Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tinge the Anger with Compassion

My latest at Times of Israel
Yes we are all angry. Angry that our babies were subject to such frightening events as bomb scares. It infuriated us as parents that some person out there in the world knew that the way to terrorize parents is to terrorize their children. It’s why terrorists target the innocent, the young, the civilian, the person least able to defend themselves.
So now that we know who at least is the culprit when it comes to the majority of the JCC bomb threats we vent. We vent our anger. We vent our care. We demand justice for our offspring. We want this person punished.
What’s more we are aghast that the perpetrator was himself a Jew. Now, it’s not that we haven’t experienced  modern Jewish antisemites before in our history. It’s not that we don’t deal with Jewish antisemites who celebrate terrorists, think JVP conference in Chicago; think those Jewish Leftists who hold the Palestinians to no level of human decency, excusing murderous rampages as expressions of culture or the nonsensical claim of “fighting colonial oppression”  (we can discuss the soft racism of low expectations in another post on another day); think the “As a Jew” Jew who has left the Jewish community except to chastise Israel for defending herself, or who blames the rise of antisemitism on the Jewish State.
Somehow we deal with these Jewish antisemites with logic, with thought out rebuttals, and with the contempt they deserve. But what we don’t hear is the level of vitriol that is being thrown at the youngman from Ashkelon. The question you need to ask yourself is why. Why does the community save their most virulent expression of disgusts for someone who is obviously suffering from some sort of mental illness, and not for those who seek to destroy the Jewish people and are most certainly in their sane mind?
Now, listen, I am not excusing what this 19 year old did. He knew it was wrong. Legal insanity is not medical insanity. You can be completely mentally ill but legally accountable. To be held legally insane is to not know that what you are doing is wrong. To be legally insane the person cannot “know the difference between a tree and a person.”  Hence, if they ever knew it was a human being, no matter how ill they are, they are legally sane.
So this youngman, knew what he was doing was wrong. He knew that he was creating terror. It gave him a sense of power, and importance (or so we think). But it does not mean he is not mentally ill. Whether he has a nonmalignant inoperable brain tumor that is the cause of his mental illness is not really the issue. There is no question, that he was unfit for service in the IDF because of his mental state. And for the IDF, which even has programs to induct persons with all kinds of mental health issues, this youngman’s problems seemed to be severe.
So why the extreme hate? What ever happened to compassion in the Jewish world? We talk incessantly about rehabilitation, and the need for prison reform in the US, why does none of this apply to the JCC hoax bomber?
This does not mean that the perpetrator doesn’t go to some sort of institution. It most definitely doesn’t mean he goes free, without any recourse. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t pay for his crimes. But what that payment will look like is very important. The issue is whether the system can help him or not.
Is he a threat to the community as a whole? Is he threat to himself and others? What can be done to mitigate the possibility that he will ever do this again, or mitigate the possibility that he will spiral to an even more dangerous place? These are important questions that need to be answered, and these answers and how society deals with them will say more about us as a people, then it will ever say about this 19 year old.
Now let me say one thing as the parent of two young men with high functioning autism, and as a special needs advocate. I hold his parents completely responsible for what has happened in this situation. He lived in their house. They knew what he was doing, which was why the father was arrested and the mother has disappeared. They are responsible for his care, even though he is technically an adult. So yes, knowing he was perpetrating these hoaxes, if they did not want to call the police (and very few parents would turn in their own children), at least try to get him the medical help he needed. You do not cover up something so harmful. If you did not care about the psychological harm he was doing to young children, at least you are required to care about your own child. So yes, by letting him do what he was doing, they are accomplices in the worst kind of way. They basically abandoned their own child to the vagaries of his own mind.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Finding a Moral Compass in Challenging Times

This blog discusses parenting on many different levels. In that respect, here is a terrific discussion about our way of life and how society functions between New York Times columnist David Brooks and former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks of the United Kingdom.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

In Celebration of Spring-Let's Dance

Spring is about renewal, and that includes your soul. Nothing says  rebirth like dancing....have fun and let your feet move to the beat....

Saturday, March 18, 2017

How we treat animals says plenty about who we are

My latest blog for the Times of Israel
I confess, I yelled at a stranger today for the way she was treating her dog. No tags to know to whom and where the canine belonged. Tied up on a bench in the snow and rain, while the owner went into a store to get a cup of hot cocoa. The poor animal was shivering.
We are admonished in Torah to remember to care and feed our animals before we take care of ourselves. We are required to care for the most vulnerable among us. We are required to respect them, to cherish them, to honor their sacrifices. You cannot truly follow Jewish beliefs if you mistreat an animal in anyway. Perhaps because that teaching is so ingrained among the Jewish people is the reason why Israel has the highest number of vegetarians and vegans in the world. Perhaps that is why Tel Aviv is the most dog friendly city in the world as well. I don’t know.
But one thing I do know is that how we treat the most defenseless beings in our society says everything about who we are as a people. And there is nothing more dependent and vulnerable in our world than our children and our animals. People who are thoughtless towards those who are the weakest among us should always bring out society’s wrath and derision.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Understanding that Idiosyncrasies Don't Just Go Away in Adulthood

The boys had a very successful outing on Sunday. We had found a new social program for them that geared itself to adults on the spectrum. They did not want to participate in the same group so they went in independently. While Mr.GS2 had issues trying to get someone to play a particular board game he enjoyed he did say he wanted to give the group another try. Mr. GS1 apparently did interact quite well in his comic book discussion group, but he became overwhelmed by the newness of situation, and left early. He said he would go again next month too.

I think a major point that needs to be taken from here is that whatever issue your child may have had as a teen, or even younger will follow them into adulthood. They may have had untold number of social skills classes or supports, but when faced with a new situation, the entire event may cause extreme anxiety. So just try to remember that even as adults they may be confused by:
A new group of people that they don't know.
A new place with which they are unfamiliar.
An unstructured environment, which may be their nadir to begin with.
Noises and smells that they are not used to can also interfere with their new situation.

And yes we had taken them a few weeks before to meet the social workers who run the group. And we had taken them before to see where the meetings will take place. And no, they did not get to meet any of the other participants before the program began.

In truth group dynamics are hard for them. The fact that they were even willing to try is a great victory for them. The fact that they are willing to go back is an even bigger victory.

Meanwhile, Mr.GS1 is doing well at work. He is used to the social conventions at his office, and is quite animated when asked to discuss issues in meetings among his colleagues in the office. He needs support less and less. He wanted to cut back on the aide at lunchtime, with the caveat that he calls if he feels out of sorts at any time. So far, so good.

Mr. GS2 is doing well with his group work in his latest class. Yes the aide supports him, but at this point it's more like moral support. (Honestly, the aide even helps the group when they get stuck on issues or problems. It helps everyone having an aide with degrees in education.) Moreover, MrGS2 is so happy that he is proving himself more capable every day. He truly wants to be independent in life and he seems to be working on that all the time.

As I have mentioned before, even if they are not equal to their peers at the moment when it comes to social activities or even independence, it definitely seems that they are moving forward in these areas. A year ago, neither one would have even wanted to join a social program, never mind go back after being overwhelmed by the new experience.

Growth is a really good thing. Never give up, even if they seem stuck in a rut for a really long time.

Like the tortoise in the story. Slow and steady wins the race.

In situations like this I like to remember a great article I read by an autistic advocate that spelled out why she hated the words "high and low functioning autism". There are simply times that she is high functioning, and times that she is low functioning. It doesn't take away from accomplishments, and it doesn't mean that you and yours won't need some kind of social help and support even if they have masters degrees and wonderful jobs. Please always keep this in mind when thinking about what your child may, or may not need during every step of their development.

More Problems with Functioning Labels

Why This "High-Functioning" Autistic Really Wishes You'd Shut Up About Functioning Autistics

Decoding the High Functioning Label

Watch this video by an autistic advocate. She explains the issue really well.