Friday, April 21, 2017

Teaching Behavior in the Era of Trump

Much has been written over the last year about the tone of the Presidential race. And now much has been written about the tone of the President himself. Interestingly enough, a recent article actually castigated comedy news such as Comedy Central and Samantha Bee for creating the acceptability of the Trump tone. I kid you not. The acceptance of Trump's behavior, apparently, according to those who cannot accept blame for their own failures, is now the fault of comedians. Comedians whose job it is, is to be obnoxious, and caustic, and condescending. Apparently, according to these pundits, the American people are simply too stupid to differentiate between funny-ha-ha and not-so-funny-social-malingerers.

Samantha Bee and much of Comedy Central, (which I don't particularly enjoy), is a sarcastic look at the world in which we live. They do not run the world, but comment on it. They do not make policy, but comment on it.  Yes, Bee made a horrible mistake with the youngman at CPAC. But she later apologized. Perhaps she learned a lesson, which is that even in the world of comedy, fact checking is a useful tool.

So here is the problem: how do we as parents of autistics teach appropriate behavior to our children in the Era of Trump? For most neurotypical children it is easy for them to decipher social rules of engagement. Not so for every child on the spectrum. It is not easy for our children to distinguish between what is, and is not, always appropriate. And to make matters worse when those in the limelight act out in inordinate ways, and garner huge amount of accolades and attention, then what are our children supposed to think?

I have written about this BEHAVIOR conundrum before (of course). You can find a full list of my articles on the subject HERE  and HERE.

The only thing I can think of is that my sons' are decidedly antiTrump. They view everything he does through a lens of contempt. They have decided that not only is he a boor, but that his manners, his lack of decorum and his puffed up ego are not things they wish to emulate. So for them he is a walking BillBoard of "not."

In a world where becoming the most powerful person on the planet is viewed as a worthy goal, but the person who holds that office as of today is thought of as the Court Jester of the world, this truly is not a good thing. The idea that the President of the United States would be held up as the butt of jokes for his behavior, and lack thereof, is not good for the country and it is not good for our children. Yes, the comedians of the past also made fun of former republican Presidents, deriding Reagan, and both Bushes. But these President's held themselves to a socially appropriate standard of behavior. So all comedy aside, no one could attack them for their decorum, and we all knew it. (Whether you agreed with their policies or not is not the issue of this post.)

But what is a parent to do about the behavior issue, if your family, your child, supports Trump? How are you supposed to explain appropriateness to your child without destroying their right to express a political opinion? And no, everyone who supports Trump is not a racist, misogynist, antiMoslem, white supremacist nutjob. Many are simply that part of the Obama coalition, that were forgotten by society. They are the middle class that were promised a future, but found that in  their reality there was no future. So they thought to go another way. Something different. Something untried. Yes, desperate people make desperate leaps of faith. If society truly cared about others in our world we would have seen Trump coming. But we are so self-indulgent that we simply did not. Yes, Trump's election is everyone's fault. It also didn't help any that the Democratic candidate was horrible as well, and for so many other reasons.

My take on behavior management over the next few years is simple. You can teach proper behavior without destroying someone's hold on what they feel is important vis-a-vis society and their own future. Do not denigrate the political ideas (arguing whether they are correct in their views is another matter), but model appropriateness. Talk to your children about differentiating between the man and the position. Whether we liked the POTUS of the moment, or not, we always honored the position, but did not necessarily respect the decisions of the man holding the position.

Yes, it's a tightrope and a fine line to walk with your children. But we do it every day when it comes to music, clothes, moves, and TV, when we try to teach our children the proper way to view the world around them. We don't like everything that culture creates, or has decided is good and better for our world. Holding up the present POTUS to scrutiny truly is no different.

I suppose in many respects it is also a good thing. Cult-like adoration of any politician is anathema to a democracy. We do not elect a King, but a temporary holder of a position, and that goes for Congress, governorships, judges, and state legislatures as well. It is why impeachment of any public official is an essential part of our society. No one who is elected is omnipotent, beyond fallibility, or excused from decorum.

Unfortunately, though, when the present leader of the free world lacks any social norms, it does make our job just a little more harder than normal. Sigh......







Sunday, April 2, 2017

#FightTheStigma Complex Disabilities and Simple Truths

From TED Tel-Aviv 2017

An Israeli war hero who says that his biggest and most important battle was finding acceptance for his severely disabled son.

Major General Doron Almog, chairman of ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran, stood on the TEDxTelAviv stage and explained how his personal experiences as a grieving brother, devoted father and decorated soldier prepared him for his life’s most important role: an outspoken advocate for the inclusion and proper care of individuals with disabilities.

Memories of his son, Eran, who was born with severe autism and intellectual disabilities, and lost his battle with Castleman’s disease exactly ten years prior to the TEDxTelAviv presentation, fuels Almog’s commitment to securing the best possible care and ensuring true life fulfillment for the members of Israel's disability community. Learn more https://aleh.org





Now in watching this video I am certain that there are many who will object to the General's use of nonpolitically correct language to describe his son's disabilities and society's perception. But look behind the language and recognize what this man has accomplished in helping his son. He is the advocate that we all hoped we would become. He not only created a place for his son to flourish, an entire city in fact, he has succeeded in starting  the whole of a society rethinking their own prejudices, limits, and biases when it comes to the disabled.

*****

While we have many wonderful programs here in the US for those with severe disabilities, still many on the autism spectrum and those with a myriad of mental health issues, receive little or no services once they become adults. As I have written, if it were not for what we could afford to do for the boys, nothing would be done for them, and their future would not be one of their own choosing.

It is up to us to make sure, as Doron Almog did for his son, that we find a way to better society as we help our children have a bright and happy future. The fight in the US for acceptance and support for those we all types of disabilities is far from over. In fact, it is only just beginning.




Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tinge the Anger with Compassion

My latest at Times of Israel
Yes we are all angry. Angry that our babies were subject to such frightening events as bomb scares. It infuriated us as parents that some person out there in the world knew that the way to terrorize parents is to terrorize their children. It’s why terrorists target the innocent, the young, the civilian, the person least able to defend themselves.
So now that we know who at least is the culprit when it comes to the majority of the JCC bomb threats we vent. We vent our anger. We vent our care. We demand justice for our offspring. We want this person punished.
What’s more we are aghast that the perpetrator was himself a Jew. Now, it’s not that we haven’t experienced  modern Jewish antisemites before in our history. It’s not that we don’t deal with Jewish antisemites who celebrate terrorists, think JVP conference in Chicago; think those Jewish Leftists who hold the Palestinians to no level of human decency, excusing murderous rampages as expressions of culture or the nonsensical claim of “fighting colonial oppression”  (we can discuss the soft racism of low expectations in another post on another day); think the “As a Jew” Jew who has left the Jewish community except to chastise Israel for defending herself, or who blames the rise of antisemitism on the Jewish State.
Somehow we deal with these Jewish antisemites with logic, with thought out rebuttals, and with the contempt they deserve. But what we don’t hear is the level of vitriol that is being thrown at the youngman from Ashkelon. The question you need to ask yourself is why. Why does the community save their most virulent expression of disgusts for someone who is obviously suffering from some sort of mental illness, and not for those who seek to destroy the Jewish people and are most certainly in their sane mind?
Now, listen, I am not excusing what this 19 year old did. He knew it was wrong. Legal insanity is not medical insanity. You can be completely mentally ill but legally accountable. To be held legally insane is to not know that what you are doing is wrong. To be legally insane the person cannot “know the difference between a tree and a person.”  Hence, if they ever knew it was a human being, no matter how ill they are, they are legally sane.
So this youngman, knew what he was doing was wrong. He knew that he was creating terror. It gave him a sense of power, and importance (or so we think). But it does not mean he is not mentally ill. Whether he has a nonmalignant inoperable brain tumor that is the cause of his mental illness is not really the issue. There is no question, that he was unfit for service in the IDF because of his mental state. And for the IDF, which even has programs to induct persons with all kinds of mental health issues, this youngman’s problems seemed to be severe.
So why the extreme hate? What ever happened to compassion in the Jewish world? We talk incessantly about rehabilitation, and the need for prison reform in the US, why does none of this apply to the JCC hoax bomber?
This does not mean that the perpetrator doesn’t go to some sort of institution. It most definitely doesn’t mean he goes free, without any recourse. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t pay for his crimes. But what that payment will look like is very important. The issue is whether the system can help him or not.
Is he a threat to the community as a whole? Is he threat to himself and others? What can be done to mitigate the possibility that he will ever do this again, or mitigate the possibility that he will spiral to an even more dangerous place? These are important questions that need to be answered, and these answers and how society deals with them will say more about us as a people, then it will ever say about this 19 year old.
Now let me say one thing as the parent of two young men with high functioning autism, and as a special needs advocate. I hold his parents completely responsible for what has happened in this situation. He lived in their house. They knew what he was doing, which was why the father was arrested and the mother has disappeared. They are responsible for his care, even though he is technically an adult. So yes, knowing he was perpetrating these hoaxes, if they did not want to call the police (and very few parents would turn in their own children), at least try to get him the medical help he needed. You do not cover up something so harmful. If you did not care about the psychological harm he was doing to young children, at least you are required to care about your own child. So yes, by letting him do what he was doing, they are accomplices in the worst kind of way. They basically abandoned their own child to the vagaries of his own mind.