Monday, May 26, 2014

Once Again Inclusion in the Army-Israel not the USA

When a nation works towards inclusion it can be done. Please note that the army in Israel is a major milestone in the lives of young people. The friendships and associations made during your time in the army lasts a lifetime. That is why this program, among others (Here, Here), to include those with special needs into this major life event is so important.

FYI- they mention the beret trek at the end of the post. That is the hike that those in basic training endure right before graduation. This Trek was shorter than the average, but just as celebrated.

After watching this video, and others like it, it is so apparent that we, the USA, have a long way to go in understanding the importance to society of those with special needs.


Sunday, May 25, 2014

Why Changing the DSM Definition of Aspergers/Autism May Actually Be a Good Thing

Once again we have a mass murder and once again the media-whores are trying to blame it on aspergers. The family was fast to let the world know that their sociopathic-narcissistic-SOB-son had been diagnosed with aspergers. Not certain why that is even relevant. Is it their way of saying don't blame us for his actions? Is it their way of distancing themselves from his horrific crimes? It is not that this family didn't try to get the authorities involved. They actually alerted the police, who instead of searching his apartment or trying to get him involuntarily committed, found this murderer charming. Overly charming, by the way, is how most would describe every sociopath. Yet the question becomes, what is the point of letting everyone know about the autism diagnosis?

Yes, aspergers is the diagnosis of the moment. When doctors can't figure out what category their patients fit into, they reach for something that is all encompassing. It just so happens that this decades all encompassing mental health diagnosis is aspergers. Before that it was ADD. Before that...who knows, but it was something. The problem too, is that psychiatry is a science that is not necessarily quantifiable in the same sense that something physical is quantifiable. Psychiatric definitions and understanding change as society changes. The "powers that be" in the psychiatric community consistently alter their view of what is a mental health disorder, and constantly change their opinion on what is, and is not, a cause for mental health concerns.

An additional problem that you have in the community is that so many of these book-learned people have never really dealt with autism or aspergers. They only read a book; took a class; heard a lecture. But they have no real experience in dealing with anyone with autism. A lot of times they simply look into the DSM and pick out something that sounds good and may be applicable to the situation at hand, something they simply cannot define for certain at the moment. That is exactly what happened with the boys when we visited one particular therapist.

Even though they had been given the dx of aspergers, when this particular therapist filled out his forms for insurance, he went into the DSM and looked for the dx that listed what he thought was more applicable to the boys. I argued with him that they had a relevant diagnosis that was appropriate. But he decided he knew better because as he pointed out to me, the DSM listed 4 applicable characteristics of "autism" instead of aspergers, which as far as he decided was more appropriate to the boys. He had never actually worked with, or had experience with, anyone with autism or aspergers. We went to him because he was used to working with adolescent males and highly recommended for that purpose. I had not realized until that moment that there really was a huge difference in approach when dealing with adolescent aspergeans and NTs.

Yes, we ended up leaving that therapist. But not because of this difference of opinion. When CM2 was having trouble with his 5th grade special ed teacher, instead of defending my son, he supported the teacher. Instead of coming up with some relevant classroom procedures that needed to be put into practice for CM2, or relevant organizational skills that CM2 had to learn, and that the teacher had to work on, this therapist decided that the teacher couldn't be incompetent. The fact that CM2 was having issues according to this therapist, had to mean that my son needed some heavy medication like risperdal or even an antipsychotic. It wasn't because the teacher was a gross incompetent. Someone who is incapable of seeing the failings of another "professional," is not someone you want working with your child.

As a note: I had not been told by the school district that this particular special ed teacher had been informed earlier in the year that she was not receiving tenure. So she not only didn't do her job vis-a-vis CM2 for the year,  but his entire class. The district did force her to go on medical leave half way through the year and put in a substitute, which helped the situation greatly. But CM2 had already been set back tremendously in his development. It took years and some very hands-on competent teachers to bring CM2 back into the groove.

Meanwhile,  I have been having a change of mind. The fact that the definition of autism/aspergers has been reworked by the DSM may not in the long run be entirely bad. I know that the aspergers community is very angry and there are psychiatrists who are unhappy about the methodology used to decide upon this new criteria. But perhaps when it is harder to diagnose someone with aspergers/autism, therapists and psychiatrists will actually have to figure out what is truly going on with a patient and not just decide that everyone with social issues must have aspergers/autism.

Autism is not simply about someone not understanding social issues. Autism is an entirely different brain wiring-  a different operating system so to speak. It means that people see the world differently and interact with the world differently than an NT. It means they learn differently and work differently. It means they are able to think outside the limited box that the world has set up for itself. Autism does not mean that those with the dx are sociopathic, psychotic, violent or devoid of the ability to function within society on a healthy basis. These are all very different mental health issues. Quite frankly no, every sociopath is not an aspergean and every aspergean is not a sociopath. In fact one has nothing to do with the other.

The problem that you face is that the psychiatric community has made a habit of giving our children a list of dxes. These co-morbid issues are what causes the problems in society. While our children may have aspergers, they can also have OCD, anxiety, ADD, bi-polar, schizophrenia and (sadly) may even be a sociopath. But the violent tendencies associated with the most extreme forms of these mental health issues have nothing to do with autism. They have to do with the comorbid issues. In fact, most of these co-morbid issues also do not result in violence or outward aggression either.

The interesting issue is whether under the new DSM definition would any of those with the most severest form of mental health issues even have a comorbid dx of any kind of autism? Would the psychiatric community be forced to actually reevaluate their patients to ensure that there is a real review of what is going on with their patients instead of dumping them into the mental health issue of the moment? Will there be more oversight and more accountability of the psychiatric profession instead of the media and society going  "autism" monster hunting ?

Frighteningly, we have to be ever vigilant that the "witch-hunters" do not once again try to come after our children because of the reporting by an irresponsible media, police inaction and the psychiatrists who did nothing to stop a murderous rampage. My boys have no problem with telling everyone they have aspergers. They are proud of who they are. The problem is, that society's ignorance about mental health and autism causes others to have problems with them, and it is this lack of societal education that is the real threat to their future.


Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

This weekend we honor those who gave their lives for this nation. It is fitting that we remember that Freedom is not free.

We sleep well at night because rough men (and women) stand ready to do violence in our name...George Orwell

Perhaps nothing speaks more eloquently to the sacrifice of the soldier than President Lincoln's Gettysburg Address:

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation, so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate, we can not hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Our sons and daughters are still operating in fields of battle and could use some "loving" from home.

Go HERE to order any number of care packages from Soldier's Angels and remind these wonderful young people that they serve a grateful nation.

Or help those that have returned from fields of battle and need our support at Wounded Warrior Project.



May God bless them and keep them,
May he shine his countenance upon them,
May God grant us all PEACE.


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Milking the Wisdom Teeth Extraction

Let me begin by saying CM2 is  a trooper. I honestly thought we were going to have a hard time this week with him recovering from his wisdom teeth surgery. But nope he has been just terrific. In fact he handled the entire event with a maturity level that is quite frankly, very age appropriate. (Yippee)

For those that don't know it, wisdom teeth extractions are now generally done in the oral surgeon's office. They can even put you out for the operation. You do have a choice as to the kind of anesthesia, you don't have to go completely under, but we felt for CM2 that was the best bet.

When we got to the doctor's office, we were brought back into the operating room, and CM2 was given a paper that he had to sign. It was funny because I went to take the paper, but the nurse reminded me that my child was a grown man of 20 and that he had to sign the paper. No problem there. I actually laughed at myself.

Now, CM2 read every word on that sheet and then got really really nervous. He wasn't nervous before, but after reading about everything that could go wrong he wasn't a happy camper. He definitely began to have second thoughts, as if he really had a choice about the surgery. (You have to have wisdom teeth out. They get impacted very easily, and can lead to a number of longterm illnesses.)

When the doctor came into the operating room he discussed all CM2's concerns with him. The doctor was very nice. He didn't poo-poo any of CM2's concerns, but gave credence to how he felt. He explained to CM2 that while sometimes there are complications they are extremely rare. CM2 singed and initialed the paper like he was supposed to do.

I went to wait in the parents area along with Wise-old-sage (the hubby). The operation was supposed to take an hour, but the doctor came out after 30 minutes and told us it went terrifically. Yes we were relieved. Not that we thought anything bad would happen (MrGS had used the same doctor when it was his wisdom teeth turn), but we also knew that the quicker everything got done, the less impacted were his teeth, which would also mean a better recovery.

We did end up going quickly into the recovery area, as we heard CM2 yelling trying to figure out where he was. Still a little dipsey from the anesthesia he didn't recognize his surrounding when he came to of course, since it was another room, and he began to protest vociferously and loudly. We ran back to the recovery room, not only to check on him, but to make sure he quieted down since there were other surgeries going on that morning. No need to upset anyone.

He did calm down quickly when he saw us. He looked a little funny with cotton coming out of his mouth, like a walrus. He was actually sitting upright, hooked up to an IV. They came by and changed the dressing two more times before we left. They wanted to try to stop the bleeding as much as possible. We did take home some cotton gauze for any residual bleeding. They said it could happen up to 3 hours more. As long as it was lessening there would be nothing to worry about.

Well home we went. We set CM2 up at this computer. He didn't want to lay down. Went and got his pain meds. Kept changing his dressings, put on cold compresses and prepared very soft, mushy food for him.

After two days he is no longer on any pain killer, including Tylenol. He gargles like he is supposed to with salt water and he is enjoying eating mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, chocolate pudding, scrambled eggs and that chocolate cupcake I bought him yesterday.

He is also not supposed to do any exercise or physical anything. He is not fighting that in the least. He has decided to sit on his tushie and play as many video games as he can for the entire week, until he sees the doctor for a checkup. I offered to take him out to Starbucks or to Target, just to get out of the house, but nope he is so content to not be bothered to do anything that he is well, the absolute video-game-playing potato. He lives in his pajamas all day and basically lays around being happy that it is summer.

I did get him to carry up the laundry basket from the basement though. I let him know that my back had been acting-up for the past few days so he did relent to help. It's also part of a chore that he uses to earn money for video game purchases too. (We have a chore list with financial worth so that the boys earn money towards their activities. They may not have jobs, but not everything should be handled to them without earning it.)  So I suppose he wanted a new game, which he ordered shortly after helping with the laundry.

By the way, I also know that he is definitely feeling better. The better he feels, the more adolescently-obnoxious he is to me. He really was very nice and appropriate with me for the first few days after his surgery. Yes, we do have rules with consequences he helped the therapist establish for when he is nasty or shows absolutely no patience for me. But even when I mention the rule-consequence Rubicon to him this week, it will come with less punishment and more reminders as he heals up over the next few days. OK its my own fault that I let this slide. But I figure there's enough time in life to take away the iPhone when the rules of proper decorum are breached. It doesn't have to be while he has stitches in his mouth.

All in all, the reality is that CM2 has done a great job when dealing with the wisdom teeth extraction and its aftermath. He is also milking the "do-nothing" rule for all its worth. But hey, how many times in life are you really going to have four teeth removed at once? So we are cutting him a little slack over the next few days. After that it's a concerted attempt to be productive at home before his summer ceramics class begins.

(Yes CM2 is taking a class, again. He sent out  over 30 resumes and applications for summer internships and nothing. Only two interviews, one for 5 minutes at an on-campus job and one over the phone. MrGS sent out over 50 for internships. He too only was offered 1 interview. And no it doesn't have anything to do with their aspergers at this point. My neighbor said the same thing happened with her highly accomplished and NT boys too. Not certain what this generation is going to do.)


Monday, May 19, 2014

The War on Boys

What ever happened to letting "boys be boys?" Take these two cases: In one, a seven-year-old boy was sent home for nibbling a Pop Tart into a gun. In another, a teacher was so alarmed by a picture drawn by a student (of a sword fight), that the boy's parents were summoned in for a conference. In short, boys in America's schools are routinely punished for being active, competitive, and restless. In other words, boys can no longer be boys. Christina Hoff Sommers, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, explains how we can change this. 

Turning Boy's Into Men: Fighting Society's Emasculation


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Parenting in the Modern Era

From TED

Why you should listen

Jennifer Senior is a contributing editor at New York Magazine, where she writes profiles and cover stories about politics, social science and mental health. In a groundbreaking 2010 story for the magazine, called "All Joy and No Fun: Why Parents Hate Parenting," she examined the social science around modern parenting, looking at happiness research from Dan Gilbert, Danny Kahneman and others, as well as anthropological research (she was an anthro major) around how families behave. Her conclusion: Hey, parents, it's okay not to feel blissfully happy all the time.

She expanded the piece into a book that dives deeper into the research and paradoxes of modern American parenting styles -- including parents' sometimes inflated expectations of constant awesomeness, meaningfulness and bliss. As she says, "I think of this book as a series of mini-ethnographies -- portraits of how American families live now."


We are One..Ole Ole

For the soccer (or "football" depending on our geographic locations) lover in your home...the official FIFA World Cup Song 2014

Official Website

TV Listings

The fun kicks off June 12.


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Judging a Book By It's Cover-The Importance of Impressions

We like to talk about not judging people by their outward appearance or how they comport themselves. Unfortunately that is not the reality. How you dress, talk, walk, interact and take care of your hygiene has a huge effect on how you are related to by society. Fair? Not so much. But it is something we need to stress to our children.

We try to teach our children appropriate behavior when it comes to social situations. We concentrate on interpersonal situations or how they are to behave in a classroom. But rarely do we actually think about the wider world until the unthinkable happens: a bad interaction with police or persons in authority or with peers. On day you get that phone call or email with school officials on the other end of the line, who come to you and complain about how others perceive your child and that their behavior.

We can talk about accommodations and we can talk about civil rights until we are  "blue in the face," but in truth, if someone is uncomfortable around your child, there will never be friends, employment and a successful navigation of society. We can hold seminars and teach-ins about acceptance of those with mental health and development issues, but that doesn't mean your child doesn't have a task to do within themselves. At times, we do need to meet society half-way or even 3/4 way whether we like it or not.

So what do you do?

I think this is a difficult proposition only because part of our children's issues is not being able to see what others see when they are having a hard emotional time. It is difficult for our children to understand the effect that their behavior has on the people around them. It's not that they can't, or don't, understand society, or that they aren't interested in joining society. It is simply that they can't see "the forest for the trees." Their meltdowns are personal and how they are feeling at that one given moment in time. Their being overwhelmed is about how they are processing the sensory information before them. They are in that space and they cannot necessarily remove themselves from that tornado that is their mind. (And as I have said before this inability to see beyond themselves becomes more problematic as they age. A meltdown by a 10-year-old is taken alot differently than a meltdown by a 200 pound, 6 foot tall, 18-year-old male.)

Yes, once their "episode" is over, our children are capable of understanding what has happened. They realize, once they feel better, if they have been mean, cross or had been inappropriate. "I'm sorry," is something heartfelt. Apologies abound. They truly feel embarrassed when they have digressed in the presence of their peers and they truly feel shame.

But unfortunately if  their actions have frightened someone, scared off a potential friend, or have lost them a job, sometimes there really is no going back. What is lost is lost. The question becomes how do you teach them to understand their feelings in the moment and to control themselves? How do you teach them that impressions are real and that they have consequences before these consequences are life effecting?

When the boys were young, the minute they would walk in the door from school there would be a meltdown. In school they were generally altogether. But the minute they were inside that front door all hell broke loose. "Comfort," I was told, "home is a safe place."At home they could let the frustration and anxiety they felt all day  come out. But as they grew their world became wider, their expectations grew and waiting to come home to emit that anxiety and frustration is not easy. In fact, that "horse has left the barn along time ago" for us.

Getting your child to understand when he is going to have a meltdown, when he feels anxious or how he interacts with someone is an important skill to master. That is also not to say that every neurotypical has that skill down either. It is NOT an easy skill to develop.

The problem too becomes what to do if they really have no way of controlling themselves. When they are in the moment of frustration what can they do to self-help? What can they do when they feel the frustration starting? How can they learn to understand their own body's emotional signals when they don't even understand their own body's signals for thirst and hunger?

We have taught the boys to walk out of a room, class or environment when they start to feel overwhelmed. This is a typical self-help method. (Making sure that they leave the room before they exhibit any negative actions is important also, and part of a long process of education.) Trying to get them to understand that their "tone" in a conversation is essential to how their emotional state is perceived is important for social interactions at both school and work. Teaching them the appropriate way to horse-around (even though it seems that in a school setting typical male bonding is seen as anathema in the first place in today's world) and what to say as a "joke" in public is a good place to start, when teaching about community acceptance.

Now when this is all said and done, there is no guarantee that the persons they run into will not also have a negative attitude simply because they know your child has autism or a mental healthy issue. Unfortunately, due to ignorance, lack of education and sensationalized news stories, society continues to have terribly negative views about those with mental health and developmental issues. At times we do need to accept the fact that there is also just so much our children can do to accommodate the world-at-large as well.

We also need to understand that no matter how hard our children do try, there is always going to be that one person who is just a total dumbass towards your child. This person will, no matter what, never accept your child for who they are. They will never see beyond the disability or mental health issue. These people are so caught up in their own little world, that their narcissism prevents them from being a viable member of society on any level and quite frankly what they think is not something your child or you should worry about. They read into your child's actions intentions that were never there, and they make your child's issues all about themselves. Honestly, its better to find out who these persons are and teach your child to stay far away from them. You can't please everyone and honestly it's not even worth trying.

As I have always told the boys...wherever you go in life there is always going to be one asshole. The trick in life is to NOT be the asshole. That is basically the lesson of teaching about impressions in a nutshell.

In the meantime, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. While many of our children with autism have comorbid mental health issues, autism is in fact still listed as a mental health concern as well. There is no reason that even though Autism Awareness Month is over, that we should stop trying to educate society to accept our children for who they really are. Maybe one day there will be more give and take with society. Maybe one day the partnership will actually be 50-50. But until that time we work, we teach and we hope that our children are accepted, understood and welcomed into the world inwhich they live.

Mental Health Awareness: Wanted Compassion and Understanding


Let it Go- and a reminder that no one is ever too old for Disney

CM2 was ecstatic when this song won the Oscar. He loves animated movies. Considering that he is studying digital media production this is a good thing.

And for those that say our children are too old for Disney or that they should have "age-appropriate" interests....

Semper fi.....


Monday, May 5, 2014

Look Up...Technology, Humanity and the Real Meaning of Life

While technology has done amazing things enabling those with special needs to interact with the world around them, we should never forget the need for humans to be able to interact with each other on a physical level. That is why I constantly tell parents, social skills are the epitome of how we ensure our children's future of their choice.

'Look Up' is a lesson taught to us through a love story, in a world where we continue to find ways to make it easier for us to connect with one another, but always results in us spending more time alone. Written, Performed & Directed by Gary Turk. 


Friday, May 2, 2014