When TSA is Terrible Staff Agency

This is absolutely inexcusable!

A young woman, Hannah Cohen, has had a tumor removed from her brain, which combined with radiation treatments has made her blind and deaf on her left side, along with limited speech and mobility. She and her mother were flying home to Chattanooga a day post-anaesthesia from another treatment at St Jude hospital. [1]

And then the metal detector went off.

“They wanted to do further scanning, (but) she was reluctant — she didn’t understand what they were about to do,” said her mother, Shirley Cohen.
Cohen said she tried to tell agents with the Transportation Security Administration that her 19-year-old daughter is partially deaf, blind in one eye, paralyzed and easily confused — but she said police kept her away from the security agents. [2]

Disoriented and confused from the metal detector alarms and being grabbed, she was forcibly manhandled hard to the floor making her head injured and bleeding.

Worse, the TSA and Memphis Airport Police did not heed her mother, Shirley Cohen, who repeatedly tried to convey necessary medical information about her daughter, and ensure accommodations.

Two guards grabbed her daughter from both sides, the mother said.
“It freaked her out,” she told The Commercial Appeal. “They didn’t listen to me at all. When they grabbed her, it scared her, and she was trying to get away from them. The next thing I know, one of them slammed her down on the floor and busted her head open. There was blood everywhere.” [1]

The young woman, who was returning home after finishing treatment for the brain tumor at St. Jude Hospital, was arrested and booked into jail.
Authorities eventually threw out the charges against Hannah Cohen, but her family has filed a lawsuit against Memphis police, airport police and the TSA. [2]

[1] http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/courts/lawyers-st-jude-patient-injured-by-airport-security-36949a4b-631b-10b7-e053-0100007f024b-385207351.html

[2] http://www.rawstory.com/2016/07/disabled-woman-beaten-bloody-by-tsa-agents-after-becoming-confused-and-afraid-at-security-checkpoint/

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WE MUST CREATE CHANGE

I was going to call this my “Hope For 2015”, but that is so passive and useless. Anybody can – and lots of people do – post warm, fuzzy notes with Hopes for the New Year, and others click and share. Lovely.

But this is NOT all warm & fuzzy. It’s literally dead serious (with many murdered throughout the year), and quite often blunt, because I am blunt at times. It’s also a call to a change of perspective for some of you.

Deal. Think about it. I’m not a lone voice. Click and share.

MY CALL TO ACTION IS FOR YOU TO READ THIS THROUGH, THINK, AND SPEAK UP. ALL YEAR LONG.

And the next year and the next.

This isn’t about some stranger, or Those Other People, or “That Kind”.

Children with disabilities or other differences are not diseased or broken. The same is true for adults. Yes, those “poor, little disabled children” grow up into disabled adults. Gee, so where’s the concern now? It sure isn’t at work; in the U.S. general unemployment is at 5.3%, but for disabled adults it’s twice that at 10.8%.

Nor are autistic or ADHD children some kind of modern mystery; millions of such adults have been around for decades, just unrecognized for lack of diagnostics. Most of us are profoundly relieved to find out Why. We still have to deal with the details, but that’s easier when you know that not all your difficulties are from some kind of moral failing, or from a lack of trying (and trying, and trying).

WHAT, YOU NEVER HAD KIDS LIKE “THAT KIND” IN YOUR CLASSES? YOU KNOW WHY?

Some were kept at home, because until passage of the IDEA in 1975, US law did not require public schools to teach everyone.

Some were warehoused in institutions, badly treated, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed, and oft uneducated.

But many of us were there; how we struggled through school and life, without accommodations or understanding, and often the target of bullying by peers and even school officials.

Untold numbers of women and men just knew themselves inexplicably “a bit odd”, and did best they could; some succeeding, others not so well.

At worst are those who not only lacked resources, but were shunned by society’s classism, ableism, racism and sexism, and (if still alive) are found among the imprisoned, derelicts, addicts, abused and enslaved populations.

YOUR CHILDREN AND EVEN COLLEGE STUDENTS WILL LEARN DIFFERENTLY, SO YOU MUST ADJUST

We are neither inherently stupid nor incapable of learning. Learning differently means teaching differently. Find what works. Everyone has limits, but a consistent lack of success means you should use another method, as well as more time. Sometimes the learning is highly irregular in pace. Tie learning to interests to motivate your children and students.

Also, be aware that sometimes the “simple basics” may be entirely bypassed by some students who leap to master higher concepts, albeit often forever struggling with those seemingly “simple basics”. People are humans, not robots. Learning is not always linear.

COMMUNICATION IS NOT JUST SPEAKING

Never assume that just because someone is nonverbal they cannot communicate. If you’re not getting their messages, then *you* are doing something wrong. Nor should you assume that because someone is nonverbal that they cannot understand what people say (though the processing may sometimes be delayed). Nor assume that because someone has been nonverbal for years that they’ll never speak. And damn, will you get an earful.

INCONSISTENCY IN DAY-TO-DAY ABILITIES IS FRUSTRATING FOR ALL, AND NOT A CHOICE

Importantly, just because someone is able to speak or do a task one day, that does not guarantee consistent results. It’s the nature of disabilities — regardless whether considered mental or physical – all involve the brain. Brains are funny things, and many of us have a few buggy Beta-version programs in our wetware. It’s frustrating as hell for all involved.

But don’t assume the “could-then-can’t-now” is intentional. “Oh, he can hear me when he wants.” “Well, you could solve those equations just fine yesterday.” I can guarantee that after a lifetime of such, ridiculing people and punishing them for things they cannot help only increases performance stress.

While that stress might increase focus from sheer terror, it often squelches overall functioning. (Do you want me to listen to you, or try to recall yesterday’s process, or slowly figure it out on my own? I can only do one — if my stomach will stay down.)

TRAMPLE THE TROPES

Ignore the media tropes and centuries of religious hype: disabled people are neither inherently amoral, soulless and evil, nor are they infinitely happy, friendly and angelic. People are people. A few will be nasty bits, some will be profoundly good sorts, and the rest are just ordinary folks who get mad, sad and glad, who screw things up sometimes, and who will also serve others selflessly despite bearing more abuse than anyone should.

We are definitely not incomprehensible, incomplete, little autism-puzzle-pieces, unloving, unlovable, or uncaring.

We are whole people with all the same cares, needs and wants as all humans. Beware — disability happens to anyone at any time. We aren’t a Them, and YOU can be among the world’s 15% in just one day. We are all Us.

STOP “TEACHING TOLERANCE”

Because tolerance means putting up with something one doesn’t really like, or that doesn’t really belong. We want full-fledged ACCEPTANCE.

Nor should we only be acceptable if we can somehow “overcome” our differences enough to pass for Normal Real People. Trying to “pass” all the time is exhausting, and invariably breaks down, oft resulting in the [supposed] Normal Real People assuming that one is lazy, stupid, crazy, all the above, or worse.

Training children for hours a day how to artificially perform “acting normal” does not serve to help them learn how to function best in the world. Yes, of course teach good manners, social and work skills. But suppressing every twitch of one’s natural being adds to stress, making everything else yet more difficult. This is especially when performing like a “normal person” means not doing the harmless things that reduce stresses.

STOP THE BLAME

I must call out the terrifying, unaddressed assumption which underlies so much daily trauma: “The reason the disabled [children] are targeted by bullies is because they are perceived as being weird”. Despite the pervasiveness of this social theme in society, most people are functionally unaware of it, all the while instilling in their Normal People children the same message. Normal People children need to act normal, and not act like That Kind. After all, that’s how the Normal People know the others are That Kind, who’s Us and who’s Them.

But it’s the disabled and different who are taught, over-and-over-and-over that not only is it their fault for behaving or looking weird, BUT ALSO if they weren’t so weird, well then they wouldn’t be bullied. “Quit being so weird! Just say No! Just say Stop.”

Just say BULLSHIT. Because this is blaming the victim. The problem is not that everyone isn’t the same, the problem is that there are bullies.

Even worse, blaming the targets actually empowers the bullies, because the social story says it’s the victim is the one who is acting wrong, so it’s not really the bully who is to blame.

Let’s just top off all that existing anxiety and depression with the trauma of trying to seek justice, but being told again that, “Well it’s your fault, you know. Attracting attention by being weird, and bugging people. You need to quit making trouble now. You already take up too much of our time with all of your “special” needs. Quit whining and go deal with it. — But no fighting, because we’ll know it was you who started it.”

By the way, it’s not “just a kids at school” thing that everyone will “grown out of”. It continues on through college, and happens at work, too.

YOU CAN’T WALK IN THE LITTLE BOY’S SHOES;

THEY’RE FLOATING DOWN-RIVER

It is NEVER acceptable to murder disabled children. Nor should these repeated, horrifying events be considered “understandable” or “excusable”, with the murderers being pardoned just because their son or daughter had a disability.

Increasingly more prevalent in social media, the crime becomes insidiously deemed more and more acceptable. Murderers re-cast themselves as martyrs, acquiring champions to their cause. Throughout repeated blog posts and news stories, they bemoan how taking care of disabled children is just too unbearable, they had to take care of them every day of the week, there was never any relief or help. (Even though there was.) Cue the groupies’ hand-wringing and protests upon the villains’ behalf: “Oh but won’t you walk in their shoes, how they’ve given up their lives, this wasn’t at all what they wanted.”

For in true sociopathic fashion, the poor, long-suffering parents revel in the attention, announcing to the world – sometimes ahead of time — what they have done, and all the while describing themselves as the victims. The dead children (young or adult) are unwanted, and deemed unwantable, less than human just because they couldn’t speak, or needed medical treatments, or used a power chair, or didn’t play with their toys the “right way”, or wore adult diapers … No one would want to live like that; the thing’s better off dead. And what of the groupies? Well, where do you think people get such terrible ideas that it’s okay to kill one’s own children?

ENOUGH WITH THE “DISABILITY INSPIRATION PORN”.

Quit using those heart-tugging videos, walk-a-thons, telethons, and other grand-society functions to win your supposed Cosmic Brownie Points for giving us your pity. Please stop dumping upon us the largesse of your unwanted rags (so Victorian, so passé), or creating useless functions requiring us to serve as targets of unwanted helpful-helper-helpiness for your ego-boo.

Get disabled people out of “sheltered workshops”. Yes, people need work they are suited to. But the segregation and token sweatshop “wages” are an embarrassment and humiliation to all.

YES, CHILDREN GROW UP.

YEP, STILL DISABLED, BUT NOW ADULTS

Do not assume your children will remain permanently childish and incapable — they mature on their own timelines. Allow adults to be adults. Support their needs and interests, but neither dress them like children, nor expect them to live their lives in naïve pre-puberty stasis, without adult desires for socializing with adult peers, life-long learning, mastering skills for some kind of job (even if that job is “just socially productive work” rather than traditional work), and yes, having a love life, however that may be expressed.

YES, PEOPLE ALSO NEED ACCOMMODATIONS;

THAT DOESN’T MEAN “CURE”

Most disabled or different people are not looking for cures to magically change them into someone else, some kind of fantasy Normal Real person that their families wanted instead. Our differences may result from physical events, by random mutation, and / or genetics. Your genetics. We are family. I’m Me, and I like being Me. If you somehow changed all the differences in my brain, I wouldn’t be Me anymore, with all my quirks and abilities.

Of course it will be great to find a means for preventing migraines, epilepsy, fatal medical conditions, et cetera. But it’s also a sad fact that some people have been so convinced of their undesirability as disabled human beings that they can only see “cure” as a means to being an acceptable Normal Real Person. (Worst of all, some people commit suicide because they’ve been taught to hate themselves, as useless and unwanted.)

But what’s really alarming is all the fund-raising, talk, research, and work going on today to eliminate entire kinds of peoples. I’m talking about the thousands of selfish individuals and sociopaths who believe that anyone with neurological or morphological differences should not exist at all, because That Kind takes up too much time, money, and resources.

That’s not “looking for a cure” – that’s eugenics and euthanasia, the same ideas that led to the Nazi Aktion T4 program and other horrors. (In my youth, the state hospital was still in the regular habit of sterilizing people. Had I been institutionalized, I might well not have had my lovely children and grandchildren.)

Yes, we want assistance, we want things that help us achieve what we want in life. Getting the things one needs to learn effectively, to move about, attend to their own needs, to work, to play, to be a part of the community, to have lovers or families. These things should not be seen as extraordinary, special, absurd, or a waste of money, just because they aren’t the same kinds of things used by other people. 15% of the people in the world have disabilities. That is a lot of humanity, and many are uneducated, abused, neglected, avoided, or shut away, depriving the world of incredible amounts of untapped abilities and talents.

CALL OUT BULLSHIT. REQUIRE ACCOMMODATIONS. DEMAND ACCEPTANCE.

MAKE IT SO.

More universal than you might think

All those years of spending hours thinking up that brilliant retort to their insults … and instead of that stunned silence of acknowledgement you had anticipated — you just got more bullying.

Again.

*~#~*

Don’t play their game.

Short eye contact, a nonverbal response of incredulity, and then ignore them.

What Would Molly Ivins Say?

Oh, boy howdy! This article by Laura Hibbard, “Texas Republican Party Calls For Abstinence Only Sex Ed, Corporal Punishment In Schools” nearly made me choke on my cuppa tea. She described just a few of the details the 2012 Republican Party of Texas wants for their state schools. (The article also includes a nicely scrollable copy of their entire Platform Report.)

You know me, I’m a science person, with keen interests in education and social justice.  And I was flabbergasted. It’s like a car crash — you can’t help but gawp in horrified fascination. Well, I had the day off work, so after a house-painting break, scanned through most of the document. It’s one thing to hear soundbites on the radio or in video, but quite another to actually be able to read an entire position. For one thing, it gives a person the chance to notice internal inconsistencies, and look things up.

In addition to the aforementioned items listed in the title of Hibbard’s article, the Texas GOP’s document lists a lot more in their “Educating Our Children” section. For example, they also want to eliminate preschool and kindergarten, and require daily pledges of allegiance to the US & Texas flags (because that somehow makes one patriotic).

Ooh, get this:

“Classroom Expenditures for Staff – We support having 80% of school district payroll expenses of professional staff of a school district be full-time classroom teachers.”

You realize that means giving the ability to hire a number of part-time classroom teachers (and paraprofessionals if they opt to include some) who can be paid WAY less, which will keep a district’s budget way down. “Fiscal responsibility” as a loophole for loading up on part-time staff. Who of course often don’t get benefits — unfortunately, a common practice in education and other industries. (Yes, I’m calling education an industry.)

And of course, this next incredible ::head-desk:: concept that (for me) underpins a great deal of their platform:

“Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Because you know, mastering the subject material and learning how to think critically will undermine the GOP’s fixed beliefs and enable challenging authority. Any challenges to authority will be dealt with accordingly:

“Classroom Discipline –We recommend that local school boards and classroom teachers be given more authority to deal with disciplinary problems. Corporal punishment is effective and legal in Texas.”

Under the “Promoting Individual Freedom and Personal Safety” section, this concept continues as, Read the rest of this entry »

Re-tailored

Golly, it’s been some time since I’ve written a post. It’s not for a lack of thoughts, but rather energy.  My sleep has been disturbed by nightmares for, well, months, and the cumulative effect wears me down in the evenings.

This I had posted over years back.  As the saying describes, Friends come and go, but enemies hang around. I thought I had laid to rest some of those old demons, and perhaps I had, but now they reappear, previous horrors conflated with the memories of new experiences.

TAILOR-MADE

Tailor-made, I was.
Though all my clothes hung on me
And I was awkward as hell
Shoelaces usually tripped undone
And my hair ties came loose.

Tailor-made for being the victim
Geeky, younger, smaller, four-eyed,
Clumsy, studious, totally clueless
Socially awkward, unpopular
And best of all, face-blind.

I never knew who it was that poked me with pins
Stole my purse, squashed my lunch
Took my street clothes while in gym
Groped barely-developing breasts
Slammed me against the lockers.

Smeared clay on my chair like shit
Marked on my books, tore my assignments
Called me names, oh so many names
Or briefly pretended to befriend me
To make me the butt of a joke.

Not that I didn’t protest repeatedly
I reported the abuses properly
Told many official, protective people
Friends, family, teachers, administrators
But their responses were unilateral

“Boys will be boys,” said dad.
“You’re just being whiney,” said mom.
“If you can’t tell us who these people are,
that you ‘think’ are doing things to you,
then we can’t do anything,” said the officials.

Perhaps the real problem
Was not in what I said,
But that I was speaking up.
When I asserted myself
They redefined my reality.

Saying that what I perceived did not exist
That I was crazy, hallucinating, or on drugs
That I was just trying to attract attention
That I was making things up
When I wasn’t.

The perfect victim is someone
Who can’t identify the people that did things
Who tries to be good and please people
Who misses danger cues
Who is easy to silence.

The anger and frustration at being disbelieved
Turns into confusion and self-doubt
Maybe it’s just me
I must be wrong
Everyone says so.

Depression sinks in
I must be crazy
I keep perceiving this as reality
When everyone says it isn’t so
Isn’t that the logical conclusion?

You must trust people to help you
They are important people
They are the ones in charge
They know what’s best for you
They keep asserting you’re wrong.

When the reality is given to you by others
And they keep changing the story
It’s hard to keep your facts straight.
This is of course is only further proof
That you are crazy, and making things up.

Trust is earned, not demanded.
Funny how trust erodes
When reality is allowed to reassert itself
And I re-assert myself
Even though they re-assert:

I’m just acting out and making up stories.


What you want

I still feel queasy when I remember the words.

Children have a certain disempowerment simply because they are young — they are naïve, less learned, and lack perspective. But this transcended childhood.  It sank past the boundaries of adult to child, or parent to child, and trampled my self-identity and self-determination.

My mom had found a way to get past what some would have called the “fortress” that isolated me, that natural preoccupation with whatever I was doing and naïve self-centeredness, that self-ism or autism that was greater in me than most anyone else.

“Oh, you don’t want to get grilled cheese again!” she chided me, but her sharp glance to me denied the lightness in her tone.  Her expression would then change, as it so often did when she spoke to other adults, with the swiftness of flipping a social light-switch, and she turned to pleasantly address the waitress “She wants the ham sandwich.”

Or: “You don’t either, have a headache.  You’re just fine.  Now go get your work done.”

And in 9th grade, in a dizzying double-bind: “You don’t want to be a park ranger; quit flapping that survey!  You’re going to sign up for bookkeeping and typing, and you’re going to start getting good grades in math class, too.”

Increasingly, I was told how I “really” felt emotionally or physically, or told me that I could not possibly be feeling something, that indeed I actually was feeling.  Invalidation is when an emotionally abusive person distorts someone’s perception of the world, or when the abuser undermines their factual processing by casting doubt upon the facts of the events.  Denying what happened or the analysis of what happened, minimizing the importance of abusive statements or trivializing the recipient’s responses are also means of invalidation.

Over the years, my inertia increased.   I could never tell when I was expected to have a preference, or rather, to just to express a preference, since apparently I wasn’t really allowed to have them.  When it wasn’t convenient to others for me to express a preference (to speed up shopping, or to allow my mom to appear generous), I was soundly rebuked and told what I “really wanted”.

My stress and depression increased throughout my teen years.  When I should have been learning independence and skills and decision-making, I was thwarted, and then paradoxically, received further insults because of my lack of independence.  Never knowing when I was supposed to express an opinion, or what my opinion was “supposed” to be, I frequently gave up and just shrugged, unable to verbally express the “appropriate response”. I frequently did not know what that “appropriate response” was.

Worse, with my lack of being able to perceive all those subtle social cues that pervaded both my warped home environment, and even the subtle social cues that comprise such an overwhelming part of interactions in the “normal” world, I was becoming increasingly fatigued with the burden of shamefully lacking in whatever psychic means would have informed me.  It was of course, all my fault, as so many people were quickly willing to inform me.

My mom had found a way to get past my natural self-centeredness, not by inviting me to understand others’ worlds, but by trampling my personal boundaries of selfhood.  Although children have a certain disempowerment simply because they are young, they, like all self-conscious organisms, are entitled to — nay, required — that their selfhood be respected.  Denying that someone else might have opinions worth considering, much less that they are even allowed to even have opinions, violates that central inalienable right.

~#~

Years later as an adult, I was still running into much the same problem of “reality shifting” (being told by others what my personal reality and preferences were “supposed” to be), even if it wasn’t expressed as blatantly or as frequently.  One such event became (in retrospect) a tipping point — not in events, but in perceptual clarity.  I finally realized that such events were equally disrespectful, even if they lacked the overt denial and double-binds.

My (now ex-) husband was telling me that I shouldn’t want to do jury duty because it might interfere with my vacation schedule or my work schedule.  I shouldn’t want to do jury duty because it didn’t pay as much as my job did.

But I realised in confusion, that this wasn’t about what I wanted to do, to participate as a citizen, to help make a positive difference in justice, and to be able to observe another facet of social functioning.

Ostensibly, it was about what he wanted from me, in terms of convenience in the family schedule, and what he wanted from me in terms of my earnings. (Unbeknownst to me at the time, we were horribly, deeply in debt.)  I wasn’t denying that it could make these differences in scheduling and earnings — but really, that wasn’t the issue here.  Those “reasons” were just distractors.

Rather, he was trying to enforce my actions based upon his wants, and dismissing my wants as being unimportant.  He was trying to convince me that his wants were my wants.  We all have wants, but I didn’t think that mine should have been dismissed as being unimportant.

The solutions he proposed were ones compromises between the requirements of the law, and what he said I wanted.  But effectively, I was the one being compromised, because his announcement denied my interests and enabled him to get what he wanted, rather than what would have enabled both of us.

I got tired of being told what I should want. I got tired of being told how I should feel.  I was suffering from a chronic case of spiritual fatigue. Constantly negotiating to be taken seriously was an exhausting way to live.

I don’t miss those aspects of my life; my whole system twitches when I perceive someone telling me what I “should be feeling” or “really want to do”.

Now if only I could get out of some of these other double binds that infest my work life …

You Can’t

(These quotes are real, at least to the gist of what was told me.)

“You can’t — no, no whining!  You just sit here next to me and wait quietly for the doctor.  You are NOT going to bother people by grabbing all the magazines and lining them up on the floor.  Don’t even ask ‘why’ — I’m tired of all the Why’s.”

“Will you quit repeating things over and over. What the devil’s gotten into you?”

“Oh, just stop flapping about every time you’re upset!  Your baby sister doesn’t go around doing weird things like that!”

“Sit still, Andrea, no rocking.  We don’t do that in school.”

“Stop doing that!  You’re going to kill the grass, spinning around in circles like that.  Now come inside and quit making a spectacle of yourself.”

“What were you thinking, Read the rest of this entry »

Dark, stormy days

It’s not just the weather.

Christschool’s recent post, “Fleeting Innocence, Captured Before It’s Gone” got me thinking and connecting distant points, much in the manner of the orb-weaver spider that connects a broadening spiral of nodes across our back door each night.

We slide further into a scarier world.  It is not just a world where there is less freedom and diversity plus more violence and hate-crime, but rather a world that not only publicly accepts and condones, but even demands the necessity of violence.

It’s there in the realm of education, where the requirements for instruction and inclusion have created new opportunities for some spiteful people to create long-lasting terror for those forcibly obliged to attend.  When children are harassed and bullied and tormented in school to the point they finally react, their persecutors (and those who allow such events to continue) strike back and complain, “We must be allowed to forcibly control and harm those misbehaving children so we can ‘protect’ everyone.”

It’s there in the realm of employment, where the openness of accommodations and efforts of ordinary people to use them for work, shopping and leisure has provided some people with new bases for the discrimination and harassment of their coworkers, employees, and customers.  “They shouldn’t be there if they don’t want to deal with the problems they’re going to create by existing in the public sphere.  It’s too much money or trouble, or uses up resources that Real People need.  They should just stay at home or be gotten rid of.”

It’s there in the realm of national security, where anyone who is suspected of activity can be detained for years without legal process, and tortured as well.  Even ordinary, law-abiding citizens cannot expect to have the same safeguards for rights and liberties that they used to.  “Freedom isn’t free.”

Whereas violence was previously ignored, or dismissed as unimportant, or officially diminished (downgraded) as being less severe than it was, now we have an increasing number of situations where violence is seen as not only inevitable, but also as excusable, desirable, beneficial and even necessary.

Freedom and safety are obverse and reverse of the same coin; when we seek to increase one, we lose more of the other.

Sadly, as economic and political times get more anxious, groups of people withdraw back to their tribal units in paranoia.  The backward, rigid end of conservatism or tribalism reacts to uncertainty and fear by enforcing greater controls.  To some, eliminating tolerance for the Other and superstitiously making sacrifices to appease divine forces seems to be the only way to ward off Bad Things from happening.  Somebody has to pay.  It must be Somebody’s fault.  If Somebody who isn’t behaving exactly as the codes specify is punished, then divine pleasure might be gained.  If Somebody can be blamed for causing our problems, then swift and great revenge is appropriate and balance will be restored.

But scapegoating and harming the few of the outgroup does nothing to ensure that all are safe.  Hardly anyone in the larger public will even listen, and most don’t even want to hear what’s really happening.  We are sinking in insidious evil that is frosted-over in colourful “truthiness” sugar-coating, and is obscured by galas of newslessness about celebrity foibles and the nonsense over manufactroversies.  The bits that do get reported are so shouted-over with “spin” that great chunks of the public can’t even hear them, much less realise the cognitive dissonance.  Such platitudes are just the 21st-century version of Orwellian Newspeak, where we are being sold the terrifying message that

“PAIN IS SAFETY”

Don’t you believe it.  Be careful when there seems to be a break in the clouds; sometimes it’s just the eye of the hurricane.

School “Discipline”?

(Coffee-spew warning;
swallow beverage before reading.)

I’ve been mulling over this post for a while now, and then several things reached critical mass, including a comment by a tutee, the recent post on Alex Barton (“Mend the Link”), and some internet articles listing “common questions asked in teacher interviews”.

Oh, plus this wayfinding sign displayed on the end of a “stack” at a library. The numbers of course refer to the Dewey Decimal subject classification. I like to think that whomever printed up the sign appreciated the ten-tonne irony; I also wonder just how many people actually notice it.

(Post continues below picture)

Apparently one of those common teacher-interview questions runs along the lines of, “How do you maintain classroom discipline?”

Wow. That sort of phrasing gives me flashbacks of Read the rest of this entry »

Mend the Link

A horrifying news story: a little boy in Florida kindergarten class was publicly humiliated and ostracized by his classmates, at the urging of their teacher.

After each classmate was allowed to say what they didn’t like about Barton’s 5-year-old son, Alex, his Morningside Elementary teacher Wendy Portillo said they were going to take a vote, Barton said.

By a 14 to 2 margin, the students voted Alex — who is in the process of being diagnosed with autism — out of the class.

There are so many ways to mistreat those who ought to belong somewhere. These means of intolerance, of expressing prejudice, range from the most passive to the most active. But even the passive ones are cruel when they are intended to be exclusionary. The outright active ones are the most vile.

You can be Read the rest of this entry »

You Don’t Say

“How can you not tell me when you are flunking English?!”
“Can’t you ever do anything right?”
“Do you really want to fail 8th-grade math and take it over again?!”

There is no answer that is going to be acceptable to anyone. I mean, would you go up to your parents and say, “I really want to fail beginning algebra so I can sit through units on order of operations and inequalities all over again”?

Of course not! What makes these so hard to answer is that they really aren’t questions at all. They’re accusations: You are flunking a class and didn’t care to tell me about it. (Given that my mom was angry and yelling and all but shaking me in an arm-bruising grip, it’s not surprising that I did not care to divulge the news.)

Because these are not questions, they are not really spoken to elicit answers. Woe to the literal-minded aspie child who tries to make up for the transgressions by actually attempting to answer, “I’m trying—”

“You certainly are! You’re a very trying child.”

What is being demanded is a promise that somehow everything will be made better. You wish that were so, too, and feel even more powerless to change the situation. Beyond feeling inadequate to the task at hand, you also know that attempts to communicate problems will also be met with anger, hostility, contradictory messages, and impossible demands. No matter what you do, you won’t be able to succeed.

How do you answer questions like that?

The answer is that you can’t. These are Read the rest of this entry »

Catapulting to Conclusions

Because you can get there so much faster if you use a big machine to throw you right over annoying factual hurdles in your way.

I’ve been meaning to dissect this issue for over a week, but a lot of things have been happening over here. A recent news story has prompted a lot of discussion, some of it rather ugly. The short of it (and the news article in the Chicago Tribune is not terribly long) is that a 29-year old woman identified only as “K.E.J.” has been granted an appellate opinion in her favor. The woman experienced a traumatic brain injury as a child, and according to the wording of the article, “cannot be left alone to operate a stove or perform most household chores”, although by having that bit of information alone, our perceptions of her are biased because it does not mention what she is capable of doing. Her legal guardian, an aunt, had filed a petition with the court to have her (fallopian) tubes tied. All three judges on the panel were unanimous in their decision against this action.

“Tubal ligation is a particularly drastic means of preventing a mentally incompetent ward from becoming pregnant,” Judge Joseph Gordon wrote in the 36-page opinion. There are “less intrusive and less psychologically harmful [birth-control] alternatives.”

The readers’ comments were much longer than the article, and many were downright rude. This situation is so fraught with over-generalisations and false dichotomies and conflations that it fair makes me dizzy. The biggest and most common fallacy of the lot was the combined Read the rest of this entry »

Clonal antibodies

“Clonal antibodies” was the phrase that came to mind. Which really had nothing to do with the news image I was seeing, it was just my brain doing the AD/HD-randomizer trick again.

Or, maybe the words did have something to do with the photograph. I was looking at an AP Photo by Tony Gutierrez, one of many recent photographs of the mothers from the The Fundamental Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, as they stood in front of the courthouse:

Clonal was in a sense true. All nine of these white women are garbed in nearly identical frocks, a rather loose-fitting style that the press is referring to as “prairie dresses”, made of plain pastel blue, lavender, teal or green fabric, with long sleeves pleated at the shoulders, bodices buttoned all the way up to the collars, and reverse-pleated ankle-length skirts. Not only that, but Read the rest of this entry »

D is for Diss

“Diss” is a slang term, a verb meaning to show disrespect to someone.

One day I was waiting (interminably) in an uncomfortably hard reception room chair at the doctor’s office, flipping through the previous day’s newspaper and reading sad news reports of hate crimes directed at people with disabilities. Of course, the news didn’t call them “Hate Crimes”; they were simply short fillers in the corner of the page where local crimes were reported, just ordinary, everyday, unremarkable crimes that happen in a big metropolitan area.

It occurred to me that an awful lot of dreadful words come from the D section of the dictionary. Like the news omitting the term “hate crime”, we don’t even see these words used very often either, because the attitudes that create the malfeasance are not examined.

Even thought it’s about The Letter D, this is not a happy little alphabet book for children, not even Children with Disabilities.

  • Damn or Demonise someone as being “possessed”
  • Decline to discuss why something is a problem
  • Decry and condemn advocacy efforts as “mere whining” or asking for “special treatment” or “extra favors”
  • Deepen the Difficulty level beyond merely being “challenging”
  • Defame and insult advocates who work for social justice
  • Defer actions until “resources are better” but never do anything
  • Deflate ambitions of young people, recently-disabled people, and anyone trying to change jobs or retrain for new careers
  • Demote or transfer employees to Dead-end jobs
  • Denigrate parents who seek accommodations or services from schools
  • Deny or quit service previously given because the recipient has been re-identified as one of the undeserving out-group
  • Deny what really happened in workplace discrimination
  • De-personalise those on life-support as mere “vegetables”
  • Deprecate equal-access laws as undo hardship on businesses
  • Depreciate the value of slower workers’ earnings (well below minimum hourly wages) because they are paid for piece-work
  • Derail important conversations to unimportant side matters
  • Destroy or vandalize homes or vans-cars-motorcycles-bikes simply because one is seen as outcast or unable to fight back
  • Devalue creative works because they are not “normal”
  • Diminish and belittle one’s dreams
  • Discard residents’ possessions because they “will never need or miss them”
  • Discharge from the hospital and then Drop off and abandon still critically-ill people at homeless shelters, despite the fact that they are even less-able to defend or care for themselves
  • Discredit a person’s knowledge, training or skills
  • Dishonor veterans by failing to provide adequate medical, counselling, residential, educational or occupational services
  • Dismiss someone’s concerns as trivial because “nobody else has a problem with that”
  • Disown children or other relatives because they are deemed unworthy of being proper family members
  • Disparage and dismiss one’s rank or position
  • Displace existing residents because “more important” people need the space
  • Dispose of someone’s collection of favorite objects or hobby materials because it is “not valuable” to others
  • Disregard protests of innocence, because obviously someone is bullied or abused because they “asked for it”
  • Disrespect spouses or partners
  • Divest any involvement and wash hands of the problem

Facts aren’t enough

“Wow, you take more pills than me,” hubby remarked as I filled up my daily pill-minder for the next week.

I paused for a couple seconds and then answered, “That’s a bit misleading — you take more inhalers.” A bit later, I added, “Besides, a couple of those pills are just calcium supplements, and there’s one prescription I take twice a day.” With the HRT patch, that’s just four daily prescriptions. Going by numbers of pills swallowed isn’t a very good comparison of the numbers of medications we each take; it’s probably close to an equal number, just different kinds of meds and different kinds of delivery systems.

Maybe I was being a trifle pedantic. Then again, the phrasing of the comment made it sound a bit like I was popping a lot of drugs. I don’t think that my hubby meant the remark in a negative way; it was just an off-hand remark meant to fill conversational space while I was puttering around getting ready for bed.

I might not have even noticed — or responded — had I not run into similar comments over the years, comments that were meant to make negative implications. These kinds of statements really bother me, especially because they are a misuse of otherwise good forms of factual communication. There’s an old joke: Read the rest of this entry »

For children now gone

For the past three days I have been trying to think of something to say about the tragedies. I cannot really find the words to describe the incredible wrongness of such pointless losses. Even worse, there is the lack of reportage about such news (in Brent’s case), or the reportage of support for the murderer (in Katie’s case). I wish I could say that such events were unheard of, but horribly, they are not freak singularities, simply unheard-of by being under-reported. Children with disabilities are murdered more often than anyone wants to realise.

The first story is of a young man, Brent Martin. He was beaten to death by a gang three guys who punched him in the head 18 times, just for a £5 bet. Brent was targeted because he had an intellectual disability. He never even fought back. Dave Hingsburger has initiated a black armband campaign in his memory.

The other story is of a little girl, Katie. Her mother Karen McCarron suffocated her with a plastic garbage bag because she couldn’t stand the fact that her three-year old daughter was autistic. The rest of Katie’s family misses her terribly.

Katie’s favorite color was pink, so here are some Pinks flowers. The black-banded tiger swallowtail butterfly is for Brent.

Go give your children hugs and tell them how much you love them.

“Superstition ain’t the way”

Very superstitious, writing’s on the wall.
Very superstitious, ladder’s ’bout to fall.
Thirteen-month-old baby broke the looking glass.
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past.
When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.
Superstition ain’t the way.

(Part of the lyrics to “Superstition” by Stevie Wonder)

I recently heard on BBC Radio 4 news a story about an effort by the AfriKids organisation located in Ghana. From the AfriKids Web site, they explain:

… a child born with deformities or defining characteristics in the area was considered a ‘spirit child‘ who must therefore not be allowed to live with humans, for fear they will bring bad luck into the lives of the family. Such children, the paper gathered, were subjected to various forms of inhumane treatment aimed at terminating their lives.

To prove their innocence, the deformed infants are given deadly locally prepared concoctions, which the people believe can only kill ‘spirit children’.The practice has been with the people for ages. Until the interventions of some NGOs including Afrikids, the people in the area generally accepted the practice as a traditional norm, which should be conserved and continued.

There are a number of reasons why a child may be born with various deformities, including random genetic chance, maternal malnutrition, and diseases such as polio or rubella. Of course, polio and rubella can be prevented by vaccination. Other news in recent years included Nigeria, where polio vaccines were strongly resisted by local authorities (this article from New Scientist, 18 November 2003):

Laboratory tests by Nigerian scientists have dismissed accusations that the polio vaccine given in a mass immunisation campaign in the country is contaminated with anti-fertility hormones and HIV.

The World Health Organization (WHO) drive to rid the world of polio hit a major obstacle in October when immunisations were suspended in three regions in northern Nigeria due to rumours that the vaccine was laced with the HIV virus and hormones to render women infertile.

Some Islamic clerics suggested the vaccine is part of a Western plot to depopulate Africa. However, test results from experts recruited by the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria gave the all-clear on Tuesday.

“The vaccine is free of any anti-fertility agents or dangerous disease like HIV,” said Abdulmumini Rafindadi, at the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital in Zaria, according to the Nigerian newspaper The Guardian.

But before you start getting cocky from your ethnocentric place in some Westernised, “first-world” country, stop and remember: superstition isn’t just for the illiterate third-world masses. Cloaked in modern pseudo-science or religious devotion, it’s enabling our neighbors to abuse and kill children.

Consider Amy Burney, a five-year old girl from the Bronx (New York City) who was poisoned in April 1997:

Convinced that the child was possessed by demons, Angelee Burney and Ms. Downing forced her to drink a toxic brew of ammonia, pepper, vinegar and olive oil, the police said. The women wrapped her body in a floral sheet and tossed it in the garbage bin outside their apartment building in the Kingsbridge section, the police said.

Consider Terrance Cottrell, an eight-year old autistic boy from Milwaukee who was suffocated during an exorcism.

When Junior arrived at the Faith Temple Church he was asked by the minister to lie on the floor. The boy’s trainers were removed to lesson the blows of his kicks. Sheets were also wrapped around him to stop him scratching. During the “prayer” service, Hemphill reportedly used one hand to hold Junior’s head to the floor and one knee to press down on to the boy’s chest. Cooper, meanwhile, held one of Junior’s feet while Tolefree held the other. Another woman, Monica Carver, was lying across the boy’s chest. All the while, Hemphill whispered into Junior’s ear, ordering the demons to leave him. Junior apparently struggled throughout, with Cooper and Tolefree occasionally losing grip of the boy’s feet and the 157lb Hemphill having to bring Junior forcefully under control.

It was only after two hours, however, that the adults noticed Junior was blue in the face, soaked in his own urine and not breathing. When Hemphill heaved himself up, both he and the boy were drenched with sweat. But the boy’s body was lifeless.

Or an un-named 14-year old autistic boy who was severely beaten during an eleven-hour exorcism during August of this year.

Police say the exorcism turned violent and that Uyesugi, under the guise of ‘God’s work’, battered and beat the boy.

“Sticking fingers into the boy’s mouth while he was restrained on the bed, causing him to vomit. And this happened several times. Family said that Mr. Uyesugi told them this was to cast the demons out,” said Detective Swain.

Police say Uyesugi also punched the autistic teen in the face during the ritualistic beating that lasted for eleven hours.

And of course, there are plenty of well-intentioned but misguided parents in the US and UK who refuse to get their children vaccinated for fear they might “catch autistic”, thus allowing the recent outbreaks of measles and mumps, and the resulting disabilities and deaths as described in this previous post.

Oh sure, we’re all intelligent, well-educated peoples. No one does horrible things here like they do in other parts of the world.

Don’t you believe it.

When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer.
Superstition ain’t the way.

The Writing on the Wall

OMG Zombies! The leper-outcast-unclean-undead are on the move, seeking to steal away our chilluns and Eat Their Brains!

Except I’m not talking about the latest sci-fi movie with Will Smith. I’ve finally gotten to the point to where I can speak reasonably about the horrible “ransom notes” campaign by the NYU Child Study Center. Their billboards and magazine ads describe children with OCD, ADHD, depression et cetera as being stolen away and held hostage by their disorders. In an article in the New York Times, the organisation’s description of the effort says,

We hope to both generate a national dialogue that will end the stigma surrounding childhood psychiatric disorders and advance the science, giving children the help they need and deserve.

Excuse me? How the HELL does this horrifying campaign “end the stigma”? The stigmas that people with such conditions face are NOT caused by the conditions, they are caused by societal attitudes! Such negative, one-sided publicity only reinforces such.

The demonisation of differences creates Read the rest of this entry »

M, F, N/A

Wow. Here I was ready to comment on one piece of news, when several more caught my attention. They all revolve around social ideas of gender rôles, and marginalised or disabled people.

This first one struck close to home: Khadijah Farmer was kicked out of women’s toilet of a Manhattan, NY, restaurant because the bouncer thought she looked too masculine.

“I said, ‘I am a woman and I am where I am supposed to be,'” said Farmer, speaking at a a news conference. “I offered to show him some identification. I was told that’s neither here nor there.”

Some people might say that happened “just because” she’s a lesbian (like that’s a valid reason), but I can vouch for the same thing happening to me as well. On the occasion that I wear a skirt or dress, I look “appropriately” female. But since I have a really short hair style, and often wear men’s shoes (because I have wide feet) and men’s shirts (because I have broad shoulders and long arms) and am disinclined toward wearing make-up, I have been frequently mistaken for a guy.

Even my name doesn’t seem to help; just last week Read the rest of this entry »

A very painful problem

When you are looking at a particular problem behaviour in a child (student), the big question is, “Is it really a problem?” “Problem” does not mean it’s unusual, or that some people are uncomfortable because it’s a “stereotypical autistic thing”. “Problem” means someone is getting hurt, or in danger, or poses a considerable social issue. Rocking is not a problem, head-banging is. Lining toys up is not a problem, biting people is.

A great many of people’s responses can be categorised as trying to get something or to get away from something. If you’re trying to get rid of a problem behaviour, then you need to figure out what’s going on. If you can figure out what the stressor is, then you can avoid or reduce it. If you can figure out what the behaviour provides to the person, then you can figure out a more suitable replacement behavior that will provide a benefit, without the problematic issues also associated with it.

Let’s say you have a student (client, child) who is hurting themself. Read the rest of this entry »

“That Kind”

Vivid illustrations of a horrifying problem: three stories from recent news. So what’s going on here? Not the obvious, surface situations, but what is going on in the social dynamics? And we can we do to change things?

(Click on headlines for links to full news stories.)

Autistic boy not welcome in music store

(New York City)
As an autistic savant, Ryan Morales has an extraordinary talent for music — he can play the piano by ear; he has an encyclopedic knowledge of Broadway trivia, and he loves to go to his local music store to look at the drums. But the owner of Lane Music Center blocked the 13-year-old boy and his caregiver from entering the New Dorp Lane shop this week because, the store owner said, Ryan’s behavior makes him feel uncomfortable.

“I’m sorry, I’m not going to let you in,” owner Alan Wilcov reportedly told Ryan’s caregiver, Oluwaseun Cole, whose job it is to take Ryan on walks through the community to familiarize him with the social rituals of everyday life. “I just can’t let him in,” Cole said Wilcov had told him on Wednesday afternoon. “I have a problem with his kind,” he allegedly told Ryan’s parents and caregiver later that night, when they went to the store to discuss what had happened; it was a heated conversation that left both parties fuming.

Woman Claims Abuse By Fellow Animal Control Officers

(Kansas City, Missouri)
Cindy Earnshaw said it was her dream job to work as an Overland Park, Kan., Animal Control officer. But after nine years of exemplary job evaluations, Earnshaw was deemed unfit for duty. Earnshaw said it is because of her disability. “I crawled my whole life to get there. When I got there, I was good and gave it 100 percent,” Earnshaw told KMBC’s Lara Moritz. Earnshaw said she felt most comfortable in her uniform, driving her Animal Control truck and taking care of animals in Overland Park.

“I so loved my job, and I was so passionate about it, and was able to serve my citizens and my animals, which kind of compensated,” Earnshaw said. Earnshaw said the job compensated her for what she claims was constant bullying by her fellow Animal Control officers. “I’m there to work, you know. All I got for that was torment and abuse and bullying. They articulated, ‘You are purposely trying to make us look bad,'” Earnshaw said.

Autistic Mum’s Baby Taken Into Care

(Wales)
The grandfather of a baby taken into care immediately after he was born is accusing social services of discriminating against his daughter because she has a form of autism. The baby’s 21-year-old mother has Asperger’s Syndrome, a condition associated with problems concerning social and communication skills.

The grandfather, who lives in South Wales but cannot be identified for legal reasons, said, “Within hours of the baby being born two weeks ago, social workers arrived at the hospital and served papers on my daughter saying they would be applying for an interim care order. She was beside herself. “Two weeks before what should have been the happiest day of her life, we as a family attended a case conference where Monmouthshire County Council placed the unborn baby on an ‘at risk’ register. Their argument was that because she has Asperger’s Syndrome, she is at risk of getting post-natal depression, and that there would therefore be the likelihood of her neglecting the baby. “In my view, all this stress sent my daughter into labour four weeks early.

These are three different stories about three different situations, in three different parts of the world. All three people have been discriminated against (howsoever the local courts may or may not rule), because they are autistic. None of them, as described in these news stories, ran afoul of civic laws because of what they did. Rather, they were harassed by others because they were different, or because of what they might do because they are perceived as being different.

It would be easy to say that these people, and millions of others with their own unpublished stories, were victims of bullying.

But that would be wrong. Read the rest of this entry »

Odds Are …

Life, they say, is a crap shoot; you never know what you’re going to get, and eventually you’ll lose and your life will be over. A little grim sounding, but not necessarily fatalistic, not like the whole concept of predestination. I’ll take free will any day. But that’s free will guided by inner moral responsibility, not by fear of hellfire and damnation. Though not explicit, there’s still that undercurrent of hellfire and damnation in the various flavours of xenophobia being flung about. (“Xenophobia” means fear of the Other, not fear of Xena, Warrior Princess.)

Sometimes it’s the covert version that seeps through schools in a fog of viscous cliques targeting whatever groups are considered to be outsiders, such as gays or geeks. What most people didn’t seem to realise or acknowledge was that you didn’t actually have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered to be slammed as a “fag”, “homo” or “fairy”. Anyone could be a target for verbal and/or physical violence just because Read the rest of this entry »

The Words

They lied.

One sentence; two words. Together, two very powerful words.

As the beginning, those two words beg more questions than they answer. Who lied? What about? To whom? When, where, and why? Read the rest of this entry »

Slices (Episode 1)

The best definition of “poetry” I’ve ever encountered is, “Poetry is life condensed”. In a similar way, cartoons condense a slice of life into just a few panels.

All four of these reflect different aspects of dealing with the social world, from blocking off unwanted interaction to the absurdity of Read the rest of this entry »

Colony Collapse Disorder : Blogging Against Disablism Day

This post marks Blogging Against Disablism Day. (Yes, I’m late getting this post up. It got postponed after finishing audio-recording the last chapter of a textbook this morning before going to jobs #1 and #2, and after getting groceries, and after making dinner, and after unloading moving boxes, and after more-or-less-sitting and watching an episode of House with the family. I’m so lazy.)

(photo description: close-up shot of a fluffy, golden honeybee sitting calmly on a person’s hand)

 

 

 

The honeybees are in danger.

I don’t care; I hate bugs!

Too few people with disabilities complete their education or are fully employed.

That’s not my problem; I don’t know any of Those People.

Curiously, these two things are more related than you might imagine, at least on the social level. Read the rest of this entry »

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