

This pioneer has crucial lessons for all of us today: to learn that despite tremendous obstacles, each of us can use our compassion to bring out the best in our children. By using her common sense, imagination,sheer will, and a caring heart, she truly changed the lives of these formerly“unteachable” students in her class.

Dr. White still vividly recalls the first day of school when a little girl named Eva, who had autism, arrived for the new program.“There was great skepticism on the part of the faculty and the administration,of the notion of educating Eva. The girl’s driver echoed those sentiments to the young teacher, ‘Believe me,’ he confides, ‘I wouldn’t want your job for nothin’ in the world.’”

Q: How will your book, “More Heaven: Because Every Child is Special,” positively impact parents, teachers and the greater community?

DR. JO ANNE WHITE: I’d like people to understand how wonderful these children are, instead of seeing them as strange or approaching them with great apprehension. We need to be able to co-exist and embrace our differences when it comes to everything: ethnicity, culture, learning,and neurological differences. So, it has always been very important for me that everyone understand the richness and beauty of each child. That is the way to truly embrace humanity.

Q: Please tell me a little bit about your history as a teacher.

JW: I was planning to go to school for English literature and writing, until I became involved in an inclusive camp program. When this visionary director of the program created a division for children with special needs, it opened my eyes and I changed my plan to study education and special education.

Q: That sounds like a life-changing moment.

JW: Yes. When I walked into that camp program I completely fell in love with the children there.

Q: What do you recall from that experience?

JW: I remember working with one little girl who would bite her arms and bite the insides of her cheeks with sores that wouldn’t heal. She hummed and had ritualistic behavior. I immediately took her under wing, and sang to her, and massaged her cheeks, when no one else wanted to go near her. She blossomed under my care. This was such a beautiful life-altering experience and it shaped my future. I thought to myself ‘this is important.’

Q: Did the text books prepare you for that first special education classroom?

JW: No, not with these children. What I learned in school was important and served me; but I also had to bring something else to these kids. I had to reach them with unconventional methods, by getting into each of their worlds and being extremely resourceful, imaginative and creative.

Q: Please talk about being a young special education teacher, what was that like?

JW: I didn’t know what to expect. There were so many unknowns; and the truth be told, not everybody, including the faculty and many parents, wanted this to happen. It was new territory; people were afraid and misinformed. This was a case of sink or swim; I didn’t know what to expect.These children were labeled as more disabled than some of the previous groups of children I had taught. The first girl, who had autism, came to school in a taxi because it was thought ‘how could she function on a bus or relate to other kids.’

Q: But you say you never considered giving up even on the toughest days. So what about you personally made you stick with it, no matter how overwhelming this was?

JW: Something that has served me well over the course of my life is perseverance. I have patience, perseverance and an understanding that the time has to be right for everything. I also know that in life you need to take chances.

Dr.JoAnneWhiteQ: What is the most important life lesson for each of us who work with and care for children?

JW: My book gives you a front row seat where you get to know these six children up close and personal. It’s important to understand that despite the many challenges and mannerisms each child faces and family,each child has special gifts we need to nurture and celebrate every single day.

Q: How is all of this relevant today – some 40 years later?

JW: There are many reasons. One major reason is about bullying, and the way children with special needs are still judged, as opposed to being accepted by their communities. My book, “Bully Free,” which also won awards, ties into “More Heaven.” It focuses on my interviews with parents about their children with autism and special needs who were victims of bullying at school and in the community, and the deep emotional scars left on these families.

Q: How did you know how to teach these so-called“unteachable” children?

JW: I knew that I had to reach these kids, so I did whatever I could do, as long as it was ethical. With the first child, I used play, movement and dance since she was never still for long. Much of this was not a part of typical classroom lessons. I was literally utilizing whatever I could to make that connection, and for each child it was different. I knew I had to reach them and had to figure out how to enter their different worlds so they would eventually embrace and accept the world of learning and socialization.

Q: What was the result?

JW: Each of my students slowly started to accept their surroundings and felt ‘wow, this is okay. My teacher is not telling me I am crazy or ridiculous.’ I was able to get them to trust me, open up to their individual worlds and join our world.

Q: Why are you so proud of this book?

JW: I am repeatedly told that “More Heaven,” captures people’s hearts. It allows the reader to see what went on back then, and to understand that despite the strides we have made we are not there yet. Many parents at that time were told that their children could never learn or would best be served by an institution.

Q: What are the vital life lessons for all of us?

JW: People need to recognize the struggles, the passion and determination from families who have done so much to create change. We need to say to the world ‘stop putting blinders on and let’s teach these kids and not hide from it or ignore it.’ All these years’ parents have fought and pushed for change, and there are parents today who are continuing to fight for acceptance, inclusion and dignity for their children.

Q: What makes you believe we need to keep pushing for acceptance?

JW: As an example, in 2014 there was a lawsuit in California involving an autistic boy who was considered to be a trouble maker. Neighbors sued and were also worried about their reduced property values. This action eventually drove the family from their home of seven years.

Q: So is your message that history will keep repeating itself if people don’t step up and make the change?

JW: Absolutely. It’s happening on the playgrounds, in the schools and the communities. There was bullying, judgment and disapproval at the time I taught these children. Unfortunately, it still happens a great deal to children who act or appear different in social or educational settings today.

Q: Ultimately, what do you want your book to accomplish?

JW: I’d like professionals to be open to work with these children even if at times the techniques seem unconventional. I wish for all families and parents to learn to accept their children and guide them to express their talents. And I’d like families, neighbors and the general public to see these children in a warmer light after reading my book and interface with the special needs community. I frequently say that ‘this book reaches in from the heart outward to all children – they will be heard!’

For further information, please go to:

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April 6th is Plan Your Own Epitaph Day

abcde-LooneyApril 6th is Plan Your Epitaph Day.  Spring is in the air, the birds are back and singing flowers are pushing their way out of the ground and new life is everywhere, now let’s take a moment and think about your death.

Let’s get one thought out of the way, we are all going to die.  It may be decades away or seconds away, but it is inevitable there is no escape.  The question is how do you want to be remembered.

On a tomb stone there is your name and some dates, for instance Joe Clark April 1, 1928 – February 29, 2035.  Do you see that little dash between the dates?  That represents a person’s whole life.  All they did and didn’t do, all of their hopes and disappointments all their laughter and tears are represented by that little dash.

After the name and date can come a sentence or two used to remember that person.  There is a stone in England that reads “Here Lies Arthur The Once and Future King”.  The great comedian WC Fields stone reads, “On the whole I’d Rather be in Philadelphia.”  On another tombstone it reads “To Follow You I’m Not Content.  How Do I Know Which Way You Went?”

If you leave your epitaph to your relatives, you may get nothing but your name and date, or something like “Beloved Mother” or maybe “Always Single and Never Happy.”  Don’t leave your epitaph in the hands of some distant relation or a family member that is too bereaved to think of a thing to say about you.  Who you were on this earth could be remembered hundreds of years from now if you write your own.

Maybe our friend Joe Clark might say about himself. “ I was a husband and father and I did the best I could”. Or “I set out to accomplish something good in my life and I did it”.  It needs to be about you and who you were and how you want to be remembered.

I would go a step farther than this though and plan your own funeral.  Choose the church or other building you want it to be held.  Decide on the music and the flowers, specify who you want to give your eulogy.  What passage of the Bible or another book that you want to have read.  Be in the driver’s seat at your funeral.  Write it all down, including your epitaph, and give it to a trusted friend or your lawyer.  They can take it from there.

Plan Your Own Epitaph Day can be a great experience.  Death is nothing to be afraid of and to go with all the loose strings tied up can be a great experience.

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