Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yom HaShoah- Holocaust Remembrance Day 2015

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.

For more information about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising:
The Ghetto Fighter’s Kibbutz Website
Jewish Virtual Library
My Jewish Learning


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.


Please go the United States Holocaust Museum and Yad Va'shem websites for more educational information.

It is important to remember that before the Nazis came for the Jews, they tried to eradicate the disabled in their midst. So for me this day has a dual meaning, for my boys were twice threatened by this evil society and the complacency of the world...sadly with the lack of respect for the disabled that still abounds and the growth of antisemitism worldwide, particularly the growth of Holocaust denial and Holocaust inversion,  it seems that ignorance and hate never does end. But it doesn't mean we give up the fight for understanding.

On these days of remembrance I remind myself that we are dedicated to the idea that "we do not fight the fights that are easy, we fight the fights that are worth fighting....."

As a side note: one in five German highschool students do not know that Auschwitz was a death camp.

KADDISH is the Jewish prayer for the dead. From The Jewish Virtual Library:

The Kaddish is a prayer that praises God and expresses a yearning for the establishment of God's kingdom on earth. The emotional reactions inspired by the Kaddish come from the circumstances in which it is said: it is recited at funerals and by mourners.

The word Kaddish means sanctification, and the prayer is a sanctification of God's name.

The opening words, yitgadal t'yitkadash, were inspired by Ezekiel 38:23 when the prophet envisions a time when God will become great in the eyes of all the nations. The response of the listeners to the first lines of the mourners is a public declaration of the belief that God is great and holy: Yehei Shmei rabba mevorakh l'olam ul'almei almaya (May His great Name be blessed forever and ever). This response is central to the Kaddish and should be said out loud by all present when the prayer is recited.

 My recommended books on the Holocaust:

Older Elementary/Middle School:
Number the Stars
Devil's Arithmetic (also a movie with Kirsten Dunst)

Diary of Anne Frank
Night by Elie Wiesel (Nobel Laureate)
Maus I and II

Mila 18 by Leon Uris

A really good movie is Judgement at Nuremberg. I know that there have been dozens of Holocaust movies since then, but this movie makes more of a statement with its words than most movies do with their pictures.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Raising a Child into a World Without Adult Consequences for Bad Actions

Much has been made about the veracity of the UVA rape article printed in Rolling Stone magazine. Columbia School of Journalism even wrote a scathing report about the sheer incompetence of the reporter and editor in this case. CSJ is adamant that the actions in this case range from out-and-out lying to a refusal to follow the basic rules of journalistic integrity. However,  the publisher of RS has already said that noone will be disciplined and noone will be fired.

So here we have adults, whose professional ethics depends upon their own veracity, who violated that oath. They elucidated a lack of moral integrity, thereby holding themselves and their employer up to national and international derision. Yet nothing will happen to them. They will pay no price. They will continue in their jobs. They will continue to write articles.

Now what do we do as parents?

One of the mainstays of parenting is to teach your child not to lie. Yes, lying takes on many different forms and has many different levels; from something rather simple as a child, to teenage hijinks, to adult absolute criminality:

There is the one where a child won't admit that they took an extra cookie.
There is the lie that they didn't surfed the Internet onto forbidden sites.
There is the lie that they were not the bully.
There is the lie that they didn't shoplift.
There is the lie that they did their homework.
There is the lie that they did well on a test.
There is the lie of cheating on a test.
There is the lie of plagiarizing someone else's work (Funny how pundits seem to get away with that one too).
There is the lie that  they let others take an important test for them.
There is the lie that they don't do drugs.
There is the lie that they are not sexually active.
There is the lie of getting paid under the table.
There is the lie of not reporting all your income to the government.
There is the lie of saying the check is in the mail.
There is the lie of betraying your country.
...There are as many lies as there are people.

But the reality is that eventually there is some kind of punishment or consequence for a lie told. In life we should have moral and ethical boundaries. We, as parents, work very hard to try to teach our children that lying, whether you get caught or not, is wrong. And no, it is not simply a moral imperative as outlined by religion.

Lying, not telling the truth, is anathema to a working society. You can't lie your way through life and expect everything to function the way it needs to function for everyone, and everything, to be healthy both physically and mentally. Society in order to get things right, needs to know what is happening around it. Communities needs to know that people can count on one another. Communities function on the goodwill of its citizens. When the citizens feel it is OK to lie or cheat their way through life what you end up with is anarchy. And no, anarchy does not lead to a revamping of society. Anarchy leads to despotism, hatred and oppression. Review the downfall of any civilization from the Ancient World, to the Holy Roman Empire, to the Islamic Caliphate, to the colonialism of the European world, to the actions of fascists in the 20th century and today in the breakdown of numerous nation-states throughout the globe; and you will find that the society predicated on lying to one another in order to survive does not in fact survive. Society degenerates into barbarism. So yes,  for us to be productive, for us to thrive, there are rights and wrongs in this world, if we want to have a healthy functioning society, whether schools agree or not.

And when a journalist, whose importance is so paramount to a functioning democratic society that their right to exist free of intrusion by the government is enshrined within the First Amendment to the US Constitution, does not follow through on facts, and falsely accuses someone of a heinous crime, that is a lie. This isn't a little ooppsiedaisy that they simply didn't go that one more step to find out the truth. Refusing to follow through on facts is an out-and-out boldface lie.

This is a narrative of destruction as witnessed by the outpouring of rightful condemnation, opprobrium and societal shunning that occurred, following the description of such a vile act. Whether the reporter knew and understood what she was unleashing is a question unanswered. However, she could not have been so naive as to think that society would allow such evil to go unnoticed and unpunished. She could not have thought that her skirting the truth, forgetting the facts, and pushing her narrative was more important despite who would get hurt. If she did then her lie was to harm, endanger and destroy the innocent in order to politicize her ideas and beliefs.

What this reporter did in this case was to ignore the truth for the purpose of a narrative. (It is important to note that I am not one to deny the reality of some form of rape culture in the US.) Her view and the editor's view of society trumped the truth. They did not care whom they hurt. They did not care whose life they put in jeopardy. They did not care about the fraternity without a doubt, but in reality they didn't care about the alleged victim either. For refusing to delve into the real facts, even the victim, whether she was attacked in some other form of terrible crime, or is simply a person with an untreated mental health issue, does not get the real help she needs. The journalist here, used this alleged victim for her own selfish purposes, rather then allowing the purpose to write itself.

We, in society, have seen over the years, many journalists push the righteousness of their narrative to the point that they forget that their raisin d'etre is the truth.  When the journalist becomes the narrative then they have lost all perspective and they have lost their truth. Lying to benefit your truth is still a lie. Instead of acknowledging that the facts require reexamining your truth, some decide to rearrange the facts to fit their reality, not vice verse. And that is a lie.

Lies are untenable because they violate the contract we have with one another in society. People do want to know the truth. We may not like the truth, but it is important that we know it. We do not like it colored. We do not like it editorialized. We really don't care what journalists think beyond the facts.

Journalists hold a special place within our society. They used to be highly respected. We knew when they talked they talked from knowing, acknowledging and above all rooting out the truth. That cannot be said anymore about the media, journalists or the mainstream news outlets. It is almost as if journalists are at war with the society that they are supposed to support, educate and ensure. Journalists have little or no regard for the average citizen and have decided that they will shape the world as they see it. This is how a totalitarian news agency behaves, not the descendants of those who inherited a free society.

So journalists have brought this societal condemnation upon themselves. But worse than that is when they receive no consequences for their actions. How are we to teach our children not to lie, not to make up facts to suit their narrative, and not to skirt the real world, when they see adults suffer no consequences for their negative actions? What is society actually teaching our children? How do we ensure that our children will stay on the right path?

We know that we are not our children's only teachers. We may not like it, but that is a fact, and you cannot hide from that fact by homeschooling either. The world at large is  out there and our culture has a grip upon our children that is unprecedented. So how do we teach our off springs that it is not OK to lie simply because you have a good cause?

When MrGS was a freshman in college, he took my credit card and charged money to a charity. He had decided that I had not donated enough money. He decided I was being unkind. He then went into my email and removed the acknowledgment of the amount. He thought that he had skirted being in trouble. He tried to hide what he had done. He did not know about bills and how we paid them at the time. So when I checked my bill on-line I saw an expenditure and asked about it. He did try to weasel his way out of it. But eventually owned up to it. The hubby was furious. MrGS admitted that he did try to hide it and that he didn't know about how a bill worked.

"You didn't know we got bills every month?"
"I hadn't paid attention."
"So you are not only a thief and a liar, "hubby said to him," but you are a stupid thief."

MrGS lost whatever money he had in his savings account. Never received allowance again. Had to work off the amount he still owed us by doing chores in the house. He also never was given a video game, gaming cards or anything that he considered "fun" without having earned it through chores or working again. It is called consequences. He also never lied for any reason, even a good one, again. (Remember that the powers-that-be in the professional-autism-world will tell you that your autistic children are not supposed to lie, or empathize with would be nice if they really spent a week in our shoes wouldn't it?)

However, initially he really didn't understand how what he had done was bad in the long run since he was only giving to charity. He thought that even though he had lied, it atleast was for a good cause so he should have been given a pass. Self-righteously he continued to seek out allies.

"Taking what doesn't belong to you even if you have good intentions is still stealing," his aide told him when he tried to elicit her sympathy at the time. When he lost her, his champion, he knew he was wrong. He subsequently gave up trying to find someone to be on his side.

It is an interesting lesson he learned. His narrative was quashed. He couldn't weasel out of it. He didn't have anyone telling him, "since he had been good for years before, he would not have to pay a price." (Which is the excuse for not dismissing the reporter and editor from Rolling Stone.) He suffered consequences, which exist to this day.

Perhaps Rolling Stone needs to have a parent come down and take ahold of their reality for awhile. It might do them some good, set them on the right path again. Perhaps they also need a journalism guild to remind them just how lucky they are to live in the US and how free they are to report the news..... honestly. Their only obligation is to report the facts as they exist, not create facts to suit their personal agenda.

Sadly I fear,  too many adolescents are watching this Rolling Stone saga and the lack of consequence in the adult world. Children may be expecting the same outcome when they lie, prevaricate or skirt the truth in the future as well, no matter who it hurts. This does not bode well for those who need support and for those who may be the victims of a modern day witch hunt. Moral ambiguity is not good for society. It is basic that truth is better than lies and liars are punished. Well it used to be anyway.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Autism Awareness, Perspective Taking and Freedom-Repost

Repost from 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

OK, so what kind of blog about autism spectrum disorders would this be if every once in awhile I didn’t channel Star Wars, Star Trek, BattleStar Galactica and a few animes and mangas. Truth be told only the anime and mangas are the boy’s obsessions. Everything sci-fi belongs to me and me alone. While collegeman (now Mr.GS) will allow himself to be pulled into a Star Wars movie especially during the lightsabre duels, Highschoolboy (now CM2) will regale you with anomalies, impossibilities and things he generally considers annoying about the entire genre. He is oh so not fun at these times and I end up throwing him out of the room.
But the point of the quote is an important one for this post. This is autism awareness month. Much has been made about neurodiversity, the cruelty of society and the lack of compassion for our children in just these short few weeks. However, I think something even more important may have happened during these days of autism-warrior-parent ire. It is recognition that many of us do have our own perceptions and perspectives and how everything we do colors our every waking moment. Now I am not  letting anyone off the hook for their ignorance about autism or any disability for that matter. What I think it points to is the need to teach, educate and explain to society at large about the issues facing those in the disability community. I think it’s important to see what we can do to minimize misconceptions within our society about invisible disabilities, especially those labeled mental health issues (see, NAMI).
Listen we all come to the party with baggage. That baggage for many of us in the autism community is rather heavy. As the parent of two aspie boys I know what I deal with on a daily basis. But I also know that it is nothing to what so many in our community experience in trying to help their nonverbal, non-toilet trained, non-communicative children. As I have mentioned before I also am a volunteer advocate in my town, so I sit in on a lot of CSE meetings. I have helped people whose children range from mere speech impediments, to clinical depression, suicidal tendencies, anorexia, bi-polar and cancer. I have learned about medical conditions that I never knew existed. I have helped people set up out of district placements and residential placements for their children. I have seen joy when a child is undesignated because they can hold their own, and I have seen anguish when a parent has to admit they are helpless to help their child.  And yet, with everything that I have seen over these past 15 years it doesn’t even cut through the surface of what people face and the strength to which they deal with soul sucking trauma.
I don’t know, does that offend someone when I speak of it that way? How else would you put it? I guess this is my perspective. Sometimes you just feel like your soul is being ripped out and you are fighting with all your might to hold on so tight. Many of my friends have turned very adamantly towards God. They reach out to him and his wonders, asking for his guidance and his care. Others, like me, have turned away from their belief in God’s wonder and just know that he is there in some form whether we are angry at him today or not.  But that is my perspective.
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 (there are always two sides to every reasonable argument),  unless of course, you think that being a bully, misogynistic, homophobic, racist or antisemitic is funny, then you deserve the derision brought upon yourself (even if you are the new host of the Daily ShowThe 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?
The truth is that we must stand up and be counted. We must open our voices and shout. We must make those in power hear us. We must make society acknowledge that our children and we exist. Not until all in society are welcomed by society;   not until all in society are helped by society; not until all in society are loved by society; not until all in society are viewed as part of the company of humankind, will we all truly be free.

Israeli Study Finds No Two Autistic Brains are Alike

The autism community has always  said that if you know one autistic person, you know how one autistic person functions. So now out of Israel's Weizmann Institute comes a new study that proves that thesis. More importantly, the article explains just how that knowledge can be used to help autistic persons in the future.

Difficulty communicating with their environment, engaging in repetitious behavior, and feeling frustration with their surroundings; these are only some of most notable symptoms of autism. However, new research from the Weizmann Institute in Israel may be the first step in explaining how autism really works in the brain, and why so many autistic individuals struggle to communicate with their environment.

By comparing the function of “normal” brains to autistic brains in their resting states, Avital Hahamy and Prof. Rafi Malach were able to show that autistic brains are unique, each in their own right. This may seem like quite an obvious observation, but when Hahamy conducted her study, recently published in “Nature Neuroscience,” it was largely thought that autistic brains could be categorized together when compared with a normal functioning brain. Now it is clear that each and every individual case of autism produces different habits in the brain, explaining the wide-range of social disturbances that autistic individuals experience, and justifying the rather vague name of the condition, autism spectrum disorder.

No two autistic brains are alike

Hahamy was able to come to the conclusion that each autistic brain is unique following her and her colleagues’ research into brain connectivity, and functional brain connectivity in particular. Functional connectivity is a measure of how well activity in different areas of the brain is synchronized. Hahamy sought to examine resting state functional connectivity, or the level of synchronization between activities in different parts of brain while an individual is at rest, in order to find out how an autistic brain differs from a typical brain. This is measured with an fMRI scanner that reads brain activity by analyzing changes in blood flow.

Read the rest HERE at No Camels.


IndieGoGo for the joint LiveCode and Specialisterne Empower Autism Campaign

I received an email this morning about an IndieGoGo campaign by the LiveCode company based out of the UK. They have partnered with the National Autistic Society, Autism Initiatives and Specialisterne to raise funds inorder to create a program especially geared towards those with autism.

Take a look at the campaign below:

Link to the IndieGoGo campaign

For those who want to understand how LiveCode is different watch this video:

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Wishing You and Yours a Joyous Holiday Weekend

This weekend we observe both Passover and Easter. Wishing all who celebrate a joyous weekend.

And my favorite Passover videos:

Note: The NatGeo channel premiered Killing Jesus last Palm Sunday. Fox News will reair the show  this Good Friday.  In the meantime you may be able to stream it on-line HERE.

I did a review of the book HERE.