I just read a post by Jess of Diary of a Mom. Jess is an amazing advocate for her daughter Brooke, who has autism, as well as to her typically-developing daughter Katie. I am sure that if her husband needed some advocacy work, she would be right there working her magic. Jess is in Washington D.C. –- yes, at the White House for the autism meeting in honor of Autism Awareness Month. Go read her post about the White House Easter egg hunt — you will see why she got me thinking about Easter egg hunts. It made me think how the White House could do it differently so that children and adults with special needs (specifically autism) could participate. How could they write their own Easter Egg Hunt IEP? Here’s my first draft of a proposed IEP for the annual White House Easter egg hunt to accommodate children with autism.
Present Level of Performance
- The White House has a very, very, very, very, large Easter egg hunt. Thousands upon thousands of children and adults.
- Sensory stimulation at White House event — Overload for individuals with autism. Specifically, loud noises, loud music, lots of colors, lots of people. Visually, it’s a lot.
- Access to house limited — This would be a big one for our little guy because he would want to explore the whole darn White House. To say that he would be in distress upon not being able to see every room would be an understatement.
- Characters like Elmo with limited 1-1 access.
- Each child participates in the egg hunt. Participation may include picking up eggs, putting them in the basket, the child rolling on the ground next to the eggs, dropping Easter eggs in front of eyes, opening eggs, dropping them on the ground. You get the idea. If the child is smiling in a field of eggs or twirling in sea of eggs it is a success!
- Each child will have sensory needs met while at Easter egg hunt event.
- Each child will have fifteen minutes with a character and follow that character around the lawn to his heart’s content.
- Easter egg extravaganza will occur over three day period of time. Two hour time slots from 12 p.m. – 4 p.m. Limit of 25 people adults and children during each time slot.
- Lots of different ways to meet sensory needs of participants including a large “quiet tent” with noise-canceling headphones, swings, large pillows, blankets, and cold water bottles.
- Gross motor skills tent with trampoline, swings, and climbing equipment.
- Visuals, visuals and more visuals made specifically for each child.
- In-depth interview with each parent before egg hunt so that specific needs of each child with autism can be met.
- Something very special for the siblings — I’m not sure what this would be, but it would be something really special.
- Characters, characters, and more characters to receive lots of hugs.
So these are my proposed goals. This is just the first draft. I know it still needs a lot of work. Maybe an Easter egg hunt at home is just the way to go. I honestly would not want to take even Mae Mae to the Easter egg hunt at the White House. I can guarantee it would be way too overstimulating for me. But if we want to include children with autism at the People’s House, then we need to look at how they can be successful there. As I have said before, if my child needed a wheelchair, I would not deny him that or the ramps that he needed to access the world. For our kids with autism, our ramps look different: Our ramps are social stories, swings, trampolines, and a quiet place to escape. They are noise-canceling headphones and a room set up so that they can touch everything (and I mean everything). It means setting the goals and then making the accommodations. Looking at things differently, through a different lens.
So maybe next year, when Easter rolls around, I will hope that not only will they will Light it Up Blue at the White House, I will hope for a new beginning. My hope is that a small step will be made. That there will be another Easter egg hunt — one that meets the goals and accomodations stated above or something close to them. For me that will be my Easter miracle.