Monday, December 29, 2008


photo credit-Matthew Oliphant
creative commons license

The traditional New Year's song, Auld Lang Syne begins,

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?

One might think, from the scarcity of my posts these last few months, that I had forgotten all of my blogging friends and acquaintances. You have all remained in my thoughts (and sometimes in my prayers), but I am certainly guilty of letting this blog lay fallow like a field in winter. So in the tradition of the season, I'll recap a little of what's been happening this past year.

I'll start with last December. Remember the Ransom Notes campaign? I thought this campaign (actually the response to it) marked a significant moment in autism advocacy. Ari Ne'eman and ASAN coordinated a successful effort by a wide spectrum of groups and individuals to quash an ad campaign in New York City that demeaned autistics and others. Online advocacy successfully crossed over to "real world" results, which totally rocked!

January was a quiet and happy time for us. Buddy Boy had a family John Deere themed party, followed by a successful "Mad Science" party with kids from school. It was a great start to the year.

March was when the Poling case entered the news. I was mightily disappointed by the verbal musings of the father in this case, Jon Poling. As a physician (and a neurologist) he could have taken the opportunity to point out that his daughter's case of being "vaccine injured" was a rare anomaly, instead of spouting off with unproved suppositions that there were thousands of cases like her out there. Perhaps his comments were only rehashing ones made by his lawyer, Clifford Shoemaker, who was at the Poling's side at their press conference.

Speaking of Shoemaker, in April he served a ridiculous subpoena against Kathleen Seidel, who fought back with all the force and tenacity of a superhero librarian. Shoemaker eventually was disciplined for this with a slap on the wrist. Still, it was good to see the "good guys" win.

The mind is a funny thing. Before going thru my old posts to put this together, I had completely forgotten the trouble Buddy Boy had in school last Spring. Reading my post brought all of my feelings from the time bubbling back to the surface. Last year was the first year that Buddy Boy was pretty much fully included in a regular classroom. It started off great, but deteriorated in the Spring to a combination of chaos and mayhem. If not for the understanding and forbearance of his teachers and the administration at his school (as well as Liz's immediate support when necessary), Buddy Boy might have been forced to leave his school. I'm not sure where we would be this year if they hadn't stuck with him when the going got tough last year.

This year has again started out great, and continues so thus far, with Buddy Boy in a class where a regular ed and special ed teacher are "co-teaching" this year. Only a few minor speed bumps have been encountered. After looking back at what happened last Spring, we'll be ready (or as ready as we can be) for any recurrences this year.

April is also when I attended a talk by the "philosopher" Peter Singer, who advocates that parents should be able to dispose of (kill) any child they don't want, especially defective ones, until they are several months old (or older, if they are disabled). Eugenics has never really died out in the world. Advances in genetics and prenatal testing are just allowing it to be practiced largely out of public view nowadays, as prospective parents of children with Down Syndrome are encouraged to abort their children before they are born. Unfortunately, we can expect the same response when prenatal tests for other conditions, such as autism, become available. I credit attending this lecture as one of my prime motivators for returning to school this year. I just completed my first two courses in bioethics (did I mention that I got "A's" in both classes?). Evil (especially polite, well-spoken evil) should never be left to stand unopposed.

The mentioning of Singer reminds me that one of his most erudite opponents, Harriet McBryde Johnson, died this year. Although I never met her, her loss is one that was a great one to the disability rights community, and one that I felt deeply. If we all became half as good an advocate as she was, the world would be a better place.

May also found the Judge Rotenberg Center in the news again, as revelations of repetitive electric shocks to "students" triggered by prank phone calls proved outlandish enough to get the media's attention (all of the repetitive shocks to students for minor infractions such as talking back or not being neat evidently aren't enough to stir a media response any more). Supposedly the JRC is having its practices reviewed by the state of Massachusetts thru this December, but I haven't seen any official site saying this, and haven't heard any other recent actions taken against the JRC. Perhaps 2009 will finally be the year that the general public pays attention to the atrocities that routinely take place at the JRC, and close the place down.

Summer was great for us. Buddy Boy continued to make strides in conversing with, as well as socializing with, other people. He even showed the first inklings of becoming his own advocate at one point. Sweet Pea got her first taste of freedom as she lost her training wheels this year.

Summer also found us getting physical, as we cleared and planted a garden, and later reaped what we had sown (the parts that the moles hadn't cleared out, anyway). Our final harvest was a pumpkin for Halloween.

The political scene in the U.S. was certainly an exciting one this year. It was at least somewhat ironic that the majority of the disability community did not support a ticket that had a physically disabled person on the top of the ticket, as well as the mother of a developmentally disabled person as the VP. Barack Obama has promised a lot to the disability community. I hope that he can deliver on half of what he has promised, and wish him well.

This holiday season finds me thankful for all the people that made it down to our house for Christmas this year. We got a call on the 23rd from an ER nurse two states away from us. "I'm xxx, and I'm calling on behalf of (my sister), who just wants you to know that she's all right after the accident".


A semi-truck had swerved a bit on some ice in front of her, and she had swerved a bit reflexively to try and avoid hitting the truck. She avoided the truck, but lost control of her own vehicle, and ended up going into the ravine between the highway lanes, up the other side, flying (literally) for 30 feet in the air, and ending up in the opposite ditch. Other than being banged up and looking like a cross between a raccoon and a Klingon (black eyes and a big hematoma in the middle of her forehead extending down into her nasal region) she was fine. Needless to say, her vehicle was totaled.

I drove down (thru blinding sheets of freezing rain) to make sure she was OK, spent the night there, and drove back with her up to our place the next day. Having that happen sure makes you appreciate the mundane things in life, and keep you from lamenting the things you might have gotten from Santa.

So that's about all that's been happening from the Club 166 point of view this year. I've signed up for two more courses this coming semester (Law and Bioethics and Justice in Health Care). I'm sure that once classes start up, I'll be mostly absent again.

Happy New Year to one and all!