My Selection…

A lot of people are sure who they’re voting for, but I’m finding that not as many people are sure why they’re casting their vote for their chosen candidate.   I know a lot of Trump fans who are just that —  fans.  When I ask why they support him, they say, “He’s so funny.”  (Not a reason to elect a President, folks.)  A lot of people I know do not like Trump, but they support him anyway, simply because he’s Republican, and Republicans generally believe in pro-life or no gun control.  I’ve met people who are voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she’s a woman, or people who are pro-Bernie because they’re Democratic but they don’t want a woman.  I met a woman the other day who told me she is very conservative and always votes Republican no matter what, but she just wasn’t sure if Trump was the man for the job.  She asked who I was voting for, and after I explained that the reason for my vote had a story behind it, she told me she was so impressed, she was moved to change her vote because of it…

In 1999, I relocated from Central Florida to Central New York.  I had visions of New York being more upscale that Florida, more progressive, more expensive, and more lucrative.  I was wrong on all counts except the expense.

In Florida, on just about every street corner, you can find a daycare center, an after school kid care, or another such facility such as dance studio, karate center, or gymnastics gym that picks up kids after school and cares for them until 6:00 when their parents get out of work.  The cost at the time for one child was approximately $30 a week.

That was one of the first things I found to be quite different when I moved to New York.  I had six-year old Jeremy who was in kindergarten, and ten-year old Stefani who was in the fourth grade, and other than them and my sister Michelle, we didn’t know another soul in the Empire State, so we had no one to ask how these things were handled.

What I found was that there were essentially NO kid care facilities whatsoever in my county.  What they had instead were county licensed “babysitters” who were allowed to run “home daycare centers.”  Since I moved there mid-school year, there were only two available women on the list.  The first woman was the wife of a military man, and she said they’d be moving before the end of the school year.  So, I moved on to my last hope… A woman named Rachael R.

Since Rachael and I shared the same first name (though hers was spelled wrong), I took that as a good sign.  Boy was I wrong!  She charged $140 a week (yes, really!) to watch my kids after school for a couple of hours, five days a week.  (I got off work at 4:00 back then.)  She smoked like a chimney, and my son had chronic asthma.  So every day, when I picked up my kids, I had to have them strip in the car and change into clean clothes, then bathe them when we got home before they could play.

jeremy six

Can you see picking on this little cutie?

After a few months, I learned she was being abusive to my son as well as one other child she watched.  She made these boys sit on the couch — on their hands – from the time the bus dropped them off until the time their parents picked them up.  She refused to give them a snack, and she refused to allow them to get up and play with the other kids or even watch TV.  In fact, she apparently sat in her chair and chain smoked and watched rated R movies the whole time the kids were there!

Now, I knew my son could be a handful… He’s autistic, and as such, he was very active and curious.  However, he was always a sweet kid and generally well behaved.

I was kept late at work twice one week (so I had to work until 5:00 PM those two days), and she got so fed up that the second time, she fired us!  (Keep in mind, the $140 price was the same for parents who always had to work until 5:00.)  When I picked up my kids, she told me to never bring them back.  No notice.  No warning.  So I was stuck on the spot with no caregiver.   It wasn’t until that night that my kids told me what had been going on.  They said she threatened to beat them if they told me how she treated everyone.

That was the Friday before a long weekend (Martin Luther King Day), so it was more difficult to find anyone at home to secure a new babysitter.  But that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, I had to call into work and take the day to find someone.  When I went to the County office to get a new list of sitters, I filed a complaint against Rachael R.  They told me it didn’t sound like much of a problem, and I should be glad my kids were out.  (Yes, really!)  I then drove straight to the police department, and they told me there was nothing they could do.  I went to the Sheriff’s office, and they blew me off as well.

A couple of weeks prior, Hillary Clinton had just taken office as Senator in New York.  I was at my wit’s end, and I really hated the thought of Rachael R. making one more dime off any other unsuspecting parent and abusing another child.  So I wrote a long letter detailing my frustration to Mrs. Clinton.  I started off welcoming her to the Empire State and telling her that like herself, I was a newcomer a short time before.  I then quoted her from her book “It Takes a Village” (to raise a child), and told her how disappointed I was that the “village” I lived in was not helpful in the least.  I never expected to hear back from her, but it felt good just to get my frustrations out on paper.

Well, imagine my surprise when just short of two weeks later, I received a lengthy, personalized letter from Mrs. Clinton’s office telling me that Hillary had read my correspondence and was going to look into the matter further.   It wasn’t long after that that my county started buzzing.  County officials called to ask me questions about Rachael R. and what specifically she did to my kids and others.   And about a month later, the word on the street was that Rachael R. lost her license!  I thought that would be the end of it, but then a couple of months after that, I received a follow-up telephone call then another letter from Mrs. Clinton’s office telling me what they’d done on my children’s behalf, and asking me to contact them again if I was not satisfied with the result.  WOW!

In 2004, I was back in Florida, and my son was having an extremely difficult time with his teacher.  Without getting into another lengthy story, I’ll just say that it was BAD.   (You’ve all heard stories of how some teachers pick on autistic children.  This was one of those stories.)

I went to the principal and the superintendent of schools with no satisfaction.  When they did nothing, I wrote to the governor at the time, Jeb Bush.   I figured since Hillary had been so responsive and helpful, that ALL government elected offices had a duty to be as diligent.  Not so.  His response didn’t arrive until several months later after school was out and it didn’t matter anymore.

Jeremy had another horrendous school experience in 2006.  This time, after going through the local school channels (principal, superintendent, etc.), I wrote to my Senator.  He wrote back and told me to try talking to the school principal!  (Yes, really!)  It wasn’t long after that that I quit my job and homeschooled my son for the remainder of his school career.

So, in closing, while I encounter a lot of people who can’t stand Hillary for one reason or another, their reasons are usually based on media hype and not because Hillary did anything personal to negatively affect them.  I, on the other hand, agree that I would probably be voting for her anyway just because she is a woman, and a Democrat, and so intelligent, and has prior experience in office and in the actual White House.   But the reason I am so exceptionally passionate about casting my vote for Hillary is because she personally assisted my Autistic child in getting the justice he deserved.

Let’s talk!  How do you select a candidate?  Has your child ever been bullied?  If your child had been bullied by another adult, what would you have done?

More on Autism – Bullying

My reason for this month’s Autism post is because of the recent incident of the bullies that talked the Autistic boy into doing the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge and put urine, feces, spit, and cigarette butts in the bucket instead of ice water.  If you Google “Autistic Child Bullied,” a disgusting amount of different headlines show up.

Why are Autistic kids prone to being the victims of bullying?  I believe the answer is simple and is threefold…

The first part may be obvious.  We can be a little on the weird side.  I mean absolutely no offense to anyone else who is or has kids that are Autistic.  Remember, I’m Autistic, and both of my children are as well.  I just mean that the behaviors that come naturally to us can be different from those of non-Autistic individuals.  And to kids, anything that’s different is a reason to pick on someone.  Autistic kids (and even adults) often have narrow interests.  For example, in the case of my son growing up, he was interested in the weather and wrestling.  If you didn’t care to talk about John Cena or cumulus clouds, then tough for you, because that’s what you got.  All day, every day.  For years.

These kids often have socially inappropriate behavior.  And to give you an example, the developmental pediatrician who my son used to see cautioned me that some kids he treated with Autism even went as far as masturbating publicly!  (Thank God Jeremy never did that!)  But there are many less severe, yet still quite inappropriate behaviors that can set aside an Autistic kid — such as nose, ear, butt, or scab picking, invading others’ personal space, inability to look people in the eyes, lack of facial expressions or gestures, or overuse of pedantic or formal speech.

Part two of my theory is that Autistic kids are exact-word oriented, and they often lack the ability to decipher voice inflections that would evidence sarcasm.  For example, when an Autistic kid insists on wearing their favorite Big Bird scarf to middle school (despite the scarf being far too juvenile for the middle school crowd) and the other kids sneer and say, “Nice scarf!” the Autistic kid will likely take that as a compliment because “nice scarf” means that people like it.

When my son Jeremy was small, he was frequently bullied by teachers as well as students, not to mention his biological father and my birth mother.  And the sad thing was, he didn’t even realize how horribly he was being treated.  Once when he was in the third grade, the police came to my work to get me and take me to his school.  They wouldn’t tell me what had happened until we got there.  Apparently they were investigating some form of abuse.  Even though I would never abuse my children, I was afraid they were saying that I was in trouble, and furthermore, I was scared of what might have happened to my son (who was fine when I sent him to school that morning).

As it turned out, Jeremy’s arms were covered in puncture wounds!  After some investigation, it was determined that he was being repeatedly stabbed with a math compass as well as a pen by two little girls in his class.  They told him they were his friends (so he believed they were).  Then they’d stab him to see how much he could take without crying.  (Jeremy’s Asperger’s makes him have a lot higher tolerance for pain than most people.)

A couple of years later, a similar incident happened at the community recreation center where he went after school.  An older boy stabbed him repeatedly with a pen until he drew blood.  When Jeremy got home, I first noticed the holes in his shirt, then I noticed the holes in his back!  I was furious!  I marched him up to the rec center and demanded that the counselors look at his wounds.  They looked as horrified as I was.  I questioned him, and they questioned him, yet he didn’t want to tell on “his friend,” and said he “asked him to do it.”  My poor boy had no clue that friends don’t stab you, and if they do, they need to be arrested!

Finally, these kids know their brains are different than those of their peers.  I personally often feel like I work twice as hard to get half as far.  Believe me when I tell you it is very stressful having this brain that never shuts off!  I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy.

Certain sounds are louder, certain tastes are stronger, we have more aversions to food tastes and textures, and it is a fact that people with Autism have a higher instance of food allergy and intolerance than other people.  So, besides our own bodies working against us, and knowing we are different, we then have to deal daily with the difficulty of social interaction that doesn’t come easily for us.  Casual chit-chat with a stranger might be something you can do anytime without even giving it much thought, but for me, with my Asperger’s Syndrome, it’s literally painful.  It is difficult and makes me very ill at ease when I’m just standing in line at the store and the person in line behind me starts talking about the price of food these days.  And as a kid, I was so uncomfortable that my reply was nearly inaudible.

My point is that these kids want so badly to fit in and be liked by their peers that they go along with whatever the bully says just to hope to have somebody accept them.  My heart breaks every single time I read or hear about a case of bullying, but it is compounded so much more when the victim is Autistic (or disabled in any way, really, but especially Autistic).

Allow me to elaborate.  With my Autism, I have what I call an “audiographic memory.”  I not only remember just about everything I ever hear, but I remember how I felt when it was said just as clearly as the moment it happened.  I don’t always want to remember so vividly, but it’s not something I can elect to turn off.  In fact many people with Autism have this same type of memory.  That being said, while any victim of bullying can be affected well into their adult years because of the bullying they suffered as a child, at least their memories of the attack can be somewhat put behind them because their actual memory wanes a bit over time.  But for these Autistic kids like me who remember every word, every voice inflection, every moment as if it were tape recorded and stored in a memory bank, and they vividly remember exactly how they felt when the instance occurred — it’s like reliving the pain, the humiliation, the denigration, the feeling of being a social outcast, the feeling of being mocked and laughed at, the feeling of being abused for the sheer entertainment of some sick punk — those people can never move past the incident of being bullied.

So, in the case of my Autistic son who was bullied, I’m almost thankful that he never caught on that he was actually being treated badly.  At least he never had to suffer the negative feelings associated with his abuse.  But I was bullied by a girl from the summer before third grade until I changed school after ninth grade.  And during those seven years, I can still list each and every moment that she treated me like a subhuman and then laughed about it.  I don’t choose to remember them, but they’re still present in the forefront of my brain. And anything that might be relative, such as seeing an announcement for a children’s Christmas pageant, can set off my brain to remembering  — because once in fourth grade, we were in a Christmas pageant when she bullied me, and as I tried to get her to stop, the teacher caught us, and I got in trouble for talking, and she didn’t.

This concludes my Autism discussion for this month.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my regularly scheduled “Goosebumps” theme, and I’ll be back the first Sunday of next month with more on Autism.  Have a wonderful month, friends, and please be kind to one another.