Sunday, December 23, 2012

Cops beat man with Down Syndrome

Unconstitutional Use of Force

I recently posted on Google+ and Facebook about how the US and the city of Portland, Oregon have have jointly filed in federal court a proposed court enforceable settlement agreement to remedy constitutional claims that the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional uses of force in response to “low-level offenses” against persons with actual or perceived mental illness.

I guess it’s time to do the same in Vista, CA. A deputy pepper-sprayed, beat with a baton and detained a man (after throwing him to the ground with the assistance of another deputy who showed up) in handcuffs who has Down Syndrome. There were witnesses in the area shouting that he had Down Syndrome but that didn’t slow the cops down from beating him and leaving many contusions, scrapes and bruises on him. He was transported to the hospital (still in cuffs I might add) and allowed to go home with his family. The following day, police officers showed up at the family’s place of business and informed them they would be dropping the citation they had against him (they claimed he was acting “suspicious”; he was walking the 5 minute walk to work) and offered them a turkey with stuffing for their Christmas meal as an apology. Yep. A turkey dinner. 

Now, I am not claiming that if a person is being aggressive or a danger to others or themselves, they should not be handcuffed or sprayed just because they have down syndrome or any other form of developmental disability. And again I say, I'm not anti-cop but there is definitely a culture of beat 'em, taze 'em. The fact that the U.S., not a local town or county, has filed against a particular city's police bureau (Portland, OR) indicates there have been egregious violent acts against a vulnerable segment of our population: the mentally ill. This story is just one account that made it into mainstream media. And hardly even that – I saw this only on CNN.

Some questions to ponder:

How about some education for those who are supposed to protect us so that those among us don't need protection from them?
How about instead of locking people up and throwing away the key, we get them some medical support? 
Would you think that would be a better idea if you knew it decreases recidivism? 
How about if it reduced the level of violence of the repeat offenders?

Read about how changing our current prison system could possibly change our society as a whole here.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

What A Learning Disorder Is


Today, boys & girls, I want to discuss what a learning disorder (LD) is.
If your kid doesn’t do well in school; if he can’t focus on a task; if he is always tapping his fingers or pencil; if he continually talks to other students in class during work time; if he never seems to be able to complete his homework; if he fails pretty much every test he takes, he may not be a Bad Kid. He may actually have a learning disorder.
LD is an umbrella term that can encompass many types of learning problems. It has NOTHING to do with INTELLIGENCE or MOTIVATION. In other words, if your child has a true LD there is no amount of punishment that will motivate him to “do better”. Taking away all his video games and all extra curricular activities just for the sake of punishment will not help. 
An LD is not just about reading or numbers. It can also cause problems with reasoning and speaking. Your son could be looking right at you when you’re explaining something to him but he can’t grasp what you’re saying. Not because he isn’t paying attention but because his brain is different from yours. A kid with an LD might love to read but can’t do simple math. He might grasp the entire periodic table and know how each element interacts with the other but cannot understand what you mean when you say, “You need to finish up before dinner time.”


I can remember times in elementary school where I just couldn’t get what I was being taught. 5th grade science was the worst. I just didn’t enjoy it and couldn’t be bothered to study it so needless to say, I didn’t score so well on the exams. But it wasn’t because I had a processing disorder or an LD. I just really hated science. A learning disorder is totally different. A kid with an LD isn’t dumb or lazy. They are wired differently which means they don’t take in information the same way as kids without an LD. You can’t be expected to follow a recipe if it’s written in Swahili (and you only know English) so how can you expect for your child with an LD to learn how to add or spell or to tell the difference between stratus clouds and cirrus clouds if you’re trying to teach him the same way kids without LD’s are taught?


Let’s try a little experiment, shall we? Think of something you enjoy. It can be anything.  Are you great at cooking? Math? Gardening? Super. Now go to a foreign country and sign up for a class in their language and see how well you do.  My guess is, not that great. How do you think it would be, to sit in a classroom with someone speaking at you in a foreign language & where everyone else in the class is getting it? Would you be anxious, trying to pick up on what they’re doing, what page they’re on, what they’re writing and reading? Would you be bored, not being able to understand the words that are coming out of the instructor’s mouth, so you start daydreaming or gazing out the window? Would you be irritated, trying to figure out what the hell is going on, your fellow students getting obviously annoyed that you keep looking over their shoulders or asking questions?
And that’s in a class that’s on a topic that you ENJOY.
Imagine how it might be for a kid who deals with these emotions on a daily basis, in a place they have come to hate and feel uncomfortable in because it’s all a foreign language; a place where they have become hated because they don’t follow along easily or are disruptive in a class that teaches them nothing.


OK, so you’re not sure if your kid has a learning disorder. Here are some signs at different ages that may clear it up for you: (the following chart was found at
Preschool signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
§  Problems pronouncing words
§  Trouble finding the right word
§  Difficulty rhyming
§  Trouble learning the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, days of the week
§  Difficulty following directions or learning routines
§  Difficulty controlling crayons, pencils, and scissors or coloring within the lines
§  Trouble with buttons, zippers, snaps, learning to tie shoes
Grades K-4 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
§  Trouble learning the connection between letters and sounds
§  Unable to blend sounds to make words
§  Confuses basic words when reading
§  Consistently misspells words and makes frequent reading errors
§  Trouble learning basic math concepts
§  Difficulty telling time and remembering sequences
§  Slow to learn new skills
Grades 5-8 signs and symptoms of learning disabilities
§  Difficulty with reading comprehension or math skills
§  Trouble with open-ended test questions and word problems
§  Dislikes reading and writing; avoids reading aloud
§  Spells the same word differently in a single document
§  Poor organizational skills (bedroom, homework, desk is messy and disorganized)
§  Trouble following classroom discussions and expressing thoughts aloud
§  Poor handwriting


If you think your kid has a learning disorder, please get help for him NOW. It’s important to note that people with LD’s are usually just as smart as anyone without an LD. Don’t let your personal feelings on what it will mean to YOU if your son or daughter is diagnosed with a learning disorder. Denying that there is a greater issue (like a disability) at hand because you're afraid of how you will look to other people is selfish and wrong. Give your kid a chance to learn and to grow!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

When Does A Person Have A Right To Die?

A fellow blogger wrote about physician-assisted suicide and it got me thinking. 


Should a person have a right to choose death when faced with a terminal illness that will kill them slowly and painfully?
Imagine this scenario: Your doctor diagnoses you with a terminal case of cancer that would have you under the ground within 6 months without treatment. You're offered a treatment that may extend your life by another 6 months but it produces nasty side effects. So, technically, you will be alive but will you be living? What will your quality of life be like? You can say, “Thanks, but no thanks” and let the cancer kill you slowly. This refusal of treatment would be AMA - against medical advice - but you can "choose to refuse".
What if there was another option? Why do you have to suffer as you die?


There are some who believe we should not have to suffer; that we should have the choice of a doctor-assisted suicide. I am one of those people.
Of course there have to be safeguards put in place. Massachusetts is voting on a bill today (November 6, 2012), Ballot Initiative (Number 2) which is referred to as "Death with Dignity."  Here’s some of what it states:

·         A licensed physician can prescribe a lethal dose of medication to a terminally ill adult patient
·         This patient is an adult who has a prognosis of dying within the next 6 months
·         This patient must be deemed mentally competent
·         The request for the script must be made orally twice & witnessed in written form
·         15 days must fall between the two oral requests
·         The mental capacity of the patient & terminal diagnosis must be verified by a second physician

This does not cover every detail of the bill but it’s the meat of it. It makes sense.


Now imagine this scenario: an elderly man who is basically healthy but whose body is slowing down is becoming depressed. For one, he is unable to be independent as he has been for his entire life due to his advanced age. For another, he DOES have a medical condition that causes him to aspirate anything he eats and drinks. He has been complaining about feeling like food is getting stuck in his throat/chest area to his wife (who controls the money and whether or not he get to go see the doctor) and his children but everyone assumes he is faking it for attention or just being a pain in the ass.

He develops habits in attempts to clear his throat that have him in the bathroom, hacking & coughing for up to 2 hours at a time that leave him sweaty and weak. The family is annoyed by his eccentric behavior rather than taking him to see a specialist. This goes on and on; it progressively gets worse for years.
His quality of life suffers dramatically. He can’t eat or drink comfortably and nobody will listen to him. He becomes very depressed and angry. The family reacts with anger and annoyance. He reacts with more anger and crying spells. He regularly wishes he could just die. He states this out loud. The family begins to believe he should be allowed this right and when a feeding tube is recommended by a general physician, they don’t want to put one in because they want to “respect his wishes” of dying. A death that would be slow and painful; a death caused strictly by starvation.

Here is a case where a person should NOT be allowed to kill themselves. Isn’t it apparent that the old man’s wish for death is based on his severe depression? He is not terminally ill nor does he have a debilitating disease that requires extensive medical intervention. He was aspirating & his cries for help went ignored. This led to a piss-poor quality of life which led to depression which led to a desire to die.

Depression is not a valid reason in the 
"Right to Die" argument

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Life and Death - Deciding Whether Or Not To Terminate A Pregnancy

I am no movie critic but I want to talk about a movie I fell into last night and ended up really enjoying.
It was called “Tiptoes”. This story follows a man and his girlfriend who are living together and very much in love. They talk about a future together, having children and are planning on getting married in the near future. Then she ends up getting pregnant and he starts to change. She doesn’t understand why since they had spoken about having a family and is confused by his ambivalence & distance. When he goes away for a training session she discovers why.
Although he is tall, his family is one of dwarves. He did not get the recessive gene but his twin did, and so did every other family member we meet of his. This is a tiny detail he neglected to tell his lover and when he is asked why, he didn’t really have an answer other than, “it never came up”, or something along those lines.
Of course the girlfriend was shocked. Her new relative brings her to his family, who all try to comfort her through her uncomfortable feelings and worries. She educates herself on the possibilities for her unborn child and decides to go ahead with the pregnancy. Her boyfriend is not so sure. He wrestles with his demons. He knows what it’s like for a dwarf; all the medical issues each individual can develop, how common it is that infants are in intense pain, the social aspects of being different.

What stood out to me was the reactions of each character as they realized they were about to enter a whole new world, a whole new level of existence with this baby. The girlfriend was initially shocked upon meeting her boyfriend’s twin – not only had she never heard of him but he was a little person! She was upset that he hadn’t told her he had a family of “midgets”. Part of their interaction is him correcting her. “If you keep using the word midget you’re gonna piss off a whole lotta people” is what he told her. She eventually did the right thing.
She also addressed her feelings of embarrassment that she would question whether or not to bring this baby into the world based on the fact that it may be a dwarf. She was sitting at a table with this family who had fed her, talked to her, comforted her and she was trying to decide whether she should terminate a pregnancy because it may be like them.
This is something that goes through the minds of parents-to-be if they discover that there is a genetic issue with their unborn: Intense fear over the difficulties that may lie ahead for them and for the baby and guilt over feeling this way. I know many of you reading this have had to make such a decision. And everyone has heard of a new story somewhere where parents had to make decisions and then were judged on their decision.

When we were pregnant with my son, the 20-week sonogram showed an abnormality in his brain ventricles. They were larger than normal and on top of that, they were not even so one was larger than the other. I remember being hit with the same sensation one gets when they do a full belly-flop into the pool. My ears were ringing and I thought I would vomit through all the sobs. All I could think was “WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” My husband is much calmer, at least on the outside. He refused to believe anything was wrong until they were definite because through the several sonograms and prenatal MRI, all the specialists saw something, felt it probably wasn’t anything to worry about, but couldn’t be definite.
Amongst all this, we went for genetic counseling. We were given information and then sent home to think about things. In the car ride home I could barely keep myself together. I kept thinking about how we were so happy to be pregnant. I thought about all the “firsts” I didn’t get with my daughter because of her disabilities and how I would get to have them now (those of you who have children who are disabled know about this). I thought about this adorable baby, bundled up in my arms in the hospital bed, not in the NICU with tubes coming out of every limb, including the head. Then I thought about all that happening again. All the specialists, doctor visits, therapy, equipment. 

My daughter was injured at birth and lives with cerebral palsy because of doctors' errors. I did NOT want that. I barely survived the first time around. The fact that I still walk this earth is a miracle. How could I possibly be expected to do it twice?? I knew that I couldn’t and I felt so guilty and like such an evil person for wishing I never had gotten pregnant in the first place. I couldn’t say it out loud at that moment but I knew I would probably terminate the pregnancy. I was counting in my head how many weeks I had left to decide. Then I would start bawling again at the thought of doing that with a child I so wanted just days ago. I was torn.
We ended up having the baby. And my son has been fulfilling his job of giving me all my firsts   =D
He DOES have a genetic mutation which has zapped half his immune system. My world is now doubled with specialists and doctor visits. It’s not how I imagined it would be, though. It’s not like my worst-case-scenario & it’s not my dream-come-true. I guess this time, instead of going to Holland I made it to Sicily; almost Italy but not quite. And that’s okay. I have discovered that Holland is quite beautiful and that Sicily is just more of that beauty.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

I feel like I have been living in a post-apocalyptic world since being hit by Hurricane Sandy. We had no power, no heat, no hot water. We moved as much stuff from the fridge into coolers with ice to the garage & I cooked on the grill plate attached to my BBQ in the garage! That was pretty interesting - only being able to cook one thing at a time. I usually have a couple pots going at once. Then to do it with a flashlight because it gets dark pretty early and we can’t exactly have dinner at 4:30! I joked with the girl that I felt like we were camping. That’s a pretend game she often wants to play and she has asked to go camping many times. We have never gone and I never intended on going because I don’t find any appeal to sleeping on dirt, being crawled over by bugs. This experience has only strengthened my “NO WAY, JOSE” attitude toward “roughing it”.

And keeping occupied a kid with CP who can’t do anything for herself is unbelievably difficult. Think about it; you can pick up a book and read if you want, or play solitaire or even a board game with someone else, take a nap…but with the girl, I have to not only be HER body but my body as well. And a 14 year old (with delays) is not easily distracted, especially when she is trying to tell me what it is she wants and 1) I can’t figure it out because her communication device is dead and the game of 20 questions isn’t getting us anywhere or 2) she wants to do something on the computer or T.V. that requires power/internet and she doesn’t understand the concept of no power = no T.V./internet.
I knew I would be excited when the lights came back on but she was ecstatic! It was funny because she had already gone to bed about 15 minutes prior to the power coming back on. But as soon as she heard the “beep beep” from some of the electronics catching internet (that sounds like a new virus) and the voices from my T.V. set, she started to laugh and holler. She INSISTED I turn on her television so she can catch up on some of her shows! She was truly a happy kid.

P.S. – There are so many people still suffering through the after-effects of Sandy. The people living on Fire Island and other shore communities have lost so much. I haven’t seen the pictures but on the radio, the reporters were saying that each individual house looked like an island – all you could see were rooftops surrounded by water. This post reflects my joy at returning to normal without any major catastrophes save for some lost condiments that we couldn’t fit in the coolers but I don’t want to diminish the trauma being experienced by thousands. I do pray that those affected will find comfort and can return to their normal as quickly as possible, in Jesus name.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kids With Disabilities Being Housed In Nursing Homes

Hey, have you heard about what’s happening in Florida? 

What those brainiacs have decided to do is stick children with disabilities – some who are still infants – into institutions and nursing homes even though the level of care they need could be met in their own homes! I know it sounds outlandish – “Those types of things just don’t happen anymore!” – but it’s the God to honest truth! Instead of making the services these kids and their parents need available in such a way that would allow them to stay within their community, the highly paid, smarter-than-us-regular-folk, criminals-in-charge decided that they would rather use those funds to pay an institution like a NURSING HOME FOR THE ELDERLY to “care” for babies and children!


A team of investigators  from the Justice Department visited six large nursing homes in the Sunshine State and found over 200 children with disabilities living in them. In many of these places, the kids are corralled into small, designated areas – these places are, after all, built to house the elderly, not children, so I’m guessing there aren’t too many areas in a nursing home that would be suitable or safe for a kid. And by the way, I use the term “house” spitefully; I do not think the majority of the habitants of these institutions need to be in places like these – repositories to contain the old, sick and frail that will bring a stream of money to the states they are located in. The average time these kids spent in a nursing home or other institutional setting was 3 years but they did come across some cases where the kids were there for over a decade.

These investigators spoke with many of these families and discovered that the parents WANTED their children home but couldn’t keep them there because Florida was not willing to make resources available to them, instead choosing to give those resources to the nursing homes. In some cases, these children are living hundreds of miles away from home which mean little, if any, contact with mommies, daddies, brothers, sister, aunts, uncles, etc.

Part of the purpose of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to protect people with disabilities from being placed in environments they don’t deserve to be in just because it’s easier for the forces that be. It states that all patients and students must be placed in the least restrictive environment appropriate for that individual. U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez has noted that Florida is NOT in compliance with the ADA. So the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) has got to be missing the mark because I sincerely doubt the Assistant AG would get involved unless there was some merit to the accusation brought forth by the investigation done by the Justice Department. There was also a Supreme Court decision in 1999 (Olmstead v L.C.) that prohibits forcing a person to be institutionalized in order to receive services they need when they can actually be getting those services in a less restrictive environment like, gee, I don’t know, their OWN HOME! 


As always, it’s all about the benjamins, baby. According to information dug up by the investigation “facilities often receive over $500 a day to care for kids, more than double the rate for elderly residents.”  An official from the AHCA, Elizabeth Dudek, was quoted as saying, “The agency will never interfere with a family’s choice for the location of their child’s care.” Hmmmm, the Justice Department doesn’t seem to agree, Ms. Dudek. In fact, it issued a Findings Letter just this month concluding that Florida is indeed violating the ADA and unlawfullyinstitutionalizing children! Here’s exactly what the letter states:

The United States issued a Findings Letter in September 2012 concluding that Florida is violating the ADA's integration mandate in its provision of services and supports to children with medically complex and medically fragile conditions. After a comprehensive investigation, the Department found that the State of Florida plans, structures, and administers a system of care that has led to the unnecessary institutionalization of children in nursing facilities and places children currently residing in the community at risk of unnecessary institutionalization. Florida has implemented policies and procedures that limit access to medically necessary services and supports that would enable children to transition home to community-based settings. The Department recommended that the State implement certain remedial measures, including the development of sufficient supports to enable children with disabilities unnecessarily segregated, or at risk of unnecessary segregation, in nursing facilities to receive services and supports in integrated settings in the community.


I keep getting this mental picture of my daughter sitting in a home somewhere, alone because she can’t get up and go play with other kids and there’s not enough nurses or nurse’s aides around to give her some attention. She would have her beautiful long brown hair chopped off because it’s easier to wash and brush this way (yes, they DO do this), her wheelchair would not be fitted for her bony butt and her involuntary movements and she’d probably be all lopsided in it with worn out belts (I have seen some students in her school who live in group homes with chairs like these); they wouldn’t know that Entenmann’s chocolate chip muffins are her absolute favorite thing in the world and her teeth would probably be rotting out by now because it’s not easy to brush her teeth. But what gets to me the most is, she would be sad and lonely. Spending your days stuck in a chair pushed up against a wall somewhere is no way to live. Being two years old and confined to a room because the rest of the building is not safe is no way to live. Being a baby stuck in a crib with nobody to love you or hold you because there just isn’t enough time in the day is no way to live. And having a hospital as your “home” is definitely no way to live.


Florida needs to be woken up and made aware that they are being watched. It’s a sad fact that some people will only choose to do the right thing when they know they’re being watched but if that’s what it’s gonna take then I want to get as many eyeballs on them as possible!

Would you like to do something to let them know we’re watching that will only take 2 minutes out of your day? Go to On the left side of the page, you will see a picture of Elizabeth Dudek, Secretary, and right below her name is a link to email her. Send her an email stating that you read how her agency is institutionalizing children rather than placing them in their own homes. This not only violates the ADA and its least restrictive clause but it is morally and ethically wrong to force families to separate because the AHCA would rather pay a nursing home than provide in-home services. Tell her you are against this practice and want her to feel shameful for treating human beings this way. Cut & paste this if you wish; it will make the task even quicker for you!

Don’t wonder why somebody doesn't DO something to change something; 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Great American Family - Why The Traditional US Perspective Is Wrong

American Families

I am so sick of hearing about the “decline of the traditional family”. People, let’s get something straight here. Politicians are so quick to talk about the “traditional family” but in truth, there is no such thing. That type of family - a father and a mother with children -  was created in the 1950’s as a means to uplift the country’s emotional well-being and as a means to increase commercialism. A quick look back in history shows that white families (European settlers) were focused on maintaining independent households. Women did little child-rearing – this was mostly left up to siblings or servants. Children were not seen as precious or important as they are today.

Not too much changed in regards to the roles of family members until the Great Depression hit. This “traditional family” phenomenon only caught on and spread like wildfire because the depression was so difficult on society that people were craving feelings of happiness. The government played their role in creating this phenomenon by making it economically easier to be married – most government programs were geared towards supporting the family, meaning a married couple with children. And advertisers began to realize the enormous power they had in influencing the American public to buy their brand! What better way to compel them to buy, buy, buy than to show pictures of a happy family using their products? Their trickery worked. Americans wanted that nuclear family they felt would get them out of their bad situations.

The government and commercialism created a false sense of nostalgia. Do you get what I’m saying? People longed to have something back that never even existed in the first place! There was no such thing as the “traditional family” when the forces-that-be began touting it. The mindset of what made a family was set. What’s most important to realize is that the status quo – meaning, those “in charge” – decided what does (and thereby what does not) define the American family.

What makes up the traditional family?

Alright, let’s talk about it. We have the breadwinner, the husband and father who goes out and works hard to bring home the bacon, the MAN. Then we have the caretaker, the wife and mother who cooks and cleans, the WOMAN who always looks pretty for the MAN when he gets home from a hard day’s work. They get married, buy a cute home and have the CHILDREN, a boy and a girl who are smart, polite and love each other. There’s usually a PET playing in the background, too.

If you look at the ads tailored to brand the American Family they are also white, blonde with blue eyes, successful, in their late 20’s or early 30’s and quite beautiful.

Where’s the rest of society? Where are the non-whites? The poor? The gay? The disabled? It was during this time period the United States experienced the height of forced institutionalization of people with disabilities. If anybody from an outside country were to make an assumption on us based on the “traditional family” they would have a very incomplete picture. We are not all white; we are not all well-off; we are not all healthy; we are not all heterosexual; we’re definitely not all beautiful. So why do legislators insist on trying to fit everybody into this tiny little box?

Why “tradition” sucks

Here’s why: because huge groups of people are left out, that’s why. Just because the government (or any other non-governmental group) labeled something as correct, does it actually mean that it is? Yes, pushing everything into that box makes for a neat appearance and easy marketing. It’s just one box; no need to worry about different styles or sizes. The problem is, the person in charge gets to decide what everything in that box gets to do and feel and anybody who tries to get out of that box is seen as an outside agitator and is met with severe resistance and oftentimes, violence. Eugenics was a practiced "science" in the United States with a goal of creating a master human race - one that the traditional American family would fit into perfectly. 

Let’s go over a few things we would still be doing if we relied on tradition and those neat little boxes:


Slavery - yep, if we kept on doing what we’ve always done just because that’s what’s always been done, whites would own blacks.

Blacks are not smart enough or capable of standing on their own; they’re so dirty that whites need their own entrances, water fountains and seating areas.
Suffrage – women wouldn’t be able to vote
Those crazy women and their irrational moods! How could they possibly form a thoughtful position on things as complicated as politics or the household budget?
Exploitation – kids would still be in our mines and factories
Their little bodies can fit in smaller spaces; their higher level of energy can produce more output; their level of intelligence merits less pay.
Institutionalization – anybody who was even slightly different would be locked up
Anybody with a physical disability cannot be a productive member of society; ADD & promiscuity would be enough to institutionalize someone today if we held on to traditional thought. Yes, really!
Interracial marriage – blacks were prohibited to marry whites
It would be the downfall to society as we know it if this was legalized. Those rapes committed by slave owners against their “herd” didn’t count though.


So, marriage was defined by one man and one woman at some point in our history; does that mean that that’s the ONLY way it could be? I know, I know, some of you out there are thinking that marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman because God made it so. “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Adam”. So catchy; so brilliant. Before all you religious zealots get your feathers in a ruffle and start commenting on God and how I will burn in hell, let me tell you this: I LOVE Jesus. He is my savior, my Lord. I went through my religious revolution I talk about here and I haven’t looked back since. But we are not here on this earth to judge others; only God holds that power. In Romans 12:16 we read: Consider everyone as equal, and don’t think that you’re better than anyone else. BOOM

So even if religion is the basis of your argument (which it almost always is), how is that a reason to put it into the LAWS of our country? I thought there was supposed to be a separation of church and state? One thing that really gets me is when Republicans want a smaller government, less intrusion, yet they want the law to control who can marry whom! (That’s not to say that Democrats haven’t traditionally been against same-sex marriage although the tides have been turning lately, haven’t they?)
You can’t have it both ways! Either the government CAN intrude into people’s private lives or it CAN’T; you can’t cherry pick in which area you want to stick your nose. I guess separation only applies when the status quo wants it to.

Which brings me to another point: Who the hell are you to tell anybody what they should do in their private lives? Listen, if Tina loves Shannon and they are happy together, how does that negatively impact MY life? Are they inciting a riot, spreading messages of hate or committing murder by being in a loving relationship? No. It seems to me that people who have a problem with same-sex relationships have some internal issues they are having difficulty sorting out.

And let me ask you this: what is the difference between “marriage” and “legal union”? Don’t they both give the same rights to the parties involved? It’s just another game of semantics played but when it comes down to it, you can call a rose a turd but it’s still a rose.

What do YOU think?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Accessible Playground For People With Disabilities

I forgot all about this park until I just came across an article about it. Thanks, Arc Circle of Family and Friends!

It’s called Morgan’sWonderland, located in Texas, and it’s designed for kids and people with disabilities to enjoy. It’s a place where special needs kids and able-bodied siblings can have fun together. Families can have meaningful quality time that everybody can enjoy.  It has some great features and it’s very inexpensive. Anybody in the disabled community knows that when you add the word “special”, or any variant of it, to something it automatically boosts the cost of the product or service by at least 20%. Not here. One-day passes for adults: $15; kids: $10: special needs: $0. Can't get much better than that!

I read an article about it in Family CircleThis choked me up when I read it:
"Before the park, I had to sit back and watch everyone else play," says 18-year-old Miguel Castro of San Antonio, who has spina bifida and is in a wheelchair. He celebrated his 17th birthday party at the park. "If I had to pick a favorite ride, it would be the swings. I hadn't been on one since I was 2 or 3 years old, and didn't really remember what it felt like," says Miguel. "Now I can go on them whenever we visit, and have fun like everyone else. It means everything to me."

Can you imagine not being able to remember what it felt like to be on a swing because your body wouldn't allow you to get into one after the age of 2 or 3? How many times did you play at the park or on the school grounds for recess with your friends? Did you slide down a huge slide or sit in the tire swing with a couple of buddies and spin, spin, spin till you got so dizzy you almost threw up? Did you play tag and chase each other on the monkey bars? In elementary school, we called the playground equipment “the big toy”. I have lots of awesome memories from playing on that thing.
My daughter has never and WILL never be able to play on a big toy. She can’t get on those swings or go up and down that slide even though she really, really wants to. I don’t even go anywhere where she would be watching other kids screaming in delight on one because of the torture on her face. If you think I’m exaggerating, take your own kid, niece, nephew, neighbor’s kid, whoever, to a park, sit them right in front of it and tell them they can watch from their seat but they can’t get up and they can’t go play.
That all sounds depressing, doesn’t it? I just keep in mind that it’s only one thing she can’t do. But I often wonder what the heck I’m gonna do when my son gets old enough to want to go to the park. I can’t NOT let him go; I can’t take the girl. The only thing I can figure is I will have to have separate play dates with my own kids!

I wonder what other parents of kids with and without disabilities do in these situations??

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Handicapped Parking

Ok people. Let’s talk about handicapped parking. If you do not have a placard that allows you to park in a handicapped spot, DON’T PARK THERE. If you see diagonal stripes on the ground in between or beside a handicapped spot, DON’T PARK THERE.

This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Listen, if your lazy ass doesn’t feel like walking the 2 extra spots it would take to get from your car to the 7-11 door, then stay home. If you’re at Wal-Mart or the mall or at the Piggly Wiggly and the parking lot is packed and you don’t feel like walking that far, then stay home.

“I’m really late”
How is your being late my problem? Perhaps if you didn’t snooze the alarm sixteen times/spent less time applying the caked on make-up/hadn’t stayed out too late last night and woken up with a hangover the size of Cleveland, you might be running on time. But again I ask: how is your being late my problem? Now, because Your Royal Highness has decided it so, the spots designated for people who cannot walk as far, as fast or at all due to their disability are a free-for-all and I have to drive around the lot trying to find a spot that will allow me to get my daughter out safely.

“This will only take a minute”
It never takes just a minute…and even if it really did take only a minute, why should I have to wait on you? Ah yes, Your Royal Highness feels we should wait until Your Majesty has procured a mocha-capa-frappa-latte with just the right amount of sweetener and a carton of Pall-Malls before we, the commoner, the lowly simple folk can have the same opportunity. Wait; allow me to roll out the red carpet upon your exit, Your Majesty, lest your Louis Vuitton’s be soiled!

All joking aside, it is so infuriating when I see people park in the reserved areas and don’t even think twice about it. I know there are folks with invisible disabilities that use handicapped parking and they get the evil eye because they don’t look disabled. But then you have those who use their granny’s or aunt’s or brother’s placard. If you are somebody who uses a placard when you know you’re really not supposed to, I hope you get fined. And I hope I’m the reason you got fined. Because I looove calling people out on their douchery. That word is so gross and anybody who knows me knows I hate that nasty word but that’s how I feel about people who refuse to walk the extra 10 feet.

Stop being a jerk!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Flu and You - 5 Tips On Staying Healthy

Flu season is upon us! OK, maybe I’m a little late with my announcement but it’s not too late to start thinking about it. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control) the season can begin as early as October and end as late as May. There’s no way to tell when it will start, what viruses will be spreading or how long the epidemic will last. But we can take steps to curb and hopefully stop the virus from spreading within our own households.
Those of us who are immune-compromised or have children with disabilities are more susceptible to catching a virus so we must be extra cautious. The CDC did a study on the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak and it was found that a higher number of kids with neurological conditions died from this epidemic than kids without. In fact, 68% of those deaths had an underlying medical condition; 64% of that group had a neurologic disorder! I am not trying to create a panic but I do think it’s extremely important to be educated and informed. Here are 5 tips on how you can keep your home as healthy as possible that you may or may not have heard before:

Yes, the simplest things sometimes are the most important things. In my home, the main entrance is through the kitchen and as soon as we walk in the door, we wash our hands. No matter where we’ve just come from – the grocery store, a relative’s home, school, work – first we wash our hands. Anybody who comes over, I ask the same from them or offer antiseptic hand sanitizer that I keep right next to the soap. I’ve had a couple people say, “Oh, I washed my hands just before I left my house”. Really? That’s great. And after you washed them you touched your door knobs, car keys, car door & interior, and God knows what else...So yeah, please either wash or disinfect them now that you’ve made through my threshold, thanks!

Well, actually the inside of your elbow a.k.a. the crook of your arm.  When you cough or sneeze, covering your mouth and nose with your hand is fine if you’re going to wash it right away but chances are you’re not. What you’re probably going to do is touch your phone, computer mouse, remote, drawer handle, door knob or shake someone’s hand. Then guess what? You’ve passed your germs on to someone else. I’ve never seen anybody open a door or change the channel with the bend in their arm. If you do, please take a picture and share that; I’d love to see it.

There have been studies that show remote controls are the germiest items in hotel rooms. I’m willing to bet your remote controls at home have never been cleaned. Neither have your cell phones, home phones or computer mouse. I take disinfectant wipes (Lysol makes them but there are other no frills brands that have the same properties and work just as well) and clean everything. I just go room to room and wipe down the things that we touch the most throughout the day. The electronic items I mentioned above; light switches; door knobs; cabinet handles; drawer pulls; computer key boards; video game controls. I’ve gotten into such a frenzy that before I realized it, the cats had been sanitized, too. They hated it but they did look pretty funny with their fur all stuck together like that. Ah, good times.

After we found out my son doesn’t have half of his immune system I bought face masks so that if anybody in our immediate family was sick, we could protect him from our germs. We try to stay away from the others for the first couple of days until the antibiotics kick in. And if someone from the outside world is sick, they get locked out! Even the slightest hint of a possible cold is enough to block access to our home. Sorry, we love you, but ya gots to go!

This is controversial. I know there are many people who feel this will only get you sick, whether it be with the flu, Autism or other neurological diseases. Let me just give you the facts, as per the CDC, then you can make up your own mind.

Who should be vaccinated? Everyone, but especially people at high risk like children over 6 months; those with certain medical conditions that make their immune systems weaker like those with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; and people over 65. Also, those of us who care for people who fall into this high risk category should be vaccinated.

When should we vaccinate? As soon as the vaccines become available so that a flu epidemic doesn’t have a chance to grow. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine to kick in so waiting until the virus is in full effect to get the vaccine is not ideal. You should get it when it becomes available so you’re protected at the right time.

Where do I get the vaccine? If you are being followed by a regular physician then that is where you should go. If you don’t have a doctor you can go to to find a location by you. There are also links on the main page to information on the different types of vaccines available.

Make sure that whoever is giving you the vaccine knows your medical history. For instance, the nasal mist vaccine is not safe for the groups I mentioned above. People with immune deficiencies probably wouldn’t be good candidates for any type of vaccine, either. I’m not doctor so please, PLEASE speak to a medical professional about all your medical history before making your final decision. You can find more about the flu and vaccines

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crazy People in Jail - Mental Health and Criminal Justice

I’m glad that title got your attention. Now that you’re here…

I’m watching “Jail” and they just arrested this girl for failure to show up to court on a prostitution charge. She barely looks 18 and it was obvious to me (and to the arresting officer, thank God) that she has some kind of mental issue. This just made me think about all the individuals with mental diseases who don’t have medical coverage and can’t afford the proper medical attention and/or medication they need. Some of these people go on to commit violent crimes that, had they been on the proper medication or under the supervision of a physician, they never would have committed. There are others (possibly like this girl I just saw on TV) who are influenced and abused by people who only have their own interest in mind and couldn’t care any less about who they are taking advantage of.
As if that’s not sad enough, what happens after these people are arrested is even sadder. They are thrown in jail without proper medical attention and are expected to be able to function and follow orders. When you have a mental disease, you cannot be scared into or forced to follow orders. It is the disease that caused you to commit the harm in the first place! What makes you think they can surmise that they should listen to a corrections officer if they can't figure out that shouldn't have killed/robbed/attacked the victim? If a person has cancer or a broken arm, they are taken to see a medical professional to fix the problem, right? So if a person has a mental disease doesn’t logic dictate that they should receive treatment as well? Yes… I know. You’re thinking that there are so many people who claim to have a mental problem just to try to get out of their situation. But there are folks with a HISTORY of mental illness who don’t get what they should and DO have a right to!

According to the School of Social Work at the University of Washington, about 1 in 4 adults experience a diagnosable mental disorder in a given year. This can be anything from depression to schizophrenia, for example. About 1 in 17 people experience a serious mental illness. Just under half of the people who experience a mental disorder actually experience 2 or more.
Please understand, I’m not saying that people who have murdered or raped or carjacked or whatever should get off light. No! What I’m saying is, let’s address the bigger issue here. Mental health courts are designed to take a different approach with defendants who have mental health issues. They typically have a designated judge and possibly a designated prosecutor & defense attorney. Their purpose is to work together to come up with a treatment plan that will address the specific needs of the defendant while still protecting the public.

A study was done to see whether or not this process would reduce recidivism and violent offenses in individuals who were arrested for a crime and found to have a mental disease.* What it showed was that the likelihood of released participants of mental health court being charged with any new crimes was 26% lower than that of individuals who did not receive treatment. And the likelihood of these treated individuals to be charged with a violent crime: 55% lower than individuals who were not treated!!
What does this tell us? Recidivism would be greatly reduced if we didn’t just lock people up then spit them back out in the street when they have finished serving their sentence. Not only that but it’s obvious that the number of crimes committed by these individuals, especially those of the violent kind, would be greatly reduced if they are properly treated!
If you like to look at things from the “what would I get out of this” angle, well, besides the fact that the chances of you becoming the victim of a crime committed by someone with a mental illness will shrink, there will be less people thrown in jail whose livelihood you sustain through your taxes!

* Dale E. McNiel & Renée L. Binder, Effectiveness of a Mental Health Court in Reducing Criminal Recidivism and Violence, The American Journal of Psychiatry (September 1, 2007).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Mom Missing Out On Her Milestones - Children With Disabilities

“Well, this is all she’s ever known so it’s not like she’s sad about what she doesn’t have anymore”
“She was born like this so she doesn’t know any other way to be”
“Look at Sara. She was born like that and she’s always so happy” (Sara is my aunt who is now in her 60’s and deaf)

These were all things I would be told when I would get sad about my daughter being disabled. She can’t sit, walk, talk, feed herself or transfer herself from one spot to another. She will never go to sleepovers, drive, graduate from high school, or get married. Please don’t say ‘you never know’ because yes, it’s true, miracles do happen and I am a woman of faith but as things are right now, this is reality. I can say these things without breaking down at this moment but it hasn’t always been this way. (There are still days when I can’t think about these things without losing my mind but thankfully those days don’t happen as often.)

I am confident that the people telling me these things are only trying to help. I guess what I was supposed to see was that she hasn’t lost anything…she never had it to begin with. Okay, I can see the logic behind that thinking but it just doesn’t translate into real life. Not with me, anyway. I know for a fact that many people who were born with their disability are perfectly aware of what they don’t have. And believe you me, I was fully aware of what I didn’t get to have.

What I was supposed to have was a baby who would come home with me when I left the hospital. She was going to smile and sit and clap her hands. She was going to pull herself up to stand and walk across the kitchen floor. She was going to sit in a dining room chair and eat her cereal all by herself. She was going to reach up for mommy’s hand and bounce along beside her, crossing the parking lot of Target, pigtails bouncing, sneakers flashing.  She was going to kindergarten. She was going to make mommy breakfast in bed – crispy toast broken into pieces because the butter was tough to spread, a glass of OJ dripping onto the tray and a flower made from construction paper grandma helped her make. She was going to sit next to mommy’s head while mommy lay in bed on a sleepy Sunday morning and brush it and put all these crazy ponytails all over it because that’s what mommy did with grandma when she was a little girl. 

I was going to have a little girl who would call me mommy.

So maybe she doesn’t know what she doesn’t have. But I DO. So if I cry or am sad about the fact that I missed out on my milestones please understand that I am allowed to mourn for the child I thought I was going to have. The one I did get is smart, funny, confident, strong-willed, gorgeous, loving, strong, protective, a daredevil and an awesome kid to have around! And the truth is I would not be who I am right now if I wasn’t blessed with her. But that does not mean that I can’t mourn for the little girl I was expecting. 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Modeling and Disability

A fellow blogger and parent of a child who is disabled commented on a note of mine on Facebook regarding a little girl who has Down Syndrome that was chosen to be the main model for a swimsuit designer. He, like many, has issues with having this cutie pie – and others like her – being used in advertising.
Let me start off by saying that I have mixed feelings about advertising the fact that a kid with Down Syndrome (or any other disability) is the main attraction for a clothing line. There’s always gonna be people (like me) wondering if this kid was chosen as a PC move by the designer in order to ramp up media coverage thereby increasing sales. I hate the thought of my kid being used for someone’s bottom line. On the other hand, I would have loved for my daughter to have been considered beautiful enough to be a model if she didn’t have Cerebral Palsy so why should I feel differently since she does have it? Who am I to take away someone’s opportunity or blast them for choosing to go the modeling route just because they fill a niche – the disability niche. There’s nothing inherently wrong with choosing this as a career, disabled or not.
He feels “the use (abuse) of handicapped kids in fashion advertising [is] to promote the delusion of inclusion”. I ask: Why is inclusion a delusion? Is it so farfetched to believe that one day people of ALL kinds will be used in advertising? Hell no, it’s not! It was not too long ago that blacks were NOT included in fashion advertising, least of all as the main model or on the front page but that has changed, hasn’t it? I’m not saying it’s perfect but the reality is, when we talk about black models, we don’t talk about “inclusion”. Why not? Because it’s the NORM.
Here’s another question I have regarding my peer’s statement. How is it an abuse? Because the swimwear designer purposely picked a kid with Down Syndrome, most likely in part because she felt that would get a buzz going about her line and thereby up her sales? Let’s expand on my example above. Maybe initially designers and magazines started using black models for the wrong reason – sales – but today it is because it is quite obvious that people of any skin color can be beautiful. And yes, for sales. That’s what magazines & clothing designers need to do: sell! And they will pick the people that they think will do the best job for them. When we look through a regular ol’ catalog for women’s wear, for example, we are not going to see fat, hairy women with warts and greasy hair.

                                       Uhh, yeah, this won't make me wanna buy anything!

We are going to see the beautiful women; the elite; the glamorous. That’s why they’re called models. They are the ones that will show off the clothing the best (in the eyes of the designer and of the general public).
Again I say, with able-bodied folks, designers want to pick the best of the best. Why should it be different for disabled folks? Should they get special treatment because they’re, well, special? NO! I don’t want my kid to be picked for ANYthing just because she’s in a wheelchair. Don’t feel sorry for her. Believe me, she’s got a great life and doesn’t need you to feel sorry for her. But if she deserves an accolade, pat on the shoulder or photo shoot spread, then by all means, bring it on!
The more I think about it the more I realize that I would much rather designers include these kids (and adults for that matter) even if it’s for the wrong reason because it gets wheelchairs, Down Syndrome, walkers, AFO’S, splints, hearing aids, etc., into the mouths of the general public. Honestly,  I can't wait for the day when we as a society don't feel the need to announce the fact that a cover girl is someone who has a disability because then I will know that someone who is seen as "different" today is just another part of the crowd, like me. That’s only gonna happen by getting more people like our kids into these publications.

We only have to talk about “inclusion” when it’s not happening. Once it gets on a roll, it just IS. Get it? 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Communication Needs On A Flight

Flight Attendants Don't Know Everything?

I just finished reading an article about how a teen with autism that uses an iPad for communication was told to put the device away by a flight attendant on an American Airlines flight. When I read the headline, “Airline iPad Policy Sparks Disability Dispute”, I thought I would be angry by the time I finished reading the article. But then I realized, this is the perfect teachable moment.
The teen’s aide explained that the iPad was her method of communicating and the flight attendant (according to the article) responded by saying “with all her years of flying that she’s never seen or heard anybody using an iPad to communicate before”. She was simply following Department of Transportation guidelines and the policy of the airline. The first thought that came to mind was – how old is this lady? Then I thought – how is it that people still don’t know about this great age of technology that we live in? Also – how does such a large corporation such as American Airlines still not have their policies reflect these great advancements? Of course these things are obvious to me; this is the world I live in. So it’s unfair to automatically assume that someone is just being a big jerk. With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to educate those of you who are blissfully unaware so that you don’t become the jerk in an article over a misunderstanding.
Communication Needs

For someone who is non-verbal, taking away their communication device, whether it is an iPad, DynaVox or flip cards is like taping your mouth shut with duct tape. Would you like to sit through a flight or car ride or football game and not be able to express your thoughts or feelings? I know sometimes you wish you could tape someone ELSE’S mouth shut but let’s focus here. Really picture yourself doing something you do daily – chatting with a coworker, ordering food, explaining medical symptoms to a doctor, telling a joke – and do it with duct tape over your mouth.

Some of you may think, “ok so I’ll just gesture with my hands, point to what I need or nod my head”. Let’s see what would happen if you tied your arms down to your body so that you couldn’t use them and couldn’t stand up or walk, either. That’s how it is for people like my daughter. She can’t do sign language and her pointing and gesturing ability is limited. You might also think, “it’s just a short plane ride – what’s the big deal?” Well, besides the fact that that’s just plain stupid, what if the person has a medical emergency coming on (for example, some people get auras right before they have a seizure) or a leg cramp or just realized they need their medication or need to use the restroom? All very important reasons to be able to SPEAK!
The End Result
For those of you interested, according to the article the teen was able to keep out her iPad after an intervention from the pilot. Thinking about the commotion that must have gone on that would prompt the pilot to mediate, I would have been very embarrassed if it was me in that teen’s shoes. I’m sure there were some jerks on that flight who were annoyed that their flight was being held up “over an iPad” but now that you know why it’s so important for some to be able to hold on to their personal devices YOU won’t be that jerk if the situation ever arises! Hey, you may even be able to intervene on behalf of the person who can’t communicate as easily as you can! And that person will be blessed to have a good Samaritan around at just the right time!