Friday, June 26, 2015

Should Your Autistic Child Learn a Second Language?

I know, I know this is a ridiculous post.  Or is it? The idea of our children being able to learn two languages simultaneously when they can barely speak one seems counter-intuitive. But considering that science has finally acknowledged that even non-verbal autistics are not only able to understand, but in so many cases are highly intelligent, does lend itself to the idea that not only could our children function, but maybe they could even thrive, in a dual-language environment.

I remember when MrGS was little, he was reading before the age of two. They now have a name for that and they call it hyperlexic. In fact, he was not only hyperlexic, but he understood what he was reading. Something that the first psychologist I engaged when he was three years old refused to acknowledge and chastised me that he wasn't reading, but only mimicking like a "monkey." She completely ignored that he was also writing and drawing his own stories into books. (Yeah, we didn't get along and that was our one and only visit with that dumbass.)

In the meantime having no idea that I was dealing with autism, and having noone to tell me I shouldn't, I decided to introduce him to Hebrew.  I had also received the Hebrew version of Sesame Street as a gift, which I was more than happy to play for him, over and over and over again. So by the time he was four, MrGS could also read Hebrew and sing the Cookie Monster song in Hebrew as well. I suspect that if he lived in a bi-lingual home he would have also spoken that language.





Just as an aside, if you asked MrGS to read Hebrew today he wouldn't even know where to begin. He decided post bar-mitzvah that he was done with all that and focused on other things. (You know the old saying, if you don't use it, you loose it. Well that definitely applies to a non-cradle language.) But his failure to use Hebrew  has more to do with the Holocaust, anger at God and associated religion, and not because he specifically wouldn't read Hebrew anymore. Of course, he tried his hand at Spanish in college, which ironically turned out to be somewhat of a disaster. Happily, the school allowed him to take sign language as his foreign language to complete that requirement in order to graduate.

Yet I wonder, considering the video below, if at some point being able to learn and immerse himself in more than one language at a very young age, helped MrGS in the long run. It's just a thought. Nothing specific. But an idea. Meanwhile, those of you who are looking for something to do over the summer and were wondering what new therapy you might add to your child's daily life, why not try a basic foreign language course.

Of course I wouldn't necessarily try a language with an entirely different alphabet. That is without a doubt a rather unusual thing MrGS was able to do. On the other hand, if you want to give Chinese, Russian, Greek or Arabic a shot, go ahead. Maybe it's part of your culture, so there is a huge connection to the language. Or as Jung postulated, humans have a kind of genetic memory involved in nature and intellect, so learning one of these languages, that is so different than your primary language, will not be as difficult as you may think.

On the other hand, how about a fun program in Spanish or Italian? Spanish is great because they even have children's Spanish language programming on American TV. It might be enjoyable for them to see Sesame Street in Spanish. And since Spanish is spoken widely throughout the US (and yes I know many of you who read my blog do not live in the US) it might not be a bad thing to learn Spanish in order for our children to have something in common with their new neighbors.

Personally I think Italian is fun because all children love pasta. Yes, I know pasta originated in China and was brought back to Italy by Marco Polo. Except now historians are saying that that never happened.(And no I am not being difficult, however, perhaps as usual I am being politically incorrect.) Remember a child should have a tactile connection to learning a new language and  I am not certain many young children would be caught up with the history of the Renaissance, the art and history of Florence, or Rome and the uniqueness of the city of Venice, in order to entice them to learn Italian. So pasta (unless your child has recently visited the Vatican) could be the connector.

Meanwhile watch this interesting video from TED. You never know. We try every therapy they throw at our kids. Maybe something that the vast majority of people do worldwide, could actually help.

From TED





Additional Resources for you to Explore
Amazed by what you have learned about having a bilingual brain? Then, start learning another language now! This website has tons of free lessons, games and quizzes to get you started! Pick one language or even two languages and get that gray matter growing.

Speaking more than one language is like exercise for the brain? Read Radiolab blogger Chris Berube discusses the advantages of speaking multiple languages in his post “Mapping the Bilingual Brain” Want to know some more of the advantages of having a bilingual brain? Visit bilingualism expert Francois Grosjean’s comprehensive website and investigates numerous aspects of multilingualism! Delaying dementia is a possibility? NPR’s New Study Shows Brain Benefits Of Bilingualism and how it may delay the onset of dementia! Brainfacts.org also has more bilingual brain facts for you to check out! Finally, watch Bilingual Brains Are Better!

Love all this brain talk? Go to TED Ed and search BRAIN and start exercising those neurons and glial cells.

Want to learn another language (or two or three or...)? There's an app for that! Duolingo lets your learn dozens of languages for free right on your phone.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Get Free #SummerMeals for Hungry Kids @nokidhungry

If your child has been receiving free meals at school you can get them fed over the summer:

School is out + millions of kids don't have access to meals. @nokidhungry can change that: Text FOOD to 877-877 to find free #SummerMeals




Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fight Song

Take back your narrative...don't let others write your or your child's life story...never give up and never give in...keep going...




Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The forgotten history of autism

Steve Silberman gives a brief history of autism.

Steve Silberman is a writer and contributing editor for Wired who covers science and society. His newest book explores neurodiversity and the link between autism and genius.


Why you should listen

Steve Silberman is a writer and contributing editor for Wired and other national magazines. In 2001, he published "The Geek Syndrome," one of the first articles in the mainstream press to probe the complex relationship between autism and genius. The article was praised by experts in the field like neurologist Oliver Sacks and author Temple Grandin, but as time went on, Silberman was haunted by the biggest question that he had left unanswered: Why have rates of autism diagnosis increased so steeply in the past 30 years?

This question has become particularly pressing in the face of a resurgence of measles, mumps, pertussis and other childhood diseases worldwide due to parental fears of vaccines, despite numerous studies debunking their alleged connection to autism. To solve that medical mystery for his new book, NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity, due out in August 2015, Silberman went back to the first years of autism research, where he uncovered a series of events -- some long forgotten, and others deliberately buried -- that will require the history of autism to be rewritten.

A former teaching assistant for the poet Allen Ginsberg, Silberman has won numerous awards over the years for his science coverage in the New Yorker, Nature and many other national and international magazines.

*****
Decades ago, few pediatricians had heard of autism. In 1975, 1 in 5,000 kids was estimated to have it. Today, 1 in 68 is on the autism spectrum. What caused this steep rise? Steve Silberman points to “a perfect storm of autism awareness” — a pair of doctors with an accepting view, an unexpected pop culture moment and a new clinical test. But to really understand, we have to go back further to an Austrian doctor by the name of Hans Asperger, who published a pioneering paper in 1944. Because it was buried in time, autism has been shrouded in misunderstanding ever since. (This talk was part of a TED2015 session curated by Pop-Up Magazine: popupmagazine.com or @popupmag on Twitter.) 






Millions of parents worldwide still fear — needlessly — that vaccines cause autism. How did this dangerous false myth become so prevalent? As writer Steve Silberman shows during Pop-Up Magazine’s session at TED2015, it’s just another milestone in the decades-old history of misinformation and misunderstanding about autism.

In 1943 child psychologist Leo Kanner wrote about his eleven patients who seemed to inhabit private worlds. By the 1950s he was the world’s leading authority on autism, and he claimed it was incredibly rare, that he had seen fewer than 150 cases worldwide. But Kanner’s definition of autism was incredibly narrow: He classified it as an “infantile psychosis caused by cold and unaffectionate parents” and rejected any diagnoses of people who also had seizures, though we now know it’s common to have epilepsy and autism. He also wrote off special abilities that he saw in children with autism, like a child who could distinguish among eighteen symphonies before he turned two.
“As a result,” says Silberman, “autism became a source of shame and stigma, and two generations were shipped off to institutions ‘for their own good.’”

But in the 1970s, English psychiatrist Lorna Wing decided Kanner’s theories “were bloody stupid.” She dug up a 1944 paper from an Austrian doctor, written in German and buried in the aftermath of the war. The author was Hans Asperger. To Wing and her collaborator Judith Gould, Asperger’s research “made clear that Kanner’s model was way too narrow, that the reality of autism was much more colorful and diverse.” Asperger didn’t blame parents, and he called his patients his “little professors.” Indeed, he viewed autism “as a diverse continuum that spans an astonishing range of giftedness and disability.”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, there was, says Silberman, “a perfect storm of autism awareness.” Wing and Gould began working with the American Psychiatric Association to broaden the criteria for diagnosis of what they called the autism spectrum; Rain Man was released and there was an autistic hero in every movie theater across the country; and at that same moment, the first easy-to-use clinical test for diagnosing autism was introduced.

Today the CDC estimates that one in 68 children in the US are on the autism spectrum, and indeed people on spectrum make up one of the largest minority groups in the world. As Silberman shows, there’s no benefit to the stigma of autism. Silberman quotes autism activist Zosia Zaks: “We need ‘all hands on deck’ – as much diversity as possible – to right the ship of humanity.” After all, says Silberman, “We can’t afford to waste a single brain.”

Positive Thought of the Day

Remember you control our destiny.

You decide how you feel every day.

Don't let anyone make you feel less than fabulous.










Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Survivor of Terror Attack Speaks and Gives Some Amazing Advice

Before anyone asks what does this have to do with autism, let me tell you....its about the direction of your soul. So many of us, who are dealing with issues that we never imagined would occur in our lives, have a choice: We can either be bogged down by anger or we can look for the good in our world. Kay Wilson has a unique way of expressing how she came to choose life. Listen to her story. It brought me to tears. It also filled me with hope.

*****
Kay Wilson has known prolonged and horrendous terror at a depth that most will never know, yet she refuses to let this event destroy her life. Her story is one that will inspire all into discovering what it really means to live life to the full and how against all odds it is possible to find hope in the darkest of places.

Kay Wilson is a British-born Israeli. She is a jazz pianist, cartoonist, a licensed tour guide and a writer whose articles are published in The Tower, Arutz 7 and the Times of Israel. Kay is also the survivor of a horrific machete attack that occurred in December 2010 while guiding her American friend and client, the late Kristine Luken. The two women were attacked and held at knife point and eventually tied up and then brutally stabbed. Kay watched helplessly as her friend was executed. Despite sustaining horrendous injuries herself, she managed to play dead and later escape. After nearly four years of physical rehabilitation and trauma therapy, Kay began working as an inspirational speaker, speaking for non-profits on issues of human rights for global victims of terrorism and campaigning against hate speech on university campuses.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at http://ted.com/tedx




Friday, June 5, 2015

When You Finally Hit that Wall....

So I finally hit a wall. Not literally of course, but emotionally. I think it's the combination of issues that I have had to deal with lately. Mom dieing because of a car accident, at the same time trying to get the boys transitioned into the next phase of life, coming all at once, has finally taken its toll on me. I guess I was wondering when it was going to happen...the ennui.

Well not so much ennui, as the inability to move one more step forward without taking a moment to sit and process everything. I suppose I haven't really done that...think about the last few weeks and what has happened in my life. It has only been 6 weeks since mom's accident and even less since she passed. So much had to get done and organized that I didn't take time to process my new reality of being an orphan. Think about that. No matter how old you are, once both your parents are gone, you.are.an.orphan. Someone asked how I could do all that was needed at the time, and I thought to myself, I could do it because I am a grownup and it needed to get done. Besides, if I didn't do it who would?

Hubby made a salient a point on that topic. He said mom knew what she was doing when she made me executor. She knew I could handle whatever life threw at me so she put me in charge. Well maybe that was it and maybe it was simply because I was her oldest and a lawyer (even though I never really practiced, it was mom's pride and joy that I was a member of the Bar). But in some way being able to raise autistic children and handle the reality of those issues does in a way prepare you for the unexpected.

I learned several decades ago that life does have a way of kicking you in the teeth when you least expect it. Knowing how to pick yourself up and dust yourself off is not only a learned behavior, but I think an ingrained talent. Being able to meet the challenges head-on is the first step in having a successful life. Not allowing trauma to overwhelm you and to forestall what you want out of life. An acquaintance mentioned to me how when faced with issues alot of people simply can't do it. They become overwhelmed by the reality and cannot move forward. Perhaps some people are not made to deal with the curveballs of life, or they were never challenged and when it finally happens, for negative and potentially emotionally destructive things always happen to everyone in life, they don't know what to do. So did my life's experiences prepare me for this moment? Not sure when I learned to "Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war....."

In truth, I think it has less to do with being an autism-warrior-parent and more to do with the ability to survive. Yes I say its part of the survival instinct. Figuring out what needs to be done and then doing it. When MrGS (I do need a new moniker for him now that he has graduated with his masters degree) was first diagnosed there was no wallowing. I was so grateful to have a name for what was going on with my child along with the beginnings of a plan. It was the years before that were the painful reality of not knowing why and not knowing what needed to be done. That was the heartache. Now came the relief. It was such a relief that nothing would hold me back anymore. We moved and reorganized in a month and MrGS was on his way to a better future and the help he needed.

Of course I was never faced with the ultimate soul wrenching issue, that many I have met over the years have dealt with....while I had to make the life or death decision for my mother, as I partially had to do for my father almost three year earlier, too many I have met have had to make such a decision for their child....even an adult child. That type of strength is unimaginable and I pray to God in heaven that I will never have to pull on those kind of reserves. My condolences go out to all those who live with this evil everyday.

Meanwhile, yesterday I just stopped. Really just stopped. Sat on my porch, streamed Netflix and did nothing. Well I worked out and did some laundry, even sent a fax, but didn't get dressed and didn't leave the house. I found this fun murder mystery series from the BBC called Midsomer Murders. It's a hoot to watch because it was made before the advent of cell phones and the use of modern scientific evidence like advanced DNA. Something of a time capsule  so to speak, time traveling backwards into another dimension, an alternative reality. To describe the show to Americans, it's Columbo for the British. Of course, you then have to be old enough to remember Peter Falk and Columbo, but that is another issue for another day. And yes it becomes rather predictable after a few episodes, but it is a genteel show and I am enjoying myself immensely.

In addition, I did nothing more when it came to mom's estate even though I had to tie up some loose ends. I decided it could all wait one more day. Honestly, if all goes as planned the financial and legal aspects may be coming to an end by the end of the month. There wasn't much to do in retrospect when she passed. It just felt like alot at the time. Mom didn't have much other than the house and a few CDs. I suppose what she had, which was worth more than anything else, was the love of her children. That will never change.

So as I sit here, with my tuchas on the porch couch, thinking about the reality of being an orphan. I think how it feels so different than when my father died. Then I did what I could to make certain mom was OK. I suppose I had someone to think about besides myself.

But now, when I sit quiet, I feel alone. Not alone in the sense that I have noone. I have a loving husband, and children that tolerate me to the best of their ability. But it is a strange feeling. Something is missing. A sense of security that I will never get back. That even though mom was aging and would need more care as the years passed, she was within earshot. There was a security in knowing that she was here. The chats and laughter and a person to complain to over the simplest things is now gone. The person I counted on from the time I was born is gone. And no, she didn't do more for the boys than listen to me or talk to them, she wasn't able to and didn't have the knowledge, but at times that is all you really need.

I remember very recently I was telling her how frightened I was about the growth of antisemitism in the world and how I worried for the boys' future. Her response to me was, "If you move to Jerusalem, you have to take me with you." I hadn't even talked about leaving the US. Hadn't even thought beyond the fact that I was frightened at that very moment. But of course, she knew that where I would go  would be Jerusalem, Israel. Only because if you were going to give up your cosmic luck of being born an American, the only place to go would be to your ancestral capital city. The one your immortal soul prayed to return to every day for over two thousand years. In the end, mom was quite adamant. Wherever I was going to live, she made certain she let me know that she was going with me (us). The following week she finally agreed to sell her house and move in with us.

Life as it will be for the rest of my life, hit me very hard yesterday. While I will always be my parent's daughter, I am no longer someone's child. I am the apex. There is noone but hubby and me to protect those that we love. Noone else to stand and fight. I am the lineman. I am the last line of defense. I am the shield wall. From here on in, its just hubby and me against the world, trying to figure out a way to protect the boys' future.

And yes I am scared....really scared....

All the more reason to get off the porch and do what has to be done....

CM2 needs to apply to grad school and MrGS needs to find a job.

The grad school application is almost done except for the essay. He is having real issues trying to get that started. It is never easy for an aspergean to talk about themselves, especially in the abstract. He is frustrated and cranky and hiding in his video games. It will get done....eventually. Luckily the deadline for the fall semester  is still a few months away. And yes, once he is accepted he will be MrGS2, but not yet. Don't want to jinx his luck.

By the way don't let anyone tell you it's a good job market out there. MrGS has a master of science degree in computer science with an A average and he has had all of 2 interviews; one in person and one on the phone after sending out hundreds of resumes. We need to figure out a new game-plan for him. Broaden his search and his horizons. And yes, I think he is done with school and needs to go out into the adult world. While we had thought that at one point he would go for a PhD, not certain about that now. More importantly, not certain it would help him get a job even. He would simply be an extremely bright person with a doctorate and no job. But in the meantime, he is taking some on-line courses to gain more certifications in different programming languages and computer concepts.

Annoyingly, the career services lady keeps harping on his aspergers as a impediment. But I keep trying to tell her that it never even gets to that point where he would make a social mistake in an interview. He isn't getting interviews based upon his resume, even with two published scientific papers. But she keeps sending him to job boards for persons with disabilities. And yes while dealing with companies that post on disability job sites, may make the people more understanding of any social glitch in his interview, he is much more than his aspergers. But the career services office is refusing to see that, or deal with it. They are stuck in this mindset and it is not good for MrGS at all. Personally I think they are simply at a loss and have no idea what to do for him. It also seems MrGS isn't the only one in this boat, as some of the professors have let on. (On another note: you should see the thousands of applicants at all the tech job fairs...MrGS is competing with so many who are out of work and so many with years of experience looking for any kind of job.)

And me, what am I going to do with my parent coaching business? I need to revamp that as well. Rethink my approach, my mission and how I want to present myself, too.  I want to educate those around me about how to help their autistic child, as well as teach the providers how to be supportive. Maybe a more educational approach is needed, rather than per individual. My slide presentation is well done (so I am told). My accompanying articles are very informative. Now I think I just need a different marketing approach. All in good time ...all in good time.

So here we are...and there I must go.....ready-set-scared-yet-knowing-that-it's-time-to-fight-on....

Finally, let me leave you with this poem...it is attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson, even though some take umbrage at that. Mom had it framed, put up on her kitchen wall, so we would have an understanding of true success throughout our lives....

To laugh often and love much; 
to win the respect of intelligent persons and the affection of children; 
to earn the approbation of honest citizens and endure the betrayal of false friends; 
to appreciate beauty; 
to find the best in others; 
to give of one’s self; 
to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; 
to have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation; 
to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived—this is to have succeeded.