Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Wiinners of the Giveaway: Making Your Worrier a Warrior

The winners were chosen at random.org. I put in the number of entries and pushed a button. I was actually able to pick three winners. They are:

Michelle- the beartwinsmom
FullSpectrumMama
Katie

I am sending emails out for your addresses so your prizes can be mailed.

Thank you everyone who read the post and who entered.

Elise

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Monday, April 28, 2014

Yom Hashoah...Holocaust Remembrance Day



This picture haunts my dreams.

It is a picture of Jews being rounded up in the Warsaw ghetto (Poland) just before they were shipped off to the Treblinka death camp.

I see my children's faces in that little boy.

When CM1 was studying the history of immigration in 5th grade they had to dress up as immigrants. They were pretending to go through Ellis Island. Someone put a poorboyhat on his head. It looked just like the hat that boy in the picture was wearing. When I showed up at school, saw what he was wearing,  I removed that hat from his head as soon as I could.

To this day, even though they are grown men, I will not bring one of those hats into my house...

Meanwhile apparently it has become an acceptable part of the political discourse in the United States to accuse Jews who do not agree with the Obama administration's Middle East Policy as disloyal to their country.... read HERE.....

Some nights pictures of little Jewish boys in Poland haunt my dreams.

But today the Jewish people have the arm of the Israel Defense Forces.

Shimon Peres, President of the State of Israel: “The State of Israel of today is not only the only possible memorial standing for our perished brothers and sisters. Israel is a deterrence against any attempt at another Holocaust. A strong Israel is our response to the horrors of anti-Semitism, but it does not excuse the rest of the world from its responsibility to prevent this disease from returning to their own homes.”





Israel is the weapon of the Jewish people to prevent another attempt at genocide against our children. Unfortunately it has become accepted practice to denigrate the Jewish people's right of self-defense. Sadly too many Jews in the United States and even Europe, think by appeasing those that wish to destroy the Jewish people, they will somehow be spared the wrath of Jew-hatred. An Open-letter to the Jewish-American Community: What is wrong with you?


Israeli female combat unit


Will the Jews Ever Be Forgiven for the Holocaust?


Am Yisrael Chai....The Jewish people live...and will live forever.





Meanwhile, read Social Justice, Humanity and Autism....the Holocaust and our children with special needs. As I always say, my sons were twice threatened and twice hated by those who seek to destroy true love and grace in the world. It is why their accomplishments mean more today than ever before.



Elise

Friday, April 25, 2014

Flowers...Persephone has rejoined Demeter

The weather is turning warmer (about time)....nature is coming alive once again...Persephone has rejoined her mother, Demeter. She has left Hades and the underworld behind for the next 6 months.




Read about the myth of Persephone, Demeter and Hades HERE. 

Painting from of Persephone and Demter 470BC





 Elise

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Grateful for Health Insurance

From List Crunch 10 Best health Insurance Companies

Yesterday the boys had their monthly visit with the psychiatrist. Yes I had to lay out the money for the visit, but I know that I will at least be reimbursed somewhat by our health insurance company. We are lucky. We have a good plan that covers, medical, dental and mental health services. And no, it is not cheap....anything but. In fact we have been paying out of pocket monthly for health insurance for almost two decades now. Where we live had one of the highest premiums in the country until Obamacare. Ironically according to some actuarial maps I saw on line, New York premiums should go down since Obamacare. (NY and one other state is the only places in which that should happen.) Also the requirements of health insurance policies that Obamacare put into play for the nation is nothing new to us. If you live in New York, those requirements have been de rigueur for decades. Ironically, even with health insurance we have accumulated that "autism debt" that will never really go away.

FYI- this isn't a riff on Obamacare. As I have written before, there are many aspects of Obamacare that I really really really like. Allowing my sons to stay on my insurance until they are 26 is great. Not preventing people from getting health insurance due to pre-existing conditions is great (considering I am the parent of children with a myriad of medical, as well as mental health issues, this is a Godsend). Not being able to deny someone coverage because of autism is great (having witnessed on-line friends being denied health coverage because of their children's autism this is a very needed provision).

My problem with Obamacare is that they left out provisions that would have made it cost effective for the average person. It was the Washington DC gambit of not listening to the other side of the aisle, allowing competition and really creating a workable system. Obamacare ends up being unaffordable for most middle class families. The average policy will cost a family of 4 in the neighborhood of  $1200 to $1500 a month. Considering the average family household income in the US is near $50,000, who can afford that? (Granted they may be able to receive a government subsidy, but they also have high deductibles and copays out of pocket.)

Most people (approximately 8 million) who lost their private insurance have decided to just pay the penalty. It's really cheaper. (This is on top of the number of approximately 40 million who had no insurance before Obamacare.) These people decide to hedge their bets that they will not get drastically ill and for everything else (well care) their cost benefit analysis says its cheaper to pay out of pocket. Not certain that is true, but its up to the individual to decide for themselves.  (Most who have signed up are those who had been receiving medicaid to begin with and would receive subsidies by the government. Truth is that we don't really know the true numbers of those who have paid their premiums since the government refuses to release those numbers).

The idea that POTUS told people to give up their cable and cell phones to have healthcare when he and his family have one of the best healthcare plans in the nation all paid for by the American taxpayer was just plain chutzpah. Note: I have done without my entire life in order to have health insurance. So Obama is not necessarily wrong that responsible people do without certain luxuries in order to buy necessities. Its just galling coming from someone who is a millionaire, who doesn't have to pay for his own insurance, and who didn't sign his family up for his own healthcare plan. Remember he only signed himself up.

Truth is that what we need in this country is truly affordable healthcare. There is no reason that we should pay more than Canadians for the same medications. There is not reason that to save your life you have to go bankrupt. MRGS was in the hospital for influenza A and strep the beginning of February. He was there for one day in the emergency room. Happily, the insurance company paid most of the bill, which came to over $3000 dollars. I also just received an additional bill for one of the doctors from that day for another $600 (insurance will pay some of that bill as well). But what if you didn't have the copay? What if this was a really scary illness like cancer or emergency surgery (not that influenza A doesn't kill.)? How would you pay that bill then? Listen, it's not easy to pay those emergency medical bills even when you have insurance.

Obamacare was supposed to do something about these outrageous hospital bills. It did not. From what I can see everything is just getting more and more expensive. From psychiatrists, to meds, to therapists to even general yearly well-visits. Is national healthcare the answer? Actually we already have that. It's called medicaid and medicare. Sadly, Obamacare, destroys the successful medicare advantage program that my mother has been on since she aged into the program. I am truly concerned about what is to come for her.

Additionally, no hospitals in my area will take insurance from any of the Obamacare providers in New York State. There is a dearth of doctors who will honor the insurance as well. The government repayment is so low it doesn't pay for the doctors or hospitals to take patients from those insurance programs. It literally would force them into bankruptcy. What good is insurance if you can't use it to get medical care?

Meanwhile, these are the most efficient healthcare systems in the world HERE. In order to fix our problems we should follow their leads. Granted they are much smaller nations than the USA. But there has to be some ability to extrapolate what they do and apply it here. Even if, as has been the prevailing reality since the inception of our nation, the individual states remain responsible for healthcare within their borders.

Anyway, today I am truly happy that I can afford health insurance for my family. I do not know what we would have done for the boys over all these years without it. 



Elise


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Technology...from the Basic Computer to Assistive Technology



Every morning I wake up and read my emails, my RSS feeds and news from around the world. I have contact with my mother in Florida  and talk to brilliant-computer-sis who has moved to the other side of the world through Facetime or videochat. I keep track of my life and the world that my sons live in through the wonders of modern technology. Everything is at your fingertips.

If you want to know about an issue it is out there for you to find it. Technology is leading us into an unknown that is exciting, with so many positive possibilities. Furthermore, technology has had a profound effect on those with disabilities. Assistive technology has provided those who are learning disabled,  nonverbal and/or physically disabled the ability to join the wider world.

Assistive technology from NIH HERE

Read more HERE from NCLD about assistive technology.

Assistive technology for kids with LD  HERE

PACER on assistive technology  HERE and HERE

Information page from the Assistive Technology Industry Association HERE.

A list of types of assistive technology from Microsoft  HERE.

Family Guide to Assistive Technology HERE

National Public Website on Assistive Technology (from Georgia Tech HERE) and HERE

Assistive Technology page from NICHCY (online until Sept. 30, 2014) HERE




Elise

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happy Living in the USA

Can you be happy for 100 days in a row? Take the challenge HERE. I begin today.

I have met the challenges of the Happiness Project and Autism from A to Z. Everyday I will post a picture of what has made me happy. I think its good to remember the happiness we have in our lives, even on a bad day.

Today is Day #1.

Every time I walk out of my home I am reminded that I am one of the lucky few in history. Even with all our issues the USA is truly the freest and wealthiest society that humanity has ever created.


Being able to raise my children in a society that allows them to pursue their dreams definitely makes me happy.

UPDATE: Nope not gonna happen.Not because I'm not happy, but it gets boring really fast. And being tied down on what to write and when to write that is simply annoying.




Elise

Sunday, April 20, 2014

I'm friends with the Monster that's under my bed....

I'm friends with the monster that's under my bed
Get along with the voices inside of my head
You're trying to save me, stop holding your breath
And you think I'm crazy, yeah
You think I'm crazy
Well that's nothing...





Is this song about "acceptance"... an indictment of society....discussing all our foibles, issues and problems that make us who we are....


What's your take?



Elise

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Skirting the Feminist Grievance Lexicon, While Ending Up Thinking Autism Advocacy


Let me begin this story by telling everyone that I am not a feminist. I am a women's rights supporter. To me there is a huge difference, here's why:

Modern Feminism and the Death of Female Empowerment
What Strong Women Look Like
The Sanctimonious Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Homemakers Insulted Yet Again, on so Many Levels
It's Not About Contraception Its About Self-Respect
Sorry You Can't Have It All: Stop Your Bitchin'
Dissing the SAHM


(and on a more pointed note-not written by me- this is why I have no need of today's feminists and HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE)

Meanwhile the other day I was having a rather interesting discussion on line about a legal issue. The gentleman on the other side of the internet then gets all condescending and starts to explain a part of the Constitution (he was wrong) and what certain legal words mean (while he was right as to their meaning, he wrong wrong in the application of the discussion.) He was also very wrong about the purpose of the law in question and its use and breath. He complained vociferously about the underhanded political issues of the case. Railing against the criminal enterprise (known as a Washington DC politician) that was taking advantage of the situation, etc etc etc. He then said that we were going around in circles in our discussion and basically implied that I should stop. He has done that on other occasions as well during a discussion. I tended to stop before simply because its useless to argue with someone who only wants to preach and not to listen. Honestly this last time though, I felt like he told me to go make him a sammich....

Well I got my hackles up and interestingly enough was so annoyed that the next thing I did was to write him back (without sending it) deriding him for mansplaining. Yeah I guess I was so mad that I reached into my grabbag of memories and pulled out one of the most obnoxious words I had ever heard. Mansplaining, that feminist grievance lexicon where you decide that a male is condescending to you because you are female. Quickly recouping myself, I never sent the comment, happily I realized what I had done.

Instead of meeting his attack head on with facts, figures and stubbornly reliable information I simply had decided to accuse him of being a bully because I was female. Now I knew better than that. This man was not picking on me because I was female and quite frankly he wasn't really bullying me either, he was disagreeing with me and not listening to what I had to say. Was he condescending? Yeah I thought so, but then again I doubt he did. What was the outcome? I wrote something more along the lines of (paraphrased): Remember I am a lawyer schooled in Constitutional and civil rights law. I am quite aware of what legal precedent happens to be and how it is used. Judges do legislate from the bench especially the Supreme Court (I gave him an example). Also I mentioned that we are not going around in circles, he was trying to invalidate what I was saying and I was not letting him. 


(HERE is a blog post I wrote on the subject were discussing. Yep wrote a whole blogpost about the topic. Honestly, if I ever let anything go, would my children get the support and help that they needed, when they needed it, in a timely manner that it could do some good? Of course not. It's my suckerfish attitude towards issues that gets them where they are supposed to go. Listen obsessiveness like this doesn't just go away when its not an autism issue. Personalities don't work that way. Heck I embrace this part of me as much as I tell the boys to embrace the entire of themselves. Just one caveat: make sure to use your powers for good and not evil. Well at least only a little evil, as long as the desired outcome is for some good....is that too Sithy for everyone?)

Now my comment ended up being much better than going in all feminist whiner. Yes I am certain that he had an answer for me too. Hubby said that I should leave it alone and not comment on what he writes anymore. The man simply isn't interested in my disagreements and won't ever admit that he was wrong. He did mention that we should agree to disagree. I took hubby's advice, did not look back and won't. (FYI- I do consider this man an on-line acquaintance. He is a well-written, well-read political author.)
 

But for me, the truly disturbing thing about this episode was just how quickly I was able to jump into grievance mode. It came really, really easy. I shocked myself. I never thought of myself as a complainer or as someone who looked beyond the topic that was in front of me. I tend to not blame "identity issues" when people don't agree with me or give me a hard time. I don't walk around with a chip on my shoulder towards men about being female. I definitely am shown more disrespect from other women about being a SAHM than from males. Real family men tend to appreciate what we SAHM do, my comment partner included. So what was it? Still working it out actually.

Figuring out the grievance-trigger is important. I always tell the boys to NEVER blame anything that happens to them on their autism. (CM2 actually did try to get out of detention one day in highschool by claiming the school didn't understand aspergers. Well I put a stop to that one right away.) Yes autism is a part of who they are, as much as they are male. And yes, their aspergers will lead them in many different directions in life and there will be people who won't get them and will make their lives more difficult. (Many of those situations already faced have been recounted on this blog.) I teach them the trick to staying within any particular setting is to figure out if the situation is tenable, something worthwhile to fight for or should you save your strength for another day and tell the asshats to take a flying leap? (You pick and chose your battles in life no matter the issue.) I explain to them that what ever happens to them it is also vitally important not to get caught up in the woe-is-me crowd. It will only drag you down and prevent you from fulfilling your destiny.

The Trick is to Not be the Asshole....

Furthermore, using aspergers or autism as an excuse can be dangerous for our children. If you don't teach your children that their autism is NOT an excuse for poor /illegal/inappropriate behavior then you remove a major boundary for them and could put them on a collision course for real trouble in life. A slippery slope that society will have no part of, by the way.

Autism Used This Time as an Excuse for Criminality
Autism as an Excuse for More Criminal Behavior-You're Not Going to Believe This One
Destructiveness of Entitlement

So what is the moral of this tale? Apparently, it is easy for anyone to fall into bad habits no matter how old we are, no matter how hard we have worked to prevent ourselves from being caught up in something we consider nonsensical. I suppose we need to be on guard about our own human foibles. Eternally vigilant to say the least. The question becomes what are those pointers, which I can pass on to those youngmen of mine, so that they are on guard for the same mistake I almost made. I suppose I can only impress upon them the need for accountability on all levels in life. That is definitely a good place to start.

*****

Meanwhile I don't want to let society off the hook either when it comes to autism awareness. They too have a job to do and that is to learn to be accepting, generous, kind and compassionate. From a post I wrote April 2010:

Many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our point of view.

                                                            Obi-Won Kenobi, Return of the Jedi, LucasFilm,Ltd

I think perspective, as with the truths we hold dear, depends greatly upon our day to day lives. But more than even that, we want the world to see us, our families but most importantly, our children, as people.  We want the world’s perception of our children to be one of respect and care and kindness. We don’t want them to be pre-judged because they have a disability, but we also don’t want them to be ignored because they have a disability either. We want the perception of society to be one of openness and an out stretched hand. One that says here we are, you are welcome in our world, you are welcome in our society. Come with us and together we will brave the future.

But the question for us is how to we get people to change their perspectives so that our children are seen as the people they are but with an acknowledgement of their issues? How do we get society to think outside of their own perceptions and acknowledge that not everyone’s life is like the one they lead? I don’t really know. Hubby once said that if the boys had not had autism, he might have been one of those parents upset that children with these disabilities were going to be included in school instead of in special classrooms. He was never angry at the parents in town who tried to stop the inclusion program. Of course, he also fought tooth and nail to make sure it happened for his sons, but he was able to understand the other side as well. It was a matter of education that is all. Truthfully after a few years of inclusion, there is no more hullaballoo. It is the way things are done here. Special education alongside regular education all together in one big societal mishmash. Well as much as this suburban county can be called a societal mishmash.

I think hubby has an amazing unique voice in this world. He has an uncanny ability to see the other side (except when he is arguing with me of course) I always wonder if that is from his daily legal experience. Life for him is being able to see every perspective before you fight for your client. Or perhaps, because he has this uncanny ability to see the world through other people’s eyes is what makes law a perfect profession for him. Don’t know, but what I do know is that he can keep you grounded and allow you to take stock of reality. Everything is never one side or the other, OK unless you are picking on a four year old child and thinking it’s funny. The reality is, is that gray covers more of life than what we would like to admit.  Is it easy? Not really. Is it worth the effort to make society see our children? We have no choice if we are to secure for them a future. They also have the right to a future like anyone else in this world. Just how do we do that is the question? How do we make society see our perspective? How do we get society to perceive life the way we do? How do we get society to see us and not see through us?


Elise

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Myths About Autism


From the Autistic Self-Advocacy Organization
Nothing About Us Without Us
@autselfadvocacy


1. Autism is contagious.
Nope! You can't catch autism.
Autism is something some people are born with, like blue eyes or red hair or a brain that is very good at some things and has more trouble with others. 


2. Autism is caused by vaccines.
Vaccines do not cause autism. Please make sure your kids get their shots.

3. Autism is a disease.
Nope! Autism is a developmental disability some people are born with, like dyslexia or Down Syndrome. It is not a disease. It is a difference, and a disability. 

4. Autism is a tragedy.
Nope! With the right support, autistic people can go to school, communicate, work, live in the community, have friends, get married, start families, vote, pursue their interests, and anything else they might want to do. 

5. Autistic people are eternal children.
Nope! Autistic people grow up. An autistic 20 year old is not a toddler in a 20 year old's body--they are an autistic 20 year old. 

6. You can grow out of autism.
Nope! Autism is a life-long developmental disability. Autistic children grow up into autistic adults. The same percentage of adults and children are autistic. 

7. Autism means not being able to speak.
Communication disability is a part of diagnostic criteria for autism, but most autistic people do develop the ability to talk. About 15-20% of autistic people do not develop oral speech. They can use Augmentative & Alternative Communication to speak for themselves. 
 
8. Autism means intellectual disability.
About 15-25% of autistic people also have an intellectual disability. Most autistic people are not intellectually disabled. Intellectual disability is not a part of autism, but some people have both. 

9. Autistic people lack empathy.
Nope! Autistic people feel empathy for other people. Autistic people are people, not robots. 

10. All autistic people are savants.
About 10% of autistic people have savant skills like perfect pitch, photographic memory, or calendar calculation. Most autistic people are not savants. 

11. Autistic people suffer from autism.
Autistic people suffer from prejudice and discrimination. Autistic people suffer when they do not get the support and accommodation they need, when they receive substandard or segregated education or living environments, when they are kept out of the community or kept unemployed, when their civil and human rights are violated, or when their access to communication and the right to make decisions about their lives, bodies, and futures are denied. Autistic people do not suffer from autism.

12. Only boys are autistic.
An autistic woman wrote this factsheet.






Elise

Friday, April 11, 2014

Happy Passover-Next Year in a Forever Unified Jerusalem, Israel

Chag Pesach Sameach.....





MAKE SURE YOU CLICK ON THE INTERACTIVE PASSOVER STORY




Monday night marks the first night of Passover. This is the yearly recounting of the Exodus from Egypt. This is the holiday where the Jewish people remember their passage from slavery into freedom. Where they reclaimed the land that God had promised Abraham through Isaac for his children.

The last line of the Haggadah, the ritual book read to celebrate the Passover, is "Next Year in Jerusalem." Over 2500 years ago, Kind David purchased from the Jebusite King the mountain and surrounding land that would become the capital of the State of Israel. Today that capital is revitalized and rebuilt. It is unified. It is whole. It is a holy city open to all who wish to worship peacefully no matter what their religion, their ethnicity, their creed.

In the end, however,  Jerusalem is the capital of the Jewish heart and the capital of the Jewish soul. Jews pray facing Jerusalem. Only those bent on another holocaust, only those who delegitimize, disenfranchise and dehumanize the Jewish people, would never acknowledge nor respect the Jewish attachment to Jerusalem or even the land of Israel in general.





 This hate also has no boundaries, and no borders. It is celebrated in capitals around the globe. It is celebrated on college campuses worldwide. It is taught with abandon and with pride. Murdering Jewish children once again has become the worlds' favorite celebrated and honored past-time. Sadly 70 years after the Holocaust this most evil of hatreds is arisen once again and once again it has no shame. In fact, during the recent peace negotiations, the President of the United States and his Secretary of State, have refused to condemn Israel's negotiating partner for supporting and promoting violence and antisemitism against Jewish civilians.





Elise

I Support Ayaan Hirsi Ali and a Woman's Right to their Own Life and Bodily Integrity

As I have done before, at times I talk about other topics besides autism. One topic is the fight against fgm, gender apartheid and honor violence. I believe in the bodily integrity of every woman (especially in her right to sexual pleasure and sexual choice) and her right to live the life she chooses.

You may have heard that Brandeis University withdrew an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, champion of women's rights in the Moslem world, claiming she is "Islamophobic." (We can also have a discussion about the history of that word, who created it and why at  a later date.) Below is a video discussion about the issue from the Wall Street Journal and Hirsi Ali's interview with Megan Kelly on Fox.





HERE is a link to her Foundation and some informational pages: 
HONOR VIOLENCE
FORCED MARRIAGE
FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION


Here are some relevant articles on the Brandeis controversy:

Ayaan Hirsi Ali in her own words

Ayaan Hirsi Ali's response to Brandeis

What I would have said at Brandeis: Ayaan Hirsi Ali


Here is one of the speeches Ayaan Hirsi Ali gave that has her opponents up in arms:

Raised on Hatred.


Would someone tell me why being against female genital mutilation, gender apartheid, honor violence and fighting for the belief that women are entitled to equality with men is somehow racist simply because the religion being opposed is Islam? This is political correctness and cultural relativism run amok. Shame on Brandeis University. Moreover they denigrate the US Constitution and the right of freedom of speech so enshrined in our nation.  They embarrass their namesake.

Whining About Mansplaining Instead of Fighting Female Genital Mutilation



NOTE: Remember CAIR, that opposes Hirsi Ali, is an unindicted co-conspirator in a case that sent people to prison for funding terror, and is a political arm of the Islamist Moslem Brotherhood in the USA. The Moslem Brotherhood gave birth to organizations like Al-Qaeda. CAIR also supports the denigration of the US First Amendment by promoting anti-blasphemy laws that would curtail freedom of speech by penalizing you if you criticize Islam. This law is promoted by the UN and the OIC, and our presumed Democratic nominee for the 2016 Presidential race.


 I am infuriated and ashamed of my fellow Jews. Glad that I withdrew my application to Brandeis when I applied to college.


Elise


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Autism Inclusion in the Army...Again its Israel's Army not America's


Special intelligence Unit 9900 is dedicated to everything related to geography, including mapping, interpretation of aerial and satellite photographs and space research.  Within this unit there is a small unit of highly qualified soldiers, who have remarkable visual and analytic capabilities. They can detect even the smallest details, undetectable to most people.

The uniqueness of this elite group of intelligence soldiers in Unit 9900 lies in the fact that they are all diagnosed on the autism spectrum. We interviewed Col. J, the commander of Unit 9900, in order to learn more about this inspiring group of soldiers.

First time in history

“After many doubts and expectations the project came to light after almost a year of processing. There were many problems along the way. The actual process took about a year and I want to say that we started with the assumption that this could, should and would succeed,” says Colonel J, confessing that the success of this project exceeded the optimistic expectations of its initiators. “The concerns were understandable, because I knew nothing about autism. The result was a task of trial and error. Everything we did was happening for the first time in the history of the IDF. We planned, worked and focused until we achieved success.”

How does this group fit in with the other soldiers?

“They have excellent relations with the soldiers of the unit – from time to time, out of the building where they work I see them sitting with others in the unit, having lunch or just having a cup of coffee. No one forces them to do so. It is very natural, and I think that says it all.”

What type of work do they do?

“Their job is to take visual materials from satellite images and sensors that are in the air. With the help of their officers and decoding tools, they analyze the images and find specific things they need in order to allow those who are planning a mission to get the best data of the area.”




How it all began–The RR Plan

Mr. V and Ms. S, veterans of the IDF and the Intelligence organizations, introduced an idea – to utilize the special strengths of people on the autistic spectrum for the needs of the IDF and Israeli intelligence.

They contacted Unit 9900, who showed great interest in the idea and decided  to be a partner for the first trial – interpretation of aerial and satellite photographs.

They then Contacted the Ono Academic College – a private academic institution and registered NGO, which also has a school for health professions. Ono Academic College has a vision of “Changing the face of Israeli society,” and therefore its management decided to Join the initiative, and together they set up the RR Program – (Roim Rachok – which in Hebrew means looking far beyond the horizons).

The aim of the RR Plan is to teach people on the autistic spectrum  professions that utilize their special abilities, thus creating a Win-Win effect. The courses take place in the Ono Academic College. After the students finish the 3 month course, they join the army, where the RR program is still involved in guidance and assistance of the soldiers and their commanders.

Today, when everyone can see the success of the first trial course graduates, the RR plan is developing two more courses that utilize other strengths of the autistic spectrum.  One course is for software quality assurance (QA) and the other is for information management. Both courses are developed in cooperation with Intelligence Units of the IDF, which will eventually be the home units for the course graduates.

Unit 9900’s special contribution

It is important to remember that people on the autism spectrum have strengths in music, mathematics, as well as the visual field. These autistic soldiers of Unit 9900 play a major role in intelligence gathering–a role not easily filled due to the difficulty of the task that this unit. The IDF believes in the ability of these autistic soldiers and will continue to work for their advancement in military and civilian life.


Earlier article from 2010 about another inclusion program in the Israeli army for aspergeans HERE.



Elise

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: Make Your Worrier a Warrior by Dan Peters, PhD

Dealing with your fear of fear. That is how I always describe the boys' need to worry. Of course the doctors call it generalized anxiety disorder or even the anxiety that goes hand in glove with autism. This drive that something is never perfect or that something in our life is wrong or could be better if only...if only, but you don't know what that only is. The  catastrophizing about your reality. Worrying that the most awful things will happen, even if there are no realistic basis for the worry. Allowing this worry to prevent you from having a happy and enjoyable life.

Anxiety is the monster that attacks us in our brains and in our every waking hour It is the monster that hides in the recesses of our  minds and prevents us from living life. As parents it is hard to watch your child deal with anxiety. It is hard to not know how to help them. It is hard to not understand what is going on inside their head. Anxiety is a complex pattern of thoughts and ideas that just seem, seem seem to be on the otherside of a divide that we cannot get ahold of.

Well here comes some help. Dr. Peters breaks everything down for us in a matter of fact way that makes it very understandable in his book Make Your Worrier a Warrior.  He teaches us the basics and gives us useable information on how to help our children and even ourselves. He breaks down the types of fears and anxiety you might encounter and then goes about telling you how to handle them. He gives you practical advice. He also acknowledges that debilitating anxiety isn't something that just happens in a vacuum. That dealing with anxiety you may also have to deal with other mental health or learning disabilities as well. He talks about a convergence of ideas that incorporates all aspects of your child. He discusses how to get your child's (or even your) village on board with a treatment plan. (As anyone who reads this blog knows, I am a big fan of the concept of "village" to help your child. You cannot do this alone and neither should you have to. It is NOT a matter of weakness, but of understanding that at times you do and are entitled to seek help for yourself and/or your child.)

What is equally important is that Dr. Peters, unlike many other authors,  doesn't stop with the parents. He writes a companion book for children, From Worrier to Warrior.. Using the same methodology that he does in the parent's book, he tells children about the "worry monster" and what it means. He explains through vignettes how there are other children who feel like they do. In the end he gives your child advice and understanding on how to help themselves.  Of course if you do buy these companion books for younger children you would simply want to pick out the applicable stories to your child and their situation. In fact, I would say reading the stories together goes along way in helping and supporting your child.
Note: This book is not really for younger elementary school children. It is definitely too much information for a young child to process. The book is also for independent learners. Even if your child is a tween or adolescent, it is not a bad thing to read it together if that is what it takes for them to synthesize the information.

Actually remember that these two books are meant to be read together. I would say its akin to a family therapy session. I would coordinate the chapters in the two books so that after each one is read you could sit down with your child and help them process what they have just learned. Discussions could also be helpful for you to see just how your child views themselves in relationship to their worry monster. My personal opinion is that these books are helpful for any family dealing with anxiety issues. It is definitely a good place to start.

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Here's something new and fun for me:  in conjunction with Mother's Day, which here in the USA, is May 11, I will be doing a giveaway of these companion books. Please leave me a comment about what you think of the book review above along with your email address so I can contact you once a winner has been randomly chosen. The contest runs from today until May 1, since I would like to send the books out to the winner before Mother's Day.

There are several rules: (1) only ONE entry per person and; (2) since this is my first contest I am going to limit it to those people who live in the USA or Canada (sorry to everyone else); (3) If you are going to do a critique of my writing be kind, and (4) FYI the caveats. If the comment doesn't fit into the prescribed rules, it doesn't get published and you are not entered.

Good luck,


Elise

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Autism Awareness Day, When Noone asks the Opinion of Autistics

CM2 came home from school today all upset. Terribly upset in fact. I knew he would. He sent me an email. It being Autism Awareness Day, students in the cafeteria were fundraising for Autism Speaks. He was beside himself. How could they support a group that marginalizes him? Talk about feeling disrespected and unwelcome. When he was at the gym later this afternoon his trainer told me he explained to her what happened in the cafeteria and that he was crying.

I tried to explain to him that these students don't really know the controversy about Autism Speaks, That they actually thought they were doing a good thing. I asked him if he talked to them and told them why he as a person with autism doesn't like Autism Speaks. No he did not.  I think he was just too hurt. Also social confrontation is not easy for him. For him interacting with strangers is very hard to begin with.

I mentioned to him that he could send an email to the college president explaining that he is a student at the school with aspergers and why he doesn't like AS. Ask if the email can be sent to the student body so they could understand that people with autism have feelings and that AS is not representative of the autism self-advocate community. If he didn't want to write something himself, he could use  John Elder Robinson's insightful blog post as to why he resigned from AS HERE.

......"No," he said........heavy sigh....."No".....He was just so demoralized.

So I wrote to the disability director myself and asked if she could do something about a blast email. Tell students that one of their number, who has aspergers, wants to explain why Autism Speaks is seen as non-supportive of the autism community and to please include the Robinson blog post. We will see if they will do anything at all. I would hope that they might take the feelings of a person with autism into consideration when promoting autism awareness.  We shall see. (Yes this might have been a good lesson in self-advocacy, but you did not see the hurt on my son's face, the tears in his eyes and the look of defeat.) I'm hoping the college does something, just so CM2 sees that he could have an impact if he wanted to.

I have always said that the boys will decide for themselves how they want to deal with their aspergers when they became adults. CM2 is very proud of who he is. He likes his aspergers. Oh he has issues galore, but he knows what they are, we work at them. In truth he wouldn't change who he is for anything at all.

Now, as his parent, I always wanted to shield him from letting others make him feeling insignificant or unwanted because of his autism. So for me there is also a lesson to this story. You can't protect them from everything, including well meaning people.


*Guidelines for organizations that support autistic people From the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism  HERE



UPDATE: As of Friday I never heard from anyone at the school. Ironically this college is heavily invested emotionally in Autism Speaks. They always host the yearly walks and confabs in the area for AS. I guess how someone like my son feels about his autism and autism related groups isn't as important as their own perspectives.  Considering how inclusive this school is and how they have allowed every type of accommodation for the boys, you would think they would have some respect for the perspective of autistics about being autistic. Very odd. Is this ableism?


Elise


Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The key to success? Grit

 from TED



Leaving a high-flying job in consulting, Angela Lee Duckworth took a job teaching math to seventh graders in a New York public school. She quickly realized that IQ wasn’t the only thing separating the successful students from those who struggled. Here, she explains her theory of “grit” as a predictor of success. Full bio here







Elise

April-Autism Awareness Month: Nothing Special Here, It's Just Our Daily Lives

Repost from 2012.  My thoughts and perspectives have not changed.

Now begins autism awareness month. Just letting everyone know that I am not doing anything different than I normally do. I am not going on marches, walks or to rallies. I am not wearing blue. I am not putting a puzzle piece on my car. And no, this is not because of the on-going feud between self-advocates and Autism Speaks. This is because everyday in this house is autism awareness day, week, month and year. We do not need to change anything we do in this house to "celebrate" autism awareness month. We are autism awareness.

They walk out into the world and the boys are dealing with autism and society. They walk into a store and the boys are dealing with autism and sensory stimuli. They walk onto campus and they are dealing with autism and auditory processing in classrooms. They walk onto campus and they are dealing with abstract reasoning issues and language processing. They walk into a restaurant and they are dealing with autism and the sights, sounds and smells of a new environment. They walk onto an airplane and the boys are dealing with autism and a fear of flying, change of schedule and an unknown adventure. They do their chores and they are dealing with autism and distractions and organization.

Everyday the boys encounter people and places and incidents that have an effect on their lives. When people interact with them these people learn about autism. When society sees them, society learns about autism. When professors contact the disability office to understand autism better, these people learn about autism. When doctors ask questions when they deal with the boys, these medical professionals learn about autism. When they walk onto campus and interact with their fellow students and these young people see how intelligent, genial and kind they are, more than anything else, these social interactions have a bearing on the future and how autistics are perceived by society.

Does prejudice still exist? Absolutely. That is what happened at CM1's job from last semester. (This was an incident in the fall of 2011. Since then CM1 and CM2 have had internships at which they are very welcome and very successful.) Yes a  complaint was made. They told me that it was taken care of...I did not request that he be reinstated at his job.  I am absolutely NOT sending him back into a situation where he could be bullied, picked on or made to feel inadequate. That would not be autism awareness that would be making my child a target and he has had enough of that in his life. If others want to live their lives like that then so be it. Go ahead. But that is not going to happen with my children.

Sue the school you say? You want me to sue the school that allows them every accommodation known to law and man. The school that allows them leeway in behavior at times because they understand autism and how hard it can be to process issues. The school that works with us and their doctors and their para and their entire village so that the boys may be able to access their brilliant minds. That school? Well no I will not sue under any circumstances that open, welcoming and highly understanding college for the misdeeds of one ignorant man. Sometimes in life you need to know when to hold, fold and call too. You really do need to know who your friends really are and how to say thank-you as well. That too is autism awareness, not to be perceived as ungrateful and self-centered louts.

By the way,  sorry to all those who are mad at Autism Speaks and all those who support Autism Speaks, but I have issues in my life and who did what to whom and who dissed whom and whom represents whom is not one of them. Perhaps it is as we discussed in my last post, youthful passion that has dwindled. (here) I do not know. What I do know is that I don't like gimmicks. I don't like nonsense. I don't like disrespect. I don't like that some people treat my children as if they are specimens in a zoo. So fight amongst yourselves all you want. I don't care anymore. If this means you won't come back here too, then so be it. If it means you unfriend me on Facebook or unfollow me on twitter, then so be it. I have real fights to fight and real day to day problems to solve.

What I care about is that my boys are entitled to be seen on a daily basis as human beings with rights and freedoms as everyone else year round. That is what I am fighting for. Yes I know that is what the advocates are fight for too, but they are not here with me in my house, in the boys' school, at the supermarket, at the restaurant, at the airplane or the hotel. I and hubby alone fight this fight for the boys. We always have stood alone. No one has ever held our hands. My demand is that these advocates remember that their view is not the only one and that others do and have a right to disagree with them. So fight amongst yourselves, just make sure in carrying on, you don't fuck it up for everyone else.

You know, we fight everyday. Not for just a day, a week or a month, so everyone in the world can feel good about themselves. Pat themselves on the back. Talk about how society should support those with autism. How society needs to find better educational tools for those with autism. How society has to find better supports for children as well  as adults, most definitely for adults with autism.Nope. I am not going to allow society to pretend how great they are because they heard a lecture about autism, talked about issues for an hour or two, or gave $5 for an autism walk or thought about how they might have known, possibly have seen, most decidedly came across someone with autism. This lets society off the hook too easy. Well I won't.

So society can make itself feel good about all that it does for the month of April. We will be seeing society the rest of the year too, every month, every week, every day, every hour. We are still here after April. Whether society likes it or not. And its how society treats my boys during those 11 months that really count. Concern doesn't count when society can give itself a public medal for how great they are because of what they did in April. It only counts when they care in August and January when noone  is looking and its not considered the "cool" issue of the moment

Honestly, we cannot control every aspect of life and every aspect of society. All we can control is the little space that we inhabit on this world. So no, I am not doing anything different than I already do for autism awareness month. I am not going to ask the boys to do it either. They live their lives on their own terms, and that in and of itself provides society with knowledge and autism awareness. The boys' lives are autism awareness without them even thinking about it. Their lives are autism awareness because they exist and they are part and parcel of the world.


Elise