Category Archives: Opinion

Running with armor

I find the greatest challenge in advocating for my sons with “needs” is finding the words to describe the challenges they are facing so that we can all approach the problem from the same perspective. I’ve tried a number of ways to explain, with various levels of success. If I feel that there are gaps in understanding, I dig deep and try to find another way to explain. I find myself in that position again.

Jeremy is currently acting out in a way that we have never seen before in the last few years at his current school, and the staff at the school seem to be baffled… or at least slightly taken aback by it. Unfortunately, it’s because of stuff we’ve been explaining in one way or another for years.

So I try again.

No idea who this is, but apparently its in crazy hot Phoenix, so kudos to him for the illustration.

My autistic sons have social decoding deficits, which means that they can’t read your body language or tone and get any kind of predicted meaning. They might try to read you, but without significant effort at relationship building, they are often wrong. When we have a conversation, we can “read” the current disposition of our audience, and we can generally tell if it’s a good time for the conversation, if our message will be received and because of that we can predict the possible responses from our audience before we even say the first word. My sons can’t do that.

Imagine loving humor and wanting to be funny and you see an audience that is prime for a good joke and you tell one that has been well received in the past, and instead of laughing, your audience starts punching and kicking you. Some times the joke is well received and some times you get kicked and punched. You would very quickly start to either avoid those jokes, or like in my boys’ case, you would approach the joke with a certain amount of fear. For the sake of my analogy later, let’s say that every time the outcome of the conversation is bad, that’s like getting hit with a rock. Let’s define getting hit with a rock as getting “unexpected reactions to social interactions with significant consequences”. For example, a friend not “getting you” is not as significant a consequence as a teacher reacting badly because they didn’t understand you.

Here’s a more practical example. Jeremy has a written output disability and major verbal processing deficits, which means there could be amazing things happening and computing in his brain, but in conversations or written output that require problem solving, it requires a TREMENDOUS amount of effort. So imagine that there is a problem in a class, like needing help with a question. Jeremy has to use all the effort that he can muster to awkwardly ask for some help… expecting the teacher to offer help in-line with the complex computing that is happening in his brain. He might actually use words that come across blunt, or seem rude, or overly simple, but he’s fighting through his disability to just ask the question. Remember that he can’t read social cues, so he might ask at a bad time, or when the teacher or SEA is obviously preoccupied with something else. Regardless, he’s expecting the help to be helpful and respectful. Instead he gets hit with a rock. He might get talked down to, or scolded for sounding rude, or the answer might be completely different from what he was asking. All rocks.

Facing this day after day, week after week, year after year is trauma. It is heartbreakingly difficult. And the result is that my boys go to school with armor on. They are knights, who don their steel exterior and bravely go off to the uncertain world of school. Some days they get hit with rocks… some days they don’t.

What they need is something or someone that says, “I get you. I understand. You are safe.” They need the trust that it is ok to take off the armor. If the armor could come off, they could divert that energy to the challenges in front of them, rather than bracing themselves for the fights that may or may not happen on any given day.

Right now, my sons line up every day to run their race. They line up mostly with kids that are not wearing armor, and a few that also have armor. The weird and twisted part of this race is that the kids that run the slowest will have rocks thrown at them. It’s a catch 22. If they take off the armor and run at full speed, they will avoid the rocks. But if they are convinced that they are going to get hit with rocks (unexpected reactions to social interactions with significant consequences), then keeping the armor on is the only logical option.

We were recently introduced to Self-Reg by Stuart Shanker. Great Book! It explains a lot about both of my boys. The over-simplified generalized synopsis is that there is a finite amount of energy that can be used for various mental tasks. If there is anxiety (armor), then the energy used to deal with that is stolen from other mental faculties. In order to be successful in those areas, you first need to self-regulate and bring the anxiety back down (take the armor off), and then you will have more energy for everything else (you can run faster when you are not carrying the extra weight of armor).

Some practical examples:
My boys can explain things, even complex or uncomfortable things really well if they are calm, but not if they are being yelled at, or talked to harshly.
My boys can deal with difficult tasks and perform very well academically, but not when there is stressful time pressure.
My boys can show tremendous understanding and comprehension when they can verbally recite it or even type, but not when they have to write by hand, or are scared that they will lose marks for punctuation.

I was recently told that Jermey didn’t follow a direction that was given when he was “calm”. This is a misunderstanding about a lot of people with autism. They don’t understand or decode social cues, so they don’t know what normal facial expressions are. So, he wears expressions like clothing… like a mask. Based on his diagnosis, he’s always a little anxious. When he’s being scrutinized by people that he doesn’t know “get him”, he will be very anxious. When he is that anxious, he has a hard time decoding things like basic instructions. It’s not like it’s a lost cause… it would just take a few prompts or reminders. If he knew that he was safe to mess up and would get a few reminders, then… and only then… would he actually be more calm, oddly enough, that would result in not needing prompts.

Jeremy had things go very badly because of this type of problem, that ultimately resulted in him being so misunderstood that he was traumatically dismissed from the famed Harrison Hike. He feels very traumatized and as a result has doubled up on his “armor”. He doesn’t feel safe. Not because the teachers are mean or have anything against him. He just cannot predict how any interaction will go, and through the thicker armor he is misinterpreting what is happening around him, which makes the situation worse… far far worse. He is terrified to go to school and he is terrified to miss school and perform badly.

It’s not a coincidence that the people at Jeremy’s new job are really laid back and chill, and that they can’t detect any discernable signs of any handicap. I’m sure he’s a little awkward, and might require direct instructions instead of “hints” to do things, but because they default to calm, it’s not an issue.

We are advocating for a specific assigned SEA (Special Education Assistant) for next year that will provide Jeremy with, among other things, a consistent liaison to help with this type of communication. He doesn’t need a babysitter… he’s quite a capable young man. He just needs to know that it will be safe to try to communicate and he can take his armor off. And that if communication goes badly, he doesn’t need to put armor back on, he can have the help to clarify. It needs to be a specific SEA that can connect with him and that can “get him” and build relationship with him.

This is not how the school has assigned SEAs up to this point, but its what he desperately needs.

The US Election – 2016 style

My daughter asked me to write about the US election and my thoughts on the politics. I think she secretly wants me to have no friends, because I’m pretty sure my thoughts would alienate everyone. I tried starting this post a handful of times and there are several drafts that will never see the light of day. The topic is difficult, not because the party platforms are that hard to understand, but because almost everyone seems ready to pounce on any thread that doesn’t support their view… like it’s everyone’s personal job to clean up their social media thread so that all opinions expressed on your wall are “correct” – whatever each person views as correct.

Voters waiting to vote in polling place

So, I’m going to skip that part and talk directly to you, dear daughters. Not that long ago, democracy became a thing. The idea that people could each have a say in who would govern is a novel concept that hasn’t existed for most of the 10,000+ years of the civilized human experience. But there’s a catch. This voting thing requires wisdom and an investment of time; time to learn what ideas each candidate supports, and time to debate and consider how those ideas will play out in the long run. So, I am going to give you some pointers that will help you be good voters.

1) Understand the role of government.
A democratic government is there to manage things; a democratic government never creates. In order for a government to “make” something, they require money from somewhere, and the only tool that government has to get money, is taxes. If a government ever talks about creating jobs or making a better healthcare system or anything else, it’s either talking about managing the economic environment so that those things are possible, or they are making promises that they are going to have to spend to create, and spending means taxes. That’s not always bad, but it needs to be understood… government manages, not creates.

Government needs to manage the laws we live by, the taxes they require, the security of the borders, the relationships that we have with other countries, the infrastructure (roads and electrical power plants, etc) that make everything work together, the environment, the policies about money that help promote profitable trade (making your paycheck worth something), policies around healthcare and making sure it’s reasonably fair to access, the environment, and most importantly, it needs to make sure that everything is fair, so that an honest person, giving an honest effort, has a chance to succeed.

It’s wildly complex and things are often out of balance. Sometimes the environment gets ignored while securing the borders receives too much attention. Then a new leader needs to get elected that will steer things back to balance… but then the environment might get too much attention and monetary policy might suffer. You always need to try to be aware of where things are at and do your best to understand what needs attention and what is out of balance.

2) Consider all sides.
The US system is really a 2 party system, but Canada, being much more inclusive, is a multi-party system. No matter how many candidates there are, they all have a published document somewhere that spells out what’s most important to them (called party platforms). Read them. I know it’s tediously boring, but this is the job. The alternative is to live under tyranny of one sort or another.

When you read these party platforms, make a list, a mental list or an actual list, of what points they each talk about. Then ask, “Why did Party A talk about these points and Party B didn’t mention them at all?” When they do talk about the same points, which way of dealing with things seems to make the most sense? Who seems to be addressing the issues that are out of balance (see point 1)?

3) There is nothing new under the sun.
“There is nothing new under the sun”. When running a campaign, often people are unhappy because they feel like things are out of balance (see point 1) and they want “change”. Nobody ever seems to think that the way to fix things is to do them the old way, so politicians talk about doing things “new”. But if you look closely, whatever challenges we face have been faced countless times before. And they have been faced in many different ways before. And sometimes they are handled successfully and sometimes it’s complete failure.

For example, there is talk of raising taxes on the rich. It’s been considered before. It’s been done before. What was the outcome? The history and analysis is easy enough to find. Based on what you find, is it a good idea or a bad idea? But you can count on this, there is nothing new under the sun. Whatever happened the last time, will happen this time.

To this end, it really pays to take a little education that you probably didn’t get in high school. This article has some good stuff to say about books to read and thoughts on getting educated (https://www.facebook.com/TheRealMikeRowe/posts/1254500967893377).

Feel free to use the media for some of this info, but understand that “news” stations are out to make a profit and so they need a consistent audience. This means that they have to say things that “attract” their audience. Actual information is edited or “spun” or omitted so as not to offend the loyal audience, so by nature of the current system, it’s biased. Don’t blame the media, they are doing their job. Just understand that for every news source that is attracting the people that would vote for Party A, there is a news outlet that is attracting the people that would vote for Party B. As infuriating as it is, listen to them all. When it comes to being educated to vote, this is the job.

4) Put the country first.
A lot of politicians get elected promising things to you, personally. You’ll get more money from the government (which were taken from taxes, see point 1). You’ll get free education. You’ll get free healthcare. You’ll get your own llama. Whatever they are promising, don’t go to the voting booth being selfish. Go to the voting booth to keep things in balance, for the long-term good of the country. If the government gives everyone free money, it will seem amazing for a moment… but too much money in circulation will create inflation. Inflation will make it so that all that money put together won’t buy a loaf of bread.

I have special needs boys and it might seem good to vote for the candidate that promises the best in special education. But if that comes at the cost of our economy, and my boys grow up to a country living in destitute poverty, then did I really serve their needs in the long-run???

I’ve told the story before of fathers that left their homes to build a railroad so that their children would have a better future. Most of those fathers never returned home, and died for their cause. As awful and sacrificial as that might seem… the continent did quickly benefit from the generosity and did become quite prosperous for their children. You probably don’t ever have to consider that level of sacrifice, but you do need to have that kind of thinking when you vote.

5) Demonstrate your values.
After you’ve looked at all the options and decided who you want to vote for, feel free to engage in conversation about it. If you try to have that conversation on social media, it will seem like the world has gone mad… it hasn’t. But if you believe that everyone should have the right to free speech, then let others speak freely. If you believe that everyone should be treated with respect, then treat everyone with respect.

In every area, don’t wait for a politician to make the difference you want to see. If you think good monetary policy is important, then manage your money properly. If you think that there needs to be better security of our borders, then support, encourage and thank people doing that job… maybe even sign up to serve. If you see that there is a need to help the poorer in our community, for sure make that something to consider when you vote, but get out there and help the poor.

In the end, it’s all about how our society is moving forward. You will get shouted down a lot when you try to discuss this stuff. But your actions will never get shouted down. And maybe, just maybe, someone will follow your example and the world will be a better place after all.

Music and Lyrics

My mind works different than my wife’s. She hears the beat; I hear the lyrics. I think that songs and music are powerful and fuel your soul, and that the lyrics and even the emotion of the artist affect you in some way. Another odd reality of my brain is that it plays with the meanings of words, so I don’t just hear the words; I hear the raw literal translation. This makes songs with weak lyrics grate on the core of my being, and of course I have to air my frustration with my kids. So the meanings of songs is a common conversation that I have with my daughters.

I am rather proud of Xandra at the moment, because she has ruined this song for all of her friends. Her friends will be walking in the halls of her school singing, “Stay With Me”, and turn to her with dreamy eyes and say, “I love this song, its so sweet.” And Xandra will reply, “Why?!? Its awful!”, which produces stunned and confused looks.

Because she is my daughter and because we have talked about this a bit, she will then explain, “Listen to the words… let me paraphrase it for you.” “I don’t love you. You don’t love me. But I’m a man who has ‘needs’, and so you should lay with me.” Then she will show them the actual lyrics:

Guess it’s true, I’m not good at a one-night stand
But I still need love ’cause I’m just a man
These nights never seem to go to plan
I don’t want you to leave, will you hold my hand?

Oh, won’t you stay with me?
‘Cause you’re all I need
This ain’t love it’s clear to see
But darling, stay with me

Why am I so emotional?
No it’s not a good look, gain some self control
And deep down I know this never works
But you can lay with me so it doesn’t hurt

To all the young women out there trying to figure out the world, let me say something to you. You are worth more! You deserve to be loved! A real man’s greatest need is to receive respect and have honor. Sex and intimacy is not a need or a right, and no real man will ever make you feel like you are indebted to share those.

And don’t sing along with songs that suck!

What I think about evolution

This is a conversation that I have had with the girls numerous times over the years. It’s a particularly interesting topic to Angelica and she is the one that asked me to write about it next.

Grand Universe by ANTIFAN REALThis could easily turn into a runaway post and I don’t want it to… so I am going to stick to really high level thoughts that I have and maybe answer specific questions in other posts.

If you don’t want to read all my science rhetoric, then feel free to skip to the conclusion at the end.

In general I think the debate between evolution and creation is pretty much a waste of time. But seeing as it’s the topic of this post, I will admit that I think evolution as a theory is absurd. The main reason for that is I believe in God, which makes contemplating Him doing some or all of the work make sense. If you don’t believe in God, then nothing could be more absurd than some sort of creation fairytale. That is the issue for me; it’s a lot more about philosophy and spirituality than science.

In order for actual science to be involved it would need to follow something close to a scientific method, which is:

The overall process involves making conjectures (hypotheses), deriving predictions from them as logical consequences, and then carrying out experiments based on those predictions to determine whether the original conjecture was correct.

Some have tried, but as of yet nothing has been proven or dis-proven with any logical scientific process. I’m sure someone would love to debate this… feel free.

The Bible is not a scientific text. God gave us the Bible (happy to debate this one too) as a series of books explaining some history, some prophetic writings, and some instructional letters that help to show us an overview about who God is, why Jesus came, examples of how principles in life work and ultimately that everything is supposed to lead us to a profound, all encompassing, deeply loving relationship with Him. He gave us all that we need for that, and didn’t throw in a bunch of stuff that we don’t really need to know. The Bible does not address if there are aliens, if time travel is possible, what the deal is with dinosaurs or, believe it or not, how the earth and humanity were created.

Lots of the older texts in the Bible follow an old storytelling pattern of Summary, Brief Explanation, Detailed Explanation. So “In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth.” That’s the summary… not how; just that He did it. Then it goes on to give seven days of creation, which may refer to 24 hour days, may refer to 1000 year days, may refer to ages of time, may refer to steps taken in order. Moses, who wrote Genesis, could not have predicted that we would get so hung up on this detail. On that topic, the sun was not formed as a stand alone unit until the “3rd day”, so what were they measuring a day with anyway, and who was measuring it??? Adam didn’t hit the earth till the “6th Day”. That’s all the Brief Explanation. Then the real point of the story has some context and that is when Adam is introduced and goes on to explain what God’s and Adam’s relationship was based on. See that’s the point. The creation stuff might give us some interesting insight, but the point is God’s and Man’s relationship.

The Bible does not in any way say how He did any of it, except that he made man out of the dust of the earth, and that may even be referring to the fact that we are made up of a handful of elements that if separated and water removed would amount to a pile of dust. The only actual account we have from the good book of something being made where there were witnesses is Eve. God put Adam to sleep, took a rib from Adam and formed Eve. There are a lot of interesting sciencey things about that but my point for this paragraph is that God took something that was in one form and made a new “iteration” using part of the old. God does a lot of things in patterns, so who knows if God didn’t start with a small micro-organism, then systematically make iterations from one creature or plant to the next using a part of the old??? Or what’s to say that He didn’t snap His finger (or speak it into being) and make everything happen in the blink of an eye?

The main point here is that Creation people don’t have much to cling to that proves that God did it.

That’s not to say that there isn’t science in scripture. There are loads of anecdotal stories that align with what we know about science… that is science that can be proven. The Bible discusses alternate dimensions – something beyond the reasoning of the ancient world. It refers to stars that sing, which was not proven until quite recently. There are a handful of the miracles of Jesus that show His control over atomic phase, and bunch of other quantum physics principles. The Bible confirms actual science and actual science never disagrees with anything in the Bible.

The Bible says that there was a flood that covered the whole earth (as does the writings of EVERY other ancient religious text). It also says that when God created the earth to start with there was a solid layer of water above the atmosphere and a solid layer of water under the earth’s crust, and that on a specific day that was all released. Very recently a large amount of water was found under North America’s tectonic plates… enough water to replace all the water in the world’s oceans. If these two things were the case, then a rupture the size of the Marianas Trench would release an ocean of that magnitude in a fountain that would go high enough to destabilize the outer water layer and all would crash down and cover the earth. Then the greenhouse environment that would have kept everything even temperature would go away and ice caps would draw enough water back, fairly quickly, to reveal enough inhabitable earth to live on… which also explains sedimentary anomalies like denser elements are on the bottom, fields of dinosaurs buried in instant mud slides, palm trees in Greenland, and a host of other observable phenomenon.

So what’s my issue with evolution?

I have a number of scientific issues with an evolution that does not include God (because as far as I am concerned, God could have directed evolution by prompting genetic adjustments in the womb).

I could go really in depth on any of these issues, but… I won’t at this point. “The Big Bang” could very well have happened, but even Stephen Hawking in a Brief History of Time, says that everything can be quantified back to a single super dense atomic particle that could have burst into all that we know and see, but the problem with all those equations is that the particle would be inert. That means that it can’t blow up on its own… someone or something has to pull the trigger. Later he goes on to theorize that some inverse of gravity might be the trigger, but these are only theories to explain what had to happen when the answer “can’t” include God. (By the way, I loved that book)

Dead things don’t evolve. Science has been able to see that species have survived because predators always go after the weakest, meaning that the strongest – and purest – genetics get passed on. In order for evolution to happen, animals would have to go through a transition from one functioning set of parameters to another, and in the middle neither set of parameters would function well… making it weak… meaning its going to be prey. Some of the adaptations would kill the animal if not done perfectly the first time. The bombardier beetle is a good example of that. It creates two chemicals in its abdomen that when sprayed together creates an explosion that can blow a spider far away. It sprays these chemicals in a finely tuned set of minuscule drops because if they were steady streams, they would propel the beetle to kingdom come. Imagine all of the attempts that evolution must have had to make to get that formula right, and if its not just right, then boom. Which means that the genetic trial would not be passed on to any offspring and that would mean evolution would have to try again. Lots more examples of this, but like I said, dead things don’t evolve.

We can’t make it happen. 600+ (its well over 700 now) and 10,000+ lifecycles trying to force fruit flies and bacteria to mutate and not one singe generation benefited from a mutation, and the predominant end organism was exactly the same as the first generation. This isn’t just exposing them to environmental anomalies, but actually introducing genetic changes, and still nada, and the real atmosphere and environment has never put any of our world’s critters through anything like that. If we can’t do it to one or two species under those circumstances, then how am I to believe that it happened billions and billions and billions of times to create the “successful” (because remember, unsuccessful adaptations = dead animals = they don’t evolve) changes that resulted in all that you see on the earth today?!?

Conclusion:

I’ve seen a number of evolution / creation debates, and I have yet to see evolutionists find religion after being proven wrong; they go back and figure out logical answers to the questions they couldn’t answer and carry on. I have seen people come face-to-face with a love and peace and deep inner knowing that they are desired by God, accept and follow Jesus, and then turn almost immediately to believe in one form of God directed creation or another. I have seen people receive miracles, arms grow back, ears open, instant healings, observable things, and accept the message that comes with those… mainly that the reality of Heaven is within arms reach (the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand), accept and follow Jesus and almost immediately turn and believe in creation as well. Conversely, I have seen people that are not set in their faith, get exposed to some good arguments that make them challenge their ideas of the existence of God, and when God gets explained away, they turn and almost immediately turn and begin to believe evolution.

It is a product of your philosophy and your belief in God… and your belief in God is not a product of your view of creation. I believe in God, and I believe in creation, and I believe all the stories in the Bible, and I am a curious scientist, and all those things are compatible.

And to the Christians out there that want to see the world a better place, put down your need to be right and your need to have all the answers and your need to know all the rules, and just get really good and letting a love that you couldn’t have produced on your own flow through you, and let Him take care of the rest.

Conflict, Compromise and Social Skills

This isn’t a question that my girls have asked me per se, but its a discussion that we have had around our house for the last week or so.

Christy Clark Jim IkerHere in BC the teacher’s union is on strike, so school hasn’t started for my kids yet this year. The government and teacher’s union have been fighting for a great many years and the situation is hot and heated and controversial and everyone has an opinion and they hold those opinions with great emotional conviction.

Here’s my problem with where things are at.  I am not upset with the teachers; they have a difficult and thankless job. I am not upset with the government; they were elected under the promise of financial accountability and balanced budgets and this is one facet of trying to deliver on that. I am not upset with the people at the bargaining table; they are humans, trying in an imperfect way to do what they think is the best.  I am upset with you.  (Not you specifically, but the “greater you” that makes up everyone on social media that is involved in the greater social discussion and commentary flooding my Facebook wall.)

We live in a weird age. I have noticed that my teens have NO conflict resolution skills. They almost never meet face to face, but end up chatting with lots of people over various forms of instant messaging and social media. When something happens that is awkward or someone says something that might be taken the wrong way, you can simply stop answering their texts. Imagine acting like that with everyone in a room… you say something awkward and all of a sudden everyone just acts like you disappeared.  You can scream at the crowd and say, “no, no, you misunderstand!”, but still they ignore you. That would never happen. It might be awkward, but you would have to – and get to – deal with it right then and there.

Something else that is weird about the age that we live in is the ease with which your voice can be heard by the masses. Anyone can sit down at a keyboard and write something that sounds plausible and have it published and read by thousands. There is no burden of proof, or references for cited material, or even any requirement to try and be truthful. I’ve seen people write some crazy stuff and if it gets shared enough, even legitimate news media will republish it to try and fill the insatiable demand for tantalizing news.

When you put all of the above together, you have some very good people exhibiting some very bad behavior. Economists are on the side of the government, but should they share something about their opinion, they are sure to get hate mail and have their moral character called into question, but not face to face. No, they will be blasted over social media or email or text or other forms of communication that don’t require you to look into the eyes of the one that you are berating and recognize that you are hurting them.

Parents with special needs kids are mostly on the side of the teachers, but should they post something about their opinion… watch out. Parent’s with kids in private school or home school have mixed opinions, but can they share them as part of the discussion without being slandered in return?

And then there is hate. If you support the teachers, then support them, but why do some people feel entitled to degrade the personal character of our Premier? If you support the government, that’s fine, but then why is it ok to blast unfounded hateful comments about the union president or their demands or about unions in general?

This is something that social media makes available but society should not. These are basic social skills…

I have a friend that likes to read and share articles that have various degrees of different opinions. The other day, she posted an article that was mostly pro-government, but from a perspective that she hadn’t seen anywhere else, so she shared it asking what people thought. I read the article. It was an interesting perspective. She took the post down within a couple hours because her inbox filled up with hateful comments and personal attacks. It wasn’t even specifically her opinion, just something she thought was interesting.

No one knows the truth. Only those in the actual bargaining discussion knows the truth of what is said in there. Everything else is hearsay and conjecture and opinion and some outright lies. There is no requirement that you validate your sources and make sure that whatever you post is true, but understand that they are opinions and thoughts that support your own stance and… they may be partially incorrect or taken out of context, so accept comments for and against with understanding and dignity. If you disagree with something that you read, by all means post a comment, but do it with grace and tact.

“Treat others the way that you want to be treated”, but I’ll add something to that… Treat others wherever they are, the way that you want to be treated when you are face to face.

Just my opinion.