Saturday, October 6, 2018

What will you do when our Constitutional Democracy falls?

...when public schools shut down
   -only the wealthy get an education 
   -in Uganda and Nepal, families must pay for their children's primary education

...when non-profit medicine and hospitals are gone
   -only the wealthy get medical care 
   -in the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, for instance, life expectancy is 50 years

...when public transportation ends

   -only those with their own transportation have access to anything 
   -the Trump administration is actively withholding Congressional approved funding

...when privacy rights are abolished
   -Big Brother is here

...when Due Process no longer exists
   -murder rates are highest in countries without due process

...when forced military service is instated for you and your children
   -hope for no wars – but there are always wars

...when child labor laws are dismantled
   -pre-labor laws, children as young as young as 7 worked in factories

...when the freedom to practice your religion is gone and a new religion is forced upon you
   - Russia’s national church is the Russian Orthodox Church

...when you, your wife, or your daughter’s right to become a mother is determined by someone else
   - the United States has a history of forced sterilization as recent as the 1970s

...when The State determines whether you get to live or die
   -China enforces forced abortion for their limited child policy 
   -in North Korea people are forced to kill their disabled children at birth 
   -the US was still practicing eugenics up into the 1970s

I hope you are preparing. Because with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court of the United States, the pillars will have started to crumble. Constitution be damned.

Kavanaugh's track record

On Public Education: "...Kavanaugh predicted in a TV appearance in 2000 that school vouchers would one day be upheld by the Supreme Court." Something that has been shown will discriminate against and potentially exclude low income students, students of color, those with disabilities, and those identifying as LGBTQ.

On Health Care: "...Among the things that distinguish him from the other finalists on Trump’s list is his expansive view of executive power — he argued that a president could decline to enforce a statute such as Obamacare even if a court upholds its constitutionality — and his dissent in a 2011 case in which others on his appellate court upheld the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act."

On Privacy: "...While the full D.C. Circuit declined to review the stay order, in his concurring opinion Kavanaugh went out of his way to assert that the metadata program was “entirely consistent with the Fourth Amendment.” Even in the absence of full briefing, Kavanaugh concluded that the alleged “critical national security need” for the program “outweighs the impact on privacy.”

On Due Process: "...In Doe Tarlow v. District of Columbiaa 2007 D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals case, three people with intellectual disabilities living in an institutional setting in Washington, D.C., believed their due process rights were abridged when doctors would not consider their wishes in elective surgeries."

On forced abortion: "...Kavanaugh determined that disabled people who “lack mental capacity” do not have the right to weigh in on medical decisions. Because the case involved two women who were forced to have abortions, it is ringing alarm bells, and rightly so, for reproductive rights and justice advocates—but the decision goes beyond abortion alone. Rather, it suggests Kavanaugh might not rule favorably on cases surrounding bodily autonomy, from coerced sterilization to denial of transition care."

On The Constitution: "What’s at stake right now is that Brett Kavanaugh, the man our president has just nominated to the highest court in the land, isn’t a mid-range “conservative” in the tradition of Anthony Kennedy; rather he’s an originalist, of the Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia sort. And if the executive, in nominating and endorsing originalism, joins power with a newly configured Supreme Court of committed literalists—i.e., an insuperable majority of ultraorthodox—and if this new alignment really proceeds to take the Constitution back in time, it means that Congress is going to have to pass new laws to explicitly keep in place our civil rights and social reforms, particularly when it comes to race, gender, sexuality, labor, public accommodation, immigration, and equal protection. I simply do not see a Republican-dominated Congress prepared to step up to that plate." 

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Good girls don’t

Good girls don’t 

  • wear bluejeans or dress like that
  • telephone boys
  • wear makeup
  • have pierced ears
  • go to parties
  • stay out past 10:00 pm
  • have male friends
  • go to teen-only nightclubs
  • sing in a rock-n-roll band
All of these things were said to me by my father. Strangely enough, or perhaps mostly thanks to my mother who was not of this mindset, I circumvented his belief system. Never once, did I believe any of it to actually be true and instead found his ridiculous rules as overbearing and unrealistic for the times. My mother often got the rules bent or thrown out for me by fighting tooth and nail (for which I am ever grateful). Others, I just nagged and until he broke. Some of the rules were strictly enforced, however, and so I got around them by “rule breaking.” Never the less, I was not viewed as a “good girl” by my father for all of it. And in return, he never gained my respect.

You might think I grew up in the 1950s by these standards. But my tween and teen years were firmly rooted in the 1980s. Many believe that by the 1980s, women in this country had achieved equal footing and rights. Virginia Slims cigarettes were quick to tell us what “...A Long Way, Baby” we had come in their ad campaigns emphasizing women’s rights. However, unbeknownst to many, the Equal Rights Amendment has never been ratified by the federal government – which means it is not in effect. It’s merely a suggested amendment that sits and rots. This doesn’t mean it hasn’t been proposed for ratification many, many times. Each time, it is shot down by our Congress. SHOT DOWN. Let that sink in. Thankfully, several states have individually ratified the ERA, though not all.

As we watch the spectacle that is our Supreme Court nomination process, I cannot help notice the parallels to my father’s attitude about women. While many are focused on the he-said-she-said battle ensuing, what I hear is a much deeper and insidious argument ensuing; I hear that because the alleged victim may have been at a home with intoxicated boys, she was not a “good girl.”

We may tend to believe that we are beyond the idea that there are such things as “good girls” who deserve respect and “bad girls” who can be sexually assaulted because it was their comeuppance. But I will tell you that we are wrong to think this attitude is not firmly ingrained in society today. It was still ingrained in the 1980s. And in fact, I would venture to say it has become more pervasive since the 2016 election, today.

I believe there is a much larger argument happening in our Country right now. The real argument happening over the Kavanaugh nomination process is whether or not women are equally human and deserved of the same respect and dignity of a man. And this is what should concern us the most.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Open Letter to United States Senators on Kavanaugh Appointment

I originally sent this letter to my Senator in Pennsylvania. However, this is applicable to every member of the United States Senate so I am sharing as an open letter.

Angry White MenAs I sit and watch our democracy crumble, I cannot help but point fingers at those who have been helping it along - those who apparently don’t like the ideals that Abraham Lincoln set forth in his Gettysburg Address - those who don’t like the idea that their own immigrant grandparents weren’t any better than those reaching our borders for asylum today - and of course those who think they are somehow superior to others simply because they were born into wealth and privilege. 

And then there are those who have something to hide. There are those who are vehemently afraid of what might be found if our Country’s criminal justice system should continue investigations into the hacking of the US electoral system. Already, many on US soil have been indicted for participating in what should be considered conspiracy against our County. I imagine there are many, many more indictments to come as the stones continue to be overturned.

I am letting you know that your vote on the Kavanaugh appointment, will reflect what guilt or innocence you carry regarding the Russia investigation. It is no mystery to the American public that the Kavanaugh appointment is being pushed through in order to absolve guilty parties for crimes they have committed against our Country. We the People, are watching.

Monday, September 3, 2018

So Many Things, Part 1 - Essential Oils

I have so many things rolling around in my head that I need to get out - things that affect the disabled as well as the rest of the population. So today, I tackle Part 1, which I believe will become a running series of things I need to get out of my head. Today's topic: the rise of the Essential Oils fad. This trend disproportionately affects disabled children because families often buy into alternative medicine when they believe traditional medicine has failed them. It is terribly difficult to sort through the immense amount of information available on the Internet and make heads or tails of what is good information versus disinformation. It is my hope to educate, not berate.

Essential Oils

Medicine is medicine and everything comes from nature. Even the chemicals churning in a lab beaker were derived from something natural else we are talking about supernatural and that’s a topic for another day. So when I hear something being hocked as a “natural alternative” to medicine, I cringe. Essential Oils are today’s panacea. They often smell nice and are now being sold at MLM parties. But are they even safe? Let’s break this all down.

A medicine is generally defined as “a compound or preparation used for the treatment or prevention of disease, especially a drug or drugs taken by mouth” (Google, 2018). However, we all know drugs can be topical – that is, applied to the skin like creams and whatnot. If you have ever had a rash or poison ivy, you’ve probably thought about hydrocortisone cream or ointment to quell the itch. There are very few side effects with this drug if used topically and it can be used during pregnancy under the advice of a physician (WebMD, 2018). Well that’s not natural, you say? Think again.

Though the tubes you pick up at the pharmacy are generally lab created, hydrocortisone is a fancy term for the principal glucocorticoid produced by our adrenal cortex (glands that sit on your kidneys), typically referred to as cortisol (NIH, 2018). Cortisol is a natural hormone your body produces in times of stress. It regulates blood pressure, blood sugar, controls sleep cycles, manages how we use carbs, fats, and proteins, and it helps give us a boost of energy to keep us going. But the reason you use it for poison ivy is because of one its main properties – it reduces inflammation, which is why you are so bumpy and itchy (WebMD, 2018). So the smart pharmaceutical scientists found a way to recreate this natural hormone safely and effectively in the lab and put in a tube for you to use in small doses for these itchy emergencies. How cool is that?

Oh but you want something that isn’t a hormone? So you turn to the essential oils because they are 100% natural and safe, right? Wrong. Let’s just talk about ones commonly touted for poison ivy and other rashes.


Calendula Oil

Calendula oil is derived from a marigold plant (and not the ones you grow out in your yard – those are ornamental marigolds). This plant is considered a drug but it’s marketed as a supplement. Yes, a drug. It is not safe for breastfeeding or pregnant mothers to use topically or ingest and could cause a miscarriage (WebMD, 2018). It can also be dangerous to use if you take antidepressants (WebMD, 2018). Those who are allergic to the ragweed family could have serious allergic reactions to this drug as well (WebMD, 2018). Not such a great alternative.

Chamomile Oil

This oil is also derived from a plant that is in the ragweed family and thus has the same allergy problems. It too is a drug marketed as an herbal supplement. An additional problem with this drug is that it contains coumarin which thins your blood and so you cannot use this product if you are taking blood thinners or are scheduled for any type of surgery (or have any health matters that affect the blood). It is also not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women. And most ironic, skin creams with chamomile can cause allergic eczema and irritate the eyes – not exactly what you want for poison ivy (WebMD, 2018).

Peppermint Oil

Peppermint oil comes from the Peppermint leaf. It frequently causes allergic dermatitis (which is actually the same thing poison ivy causes) when used topically on the skin (NIH, 2010). I’ll just leave this here for you to ponder.

Lavender Oil

While its scent might help you relax, rubbing it on or ingesting lavender oil is considered unsafe for prepubescent boys because it interrupts hormones and could result in abnormal breast growth. Its effects on young girls are not even known. There is no information on the safety for pregnancy or nursing mothers so the advice is to steer clear of it if this applies. It is also possible this oil could interfere with anesthesia (WebMD, 2018). That’s quite enough for me to just say no to lavender oil.

The list of essential oils goes on and on as do the side effects and safety warnings. What’s more is that because these oils are marketed as a supplements, they are not held to the same standards as a drug in their manufacturing process and can even include ingredients not listed on the label (American Cancer Society, 2018).

Essential oils have become a pop culture phenomenon. Companies are cashing in on marketing essential oils as “safe alternatives” to traditional medicine but are not lawfully mandated to test these drugs for safety. They are not lawfully forced to list all the ingredients on the labels. They even are not lawfully required to put the actual drug they are selling in the bottle. In other words, you might have thought you bought peppermint oil, but instead bought snake oil.

Save the essential oils for your diffuser and instead use an FDA approved medicine for you and your family. Essential oils might smell nice, but is it really worth the risk?


Sunday, July 29, 2018

Broken Wings

Years ago horrible people did unspeakable things. We sent our beautiful baby butterfly into their care because that’s what we were supposed to do. But when they saw that our beautiful butterfly had wings that were decorated differently than the others, the horrible people began to pull at his wings. Little by little, each day, his wings were tattered and torn a sliver more. But the horrible people would lie to us and tell us he had torn his wings, himself. We tried very hard to find ways to encourage him not to hurt his wings. We tried to work with the horrible people to fix problems that might make our baby butterfly display this self-punishing behavior while he was in their care. Nothing seemed to help. And so over time, we watched our baby butterfly begin to lose his ability to fly. Finally, one day our baby butterfly came home wingless. Broken. He could barely walk. It was then we learned the truth. Our beautiful baby butterfly told us the horrible people had been the ones tearing off his wings all along. But it was too late. The tattered remnants of wings were all that were left of a faded memory of flying.

Wingless and flightless, our butterfly was welcomed no longer in other butterfly circles. So we took our beautiful butterfly to many specialists who had helped others make use of broken wings. But it seemed none had ever worked with a butterfly that was so different and had also lost its wings. The specialists would try many different techniques to restore flight. Some particularly bad specialists didn’t believe that the horrible people pulled them off and instead blamed our beautiful butterfly. They would conclude that he pulled his own wings off because his wings were different. They would lecture us that we needed to get our butterfly into more social butterfly activities and that would help him learn to fly again. But he had no wings. They wouldn’t listen to us. And without wings and without flight, our beautiful butterfly was still shunned by the other butterflies. Our beautiful butterfly began to lose the will to stand.

Finally years later a butterfly doctor recognized our beautiful butterfly’s problem – he could not fly because he had been abused by the horrible people. They had ripped off his wings because they feared his differences. And they had traumatized him and disabled flight. It was not our beautiful butterfly’s fault. He began to see new specialists who helped traumatized wingless butterflies cope with not having flight in hopes that someday they could learn to fly in new ways. But the specialists weren’t trained in helping differently decorated butterflies and so their techniques didn’t work.

One day, our butterfly could no longer stand without assistance. Our beautiful butterfly had developed new complications from his wing loss that were serious. We took him to several butterfly hospitals but no one knew what to do and so just sent him home without help. Our butterfly had developed a stinger like a wasp and at times would sting us like an angry hornet believing we were someone else. Other times, he would believe he was still that baby butterfly and the horrible people were in the room ripping at his wings. There were many other insect manifestations that would appear. Each time our beautiful butterfly would come out of these states scared, confused, and distressed. A new specialist was able to figure out that the trauma had caused him to develop Disassociative Insect Disorder which is known to affect butterflies who have been through serious abuse at a young age.

Today our butterfly is all grown up but he still cannot fly. He has tried to go out into the butterfly social world but has not been successful. Even when the other butterflies know of his flight difficulties, he is shunned when he cannot fly just like them. Today, he no longer trusts other butterflies and has vowed to become a solitary insect.

Years ago horrible people did this to him. Today, others continue to do their bidding.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

It's Over.

A tattered US Flag blows in the wind
Hope for democracy has crumbled. Our republic has been seized by white supremacist oligarchs who wish to make this nation one of an authoritarian oligarchic society. It is no mystery that our Congress and Senate have not been part of a check or balance for quite some time. And now with Justice Kennedy’s retirement from the US Supreme Court, the court system will now become another extension of the corrupt administration. This is a very bleak moment in US history.

The irony here is that most of the US citizens do not want this. The majority are against the policies that have been creeping into place over the past couple years.
“American voters oppose 66 - 27 percent the policy of separating children and parents when families illegally cross the border into America, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll...” (Quinnipiac University, 2018).
“American voters also support 79 - 15 percent allowing immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children, so-called "Dreamers," to remain and ultimately to apply for citizenship” (Quinnipiac University, 2018). 
“American voters oppose 58 - 39 percent building a wall along the border with Mexico” (Quinnipiac University, 2018). 
“Most American Voters Disagree With Trump On Key Issues, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; Keep Climate Protections, Obamacare, But No Wall” (Quinnipiac University, 2017).
So then it seems the foxes have infiltrated the hen house and are systematically eating all the hens. This is what is called a coup d'etat; a faction took over our Democratic Republic all while we watched in disbelief. It reminds me of how we all felt when the planes crashed into the World Trade Center back in 2001 – this just couldn’t possibly happen on US soil, right? Wrong. It could and it did.

For the past year and a half, we’ve all sat here trying to muddle through the chaos hoping for that golden moment.

We kept hoping the FBI would come forward with formal treason charges against Trump and his minions for having allowed Russia to infiltrate our electoral system and possibly more. 

We kept hoping that someone within the Republican party was going to finally stand up to this faction and get them out. 

I think some had even hoped Barack would suit up in a Superman costume and save the day. 

Well, none of this has happened and here we are. Regardless of what Agent Robert Mueller and the FBI reveals, the Executive Branch, the Legislative Branch, and now soon the Judicial Branch will all have been compromised. This is how our Democracy died.

The question is, what are we going to do about it? 

National (US) Poll Home - National. (2017). Quinnipiac University.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Mean ̶g̶i̶r̶l̶s̶ Adults

This movie is one of my all time favorites. It’s funny and completely over the top and yet it manages to be realistic by bringing to light passive aggressive behavior among adolescent girls. In reality, this behavior isn’t restricted to one gender. And there are some mean teens who never outgrow this adolescent state and become mean adults.

Passive aggressiveness is still aggression. Ofttimes, it gets ignored because the aggressor isn’t inflicting physical abuse. But make no mistake – abuse is abuse is abuse. So when we see it happening, we should not remain silent. And this is what this post is about – passive aggressive abuse and calling it out.

When a mature, mindful adult poses a question on their social media profile inviting opinions, they are prepared for a wealth of responses that may not jive with their own belief system. In fact, if this person invites such a dialog, they are likely looking for others input so that they can critically analyze and have an informed debate or discussion. An interesting thing happens when these Mean Adults (M.A.s) come to play, however. They don’t try to engage in discussion; they just get nasty.

I don’t mean to confuse M.A.s with trolls; trolls generally aren’t people you know. M.A.s are people you do know who simply cannot have their belief systems questioned – not even when you aren’t speaking to them directly. Questions as simple as “Why do people who like X support Y?” will be responded with personal attacks like “You hate Y because you are naive!” when no one ever said anything about hating Y in the first place. When the M.A. is softly corrected by way of explanation, they get meaner with gems like “Oh of course you hate Y because your family uses subsidized Z.” 

Pretty soon, full out battles ensue as the M.A. enlists reinforcement to attack everyone and anyone who attempts to support the person who posed the original question. No amount of decency or logic will deter the M.A.s from their goal of diverting the topic away from the original topic because to them, anything that questions their belief system is an all-out assault and worthy of warfare. They will chomp with venom using euphemisms and bestow armchair psychological diagnoses on those who would defend their friend. They will use common abuse tactics such as playing the victim, vilifying the victim, and projecting blame.

Make no mistake: You cannot win a battle with an M.A., but you can call them out for their behavior. I am a firm believer that we should always do so. Calling people names, labeling them as psychotic is abusive (and stigmatizing to those with real psychological disorders) and shouldn’t be tolerated. Until we start to hold others accountable for their behavior, the Mean Adults will continue to lash out and hurt others. And sometimes, that can end very badly for their victims. I, for one, am not going to be silent anymore.

Thursday, April 26, 2018


Yesterday I picked up a new pair of progressive bifocals with photochromic lenses. I am diagnosed with myopia, presbyopia, and photophobia – ocular disorders. I guess you could say that I have special needs or that I am differently-abled. You might even say I have a disAbility (with an emphasis on that A because you say I shouldn't let these things define me). Either way, without accommodations, I am severely disabled in our society and thus have a disability.

Myopia can sometimes be cured with surgery but only for some. Photophobia can only be reversed if it is caused by a secondary curable ailment but often this is not the case. Presbyopia has no cure. The only solution for most is to use accommodations which is how my case is approached. Many people today with the same type of disorders must use expensive accommodations to survive in society. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, there are more than 3 million US cases per year of presbyopia and myopia, each. According to the NIH, photophobia is common among many different populations including migraine sufferers, people with dry eyes, anxiety disorders, people who take different prescription drugs, and many more common diagnoses.

Do you feel pity for us?

So what are these strange sounding disorders anyway? They are some of the most common ailments on the planet: nearsightedness, age-related farsightedness, and light sensitivity. These are the reasons people wear eyeglasses and sunglasses.

How is your pity-meter now?

Common eye disorders have become so prevalent in society that we accept them now as a normal part of the human experience. We accept them. And when we accept something as part of the normal human experience, we simply accommodate it without so much as a blink (pun intended).

Make no mistake about it – these are disabilities. Without eyeglasses, people with even mild myopia cannot see well enough to drive or to be safe in any situation that requires visual acuity. Presbyopia eliminates the ability to read anything but extremely large print without magnification (reading glasses). Without sunglasses, people with light sensitivity cannot venture out into the daylight even on cloudy days. Without accommodations, people with these disorders cannot function in our society. This is the very essence of disability.

Do you believe wearing common eyeglasses deserves the title “special needs,” “differently-abled,” or a misshapen form of the word “disAbility?” I simply doubt it. And so neither do people with other disabilities deserve to have these labels imparted upon them.

The truth of the matter is, the only difference between wearing eyeglasses and the other things we currently call disabilities is acceptance.

It is time to stop drawing that line and accept that disability is just a part of the human experience. 

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Enough Really Is Enough but Will You Listen?

I am all for stopping gun violence - all violence, really. But what will your Universal Background checks actually do to prevent gun violence? What are you screening for?

Past violent criminal history (such as domestic violence)?

This is fine, but isn't it a bit late for us to be doing something? Doesn't this infer the person has already been violent, perhaps with a gun? I suppose it's better than nothing. Cannot we do better than wait for the first infraction?

Someone's likelihood to become violent?

We currently cannot screen people based on their likelihood to become violent. It's not possible and it's not ethical. And what criteria would you even use?

How about someone's use of a legal drug - alcohol?

This is one of the few areas where there is research to support that a person may become violent. I'm pretty sure most of the United States would balk at this option.

So I suppose you are going down the mental illness path, aren't you? I am so tired of this conversation. I feel like a broken record.

"Epidemiologic studies show that the large majority of people with serious mental illnesses are never violent" (Swanson et al, 2014).
People who commit these terrible shootings are not doing so because of a mental health diagnosis any more than they are doing so because they are human. I see the media armchair diagnosing because of stigma. I see Facebook friends use words like "sick" and "crazy" and "psychopath" to describe these villains. But these anecdotes don't make it true. And I'm tired of arguing and trying to educate you. All you are doing is demonizing people who are already struggling in the society you have made nearly impossible for them to survive.
  • You are creating stigma and witch hunts for people who have real medical issues. 
  • You are demonizing people who have insurmountable challenges - disabilities- which you have created for them by making society inaccessible and now dangerous to their well-being.
  • You are blaming the disabled for the monsters that have been created by hate and political bigotry.
  • You are blaming the less powerful for the demons that you have summoned by your indifference to violence as a means to settle scores between enemies. 
  • You are the problem - not those with mental health issues.

Go screen that. 

And while your at it, get rid of your killing machines to which you so desperately cling to protect yourself from the villains that you have created.

I've had enough rhetoric.


Mental illness and reduction of gun violence and suicide: bringing epidemiologic research to policy
Swanson, Jeffrey W. et al.
Annals of Epidemiology , Volume 25 , Issue 5 , 366 - 376

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Parenting is Hard

Things that make parenting an autistic child hard:
  1. Professionals who refer your child to harmful therapies and services when you don’t know any better.
    • Therapies such as ABA have been known to cause serious problems including trauma in the autistic population.
  2. Professionals who shame you and your child due to their inability to perform the tasks the professionals predetermined are important, even when they are not.
    • Telling you that your child needs more socialization – what if I told you that your child’s socialization will work itself out? That they do social differently? Do we socialize our neurotypical children? No, we do not. And thus this is just another “your child is acting not like the others so fix them” tactic.
    • Telling you that your child must “use their words.” This is unnecessary. Children can be taught to communicate with technology and other means. Forcing language via spoken word is abuse when a child is not ready to do this yet. Autistic neurological wiring is different.
    • Telling you that your child must make eye contact. This is flat out BS. More so it’s just a cultural preference. There is no need for it. It is painful for autistic people. Do not let them force your child in this way anymore than you would let them force your child into bending over backwards, literally.
  3. Schools that refuse to accommodate your child’s differences or recognize your child’s strengths.
    • This might be the #1 reason most families struggle – the schools systems who routinely abuse autistic children because they do not accommodate or even recognize needs. They punish and force children into terrible predicaments that are almost always detrimental to their well being.
  4. Communities that refuse to include your child unless they can pass for “not disabled.”
    • How many times have you neglected to go to that movie because it’s too loud and there are no other options?
    • How many times have you been left off the birthday invite list because of ignorance?
    • How many times have you been given looks six ways 'til Sunday because of ignorance?
  5. All of the terrible misinformation that lives on the internet about autism and its causes.
    • From deadly miracle cures to fraudulent causes, the snake oil salespeople are out to take your money and your soul along with it.
  6. Organizations that profit from fear campaigns that exploit your child’s struggles due to all the above.
    • Autism$peaks is among one of the biggest problems that autistic people face. Several other large organizations are not far behind.
    • The adult autism population all but goes into hiding April 1 every year because it is the month where Awareness campaigns come out to label them as broken.
All of these things are due to others who exploit the disabled or refuse to educate themselves about autism. None of these things are due to autism. None of these things are due to your child. Keep the blame where it belongs.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018


America is obsessed with singular blame. There is an assumption that it is always one side’s fault in any matter. We pigeon-hole responsibility for wrongdoing on someone or something seemingly to exonerate ourselves or our in-group. Always.

  • If Billy doesn’t score well on his standardized test, well then the teachers or tests are to blame.
  • If our taxes go up, it’s the fault of “the other” political party of which we do not affiliate.
  • Doctors sue pharmaceutical companies for the opioid epidemic as if the physicians were somehow forcibly coerced to prescribe.
  • Single mothers are blamed for behavior exhibited by their offspring.
  • Society’s ills are blamed on the most vulnerable like the poor and disabled.
We are doing blame all wrong.

What if I told you that blame is so much more complicated – that you cannot exempt yourself from responsibility for all these problems? Well that is exactly what this post is about and I’m going to explain why we all share the burden of blame.

Let’s talk about Billy for a moment (poor Billy. Sorry to all my Bill friends out there. I’m sure Tom, Dick, and Harry will thank you).

Billy is an individual.
He has his own age, health issues he was born with or develops (good or bad), disability status (including learning disabilities), gender to which he identifies (male in this case), even his birth order play a role in Billy’s individual self (there’s more of these – I’m giving a handful of examples). These things altogether make Billy pretty unique so far as no one shares these things with him. Billy’s health, disabilities, race, and even his gender play a role in how well he physically and psychologically adapts in any given environment. By environment, I mean anywhere Billy is – home, school, playground, etc. From the moment Billy is born, he begins interacting with his environment.

Billy is an average 10 year old Caucasian without any identified disabilities. He identifies as a boy, currently. He’s the second born to four siblings. He is in the fourth grade at a rural public school for the second year because the school held him back last year.

Billy is also directly affected by other systems that make him even more unique.

Billy’s Peers (and not necessarily just his friends), his family, and all the institutions he attends or works with such as school, clubs, sport teams, churches, etc. also influence how Billy adapts to all sorts of situations. Billy, the individual with his own personal effects, is being influenced now by how he is treated by others and how others interact with him. This is a bidirectional influence, too! That means Billy influences how others will treat him and visa-versa.

So now we have Billy, the individual with lots of baggage starting to accumulate, needing to take some standardized tests in school. His teachers think he’s lazy because he performs below expectations. Billy thinks he’s a loser because the adults in his life treat him like he’s a slacker. He may have a learning disability but no one has bothered to test him because all the adults in his life believe he just needs to try harder. In response, Billy stops trying because “what is the point?” He does poorly in school and tends to act out in frustration a lot so most of Billy’s peers believe he’s a problem-child and steer clear of him. Billy thinks his peers are snobby and sees no reason to be nice or try to befriend them. The few friends he has are also labeled trouble-makers. But wait...there’s more!

Something else that really affects Billy is health and safety.

Does Billy get the health care he needs to be a healthy child? Does he get well-care and immunizations to prevent disease and other preventable health problems? Is he provided healthy foods? Do his caretakers ensure he's protected from media that is inappropriate for his developmental age? Does he live in a safe environment free from harm and abuse? Does Billy get enough sleep for his developmental age? Is his school and home in a safe neighborhood? Well gee-golly-wiz, Billy could have a whole lot of other issues creep up if he doesn’t have health and safety needs met.

Billy’s parents are part of the working poor. They are uneducated about nutrition and budgeting. Billy didn’t have breakfast this morning; he rarely does. His family doesn’t have that much food in the house, ever. Meals are bought and eaten in real time from convenience stores. Occasionally there are toaster pastries in the cupboard but with three other siblings, those don’t last long. Billy has had some of his immunizations from the last time the school said he had to see the doctor two years ago. He hasn’t ever had a flu shot though. Billy is also really tired today. He was up late last night (12 am) playing his favorite FPS video game “Call of Allegiance” live with thousands of unknown strangers online. His game system is in the bedroom he shares with his siblings.

So you are saying right now, “okay, what they hell does this have to do with meeeeeee?” Here’s where you start to come in. But don’t worry – if you don’t see yourself in this section, you will be implicated in the next, I promise. Billy the individual has now been influenced by the things he was born with and the people he interacts with on an ongoing basis. Some of these things have really put some burdens on Billy that he will have to try and overcome.

Next comes the influence of those not directly interacting with Billy necessarily, but interacting with those around him. Billy’s neighborhood was briefly mentioned under safety. But what about the neighborhood’s overall personality? Is this a close-knit neighborhood where people all know each other by name or is it one where everyone keeps to themselves? Are there community areas where people congregate? This sets the tone for social support which is crucial for psychological well-being. How social is Billy’s neighborhood?

Billy lives in rural America. His town is spread out far and wide and he lives on the outskirts which is the poorer section. The next house is within walking distance but there are no sidewalks and so people do not take walks down the road. People tend to keep to themselves and mind their own business.

What about those who run the school? Billy’s school district is smaller but encompasses several small rural towns. The school board is comprised of elected officials who are also the same people who get elected to other posts within the areas. Behind their backs, the town-folk call it “the good ol’ boy system” because it’s always the same men running the town and schools. Very little in terms of progressive change happens in Billy’s school unless the State or Federal Government step in. That did happen last year when Billy’s school was found to be funneling all their disabled children into segregated classrooms against federal law. It’s no wonder Billy hasn’t gotten any testing for his learning difficulties, then!

Extended family also plays a part in how we develop and progress as adaptable humans. Extended family such as grandparents, aunts, and uncles can serve as social support systems. In Billy’s case, his maternal grandparents live 50 miles away. His paternal grandmother is local, but she and his dad are often arguing so they only see each other on obligatory holidays. His paternal grandfather left his grandmother when his dad was a baby. Aunts and uncles have all moved away from this rural town. Billy’s immediate family is pretty much all he has. He would probably tell you that is all he can take with three siblings!

The work environments of the child’s parents also come into play. Though this sounds odd, these environments directly affect the parents who then directly affect the child. Billy’s parents both hold jobs. Billy’s Mom works 28 hours a week as a retail cashier. She gets no benefits because the company keeps her just under the 30 hour full-time mark (though she keeps asking for more hours). Despite having only 28 hours per week, the company tends to give long unpredictable shifts instead of a set schedule. She only knows from week to week what days and times she will be working. It is also tedious work and she often finds herself irritable after a long shift. Billy’s Dad is a factory worker and is on shift work. He has limited family health care benefits that he pays for out of his check. The family sees dad very little because he is often working the night or afternoon shift. His likes the work he does but wishes he could get on day shift; he misses his family and he has never really adjusted to the changing sleep schedules that go with night and afternoon shifts.

Mass media, such as the news and social media also play a part in how we progress. Video games and movies are also part of this.

Billy is only 10 but he has a Facebook page which requires people to be at least 13 years of age. His parents didn’t pay attention to this because they didn’t see it as a big problem. Neither of his parents are tech-savvy and have little time as it is to monitor their child’s social media. Billy has 700 friends all over the world. He has no idea who 99% of them are and some are bots and likely predators. Billy’s profile and pictures are public. Billy likely has several more social media accounts we do not even know about. As already discussed, Billy was up way too late last night playing a violent video game. Though this video game is rated “M” for mature by the rating system, his parents got tired of arguing about the ratings on games with Billy. Billy now gets to play no matter how violent or adult the subject matter. His parents justified the games as a good way to get Billy interested in joining the military someday. His parents also think that if these games were so bad, they wouldn’t put them on display with the other games; every time he turns on his game system, ads appear for these kinds of games. Billy also gets to watch movies that are rated PG-13 and he thought that the Dark Knight movie was awesome. His parent’s have gotten confused over the ratings system. Disney movies are now often rated PG and so his parents figure the 13 doesn’t mean all that much. His parents do their best to keep the graphic televised news off limits, but remember, Billy is on social media.

So unless you live in Billy’s neighborhood, are on the school board, are up playing games with him all night, or are one of his Facebook friends you probably feel like you are exempt from responsibility, right? Wrong.

Culture is the most crucial part of why Billy is going to test poorly. It’s also why Billy is likely to drop out of school and why Billy could become the next mass shooter.

You and I create culture. We bring our values and ideas to the table and mush them altogether to create what is acceptable, ethical, legal, and popular. We don’t always all agree but the mob rules and the mob’s ideas become what is deemed our country’s culture. It is reflected in our media. It is reflected in our institutions and laws. It is reflected in our homes. The culture we have created in this country is unhealthy. Billy’s situation shows us this.

Billy performs well below expectations in school because he is lazy.
translates to: 
People who struggle are lazy or incompetent. 
This is so far from the truth. People are not inherently like this. They are taught to give up like Billy was. A lot of people have learning difficulties that are never addressed or are in bad home situations. We have to stop blaming the child or the person and look at the environment and how we treat the child. It is bidirectional. Always.

Billy acts out in school because he is a trouble-maker.
translates to: 
Some children purposely cause grief. 
No child ever does this until they learn that this is the only way they can get their needs met. We need to start meeting their needs in positive ways so that this does not develop. In Billy’s case, he was acting out due to frustration because he was not learning and being punished for something he couldn’t control. Children and people in general are not islands; we interact and react to others and our environments. Be part of the solution and not the problem.

Our culture also preaches that people living in poverty get what they deserve; that they are somehow lazy and keeping themselves in that situation, willingly. That makes so very little sense. Have you ever met someone who said, “I sure have it good living like this” when they are living in poverty? No, I’m pretty sure not. I’ve heard middle class folk wish they could be doing better. Most people who live in poverty don’t have any idea how to get out. Some are trying really hard to make ends meet like Billy’s parents. And though his example is fictional, it’s based on real situations. Retail jobs often skirt the full-time system to avoid federal full-time laws and also have unpredictable shifts. Factory work is inevitably still shift-work and lots of studies show people never fully adjust to night and afternoon shift sleep habits, especially when they rotate (and they typically do). And it isn’t quite so easy as find another job. Where do you think a retail cashier will find another job – at another retail location with the same problems. Factory work is getting harder to come by each day. And without furthering education, the job market options are scarce. I probably do not have to tell you the costs associated with furthering education. Not only does it require the cost of the education, but the downtime from work to make that happen. Good luck doing all that and feeding your family while working at the local mart with unpredictable work schedules. How is this your problem too? We need to change our attitude about why people are living in poverty. Only then can we start to work toward real solutions.

There are many more variables in our culture causing problems in our society. But most of all, I want to talk about our acceptance of violence as a normal part of life as part of this cultural breakdown. The media markets to whomever will buy. It is not the media’s fault that we are buying. When will we say that enough is enough? When will we determine that virtual reality games that allow for very realistic killing are bad for ourselves? When will we say that the violence that has become the blockbuster movie of the month is too much? When will we stop watching news that shows graphic violence? When will you and I take some personal responsibility for making it easier for Billy to access this kind of violent media? It’s not good for us and it certainly is not good for him. The acceptance of violence is in our culture is driving the violent acts taking place. It is becoming part of our lives. We are desensitized. And worse, violence is becoming an acceptable way to take out our anger. How long before Billy has had enough and gets hold of an AR-15 like the one he uses in “Call of Allegiance?” We must take a stand against acceptance of violence in our culture.

If we are indeed a culture of “personal responsibility,” then let us start taking some blame for the mess in which we have created.


Trying to get through all the bunk? For reputable publications about media violence and children:
American Psychological Association

American Academy of Pediatrics

Media Violence and Social Neuroscience