Top five things people don’t get about kids with autism.

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1. Kids with autism know they are different. They know they have an issue no one else around them has and fight with themselves every day over it. They are embarrased, hurt and sad a good deal of the time even with all the positive reinforcement in the world.
2. There is a normal, intellectually competent (in MANY cases) kid “trapped” inside a malfunctioning body. Kids with autism stim because they have to, not because they want to. They yell because (in some cases) everything is loud to them. They get in your face because they have trouble controlling themselves. But under this, is a kid who wishes they didn’t do ANY of these things. And when a “spell” is over they regret the behavior.
3. Kids with autism work their asses off to cope with their condition and function. My son has trouble sitting still and listening because of his need to stim. Yet, he sits still during class, does his work, and listens for entire school days. What people don’t see is when he gets home he is completely exhausted as if he just ran a marathon — because he had to expend that much energy to get through the day. Tempermental? Moody? You would be too if you ran a marathon every day and then were expected to behave when you got home too.
4. The need for control in autistic kids isn’t just about something “Broken” and “OCD” in their head. If you couldn’t control your body, what would you do? I mean really? In a lot of kids cases, they control what they can, so they can stabilize as much as they can in their life. If you are busy attempting to control your body for an hour you don’t want to have to worry about where you will be, what you will be eating, etc. in the future — when you JUST got your body adjusted to dealing with the situations/foods/stimuluses you’ve been currently dealt. Anything NEW represents an entire new set of coping mechanisms or the chore of adapting the current ones to a new situation. Tiring.
5. Kids with autism love the kids in their class and want friends. Social isolation is the most tragic symptom so far I’ve seen in an autistic child. A kid who wants t obe in a group and interact with normal language with his peers but can’t find the words and can’t stand close contact or even sitting in a group because it is “too much” for his system. And as a result, he lives a lonely life on the outside looking in. Thankfully for many kids they have a support system to aid with this and create a bridge; but the frustration caused by not being able to just be a part of the group is palpable and real.

Pass this on to anyone you think may need to read it; and next time you see an autistic kid respect the internal fight they are dealing with all the time to overcome the obstacles they’ve been handed.

Categories: Parenting

Doctor Who Media Saturation – Too much Who?

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There’s so many voices out there now with Doctor Who being an “in” thing.
The loudest voices at the moment are:
Emergency Awesome, a fast-talking mid-twenties hyperfocused and well-versed fan spewing all the facts and spoilers he can muster in 7 minute video-chunks, with comments by obessive fans pointing out the minutae he may have missed;
Blogtor Who – a UK fan-turned-publicist with ins at the production team who always has the latest spoilers
BBC America – Once they took the helm from the SciFi channel they went full throttle with marketing and have become a juggernaut of Doctor Who marketing — they’ll always be specials, featurettes, and never-ending hype just as long as they have rights to the show. I see this as a necessary evil.
Tumblr GIFs – Of all the incarnations of fandom in the modern era, I actually despise tumblr gifs, for the most part. I know the quotes, I get the jokes, I understand the relationships. The endless repetition of timey wimey, 10-shipping, 11-shipping, it’s really really banal.
“apply every currently hip meme to Who” t-shirts – exploitative money-makers that range from the extremely clever (Rare) to extremely dumb (less rare.) Anyone can take a meme, substitute the words “Doctor Who” into it and make a t-shirt. It’s derivative and too much — like eating junk food and nothing else. I’m not saying I don’t appreciate them, I just can handle them in only extremely limited doses — like pork rinds.
Big Finish audios – my Lord. 100s of Doctor Who adventures with previous Doctors and companions. Listening to these is very much like reading any novelizations for a television series. Some are brilliant. Some are obviously filler. Some you wonder how ever they got published. Some are SOO derivative and reachy that you could tell they were grasping hard to find something new to hang on to. (The Gallifrey series, with ex-time lord companion Romana in charge of Gallifrey and ex-companion Leela, for example.) No rock left unturned, no minor tiny plot element not turned into it’s own 2 hour drama. For some ideas, it works. For some, ….you look in the mirror and ask, how did I get here? Shouldn’t I be caring about what is going on in Gaza rather than if the Doctor is facing Fenric again, and I know all the previous appearances of Fenric DESPITE hating the scripts of the Sylvester McCoy era?? What has become of me?? Female doctor? You got it. Doctor Who: Unbound. Animal companions? How about a penguin named Frobisher? OK. I’l l stop now. There’s a reason that Doctor Who fans created the word FANWANK. Look that one up in urban dictionary.
Fan-made self-love books – Chicks Dig Time Lords; Doctor Who cookbooks; Doctor Who witty quote books; Doctor Who factoid books (Who-ology comes to mind)…rinse, repeat. The former is cool because at least you get personal stories about how the show has changed lives for the better. The latter, MORE FANWANK. But at least in the case of Chicks Dig Time Lords, you see how Doctor Who affects people’s lives for the better. And herein is why I keep watching —

Though the media machine may have spun out of control — Doctor Who continues to give hope to the hopeless; whether it be a depressed person who stops thinking about suicide because an escape in the TARDIS; a South Korean who can only imagine a happy life in the time machine’s confines; political rebels looking for hope in a war-torn world, and of course, “The Triumph Of Intellect And Romance Over Brute Force And Cynicism” – a necessary construct in a world full of Gazas and Syrias.

Helping a developing child to handle hyperreal technology

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My five-year-old son is obsessed with my iPad, iPhone, and Mac. He has a genetic predisposition to become hyper focused. Once something has his attention, and he’s really really interested in it, it can be almost impossible to get him to talk about anything else.

The iPad. The iPad. The iPad. That became the answer to every one of his problems. Let me play with the iPad!

As a technological enthusiast, I like to think that I understand both the cost and benefit of having this technology accessible to young children. Having been addicted to video games at one time in the 90s, I also feel I have a distinctive understanding of the dangers of this technology.

What follows is how I’ve chosen to deal with the situation with my own son. By sharing my techniques, I’m hoping I can help other parents who face a similar challenge with their child becoming obsessed with the technology in front of them.

The goal is making reality more attractive to the child than fantasy. Reality can be dull, or depressing, or downright miserable. Technology provides “perfect worlds” In 1080 P. Fully realized, hyperreal Disney movies can have more neurological impact than actual real-life events in some instances. You know when your grandpa’s birthday is? Or can you recall all the dialogue from cut scenes in Halo? This disparity helped me reach a catharsis. I can use the technology to reinforce my child’s reality, as well as develop his imagination.

When my son begs me to use the computer, it’s not to play a video game. It’s not even to play in educational game. When he begs to use my computer, it’s to use iPhoto to view a slideshow. Looking back at the positive family events we’ve experienced, it reinforces our bond as a family, reminds him of all the good times he does have, and at the same time presents it in beautiful 1080 P — using all the technology strengths to show my child what’s really important.

Also, we have screen-free days. When I say “screen free” I mean television, Internet, and mobile (as much as possible). Today is a great example. Having a rare full day to spend with my kids, we did the following: went to Church, walked to a hardware store, walked to a park, came home and raked leaves, played a board game, and chased each other around the house as ghosts. My son made up stories the whole walk, filling his “entertainment vacuum” with pure imagination. The hardware store? Discovery of an LED flashlight. A bit of tech to shine on reality is fine with me.

Finally, my child is in a karate club. Not only is he learning self defense and reflexes, he is learning balance, attention, respect for authority, and tons of other intangibles that can at best only be imitated in virtual worlds. And his achievements will be real karate belts, not those gleaned from button pushing in a virtual world. Similarly, I will purchase him a real drumset before he plays Rockband. A kid needs to know what real is before he learns what isn’t.

I don’t expect my kid to avoid video games or computers as all. If he can distinguish fantasy from reality, select real tangible goals and achieve them, self filter and make healthy choices, then I will happily loosen restrictions and give him access to an XBox. In the mean time, establishing what reality is and what is really important is my primary goal. Care to join me?


2012 politics: Immigration, power and fear


The majority of Americans living in this country have no legitimate right to be here. We took this country by force, Armed to the teeth, annihilating anyone who opposed us, making false concessions, And then finally confining the natives to camps – – I’m sorry–-Reservations– When we were done with them.

We then took slaves from overseas to serve us. Apparently the subjugation of one race by force was not enough for us.

All of that aside, from a personal standpoint, my family were immigrants, arriving far after this new normal was established. I am a Sicilian German-American. My grandparents came in via Ellis Island and my grandfather fought in World War II to protect freedom in this country.

His parents came to America through Ellis Island because of the promise of the American dream. And the dream it was. One that he lived out successfully becoming the vice president of a paper company. If those gates had been closed to Sicilians, that dream would’ve been lost. But, the new ruling order in America was European. Familiar. More respected.

Similarly on the other side of my family, the Germans, hard-working hard-nosed, Immigrated here because of the promise of freedom and finding their own way. Again, European.

Now that we’re established here, for some reason we feel that we have the right to deprive that privilege from others. This is because power corrupts. This is because people don’t want to lose what they have, especially if it was gained through sweat and tears. And war. And murder.

So what of Mexicans that want to pursue similar dreams? Typically people only do illegal things if they are given few or no other choices.

The Mexicans I know Are religious, family orientated, and hard-working. Hardly the stereotypes that you see perpetuated by those that would keep them out of our country.

Fundamentally, I know why this is happening. Americans are thinking about the Indian Nations and other subjugated minorities. When America freed the slaves, we released a People deprived of identity, filled with self-hatred, and bitterness. And yet we wonder why these people distrust us today and wonder why our combined culture has fundamental psychological problems?

Who would want additional Americans that feel subjugated and distrust the government? That I feel is the main argument, the underlying psychosis that prevents the borders from being open. But in reality, it’s actually probably a legitimate threat. Emotions run high when it comes to freedom, Power, status, access to resources. This is what everyone wants. Men, women, boys, girls, white, black – – And when you grant these things to anyone, it is an inherent risk. It’s a risk because they might turn on you.

An America, attacked by terrorists, on the verge of economic collapse, is risk-averse. Adding new immigrants to the mix creates too many variables for the current populace to be comfortable with.

I believe in democracy. And I don’t believe that the borders will be open anytime soon because of the psychology I outlined above.

I think in order to establish healthy immigration practices between Mexico and America the relationship between the two countries would have to be fundamentally rewritten.

It’s very much like having a psychology patient, caught in a very negative beliefs system, and telling them to have faith in themselves and others. And I’m talking about both countries when I say this.

Emancipation, women’s rights, these were all steps in the right direction. But what really needs to happen is therapy. Healing. Reconciliation. Trust. And it’s accompanying vulnerability.

A vulnerability that most Americans, fearing the retribution of the less powerful, or the belligerent uneducated, are not willing to risk.

Categories: Politics Tags: Tags: , , , ,

5 Reasons I hate Mickey Mouse Clubhouse


I just finished reading my son a bedtime story. Rather than our usual storybooks, instead I chose a story from a magazine that my wife subscribes to as part of her day care offerings. Reading these stories made me vomit in my own mouth, and here are the top five reasons that I hate Mickey Mouse’s clubhouse stories and want them to be banned and burned.

Reason number one: Inane banter

The characters definitely seem high. All they talk about is how glorious everything is, how happy they are, and as many Disney brands as they can mention in three sentences.

Reason number two: posing as educational material

Having a story about a blanket in which they boldface every instance of blankets, does not instantly make that story educational. In my experience with my son after the third of eight frames of spelling the word blanket, bed was looking more inviting than the story.

Reason number three: completely implausible scenarios

In the story I read, the blanket is, several times, picked up by a gust of wind and gets stuck in a tree. Mickey Mouse solve these problems by making a trampoline appear and jumping on it, and by pulling a lever in a tree and making a shelter appear in which they eat all their food from the picnic. Well first of all, there’s the obvious bit that once you are eating inside it is no longer a picnic. But more importantly, I don’t want my son going on a Boy Scout outing, have trouble with his tent, and expect a lever to appear in a tree, with which he can make a shelter magically appear. The story is encouraging a generation who expects all their problems to be instantly solved without thinking.

Reason number four: branding, branding, and more branding

I know I mentioned this above, but it is worth mentioning again. Can you imagine if Disney didn’t have a marketing department? What if, instead, they were forbidden to mention any Disney brand-name that didn’t correlate directly to the story and even within the story they could only mention for example, Mickey Mouse, 100 times or less. The stories might read like, well, stories.

Reason number five: so many other examples of stories that do it right

Tiki Tiki Tembo is a story about two brothers. One has a long name, and the other has a short name. Sequentially, the short one first, they fall into a well. In this story, there is no magic lever next to the well for the other brother to pull. Instead, he has to walk all the way across the city and climb up a mountain to find an old man with a ladder who is sleeping and doesn’t want to see him. This is much more realistic.

In conclusion, Mickey Mouse clubhouse creates fantasy worlds that only serve to give children unrealistic expectations, and dumbed down minds, rife with propaganda and bizarre magical solutions to all problems.

Now where are my Muppet show DVDs…..

Categories: Technology Tags: Tags: , , , ,

Chris Feyrer’s Quick ‘n Easy Tuna Salad Recipe

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2 large cans of tuna fish
1 green pepper
1 yellow onion
3 cloves minced garlic (or dried minced garlic)
1 bottle mayo or Miracle Whip
1 stick of celery
Mrs Dash original (or salt and pepper)
Dash of lemon juice

Chop up green pepper, onion, celery and combine with tuna fish in medium sized bowl. Season with minced garlic and Mrs Dash to taste. Slowly add mayo until desired consistency. I prefer my mayo to just be enough to allow all the ingredients to stick together–otherwise it feels like a mayo sandwich.

Add a dash of lemon juice and mix well.

Serve immediately on your favorite sandwich bread or allow to marinade in the fridge for fuller flavor.

Makes 4-5 servings.

Categories: Food

Torchwood: Then and Now – No spoilers — UPDATED!

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UPDATE: I was very disappointed with Torchwood: Miracle Day. The plot and characters had much potential, and the actors gave all the script provided them, but in the end, what could have been a lot of brilliant storytelling ended up very convoluted and story. If you do watch it, watch for the big ideas, and be ready to skim past irrelevant scenes or even whole episodes…

I’ve written this article for people who have heard of, but may have never seen, the scifi show Torchwood. As such, I have made it completely spoiler free!

Torchwood is one of these shows that constantly reinvents itself. Perhaps unintentionally it seems to go through different stages, almost like a person growing up. Allow me to explain.

Season 1 of Torchwood was written back in the day when Doctor Who writers had no creative outlet for the most prurient of their interests. Sex. Violence. Gore. Death. Thus the series emerged as a bunch of horny, moody teenagers let loose from their parents for the first time, with Jack as the Residence Hall Assistant. As such, much of the series has the kind of things college freshman love — everyone hooking up with everyone, feelings from euphoria to angst and morbidity, and the writing quality of fan fiction. If you go in with this understanding, you will enjoy it, though I have always seen it as an indulgence food. What if you gave a college dorm access to alien tech, supercomputers, a big hidden base, and a Black SUV? Look no further! And just remember, even college freshman have moments of brilliance.

Season 2 saw Torchwood growing a bit. Sophomores suddenly have to up their game or they will get kicked out, or in this case, cancelled. Being the smart bunch they are, the stories got noticibly smarter. Whedon-like one-liners, a snappier pace and more interesting takes on what it means to have an adult show with few boundaries would set the tone for the next series.

Children of Earth was the sober, heart wrenching and truly adult season, using the boundaries of adult themes not for gratuitous interests but instead to push the boundries of storytelling into disturbing, compelling adult territory. All grown up, this series was a masterpiece, and deserved all the praise it got.

This brings us to Torchwood: Miracle Day, the current season. Like a person who has found their voice and wants to expand on a theme, Miracle Day almost feels like an “attempted sequel” to Children of Earth, in that it is a season length story based on a novel and adult theme – what if everyone stopped dying? So far I’d say it’s pretty good, but I long for the first 3 series’ cast that didn’t make it to this one.

Given all this, I would recommend newcomers start from the beginning so you can watch the show blossom into what it is now — wacky, engaging adult scifi television.

Chris Feyrer’s Italian Egg Salad Recipe

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I concocted a new egg salad recipe tonight with some Italian flair! Let me know what you think of it!

12 medium eggs
4 cloves of garlic,chopped
1 small or 1/2 large onion, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp dill
2 tsp olive oil
2 tbsp mayonaise
Salt and pepper
Put eggs in medium pan and cover with cold water. Heat to boiling. Turn off heat, let sit for 10 minutes. Shell and chop up, place into large bowl.
While eggs are heating, in a small frying pan, heat the olive oil on low to medium, and add the chopped cloves and onions. Let fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In large bowl, combine eggs, cloves/onion mixture. Add lemon juice and dill, stir.
Add mayo and stir. Add salt and pepper to your taste.

Serve immediately on lightly toasted bread or chill.

Makes 4-6 sandwiches.

Categories: Food Tags: Tags: , , ,

Slowing Down

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There’s several things very wrong with writing at 120 words per minute.  The first is, you often end up blurting out things that you otherwise might edit.  The second is, there’s no time really to process that which you have written — the words hit the page sometimes faster than your mind can process them.  Before you know it, your mind enters this state where you are actually slowing yourself down deliberately so that you are able to communicate effectively rather than quickly.  Alternately, you do NOT slow down and what you are typing degenerates into incoherent rambling.

Similarly, there are situations in which it’s easy to jump to conclusions.  The speed at which communication and work move right now make it very easy to do so — and the fact that you are competing with machines, knowledge bases, Google, subject matter experts — all that jump to conclusions in a fraction of a second.

I’m starting to wonder if ADHD, autism, and all similar ailments are caused by this overstimulation, the pressure, the stress of the modern age to perform quickly.  Those who can achieve quickly, move to the head of the pack, as they are keeping pace with technology. But what about the painstaking meticulousness of yesteryear?  The artist that slaves away with details at the perfect masterpiece for years.  The engineer that crafts a computer program commented down to the last detail.  The nurse or doctor that really takes the time not just to be your physician, but to know you as a person and know the little quirks that make your body tick.

I am making deliberate efforts to slow down, to process, to digest, to contemplate.  Technology’s greatest assett, it’s ability to access knowledge and make “snap” decisions, may also be its greatest liability. Contemplation allows us as humans, to still have the upper hand, and an asset I’ve yet to be seen replicated — perspective.

Categories: Technology