Monday, November 28, 2016

Rogue One, the Simplicity of Right versus Wrong; Don't forget #GivingTuesday

There is something simple about stories where you can tell the good side from the bad. You know who the enemy is and you know that they need to be defeated.

Too much in today's world is gray.

Why anyone would send out condolences for Castro, one of the worst human rights abusers of the 20th century, shows that there are moral and ethical fibers missing among some people today.

Western governments do nothing to help those trapped in Aleppo, after almost 500,000 have been killed and millions displaced during the Syrian war. They let the mass slaughter by Russia, Iran and Assad go unabated, and unchecked, with merely an 140 count tweet to admonish the genocide.

Meanwhile, the United Nations seats Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and other third world tyrannies on the Human Rights Council. Allowing the worst of humanity to oversee themselves.

So thank the stars above, for Hollywood. At least we can fictionalize our feelings. It allows us to hope that somewhere in the universe, there are leaders that can actually lead.

In truth most of us do know right from wrong, good from bad, and righteousness from evil. But we are at a loss on how to implement these tenets on a global scale.

But we still can give something for those less fortunate....

On Giving Tuesday you can help the Syrian refugees HERE

And on Giving Tuesday of course REMEMBER the needy closer to home.

Don't forget that there are millions who live with food insecurity in the USA....Food Banks, Donors Choose (to help teachers with projects), Shelters for battered women, ASPCA, autism organizations that actually help autistics, cancer/AIDS/medical charities...the list is endless, because need in our world is never ending.

Use Charity Navigator to make certain a charity is worth your dollars.

So in an era of political uncertainty and upheaval, I enjoy knowing that "Long Ago in a Galaxy Far Far Away" someone knew right from wrong....

And yes even though I am the only Star Wars fanatic in the family, all the mens in the house consented to go with me.... Can't wait.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Book Review: Exploring Depression and Beating the Blues by Tony Attwood and Michelle Garnett

Twenty years ago when I was trying to understand my son's autism diagnosis one of the first places I turned was to the books written by Tony Attwood. He had a clear, concise and useable approach to the now DSM defunct term "Aspergers syndrome." This latest book, Exploring Depression and beating the Blues adds to that library of knowledge and support. The authors formulate a new avenue of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, or CBT, geared towards those on the spectrum.

One aspect of autism is the reality of depression. Attwood explains it is not the inherent nature of autism to be depressed, but it is the challenges that autistic people face that leads to the depression. Hence, to help yourself and those you love, it is not simply about understanding autism, but understanding how autism, affects your day-to-day that will help any autistic figure out how to "beat the blues."

Persons with autism*, have unique challenges. It is because of these challenges and  the intense emotions they engender that depression may set in. Interestingly one of the issues listed by the authors that could cause depression is being sensitive to others. It is a longstanding myth that autistics do not care about other people and cannot identify other's hurt. In fact, one of the most challenging issues we personally have faced is how to help our sons navigate the world of cruelty, whether it is person to person, or human to the world. In truth, the saddest part of the recent election for MrGS2, is not how the President-elect talked about those with autism, but the hate engendered towards other groups be concerning gender identity, race, ethnicity, or religion. He is frightened for everyone else with no thought of himself. (See Here)

Now in understanding why an autistic person may be depressed,  the authors outline a program of identifying symptoms and how to evaluate what is going on. There are self awareness exercises to help the individual understand how they are acting and how they are not living up to their happiness potential. This is termed the "Energy Accounting."

Along with understanding the person's energy output, there is also an awareness exercise for the person to understand their "Discovery Criteria." This exercise is used to figure out the positive aspects and the gifts specific to each individual. Harnessing what you are good at will inevitably lead to a more fulfilling and positive life.

Once you have figured out what is making you sad, how it is manifesting itself in your daily life along with acknowledging the terrific things about yourself, then the program to help beat depression begins. The authors take you slowly, step-by-step through an actualized, helpful program. This next adjunct is aptly named  Tools to Combat Depression.

Here the authors direct their ideas to specific activities and how these activities should manifest in your daily life. They help you create a plan of action and explain what, why, and how their program can be implemented. You are given charts, exercises, and goals in order to accomplish each and every level:

Selfawareness Tools (Acknowledge the positive aspects of Aspergers syndrome)
Art and Pleasure Tools
Physical Activity Tools
Thinking Tools
Social Tools
Emotional Repair Toolbox
Positive Thought and Relaxation Exercises

Throughout the book, the authors teach the individual how to set up a scheduled program to help themselves. They are taught about organization, charting and the art of self-monitoring. But remember, none of this is necessarily easy. In fact, what is suggested here may be very challenging for some. Yet in the end it is rewarding. The individual is given permission to enjoy the world around them and to be happy.

But there is also an important reminder. The authors, help the individual set up an emergency plan. Nothing is perfect, and it is reasonable to assume that at some time in the future, depression may set in again, and a plan on what needs to be done to help yourself at that time is essential. They do not skip the reality, that for some depression also means self-harm. This can be anything from negative thoughts, to actual physically momentarily hurting yourself, or thoughts of suicide. It is important that a plan be in place so that there is a strategic way to access the medical help you will need. This is nothing to be nervous about. It is an essential part of repairing yourself as you look forward to, and plan a happy future.

As the parent of two youngmen on the autism spectrum, I would recommend this book to any autistic individual who is trying to understand themselves, or the parents of any autistic child. It will help you watch for and monitor signs of depression, and give you a good handle on how to help yourself or those you love.

NOTE: One caveat and it is important. If you or anyone you love is suffering from depression, this book is a good place to start. The program outlined is very useful. But please work with a medical professional too. As the authors mention, therapy (CBT), support and  medication are tools to be used in getting well.

You can buy the book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble or directly from the publisher JKP 
(I receive no compensation no matter where you buy the book, and was given a copy of the book to review.)

*You will notice that I vacillate between using the terms "autistic person" and"person with autism." This is simple. I use the former reference because that is the term I am told that most professional autistic advocates prefer. I use the latter term, because that is the term my sons with autism prefer. My sons prefer person first language, and since they are my guide through the "land of autism," I take their lead.

Friday, November 11, 2016


 Leonard Cohen... BDE (baruch dayan emet)*.

Leonard Cohen biography

Cohen with Israeli solders during the 1973 Yom Kippur War. 

*BDE is the Hebrew equivalent of RIP.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Fear and Loathing after the USA Election

So we are not a happy family. We did not vote for Trump. We felt that he was not only terribly ill equipped for the position of President, but that his disdain for the disabled, for women, for minorities, his teams blind-eye to the mainstreaming of antisemitism lead us to favor Clinton. And no, we did not think that she was some kind of angel. As hubby would ask," after she is elected and then put in jail, did we think Tim Kaine would be a good president?"

But there is being unhappy, which is a  rather typical feeling, and the true feeling of despondency that Mr. GS2 feels right now. His older brother is also upset, but my 23 year old is completely besides himself. He is depressed. He is angry. He has so many emotions right now that he can't even keep track of them, never mind how to process his feelings at the moment. To paraphrase a well worn bon mot: "Little child with aspergers, little issues. Big child (adult child) with aspergers, bigger issues."

I know many people in our community feel the same way. Heck, half the country feels the same way. But of course, when you are dealing with someone who has aspergers, OCD and anxiety you need to approach situations differently and with care. So what have we decided to do in order to help Mr. GS2?

We are trying to make him feel secure. We want him to understand that he is still loved and cared for. That we will not let anything happen to him. But his biggest concern is not even himself, but for everyone else in the country who doesn't have his support system.

Moreover, my son asked me yesterday if he had to carry some kind of protection now since the antisemites' candidate had won the presidency. Was it even safe for him to walk down the street? I explained to him that where we live he is perfectly fine. That our area went for Clinton, and besides there are as many Jews who live here as live in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem combined. That did help him for awhile. Then a new issue arose.

What really started to bother him was the fact that the GOP was going to gut Obamacare. Now I don't think that everything in the ACA is terrific. In fact, much of it stinks. But the fact that the boys can stay on our insurance until they are 26, plus that they can't be denied, or I can't be denied, health insurance because of preexisting causes is wonderful. Furthermore, that there are people who need health care and that they can get subsidies I think is also a good thing. (I never have problems with the taxes I pay going to help my fellow Americans. And I am proud actually that I can help others. It's when Congress throws my money away on crap that I get annoyed.) But the cost of the ACA is horrible. It is anything but affordable. The deductibles are ridiculous. Healthcare needs to be affordable. Really affordable, not as a ploy, but as a means for people to live their lives well.

The truth is that there is a lot of fear right now in the disability community about what a Trump presidency and a GOP controlled Congress will mean for them as far as their healthcare, their medicare, and above all disability rights. When you have a President-elect that buys into the debunked conspiracy theory that vaccines cause autism, the idea that disability advocacy and autism support will be pushed back decades is a real concern.

What we try to tell our sons is that this is why our Constitution is important. The first amendment of the Bill of Rights talks about the right to petition your government, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of the press. Simply because one party wins an election  doesn't mean you shut up about what is important to you. You join together and lobby. You protest. You write letters. You let those in power know that you will not go gently into that good night.

But most of all you try to stop feeling sorry for yourself. Your side lost. It happens. But it doesn't mean you give up. It simply means you work harder so that next time, the issues that are important to you can win the day.

But at the end of the day when your very sensitive youngman is sitting and crying, you hand them a glass of chocolate milk and make their favorite dinner as you strategize a way forward. They may be resistant. They may continue to cry and be frightened. But you do as you have always done as their parent. Talk to them. Be there for them. Let them know that one election does not a country make, and that the greatness of the US of A, is that no, you never have to be quiet....ever. No matter who wins.


By the way The Wall Street Journal has written an incisive article trying to calm everyone down about Obamacare. Their take is that it will not be a gutting, but a slow fix. That no politician is going to want to be the one who takes away someone's healthcare and then that person gets sick or dies because of what they did.  Hubby said the same thing this morning. I only hope that they are both right. HERE.

A list from the Friendship Circle ....Join National Advocacy Groups

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Mom-Shaming: seriously society, please grow up already

So you think that the only ones in need of self-esteem trophies are the little children on the soccer field? Think again. For some unknown reason, members of society have taken it upon themselves, to validate their own style of parenting, by berating other parents, especially moms.

By the way, it's not new.

Apparently, if the nonsense I have seen on the internet is any indication, we have been hit by an epidemic of mom-shaming. That is where complete strangers go up to a mom, whether she is breast feeding, bottle feeding, teaching her child manners or trying to get them locked in their car seat and threaten them, attack them, and basically call them out as bad parents. There are now videos up that decry how we treat one another as moms. You know what. Who cares what someone else thinks about how you parent?

Perhaps its all the years as an autism parent, that I basically couldn't care less what someone else decides about my parenting style. Now that doesn't mean I didn't seek out advice. I have asked for help along the way from professionals, therapists, doctors, teachers, in order to help the boys grow and develop properly. We have always put our heads together to come up with a plan that will enable them as much as any peer. So no, I never did anything in a vacuum, and always, always tried my very best to help the boys the best way we could. And yes, there are still the nasties who think they can have input, but they are ignored and relegated into the trashbin of humanity where they belong.

But I do remember when my youngmen were little, newborn and very young, when complete strangers took it upon themselves to attack me for my parenting choices. I remember at times, that it did cause me angst and anxiety. New mothers are very fragile when it comes to their children. Not because they don't love them, but because they do....

Some examples of my own personal mom-shaming episodes:

I was walking along the streets of Manhattan with my newborn, and some older ladies stopped us and wanted to look at him. They began asking me all kinds of invasive questions and then decided to chastise me for not breastfeeding. Well my mom was there with me and she did take exception to their input. I don't think they expected the pushback they received. You could see it in their faces. What gives some stranger the right to tell you how to use your body and what would be best for your child? I didn't live in the middle of a desert island. I lived in the middle of one of the largest cities in the US, with access to some of the best pediatric advice available in the world. Meanwhile, I understand mothers today are even still attacked for bottle feeding, or for even breast feeding in public.

I had a man scream at me from a car in the middle of Manhattan because of how I was walking with a stroller, telling me I have no right to be a mother. I wasn't up on the sidewalk and he felt it was his butinsky duty to correct me. As if I would endanger my child. I would hate to have been related to that horribly nasty abusive man.

There was a sales person in Bloomingdales making fun of me using a child-lead for my toddler son, asking me if he was a boy or a dog. I replied, he was a very well protected child...she of course walked away quickly....

I had an old man in the post office call the boys "brats," because I was letting them run around like children and have fun while we waited in line for our turn. That's right, in a small enclosed place, two small boys didn't have the patience to wait without playing tag, so some creep thought it was his right to attack two children that he didn't know. Well I told that nasty old-man off. Mr. GS1, at the time, 6 years old, told me I did a good job. The sad thing, was that not one person told him to be quiet. In fact all the other people in the post office were old women. Probably deciding he was right, or simply not caring that this old man was being a shit. By the way, the boys never came near him or anyone else. Their crime was laughing and having fun.

What is it about people that they think they know what is best for your life, your child, and the choices you have to make? What insecurity is in them that they so badly need to tell others what to do? Are they so weak willed about their own choices, that if everyone doesn't follow their regime, it means they are doing something wrong?

It is bad enough when you have family members, or their friends, decide what you should or should not do when it comes to your child. They at least may actually care about your existence and your child's future. I would of course argue, that they too need to keep their mouths shut and listen and learn about what is happening and their place in your family. But that is just me.

But strangers! Complete strangers, with no connection to your life whatsoever, coming up to you and telling you what to do?

Listen, the government has laws that protects children from abuse, neglect and harm. If you think a child's life is in danger, get the help that is needed. But if something being done does not fall within these categories, then people need to mind their own business. Whether you are in Bloomingdales, a postoffice, or walking down the street in any city, you are allowed to make choices for your child without anyone else's input.

People simply need to keep their mouths shut.

But funnily enough, you never hear anyone chastising dads or grandparents. It's usually only moms. I wonder why that is? Actually I don't wonder, I already know. Yes its misogyny. And yes I went there. I don't usually blame issues on some social justice claptrap, but I can't figure it out any other way. No one has ever chastised the hubby for his choices when it came to the boys. When we walked around Manhattan with the boys in strollers, no one from a car screamed at him that he was a bad father. And no one in our little town ever called the boys names or challenged hubby on any level when he was parenting, and no it's not that they were better behaved with him.

What is it that makes people think they can denigrate moms? What is it that makes people think they can tell a mom how to use her body-aka, breast feeding? Yet it's ok that father's never get a chance to hold their child during bottle feedings? Putting all the responsibility only on mother-child bonding....what about the dad and his role in raising a newborn? What is it that makes people think they can look down on the choices a mother makes, yet celebrate simply if a dad changes a diaper?

This may be an old topic. At least it is for me. My sons are grown men. But I think it has something to do with how we still see women's roles in society and who we expect them to be. It is also something, when as a new mother, or a mother of a newly diagnosed child, when people attack you as if you do not love or care for your child. There is that feeling that you never forget. It is visceral. (Hubby says my memory is not always a good thing. Perhaps when I can't let go of issues from decades ago he may have a point.)

Here you are holding, loving, caring for probably the only people in the world, for whom you would lay down your life, and some asshole stranger thinks they can tell you what to do when it comes to them as if they love your child more than you ever could.  I think we need to begin to laugh at these know-it-alls. Put them in their place. Give them one resoundingly simple statement:

"Mind your own damn business." Then send these losers on their way.