Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spanking Bad, but Shocking Still OK

In Massachusetts, it's a good day to be a kid. That is, unless you're an autistic kid.

A story in today's Boston Herald online edition details how the state legislature is set to debate outlawing spanking of any kind in the state, including in one's own home. As stated in the article:

...If signed into law, parents would be prohibited from forcefully laying a hand on any child under age 18 unless it was to wrest them from danger, lest they be charged with abuse or neglect. ...

This would make Massachusetts the first state in the US to ban spanking. Massachusetts has long been known to be a very liberal state. And this proposed ban on spanking is evidence of that bent. Inexplicably, however, that liberal concern of the state for the welfare of children doesn't exist if you happen to be on the autism spectrum.

As this article in the online Village Voice pointed out, at the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts, administering electric shocks to autistic students in this residential "school" is an everyday occurrence.

...The only thing that sets these students apart from kids at any other school in America (aside from their special-ed designation) is the electric wires running from their backpacks to their wrists. Each wire connects to a silver-dollar-sized metal disk strapped with a cloth band to the student's wrist, forearm, abdomen, thigh, or foot. Inside each student's backpack is a battery and a generator, both about the size of a VHS cassette. Each generator is uniquely coded to a single keychain transmitter kept in a clear plastic box labeled with the student's name. Staff members dressed neatly in ties and green aprons keep the boxes hooked to their belts, and their eyes trained on the students' behavior. They stand ready, if they witness a behavior they've been told to target, to flip open the box, press the button, and deliver a painful two-second electrical shock into the student at the end of the wire. ...

So, as the Boston Herald notes, laying a hand on a child forcefully in any manner would earn you being charged with abuse or neglect, while in the Judge Rotenberg Center (JRC) withholding food and shocking kids is considered therapy. And if a small shock doesn't get the desired result, then just increase the level of shock.

...They still withhold food from some students as an aversive, but shocks are their main treatment. The school began using electric shock in 1989, but the device they first used, called SIBIS, was so weak that many students grew accustomed to it, eroding its effectiveness. So Israel developed the GED, which he registered with the Food and Drug Administration in 1995. (The GED was classified in such a way that it only required FDA registration, not approval.) When students grew innured to that, Israel brought forth the GED-4, three times as powerful as the original GED. That version is not registered with the FDA, which now says the Rotenberg Center is exempt because it's only using the machines in-house. ...

And although Dr. Israel, the founder and head of the JRC, justifies the use of involuntary shocks because of self injurious violent behavior on the part of students, its use is not limited to that.

...But the GED isn't only used when a life is at stake, or when a student hurts himself or another, but also for "noncompliance" or "simple refusal." "We don't allow individuals just to stay in bed all day," says Dr. Robert von Heyn, a Rotenberg clinician, in a video for parents. "We want to teach people. So we may use the GED to treat noncompliance." Other behavior that doesn't appear dangerous also could earn a zap. While it might seem excessive to shock a student for nagging his teacher, Israel asks, what if the kid nags all the time, every minute, every day? The nagging interferes with his learning, so he can't learn self-control and develop normally. JRC's choice is to shock him, stop the nagging, and let him learn. ...

As a parent, I am not the biggest proponent to spanking. Generally speaking, I try my hardest to avoid it, and consider each episode at least partly a failure of parenting on my part. But I also think that parents need to be given latitude in raising their own children, and that a swat to the butt is not the worst thing in the world.

I believe that I know the difference between a swat on the butt and child abuse. Unfortunately, it would appear that the state of Massachusetts has gotten it entirely backwards. A swat on the butt will get a parent arrested if this law passes, but starving kids or jolting them with electric shocks for non-compliance in school gets you paid hefty sums of money from the state.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Why I Love Thanksgiving

photo credit-urtica

creative commons license

I've been in a bit of a blogging slump lately. Part of it is having some problems with Buddy Boy that are consuming some time and energy, part is just general busyness, and part is just not feeling like I had anything to say.

Kim over at MommyHood - The Adventures of Kim and Alex wrote an entry yesterday on The culture of too much, which I largely agreed with. She did a good job of highlighting how all the people that try to sell us stuff have over commercialized Christmas, and we (collectively) fall for this hook, line, and sinker. I like Kim's blog, as it is both real and funny as all get out. But one thing in her post got to me. She lumped my favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving, in with this.

First, Kim complains about traveling over Thanksgiving:

First, there’s too much travel. Too many lineups, too much need to travel from one of the country to the other for the weekend. If you ask anyone what time of the year that they wouldn’t want to be at the airport, it would be Thanksgiving weekend.

While I admit that flying over Thanksgiving is not something that ANYONE would like to do, what's so bad about people wanting to reconnect with family to celebrate and give thanks? I can think of lots of worse ways to spend a weekend. Too often we get caught up in our own little lives, and the day to day running about. It's nice to dedicate a day to getting together with loved ones, having a good time, and giving thanks for all the good that we have in our lives. In the past this meant going down the road to gather at a relative's house. Now it may mean driving hundreds of miles or flying thousands. Such is the byproduct of a very mobile society. But I see it as a good thing that we still make the effort to maintain these familial connections, even though greater effort is involved.

Next, Kim attacks the menu:

Then there’s Thanksgiving itself. Too much food, too much turkey, too much football. There’s a code that needs to be followed in order to have a proper Thanksgiving. Turkey? Check. Stuffing? Check. Cranberry sauce? Check. Pumpkin pie? Check. Do you eat these foods at any other time of the year, other than potentially Christmas? Probably not, because these are identified as Thanksgiving foods.

The Thanksgiving menu is one of my favorites. I would eat this menu every week, if I could. I would, however, then weigh upwards of 450 lbs (205 kg./32 stone). I'm always sorry when the leftover turkey runs out. Also the leftover pumpkin pie.

The menu of what Americans eat at Thanksgiving is also very regionally based. Although there are some staples (as mentioned above) that most people have, there are a lot of regional variations, both in what other items are on the menu, as well as how the items are prepared. I once heard a man interviewed on the radio that had studied this. He claimed to not only be able to tell you the region of the country you were in by what was on your Thanksgiving menu, in some cases he could pinpoint the actual county that you resided in. That's pretty impressive.

Sure, I overate with everyone else on Thursday. I know that that's not a good thing, from a health standpoint. But I see overeating with family one day a year a lot less harmful than the commercialization of Christmas.

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I don't have to worry about offending people. With Christmas, I always have to think first about wishing someone Merry Christmas, so as not to inadvertently offend them (if they're not Christian). With Thanksgiving, I have no such constraints. How can anyone object to being thankful?

Thanksgiving is the holiday that has been the least commercialized. Sure, it's good for the airlines and those who produce turkey and cranberry sauce. And Hallmark and others sell some greeting cards. But beyond that, there isn't very much commercial hype involved. In fact, I think that of all of our holidays, Thanksgiving is one that people from a hundred years ago would most identify as being similar to how they celebrated. So, you can diss what they've done to Christmas, but don't mess with Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Today's saying

Every day at work one of my co-workers puts a saying on the "white board". I walked in today to find this up there. Needless to say, I had a smile on all day.

Friday, November 2, 2007


I don't think I'm going to leave these pics up a long time, but don't think it will hurt to have them up a little while.

We all went out "Trick or Treating" (those outside of the US, I'll let you Google it) for Halloween. Sweet Pea was Raggedy Ann, and Buddy Boy was Bill Nye, the science guy.

I was happily surprised that Sweet Pea decided to go with Raggedy Ann, over her usually preferred princess outfits. Liz sewed several different borders on the costume until she was satisfied that it looked just right.

We really had a lot of fun with the Bill Nye costume. My sister is a chemist, so she served as supplier of the lab "schwag". In addition to the usual pipets, gloves, and the like, his candy container was a giant beaker labeled "Bill Nye's Sugar Experiment" on the side, and with gradations that said "Not enough sugar, Just enough sugar, and Too much sugar" on the side. My sister got some ideas and bits from some of the geeky guys she works with (who now have a picture of Buddy Boy up in their lab).

As might be expected, not everybody got his costume (even though the ID we made him had a "Nye Labs" logo, and his name Bill Nye with Science Guy underneath it. Those that got it loved it. And of course Buddy Boy, who considers himself a scientist, loved it (this morning he told us his new name is Bill Nye the second.

At one stop Buddy Boy broke into the Bill Nye theme song (I cut him off after he got to "Science Rules!" and then continued with "Bill Nye the Science Guy is brought to you by ..."), and at another he made a point of mentioning "That's real Parafilm, you know".

All of us had a lot of fun, and the kids didn't even notice when Liz and I were pilfering some of the chocolate for ourselves. Both of them did a good job with their manners, and Buddy Boy even was able to tell a joke (it's somewhat of a local Halloween tradition that when you ring the bell and say Trick or Treat, you're also supposed to tell the people a joke in order to get your treat).

The joke was the old "knock, knock" joke:

Knock, knock.

Who's there?


Boo who?

Boo who, why are you crying?

At least neither of them went as James Watson. Now that would be scary!