Monthly Archives: August 2016

Comments Off on Minnesota’s 2016 Primary Election Results and what they mean for Autism

Alright – so, Minnesota had a primary election Tuesday and there were big winners and losers. Let’s just start with the biggest winner. Ilhan Omar from district 60B which has the largest Somalis in Minneapolis won beating a fellow Somali – Noor and Rep Kahn.

Rep Kahn represented this district which includes parts of the University of Minnesota for decades – over 40 years. I think that is before Ms. Omar was even born. Kahn has been no friend to us or autism families in this district and to those that are low income or minority autism families. She has always voted for bills and legislations that hurt our equal access goals and leveling autism therapy opportunities. In fact, she is a co-sponsor of a current bill – HF 3289 which wants unlimited and unchecked autism therapy coverage for wealthier autism families which will most likely make therapy providers not take Medicaid autistic kids and will eventually force DHS to decrease the reimbursement rate for Medicaid autism therapy coverage. I will explain more about this bill in a later post.

I for one am glad that Kahn lost, but the icing is that she lost to a woman of color. This district has one of the highest economic, health and education gaps in the state and even in the nation for people of color and Kahn has mostly ignored those constituents. So, Rep Kahn – good bye and good riddance.

Ilhan will face another Somali in November, Askar who is representing the Republican party. Think about this for a minute – two Somali Americans running in the same district. In other words, no matter who wins, our community will win. If that is not assimilation then I don’t know what is. Congrats to Ilhan and Askar and good luck to you both!

Another amazing loss was Rep. Mullery who also was no friend to minority autism families. He lost to a minority person as well. Really folks, does it get better than this. I hope this is a clear message and a lesson to those at the state capitol if you don’t represent all of your constituents – someone will come along and vote you out.

Couple of wins that I am not all that thrilled about are Sen. Hayden who usually ignores most of our community’s needs including autism and mostly marches to Sen. Bakk’s beat. And, Rep. Moran who is usually silent and hardly fights for our issues especially if God forbid we have different opinions or views. There is always next election.

A sad loss to the autism community was Sen. Sean Nienow who has been a true friend to us and our issues. I will miss him and hope he runs again next time. Sen. Nienow had this ability of speaking from the heart about legislations and relating it to his personal story. Even if he didn’t support a particular bill or legislation we wanted, he always explained his position so well that we could agree to disagree respectfully. There was never any bias or bull from him.

What does this all mean for autism? well in our community and those that live in district 60B, I think mostly this is good news. I am confident that Ilhan or Askar will truly represent everyone including autism families in a fair and transparent manner.

As usual, above words do not represent any candidate, agency or committee.

Idil – Autism Mom & Advocate

Comments Off on Minnesota Autism Center’s Page Berland Fails to prevent child abuse and fails to report abuse which is required per Minn Statute

Alright – so, if you know me or read my blog then you know I am not a fan of Minnesota Autism Center (MAC). There are many reasons why and in fact, I am one of probably hundreds in the autism community that feel the same way about MAC. One of the main reasons is how MAC bullies families, silences employees and gets away with doing so many wrong things.

One of MAC’s previous employees BW stated that two children were involved in an abuse situation under the care of Page Berland who is a licensed professional clinical counselor. According to this employee, Page was notified of this incident by the lead therapist in their Woodbury location. Page then informed Kathryn Marshall the director there who said to burry it and not even tell the kid’s parents. Let’s think about that for a minute. Let’s say you are an autism parent and your child goes to MAC and something horrible happens to your child who can’t tell you what happened. Then imagine the adults in charge of your child’s care not only allow abuse, but fail to tell the parents and fail to report it to the authorities. MAC’s horrible actions under the direction of Kathryn Marshall and Ron Carey are reprehensible.

I met this therapist and what she has said in how families and children are treated are simply cruel, wrong and unethical. Below are some of her words to me.

” I still felt very uncomfortable with the fact that the parents had not been informed about the situation. I knew that I was going to be conducting family skills with my client’s parents later in the day and I felt sick about looking them in the eyes and essentially lying by omission. I knew that if I wrote out in detail about what happened I may be more likely to get a response from my supervisors so I sent an email to Camille, Paige and I believe I cc’ed Kathryn as well. I voiced my concerns and wanted to know what I should say to his parents at family skills that day. Within 5 minutes I got a phone call from Camille. She was irate that I had put everything in writing and reprimanded me for not “letting it go”. Camille repeated many times over the phone, “it is done. I thought you understood. This conversation is over.”

BW also said the following which sickens me deeply.

In addition to this event, during my time at the Minnesota Autism Center I witnessed many other events that were also disturbing.

While working as a behavior therapist with a 12 year old girl who had aggressive behaviors, I watched her behavior plan change on a day to day basis. Her behavior plan called for 2-3 person holds on a large bean bag. She would be put in holds for aggression to herself and to others. During sessions behavior therapists, myself included, would ask about specific behaviors this girl would do such as self stimulation (waving her hands and sometimes hitting her own head, slapping her own thighs while sitting) and during a casual conversation with the lead supervisor, who at the time was Camille Heyman, that these things were determined to be aggressive and she should be placed in a hold for them as well, especially if she was upset at the time. What is worse is that sometimes the girl would get upset and slap a table or rip a piece of paper and the therapists working with her were not sure how to handle these behaviors. The Camille made the decision in the moment to place the girl in a hold in order to “teach her that she can’t do that stuff.” I pointed out that the hold seemed more aggressive than the behaviors and asked if we were sure this was the correct reaction but was made to feel that I should listen to my supervisor and respect their position and their decisions.
It was after I was promoted to a lead therapist that I realized how deep the disrespect for the family ran at the Minnesota Autism Center. The people who interacted with the parents and families of our children daily were respectful and kind to their faces but behind closed doors there is a culture of disrespect and judgment. Parent’s who are deemed “needy” or have “ridiculous requests” are made fun of and not taken seriously. After many ITP meeting I was horrified to see the way my clinical supervisor would talk about parents and my clients families. A common expression was “You can see why their kid turned out they way he has…” implying that the parents are responsible for their child’s disability. Many of the parents that we interacted with were under extreme stress but there was virtually no genuine empathy for these families; if a parent so much as questioned any of their child’s programs they were met with hostility and after they left the meetings their character and ability to parent their children were frequently under attack. This sort of attitude of superiority started at the very top of the Minnesota Autism Center with Kathryn Marshal and trickled through many of the program supervisors, through the lead therapists and then finally to the behavior therapists who were working directly with the children.”
Shame on Kathryn Marshall, Shame on Page Berland, Shame on Camille Heyman and Shame on Ron Carey. How could you all be so cruel to children with autism and their families. This was reported to Minnesota Department of Human Services to the city of Woodbury police.
Above words do not represent any candidate, agency or committee.
Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate
Comments Off on Autism and Law Enforcement = Training, Training & More Training

Alright – so, after what happened in North Miami few weeks ago, I think most autism parents if not all are uneasy about law enforcement. The one thing that would have prevented what happened in North Miami is clearly autism training for law enforcement. As I have said in previous posts, there are no nationwide, federal or state requirements for autism training in law enforcement. There lies the problem because unless it is required and part of  law enforcement’s training, autism will remain a mystery to most officers.

I have contacted many cities in Minnesota and some in the country to get a feel of their autism training. Most don’t have any, some have a little here and there under their crises management. Some have few minutes of drive-by where they cover all mental health and disabilities. Minnesota is one of those. There is not one city that can say we have the autism training down and understand what autism is, and how to de-escalate an autistic person in distress. Minnesota which has about 600 state troopers does not have a good thoughtful and comprehensive autism training. They have few minutes where they mention autism among other disabilities and mental health conditions. North Miami also did not have any autism training for their police and I don’t think Florida has any for their state highway patrol officers.

From what I understand, few of North Miami’s city council members held community meetings asking about autism training. It has been suggested that they will now provide such training. It is too bad something bad had to happen first. I am really impressed by city’s community meetings and how everyone voiced their opinion and take. I don’t think I have ever seen such venue in Minnesota. You know the land of 10,000 racial disparities.

The Miami Police Union President Mr. John Rivera sent me an email  stating they are open to autism training. Mr. Rivera also welcomes legislation requiring autism training which I think is always the best way to go. Personally, I prefer to advocate through legislation and policy change because that brings the best change. We  need a federal and Minn state legislation requiring autism training. As anyone knows, any state or federal legislation can take a while unless there is a legislator that is really interested is or is personally impacted. I think there is one legislator in Minn House, and I am blanking on his name now, but maybe I will try to start there then try to convince the house/senate chairs of public safety committees to support it. On the other hand, going to advocate at the Minnesota Capitol buildings is not all that fun – I must say. I remember when I advocated for the autism therapy legislation, I would take two Tylenol before and two Tylenol after I left there. We could advocate city to city, but that will take forever.

I am extremely disappointed in Autism Society of America’s inability to use the North Miami incident as a reason to push a federal legislation that would require law enforcement training. Equally disappointing is Autism Speaks’ position on this issue. One in 68 kids in the U.S have autism. These children will become teens and adults which means since there is no cure for autism, law enforcement may be called to help.


Above words do not reflect any agency, candidate or committee.

Idil – Somali Autism Mom & Minority Advocate