Thursday, September 15, 2016

Auditory Processing: The Pain of Hearing Shofar

In my latest blog, I discuss how having auditory processing disorder has caused our family to change what otherwise would be a typical religious activity of hearing the shofar, or ram's horn, blown during the Rosh Hashanah, or Jewish New Year, holiday.

The purpose of blowing the shofar, is to signal to God that it is time to open up the Book of Life. It is during the period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that God decides your year to come.

But as with many things that come with raising autistic children holiday traditions are some of the things you change. Holidays: Permission Granted to Celebrate as You Please.


The days are getting shorter, and the shadows are getting longer. Rosh Hashanah is around the corner. 

Growing up I remember being taught that on Rosh Hashanah it is a mitzvah to hear shofar. 

Yet as a family, we have not heard shofar for decades. It is simply too painful for my sons.

No, we are not dealing with an emotional trauma. This pain is caused by a physical, yet unseen disability: Auditory processing disorder. A disability, that can stand alone, but is very common in those with autism spectrum disorders.

Initially, we believed that auditory processing was merely a glitch in the uptake of oral information. There needed to be a pause for those with this processing issue to organize, understand, and assimilate the information being presented. But, auditory processing issues are not simply the inability to process oral information in real time. It can also lead to severe pain when faced with certain sounds; anything from a horn beep, to the din of a school cafeteria, to the rush of city traffic.

Friday, September 9, 2016

15 Years Later: 9/11 Remembered

It was the morning that changed the world. It brought us out of our euphoria of a post Cold War environment. Whether we liked it or not, a new enemy had arisen and it sought to destroy everything we hold dear-our liberal ideas of freedom and human rights.

While the wars that occurred, due to this attack on America, will be debated by historians for generations, the reality is that on that day 3,000 people died for no other reason that they lived, worked, and loved in the United States of America.We found out that we were hated merely because we did not follow an extremist form of a religion. A religion, by the way, that as with all religions, is able to flourish and grow in the USA. We are hated because we believe in diversity and live with the goal of respecting all peoples worldwide.

No we are not a perfect nation. Yes, as a nation, we have made and continue to make mistakes. But we are a brave people. We are able to think, analyze and review our own problems, issues and wrongdoings. We argue. We yell. We call each other names. We, the American people, fight the good fight. But ultimately, our hope is to bring the freedoms we hold deal, enshrined in the US Constitution, to people all over the world. In fact, these rights make up the platform of the Declaration of Human Rights. An agreement signed by the vast majority of nations of the world.

And no, all cultures are not equal and deserving of respect. If your religion, if your culture, destroys the hopes and dreams, and the right to life and freedom of others, and half of your population because of their gender, then you are not entitled to respect. If your religion and culture gives you permission to massacre nonbelievers (even members of your own religion whom you deem heretics) then you are not entitled to respect. You are most certainly not entitled to be free from criticism.

There is nothing wrong with believing that all people "are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, and among those rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

It has been 15 years since that fateful morning when America arose from her slumber. At times the American people have grown tired and weary from the reality of the world. There are too many who think that ignoring what is happening around the world, will keep us safe. But simply because you take no interest in politics, doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you. Let us not hide ourselves in fear, angst, or selfishness.

Let us fight the good fight. Let us always strive to do what is right, not what is easy. We have never shirked from our place, and responsibilities, in the world. That is what it means to be an American. That is why, the United States of America is the shining beacon on the hill.


And no it is not easy to forget the destruction of the World trade Center, especially when the hubby works across the street from the Freedom Tower.

A photo posted by Elise (@raisingasdkids) on

Saturday, July 30, 2016

I've Decided on a Future of Joy, Hope and Happiness

I have the privilege of authoring a blog over at The Times of Israel, where I continue to write about special needs and parenting on the autism spectrum. Following is my latest blog. I am writing about the three week period of mourning prior to, and about, the Jewish holiday of Tisha B'av; what it is and what it means to me considering the year I have just lived through. I hope what I wrote speaks to you, no matter your faith, creed or ethnicity.

I've Decided on a Future of Joy, Hope and Happiness.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

No this doesn't make me feel better...

By now you have heard about the behavioral therapist in Miami shot by police, when the police had decided that an autistic man with a toy train was a threat to public safety. After the therapist was shot, the officer issued a statement saying that they were not aiming at the black therapist but the Hispanic autistic. I am sure that they issued that statement to try to squelch any public outcry from those in the Black Lives Matter Movement (and yes I am assuming this), but  tell me how this realization is  supposed to make a parent of an autistic person feel better?

According to the Ruderman Foundation the majority of persons shot by police in the US either have mental health or developmental issues. HERE  The truth is that police departments across the nation are wholly and inadequately prepared to deal with these issues that they confront every day.  The one main job that the police are supposed to do is provide public safety; they are not psychiatrists, social workers, or therapists. However with the lack of proper care and support throughout the mental health system, police departments have become the defacto go to professionals of first contact. In essence, we expect our police to do jobs that they are not trained to do.

Now does that excuse the police? Absolutely not. And I say this not simply because I am the parent of two youngmen on the autism spectrum, but because  the police are given the mantle of trust by the community. This basically behooves police departments to fix their own ignorance, knowing that they are the responsible party of first-contact. Is it fair? No its not, but police also ask for this job. Nobody forces them "to protect and serve," but while we honor their service, it has to be understood that their service comes with modern responsibilities.  Here is a list of police training programs geared towards understanding autism.

So what do we do in the meantime?

The boys wear medic alert necklaces, which detail their diagnoses and medicine. Of course, that only works if the police get close enough to see them.  The alert necklaces also won't be of any help if the boys are shot by the police if they reach for their necklaces while alerting the officers to their disabilities. We have the same issue with cards in their wallets, detailing their diagnoses, or the medical information in their iPhones. These security measures only help if they can access it to show the police, without the police taking their movements the wrong way.

We do know that the police are trained to recognize when a suspect is lying. The most important aspect is that someone doesn't look them in the eye, or they fidget too much. This scenario plays over and over in my head, because not only do the boys not always look you in the eye, but they both fidget, get nervous from anxiety, and come off rude and disrespectful when their anxiety ratchets itself up. So not a great scenario. We do teach them to be respectful to the police. We emphasize that if they are ever stopped to do just as they are told, with no back talk or sass. But of course, being who they are, new and frustrating situations don't always play out as they should.

Now we used to console ourselves that at least, since they generally have the para with them in public, if they got into any trouble with a policeman, then the para could help them through the situation. Considering the police just shot the therapist in Miami, while he was laying on the ground with his hands up, our pie-in-the-sky-theory no longer holds up.

Do I think that the situation in Miami unfolded the way it did because the people involved were persons of color? Perhaps, perhaps not. There was the recent tragedy where a young transgendered man with aspergers was  shot and killed by police during a meltdown, who was white. And yes he had a knife in his hand, but in another, better world, the police would have been taught how to handle the situation without lethal force. And no, I do not believe that police lives matter less, in fact I wholly believe, Blue Lives Matter alot, but they also don't matter more than the people they are supposed to help, like my autistic sons.

So no, I don't have an answer. I thought I did. But life teaches you many lessons, not the least of which is that "but for the grace of God, go I."

And with that, hubby and I have found another reason to not sleep well at night.