Sunday, February 22, 2009

Making a Difference, 10 minutes at a Time

photo credit-Half Chinese
creative commons license

I think the internet is great. It's a great way of connecting with people in your community and across the globe. It's big enough that there is space enough for every niche interest imaginable. I also believe that besides connecting with other people, the internet can assist minority groups in advocating for themselves, as happened with protesting the Ransom Notes campaign.

But I also think that the internet has its limitations in effecting change in socieatal attitudes and laws. My personal feeling is that the internet is one tool in a big handbag of ways that can be utilized to change opinions. Should we utilize the internet? You betcha. But I also think that we should also pursue other avenues whenever they present themselves, as well as combine the internet with other methods to gain greater influence than either method might obtain by itself.

The other day I blogged how Ange Hemmer is working to change practices in Missouri schools. She has used the internet to gather parent testimony, but she has also spent countless hours on the phone and in person talking to legislators, state advocates, and reporters, generating several stories in the media that have probably gotten at least some people to reconsider their inner feelings regarding those who are different in society. She's even starting to get some results.

Today I'd like to highlight a young autistic filmmaker named Drew, who's film, "Treasure Diversity" is being screened at the Beloit International Film Festival.

Though the film is only 10 minutes long, the film festivals executive director, Rob Beaudoin said "There is a magic to this film that caused me to think differently about people and about life." After viewing the trailer, I am sure that his reaction is not unique. In addition to being screened at BIFF, Drew's film has been screened not only at other US film festivals, but also festivals as far away as Australia. Not too shabby for a 12 year old kid. His 10 minute movie has the potential to reach thousands, if not tens of thousands of people.

I think we all need to look for opportunities to make a difference in other people's attitudes. We might not be filmmakers, or be able to make the time to travel to our state capitals to lobby legislators, but we all can take the time to write our lawmakers and let them know how we feel, as well as educate people we come into contact with every day. Even if it's not 10 minutes, even 1 or 2 minutes add up over time.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Fighting Restraints and Seclusion

Blogger Ange at has been waging a quiet, persistent campaign against the use of restraints and seclusions in Missouri schools. She's been gathering accounts of children's experiences when put into seclusion rooms in schools, and the people at the Misssouri
Protection and Advocacy Services
have taken an interest in this cause. She's also traveled to the state capital to testify regarding pending legislation that would shield teachers from prosecution when they get physical with kids in school.

This week her efforts have really paid off, as she's gotten media attention. Two television stations have aired stories on this this week (one of them on two successive nights), and a popular local radio call in show also took on the topic today.

The local NBC affiliate story can be found here. Do drop by and (respectfully) let them know that it's just not right.

And if you see Ange around here, remember to thank her.

Friday, February 13, 2009

What's Next?

photo credit-crabchick
creative commons license

I don't know whether to feel more like an Egyptian Pharoh or a guy named Job. Either way the past 24 hours have been a little "sucky" around here.

Last night I came home to find that the beautiful 40 foot white pine tree that was in front of our house fell down during the day. The ground has been saturated by the rain, and the tree has been a little lopsided the past couple of years since it lost one major limb in a storm. The good news is that no one got hurt, and the tree fell away from the house, instead of on it. Both very good things. The tree service came today and hauled it away. Don't know what that's going to cost. And we still need to get the stump ground down.

Today I was conducting a workshop at the end of the workday when I got a page to call home. "The basement's flooded!" We had about a foot of water down there. Not from the recent rains we have gotten, but from our sewer line getting clogged up. It's probably been clogged for a couple of days. We don't go down there much, as our laudry machine is on the main floor. 5 hours later and the plumber just left. The waters draining again, but tomorrow he'll be back to snake a video camera down there to see what's what. I'm so looking forward to that. The good news is that the basement of our 128 yeare old house is unfinished, and also has a step in the middle. Only the lower part is flooded so there's half as much to clean up. The furnace is on the flooded side, but is working OK for now. I know what I'll be doing this weekend. If anyone has any tips on disinfecting your basement after it's been flooded, bring them on.

Whatever it is that I've done wrong, G_d, I'm sorry. I'll try to do better. The kids would love the frogs or locusts, but if it's all the same I think I'll pass, if it's OK with you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Is It Spring Already?

Perhaps it is just cosmic Karma, that if things go well for a period of time, that some negative balance has to happen. Perhaps it's because the weather's been warmer the last couple of days. Perhaps there is absolutely no reason at all, but today Buddy Boy had a major meltdown at school (actually two incidents).

In the morning he got upset about something relatively minor, went to his spot in the class to calm down, then got more upset and was sent to the principal's office, where he calmed down after an hour or so. After lunch and recess, he got upset in math class, jumped on a chair and then a desk, bit himself really hard (he says he didn't want to be agressive against anyone else), then when he was being taken for a walk in the hall started head butting the brick wall. When another teacher started to intervene to try and prevent him from hurting himself, he head butted her. Liz was called and picked him up.

He seemed fairly normal for the rest of the afternoon, completing much of the work he missed by being taken out of school, and expressing remorse over his actions.

Last year Buddy Boy had a bad Spring, which started getting really bad in April, and continued thru May. Like last year, we got lulled into a false sense of security, as everything has been going fairly well for all of us. Now Liz has catapulted herself to Defcon 2, and seemed to be having a flashback from last year when I got home. She was poring over last year's calendar (where she wrote all of last year's problems, observations, med changes, etc.) looking for some inspiration or answer to get us thru this. She found nothing. We wonder out loud if the fact that his class size has gone from 18 at the start of the year to 23 now has changed the dynamic sufficiently to cause such a change. We've had people come in to observe before when Buddy Boy's had problems (the school will let outside "professionals" in to observe, but not parents), but it's hard for someone that doesn't know Buddy Boy's baseline to get a handle on what's happening in a few short hours.

Tomorrow is another day, and I just hope that somehow we can get thru that one, and then another.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Thank You, Pikachu

photo credit-fuzzcat
creative commons license

About a month ago Liz remarked to me that Buddy Boy wanted to get a Pokemon game cartridge for his Nintendo DS. He wanted it because two kids he sometimes ate lunch with talked about Pokemon all the time. She was worried that Pokemon was too violent. All she knew was that they "fought" each other. While I don't know a whole lot about the intricacies of the game, I knew it was animated and that there really wasn't any violence to it. I quickly convinced her that it was basically harmless, and might lead to some spontaneous social interaction.

Well, we got him the cartridge for his 9th birthday last month, and he's been playing it ever since.

This afternoon, as I was getting ready to go pick up Sweet Pea from her third birthday party in as many weeks, Liz informed me that a boy from Buddy Boy's class was coming over to play. She also told me that


You could have knocked me over with a feather.

Evidently this other boy has always been interested in, and nice to, Buddy Boy since he transferred to this school two years ago, and inserting Pikachu and his friends into the mix provided enough commonality that this other boy wanted to spend more time with Buddy Boy. While Buddy Boy has had a few parent instigated play dates in the past (none in the last 3 years or so), he's never had a "kid instigated" play date. This was HUGE.

The kids seemed to get along relatively well. They played together for a while, then I took them to the park, where Buddy Boy tended to want to dig holes with a stick rather than playing tag, but once they got back home they got back to playing together again. I think both of them had a good time, which counts as a raving success in my book.

Thanks again, Pikachu.