Tuesday, February 28, 2012

O is for Obnoxious, Opinionated and Obdurate

Not sure when this happened. Not certain it wasn't always there but hidden someplace in the recess of CM2's mind. But he is an absolute pain in the ass. He is obnoxious to a fault. His answers are self-righteous, know-it-all and condescending. He has a opinion on everything and once he has that opinion it is adhered to his person like a sucker fish attaches to a shark. Then he is obdurate, stubborn to the point of madness...mine not his. Bullheaded doesn't even begin to tell what this boys is like on a daily basis.

While I have regaled everyone with stories surrounding CM2's disdain for homework and his obsession with gaming, I generally have failed to mention the creeping attitude issues we have been experiencing as of late. Now yes, I do understand that having a strong personality is part and parcel of a very bright individual, but in CM2's case it has become something akin to being possessed by Satan's legion. I am waiting just waiting for his head to spin around 360* and for some satanic incantation to emerge from his mouth.

Today we were discussing Jewish history. He asked why it was good for God to free the Jews from bondage in Egypt, since Jews shouldn't be slaves, but it was then OK for Jews to make slaves out of the Babylonians. I had to explain to him that he got his facts wrong. I told him it was the Babylonians who centuries after leaving Egypt made slaves out of the Jews. In fact the Jews themselves didn't have slaves, per se, but were the slaves of every major Empire in the Middle East and Europe for thousands of years. (OK yes there was slavery, but the Bible is very explicit about how to keep slaves, basically making it financially unrealistic for anyone to own another human being. But I wasn't about to go into that with him at that moment in time.)

"Well," came his response," didn't they have prisoners of war, that is slavery."

"Prisoners of war, are prisoners of war, not slaves. That is very different things. I think you need to read a book about Jewish history."

"Oh and who says that there won't be an agenda in the book you give me?"

"it's like your history book for college. I have an entire library."

"What makes you think the facts are correct?"

"These are books written by respected historians."

"Oh and if the book said that Beethoven was an alien would that make the fact correct because its in your history book?"

"A respected history book wouldn't say that..." At this point I am shaking my head and trying not to start yelling.

"By the way," he adds, "you used the wrong tense of the verb." He then proceeded to tell me how I should have worded my last sentence.

"You need to go exercise now. Go get changed, " I quickly interjected, "You also didn't do your chores this afternoon." It is amazing that I don't need blood pressure medicine.

"I will after dinner."

He then left the room, and proceeded to go change to walk on the tread-climber. I also heard him talking about what an idiot I am and how I need to shut up and listen to him. All under his breath or so he thought. Lately he has taken to swearing at me to my face, which his father is none to pleased about. Those are very interesting  discussions between father and son when son is nasty to me,  to say the least.

His other latest fad is to tell us how we have controlled his life for the past 18 years and we weren't going to do it anymore. We weren't going to tell him what to do and how to do it. At that point hubby invited him to go live on the front lawn if he didn't like how things were done in the house. Hubby then continued of course, with the typical parentaleese about living in my house and following my rules.

I know hubby mentioned the front lawn, because he was afraid this child would just up and leave and go God knows where. We do know our obdurate, stubborn and bullheaded offspring. When he was little he decided he didn't like kindergarten and was gong to walk home. They caught him at the door as he was leaving. He told them he didn't like it there and he was going home where he was happy and that was final. I think it was at that point they really started to understand that he wasn't your typical child.

Now I know that this attitude is all sort of typical. I know that this is all normal. I know this is very adolescent and very teenage-like. I know that aspies mature later so we are definitely dealing with a 14 or 15 year old mindset in an 18 year old body. I know we went through this with CM1 and as he matured CM1 has turned into a delight (well for the most part). But it definitely is no fun gong through this again.

I will say though, there is a huge difference when CM1 went through this stage and CM2. CM1 when you told him the argument was over, it was over. He was told to move on to something else. He would leave you alone. He might obsess about the issue and lose sleep over it himself, but he would leave you alone. Not so with CM2.

CM1 doesn't like to be wrong. He doesn't like that he lost an argument. He doesn't like that you don't take his word or agree with his opinion. The emails begin to come. He searches the Internet for everything and anything that proves his point. He sends them continuously. What he doesn't like is when I send him articles and info to prove my point. Then even his email responses start to get obnoxious. Until finally he gives up by telling me I am hopeless.

Dealing with my child at this moment reminds me of the old saying about growing up: When I was 18 I couldn't believe how stupid my parents were, but by the time I was 21, I couldn't believe that they had learned so much.(well I am hoping that it ends for the most part by the time he is 21.)

I know that he will always be obdurate. Honestly it is one of the traits that will help him overcome some of his issues. When he puts his mind to something it gets done. Of course, his problem right now, is that the only thing he is being stubborn about is fighting monsters, zombies and aliens rather than reading his history book, writing his essays and preparing for tests.

Being opinionated also isn't a bad thing, unless you refuse to see the other side to an argument. Of course, not all arguments are worthy of  consideration, I am certain we will find no merit in the ideas of the 9/11 hijackers, virulent-America-haters, Nazis and those who support a new Holocaust against the State of Israel So in these situations there is some merit to obdurate opinions and his obnoxiously opinionated mindset will suit him just fine.

The late Daniel Patrick Moynihan, former senator from the State of New York once said, you may be entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts. EEhhh, of course not everyone agrees with that statement either, or there wouldn't be so many people who make up their own facts to go along with their own opinions. Something does tell me too, that my know-it-all 18 year old has the propensity to be one of those fact-creating individuals.

Listen, parenting these children are a challenge on every level. It's doesn't ever change. But it does make life interesting. It's also why I buy the mega-huge bottle of Advil.


Until next time,

Awaiting the next batch of emails telling my why I shouldn't trust historians and their facts,



Elise


By the way, I did ask him where he got the idea that the Babylonians were slaves to the Jews rather than vice-versa. He told me he didn't remember. In other words, he didn't want to tell me what websites he has been reading. I asked him point blank if he was on very very very bad websites (You know the kind that masquerade as history sites but give out false hateful information. Found one of those myself today. Very cleverly disguised. Very evil.). He yelled at me NO.

I am going to check the history on his computer just to make sure. Nosey you bet..too bad.

UPDATE: Checked couldn't find anything. Next move. Have hubby talk to him. It could also simply be that he misinterpreted history too. We'll see.







The New American Haggadah

I never leave reviews of books on Amazon. But I couldn't help myself with this one. The New American Haggadah is wonderful. This is what I wrote:

I did not know what to expect when I bought this haggadah. I was looking for something new to be able to reach my children and help explain to them the relevance of Jewish traditions and a Jewish life to the world in which they lived. Little did I know that the one who would learn the most would be me. There is a uniqueness in each commentators voice that finds a way to attach itself to your heart. Be prepared for a wonderful journey full of questions, contemplations and answers that of course simply find their way to asking more questions. This Haggadah is an expression of an understanding, and an acknowledgement of that unabiding love for all that we hold dear.


BUY HERE




Until next time,



Elise


The Interfaith Amigos

From TED,

Challenge yourself. It's well worth it.





"Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman-now known as the Interfaith Amigos-started working together after 9/11. Since then, they have brought their unique blend of spiritual wisdom and humor to audiences in the US, Canada, Israel-Palestine and Japan. Their work is dedicated to supporting more effective interfaith dialogue that can bring greater collaboration to the major social and economic issues of our time."

Until next time,



Elise

Friday, February 24, 2012

No Bongos

One of the things we learn to do is to preempt our children and what might catch their attention. It's truly why I never let the boys watch Jackass the Movie I or II..I could just see them trying some of those stunts. It's why when CM1 watches Stupid People Tricks on TV, I emphasize the warnings that these things are STUPID. (At 21 he does need some space and a little less parental control.)

Now I know its a combination of their aspergers thinking something is challenging and not totally seeing the inherent danger in the activity that causes me angst, but they are also teenage-males and that comes with its own set of challenging-problematic-disconnected-frontal-lobe issues as well. So I am very specific when I tell them "No, no way, no how, not under any circumstances. You cannot do X under any conditions , under any situation, at any time, EVER."

Sometimes there is a rather lost sense of reality. The professionals do say that children on the spectrum cannot always differentiate between fantasy, TV, the movies and real life. Well my boys could always do that. Well sometimes. At least most of the times, when the story wasn't very personal to them. However, we did have an incidence once....

It was 5th grade. CM1 had just finished reading The Devil's Arithmetic. (By the way, a very age appropriate book.) It is the story of a young modern Jewish-American girl who is transported back to Poland on the eve of the Holocaust when she opened the front-door to symbolically let in the prophet Elijah during the Passover Seder.  CM1 was now terrified to open the door for the prophet Elijah at Passover.

We had to have a long talk with CM1.

There is no such thing as time travel..not yet.

God is not going to send you back to live through the Holocaust.

Of course not. It would never happen.

It took years for him to open the stupid door again during Seder.

Well I learned my lesson.

Of course today he has no time for a Seder at all. No,  its not about Elijah and the door. But it is about the Holocaust, and what he sees as  God's abandonment of the Jewish people. (I've mentioned that I am not Job when it comes to God,  well apparently neither is CM1.) He only goes along with the Seder because he lives in our house and we make my Mr. Atheist/Agnostic/Secular-Zionist-Jew. But he kvetches the entire time and invariably gets into a fight with CM2 about the existence of God, usually ending in a Google search about the big bang  (scientific theory not the show) and how science and religion mesh.

Now, everything they pick up isn't necessarily bad, it could just be annoying. Something that you know is gong to drive you out of your skull. Like that toy your in-laws gave the kids over holiday that makes this awful awful high-pitched sound as your children try to kill all the aliens that have landed on planet Earth. You know that toy for which you have sworn undying allegiance to Satan if he would just find some way to punish your in-laws forever.

Well last night on The Big Bang Theory, our loveable Sheldon missed his regularly scheduled haircut, which of course meant that his hair was now becoming unruly. Or what passes of unruly in the world of Sheldon Lee Cooper. He promptly decided to let other aspects of his life go as well...his spot was open to guests. Yeah, no kidding. He didn't care anymore, well at least at that moment that he decided to let his hair, all 1cm longer of it, hang out.

He then went beatnik....well a scaled down physicist kind of beatnik, as per  Richard Feynman.




Bongos, bongos everywhere and not a geek in sight.Well except for those us us who were watching the show. And a very enamored CM1 watching Sheldon transform himself into a totally "cool cat."

I knew what was going on in CM1's head too. I quickly turned to him and said, "No bongos."

"Awwee," came the response. I knew it. He had it in his head if not to buy a set of bongos, then to create adhoc bongos out of something in the house. He would have woken us up at 3 in the morning and started talking goofy and sending himself on a bongo-led adventure, ala Sheldon. (For this reference you really do need to watch the episode sorry. WATCH HERE..The Werewolf Transformation.)

So as to make sure that this instruction was understood throughout the entire house I called upstairs to CM2 . No, he was not watching with us. He decided that he had no use for us at the moment and wanted to watch The Big Bang Theory in my room, as he pretended to fold the laundry and earn some money towards a video game. I told him too, that there will be no bongos in this house.

"Drat," came the response from upstairs.

You see I understand my customers. I may not totally get how their minds work, but I know when they think something is terrific. I also know that they think Sheldon is the bomb.

So for now its all quiet. No bongos except for watching reruns of last night's episode. Which is just fine. As long as the bongos stay in television-land, they can watch that episode as much as they want.

I do have a bottle of Advil at the ready though.

Until next time,


Elise





Thursday, February 23, 2012

N is for Dealing with Nonsense

Nonsense. It sounds like a simple word. Something innocuous. Something silly. Something non-threatening. Something from a key-stone-cop skit.



But it is not a nothing. Nonsense can have a devastating effect on your child and you. It is the energy we have to spend dealing with nonsense that is debilitating. It is the energy we have to expend fighting the nonsense.

Now there are several different types of nonsense that I think about when I think about nonsense. The first kind of nonsense has to do with misconceptions that people have about autism. Most of this is good natured, not ill-felt, but just ill-informed.  I have yet to come across someone who when having something explained to them about special education or autism doesn't become terribly embarrassed by their own ignorance. OK, in the past we have had some very bad interactions with teachers and an old school district, but that wasn't because they were ill-informed that was because they were human-lowlifes. Different than what I am talking about now. And yes, even after some discussion you still have people who refuse to accept that people with disabilities are well, people. But these individuals you really can't do anything about and unless they are in your private life not something you should concern yourself with either. You can't always fix stupid or evil....

I have had many interactions with people who just don't get special education. They don't understand invisible disabilities. They don't understand our lives. Honestly if we were not immersed in this community I doubt we would understand either. I remember when CM1 was brought back in district as a first grader and parents were absolutely besides themselves in our community. I was furious, but hubby, as always the Wise Old Sage, mentioned that if the child was not ours and we did not have an understanding of autism and all we knew was from "Rainman," how would we feel? Honestly, hubby has always been alot more charitable than I ever was or truthfully will ever be. But in this case he happened to be correct.

It was not so much the fault of the parents for their misunderstanding, well OK it was somewhat of their fault, but the school district handled it very poorly. They didn't hold informational sessions about special education, disabilities or autism. They just sent a letter home to the families saying that their child was in a new program, the co-teaching program, which meant that there were special education students in their child's class.

It wasn't until the parents started having conniption fits that the school decided to hold a meeting. I didn't go, but another of the special needs parents went. You see, I knew what was gong to happen and I had a feeling I knew the ignorance that was going to abound. The other special-needs father came home devastated by these parents' hurtfulness. Yes there were nasty and ignorant things that parents said. Yes these parents were unkind and self-centered. How even when the reality was related to them, they refused to bring themselves out of their own stupidity. Yet the school persevered and these parents had no choice except to pull their children out of the public school system if they objected.

It was related to me that one man actually threatened to sue the district if they had an inclusion program, saying it affected his daughters ability to get into Harvard. I kid you not. The district director clearly related the relevant law (IDEA and ADA) to the man and told him that they were following the law and he was welcome to pull his daughter out of school. Now what happened with his child I do not know. Whether this girl ever went to an ivy league let alone Harvard is unclear. But I figured with that father she had enough problems in her life so I never pursued the question. Now I know that there was one student from our district who did end up at Harvard, but it definitely was not the girl in question.

This type of educational environment, co-teaching, was new in our district and alot of those type A personality parents did not like it, not one iota. Their attitudes, and I am sure the discussions at home, were not predisposed to treating CM1 and the other special ed children with kindness. But you would never get them to admit that any of it was their fault, their lack of parenting ability or their own inadequacy.

These parents would never admit that their lack of compassion resulted in quite frankly their children picking on CM1 and then alienating him. In fact one of these same parents routinely received community volunteering awards and is still thought of quite highly in the community as a "righteous person." When I even mentioned to some that her son was one of the bullies, I was accused of being jealous of her and of being a liar. 

Luckily CM1 always had a para. I am glad that there was an adult with him throughout those 12 years. I can't imagine what it would have been like if he had to handle that all on his own.

So CM1 was the experiment in school. Unfortunately it seems that CM1 has always been the experiment throughout his life. Luckily he is a strong youngman with direction and drive. He has strength of character, will, morals and ethics that he doesn't need peer support for. He is his own person, an individual. When CM1 was a toddler, way before we knew he was autistic, other parents used to tell me that he marched to the beat of his own drummer. Thankfully that individualized beat is what gets him where he wants to go.
 
Yes, our district does not broker bullying of any kind and the blatant and overt bullying stopped very quickly. But it was the alienation that continued through high school that was never dealt with, especially by these brain-dead, blind and moronic parents, that cause the most damage. They never saw the connection to their family discussions and their homelife as to how CM1 or other invisibly-differentlyabled would be treated. The irony here is that I know for a fact that so many of these families would be horrified if their child would participate in anything racist or homophobic, but they did not even blink an eye when their children participated in alienating CM1.

Sadly if there was no physical or interactive bullying of any kind then the school does nothing. They can't make someone be your child's friend, they tell you. But alienation can be just as harmful as overt bullying. It took years of therapy to help CM1 understand that there are people in this world who would like him and would be happy to be his friend.

Now here's the kicker. When it came to CM2 the overwhelming majority of his educational experience had been positive. It was not accepted by the children that he would be bullied, alienated or hurt in anyway. No, CM2 was not the party-guy or even invited to parties, but that was OK. School was a safe venture for him and the other students enjoyed his company. Honestly I do think the other students just didn't understand him and that is OK too. I understand that it is not easy being a teenager, and as long as the children were kind to him on a daily basis, not being invited to parties where there is alcohol and whatnot did not bother me. Also until 11th grade CM2 even had a best friend and when that ended CM2's special ed teacher got him involved in the bowling team/club to give him a social outlet.

I remember when CM2 was in second grade and of course it was a co-taught classroom. There were 20 children in that class with a main teacher, a special ed teacher and a para in the room. At any given time there was an adult to help every child for any reason. One of the other parents told me how they loved being in a co-taught class for their child and asked me if I liked it too. She had no idea that CM2 was one of the designated children. No parent really knew who the special ed children happened to be.This parent simply thought that it was such a great thing, a terrific educational opportunity and considered her daughter lucky to be in that class. So not three years after CM1 started in the inclusion program, through education and information the district helped change an attitude of the community.

Well not everyone in the community of course, but a large percentage of them anyway. As I said you can't change everyone and you can't fix stupid. But I think as long as we try our best that is all anyone can ask of us.

Now, here's the second kind of  nonsense. Racist and ignorant antisemitism. I came across that today on Facebook. A woman, whom I have never met in real life of course, but whom I helped with her special needs son a while back, shared a link to an article. The article elicited some terribly evil antisemitic comments. I called her out about them. I said that the blogger didn't have to allow them through and quite frankly the blogger gave the commentor a pass on them and didn't address the hate. This special-needs-mother told me I was too hypersensitive and I had to prove to her that these comments were antisemitic. So I commented that when you accuse "Zionist, Mossad and bankers" of trying to create a one-world government that is antisemitic. I also told her that she was conveniently obtuse and ignorant.

Listen this wasn't a case of her not understanding. This was a case of her thinking it was all true and OK. How anyone in their right mind doesn't see antisemitic dog-whistles in Jewish conspiracy theories is beyond me. So I unfriended her. As I said before, I help people no matter who, no matter what, but don't disrespect me, my family, my religion, my heritage and my right to exist. Do that then to hell with you. You and your child are on your own.

So nonsense. Whether about autism or about everyday racism and antisemitism. You do not have to accept any of it from anyone. I think standing up for yourself and for what you believe in is important. There are many out there who promote mean and horrible notions, its only when we stand silent do we give them credence. Promoting awareness is a lifelong challenge no matter who you are and no matter what the cause. But it must be done and we must do it with our heads held high.

Abraham Lincoln once said, "To sin by silence, when they should protest, makes cowards of men." Don't let the nonsense turn you into a coward. It's not easy but its something we all have to to. It's the only way to make this a better world.


Until next time,



Elise


Wednesday, February 22, 2012

S#!T Ignorant People Say to Autistics



Blurb from You Tube
Every statement written in the script for this video has actually been said to an Autistic person's face. None of these are made up. They are all real. Watch the video, share the link, and please don't be this person.

- StimNation



Until next time,



Elise

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's Not About Contraception It's About Self-Respect

No, this post is not about the contraception controversy emanating from the hallowed halls of that pompous, egomaniacal, self-righteous stupidity known as Washington D.C. , oh and I mean that for every side of the aisle, even the ones who are under the aisle too. If you are interested you can read my post here on the issue.

The topic I want to discuss is even more important. It is about teaching our children self-respect in a world that teaches that sexual freedom equates with promiscuity, either male or female. Personally I don't know when the world changed so much. Or perhaps I am just showing my age. When we were growing up, the idea was that if  you were in a longterm relationship and wanted to have sex with that person, it was OK. Sex wasn't just for marriage anymore and yes, even "good-girls" were allowed to enjoy sex. The pill and modern contraception made it easy to prevent pregnancy and allow women to understand their own bodies.

Now there was the person who went to bars, and looked for one-night stands. But it was not seen as some kind of feminist mantra. Hooking-up was thought of as disgusting and in the age of AIDS highly life-threatening. The idea behind our own sexuality was that, yes we controlled our own bodies, but that we also had respect for those bodies. There is a huge difference between sexual awakening and quite frankly being a whore. And yes I understand quite completely the idea behind the "slutwalk" phenomenon. However, there were better ways to get your point across without demeaning yourself. And 3rd and 4th wave feminists don't tell me to awake to consciousness raising, I was raising my conscious before your mothers were old enough to use a tampon.

I suppose I noticed the beginning of this attitude change when the boys were very little and I watched MTV's spring break. This was the beginning of the discussion about the misogyny of the music industry and the perpetuation of the "glorified penis" mentality. Why women buy into this culture and mothers think its OK for their sons to follow along I never understood. Unfortunately it seems things have gotten worse rather than better in the industry...check out the recent Grammys if you don't think so.

In this particular MTV show there were college students participating in contests to win some rather innocuous prize. What was the contest? Which couple had the best shaving cream bathing suits. Out came the "collegeman" (don't  get confused, not my collegemen) with shaving cream covering just enough of his genitals not to be arrested and then his girlfriend or female partner came out also dressed in a similar fashion. Did noone ever teach these children about self-respect and appropriate behavior in public? Did noone ever teach them about life-ling consequences to their actions? My first thought was, OK now try to get a job when you graduate and think that someone is going to take you seriously. My next thought was who raised these children to have so little self-respect? Note: New rules coming out of the DOE, actually mandate that when there is a charge of "rape" on campus there is little or no due process the male is guilty until proven innocent.

When we talk about parenting, we tend to talk about education, support, doctor appointments and letting our children enjoy their childhood. But where is the discussion about bodily integrity? Where is the discussion about relationships, their meaning and the ultimate gift you give someone? Where is the discussion about the emotional repercussions of sex? Where is the idea that yes, even with contraception you can get pregnant so you had better be prepared for that as well.

Parenthood is not a game. (No matter what MTV shows.) Giving a child up for adoption, selfless to say the least, but noone can truly measure the depths of emotions felt by the birth-mother. Oh and if you think that abortion is a nothing choice, just getting rid of a clump of cells, as so many have mentioned to me, then you had best think again. For an emotionally healthy person, there is nothing easy about it. Yet noone anywhere discusses these realities with our children.

There are many issues we face in raising children on the autism spectrum, but one of the issues we tend to ignore happens to be teaching about sex and its point in a relationship. My school district starts sex-education in 5th grade. It's fine with me. I have no problem with the school bringing up the subject nor what they teach in the lesson. I have heard that the state has changed the curriculum somewhat and not necessarily for the better. There have been huge protests about the new content and I think the state had to pull back on some of their proposals.

I remember the night before the lesson on "sex" Wise old Sage sat CM1 down and tried to talk to him about the subject. CM1 just turned to his father and said, "Dad, this is embarrassing you, why don't you let them teach this to me in school." Hubby agreed. When it was CM2's turn, Wise old Sage got through the discussion and CM2 was thoroughly grossed-out. Of course that was when I knew we were going to have a problem with that one. As I said girl-crazy doesn't begin to describe how he is around females. You don't recognize him when he talks to a member of the opposite sex. Actually you don't recognize both boys: CM1 tells jokes to try to impress them. CM2 becomes Cary Grant.

Now from an early age I have impressed on both boys bodily integrity. Their integrity and the integrity of a partner. One of the things that frightens me alot is that they will not understand signals being sent out and will get into legal trouble without meaning to. It is hard enough for aspies to navigate a social world without that added stressor. So I teach them, when a girl says "no" it is "no" and when a girl says "yes" you had better make sure she wasn't drunk, on drugs and quite frankly you had better have known her for a very long time and she is a friend first and foremost. In other words, have it be a part of your relationship and not the only thing that binds you together.

Honestly I am not sure if they understand that last part fully. Neither one has ever had a girlfriend and I don't see one on the horizon in the near future. Interestingly it is the one thing everyone mentions about CM1. That he is doing well and what he needs is a girlfriend. A female peer in that special kind of relationship to care about him. I do wish it for him. It is one of those little things you don't think about until they are older and realize how it hurts  inside to see that this part of growing up they too are missing out on. Hoping one day that it will come. That there is that special someone out there who will understand them and love them and take care of them. Honestly I think its every parents wish for each of their children. It's just harder for ours to attain, just like everything else.

I suppose the lessons I try to teach the boys come down once again to rules.  Respect your own person. Respect the person you are with. You do not have sex with someone who is not your "girlfriend" and you cannot have a "girlfriend" without them being a "friend" first and foremost. Of course that means we also need to identify what and who is a friend and how it does differ with girls and boys.

Contraception is not just a girl's responsibility. It is yours as well. If you don't want to be a father use a condom and if she gets pregnant the choice, whether you become a father or not, is not up to you so be prepared. In other words, if you aren't really ready to be a parent keep your pants on. (No I am not going to go into other sex besides intercourse with my "sons" thank you.)

As I have mentioned on various occasions CM1 and now CM2 is enamored of The Big Bang Theory. In one episode, two characters discuss when its time to have sex. The discussion follows that its after the third date. Invariably I turn to the boys and tell them no its not. There is no "third date"  rubicon for sex. So don't expect it and don't demand it and don't think its going to happen. Each relationship is different and you need to decide for yourselves when the time is right. Of course they get annoyed with me, because I mention it EVERY time we see that scene. That's fine, they can get annoyed with me, as long as they listen and imprint it into their very smart brains.

Listen schools can teach the basics of sex, contraception and sexually transmitted disease, but they leave out the main lesson and that is ...it is just fine and dandy to wait until you are emotionally ready to handle the repercussions of sex. No one ever tells the children "no" about anything anymore. They don't want to judge, they say. Cop out I say. If you teach a child how to put a condom on a banana you need to teach them that it isn't really like a banana and that there are real reasons to wait. It's not about abstinence, it's about reality and rules.  Unrealistic you say. Why just because so much of American culture says its OK to just give yourself away without any thought or care then it is....that its OK to hook-up and its OK to be a big old slut-bag? Well its not.

I tell my boys you are an important human being. Sex is the ultimate of giving yourself to another person. Make sure that person is truly worthy of that gift. Above all it still comes down to self-respect, self-esteem and bodily integrity. Boys and girls included.


Until next time,


Elise

P.S. Any adult aspergeans who want to chime in and tell us how you handled sexual relationships and how you went through the dating ritual please do. Advice is always appreciated.

P.S.S. This post is also not about contraception, abortion nor abstinence. Comments on these issues will not be posted.



Friday, February 17, 2012

M is for Motivation by a Mentor

One of the big issues our children face is the motivation factor. They crave sameness and they crave stability. But the world-at-large doesn't recognize and accept the fact that our children cannot accomplish certain social conventions without hard work. They must be taught how to converse. They must be taught how to act in public without melting down. They must be taught to remove themselves from their comfort zones and learn how to deal with the world as it is. Fair? No. The way it is? You betcha. So what do you do and how do you do it?

In the first instance you make sure that the child understands who is the boss. That it  is you, a therapist, a doctor, a teacher or a para. We used to call these people mentors. In fact, mentoring is still very big in corporate circles. If someone hopes to climb the ladder of "success" they generally need someone higher up to have their backs.That is the mentor.  A mentor is someone who shows you the ropes. Helps you with your issues. Guides you as you learn, develop and grow. A mentor is also someone who doesn't make excuses for a failure or for a "hiccup." They are someone strong enough to make sure that their "charge" is on the right path no matter how difficult a path lay ahead. In another day and age society called them "masters" and "apprentice." Since we are talking aspergeans here think Obi-Wan and Anakin, even Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan.



Now that you understand your role as not only your child's parent, but as mentor, the question becomes, just how are you supposed to motivate them to understand that social convention is necessary to a successful life? One of the more difficult issues we face with CM1 is getting him to understand the necessity of small talk and how to make small talk. The entire idea is anathema to him. It is ridiculous to him. It is painful to him.

I have to be very honest here. I think small talk is ridiculous myself. Why in society are we required to ask mundane questions of people who are basically strangers other than the fact that they are work colleagues, is beyond me. Hubby likes to explain it, that small talk is important to get to know and understand the people you work with. It actually makes interacting with them easier. I take his explanation as "gospel" and we run with it. We have hired speech therapists and behavioral therapists to help CM1 this semester and for the next few years with these very grown-up of skills in the hopes that he is able to get an internship, job and successfully apply to graduate school.

This is not an easy task for CM1. Taking him out of his comfort zone and making him understand how and why he needs to build this skill is quite the challenge. Interestingly though when asked if he had a choice, we told him no he does not. That was then the end of the conversation. He just accepted the fact that he has no choice in the matter and that he has to do as he is told. So far so good. He has accepted the therapy and accepted the new people in his life. Was it always this easy? Heck no. I chalk this up to age, maturity and his true understanding that he has deficits that need support. Also the fact that he wants to have a successful life and accomplish his goals, helps in his new attitude. Again, it seems to me that he really is growing up.

In high school we had actually stopped speech therapy because CM1 just wouldn't show up. He decided that it wasn't important and that in many ways he was beyond something so "babyish." Our foolishness was that we let him get away with that. Actually it was more than foolish, it was foolhardy and it actually ended up hurting CM1 in the long run. He is behind his peers now in pragmatic speech even more so than he would have been if he had had speech all these years. But at least we started up again, he is progressing and we gained some self-incite.

So the question becomes how do you motivate a child or a teen who just doesn't want to follow the rules? Remember what we are truly talking about here are consequences to actions and the failure to follow the social rules. Most if not all our children, do not get that. That is why there needs to be a motivating factor. Something concrete that they can glomb onto in order to understand why, when and how. Note: this is very different than dealing with meltdowns, transitions and triggers. But some of the same methods can be used simultaneously to accomplish different goals.

Younger children:
1. Sticker charts, earn points toward  a goal.. TV time, video game play time, books, movie time, etc. I don't like to use food in this instance, be it cookies, candy bars or even an apple. I think children who have eating issues to begin with should not have eating emphasized as an earned outcome. It is something they need to learn to do because they need to eat. I also don't like the "sweets" as reward idea. It reinforces the wrong thing and especially with so many of our children taking medication that packs on the pounds, the last thing our children need is emphasis on food.

2. Social stories..either written out very simply or in cartoon fashion. They should be succinct and to the point. Simple in explanation of what to do and even why. The motivation here would be, don't hit "johnny" when you play and he will want to play with you and be your friend. Friendship is a huge motivator, including friendship with your siblings.

Older children:
1. Money...adolescents and teens like to buy things..games, special sneakers, DVDs, music, iPods, phones, etc. make them earn it by their behavior, doing chores (which are life skills) and functioning well in school. I know there is a huge issue about not paying your children for grades. Forget that...our children need concrete evidence of when something works and it doesn't work. Some abstract idea of leaning for learning's sake is not going to fly, especially since so much about school in and of itself is so hard for them, i.e. the social piece.

Also with many teens they truly cannot see beyond the immediate. Your child doesn't have to be an aspergean for that. Letting them know that there are consequences in life for not doing their job, in this case, doing well in school, does let them in on the adult world. If you do not preform at your job, you do not earn money to buy the extra things you want in life. Hence, if you do not get the right grades (or even make a concerted effort), behave in school or at least attempt to function at an appropriate level there are consequences. Remember a hard won "C" is better than an easy "A." It is about effort not always just about results when you are trying to teach them perseverance too.

2. Explain it to them. Tell them why you are requiring them to behave in a certain way and what the ultimate outcome should be and what longterm consequences could actually occur. Treat them with respect. Honestly that is all alot of teens really want. Now it is not always easy for teens to "get with the program," when it comes to why they need to lean a particular skill or take a particular class, but talk to them nonetheless. Sometimes just sometimes, treating them as intelligent individuals able to understand consequences and actions will help in giving them the motivation to do what they need to accomplish.

Will they always accept your thought and reasoning. Not on your life. But that doesn't mean you don't try to discuss it with them and teach them along the way. Mindblindness and obstinancy is quite the challenge. Even to the extent that I need to remind CM1 not to have soda at breakfast. The first thing in your body after a night's sleep should be something healthy not something full of chemicals. Don't have it in the house you say. But its inundated throughout society. He has to learn to moderate his behavior, with food just as he learns to moderates his behavior in dealing with other human beings.

Now CM1 in his own inimical way would always respond to me, " I don't tell you how to live your life." My response is always, "actually you do try but I have experience you should learn from." Honestly I should just record the conversation and response and play it instead of repeating the process over and over. Interestingly, Hubby used this response this weekend when we overhauled CM1's executive functioning program. And no it was not pretty. But it had to be done.

CM1 deals with anxiety issues and a lack of executive functioning skills. Yeah I know, aspergean, what else is new? Well actually he has good executive functioning skills for his way of thinking. He knows where everything is and what he needs to do. What he has a fear of is not having what he needs at any given moment, at any given second in a classroom when he is at school. Since he commutes to college he has to take his books, notebooks and papers with him everyday. He is concerned that he will not have what he needs.

Don't mention locker at school. It  just wouldn't work. He would need two and three of everything and then he would have to keep straight which version of which book he used for reading, studying and organization. Added issues are not needed. We did offer to get him a kindle or any e-reader he wanted, for his books. But he rejected that because as he put it,  "I don't study that way."

Unfortunately the fear of being without the needed materials was reinforced early in his college career when one day he had left a particular book home that he needed for a class. He became very agitated and it ended up causing him terrible anxiety. The professor, as with the overwhelming majority of professors and personnel at his college, was nonplussed. CM1 was not penalized for not having the book as he was quite able to listen to the lecture without the book in front of him. But it caused a glitch. On we are dealing with today.

CM1 would carry every book for every class with him back and forth to school every day. He had a huge backpack, and another bag full of books, papers, notes, handouts and his own research. He looked like a well-heeled homeless person. We recently put a stop to that. It was not fun and it has not been easy and it is not going to be easy for quite a while.

Hubby, Wise old Sage, laid down the law. He tried to explain to CM1 how that was socially inappropriate. That he not only needs to learn social convention vis-a-vis conversation, but social convention about how you present yourself in public too. If you look discombobulated, disheveled and generally not put together it does not help your personal presentation. He needed to learn to go through his papers, books and notes to decide what he needs for the next class and what he really has time to read on the trip back and forth. Does he really have time to accomplish work in between classes and if so just how much could he read or write?

The fight was legendary. The yelling. The screaming. The name calling (by CM1). But then eventually he calmed down, Wise old Sage, helped him go through his backpack and helped him create folders to store information and folders to take info to school. We had already established draws in a file cabinet for each one of CM1's classes, now it was just a matter of getting him to utilize them. Yesterday was the first day at school with the new system. Cranky and obnoxious doesn't even go far enough to characterize how he behaved. (That is not terrific of course, but one thing at a time and each day a new lesson.) But he survived. The para survived. The school survived. And what's more important is that CM1 is learning a new very important life skill that can carry him into the adult working world. (It did help that the psychiatrist discussed this change with him. The behaviorist also discussed this change with him. Everyone is on the same page and that too is huge.)



So here you are the mentor and the motivator. The Obi-Wan of your apprentice Jedi. I realized years ago why Obi-Wan failed with Anakin. He refused to see what was right in front of him. His apprentice's need for respect, understanding and his own refusal to review the motivating factors behind Anakin's ego and how his teaching methods were in reality, failing Anakin.  In truth Obi-Wan lost Anakin because at one point he truly just gave up. You can give up by not understanding who your child is too, nor seeing them for who they really are. No our children will not end up Sith Lords or genocidal control freaks intent on ruling the world if we mess up. However, the trick is to quite frankly NOT mess up. Stay one step ahead of them, understand them, motivate them, cajole them, wrangle them but above all don't give up on them.

Until next time,



Elise



Thursday, February 16, 2012

Standardized Testing: Blessing, Curse, Somewhere Inbetween

Now is the season of our discontent....

In other words, it is time for the schools to start teaching towards the standardized testing regime so inherent in our children's education. Do you love these tests? Do you hate these test? Do you not really have an opinion on these tests?

When the boy's were growing up is when the standardized testing craze really began. I know most people blame No Child Left Behind (evil Republicans) for the inundation of testing. But honestly I am not certain that it was really a bad thing. I honestly think that there needs to be standards for education and the only way that we can make sure that everyone's education across the board is equal is to see just how they test out.

You can put as much money into education as you want, yet if there is a lack of direction, support, parent involvement and appropriately educated teachers, money will not accomplish a thing. It is important to gauge what is going on in the school system and to figure out just what needs fixing. The only way to do that is to test the students. The only way to see if a student is reaching the minimum educational requirements is to test them. The only way to see if the curriculum is appropriate is to test the student.

Yes I know many states are now using the testing scores to decide whether teachers should be entitled to raises, tenure and  bonuses. While that is a legal post for a different day, let me just say this: my father is a teacher. He took over some classes where the majority of students failed these tests. However, lo and behold after he got ahold of these classes, these students passed the standardized tests. You can say, "YES in fact it was because of the teacher." The children didn't change. Their home lives didn't change. Their IQs didn't change. Just the teacher changed.

By the way, does my father like standardized testing? Hell no. 

One incident he talks about was when he was helping out in a first grade class. The students were in the ESL class. Either their families were immigrants, or even if not immigrants, the dominant language in the home was Spanish. It was coming to the end of the year and the district needed to decide which of the students would remain in ESL and which would be mainstreamed. So they used standardized testing. They took 30, 6-year-olds and gave them a 3-hour-test with no breaks, except perhaps to go to the bathroom. Needless to say not one of those children ended up mainstreamed.

I don't know about you, but what 6-year-old do you know could sit for a breakless 3 hours test and do well? My father was furious and logged a complaint. Sometimes standardized testing is also used to perpetuate a system that is outdated, outmoded and actually detrimental to the child. Children need to be immersed in the dominant language of the culture in order to thrive and in order to be successful in life. It has been proven that those who are kept too long in ESL do not have the English capacity of their peers and they suffer educationally for it. Yet the system perpetuates itself with the use of standardized testing.

What about the standardized testing here? Did my children like standardized testing? Absolutely not. I do not know any child that does. Testing itself is no fun. But in truth it is how a teacher understands whether you are able to assimilate the information being taught. Sadly though so much of testing and so much of our educational system is redundant and unnecessary.(Another post at another time) Also unfortunately when children don't pass tests they themselves are blamed instead of the teacher, the teaching method or the lack of appropriate educational support. I experienced that myself as a teen. When my class failed a chemistry test the teacher berated us rather then review his own teaching methods.

Listen, I do think,  when used properly standardized testing can be helpful in pinpointing your child's educational issues by telling teachers, parents and administrators just what kind of support your child needs. That is if the testing is used properly. Sometimes testing is used to keep back children that just need extra support and don't get it, or indicates an undiagnosed learning disability which the district refuses to acknowledge.

Testing starts early in elementary school. I think right now it is yearly. Different tests (subjects) given in different years. I do know that  in our district the standardized testing was actually added to the IEP to show just where there were the deficits in the boys' ability to think, reason and extrapolate. Goals were created off the outcomes of the standardized testing and it was very helpful for them. So it never bothered me that there was standardized testing here. It was generally used for good.

But what do you do when you have a recalcitrant child who refuses to appropriately participate in the testing and who in their infinite wisdom decides they have had enough? That too has happened and it is not an actual read on a child's ability. Case in point, CM2...yeah attitude boy...and you thought it began with adolescence...hahaha

There is standardized testing in fourth grade in our state. Children need to take an English exam in the middle of the year and a math exam during the spring. All children who have been diagnosed with learning issues, or have IEPs, 504 plans or even if they are red flagged for learning issues are given accommodations. The desire of the district is to make sure they get an actual read on a child's ability. not to teach to the test, win a point contest or garner accolades.

Interestingly though,  it is the parents who care about those rankings and the point scores, spreadsheets and how the district compares to others in our area. I actually overheard a conversation, which abruptly ended when the mothers involved realized I was in earshot, that they resented that special education children were included in the district score tabulation because it brought the district overall position down statewide. Little did these incredibly ignorant bitches know that my children did better than theirs on these tests and quite frankly are smarter too.

Meanwhile CM2, on the day of the first part of the exam, was in an alternate location, where it was quiet, there were fewer children in the classroom, less distraction, extended time and oh, a nice handful of Hershey's kisses at his desk as a nice little present from the special ed teacher. The test was given over two days. Each part was 1 and 1/2 hours long with breaks if needed. At least someone in Albany knows that children (in this case they were 9-years-old) really can't sit for 3 hours straight with no breaks and do well on a test.

Well the first day of the testing went according to plan. CM2 took the test, did his best and concentrated just like everyone else. Of course, he especially enjoyed his chocolate and looked forward to getting somemore. Then came the second day of the exam. Instead of reading paragraphs and providing short answers or multiple choice questions, the task was to write an essay about what the student read in the booklet.

If you know anything about CM2 you know that he does not like to write. It is his nadir. While his ability to write has greatly improved over the years, in fact his teachers and professors extol his written voice, it is a very painful exercise for him. So needless to say he was not pleased with the second day of testing.  This is what he wrote in the testing booklet:

If you want to see how well I read and write, come to my school and watch me.

He then handed in the booklet. The teacher refused it and told him to go do the test properly. Which he then sat down with a harrumph and refused to look at the booklet. It was a test of wills between CM2 and the special ed teacher. Not sure who eventually won that contest of wills, but since CM2 has graduated from highschool and is now in college I suspect it did not matter all that much in the longrun.

Then there was the math testing in the spring. Same set-up, including the Hershey's kisses. Same two day testing period. The first day was fine. The second day CM2 had had enough. He refused to take the test. The special ed teacher told him to sit down and do what he was supposed to. So CM2 took the test back and proceeded to "Christmas tree" the exam. For those who don't know what that means, he just filled in the little circles on the scantron in random order without looking at the exam. The other children seeing what he was doing, began to laugh so hard they couldn't concentrate on the test. The teacher removed CM2 to another room to sit by himself until everyone else was done.

He did extremely well on the math test. So much for standardized testing.

Until next time,


Elise


Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Hebrew Mamita

Anyone who reads my blogs, knows that I help anyone with special needs children that need helping. I do not look at skin color, religion, ethnic background, heritage, politics or anything other than the fact that they have a child with autism and they need support. So it always comes as a surprise to me when someone who asks for my help then tweets antisemitic conspiracy theories, slurs or just plain good old fashioned anti-semitism wrapped up in ignorant anti-Israel rhetoric.

I know its out there. I have experienced it in real-life myself. But its the sheer audacity of some people that always amazes me. It's not like I hide the fact that I am a very proud Jew, but its not something I write about often on this blog, sometimes yes, but not really alot. So it always amazes me when people come out with their ignorance and expect me to overlook it, or better yet agree with them.

I used to tweet back to them. But I don't anymore. Brilliant-computer-sis warned me about the crazies on the internet and even if you think you are unknown a good hacker can find you. Heck if Anonymous can hack the Pentagon, you can be found for certain. So I just block the person. You can't save everyone I have learned. Honestly I think, when dealing with such hatred, its not even worth trying. Some people rightly deserve your disdain.

Just how far am I supposed to go in helping others, when these people do not see me as human because I am a Jew? Yep, blocked someone today. It does make me sad  that 70 years after the Holocaust so much has not changed.



h/t Yourish.com



Until next time,



Elise

Our Children: Love and Autism

No, this post is not about adult autistics being able to have a loving and healthy adult relationship. But you can read about one such relationship HERE. Just as a fun note, the youngman in the story is the son of John Elder Robinson the author.
This post is about the fact that people insist on telling you that your child does not understand the concept of love. I remember when CM1 was first diagnosed and we moved to our town, the disability director told us that there is no way he could understand love. We told her she was wrong but she kept insisting that we had no idea what we were talking about. You know that tsk tsk tsk shake of the head towards us the ignorant-blinded-by-need parent by those know-it-all professionals. I know you know what I am talking about.

As I have written before CM1 was always a very caring child. He never liked people crying. He never liked watching his Disney cartoons when the characters were upset. He never liked sad songs. He always had a connection to other people's emotions. He also, while not being able to always control his emotions, knew what they were and that he was having them. He was and is still a very empathetic individual. He goes out of his way to be supportive, helpful and kind to those in his life. Silly little things, like bringing his brother a bag of cheese crackers from school because he thought CM2 would like them as a snack. Now isn't that what love is ultimately all about, thinking of others and remembering their importance?

I suppose the attitude to our children's ability to love, is alot like how these "professionals," you know the ones that have brought you the new DSM5, have decided that our children cannot feel empathy. These professionals come to some inane and archaic conclusion based upon flawed data or their own very limited personal experiences and then decide this is the way things are.  Sorry but considering the enormous number of autistics in the world and that each one is an individual person, how any study can be said to be representative of the entire autism community defies my understanding of reality. Yet the "failure to love theory" is as accepted as the  "failure to empathize theory." In truth, it's simply the same concepts with just a single word change in the title proposed by the psychiatric chattering classes. You know, basically the same crap, just a different day.

Luckily we did not have too much to do with that district director in the few years to follow. She was actually denied tenure and went back into teaching, or so she said. She had a PhD and taught at the college level some of this nation's future teachers. Which is a little scary considering that she was teaching future special educators about what autism is and  is not. If  you ever wondered why so many teachers out there have outdated and ill informed notions about our children and who they are and how they function, now you know. (No, not just this one woman for certain, but it's the entire mentality that pervades the system.)

Anyway, I am here to tell you that our children do love and they love with all their hearts. They have a connection to the people around them. Their attachment to people, pets, places  and objects with personal meaning, is total and complete. In fact sometimes too complete. It is hard for them to let go. Moreover they become overwhelmed by the loss to a greater extent than a neurotypical. For  autistics lack the filter that neurotypicals naturally have that would protect an individual from such emotional tsunamis. It is not a bad thing by any means. Autistics just need more support and help to make it through these rough patches, that's all. But mostly this intensity of emotion needs to be honored and respected by all.

I remember just recently the boys got into a fight during one their joint therapy sessions because the doctor brought up the subject of hubby and me dying. The session was suppose to be about them taking more control and responsibility in their lives and that one day they will have no choice in the matter. It wasn't meant as a cruel idea. It was just meant as a fact that they needed to understand. The therapist was trying to get CM2 to take responsibility for his studies and to not leave it to everyone else to remember his assignments and schedule. It in all honesty was simply an off handed comment.

Well the session went downhill from there. CM1 while talking about how would like to be more independent and more "adult," CM2 began to cry. And not just a little crying either. Balling his head off to the point that CM1 started yelling at him, which of course made the crying worse.

I think for CM2 there was a realization that at some point in the future people close to him will die. I don't think he really thinks about that much. Hubby's parents died when CM2 was very young, a baby as a matter of fact and he didn't really know them. His great-grandparents the same. My parents live in Florida and they talk every once in a while and we go visit them. But to CM2 this is life. Nothing has changed. The people he knows and cares about are around. His pets are here and not really changing, albeit getting older which he has failed to notice. Of course,  that is something we would all like to forget, our own aging. CM2's day to day existence is just what it is and he is content and happy.  However, with the mention of our eventual passing the reality of death sunk in. He did not like it. No sirree.

In fact by the time the boys got back in the car after the session, you could hear CM2 still whimpering a little in the background. He did say he was OK when we finally got home though. I did reassure him, that on my side of the family everyone lives to a very ripe old age so he was going to have to put up with his dad and me for a very long time to come.

They used to say that there are only two things in life you can't avoid: death and taxes. But as we have seen, some really can avoid paying taxes in life (at least the federal kind if you are part of the 47%  or have a good enough accountant and tax attorney who can figure out how to manipulate the tax code if you are part of the 1%). But the reality is that death is a part of life. It is the great equalizer. No one, no matter who, even the rich,  even the well-connected,  even someone who has the ear of God, can void it.

Ironically, hubby was nonpulsed when I told him the story about the therapy session. I thought he would at least take some kind of pleasure in knowing that his second born loved him. He said it had to do with CM2 not doing well with change and that was all. I told him he was being ridiculous. Honestly I think that was hubby's way of dealing with the reality of death and the fact that it upset his child.  How he could think his child wouldn't be upset if he dies is beyond me. CM2 asks hubby to scratch his back every morning and still to this day, CM2 likes when hubby spends time with him doing anything. A silly little thing is they read bedtime stories together. Of course CM2's stories are a little more grownup now, but honestly its a way for them to connect and CM2 likes it. By the way so does hubby.

I remember recently I asked CM2 about love and liking me when he wanted me to do something imparticular for him. It wasn't anything out of the norm nor special, but I brokered the subject anyway.

"Why do you want me to do this?" I asked. "Do you even love me?"

Then without skipping a beat, came his response, "I always love you,  I just don't always like you." CM2 is nothing if not honest and very matter of fact.

For that he got a huge kiss. Which he in his own inimical CM2 fashion, cringed when the kiss landed, mostly because he thinks kisses are slimy. Now I am sure if a very pretty girl his own age kissed him it would be a whole other ballgame. I know for a fact it would be, as his para tells me how different he is around pretty girls in school. A completely different youngman, almost with a split personality....one for the girls and one for the rest of us in the adult world.  Was I insulted? Not in the least. Truly, what 18 year old really wants their mom to kiss them even on the forehead....gag-me-with-a-spoon....

The reality is that our children feel love, sadness, joy and  a connection to the universe that is individual to them. No one person, no matter who, has the same level of emotions, intensity and feelings about anything. Our emotions are as personal to us as our fingerprints and our DNA. So it is with our children.

In the final analysis, do our children love? You bet they do and don't let anyone ever tell you any different.


Until next time,


Happy Valentine's Day,


Elise

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The National Anthem Sung at the Time of National Need

We were a nation at war.

I remember it well.

The Nightly News showed the first bombs being dropped on Baghdad. It was actually all happening live on television. No one had ever experienced that before in history.

I happened to be holding my then three-month-old infant (CM1) in my arms. In that minute that the first explosions could be seen and heard CM1 began to wail. I remember holding him close and crying myself.

Hubby, at that exact instant that the bombs were falling,  was visiting his father who was in the hospital down the block. Hubby decided he needed to be home with us. He said that the streets of New York City were so eerily quiet for so early in the evening. No one was on the streets, not a person, not a bus, not a taxi, not a car....

Whitney Houston's rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, not a few weeks from that eventful night, united a nation and reminded us who we were and the reasons why our children sometimes need to go to war.




Decades later a youngman who served in the desert of Kuwait, would become the boys' para. CM1 considers him his only friend outside of Wise old Sage. And yes, like a startling number of on-duty military service personnel and veterans, our para's oldest child, a daughter, is severely autistic.

For the country as a whole, the possibility of having  a child with an autism spectrum disorder is 1 in 110; for military personnel the number is 1 in 88.


Requiescat in Pace Whitney. May you find the peace that alluded you for so long in life.


Until next time,


Elise

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Would You Use the World "Recovery"?

Dr. Allen Frances has penned another article for the Huffington Post defending the DSM5 change, discussing that the biggest issue is that services are tied to the DSM definition and to prove his point discusses the case of a man who "recovered" from autism. Sadly no matter how well thought of, this man just simply does not get it. In fact in his article he talks about the concept of "recovery" and how that puts a different spin on aspergers and autism all together. Well I left a comment:

I think the concept of recovering is a terrible disservice to parents and children alike. It is also a misuse of the English language. My oldest child was dxed at 5 with full-blown PDD-NOS. There was no question that this child was headed toward the severely autistic end of the spectrum. However, through therapy, meds, appropriate services and support he was able to be redxed as aspergers by middle school and today is a senior in college contemplat­ing a law career. Yes he still has deficits compared to his peers. Will they ever go away I highly doubt it. But what has happened over the decades is that he has learned what those deficits are and he is working still to this day on learning how to deal with them and help himself.


However, what has not changed is the fact that he has an autistic brain. He views the world through the prism of a person with autism. This is who he is and this is who he will always be. To say because he can navigate the neurotypic­al world that he is "recovered­" is disingenuo­us at the worst and wholly inaccurate as the least. Most importantl­y the concept of "recovery" is highly insulting to my son, his accomplish­ments and who he is as a human being. 

What do you think? Is Dr, Frances right? Is there such a thing as "recovery" or is it people who have just been misdiagnosed in the first place?

One more thought. I find it truly insulting, even though I forgot to write it in my comment, that the individual discussed in the article would continue on with how different his life would have been if he had been dxed with autism at an early age instead of as a teen. He discusses the lack of self-respect and the lack of drive he might have had. Dr. Frances does not question his assertion.

I don't know how other people are raising their children, but the one thing I have never allowed is that my children use their autism as an excuse for anything. They are driven. They are accomplished. They seek a future. If anything it was when they did not know why they functioned differently that we had issues and their self-esteem suffered. Once their autism was understood and we learned to figure out how to help them, they flourished as any child would. 

It is the same I hear from every adult aspie I have spoken with or found on line. Their lives changed dramatically for the better once they understood themselves. They all wish they had known as early as possible.

Shame on Dr. Frances.

Until next time,


Elise

Know-it-all is Registered to Vote

Oh yeah. CM2 is now registered to vote and along with his voter registration card comes the immediate ability to know everything. Did you know that? I certainly didn't. I thought that there may actually be somewhat of a learning curve that he would want to explore and to figure out, but NOOOOO, he defintiley has the entire world figured out and he has decided what is the most important issues facing our world today.

CM2 was always a bit obstinate and a bit know-it-all about certain things, like video games. I tend to give him credence and his due when it comes to the computer as well. But when it comes to the world at large from a child who still lives at home and has everything paid for by mom and dad, nope not really going to think his perspective is a realistic view. Case in point:

During a class last semester, everyone was discussing what they thought about society. CM2 growing up with a rather privileged background thought the world was a generally good place and everything was terrific. The professor said to him, well of course you think the world is great, look where you live. Meanwhile there was a young lady in his class who comes from a very poor underprivileged background who said she thought the world was terribly unfair and that there needed to be more justice in the world. It was actually the first time CM2 was faced with the reality that everyone doesn't live like him. Oh it is in the back of a child's head all the time, but he had never faced someone who actually lived a different reality than he did. CM2 was truly shaken out of his bubble and saw the world from a radically different perspective. Yes college is a good thing and that class was quite enlightening for my child. The only problem I face now, is trying to get him to moderate his world view on many issues.

He obsesses and perseverates and rails against the machine, as it were. I try to tell him to concentrate on the issues he can effect and to work on the issues he even has right in front of him. But nooooo, I am evil for telling him such horrible things. He emailed me the other day, that he doesn't understand why he shouldn't care about things he can't directly effect. That I get mad at him for being selfish and caring about topics is not selfish....It is so hard to teach perspective taking to an 18-year-old, never mind an 18-year-old aspie. But as I mentioned before, it is not the need to learn and to know that is CM2s problem. It is his absolute unfettered belief that he has all the answers if only us stupid people of the older generation would listen...

When I was complaining about this the other day, hubby very nonchalantly reminded me that I was just the same, but about a different topic at CM2's age. "No I was not," was my retort. "Oh yes you were," he said..."But my issues had a direct effect on our lives and future," I said..OK I was obsessed with Israel and the Middle East and no I don't live there I live in the US, I am a 3rd generation American afterall.."See," hubby said. "No its different," I said. "No its not....." That's what I get for marrying into a family that is descended from a Revolutionary War hero. He has no world perspective outside the business world...hrumph....(And yes there were Jewish-American Revolutionary War heroes...and here)

I  really don't give short shrift to CM2's opinions. Opinions are a valid self-esteem and self-identifying aspect of becoming an independent individual. He doesn't have to agree with my take on the world. That is fine. But considering he doesn't really get how the economy works, has never had a job or had to pay a bill, I am not so certain that his view of what is or is not important when it comes to sustaining the world "order" is truly realistic. In fact I know for certain that it is not.

Oh, heavens no, CM2 has not become a communist by any means. The boy loves his video games too much and I do explain to him that they cost real money. This he understands in fact even though he earned his money by doing chores rather than working in the hamburger line at McDonald's as his father and I did at his age. In fact, during our sojourn into ordering CM2 his new computer I had mentioned at first that he had to pay for half of it, since he wanted a super-dupper-game-player's computer rather than a basic one for school. (Read here) Now when I told him he had to use some of his bar mitzvah money he was fine with that, but when I told him he should also put his video-game earnings toward the computer and just do more chores he lost it entirely.

No way was he going to lose his video-gaming money for the computer. He had earned that money and it meant something to him. But the money he had been given and the money that has been sitting in the bank on his behalf, he really didn't mind giving that away. There was no association with that money. There was no tactile reality to that money. There was no interaction with that money.

I think in many ways that is an interesting lesson. We appreciate what we earn ourselves. We appreciate the hard work that it took to create the things we have. What we are given without effort, well that doesn't have the same meaning and association for our personhood. Yes people who need help should get it, (heck that is why I pay taxes not to enhance the bank accounts of politicians) but I think as human beings we need to be productive and to create our own environment. It is our survival instinct. Our self-esteem. Our ID and EGO demand it. CM2 is quite the example of that.

Meanwhile, CM2 has now decided that since he is a voter he will have to vote the lesser of two evils but he hasn't decided what they are just yet. Oy va voy..if the boys don't agree on politics it is not going to be a pretty year. Yes, our dinner table conversations are going to be quite interesting in the months to come. Well at least I can get them to stop arguing about the existence of God for a little bit...that will be a relief. I too need a change of topic every once in awhile.

Until next time,


Hopefully not such an evil representation of my generation as my child may think,


Elise
@RaisingASDKids

Friday, February 10, 2012

Taking a Little Bite Out of the Big Apple

For those of us who have spent decades living in Manhattan, with its exorbitant property costs, diminished living spaces and the absolute excitement of living in the greatest city in the world...the ingenuity shown below strikes me as oh-so New York....It also shows an inordinate amount of executive functioning ability.  (And you thought I wouldn't find a tie-in to special needs parenting.)

Meanwhile if you are interested in understanding why Manhattan is called the Big Apple read HERE and HERE.  And since nothing is sacred anymore, read HERE about the fight between NYC and Apple Computers about who gets to keep an "apple" as their logo... I know because there are no other problems in the world right...


The YouTube Blurb:

By choosing a studio that measures just 12 feet by 7 feet, Felice Cohen can afford to live in Manhattan's Upper West Side where apartments rent for an average of $3,600 per month. She pays just over $700 for her 90-square-foot microstudio. After a bit of adjustment she now loves living smaller, simpler and cozier.
More on Felice's book: www.whatpapatoldme.com
Felice's blog: felicecohen.wordpress.com
Original story here: http://faircompanies.com/videos/view/simple-life-manhattan-a-90-square-foot-m...





h/t  Your Jewish News


A real lesson in what we can and cannot do without. But then again, we special needs parents seem to already have a bit of a handle on whats really important in life.

Until next time,



Elise

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Temple Grandin on CBC

There is an interview show on the Canadian Broadcasting Company hosted by George Stroumboulopoulos. He happened to interview Dr. Temple Grandin. It's interesting to listen to her. Now I don't always agree with everything she says, as I don't agree that every therapy and support works for every autistic person. But her perspectives and life experiences are something we can all learn from inorder to help our children.




Watch the entire interview HERE.


Until next time,



Elise

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

I Speak for the Trees...

Tonight begins the Jewish holiday of Tu-bishvat (New Year of the Trees)..or Jewish Arbor Day...It is a celebration of the environment and the beauty that is the Earth. We are commanded to respect God's world and treat it well.

A lovely custom that began about 400 years ago is the Tu bishvat Seder. You can find a beautiful Seder service HERE from ARZA. And yes it includes the requisite four cups of wine (grape juice for the younger set.)

Meanwhile this holiday reminded me of one of my favorite books from my childhood,  The Lorax by Dr. Seuss.  It was a call to respect the environment. Here is the actual TV show from 1972...



They have just made The Lorax into a full length movie due out this summer.




As a special note ...the only nation to end the 20th century with more trees than it began with is Israel....You can plant a tree in Israel  HERE. Jewish families tend to plant trees to celebrate life's milestones: births, bar/bat mitzvahs, graduations and in memorium, especially in memorium. When you lose someone you love it is nice to give back life. .There is something special in Judaism about the environment. It's also why a new terrorist tactic is to set fire to the forests in Israel.




Persian-Fallow deer in a forest in Israel. On an interesting note, until the 1950s this biblical form of deer was thought extinct.




Until next time,


Chag sameach (happy holiday),


Elise 


L is for Love, but of course....



In honor of Valentine's Day....




There is no way to explain what parents do for their children, special needs or NT, without adding into the equation the wholly encompassing emotionally inundating mammalian need to love and be loved...



No one really does it better than the late-great- Etta James



Except perhaps Nina Simone



Or the crown-princess of  heart Norah Jones




And finally this song without a doubt, sung from the soul of Nina Simone, could have been written about our children (even though we know it was originally about a miscreant boyfriend looking for a pass on bad behavior, ala The Animals)





Finally, what would Valentine's Day be without Sheldon's incite:




Until next time,

PEACE



Elise