Sunday, March 30, 2014

A New and Enlightened Take on Executive Functioning

As parents we work very hard to make certain that our children learn to organize their lives in a proper manner. It is called executive functioning. Being able to arrange your life so that you can function on a healthy adult level is part and parcel of becoming independent. Knowing what to do when, and how to accomplish your goal, is a major aspect of navigating the world. If you can't keep a neat desk how are you going to function in life? Right? Well....not so fast.

Honestly if you look at the boys' desks you would think that we have basically lost this battle. But then again what is inside someone else's mind and what helps them function is not necessarily clear to everyone else. I would say that at times the phrase, "to each his own," becomes very telling about individual realities.

Anyway, it's just a thought. Not an excuse nor an acceptance of failure. But just a notion about executive functioning and the question of whether it really means the same thing for every person. There may be basic characteristics of executive functioning that we need to teach our children, but in the end they have to develop their own sense of comfort with the world around them, don't they?

By the way we haven't given up on organization. There are still schedules and charts that help everyone know what to do when from homework, to chores, to exercise routines. Calendars and to do lists are important. But you can bet that the last place I touch is their desks. Besides only heaven knows what anyone will find under all those piles. You can be assured that if there is something nasty growing under all that flotsam that the boys created, THEY are the ones who are going to deal with that fallout and not me.

Listen, the boys know what they need to do and where their work happens to be. Its their individual filing systems. Not gonna mess with that arrangement....hey it's worked so far and if it ain't broke I say don't fix it until it needs fixing.


Friday, March 28, 2014

Obligatory Post About the New Autism Rate Numbers from the CDC

Would someone please tell me how this study is going to trigger society finally, really, helping those on the autism spectrum. Furthermore, there is something rather surreal about counting people as if they were simply dried beans in a jar.  The irony is that this latest study doesn't actually change anything in our world. In fact, the numbers are incomplete.

The dirth of minority diagnosis, as well as female diagnosis, is misleading.  To say that there is less autism in Alabama than New Jersey is disingenuous. There needs to be a study as to how many parents request school evaluations, how many were denied and what happened to the child in each district. There should also be a study as to how many of those that present with autism in poor districts are actually diagnosed with ED or ADD instead simply because those school districts have programs for these issues and not for autism. Also rich districts as opposed to poor districts seem to have a vast difference in diagnosis. This points not to a medical condition specific to those in different economic brackets, but lack of education, lack of access and dismissal of issues in the poorer school districts. Or even intimidation by school officials to stop parents from seeking answers and requiring the poor districts to spend money that they might not have. How many times in Alabama, lets say, do the police get called with a child with possible autism acts out as opposed to NJ? How many times is a child with possible autism in Alabama made a juvenile offender rather than getting them the help they need?

Also the idea that autism is more prevalent in males than females could also be a false flag. As it was with ADD, scientists used to say that this learning disability  presents more in boys. Only decades after this esoteric announcement by the psychiatric field was it established that girls generally present ADD at the same rate as boys, they just present it differently. I submit that this will be the same with autism. Heck they used to say women had less of a chance of having a heart attack than a man, until a study was done showing that heart disease is the biggest killer of women. That doctors only used male-characteristic for heart evaluation when again, women presented with heart disease different than men. That when a woman died of a heart attack the medical field generally proscribed the death to some other cause.

Honestly, I am tired of the number crunching that is inherent in these studies. Society knows that autism is a reality in our world and that the number is growing. The question is what is society going to do to help those on the spectrum? Just telling us that there is a problem is something we already know. It is about time that someone came up with an answer. Parents really can't do it all on their own. Yes, we need help and understanding, for our adult children.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Rejecting God: Atheism and Autism

 My latest for Times of Israel

I want to introduce you to a term of art, “autism syndrome behavioral study of the week.” There is generally some new study into autism every few months. Most of them detail what may cause autism, why autistics may do certain actions, and who is best able to handle every autism–related issue that abounds (usually the individuals who did the study of course).  Unless it’s a hard science discussion about autism, something that may truly help my boys, I generally shake my head and just say “whoopsidoodle.”

In fact, as a mom dealing with autism issues, I usually don’t wait for the latest revelation from the behavioral sciences ivory towers. They don’t tell me anything I don’t already know. I think to myself, heck I could have told the talking-heads the same thing as the study reported, and charged half as much as the researchers. You see my research is on-going and most of it has already taken place over the last two decades. I call it, life in the autism-fast-lane.

Now the real interesting aspect about the research that is done into autism behavior is that we, the parents and those self-advocates on the spectrum, have been ready, willing and able to tell the autism gurus the truth about behavioral issues and outcomes. But does anyone listen to us? Nope. It’s truly about time someone who has some pull did just that. Ask us and we will tell you the whys, wherefores and the whatnots. If the Phds want we will even let them take the credit for the study in its entirety as long as it is something that helps the majority of those in the autism community.

Furthermore, it’s also a question of what do you do with the study? Does anyone actually act upon any of the findings or do they just chalk it up to scientific research, put it on their resume and apply for another grant? How do these research studies actually benefit the average person with autism? Do these studies actually change society in anyway? Perhaps that should be part of the grant proposal. “How is your research actually going to benefit the day-to-day life of someone who lives on the autism spectrum?” Answer the necessity of that question and you get some of those very very very rare research dollars.

Unfortunately one of the rather more useless studies, to have emerged from the minds of Phds is to tell us that those with autism have the propensity to be atheists. Really, you don’t say. What a shock that people who operate with literal minds can’t and won’t take the leap into the realm of faith. So once again, how does this waste of time and money actually provide supports and programs for those adults on the spectrum?

Moreover, the study, interestingly enough, also missed out on one big factor. For some, like my oldest, it’s not about literal reality versus faith. It is about the feeling of abandonment. God’s abandonment. Not because he has aspergers. Quite on the contrary. He is very happy to have an autism spectrum disorder. His anger at God is something entirely different. Something not even related to himself, well not directly anyway.

Read the rest HERE.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Of Homework, Sociologists and Parenting

It never fails that every so often we are greeted with a sociological study that tells us what kind of crappy parents we in the US happen to be. The latest one is discussed in The Atlantic HERE. Actually read the article. It's not bad and it is thought provoking. I agree with the commenter that the author of the article should have begun with her last paragraph. There are many things parents are needed for when it comes to their child's education and the ideas in that last paragraph is what should be the take-away points.

But I do think the study misses a major part of reality. There is a huge difference between parents who set parameters, limits and boundaries (my favorite three words of parenting) for their children when it comes to homework and those that actually do their child's homework for them. Now in elementary school we, as parents, were encouraged to do homework with our children, especially when it comes to certain aspects of math. Why they needed us to help with math is beyond me. I haven't been able to do my children's math with them since 4th grade. First it was "new math," then "new new math," and finally a revamping of the math curriculum back to the old stages of math education. Ultimately the education gurus have so messed up the math curriculum in total with Common Core I definitely wouldn't be able to help anyone. (Who ever heard of NOT having to learn your math facts and accepting the best guess as a correct answer in math?)

Children need to learn to do their homework on their own. But that does not mean you shouldn't be there is there is a problem and to help them problem solve. This is not the same as giving them the answers. Helping your child with their homework does them no good. Homework is supposed to be about reinforcing what they learned during the day so that they can assimilate what they have been taught. If you do their research, writing and analyzing for them what will they have learned? How will they actually learn to research, write and analyze?

As early as middle school we understood that when the boys needed help, they needed to go to the teachers for support and alternatively we also hired professional tutors. These tutors were usually teachers who were looking for additional income. I suppose that is part and parcel of our village ethos. You can't always do everything for your child, so you need to seek out the best qualified to help your child be the best that they can be.

Actually in all honesty, I doubt the boys would have wanted our help. They have been viciously independent of their schoolwork since middle school. They wouldn't ask for our help even if they needed it, which at times they did. MrGS seeks out answers through research, analysis and in-school support. CM2 uses what the professors teach him to his advantage and applies all lessons to the next project. Do they always get As? No they don't. But they get something more important out of doing the work themselves and that is independence, self-reliance and they learn the ability to keep pushing themselves. It's that old pick yourself up by your bootstraps philosophy. If you mess up, find the fix and keep moving forward.

I know that there must be a lot of helicoptering here in my town when it comes to homework. When MrGS was in high school, his ability to write kicked in. It's like anything else he does, he will struggle along until one day there is a light that goes off in his brain and then there is no stopping him. MrGS ' case manager called to ask me if I had been helping him with his essay assignments. In truth I hadn't even looked at them. MrGS wouldn't let either of us help. The case manager said it was as if another person suddenly was writing his papers.

But this is just who he is. In fact if you had ever read his college senior thesis you would have witnessed a paper written by a very talented young man with a gift for writing. It is his talent. One of his professors even remarked that he is one of the best writers she had ever taught.

CM2 on the other hand struggles with his essay writing. That is not his gift. His gift is graphic arts. While he fights to get words on to paper for essays he can create the most interesting projects and designs using the computer. He is also very talented when it comes to screen writing. He has a way with interactive  language that doesn't show in a one-to-one conversation. Like his older brother, it is as if they are two different people when they write and when they talk to another human being.

Hence, never underestimate what your child can do simply because they don't have the verbal and social skills that everyone thinks is necessary to be a talented writer. Find a way to let who your child really is shine through. This is why the IQ test that measures our children's intelligence, based so much upon their verbal skills, does our aspergeans a great disservice. And does in fact undercut the potential of their real intellectual abilities.

Meanwhile, back to that Atlantic article. Parents have a role to play in their child's education. You do need to set an example for them about homework and responsibility early on in their school career. It is about making certain that they know how to schedule homework and fun, how to take breaks and when to ask for help or try to push through on their own. It is important that they be given a long leash when it comes to learning so that they can figure out how to figure things out for themselves. But that doesn't mean you are not there for support and for a show of force against the school when necessary.

Truth be told, there is a lot that we as parents can do to make school a better and happier place to be for our children. Work in concert with your child's teacher if there are problems. Help identify issues and create solutions using your village. Understand that every individual has a role to play in getting your child to be a successful and independent learner.

And when needed take that step back, so your child can move forward.

HOMEWORK : my own guide to homework help.

MR.GS' senior thesis.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Woe-Is-Me Parenting on Display, Selfish and Self-Serving

The one thing that I despise the most in some parents of special needs children is the woe-is-me attitude. You can find that clearly on display with the interview in the New Yorker with Adam Lanza's father Peter.

Here you have  a father who completely abdicated his responsibilities toward his child and somehow you are supposed to feel sorry for him. Oh Adam was difficult. They didn't know what to do. His marriage was falling apart. He attributed issues to his ex-wife's jealousy towards his new marriage. He attributed his failed first marriage to the fact that he had a poor male role model growing up. One psychiatrist was enough. One work up was enough. Homeschooling was the answer. Asperger's was all they needed to hear since it was an easy answer. One GRASP meeting was sufficient. He spoke with some self-advocates. He didn't try hard enough to see Adam. Excuse after excuse after excuse. It is a self-serving revolting spectacle that bespeaks a selfish and self-centered man who took the easy way out towards his son's dire mental health situation. Oh and don't forget it really is all Adam's mother's fault, she told him not to come to the house to see Adam. He did get email updates that seemed to concern him though, not that he seemed to act on anything. But nothing at all, either in his failed marriage, or the decent of his mentally ill son into psychosis, was or is his fault. Peter Lanza is quite frankly in colloquial terms, a douchebag.

The Lanza's were not poor people. This man is not without means. If after the diagnosis Adam was not getting better you go to another doctor. You change doctors. You seek and seek and seek answers. You go around the globe if you need to to find the answers no one has for you. Instead this man ran away. Leaving an ill-equipped women, who was also in denial, alone to handle a youngman who was progressively getting worse.

One of the more telling aspects of this interview is how Peter Lanza describes the other children in Adam's highschool club. Weird. He kept using the word weird. That Adam fit in that club. How is a child supposed to get help from a parent who sees them as weird? Weird has connotations of disrespect, dismissal and disregard. To call someone "weird" is not a compliment.

As a parent who has searched for answers for help for my children from a myriad of doctors, therapists and professionals nonstop for over two decades; as a parent who did move to get my sons the help they need; as a parent who has gone into so much debt that we will never recover to give the boys what they need to help them along the way; as a parent who is still searching for answers, solutions and appropriate support  for my sons; as a parent who is continually advocating for my sons' rights,  I find Peter Lanza  sickening. He just simply threw up his hands and gave up. That is not something that is acceptable to me on any level.

But even more disturbing in many respects is the fact that Aspergers was simply enough of an answer for them. Aspergers was used as a catchall for Adam's behavior. Perhaps this is why it is best that Aspergers was rolled into autism spectrum disorders, only because it might push parents and doctors to seek out other answers for difficult questions. Autism is merely a different "operating system." It doesn't explain every aspect of why someone does what they do or why they react to the world the way they do. Co-morbid issues abound with autism and it is important that people find a way to parcel out the differences. That is why when you have met one person with autism you have learned only about one person with autism.

As I have written on these pages before; the boys have dealt with OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD (ADD), language and auditory processing, sensory processing, OT issues, speech delays and pragmatic speech issues, social issues, seizure disorder, tourettes/tics, emotional dysregulation, learning disabilities, depression and dyscalcula at different times in their lives. Each one of these issues comes with their own characteristics and own answers. The aspergers or autism spectrum disorder only means that when these issues are dealt with that they need to be handled in a different manner than if the boys were NT. Oh yeah, that too is the rub isn't it?

People seem to forget that any and all of these issues can occur in a person who is neurotypical. You don't necessarily have autism simply because you have other issues. Don't forget too that many people with autism are also bipolar, schizophrenic and may manifest any other number of psychiatric disorders as well.

If nothing else comes out of this sad interview, for those of us dealing with children with challenges, it is important to remember, that if after working with professionals your child is not getting better, but may actually be getting worse, it is time to seek out new supports and persons with some new ideas even if you don't like what they might be diagnosing for your child. The diagnosis is not what should frighten you. It is leaving your child to deteriorate simply because the easy answers are easier for you to handle emotionally. Your own complacency and acceptance of failure on your child's behalf is what should cause you sleepless nights.

My rule of parenting is simple, especially if your child has special needs, "never give up and never give in" until your child has the life to which they are entitled.

BE BRAVE your child's life and future depends on it.


I want to give a h/t To A Diary of a Mom for bringing this interview to my attention. She is alot more generous to Peter Lanza than I would ever be.

Link to the New Yorker article HERE.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Praising Your Child for What is Really Important

From Prager University

When parents boast about their children with other people, what do most say first? Is it how nice they are to strangers? Or how much volunteering they did last year? Usually not. More often, they talk about their good grades in school, or the prestigious college they went to, or the much sought after summer internship they are on. But this is backwards. Acts of kindness are what parents should talk about with others, and what they should really praise their kids for. According to Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, the best way to make a better world is to praise people for what counts--goodness.

Did you take Rabbi Telushkin's challenge? What did your child say?


Tzedakah or Tikkun Olam, How About Just Being Kind to Families with Special Needs

My latest at Times of Israel

One of the most important aspects of Judaism is our belief in charity, tzedakah. No I am not going to say “Tikkun Olam,” simply because there has been a controversy of late as to what those words actually mean. Growing up I was taught that tikkun olam refers to making the world a better place with acts of random and general kindness. Meanwhile some Torah scholars have written that it actually has more to do with following G-d’s commandments and mitzvote than the modern universalized ideal of “repairing the world.” 

So for arguments sake, and this column, I am simply going to address the basic reality that at some time in our lives we all need that helping hand of human kindness. I am also not going to discuss whether Torah, Talmud or any Jewish book of laws prescribes when is it appropriate to be kind or giving, how that act is to be accomplished and whether we give anonymously or not. I am simply going to explain to you how you could support a family when they are dealing with a person with a special need. How families with fragile members experience the world under certain circumstances and how individuals can help.

The first thing society needs to understand is how these families feel. In my own experience, I would say that the overwhelming experience is one of isolation and separation. You end up being separated from the world at large, mostly because you end up at times not being able to go out into the world at large.  Whether you are dealing with a physically ill child with a life threatening illness or a child with a physical disability or a child with a developmental disability, society is not always an accepting place for those that are different. Oh society today makes “accommodations” for those with physical needs, but it’s the human attitude found in society that needs more work.


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Practicality: Getting Your Aspergeans to Invest in their Appearance

One of the more challenging issues that we have faced with CM2 is for him to buy into the idea of self-presentation. What you wear and how you hold yourself gives off that unwritten vibe about who you happen to be. Whether we like it or not, society does judge a book by its cover. So if you walk out of the house with torn and dirty clothes, unwashed, unshaven face and unkempt finger nails, you will not present a positive view of yourself. We try to explain to him that no matter how smart he is, if people are turned off by his appearance no one is going to give him chance one, never mind a second chance.

Interestingly we never really had this issue with MrGS. He was always fastidious in his appearance. I remember as a little boy he would flip his scarf just so that he looked rather dashing. He always combed his hair, brushed his teeth, took care of how he looked. Well until the shaving thing came about. But from what others tell me, its more a general age thing with boys, the not wanting to shave issue, rather than an aspergean issue. And as MrGS has grown he has taken care of his whiskers as well.

Now with CM2 it is a totally different issue. Just as everyone with autism manifests this disability differently, so too, do they manifest issues about hygiene and dress differently as well. CM2 always had issues with brushing his teeth. He had terrible sensory processing issues, which not only manifested themselves in what kind of clothing he could tolerate even to this day, but the mere fact of putting a tooth brush in his mouth was painful for him. (I actually talk about our tooth brushing and face washing episodes and what we did to help him HERE.) That he could get through braces was amazing to everyone. I think the idea that he could walk around with Kelly Green bands on his teeth for several yeas did help (Kelly Green being his most favoritest of colors.) But as with everything in life, as the boys grew their issues changed. They were able to work through some issues and new ones popped up regularly.

Meanwhile, CM2 didn't really care about his clothes either. He didn't want to go clothes shopping or take responsibility for anything having to do with what he puts on his back. "Just pick me out some tops and pants," he and MrGS would say. Clothes horses they are not and never were. In fact, the act of taking him to the shoe store was mostly a misadventure. If there was anyway that I could have actually bought him shoes at one point without having to go through the fights, and meltdowns it would have made that part of parenting so much easier. (You need to also understand that just from a male perspective the hubby hates to go clothes shopping too. And in general when he needs some type of footwear I just go buy what he says he wants so he doesn't have to go into the store. If it doesn't fit I will bring it back. In fact, the local suit store also has his measurements on file and when hubby needs a new suit, I just go in and pick out a pattern of hubby's color choice, something the store owner and I think he might like and I purchase the suit. Hubby doesn't care and is rather relieved that he doesn't have to bother with that part of life. So by now, the local vendors and I have hubby's clothes down to a science. From what my friends tell me hubby isn't the only man who is like this either.)

Is CM2's reluctance to go shopping a sensory issue? Possibly? Is it an inability to make a decision from among the myriad of choices (BTW-the inability to choose is a very aspergean issue. Something nobody tells you at any point until you notice it on your own.)? Possibly. Or quite frankly was the idea of going outside his normal schedule (even with a heads up) to go clothes or shoe shopping too much for him? Possibly. In fact, probably all three together, which made for some rather interesting excursions.

Well, I did eventually learn to circumvent these issues. CM2 doesn't really wear "hard" shoes. He would wear sneakers like most teenage boys and now I was able to move him into Merrill slipons for the winter, along with snowboots and workboots for when he helps out in the house. I took him for his latest Merrills last fall. I set down good parameters and shortened his choices. What's nice too is that the people that run our shoe store have known CM2 since he was a very little boy. So they know him and are used to any issue that might arise.  However, I came up with another way to help him get used to going to the store and purchasing boots, shoes and even clothes. I sent him with the behaviorist. I took myself out of the public picture.

I gave him strict rules on what to look for in snowboots. I showed him his old snowboots, which were too small for him and said he needed to buy the same boot only bigger. So (1) I took choice out of the equation. No problem there. (2) I shortened the buying experience by making certain that the only thing he had to do was go get measured and buy his boot. He went to the local shoe store. No. I did not give them a heads up. I wanted to see what would happen when he came in with just the behaviorist. Apparently he was a youngman on a mission. The people in the store were very nice as usual. Fit him. He paid. Came home. He also liked his boots and wore them everyday (until the snow started melting) without putting up a fuss.

Then our next adventure in trying to get CM2 to take an interest in his clothes was to send him to Target with the behaviorist. We discussed it and felt that if CM2 was more invested in what he chose in the store he might care more about how he looked when he left the house. Now CM2 didn't quite get that. "He has clothes, he likes his clothes, he doesn't want new clothes," he said.

Well yesterday he went with her to Target. I told him he could buy himself a video game (my treat rather than him earning chore$ for the game) and maybe he should look and see if there are any shirts he might like. No pants, we are going to start slow. Besides his sensory issues still make it pretty difficult for him to find pants that he can manage. Right now he wears nicer types of sweatpants. Jeans have never been something he could tolerate. Khakis are left for nice dress up. He hasn't worn a suit since his bar mitzvah and I don't push it either.

He hadn't really acknowledged me when I mentioned the shirt issue earlier in the day so when he left the house I decided to not mention it again. I simply wanted him to get into another environment without me (but with support) and learn to navigate the ins and outs of a huge department store. Well lo and behold he came home with a t-shirt that he picked out. The behaviorist said he made a B-line for the men's department (even though  they did get a little turned around) and he went over to the t-shirt department instead of the polo shirt area. She wasn't quite certain if that was what I wanted but she let him roll with it since he was being independent. CM2 figured out what his size was by looking at the tag on the shirt he was wearing and picked out a t-shirt that he wanted. I think he was proud of himself because he immediately put that new t-shirt on when he got home.

FYI- I was really proud of him too.

So I'm thinking this new experiment just might work out. Getting CM2 invested in his own clothing choices might actually make him more aware of how he looks to the outside world. The choices in the department stores might seem overwhelming to him at times, but he is going to have to learn how to compartmentalize his clothing the way he compartmentalizes his video games too. Certain shirts for different activities, certain pants for different activities and someday a nice new suit and tie for something really special event (of course we still need to figure out the sensory issues. But I am sure with all the choices of fabrics, clothing and manufacturers in today's world, we just might be able to find him some comfortable formal or business-casual attire when the time comes to leave school and go out into the regular adult world).

Clothes are an extension of the person. It is a way of telling the world this is who I am. I think it is very important that he pick out his own clothes. The T-shirt says NASA on it. That was unexpected. I thought it would be a gamer t-shirt. But then again there was a time when CM2 wore a shirt in defense of Pluto when they downgraded it from a planet. He was none too pleased with NASA when that happened. But I think they recanted on Pluto so apparently he forgave them.

Well as with everything to do with aspergers it is a process. Hit and miss most of the time. But at least every once in awhile you get that positive outcome that makes you know that they are continuing to grow, develop and manifest into some really nice appropriate (and clean) young adults.

Rub-a-dub-dub, Aspie in the Tub


Friday, March 14, 2014

Happy Purim

Purim is the Jewish holiday where we remember how the bravery of one young women named Esther saved the Jewish people from genocide.

Purim and the Boys' question of hypocrisy
Purim and the answer to the Boys' Ethical Conundrum

Purim Sameach (Happy Purim)

By the way a very interesting book, one I started but did not quite finish, is making the rounds called Anti-Judaism. It's not about antisemitism per se, which is directed at the person, but about the tradition of the western world to denigrate and dispossess Judaism itself. The author discusses how due to this perspective about the Jewish religion  it is easy for a nation to be virulently antisemitic even when there are no Jews who live in their countries (i.e. Judenrein), like in most of Europe and especially in the Arab world. Yes the book is highly unsettling. It is why I couldn't read it in its entirety. I suspect that there are just some issues that hit too close to home as it were. But as you read the book the question you are left with is, whether Jew-hatred is so endemic to the European and Arab traditions, that it is so ingrained into these cultures, that there is generally no hope for its eradication without a drastic cultural shift in the world.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy Pi Day

Tomorrow 3.14 is Pi Day.

Celebrated world wide by those with an eye to the future. This rather interesting symbol is integral to our everyday world. In fact, its one of those little items that you don't know is there, but if it ever was ignored  your world would not really be the same. Of course, Pi generally really can't be ignored since math is the only thing that is constant in our universe, unless your one of those who subscribe to the Common Core math standards.

from Forbes, 3.14 ways to celebrate Pi Day

So HERE'S TO YOU, you symbol of modern life.

Meanwhile scientists found that one of those ubiquitous crop circles was actually created resembling Pi.

And what would Pi Day be without just a little parenting from a parenting blog.

Have fun, eat Pie.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

To All Those Who Think MRGS Shouldn't Have a Para Because of his high IQ and Age

To all those who think MrGS shouldn't have a para, because from somewhere they were imbued with genius knowledge on how I should be raising my children...or they knew someone with autism or have read a book about autism or think they know how life works for everyone on the autism spectrum or think they know what it is to be a parent of a child on the autism spectrum even though they have no children of their own or their children are NT:

Today MrGS was on a commuter train when all service into and out of NYC was suspended due to a building explosion which resulted in debris on the tracks. I received a text from the para telling me what was happening and that he did calm MR GS down and was able to help him process this major hick-up in his world. They are stuck in the Bronx and will now have to find their way into school on the subway from the Bronx. Something MrGS has never done and would not be able to process on his own without help.

This is why we have the para. New and unscheduled issues are part and parcel of MRGS' issues. He needs help processing, circumventing and understanding how to handle these unscheduled parts of reality. Otherwise a confused, overwhelmed extremely anxiety ridden Mr GS could either end up being arrested for public meltdowns, misunderstood stimming or even worse, go missing, wind up dead in an accident (like Avonte) or end up never being found. This is the real world of parenting on the autism spectrum. These are just some of our greatest fears when your child becomes an adult living with an autism spectrum disorder (heck this is a parents' greatest fears in general when parenting on the autism spectrum). I am not willing to let my son be  a statistic to prove some dumbass wrong.

I am glad that we are lucky enough to be able to afford someone as terrific as our para, who is a masters candidate in special education and behavioral interventions on top of being a veteran, who served in the Gulf War. I know my sons are well protected, supported and have the ability to show the world their intelligence while they work on their issues and learn to navigate the neurotypical world. At times we also have to deal with the real possibility that that day may never really happen. But it is our ultimate goal, freedom and independence for our sons. Yet we also know that they have to accomplish this task at their own time, on their own schedule, not according to anyone else's ignorant know-it-all perspectives.

In truth, I am sorry for families that cannot provide for their adult offspring as we can. I know we are truly blessed. Too many of our highly intelligent adult aspergeans do sit unsupported, alone in their world because there are terribly inadequate adult services and we live in a society that doesn't really understand the autism community in general. I hope that in the future we will be able to find a way to support all those who have so much to give to the world but cannot because the societal supports are so grossly nonexistent.

Meanwhile to all those yentas, bitches and assholes, who would have something condescending, self-righteous, know-it-all, pole-up-your-butt-holier-than-thou to say to me about providing the support to my children that we know they need and that we know works: Life once again proves me right. So don't send a comment, don't send me an email, simply read the next line of this post...

Take your ignorance and GO FUCK YOURSELF. Get my drift?

Meanwhile if you want to discuss or learn about autism spectrum disorders (ASD, PDD , aspergers), anxiety (or generalized anxiety disorder), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), learning disabilities (LD), adhd, add, sensory processing disorder (SPD), language and auditory processing disorders, dyscalcula, speech/language delays, epilepsy (seizure disorders), and/or tourettes (tics) please feel free to leave a respectful comment below. I will be more than happy to answer any and all of your questions. This blog is about educating the populace about what these disorders are and how to help those we love who live with these issues. Remember there is no one size fits all program for anyone who lives with any disability (including physical disabilities). How disabilities manifest themselves is as individual as each individual human being.

HUGE CAVEAT: This blog is also a safe place for families dealing with these issues to congregate. So anyone trying to take from my readers their calm and feeling of security will not be allowed into any of the discussions.


Id, Ego and a Sense of Self

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Turning Boys into Men: Fighting Society's Emasculation

I love it when people turn to me and tell me how lucky I am to have sons because its so much harder to raise girls. I tend to wonder to myself which century these people happen to inhabit. As far as I can see, everything that boys do and say and think and feel is completely wrong for our modern metrosexual society. The male inclination to be, well male, is seen as a deterrence to social acceptance in the world of the academic and progressive social engineer. It's ironic really, because we are raising a generation of young men to be well, useless and to ignore their normal human biological instinct. Then after we have destroyed our boys' psyche, we as a society, complain that young men have no drive, ambition or raison d'etre.

Our cultural elites (i.e., Hollywood) make fun of those that serve this country, deride anyone who would go into the military as a stupid, war mongering hypermale, while ignoring the reality that without these brave men we would not have the continued freedoms that we do, including the freedom to bash those that keep us free. And to add to the insanity, those women who join the military are seen as iconic figures of a free female, able to do as she pleases, carry a gun, skirmish among the misbegotten and even demand the right to go into the frontlines of battle. So if you are male and want to defend your country you are a misogynist, backwards, hillbilly (which I think is a rather racist stereotype myself) without any real ability to think for yourself, reason and act rationally. But if you are female and want a career in the military you are a hero.

The second tier of the cultural elites decision to destroy the meaning of what it is to be male, is in the school. I have written about the "War on boys" before. But this past year seems to have brought out the stupid in school administrators. Suspending boys for pointing fingers in the shape of a gun, for eating a poptart into the shape of a gun, wanting to play soldier or even carrying a charm of a gun into school has to be the height of bureaucratic mindlessness. To decide that simply because a student sees something that looks like a "gun or weapon" that they or the  entire student body will become puddles of fear and goo, while devolving into a writhing pubescent mass of a neanderthalic  social order is beyond insulting. Apparently to keep our children safe from harm we have to disrespect our children. Deciding that in fact our children are too stupid to think for themselves and to be able to discern a situation as real or fantasy has nothing to do with education and everything to do with bureaucratic control. Yes there have been horrors in schools recently. But knee-jerk reactions to issues is not the way to solve them or prevent them either. Knee-jerk unthinking reactions only hurts the average, unassuming boy who only is being a boy.

This reminds me of a scene from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, where the universal bureaucracy has become so vast that nothing can get done without mountains of paperwork and the paper-pushers have no ability to think beyond the rules and regulations. That they are not able to think for themselves.There are rules and regulations for every waking moment of every day and every rule and regulation has to be followed to the letter of the law. Not one person has the ability to "think out side the box" or to think beyond their little corner of reality.

Honestly we see the bureaucracy in the tentacles of government reaching to control every aspect of our lives, even telling us how to raise our children. Telling us what is acceptable parenting and what is not acceptable parenting. No I am not condoning spanking or corporal punishment, we have always had laws that define right from wrong. But somehow I really do think I know how to set limits and boundaries for my sons without some bureaucrat outlining for me what that actually means. I also don't need some school administrator deciding what future my child is entitled to and what they should or should not study or who they are entitled to become, not simply because they have aspergers syndrome, but also because they are male.

Again this goes back to the idea that boys and girls are different. Their brain chemistry is different. Their neural pathways are different. The way they handle situations are different. But instead of celebrating these differences our modern day society tells our sons that their way is bad, evil and what has destroyed civilization. Meanwhile, everything that boys (or males) have an advantage at, such as STEM, government and feminist groups are trying to co-opt for girls. Now if a girl wants to go into STEM, that is fine, more power to her. But to put limits on boys whether they can go into STEM simply to try to entice girls into those fields is discrimination. Telling boys that the last bastion where they can actually be boys is forbidden to them is societal self-destruction. To not hire boys who excel at STEM simply because they are male is a violation of their civil rights. MrGS is applying for summer internships. Every application wants to know if he is a white male. It seems in this hyper anti-male environment, it is now more important to make sure you have a diverse work force rather than a competent one.

So what are we to do when it comes to raising our sons? It is a conundrum. How do you allow your sons to grow to become men, real men, not some anti-male fourth-wave feminist  idea of what a man is supposed to be. And no, I am not talking about a John Ford, American-western idealized version of a male either. They too never really existed. Well maybe they did, but not the way the movies portrayed them as super human-beings with a fast six-shooter, love in his heart and honor as his code. We need to teach our boys how to become real men, men who take responsibility for their actions, take care of their families and live with the ideal of honor, duty and respect for the world in which they live. We need to raise our boys to become the men everyone complains no longer exists in this next generation. The males, quite frankly that society is trying to destroy.

1: Boys are human, they have their foibles, their issues and their needs. But above all they have wants, desires and hopes like they always did.
2: Adults need to give respect to boys' needs. Stop trying to destroy or denigrate what and who boys/males happen to be. Boys are boys, not girls. There is a biological difference and these differences should be used to help boys not be used as weapon to destroy them.
3: There are ways that boys learn and see the world that is differnt than girls. They need to be taught the way they learn.  They need real male heroes, real male role models and real male support. We need to stop trying to get boys interested in how girls see the world and allow our boys to see the world they way they want to. (By the way, what makes everyone think that girls have a good handle on reality either? Ever sit at the mean-girls table in middle and high school or dealt with the mom who is a bully or that insecure unstable female boss?)
4: Understand that boys are NOT girls and they do not want to be girls and they do not need to be girls. They have an entirely different social parameter than girls. They handle issues differently then girls and they need to be helped the way they need to be helped. Not denigrated for not handling issues like girls do.
5: Boys like to roughhouse, they like football, they like to play soldier, cops and robbers, they like to play at westerns (Yes I know its not politically correct now either because you can't be the American settler or the American army fighting against the native-Americans. By the way, is anyone besides me tired of this politically correct bullshit?). To put it simply-Boys like things that go boom.
6: Boys like guns. Teach them to respect guns, how to handle guns, gun safety. Do not teach boys (or girls for that matter) to be afraid of guns. Guns, whether we like it or not, is the last bastion of self defense for everyone.
7: Teach boys that respect for girls is essential for a good life. That this rap culture of misogyny is no good. That this hook-up culture is morally adrift and only creates  soul-sucking loneliness.(It would be good if we taught our girls the same thing, especially that slut-feminism is anathema to being a real strong woman. I don't really understand how these fourth wave feminists see becoming a whore as empowering. How is throwing your body away empowering for boys or girls?)
7: Help boys be all they can be, by allowing them to be boys. Then we will create a generation of men to be proud of.

Meanwhile, I still remember being upbraided by the hubby when MrGS was a freshman in highschool to stop babying him. "He is going to need to be a man someday. You need to let him grow up." It was an interesting interaction, moreover because at the same time one of my friends relayed the same conversation with her husband about her interactions with their son. Perhaps it has something to do with the onset of puberty and men really taking stock of the fact that their sons are on the verge of manhood. I also think that my boys, and my friend's son, have something that is essential to teach the next generation of boys how to be men, and that is really good fathers or male rolemodels. Responsibilities, expectations, limits, boundaries and above all, no excuses for mistakes. Learning to pick themselves up, fix the errors and live with the consequences is what a man does. So we work with the boys to do just that. Always have and continue it to this day. (Remember too, that with a child on the autism spectrum everything will come in time, just not at the same rate as the rest of society. Smaller steps to accomplish the same goal.)

It is interesting though, that in today's world, the Statists seem to have taken the men out of the equation of support and help. Just ask JULIA. Somewhere the idea that men should be responsible for their families and that the male ideal is to be a good husband and father was lost. The male ideal has been derided and destroyed. Without us paying attention, the social engineers have decided that boys do not need to become real men anymore. That they can create an infantilized version of the male adult and somehow that is a good thing. (Yes, there are some women who really do need help and government assistance. Yes, we should always have a safety net for everyone in society. But at the same time, if society had expected more from their male partners the JULIAs might not need the government's largesse in the first place, or quite frankly think that they do not have to find responsible men when looking for a partner. )

But the biggest irony is that as society accepts the emasculation of our men, all you hear is women complain that there are no good men anymore. Well you get what you ask for. When you push men into a perpetual adolescence by taking from them everything it means to be male, you get what you bargained for. Loneliness and a lack of a lifelong meaningful relationship.

It's time for a little more equilibrium in society. It's time for a little reality and a lot of introspection, especially in the field of education and without a doubt in our culture as a whole.

From War on Women to the Inane "Ban the word Bossy"


Friday, March 7, 2014

Becoming an Autism-Warrior-Parent, Channeling Deborah, Esther and Miriam

 My post up at the Times of Israel

It’s an interesting time of year. Spring. First we celebrate Purim and then Passover. My favorite part of both holidays is that their stories are replete with female heroines. And not the meek and mild kind of heroine, but one who stands up for what she believes in and risks everything in order to obtain her goal: freedom and safety for the Jewish people.

I suppose the earliest Biblical story that I always enjoyed was the Deborah story. Probably not in small part because that is also my Hebrew name. A woman who could stand her ground and defend what was hers always intrigued me. Her ability to lead men into battle and win against a stronger, more formidable foe is not a lesson lost (and yes, I know she had Barak at her side. Well I am lucky I have the husband at my side). There is fortitude among women when they encounter adversity and they can imbue themselves with an uncanny strength to protect hearth, home and those that they love.

Not by coincidence when you become the parent of a child with a special need, you summon up a strength that you didn’t know you had in you. I call it the “warrior-parent” gene. Of course all good parents are characteristically protective of their children and fight for their child on any given day, but we, we warrior-parents, are a different breed of human being.  Our fights are not simply with society and the world around us. Our fights are with the everyday challenges of everyday living.

We are faced at times with a more formidable and powerful, implacable foe than the uneducated and the unaware, we fight the daily unknown.

Read the rest HERE.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Brats are made not born...Yes, it's a #parentingfail

By now I am certain that you have heard about the court case in New Jersey, where an 18-year-old is suing her parents to force them to pay for the end of her private high school year and then college. While we may not know the actual series of events that led to this case, here is what is being reported in the press:

-18-year-old does not want to abide by parents rules. Will not stop dating boyfriend. Decides to leave house or as she claims, her parents threw her out of the house. Sues parents for support even though she is of legal age. Parents have had a rocky marriage with separations. Father is former police chief.

-Judge has declined immediate relief and set a court date for April.

-Father says he was probably too liberal of a parent.

-Judge recommends family counseling.

Daily News Article ...apparently in this case, there is an accusation of abuse as to why the girl left her home.

Here is the problem as I see it. A child doesn't suddenly become a brat at 18. A brat is made not born. They are either indulged, ignored or quite frankly a little bit of both. This definitely sounds like the parents, having had  a bad marriage, didn't pay attention to what was really going on with their child. Perhaps in order to stifle some guilt they felt for how bad things were at home they gave into the girl too often. Or maybe, they went the complete opposite end and were too strict, despite what the father wants to think. Yes parenting is a precarious balancing act and most of us simply do the best job that we can. But the one thing I have noticed is that when there are issues at home, the children tend to act out in school, or throughout the community.

The biggest problem I have noticed over the years, is that parents suddenly decide that when a child, mostly a girl child by the way, begins to date, parents suddenly discover rules, boundaries and limitations on behavior.  Unfortunately parenting doesn't work that way. You need to set reasonable and responsible limits very early on life. Actually from the moment a child is born.

I find it rather interesting too that we still have this inane double standard for boys and girls when dating. But then again I am the mother of boys. On the other hand, quite frankly I set limits and boundaries for them when it came to the opposite sex early on in life. Responsibility is not a one way street. With boys, in today's culture especially, they need to understand the word "no" in it's complete and entire meaning and not think it is a girl just being "coy." They also need to understand the deleterious effects alcohol can have on judgement as well and how colleges have decided that a drunk girl, even if she gives consent, still considers the sex, rape (Even if the male was drunk too. I kid you not). In truth,  I also don't think my child's worth is wrapped up in whether or not they remain virgins. I think their self-worth is wrapped up in the idea that when they do finally decide to be intimate with another humanbeing, hopefully they will be mature enough to handle a physical relationship and all that it entails, but mostly I want them to be "loved" and not "used" by the other person involved.

Parents needs to understand that you cannot expect a child to accept boundaries when they become a teen if they were indulged their entire life. If there were no expectations of respect and responsibility don't think that suddenly when there is a teenager in your home that they are miraculously going to behave. In fact just the opposite occurs.

Heck, if you were smart enough to set boundaries and limits for them their entire lives, adolescence is a challenging period to begin with. They push every button and do their best to separate from parental control. That is the nature of the beast. They fight you on everything; from bedtime, to food, to friends, to chores to responsibilities. They are these rather full grown human beings with an underdeveloped prefrontal cortex. Prone to poor decision-making.

But at least if you had outlined for them their entire lives what is and is not allowed and what is expected of them in your home, then continuing these requirements won't be too much of a fight. Oh it will be a fight, but it won't be the slamming door, meltdown, tempertantrum that can accompany teenagehood....OK it just might be anyway, but nothing will come as a surprise to your child. And quite frankly you won't be a hypocrite either.

Yes hypocrite. Don't suddenly decide to parent properly when you child is on the verge of adulthood. Don't act like suddenly you care enough to give  a damn when this child reaches legal adulthood. Giving a damn means being unpopular with your child on any given day, at any given time, at any given age. The old saying if your child doesn't say "I hate you," at least once a day, you are  not doing your job as a parent, holds true especially in this technologically-media driven day.

Many pundits and prognosticators will try to tell you that this nonsense is the outgrowth of our entitlement culture. Well I disagree, this is an outgrowth of bad parenting. There have always been people who believe themselves to be entitled to their parents money throughout history. It has to do with how you are raised. There have always been that segment of the population that thought they were entitled to privilege. The truth is that group of people is just bigger now. There are more people, more bad parents and hence more brats.


There are some who cite the infantilization of a generation because children can stay on their parents insurance until they are 26. Big deal to that. If there were decent jobs then there wouldn't be the need to stay on your parent's insurance. They point to young adult living at home with their parents. Well if there were decent jobs they wouldn't have to live at home until their late 20s. In fact, why pay rent when you can save so you can own something? What is it about a certain part of this population who think, because they had it difficult then their children have to have it difficult. What in blazes did you work for all your life? So your child can live in squalor? So your child would have to choose between food, health and heat like you had to do?

Because a child doesn't have to do without, or because you help them, doesn't meant they are brats or or ill equipped for life ingeneral. Whether a child turns into a brat has to do with responsibility, work ethic and respect. Does your child appreciate what is being done for them? Do they go out of the way to do what is required of them? Do they understand that what you give them is earned through effort and not because they merely exist? Again it is not about "material things," but about who you raise them to be.

Listen I do believe our culture is rather upside down and backwards when it comes to defining legal majority. A child can vote at 18, contract for goods and go to war, but they can't legally drink a beer. One of the most poignant examples of this insanity was in a documentary about Arlington National Cemetery. A man was poring a beer over his brother-in-laws grave. The BIL had been killed in Iraq at the age of 20. The man had told his BIL before he went to war that when he came back, he would be of legal age, so they would get to share a beer together. Now this was how they were sharing the beer.


I don't know what the real situation happens to be with that family in New Jersey. Suffice it to say, something is terribly terribly out of kilter with those people, all three of them. The reality is though, that at some point in life, if you do not want to follow the rules set out in your parents home, then you need to decide to go out on your own in total. That's it in a nutshell. You make your choices and you accept the consequences. That is what being a grown up is really all about anyway isn't it?


Monday, March 3, 2014

The real reason for brains

 from TED

Dr. Daniel Wolpert discusses the theory that the growth and development of the human brain is due to the human need to move. Interestingly he also discusses the sensory issues that occur in movement and how the brain handles the issues, aka the sensory noise. I wonder if this neurological research could help those of our children with SPD.


3rd GREAT BIKE GIVEAWAY- Friendship Circle

Third Annual Great Big Bike Giveaway:  main page HERE

Do you remember the day you learned to ride a bike? Do you remember the freedom you felt, the confidence you gained, the pride you had?

The Michaela Noam Kaplan Great Bike Giveaway was created to give children with special needs the same feeling you had when that shiny new bike arrived at your house. At Friendship Circle we want to give adaptive bikes to as many special children as possible. Thankfully we found many willing partners who share the same values.

Freedom Concepts, Rifton, Buddy Bike, Ambucs, Triaid, Flaghouse, Mobo Cruisers and Strider Bikes are partnering with Friendship Circle to sponsor the Great Bike Giveaway. These companies are giving more than a bike. They are giving a child with special needs the same freedom, confidence and pride that you felt when you rode a bike for the very first time.

Please join us and our partners in sharing these special stories. View, share, enter and/or donate to the Great Bike Giveaway and be a part of a beautiful and special community!


Choose your bike carefully. Each contestant is only allowed to enter one bike contest. Below are all the available bikes and their details. We suggest speaking to your child's physical therapists to make sure you choose the bike that best fits your child. For full information about each bike go this page HERE.

Once you have selected a bike you can proceed to step 2.
Freedom Concepts
Freedom Concepts DCP-16 or the AS2000
Rifton Adaptive Tricycle
Buddy Bike
Buddy Bike Adventure, BB105-AL-1.1
Choice of Terrier or TMX
Flaghouse Adaptive
Flaghouse Port-O-Trike
ProSeries 1412 Foot Cycle
Mobo Cruiser
Mobo Triton
Strider Balance Bike

Once you have chosen the best bike for your needs, enter the contest. Please note that descriptions allow 1000 characters, but only 250 will be displayed without hitting a 'more' button.

Each bike page has a space where users can enter the contest. Submit a picture of your child with special needs along with a short explanation of why your child needs an adaptive bike.

Accepting entries starting March 3rd at noon.

Contest Submission Deadline March 25 11:59 AM

Contest Drawing March 26 

Drawing (Drawing date is tentative and subject to change) Will be held and winners will be announced.
*All times are Eastern Daylight Time



One bike in each contest will be given away to the entry with the most nominations. Nominations are received from friends and family clicking the “nominate button” on your post.

All the remaining bikes will be placed in a drawing. To be eligible for the drawing each submission must be nominated by at least 50 friends and family members.


Friendship Circle of Michigan is a non-profit organization that provides programs and support to the families of individuals with special needs. In addition to assisting individuals with special needs, Friendship Circle brings together teenage volunteers and children with special needs for hours of fun and friendship. These shared experiences empower the children, our special friends, while enriching the lives of everyone involved.


Pass this information on to those who could use a bike.

Friendship Circle is the real deal everyone. Hey, they even have their own music video.



Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Importance of People First Language

My new post up at Times of Israel

Words have a reach beyond their limited definitions. Words have a reach in the interactive and human sense. Every word has a value, every word has a purpose and every word has an unintended outcome. It is important that we understand the true nature and power of words. It is why we are always admonished to think before we speak. It is why there is a prohibition against lashon hara, or speaking evil. 

One of the more politically correct versions of words is the limitation that some people put on the use of certain words. They tell you what you cannot say or how you can use a word and why. While egos do get bruised and there is much overreach when detailing “good verbiage versus bad”, it is important to remember that the old adage about words never hurting is a falsity. Now many rail against word correctness and call it mind control, deride the thought police and tell the insulted to get over themselves. But to be understanding of the power of words is not about control but respect. Respect for the society in which you live and for the people whom you address.
Read the rest HERE.