Friday, August 30, 2013

Not Sure What This Means

We have this beautiful Japanese apple tree in our frontyard. After the gorgeous white blooms fall away there are mini-apple-buds that appear. Every year before these fruits can get very big all the birds, squirrels, chipmunks and assorted wild creatures living in our woods, devour the pre-ripened apples before they can get too big. By mid August there is not a lick of fruit left on that tree. Yet here is the fruit now on Labor Day Weekend...

 They are all over the tree....

The ripening fruit is getting bigger by the day...

They have never turned completely red and fallen off the tree before. I've lived in my home for 15 years.

Don't know if this means that the wildlife in my area is changing. Interestingly, we just received a notification from the Town Supervisor that there is an unusual amount of coyotes and bears in our area. Maybe they have been eating the smaller animals that would have themselves eaten the growing Japanese apple fruit.

Or did we do something ourselves to prevent the usual number of birds from coming into the area? I know last year we had several robin-red-breast nests around our home. But this year we only had one nest and there wasn't any babies in it. Didn't see any bluejays or cardinals this summer either.

Even my hydrangea tree (as opposed to my hydrangea bushes) out front looks like it was attacked by a parasite. Spidery, ugly spindly leaves and no flowers. Usually the leaves are lush and the flowers are so huge that it bends the tree over.

On the  other hand, the hydrangea bushes came in gorgeous with more flowers than normal while the Rose of Sharon hibiscus tree bloomed in buckets this summer.

hydrangea bushes

Rose of Sharon
Heck even my peace lily, which I left out on the porch, had 6 blooms when normally I'm lucky if I get one...

Maybe  because of hurricane Sandy the entire ecological system in our area was affected more than we all thought. Super storms have a way of changing your environment and not always for the better. I miss my robins  and the chirping sounds of the birds. What I do hear is the rhythm of the crickets...lots and lots and lots of crickets.

If a drastic environmental change has such an affect on the animals in our area, my question is what kind of effect does it have on us and our own well-being? They say that autism is caused by a confluence of genetics and the environment. I have always been a proponent of autism being tied to our genes. A recessive gene much on the nature of being a red head or having curly hair.  Something we pass on congenitally to our children like cystic fibrosis. However, I have never been quite sure about the connection between autism and the environment.

But one thing I do know, is that when the birds start to disappear it is NOT a good thing.


Thursday, August 29, 2013

How to Praise Your Child

From Prager University...

Is there a better way to praise children, a way that helps them develop into the best person they can be, helps you as a parent, and society as a whole? One of the moral luminaries of our time, best-selling author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin has an answer that you can put into practice the moment you finish watching this five minute Prager University course.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

It's September so It's Time to "Talk" about Schools Failing Boys....Yet Again

Time has an interesting piece about how schools are once again failing boys. HERE It's basically a requirement now, at the beginning of every school year, to have someone, somewhere, discuss how education is destroying the next generation of men. There is a discussion of how the education system is so geared to the way girls think that boys are shortchanged. If you take a look at the drop out rate of boys to girls, grades, learning disabilities and general dysfunction, you find that youngmen are more directionless than ever before in our history.

Moreover, the reader finds that the way boys play is dramatically different than girls and it is through play that children learn to socialize, think, reason and advance. It is the way boys play that has come under more regulations and attack by school officials then ever before. You find that boys are chastised by teaches at a much higher rate than girls for their type of play. The author writes:

Across the country, schools are policing and punishing the distinctive, assertive sociability of boys. Many much-loved games have vanished from school playgrounds. At some schools, tug of war has been replaced with “tug of peace.” Since the 1990s, elimination games like dodgeball, red rover and tag have been under a cloud — too damaging to self-esteem and too violent, say certain experts. Young boys, with few exceptions, love action narratives. These usually involve heroes, bad guys, rescues and shoot-ups. As boys’ play proceeds, plots become more elaborate and the boys more transfixed. When researchers ask boys why they do it, the standard reply is, “Because it’s fun.”

According to at least one study, such play rarely escalates into real aggression — only about 1% of the time. But when two researchers, Mary Ellin Logue and Hattie Harvey, surveyed classroom practices of 98 teachers of 4-year-olds, they found that this style of play was the least tolerated. Nearly half of teachers stopped or redirected boys’ dramatic play daily or several times a week — whereas less than a third reported stopping or redirecting girls’ dramatic play weekly.

Play is a critical basis for learning. And boys’ heroic play is no exception. Logue and Harvey found that “bad guy” play improved children’s conversation and imaginative writing. Such play, say the authors, also builds moral imagination, social competence and imparts critical lessons about personal limits and self-restraint. Logue and Harvey worry that the growing intolerance for boys’ action-narrative-play choices may be undermining their early language development and weakening their attachment to school. Imagine the harm done to boys like Christopher, Josh and Alex who are not merely discouraged from their choice of play, but are punished, publicly shamed and ostracized.

Schools must enforce codes of discipline and maintain clear rules against incivility and malicious behavior. But that hardly requires abolishing tag, imposing games of tug of peace or banning superhero play. Efforts to re-engineer the young-male imagination are doomed to fail, but they will succeed spectacularly in at least one way. They will send a clear and unmistakable message to millions of schoolboys: You are not welcome in school.

Meanwhile here is a list of some articles and television discussions over the past decade about boys and school (I have linked to a mixture of articles from every political spectrum so no one can actually say that this is politically motivated rather than a real problem):

Are Schools Filing Boys? (CBC) 2006
Boys and School: Tips (Education Next) 2010

Boys in School (PBS Kids)
Struggling School Age Boys (Daily Beast) 2008
Stop avoiding the issue of failing boys (Inside Higher Ed) 2009
The nation's schools are failing boys (NY Post) 2010
Why our schools are failing boys (CBC News Canada) 2010
Why boys are failing in an education system stacked against them (Huffington Post) 2011
Why modern education is failing boys (like me) (Daily Caller) 2012
Honor Code (David Brooks, New York Times) 2012
Title IX for our Boys (USA Today) 2013 
Boys failing in schools are like tress falling in the woods to Civil Rights Dept of the DOJ (legal Insurrection) 2013
Failing a generation of American Boys (The American Spectator) 2013 
Why schools are failing our boys (Essential Kids) 2013

I was a teacher's aide when we first moved to New York City, while I studied for the Bar Exam. I had never been a parent before and was indoctrinated through my education and society in general, that boys needed to be trained to not be murderous, physical, dangerous beings. One day I caught two of my four-year-old charges playing cops and robbers. The boys had fashioned guns out of legos and were pretend shooting at each other in a "police fire fight." I promptly took the lego guns away and gave the boys time outs in their cubbies. I was determined to not let them think that violent behavior was the way things get done. I remember them crying as I lectured them about guns. They had no idea what they had done wrong. They were in truth, just being boys. (These boys are now probably close to thirty. And even though it was so long ago, my youthful-self-righteousness still bothers me at times.)

After Mr.GS was born, I decided that we needed to make sure that he had no preconceived notions about gender and that he was not socialized to think that girls could not do the same job as boys. So we subscribed to Parents Magazine's monthly infant toy club. Once a month we would get gender neutral toys for him and that way he would learn to not predetermine what someone is or who someone would be depending on their gender. We also did not buy him specifically "BOY" toys and brought a variety of gender neutral children's toys into the house.

Well, at ten months he received a miniature wagon with wheels from the Parents Magazine toy parade. He promptly laid on the floor and made it go "vroom vroom" as if it were a car. I realized too that he also would play traffic and would like to build with his blocks then do the completely male thing of knocking those blocks over and laughing. The next day I went out and bought him "BOY" toys. Trucks, cars, action heroes, and masculine legos. There was no getting around it. Boys and girls are different. They think differently and they play differently.

Our entire generation was raised to believe that the differences in boys and girls were simply from socialization. We were told that we could unteach these highly biased attitudes to our children, making for an egalitarian and Utopian world of equality, symbiosis and togetherness. Not surprisingly we also expected unicorns to spread fairy dust over our uterus during labor taking away any pain. OK no, not really, but from my understanding epidurals come pretty close to that pain-negating-fairy-dust (I never had one actually, my babies came too fast. By the way, another "autism causation" issue obliterated in my household.)

Listen it's not about games and toys when it comes to whether boys grow up to respect women or whether they think that women are of equal value. It's how you, the parent, raise them. It is a vestige of society when males denigrate a woman because she is female. Heck just look at the misogynistic attacks on female politicians, especially those attacks on conservative women. Check out all the male politicians who are exposed for sexual harassment, sexual perversions and gender pay inequality. If you think misogyny is a thing of the past then listen to today's music or play some of the more egregious video games as well. All this after the decades upon decades of promoting egalitarian lessons on gender, sex roles and society.  What it comes down to is not academia that guides your child's development, but it's what you allow your child to read, listen to and play that has an effect on how they view the opposite sex.

The truth is that today's educators happen to not understand how the male mind works. They do not appreciate boys and they do not care to appreciate boys. Teaching boys is not an easy task. They are rambunctious. They do not like to sit for long periods of time. They do have issue with words, composition and reading comprehension. More boys have speech issues than girls as well as learning disabilities.

Of course there is also a movement that says, that boys may not be so prone to learning disabilities as society thinks. That the issue is society thinking that when boys act like boys it is a problem, hence a disability. That its not to say that there are not learning disabilities among boys, but just how many are over-diagnosed simply because they want to play outside rather than sit and listen to a lecture series, which causes them to squirm in their chair, daydream or call out?

The problem that we as a society face, is that those who educate our children refuse to understand that "boys will be boys" is not a bad thing. It has been made into a bad thing. The problem lies with the fact that society thinks that by giving into one ancienne aspect of the old-boys-club, the objectification of women, that the rest of "the boy" needs to be vanquished as well. But in reality these are two very different and distinct issues. A well educated, fully developed, wholly self-sufficient man can remain a man in thought and deed while, still not being a male-chauvinist-jackass. The hubby proves that point and my boys are the other proof.

FACT: Boys and girls are different. They interact differently. They think differently. They view the world differently. Their brains have different strengths and weaknesses. They learn differently. They manifest disabilities differently. 

Science continually talks about gender differences and even does medical studies to figure out how diseases react differently in male and female. They do studies to understand how heart disease is different, how cancer is different, how ADD is different and now finally how autism/aspergers is different. Why is it so hard for educators to fathom that boys and girls learn differently and that society needs to gear itself to teaching for the child and not trying to emasculate our boys?

I think that in some ways, our children being special needs may have lucked out in the gender issue education regard. Because the school teaches to the issue, the IEP is geared to finding a child's strength and helping them with their weaknesses. No one talks about "issues" being a boy thing as opposed to a girl thing. Our children are taught the way they need to be taught. If they need that break they get it. If they need extra help with writing they get it. If they need more tactile learning they get it. They get what they need when they need it. 

It would be nice if every student received that type of attention. When boys need to move around they should be allowed to with out needing a diagnosis of a disability. When boys need help with writing, they should get it without having a processing disorder. When boys need to play with mud or play-dough to learn science they should have that right without needing OT. (Etc)

All children have the right to an education. Granted. But what they need to have is a right to an education that helps them be the best that they can be, not what makes it easier for the educator and the school district. Children need to be taught how to become who they are meant to be, while they garner an education for the type of learner they happen to be, regardless of gender.

In the meantime, our society is losing a generation of males. We have been discussing this now for almost a decade. Will society wait until there are no more viable candidates for husbands, fathers and life-partners before it decides that something drastic needs to be done or are we simply going to let our society disappear? Because disappear it will, if we do not allow boys to become men and expect them to become women instead.


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Book Review: The Sensory Child Gets Organized by Carolyn Dalgliesh

As a special needs parent one of the more important aspects of making our family flow and function is that when I need information it has to be in one place, be sysinct and be applicable to my daily life. The Sensory Child Gets Organized does this very well.

The author, Carolyn Dalgliesh, has combined tried and true information in such a way as to make it easily instituted into your family. She explains the basis of sensory issues and how they apply to certain disabilities. She then goes on to show you through example and worksheet, how you can figure out just what your child needs, when they need it and what is the best way to apply what you have learned. She writes that:

                 The main goal of {her book} is to empower you and your family with a few 
                 simple, effective techniques that will help you and your child be happier, 
                 calmer and more successful.

She starts off her instructing by getting you to journal. Now we have been hearing about journaling on several different levels for  years, mostly in the vein of trying to figure out your own path in life. However, here she gives you instructions on what exactly you would be looking for and writing down  when journaling about your child. Observation is your best instrument in coming to a conclusion about what will help everyone involved function on a better level.

Your next task is to figure out just how your child learns. What is the best method to reach them. How do they assimilate information and what is the best method to do homework.  When and how to do homework. When and how to stop and start. What are the optimal conditions for your child to feel successful when they study.

Then you need to go even deeper and figure out what are your child's sensory issues. What seems to bother them the most? What are their triggers? What calms them down? How do they handle transitions? What causes them the most anxiety?

Now what do you do with all this information? You basically create a sensory friendly space for your child. The book goes into detail about calming areas, how to organize play areas,  your child's closet, desk,  schedule and how to use social stories to make their day run smoother.                                                     

The author also goes into detail on how to make your child feel comfortable when they need to go outside their comfort zone. These self-help tips can be employed so that you can support your child from everything from a trip to the dentist to a major family vacation. She discusses how to figure out your child's strengths, and weaknesses. You are then instructed how to apply that necessary support to make every time you leave the "nest" a successful and positive experience.

There is also a discussion about what your job as an advocate really means. How you can organize yourself and bring together a team that will help our child thrive. She briefly discusses the laws involved in educating a special needs child and explains the differences in supports, accommodations, medical and practical terminology.

She also gives some helpful hints when going to employ a babysitter.  Yes a babysitter. So many of us shy away from ever hiring anyone to watch out children, but Carolyn gives you some helpful hints that can make a grown-up night out fun, successful and beneficial for everyone.

Lastly, the author also touches on a subject that tends to get ignored in the special need world, the typical sibling. She talks, albeit briefly, about therapy and support to help your unaffected child process everything that is happening in their world. This tends to be the missing necessary element in every family's happiness. 

Carolyn has also created an appendix where she lists organizations, books, websites and products that she recommends. She breaks everything down into helpful categories and even products by chapter.

Carolyn Dalgliesh is the founder and owner of Systems for Sensory Kids and Simple Organizing Strategies, helping sensory families, individuals and businesses get organized. She lives in Rhode Island.


I do have one caveat about the book, a big caveat actually. As the parent of two youngmen with autism spectrum disorders, I do NOT agree with her listing as a viable autism organization Generation Rescue. I find many of their therapies (one including having your child drink a diluted form of clorox) detrimental to the health of children and their association with the anti-vaccination movement ignorant of the real science involved in the causes of autism. (Here, Here, Here, Here, Here and more recently Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here, Here)

Furthermore, since there is a finite amount of money for any scientific research, this obsession with vaccinations prevents those like my sons from getting the real help that they need. She should have listed the Autism Science Foundation as a science based charity that funds and grants true science-based autism research. She could have also listed any number of national and intentional groups, such as icare4autism, or Friendship Circle for support and proper scientific research.

On another note: many self-advocates do not like Autism Speaks, as they lobby for a cure for autism. However, I have no issue with those that want a cure considering the devastating effects autism can have on so many. This I find to be a personal issue and one that each family has to tackle on its own. If you ask my sons would they want to be cured, they would give you a resounding absolutely NOT. However, as a family we have participated in genetic studies to further an understanding of autism and to help others more profoundly effected within our community.

As far as all the other books and websites listed in the appendix, I have read some of the books (they are listed on my Book Recommendation page) and have found some of the advice, especially from Wrightslaw very helpful in my decades long journey with my sons. You can go to my Helpful Website page for a more thorough listing of websites that you may find suits your personal family needs.



Friday, August 16, 2013

When Grumpy Cat Starts to Channel You....

 It's just another average day in special needs parenting land for me.....

Well, at least I now know I am not the only one who makes up scenarios to worry about. However, I'm also not convinced that a little neurosis is always a bad thing. "Be prepared" is not only the Boy Scout motto, it's something I have lived with for decades.

In fact, being prepared for every eventuality is what has kept me on top of my children's' needs throughout the years. Not unexpectedly, the few times I have let my guard down, we got blindsided. Luckily, it always ended up working out in the boys' favor, but I definitely could have done without all the surprises, in addition to the accompanying sleepless nights, anxiety attacks and the trips to the lawyers (Yes even if you are an advocate or a legal professional yourself, you cannot always handle everything alone.)

But then again, maybe coming up with probable eventualities doesn't really make us neurotic after all. Better yet, I think we are just realistic about the world, the issues that need to be faced, the people (known and unknown)  being dealt with and how we need to prepare our children for their future.

That's all. Well that's what I tell myself anyway.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You're Gonna Hear Me "ROAR"

 Anytime an artist stands up for self-esteem I love it. Here's Katy Perry's new one....


Monday, August 12, 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Autism as an Excuse for More Criminal Behavior...You Are Not Going to Believe This One

Bad word warning

It is one thing for autistic self-advocates to say that there are simple individual things that some with autism just don't get. It is one thing for autistic self-advocates to say that there should be accommodations and even have some job requirements rewritten for persons with autism. It is one thing for autistic self-advocates to try to tell people what words they can use and how to address a person with autism. I don't have to agree with them on any of these points. In fact longtime readers of this blog know for a fact that I and the autistic self-advocating world generally part company on many issues of concern in the world of autism advocacy.  But I never really get angry about these disagreements, to me they are just simply disagreements. Many on the other side however, do resent that I don't take their word as gospel on how to raise a child on the autism spectrum, but that is their problem. However, I tell you, you are just not going to believe this new nonsense.....

Sadly, there is a new movement afoot among self-advocates (and even some autism-warrior-parents) to excuse pedophilia and child porn among the autism population.  You read that right, pedophilia and  child porn. Quite frankly, this new ill-thought-out and downright nauseating attempt to excuse such vile crimes among the autism population is revolting. Yesterday there appeared an article by Eustacia Cutler in The Daily Beast trying to elicit sympathy for pedophiles who happen to also have autism, and today John Elder Robinson does the same thing in Psychology Today. All I can say is "What the Hell?"

Some autism advocates and self-advocates have just gone overboard. This is beyond jumping the shark. Are they simply out of their freaking minds? Are they really defending autistics who peruse child porn and practice pedophilia? Are we supposed to believe that people with autism are so misbegotten, immature, unsocialized basket cases that they do not know that an adult doesn't "fuck" a 3-year-old or watch 10-year-olds having sex. That is what pedophilia and child porn happen to be. There is no gentle word for this garbage. "Molesting" is some kind of nice-nice way of describing what actually happens. Time we actually discussed pedophilia for what it is. This is exactly what these two advocates are trying to excuse.

Are we supposed to feel sorry for the autistic who just can't control themselves or who doesn't want to (in Robinson's words). If you know something is wrong, and continue to do it, that makes it a conscience decision. To continue an illegal and immoral activity on purpose is a crime, no matter how your brain is wired.

I am so furious I can't even see straight. How dare they? How freaking dare they, so belittle my children and anyone else in the autism community that everything now, including raping children is  to be seen as "not the fault" of the perpetrator simply because they have autism. According to these advocates it's compassion and understanding we need for the child rapist because they happen to have an autism spectrum disorder. I'm sure these victims of child rape will be so impressed that their lives were ruined by people for whom society is now supposed to find excuses. How can any thinking person truly say that somehow autistic persons can't understand that child porn and pedophilia are beyond the pale of decency?

Robinson even writes that autistics who commit these crimes should be given different therapies than NTs because their pedophilia is due to different issues. He knows this because why? Scientific studies? Empirical evidence? It couldn't be that the pedophile is just a vile pervert who also happens to have autism. No, according to these advocates, the autism is the guiding principle here.

I am tired of advocates saying, implying, deciding, that everything anyone who has autism does, chooses or acts upon, is only due to their autism. According to these autism advocates it just simply can't be that autistics are singular thinking human beings with rational elastic minds of their own, able to make intelligent informed and appropriate nonautism centered decisions just like any other adult in the entire world. Heaven forbid autism just doesn't define every single person with autism. How revolting, insulting and demeaning to all the good and descent people with autism.

You don't think this could come back to haunt our children? Well think again. I have recently had to deal with some of the backlash from that horrific killing last year in Connecticut. Because of the decidedly unprofessional and ignorant behavior of the national news media, our children are still thought of as violent, out of control, threats to society. I had professors refuse to be alone with my overtly  gentle son, Mr. GS, after that incident.  I have also made certain that I had the boys tested for psychotic tendencies, not because they happen to have mental illness, but to ward off any hate and ignorant attitudes they might come across in their lives.  Am I now supposed to have them tested for pedophilia simply because some creepy scumbag revolting poor excuse for a human being somewhere decided their autism was a way to get out of sex offender crimes and these autism-(self)-advocates support this model of thinking? Watch when the call goes out that those with autism have to be barred from certain professions....keep this crap up, defending perverts, and it will happen, mark my words.

How dare anyone try to take from my boys the life they as individuals have worked hard to establish. How dare anyone out there decide that it is OK to use autism as an excuse for vile crimes. How dare anyone start an avalanche that will lead to my children being ridiculed, ostracized and alienated because of their autism. My sons have enough to contend with in their lives and the fights they have to fight on a daily basis to ensure their rightful place in society. They certainly don't need this bullshit.

No I am not going to link to these two articles. You can Google them. That is how I found them once I heard about them.

Meanwhile, here is the comment I left for John Elder Robinson:

Sorry John but you are making excuses for reprehensible behavior. I am tired of the excuse of "autism" for criminality. Autism is NOT the cause of every choice an autistic person should know that and to promote anything else is disingenuous.

It's also insulting to say that autistics cannot control themselves, that they are infantile. The flip side of being a wholly independent adult is to accept the consequences of your actions. By trying to find excuses for those with autism who commit reprehensible crimes you take from the autistic their actual rights as human beings to make their own choices, decisions and lead their lives as they wish. You infantilize my sons as well as every other adult on the spectrum. You should know better and be alot more circumspect.

As a parent of two youngmen with aspergers, you can rest assured that my children know right from wrong. Morals, ethics, including a talk about sexuality which includes teaching them about the criminality associated with certain relationships is not anathema to the autistic mind. Healthy adults, autistic or otherwise, are sexually attracted to other adults. Those that are not have issues not associated with autism.

For heavens sake why does this even have to be said to you of all people? Tell us, did you not know that child porn was bad? Did you not teach your son? Did you not know relationships with children are prohibitive, does not your son?

Furthermore, your supposition that autistics who are child predators can be treated differently than NT predators is flawed. How do you know this? What evidence do you have that their pedophilia is actually caused by their autism and not that they are simply perverts?  Everything you write is to excuse disgusting behavior that has no excuse.

Your excuses for pedophilia among some autistics will lead society to believe that all autistic are a threat and have no right to live in the world and be seen as equal persons. As an autism-warrior-parent I fight daily the society's media induced supposition that autism and violence like that perpetrated in CT are linked. Why do you add this crap to the fire and make society terrified of our children on another level?

Can't wait for some self-righteous shmuck to call me an ablest evil bitch again because I think that autistics are smart, morally, and ethically able to stand up for what is right in our society and to not make autism an excuse for  criminal behavior, especially pedophilia. Wait for it...


Saturday, August 3, 2013

Practicality: Teeth Brushing and Face Washing

Getting CM2 to brush his teeth and wash his face used to sent chills down my spine. There was no amount of cajoling, arguing or threatening him with a "computerectomy" that would get him to follow through on these two most basic hygiene functions. He just hated them. He did everything he could to avoid them. I never actually understood what the issue was, afterall his older brother who had a more "severe" case of autism took his hygiene seriously and practiced it diligently. Finally, after years of fighting with him I got a clue....sensory processing issues.

You need to understand that the boys, now in their twenties came of age when society and especially us parents were finally learning something about our children's issues. When Mr. GS was first diagnosed no one ever spoke of aspergers in any context whatsoever. There was pdd-nos, autistic and that was about it. Oh aspergers was out there. But until Tony Atwood came along, not one person that I had had contact with even spoke about it. Heck the only point of reference I had had about autism in general was the movie Rainman, just like everyone else. I had read something about Temple Grandin but her story made absolutely no sense to me. How could someone with autism become a university professor and a world-leader in animal husbandry I wondered?

Yet interestingly, the first point that the doctors made after diagnosing Mr. GS was to tell me that it wasn't my fault that he had autism. The "refrigerator mom" theory was even still widely accepted as gospel back only two decades ago. So sensory processing issues were not even in the back of my mind, the doctors' minds, the teachers' minds or anyone elses' when we were dealing with CM2's refusal to brush his teeth and wash his face.

In the beginning who had ever heard of sensory issues? In fact, my school district, which is amazing when it comes to special education, needs, and autism support would not provide support for sensory processing. Since it wasn't in the DSM, it apparently didn't exist according to them. Luckily CM2 needed OT for other issues and we just added in the teeth-brushing and face washing component along the way privately with the therapist.

So yes, if your child has a sensory issue, if they are seeking unusual amounts of texture, input or are overly sensitive to clothing, weather, even the texture of food, your child needs OT to help with their sensory intake and output. Believe me, when I tell you it helps. OT really does help them integrate their sensory issues. Of course, everything you also do in their lives to make them feel more comfortable in their skin and in their environment has a big effect as well.

Now CM2's sensory issues were even apparent in how he ate his food. He chipmunked his food. He would stuff his mouth so full of food until his cheeks bulged before he began to chew his food. It not only made for an unappetizing meal to watch him eat, but it was also a terrible choking hazard. We would have to monitor his bites very carefully (interestingly we still do but for other reasons as he now eats too fast) and give him instruction on how much chewing he needed before he put more food in his mouth. We would also need to remind him to swallow before he put more food in his mouth as well. For some reason the sensors in his mouth did not understand and transmit the necessary safety related points from his mouth to his brain.

And of course his oral sensory processing issue also manifested itself in teeth brushing. He hated, simply hated to brush his teeth. It was not any different when going to the dentist. They could not really brush his teeth (oh and forget about tooth polishing) but could clean them (at least get the tarter off as much as possible.) You just did not put anything into CM2's mouth. This did not just make him feel uncomfortable, I actually think that it may have hurt him in some way.

It's almost like auditory processing issues. An autistic self-advocate once explained to me that with auditory processing certain sounds don't just bother the person, they actually can cause alot of pain. So when CM2 used to put up a ruckus to avoid teethbrushing I understood what was behind it was a sense of being horribly uncomfortable, but unlike with auditory processing where the person can cover their ears or wear headphones to block out some noises, people need to brush their teeth. Here are a few ideas we have tried over the years:

Teeth Brushing ideas:

1. Very soft toothbrush. Something a small child learns on.
2. Hubby would help him and brush his teeth for him even well into the elementary school years.
3. We would allow him to pick out any toothpaste he wanted. Even the ones with the most disgusting flavors.
4. He liked certain cartoon characters, so we tried those in toothbrush form too (and on the toothpaste tube.)
5. We bought mouthwash. They have some children's mouthwashes that you need to use when your child gets braces so we started having him use that. It wasn't perfect, but at least it added to an attempt at oral health. He took a sip, swished it around and spit it out.
6. Finally we bought a battery operated/electric toothbrush. There are several kinds and we found that the one with the small round head seemed to work well for CM2. He complained less and brushed his teeth more. Not perfectly by any means, but at least the toothbrush went into the mouth cavity and stayed there for a few seconds. Note: Not only are the battery operated brushes alot cheaper than the electric ones but they come in many different colors and the children's ones come in character form too.
7. (Unfortunately) Break down and pay for extra dental cleanings every three months instead of every six.
8. See if a sticker chart helps. Maybe if the child earns enough stickers or points toward something they like then it will be an incentive to overcome the discomfort. Also don't expect a major brushing event. Start with a simple ten seconds of toothbrush in the mouth at first and work your way up. Once they see they can do it, they may even increase it up to the 2 minute required mark themselves.
9. If they use a weighted vest, let them wear it during teeth brushing. Or as in the case of CM2 let him carry with him his good luck butterfly paperweight. Anything that gives them comfort.

Face washing ideas:

What we learned was that CM2, like his brother, did not like getting his eyes wet.  We allowed them to wear goggles in the bathtub. So we let him wear goggles to wash his face in the morning. It definitely helped. Or he would also just rinse from nose down. Of course that tends to rule out washing out your eyes from "sleep," but I would also take a soft washcloth and just have him close his eyes and gently clean over the area. You could also use some of those make-up cotton balls to wash out their eyes as well. OK, yes this also means the child has to be cooperative and allow you near their eyes in the first place.

Another issue that I found out about is that it could be the running water on their skin that causes them discomfort. Another self-advocate once told me that showers were painful on her skin. The constant beating of the drops hurt her, while a still bath was fine. Maybe what you should try is fill the basin up with a little warm water and see if that helps get your child to wash his face.

And as with teeth brushing, do everything in increments. Don't expect them to be soaping up their face and allowing tons of water to splash them right away. Go slow with a little warm water, and over time add in soap and them put the two pieces together. Skin experts will tell you soap is very bad for the skin anyway. Maybe a nice cleanser (like neutrogena or aveeno) that you can put on and take off using cotton balls or extremely soft washcloths.


Now I am not saying that we still don't have issues with CM2 brushing his teeth and washing his face. He does a precursory job with the teeth brushing but it is getting better. The dentist even mentioned that fact the last time he was in for a checkup. Plus CM2 was able to wear braces for two years and his teeth are pretty straight. (However, when the orthodontist tried to put the braces on him the first time, the man did have to move fast in order to not get bit.) CM2 did have a hard time at first but he eventually got used to the braces. What he liked was being able to pick out the color of his rubber bands.  So he went around with a kelly-green mouth for years. It was an incentive of sorts. And yes we had teeth brushing issues when he wore the braces. We spent alot of time at the dentist getting his teeth cleaned. And has he worn his retainer since the braces came off?...Not on a bet.

The reality is that CM2 has these sensory issues. He, as a young adult, knows that he has to keep up his hygiene so that he remains healthy and accepted in society. Is it easy for him? No it is not. This is truly something he struggles with on a daily basis. But as with many things in life it is something that has to just get done, so it does.

By the way, you think teeth brushing is an issue....just wait until you have to get them to shave on a regular basis. For some reason, even Mr. GS who is fastidious in his appearance, hates to shave and will wait until the barber uses an electric shaver on him before he is cleanshaven. And its not like we haven't bought every razor known to mankind in the western hemisphere (including electric ones) to get him to shave. He recently admitted that he is afraid of cutting himself with a razor and we mentioned to him that if he shaved more often there will be less of a dense beard to get through (In fact his beard is so thick that the basic at-home electric razor does bubkas). I usually get him to shave by mentioning that he is starting to look like a chasidic Jew and that all he needs are the side curls. Being an avowed atheist  that observation will get him to shave within a few days.


The truth of the matter is that along with everything you need to do in order to help your child grow into a healthy and happy adult is working them through the basics of hygiene. For many aspergeans they simply do not care and need to be instructed as to the purpose and need, but for a large part of the community their hygiene related issues are an outgrowth of their sensory processing problems. The trick is to help them find a way to incorporate good health while making them feel comfortable in their own skin.

For books and products related to autism and daily living skills go to:

AAPC Publishing
Future Horizons
Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Soft Fingertip Toothbrushes
Oral defensiveness tools
Sensory Processing Foundation

I hope this helps a bit. Leave questions or comments and let me know.


Friday, August 2, 2013

On-Line Trolls; IRL Trolls; Cyberbullying and the Ability to Block

I was just reading an article about how the women legislator who fought successfully to have Jane Austen put on an English banknote was cyberbullied with rape threats. Luckily the threatening person was caught and is now in police custody. Interestingly rape threats seem to be de rigueur on twitter nowadays when arguing with a female, never mind using the b***, s***, or c*** word during the discussion. Read these eye-opening articles:
Here, Here, Here, Here, Here

Europe has some interesting laws outlining hate speech, verbal threats and there are activists in these countries trying to use  these laws in order to put a stop to twitter hate (death threats, threats of rape, bodily harm, etc). Also in France the courts have required twitter to turn over information related to an antisemitic twitter storm campaign that originated in that country last year.

Fundamentally, in the United States, we have issues with the use of government power to curtail any form of speech. Hate speech only becomes anathema in our nation as a way to "up the ante" for violent crimes. In some areas of the country if the perpetrator of a crime can be shown to have animus based upon religious, ethnic, racial lines the  penalty for a crime goes up exponentially. Other than that, our population is told to "grow a pair" and deal with those that say hateful things to you. Here This is why you will find so many twitter activists will simply retweet the hate so everyone knows who to block or call out as spam.

Yes,  when hate-speech happens in an educational setting we can invoke anti-bullying school programs and anti-hate speech school regulations to make sure that the nastiness stops. Of course that always doesn't work as cyberbullying has now also become epidemic among children and they have found that this behavior lasts through college. Honestly I have seen so much of this on twitter and have actually even occasionally documented (Here) it myself.  Adults are as prone to bullying/trolling and abuse as any child. Sadly sometimes more so. I suppose the real question is simply why is there such an epidemic of hatefulness? Answer: There are no in-real-life consequences for being hateful, overtly or otherwise.

Indeed, anonymity also adds to the ability of those with antisocial tendencies to perpetuate their own misbegotten ways.  That, in fact, is why so many bloggers do not allow anonymous commenting. There has to be some identifiable name or moniker associated with a comment or post. By the by, you can trackback on comments through the cyberbully's ISP if you want to. It's how the authorities catch people worldwide. Personally I haven't blocked anonymous posting yet. But I do regulate comments. If I find any particular comment offensive they don't get posted and on occasion I have left notes in the comment sections to named person not to come back because they violated the rules. Happily it doesn't happen very often on my blogs. But it does happen.

Meanwhile considering the prevalence of bullying and trolling on the internet that goes unreported or undeterred it is not surprising that young people actually feel no compulsion to always be polite, nice or appropriate. This is not even an "autism" related problem. This is a generational issue. So many young people are held to such low standards in their academic and social lives that they have no fear in cyberbullying another individual or in even being disrespectful and caustic in their daily lives.

Parents and educators have no one to blame but themselves. Too often parents of today are afraid to say "no" to their children. The egotistical need to be their child's "friend" instead of their parent is pushing so many of this generation down the wrong path. Educators turn a blind eye because they simply don't want to be sued by the parents for a violation of their children's right of free expression. (Read HERE. A discussion of a father who sued the LAUSD for punishing his daughter who had been cyberbullying another student including posting a viciously evil video up on You Tube. The courts held that the regulation violated the students right of free expression. In the discussion you will notice just how disturbed the father was when challenged for his behavior and the non-lesson he taught his daughter.)

Quite frankly too, in many cases when the parent expects the educators to do something about bullying the educator can't be bothered or they make excuses for the bullier until you as the parent stand-up to school district. By the way, that is the new politically correct part of the bullying issue: feeling bad for the bully and how misbegotten they happen to be. (Yes there are exceptions to every rule. CM2 was lucky enough to have been the recipient of a thoughtful administration Here.) At times, it's almost as if, "he who threatens to sue first wins." Remember bullies are not born, they are certainly made, encouraged and doted upon by narcissistic parents. So I think it is time that we held the parents/guardians responsible for the nastiness of their children as well.

At least on twitter you can block a troll (as I have done) or report them for spam (which I have done as well). There is no "law" that says you have to put up with being the victim or target of a hate campaign. Also there is no rule that you have to engage with a bully on any social media. You block, ignore and report. Sometimes I do try to have fun and keep pushing the trolls' buttons until they completely explode. You know you've won when during a discussion the troll ends up resorting to name calling, vulgar language, even threats. Of course the threats are not very nice and I generally remove myself from the discussion way before that happens, as the troll descends into their state  of mental confusion. I also do not tend to partake in "troll hunting" very often. But when it is a subject near and dear to my heart I won't let ignorance and hate be the only thing people read as they peruse the internet. Also when people tend to get unhinged on the internet they can be unhinged in-real-life, so it is important to know when to block and move on too.

Note: it is very important NOT to feed the troll or you may get this:

Yes I know its Gremlins not Trolls but it's still generally the same idea.

The problem becomes when cyberbullies and in-real-life trolls and bullies pervade your life or your child's life. The question is what are you to do?

In the USA laws do have to catch-up with technology. Luckily some states are implementing laws that add penalties for all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying. HERE
and from

The courts and legislatures in most states (California always tends to be the exception to everything not the rule) are remembering that no freedom is absolute and that even the most sacrosanct freedoms outlined in our Bill of Rights come with caveats. Here, Here, Here

Meanwhile, happily employ that block button and teach your child how to protect themselves online from trolls  and in-real-life (cyber) bullies. You can start with this government website.



How to Annoy Your Child on Social Media and Sleep Well at Night