Comment Of The Week: Thinking Moms Need Thinking Teachers by Haley McPeek

Ever since The Thinking Moms’ Revolution was born, we have received many touching comments and responses. We appreciate each and every word of support and encouragement by Fellow Thinkers from all corners of the world. Today, we highlight a recent post by a Thinking Teacher. Though not a mom herself, a mere slip of a lass, this 21 year old college student/ special needs therapist shares a paper she wrote for a college class.

Here are some of the comments by The Thinking Moms regarding Haley’s letter;

“TEARS. And mine don’t come easily lately” – Blaze

“Wow. She IS a Thinking Mom. I totally feel in the presence of someone who is going to make a difference.” – The Professor

“I love this woman. I suddenly feel a bit more hopeful for the future. You can tell her I said that. This young lady is going to make a difference in the world ♥” – Poppy

“Love her. There is hope. ♥” – B.K.

“I love her” – Goddess

“This is AMAZING! I love her ! 21 huh? I could be her mother I’ll adopt her :)” – Money

Please read her open letter to The Thinking Moms’ Revolution below.

“Hi, My name is Haley McPeek and I am a 21 year old college student, and fellow thinker. I love everything you are about, and was inspired to write something today. I just wanted to give the perspective of a fellow activist and thinker who does not personally have a child with Autism, but who is committed to healing the next generation. 

Keep thinking!! Haley” 

Thinking  Moms Need Thinking Teachers

By: Haley McPeek

I can’t celebrate Autism. I can’t celebrate children suffering. But I can celebrate the journey I have made down the road of Autism. It is worth celebrating.

Autism didn’t choose me. I chose Autism. I don’t have autism, nor do I have a child with autism. And unlike most people today I don’t even have a close relative with autism. So why did I choose to become a part of this amazing group of advocates?

My journey with Autism began when I was 17, although my journey in special education began much before that. I have always wanted to work with children with special needs. Even at 8 years old in elementary school I knew I would be a special education teacher just like my mom. I loved going into her classroom and seeing the children she worked with. In middle school I would always finish my work as quickly as possible so at the end of the day I would be allowed to go read to the children with special needs. I loved their compassion and their spirits. Every day, the part of school I looked forward to most were those last 25 minutes. I knew this was what I was meant for. Throughout elementary and middle school I met many children with many different special needs, children with Downs Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, ADHD, intellectual, and behavior disorders – I had seen it all. Or so I thought.

In high school, another one of my teachers picked up on my passion, and offered me a similar opportunity. Take two of her intro to teaching classes my sophomore year, and I would be allowed to spend part of my junior and senior years working in a special education class at a local elementary school. SCORE! I was pumped! Spending my days with the sweet loving children I so looked forward to seeing in middle and elementary school seemed like a dream come true!

Little did I know, fate had a different plan. I still remember vividly walking down the hallway, and into that self contained classroom in 2008, similar to the many others I had spent time in years before. But something was different. As I was introduced to the 6 children in the classroom I was shocked to learn 5 of them had “Autism.” What was that? A spectrum? I had never heard of that when working with the kids my own age (born in the late 80’s early 90’s). Why did Samara scream like that, why did Grace bang her head on the desk or the wall. Why did Ben put EVERYTHING in his mouth, and carry around this weird teething chew toy. Why was Luke always trying to run out of the door? Why was Piper who was able to read everything, unable to use the bathroom correctly or even speak? Why were all of these children exhibiting behaviors I had never seen before, I had spent my whole life in the realm of special education, I was supposed to have experience, right?

At first I remember being scared to approach these children who seemed so foreign and sometimes scary. They did not greet me at the door with hugs and smiles, as I was so accustomed to. They didn’t look at me when I spoke to them, and they didn’t seem to even care I was there. This was nothing like the cuddly kids with Downs or CP I was used to. No, instead of worrying about going back to class with a little drool on my shirt, I had bigger problems. I had to worry about being slapped, kicked, bit, hit, or cussed at, by a 5 year old. This was not the dream world of special education I had always envisioned myself working in. I was not helping intellectually disabled children learn self help skills. I was not teaching “shoe-tying, and nose-blowing” as my mother often lovingly refers to her past work in self contained rooms. Instead, I was wrestling children into a bear hug so they couldn’t continue to hurt themselves; I was running (better yet SPRINTING) down the hallways after Luke every 20 min as he raced to one of the coke machines he loves to gaze at. I was pulling paper, dirt, glue sticks, and whatever else out of Ben’s mouth he had gotten a hold of. This was not the classroom I envisioned. I would go back to school every day physically and emotionally drained.

But then something happened, I gained confidence, and experience. I learned to not fear the tantrum, and to stand my ground. I saw these kids had a sparkle in their eyes, and I knew there was more behind them. I wanted to unlock this hidden potential I saw. I went home and learned everything I could. I wanted to help these kids who were slowly stealing my heart. I began googling everything I could about Autism. It wasn’t until college, though that I learned the facts about autism that would change my life forever.

In college I began babysitting children with autism, and doing ABA therapy. This is where I met my first warrior mom. Being in the school setting with a child is completely different than working in a child’s home. Instead of working with groups of children, you are working with one child, and their whole family. You form close bonds, and are considered part of the family. You have interaction daily with the parents, and siblings, when you only get to see them a few times a year in the school setting. This is what made all the difference. I had never had the opportunity to be comfortable enough with a parent to ask the question. What question is that you may ask? “Mrs./Mr. ___________________, What do you think causes Autism.”

That question, and the following answer started my journey down a road with no chance of turning back. Its like trying to put toothpaste back into the tube, it can’t be done. What that mom told me, changed my life. I remember walking with her through their house, as she points out “before” and “after” pictures. Before and after what? I see a happy smiling baby, waving to the camera. I see a baby cuddling with mom, and sleeping soundly. But what I see next is startling. She pulls out pictures of him after his 15-month vaccines, and I see the sparkle gone from his eyes. All I see is a shell of the baby I saw before. I see how he is wailing in pain. I see how he is covered in a rash. I see the pictures of him at 2 and 3 years old – blank stares, no smiles and waves. I see the child I work with today, severely autistic. They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

Surely, this couldn’t be. I remember thinking the whole drive home. I cried for him, and his mom. There is no way this could be true. Our doctors would not allow it, would they? Our government would now allow this. How could this happen? This must be really rare! That is when I began my “real research.” I remember RFK’s article in the rolling stone being the first one I read. The facts about thimerosal and vaccine injury were astonishing. Next, The Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine, and a Man-Made Epidemic. As I uncovered the cover-up, I was shocked, sad, and mostly pissed off. I was furious at the CDC for allowing this to continue, I was furious at the media, and mostly I was furious at myself. At myself, but why? Because for the past two years, I had punished these kids for screaming or running away, talked about them as if they couldn’t hear me, and viewed their behavior as simply “bad choices.” If I had a dollar for every time those first two years I said “Now, ____________ You need to make better choices” as they slammed their head into the wall for the 29th time. “You need to make better choices????” These kids weren’t choosing this behavior. I was mad at myself for being so ignorant. These kids were in PAIN. REAL PAIN. And I was worried about a stupid worksheet getting done?? How could all of the teachers I worked with have no idea? Why was I at 21, educating my mom and other teachers about what thinking moms already know, and what I was quickly learning? Why did I know more than most people who were classified as “experts on autism?”

Then I realized it. First, most teachers, like me, had never seen autism until recently, and so when presented with it, they face it like they would any other disability. That’s a problem. Second, teachers, don’t usually have super close relationships with the parents of the children they work with. They don’t have the luxury to pick their brains for hours a day like I have in the home setting. These thinking moms do countless hours of research and are a wealth of knowledge. This is where the real learning happens. Another problem. Thirdly, teachers are overworked and underpaid. They bust their ass all day with little thanks, and even less pay. Their classrooms are overcrowded and undersupplied. When do they have time to spend hours pouring over the latest research, and if they did have the time what incentive would they have to do so? Teachers today are so worried about standardized testing scores they have little time or incentive to continue their own education. This is a bigger problem. Some just don’t care. They don’t care about the epidemic proportion of children who are being neurologically damaged, and they don’t care about the best ways to help them. Those who do care, and want to help the children in their classes are faced with a lack of support, education, and training. THIS IS A HUGE PROBLEM.

It is these problems, and the despair I felt in the public school system, that has caused me to re-evaluate my decision to become a special education teacher. We need great teachers; I know that, so why give up on what I have always wanted? Because I can do MORE for them. I am no longer happy trying to teach academics, or trying to fix behavior problems, when I know the problem is much bigger than that. How do I sit back and attempt to educate students who I know were damaged and need medical help? These children have physical symptoms that must be addressed.

We need more people who are on our team. So how do we start recruiting? How do we get more young people to make the choice I have made? Not to become a special education teacher, but to become an advocate for autism. My decision to change my major from special education to Chiropractic was a result of all I have learned from a bunch of thinking moms. It was knowledge that sparked my passion. It is knowledge that we must continue to share. We must not forget young people when we are advocating and educating about autism recovery. Adults already have a career and a purpose, and are unlikely to change it unless they face autism personally. Children and teenagers are still deciding what they want to become, and I truly believe that the future of children with Autism, lays in the hands of people under 25. It is today’s young people that have the power to make the changes that are so necessary. It’s these young people who will be tomorrow pediatricians, teachers, and parents. They have the power; they just need the knowledge. It is with that knowledge, I know that I will be able to help RECOVER the next generation of children, and that is what I am celebrating.

Reprinted with permission by the author ~ D.S.

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38 Responses to Comment Of The Week: Thinking Moms Need Thinking Teachers by Haley McPeek

  1. Haley, crying reading this-again. At 21 all I was interested in were frat boys and keg parties. You amaze me. Chiropractic is a great choice. I have a friend who is a chiro and does a number of healing things as well. I would love to put you two in touch. Look into homeopathy as well. It’s compatible and has done wonders for many of our kids. Proud to now know you. -Goddess

    • Haley McPeek says:

      Thank you for your kind words! I have seen tremendous success with my own ADHD and gut dysbiosis through chiropractic! I would love to be connected with your friend, and learn more about homeopathy. Proud to be a part of the revolution

  2. Guilded Thinker says:

    Haley, your perspective blows me away. You are right, though. It’s the younger generation that will soon be the “professionals”. You are an extraordinary woman and I pray there are many more like you. The fact that you were willing to listen to that warrior mom, really listen, says so much. I can’t tell you how many times I have had teachers and therapists look at me like I was a lunatic when I tell them that my son was vaccine-injured, NOT born this way. Or, even better, the “team” of doctors who berated me for trying biomedical intervention because it’s “not scientific and doesn’t work”, yet they couldn’t help but admit he was improving. Or, more recently, the neurologist I “schooled” after he handed ,me a photocopy of an article about the study from Denmark that “proves vaccines don’t cause autism”.
    You are a star, shining brightly, in a sky darkened with storm clouds.I don’t know you, but I would be better if I did.

  3. Poppy TMR says:

    Blown away. Restored faith in the future. You are a gem, Haley ❤ So true Goddess….at 21 the only thing I was worried about was getting tickets to Lollapalooza (1993??!! Oy!!). The world has changed since then. The youth is faced with a tougher road. It's Thinkers like you that WILL make a difference, Haley. I too am proud to now know you xo

    • Haley McPeek says:

      HAHA! Lollapalooza is not totally out of the picture ;D I am probably the only 21 year old hoping for Autism One & Bonnaroo tickets this summer !!!!

    • Julie Leonardo says:

      Hey, don’t diss Lollapalooza, lol! Ah, the old days when that’s all that mattered. Anyway, Haley is amazing. I wish she was Mina’s teacher. She would get it…it’s so nice to have an educator get it.

  4. Leslie Ross says:

    21? Wow, to have that amount of knowledge and insight is amazing. I’m so glad to know there are young adults out there that want to take ACTION and make a difference for the future.

  5. Blaze says:

    Without even having met you (yet!), Haley, my heart swells with pride reading this. SO MUCH HOPE for the future of our kids. Just knowing you exist makes my day a million times better! Thank you for giving us this gift!

  6. Steven McPeek says:

    The young lady who wrote this is my daughter. I have watched her grow and mature these 21 years. There have been many occasions throughout her young life that have made my chest has swell with pride. None more so than now after reading the paper and the responses of the community she has focused her life on. She will make a difference.

    • Blaze says:

      Mr. McPeek, I can only hope my daughter will grow up to be CLOSE to this compassionate, thoughtful and caring. Congratulations, you have quite a prize in Haley! I want to steal her! 😉

    • chapnalli says:

      Congratulations Mr. McPeek, you have brought up a tremendous human being with a great sense of self and passionate drive to correct the wrongs of the world, a person with incredible integrity and heart!! You must be so proud!

    • Julie Leonardo says:

      Please let Haley know that about 33% (that’s the latest estimate I have been given) of those loveable kids with DS also have Autism now. So she will be taking care of them as well. Please refer her to Kent McLeod of Nutrichem and Rob at Nutrivene who are pharmacists as well as Laurette Janak, parent researcher who can be contacted at autismone.org. She is going to need this information as she pursues treatment for this special class of kids who have autism plus issues that can inhibit treatment. My lovely daughter with DS is one of those who was changed, and I am fighting to get her back.

      • Haley McPeek says:

        Wow, that’s a staggering percentage, does having DS make you more susceptible to vaccine damage? Children with DS have always had a special place in my heart. I would love to learn more. I will try and contact those people, thank you 🙂

  7. recoveringgrace20 says:

    Finally!!! Someone outside gets it, see’s it, lives it, and loves them. This lady will help change our world!

  8. Nancy says:

    Man I love this

  9. WC says:

    Haley, you give me hope for the future of all children. You will make a wonderful difference in this world.

  10. Tears! I love this young woman. She GETS it. I agree that it will be the 20-somethings and even younger folks who will make the greatest strides – many of them have siblings with autism. Haley gives me hope!

  11. Lucia Alonso says:

    Wow If only every 21 year old thought and knew as much as you Haley! You’re such an inspiration to others who read this, hope lots of special Ed teachers could see and read this, I know many could learn so much from you 🙂

    Touching the vaccine subject and homeopathy is so scary when it comes to sharing it with school people, you never know what they’ll do. This is something I will for sure pass along, thanks for wanting to help our children!

  12. gammicchiafamily says:

    I love the fact that you will now be practicing supporting those seeking alternative interventions. Our son loves his Chiropractor visits and now requests when he needs them.

    Also SE is a noble field, however seeking inclusive education services was what assisted our son most. He was not able to learn in SE classes and though the majority of teachers are good, the few that aren’t do see the advantages of inclusive supports in GE classes and often work against it.

    Kudos to you and for listening.

    Thank you,
    Carolyn
    Mother of a son your age who has autism and just made the Dean’s list after years of traveling the spectrum from severe autism and with the help of biomed to remediate his vaccine damage.

    • Come to the beach says:

      Kudos to YOU Carolyn for persevering and advocating for your son during those lonely early years before DAN and all the books and alternative treatments! Wow, you shine a light on the future for our own children. And to think the docs told me to put my 2 yr old child in an institution, keep him “happy”, and focus on having another baby. The dark ages weren’t so long ago dear friends.

  13. Faith McPeek says:

    Haley’s curious mind has amazed me many times but today I swell with pride at the words my daughter has shared with us all. I have learned so much from her and rely on her wealth of knowledge to better serve the special education students in my classroom. I have always known that Haley has the potential to change our world and I am excited to see her passion for children with autism leading her down this much needed road. I have shared her words with my colleagues and please know that I can only speak for those I work with, but our door is open and we need your knowledge. Thank you for starting web sites that we can come to to better understand and serve the children we all care about so much.

    • Poppy TMR says:

      Thank YOU for dedicating your own life to Special Education and for raising up such a wonderful soul ❤

  14. Faith McPeek says:

    Haley’s curious mind has amazed me many times but today I swell with pride at the words my daughter has shared with us all. I have learned so much from her and rely on her wealth of knowledge to better serve the special education students in my classroom. I have always known that Haley has the potential to change our world and I am excited to see her passion for children with Autism leading her down this much needed road. I have shared her words with my colleagues and please know that I can only speak for those I work with, but our door is open, and we need your knowledge. Thank you for sharing web sites that we can come to to better understand and serve the children we all care about so much.

  15. Cherry says:

    Haley- thanks for sharing your beautiful letter. I think that you point out many of the problems in today’s education system, even for kids without special needs. Those with passion and drive are driven out of the field because of the lack of support and opportunity. Those without passion and drive don’t care. It is a very difficult field to be in right now. There are many people who truly care, but not enough money or community support. I am so glad though that your road has lead you to the truth about Autism. I hope that many more young people are able to see it and commit to change. Bless you and the work you are destined to do!

  16. Haley McPeek says:

    Thank you everyone for this amazing outpouring of love and support! I am honored to be in the presence of so many inspiring women!

  17. Happy says:

    You are kick ass and you will change the world. Glad to hear you are in the fight with us.

  18. Haley-I’m looking for a good ABA, should you need $ to go thru more chiro school.

    Seriously, breathtaking.

    This, Generation Y, now, gives me pause and hope.

  19. Amanda Richard says:

    Wow, this is amazing. I am a 24 year old that lives in Vancouver Canada and works with children with Autism doing ABA therapy. Her thoughts reflect mine exactly. I read this blog every single day. It inspires me to help these children. Its the most rewarding thing I could ever do with my time. I have worked with over 12 different children on all levels of the specturm and I’ve fallen in love with every single one of them. These children are amazing and something needs to be done! I look up to all of you thinking moms and think this is all truly amazing!

    • Poppy TMR says:

      The youth will change the world. Mark my words. Young women like you and Haley make me feel very hopeful for our future. Thank you xo

      • Amanda Richard says:

        Thank you! I hope to make a difference. And thank you for this blog, it inspires me! I love reading it everyday. My mom works with children with Autism as well and I told her about this blog 🙂

  20. Monique says:

    Haley and Amanda, you are both amazing. Thank you both for everything you are doing for our children. Oh and if I may, I would love to try steal you from the US or Canada wherever you live and have you come over to help us here in France 😉 We have beautiful Paris, divine food, gorgeous French guys…..oh and psychiatrists who are still taught in school that moms cause their children’s autism. (And no that is not a sick joke.) The world needs more people like you!

    p.s. Check out Kent McLeod’s book about vitamin therapy for children with down syndrome: http://www.amazon.com/Down-Syndrome-Vitamin-Therapy-MacLeod/dp/0973433701

    • Professor says:

      Monique, Prima is living in Canada these days, but she’s originally from Morrocco and one of her missions is to reach more French-speaking people dealing with autism, especially in France because we KNOW how backward the thinking is there. I cannot believe they actually think psychoanalysis is the way to treat autism. “The talking cure”? Seriously? How do they deal with the non-verbal kids? Or the ones with echolalia? Stay tuned for more from Prima…

    • Amanda Richard says:

      France hey? 🙂 I’ve always wanted to go there! Do you have a son? Daughter?

      • Monique says:

        I have a daughter who is followed by a wonderful team of properly trained professionals. There are some very competent professionals here but not nearly enough for everyone so if anyone wants to come here to work, please do contact me and I’d be happy to give you leads.

        I also wanted to add that while I think that the “talking cure” approach to treating autism is a problem specific to France, I think it’s an excellent example of how doctors and other professionals believe what they are taught even when faced with evidence to the contrary. Maybe I’ll write a blog post for TMR about this some day.

  21. lorenzosvoice says:

    You beautiful, beautiful soul! Hope abounds not only for my son’s recovery but for your ability to rally the like-minded youth of the world. You will be a General some day!

  22. Momma T. says:

    Awestruck! Sharing this with many. You give much hope to the families on this marathon. You are welcome to observe and learn in our home anytime. We have been dreaming of & building a home based center, around our 4 children, in which educators & therapists could observe and do their continuing Ed at. It will happen in time. Thanks to other switch hearts mind and spirit like yours, Haley. If you want more info on Down syndrome and autism, I am happy to give you more info. God bless you and your thinking heart, soul, & mind.

    Momma T. Of http://www.detourautism.blogspot.com

  23. Amanda Richard says:

    Monique,
    I’m glad your daughter has a team of amazing people 🙂 would you be able to email me? Amanda_richard@hotmail.com

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