Friday, November 21, 2014

Happy 21 Years

CM2 won't let me sing him "Happy Birthday." So in honor of his 21st year I am posting this Beatles homage (below) to my  "birthday boy."

Well we started the festivities last night. We began with the birthday cake. Kelly-green icing. His favorite color since he was a very little boy. Years ago we started this tradition since hubby always worked close to 18 hour days (the life of a lawyer), never thought it was fair to have the boys wait until almost 9 pm on their birthday to have their cake. Wanted us to all be together for the celebration. So we did the birthday cake part of the day the night before (and presents too when they didn't order their own). Of course, being Jewish it's not hard to segway into that idea. Every Jewish holiday starts the night before.

Tonight is part deux of the celebration. We will have Chinese food for dinner. Since he is particular about his presents, I let him go onto Amazon and order what he wants (games of course). The best part is that he has Amazon wrap them in birthday paper for him. It's a birthday present afterall .....He also timed it so they arrive on his day. BTW- he is also the only 21 year old that I know of who doesn't want to have an alcoholic drink to celebrate his 21st birthday. He wants his usual....chocolate milk. Gotta love this "officially an adult, for every purpose" youngman.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Hallelujah...and hope

I like to enjoy the holidays at this time of year. So every year  I make a point to post music videos for both Hanukkah and Christmas. I happened across this video today and thought what a great way to begin this upcoming  season. Despite the terrible recent events, these children do give you hope.

A youth choir composed of Jewish, Christian and Muslim children from various local schools, aged 10-14, welcomed Pope Francis during His historical visit to Israel at a reception held by President Shimon Peres at the President's Residence in Jerusalem.
The choir presented a moving interpretation of "Hallelujah" in different variations.

h/t jspacenews

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Death and Dieing: Upon Losing a Pet

Our wheaton terrier died last week. It was not unexpected. He was old and sick for a long time, but seemed to enjoy life until recently. Two weeks ago he had an episode. We think he had what would be the equivalent of a stroke. Hubby found him in the morning. We immediately helped him. Bathed him. Took him to the vet. But he was never the same. It was time.

CM2 had texted me a few weeks earlier that he started to cry on the bus gong to school because he knew that the wheaton was getting old and would die soon. I told him that it was gong to be alright. That at the time the dog was happy. He would still look out from the fence, survey his neighborhood and bark at detractors.

Hubby told CM2 the sad news of what happened on the fateful day of the wheaton's passing. He told him quietly when he came home from school. There was no meltdown. No anger. Nothing that passed for normal CM2 behavior when confronted with a reality he doesn't like. In truth, CM2 had seen this coming. Honestly I had also been hinting at the reality since we realized things were at an end. So CM2 was subconsciously prepped in a way. In fact during one of our offhanded discussions CM2 mentioned to me that since he had to take care of the wheaton over the summer, while my ankle was broken, he was the first one who identified that the time was coming. So we thought OK, maybe he will handle this a little better than we had surmised.

Yeah, not so much...

Yesterday when I picked him up from school, the para informed me that despite the positive texts from the day, CM2 had refused to do the work required for a class. It was a class he enjoyed and is doing well in. So I knew that there had to be an underlying reason. (And yes I had prepared the para to watch out for CM2 for this week and the weeks to come for a delayed reaction.)

CM2 said he just felt really anxious. That his anxiety had ratcheted itself up and that he felt overwhelmed. That the assignment for the class was too much for him. He was suppose to try to write in another person's voice, which in and of itself is hard to begin with. CM2 may not even have understood why he felt the way he did. He has had an amazing semester. He likes his classes and is excelling in them all. So the idea that he wouldn't even try this assignment, and do the best he can, was not how things were shaking out these past months.

There is no question that it is all related to the passing of the wheaton. Life gives anyone alot to handle. When there are the little everyday things to think about, and that you are used to, it is no problem to handle some minor out-of-the-ordinary-happening and go on with your daily routine. You march on. But when you are thrown that curveball (as MrGS likes to call it) it takes you out of your comfort zone and honestly manifests itself in many different ways. For CM2, it was feeling overwhelmed by an assignment that would merely have taken a little bit more energy, but his psychic energy was already working on processing the loss of his beloved pet. So there was nothing in reserve at that moment to give to anything that caused the slightest consternation.

Luckily the professor understood. There was no discussion of the dog or how CM2 was manifesting the loss. It was more a discussion of the anxiety the assignment caused. Not to worry...the professor told him, do what he can.  The professor mentioned that CM2 was doing well in the class so this one little hiccup would not hurt him.

I know I will have hubby try to get CM2 to complete the assignment, only because you need to learn to persevere in life. How that will work out, I am not certain, but we have to try to teach him that very important lesson.

Death is not easy to handle. Losing someone, or a beloved pet, that you adore leaves a hole in your heart. I have no magic answer how each family can help their child through loss. All I know is what I did for my own.

Meanwhile Mr GS was worried. He asked me if the vet made a mistake and could have buried the wheaton alive. I assured him that hubby and I were in the room when he died so we know when we left the vet he was no longer alive. The funny thing is that I was worried almost about the same thing. The following Monday I had to take the labradoodle for a checkup at the vet and asked a bunch of questions that I had been thinking about. I knew rationally that my pet had died in my arms, but my irrational mind was afraid that something else had happened to him. I supposed the boys aren't the only ones dealing with grief.

Who knew you could go through the stages of grief for a pet....

Meanwhile, I lit a mourner's candle and said kaddish for my first doggie baby the day he died. I know technically in Judaism you aren't supposed to do that for an animal, but my wheaton was a great love of mine, so God will just have accept it.

Thursday, November 13, 2014


Practice random acts of kindness and make the world a better place.

Repost from Monday, January 30, 2012

K is for Kindness (Empathy)

Kindness or shall we say empathy is a rather misunderstood emotion in those on the autism spectrum. There are recent studies that theorize that its not that autistics lack empathy or kindness, its just that they are so overwhelmed by their empathetic emotions that they need to turn it off or be consumed. So the issue then surrounding autistics is not that they don't empathize, but that in fact empathize too much. Autistics unlike their neurotypical peers have no filter on how to protect their own emotions and their own well-being when dealing with the vagaries and cruelties of life. I know I have seen it first hand with both of my boys.

It is never that the boys don't care. It is, without a doubt, that when they hear of a cruelty or an unkindness it takes over their souls. It is not an obsession. It is not a perseveration. It is a feeling of being lost and not understanding that they cannot solve the world's issues on their own. They don't seem to grasp at times that they can only do so much as an individual person. They feel that they in fact have failed.

So that is our mission with them. Not to teach them to be empathetic but to understand their limitations as human beings. To know that you can give charity, help at a food bank and feed people at a soup kitchen, but that in the end there will still be those who go to bed hungry at night, and that you as a human being did not fail. We can do so much as one person. They need to understand that our limitations makes our efforts no less important, not less heart-felt, not less perfect,  not less in the moment helpful and appreciated.

It is times like this that I try, despite CM1' s rejection of religion, to bring up what the Talmud says about kindness, empathy and charity:

To save a single life is to have saved an entire world. 

The Rabbis knew that human beings are just that, human beings. We can do just so much in our lives. It is the effort too that counts. A single kindness, even holding open a door for the person behind you, makes this a better world. A smile, a thank you and a helping hand, to the person right in front of you says more about your life than anything else.

Meanwhile here are some past posts about the boys, empathy, kindness and charity. The entire psychology professionals who think they understand who aspergeans or autistics happen to be, who decry that those on the spectrum have any thought of others, simply need to get out alot more and meet some of those in the autism community face to face. But that means they, the so-called "Autistic Experts," would need to have empathy, understand kindness and respect people's differences, so I am not holding my breath.

UPDATE: it is as simple as professionals learning to see the person first and not the disability. Find out who the human being is who stands before you and then figure out how to get them where they want to go. Don't discount their desires simply because of a disability or a mental health issue. Professionals need to think out side the box and help people become all that they would hope to become, while supporting any and all issues.


Thinking Like an Aspie or the Real Uses for a Piano

If I an Only for Myself What Am I; Tikkun Olam, Asperger's and Haiti

Catch 22: Society and Acceptance, but Your Child is More than Autism

18 Year Old Aspies: "Adults" in the Real World

Autism and Animals

This Time It's Your Aspie's Fault

Autism-Attachments-Teddy Bears

Empathy and My Son with Asperger's

Autistic Boy Banned from X-Box

Political Correctness, Autism and Bullshit in General

Monday, November 10, 2014

Reprise: Kristallnacht, The Berlin Wall: Remembrance and Your Autistic Child

On November 9, 2014 the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of the end of the cold war, which was symbolized by the destruction of the Berlin Wall.  I wrote the following post 4 years ago.
The Google doodle in celebration of the anniversary.
Repost from November 9, 2010
Kristallnacht, The Berlin Wall: Remembrance and Your Autistic Child
On November 9, 1938, the Third Reich unleashed the beginning of the Final Solution to the Jewish question. It began with a nationwide riot in Germany directed against Jewish businesses, houses of worship and persons. It was the beginning of the largest genocide in history. The day has been named Kristallnacht, or night of broken glass. It was given this name because so many windows were broken that the moonlight reflecting off the broken glass lit up the night sky as if it were day. Now what does this have to do with autism? Let me tell you.
The Nazis philosophy was one of racial superiority. Persons they considered less than human were targeted for expulsion, ghettoization and ultimately for death. The reason that this resonates for me so personally is that while the Jewish people were nearly wiped out in Europe, the Nazis began their campaign of racial evil by eliminating the disabled. I suppose then for me this is a twice important day of remembrance. Being the parent of Jewish children lends itself to one kind of acknowledgement especially in the age of Holocaust denial, growth in virulent anti-semitism, and new or threatened genocides, but as the parent of two autistic children, today lends itself to another journey. The journey of remembering that throughout history the disabled have been viewed as less than human,  less than important, less than worthy of support, education, or even life.
While I have been on this journey with my children, we have come across all of these attitudes. I remember the woman who said my children were not entitled to a public education because they would not go to college.(Little did she know) I remember the people who referred to our children with a derogatory name when they brought them back in district to attend class as inclusion students.  I remember the parents who made excuses that they couldn’t have play dates with my children, or just kept making up excuses to change the dates until I gave up. I remember that my children were never invited to birthday parties. I remember that my children were picked on in school and no peer stood up for them. I remember the rabbis who refused to bar mitzvah my children. I remember the religious schools that would not educate them. I remember the special education teacher who told my son he could never be an actor because of his autism. I remember the college Dean who continued with that stupidity. I remember many things.  I remember ignorance and hatred and man’s great ability for harm.
But then I remember, the special education director who set collegeman on the right path. I remember the special education teachers who worked with both boys day in and day out to make sure they learn. I remember the therapists, and psychologists who worked year in and year out with them. I remember the sports coaches who helped them with their agility and gait. I remember the children who decided to help the boys and were kind to them. I remember the rabbis who changed the rules so my boys could enter Jewish adulthood. I remember the disability director at the college who made sure that collegeman received the support he needed to be successful. I remember the phone call about the high school bowling team so CM1 could find something positive in a very hard year in school. I remember those that take pride in the boy’s successes and wish them well. I remember that right now at this moment my children are growing, developing, changing and progressing. I remember that nothing can stand in their way.
 But I also remember that most people do not understand autism.  (It’s why the boys’ names are never used in this blog) I remember that most people are uneducated about any kind of disability. I remember that in hard economic times it is persons with disabilities who suffer more than most. I remember it is the disabled who have a higher rate of unemployment or underemployment. I remember that Princeton University is fighting a lawsuit brought by a student who wanted extended time on tests, saying that extended time dilutes the value of a Princeton degree. (Update: the suit was settled out of court with the University giving extra time to the student but still maintaining that accommodations diluted their degree. Someone must have made the University aware of the ADA.) I remember the defense’s position in a murder trial saying that the victim because he was disabled had less of a right to life. (UPDATE:How many autistic children have been killed by their parents since this was originally written? And how many people make excuses for these murders?) I remember that the laws in place for educating people with disabilities do not apply to post-secondary education. (Update: you can find any number of autism related programs across the country and many colleges go out of their way to accommodate students with disabilities.) I remember that insurance companies can deny your healthy child coverage because they have autism.  (Update: Obamacare has taken care of this issue. It is no longer allowed to deny someone coverage based upon a preexisting condition and many autism related therapies have to be covered by insurance companies.) I remember a little boy with autism in Florida voted out of a classroom and the school board that reinstated the instigating teacher. (Update: the family in this case moved districts and the boy is receiving the services and respect he is entitled to. However every year we hear about other autistic children that are harmed during restraint and seclusion actions, bullied out of school and denied their basic civil rights by school districts including being handcuffed and arrested for actions that they cannot control.) I remember that despite laws protecting persons with disabilities we still have a long way to go.
Today is the anniversary of Kristallnacht. But it is also the anniversary of the destruction of the Berlin Wall. One anniversary is to remember the greatest evil. The other is to remember the march of freedom, democracy and the belief in human rights and the humanity of all persons. The great irony is that these events happened to have occurred in the same place just decades apart. I submit that if the German people could overcome the legacy of Kristallnacht and  to have ended up in the forefront of the fight for human rights during the Cold War, than we, the people of the world, have no excuse to not forge ahead. We, the people of the world, need to remember that the fight for the rights of the disabled is the fight for the rights of all humankind. We need to remember that history judges societies not by its wealth, but how it treats its weakest members.
So today we remember. We remember those that died because of who their ancestors were or because they were not born perfect. We remember those that died in the march towards freedom and the respect for human dignity. We remember and give the faceless a monument and a name (Yad Vashem). We remember so we can fight on. We remember to fight the fights that are worth fighting. We remember because our job is far from done. We remember because our children are counting on us.