They are NOT Angry Birds! DRIVEN

TAGS: autism awareness month, angry birds, driven, april, autism, dave tate

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They are NOT Angry Birds! DRIVEN

Today marks the beginning of National Autism Awareness Month. 

Source: Autism Society

National Autism Awareness Month

In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s. The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity for everyone to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.

Join the Autism Society in getting involved with the autism community this April.

Put on the Puzzle! The Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon is the most recognized symbol of the autism community in the world. Autism prevalence is now one in every 110 children in America. Show your support for people with autism by wearing the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon – as a pin on your shirt, a magnet on your car, a badge on your blog, or even your Facebook profile picture - and educate folks on the potential of people with autism! To learn more about the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon visit #. To purchase the Autism Awareness Puzzle Ribbon for your shirt, car, locker or refrigerator, click here.

Make a difference. Contact your representatives on the state and federal level and ask them to "Vote 4 Autism." For more information about this legislation and to take action to support it, visit

Connect with your neighborhood. Many Autism Society local chapters hold special events in their communities throughout the month of April. But if you can’t find an event that suits you just right, create your own! 1Power4Autism is an online tool that makes it easy to mobilize friends and family and help make a difference.

Above content is cited from the Autism Society web page


Source: Autism Society


It’s only fitting that the next installment of this series would post today.


 Back up to speed

To get us back up to speed here is a segment from the first part of the series.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and posting something I’m not really comfortable with, but I respect the person that asked me to do it. He feels there’s a need for someone like me to write this type of material.

I guess we will find out soon enough.

The topic deals with my son, who has special needs (Asperger’s Syndrome). I’ve posted about this once before and may never post again so here are a few quick tips I will pass along.

* I used to hate the term “special needs,” but now I can’t stand people who say they hate the term. After nine years, if there is one thing I know for a FACT, it’s that my son has special needs!

While all kids are different and each requires their own set of needs, I’m willing to bet those with autism fall outside the spectrum in this regard. If you are a new parent coming into this situation you need to come to terms with this, because it’s a fact, and the sooner you know, quit denying, placing blame, and expecting someone to have all the answers, the better parent you will be.

* I will also go as far as to say that unless you have or care for a child with special needs you have NO IDEA what the term special needs really means. You might think you do but trust me – you don’t. Sit down with someone who has one of these kids and ask them to speak candidly. You will gain a MUCH better perspective of what this means.

Does this mean I feel having “special needs” means these children are “special” or better than others?

No, not at all.

ALL kids are special – they are our future!

There is nothing MORE special than our children, but some DO have needs that fall outside the normal spectrum.

They are NOT bad kids, they are NOT Angry Birds, they are NOT confused kids, they are NOT crazy, they are NOT any of these “behaviors” – they are loved children first and ALWAYS.


Here a few more tips that have helped me work on being a better parent.

Take Action

Take action early – To put this into a better perspective, it's much easier to take control and teach a 6-year-old than it is to teach a 200 pound teenager with anger issues. I wrote before about accepting responsibility and understanding that your child does have special needs and this means you'll need to parent according to these needs. You can’t just sit back and hope things will get better. It would be awesome if the world worked that way, but as we all know…it doesn’t. We have and will continue to educate and provide tips to help parents who have children on the Autism Spectrum. I highly suggest you do more research, speak to other parents, specials needs educators and doctors to learn what your options are, what you can do and what to look for.

You have to get over the “not my child” things NOW because denial does you nothing. The other point I want to make is regardless of what someone tells you, there are ALWAYS other options. Make sure you KNOW what these are. FAR too many educators, doctors and specialists think they know all the answers and to be frank – this is bull crap! I’m not saying they don't know what they're talking about. What I'm saying is they don’t know YOUR child as well as you do and nobody has this all figured out.

One example to illustrate this point, years ago we were told to put my son on a special diet. We were to pull sugar, gluten, food coloring, and to make sure he ate whole organic foods. This advice was offed from a very well-respected doctor who specializes with children on the spectrum. We were are told that his biggest issues was PANDAS and he would need to cycle antibiotics for many years.

After close to one year of this, we didn’t notice any difference except for lighter pocket books from all the supplements we were asked to have him take. By the way, this didn’t work because he wouldn't take them and spit the liquid out or vomit it back up. Because there was no difference, we went back to a normal diet (my house eats healthy) and his behavior stayed the same.

Fast forward one year and we take my son to see another doctor who also wanted to change his diet, but this time blood work was pulled and a full analysis was done. Turns out he is ok with many of the things we were asked to pull from the diet the first time, except there were others such as yeast and nuts (he used to eat TONS of natural peanut butter) that scored extremely high. Since he has been on this new plan, we haven't had any issues in school at all and very few at home. I’m not going to say they've all gone away, but I can confidently say there is well over a 90 percent improvement.

So much for the first expert who knew everything and cost a fortune to see!

One second point I want to make here is just because something doesn’t work the first time, doesn't mean it’s worthless – it might not have been implemented correctly. I knew from research and being in the strength and conditioning field that diet had to have some impact, so I didn’t want to give up on the idea. This is why we keep looking in that direction.

I do plan on expanding on this topic more in the future and will look into our doctors submitting sections to help explain some of the concepts better than I could. Hopefully he will. The problem with the doctors who do work on the nutritional side is they get very frustrated with parents. They do all the testing, make the suggestions and the parents aren't willing to change their own habits, so the poor food choices are still in the house – or they make justifications for their child to eat something they shouldn’t instead of just dealing with the tantrum. Don’t be one of those parents.

Don’t Spoil Them

I understand that this is not easy, but this brings me to the next point – don’t spoil them. I’m very guilty of this and I'm much better now than I used to be, but I understand how hard it can be. You understand your child’s frustrations and what to make things better even if it's just a temporary solution. What you really need to ask yourself is who is this for? Is it REALLY for the betterment of your child – or – is it to make yourself feel better? I know in my case, my son could care less about any toy he is given. He has told us many times he already has enough and if he rewarded and can select a prize, it may take him two weeks to think of something. This leaves me as the guilty party here. I know I’m not doing him any favors and in the long term just making things worse, so I have to constantly remind me of this.

Self Esteem

We have been through FIVE school systems; early intervention, private, catholic, public and now a school that specializes in kids on the Autism Spectrum. While there are HUGE differences between them all and I could write a book on the issues we had to deal with to get to the point we are now, I will save this for another time because we did learn a lot about how to deal with teachers and administrators. Before I get to my main point, I want to say when it comes to teachers and administrators, like any other profession, there are some who are great...and some who suck. The problem is that when you have a child on the spectrum, this is MAGNIFIED big time. If they're a great teacher, they'll become the greatest teacher in the world. If they suck, they'll become an absolute and complete nightmare to deal with. The good ones know they can’t treat kids on the spectrum the same, while those who suck, think they HAVE to treat all kids the same. If you're a parent who is or has dealt with this, you know what I mean.

The reason why I bring this up is because one difference between all the other schools and the one that specializes in Autism is one way in which they build the child’s self esteem. While I can’t speak for all kids on the spectrum I can say my son hates to lose – REALLY hates to lose. This is one of his triggers and if it happens, all hell breaks loose. Kids on the spectrum also don’t fair that great on the social spectrum, so they may not act the same as their other classmates. Every school system we've been though had a discipline system they use when kids get into trouble. One example would be:

  • White – no issues
  • Green – one issue
  • Yellow – two issues
  • Blue – three issues
  • Red – had to see the principle

As soon as one problem happens, the kid is asked to come to the front of the class and move their clip from white to green. To a child who hates to lose, this is a form of losing and now they know they had a bad day. They (my son) didn’t get that there were other levels. He understood two things. No clip move = good. Clip moved = bad. The school did try to work with this and not move the clip unless it was bad, but the basic concept was to punish the bad behaviors. It’s hard to build self-esteem when every day involves that you take physical action (get up and move a clip) that is designed to punish behavior.

In contrast, at his new school, they earn points for good behavior. If they're having a bad day, they won’t earn points. If they're having a good day, they can earn up to 20 points per section, or 80 points a day. They also have a store where you can use your point to buy toys. The points can also be used to buy extra video game time during the day.

Now, you tell me what one will build self-esteem and what one won’t?

This is just one example. We as parents, have to be constantly looking at how we're treating our children and if we're building their self-esteem or bringing it down. I don’t have all the answers – I’m not sure if I even have any, but I do know if all my actions were just to punish the negative actions and not reward the positive, that would be a mistake.

While I have other tips I'll post in future parts of this series, I'd love to read yours. If you have any tips, stories and anything that you feel could help parents who have children with special needs please post below.

Final Thoughts

There are a couple ways I look at all of this. First, being a parent isn't easy. It takes work, time and a commitment for the long term. This is regardless if you have a child with special needs or not. Years ago, I presented a private seminar for an extremely successful CEO of a fortune 500 company. At dinner that night after I presented, I told him we just adopted a baby boy and I wasn’t exactly sure how I was going to be able to balance this with building a business. At the time, I was still working out of my home and I wasn’t making a dime. While I never considered closing up shop and going back to work as a trainer, I also didn’t know how I was going to be able to devote the time needed to develop and grow the systems of the business. Aside from my own training, all of my waking hours were spent working on the business and now this was going to change.

This was over 10 years ago and I still remember what he said as clear as day…

"Dave, your child will make you BETTER at business. You have no idea how much better, but in a few years you will know what I mean."

My fear was when you're starting out and having nothing to lose, you're willing to take bigger risks. How was I going to compete with others who were in that position, when I knew I had to find an income and spend more time with my family?  I saw this as a huge disadvantage and it did take a few years before I understood what I was told.

In short, when you have nothing to fight, the hits you take hurt more, the hits you toss are not as hard and you get up slower when you're knocked down. Business is actually more competitive than sports. In business, there are others who want to see you fail, they want to make you fail, they want to take what you have and they don’t care how it's done. There's zero sportsmanship in business...only laws. It’s brutal and you will get hit HARD. You will get knocked down MANY TIMES and you will have to strike with all you have. Every day I wake up, I know exactly what I’m fighting for. I know this now MUCH more than I did before I had kids.

Having children took my passion and made it DRIVEN...

...driven to the point that I LOVE the competition, challenge, fight, chaos, drama and all the other crap that tries to get in the way.

The second way I look at this, is when I'm 80-years-old sitting in a rocking chair, I want to know I did the BEST I could for my family. Yes, I have and will make mistakes, but when my world comes to an end, I want to close my eyes knowing I did right by them and did it in the best way I could. More importantly, I want them to KNOW I did. I'll be the first to admit I’m not there yet and have a long way to go, but I strive to live each day the best I can, to learn from my mistakes and to pass on what I can to make those around me better as well.

Before closing, I want to note that I'm humbled that anyone really cares what a “Meathead” has to say about special needs, but this month is exactly the reason I write these. We need to increase awareness and I want to make sure I'm doing my part. Please spread the word that this is National Autism Awareness Month. It’s not about how many people we make aware. If you make the right person aware and they go out and make a difference, then just that one was worth it.


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