Rachel B. Cohen-Rottenberg, Trail Blazer 4

Rachel, who runs the wonderful blog, Autism and Empathy, sent me a PDF copy of her latest book, Blazing My Trail: Living and Thriving with Autism to review a while back. This is Rachel’s second book about living with autism. You can view my review of her first, The Uncharted Path: My Journey with Late-Diagnosed Autism by clicking on the link. I knew I loved her second book after a quick look, but I wanted to be able to do a longer review and finding time has been an issue until now.

Rachel shares more of her adventures in self-advocacy, talks about harmful medications, and shares some adaptations that have made her life happier. This alone would make this book worth reading. However, the part of the book I love the most is the way she works to deconstruct cultural attitudes about disability and offers suggestions to our society at large about needed changes. Chapter six addresses this in detail although Rachel intersperses it throughout the book.

I love Rachel’s comment on page forty-eight, “I’ve come to understand that one of the primary reasons that disabled people are so ostracized and excluded in our society is that we remind everyone that life is a messy, fragile, difficult thing.” She determines that in many ways she is fortunate to face difficulties now as she believes this is better than having lived a charmed life only to find yourself disabled due to aging. She talks about life’s difficulties, but notes, “Difficulty is not the same as impossible!”

I found myself nodding my head in agreement many times as I read. Those of us who experience autism whether, as a parent or directly can tell you that naysayers are a part of life with autism. Another favorite comment is on page sixty, “There are people who will never understand that some things cannot be overcome by will power.”

Chapter five beautifully addresses the issue of asking for and receiving needed accommodations and the painful realities of abuse that some with disabilities also face. She quotes someone she met over twenty years ago at a support group, “There is no such thing as better or worse when it comes to abuse. Once someone forces us to cross that line, we’re all in this together.” Amen!!! Thanks Rachel for sharing this along with the Judaism teachings that we are all born and die pure souls and that our essential nature is not changed by events in-between.

Rachel addresses another conflict within the autism community too as she asks the question, “Do we focus on making autistic people ‘indistinguishable from peers,’ or do we work to build a world in which all the people who fall outside the realm of ‘normal’ have equal access and equal rights?” She is not saying do not help autistic children to find ways to communicate more effectively and to navigate the world, but rather that our attitudes about normality need to change too.

The final chapter addresses Rachel’s solitary path through life’s journey in a peopled landscape where at times we find support that strengthens us.  

Disclosure/Disclaimer: I reviewed this book from a PDF copy received from the author.  No other compensation, monetary or in kind, has been received or implied for this post. Nor was I told how to post about the book!

Inspiring Man and Movie 8

Purchased Clip Art Collection Version 1.0 Copyright 2012 Macmanus. All Rights Reserved.

Front of the Class is the story of Brad Cohen, a teacher who has Tourette’s. I love this movie for several reasons and I highly recommend it. I believe it should be required for teachers to help them understand how teachers can devalue a child when they should be inspiring them. This movie resonated with me since my daughter had a vocal tic when she was younger that a teacher actually made worse after we told her to ignore it.

The movie starts prior to young Brad’s diagnosis with Tourette’s and follows him as he interviews for teaching positions at multiple schools where they fail to see his potential. One of the interviewers tells him, “You must have had inspiring teachers.”

He responds, “I had an inspiring Principal. My teachers really only inspired me to be the kind of teacher they never were.”

She asks, “What kind of teacher is that?”

He responds, “One who makes it possible for a kid to learn even if he’s different. In a way the best teacher I ever had is my Tourette’s.”

Later he tells his students, “Never let anything stop you from chasing your dreams.”

I am grateful to Brad Cohen and others who continue to pursue their dreams and work to change the world to a place of tolerance and acceptance of differences.

A Few of My Favorite Things 6

I need a break from bullying this Sunday so I am doing my gratitude post today and sharing a few of my favorite things starting with some wonderful local fruits.  I know when you hear I live in Hawaii, you think of pineapple, bananas, papayas and maybe mangoes and I love these too.  However, I also love the more exotic fruits like the dragon fruit in this picture.  It has a mild taste although the red one which is not pictured is sweeter.  The ones pictured are white and pink.  This fruit is not native to Hawaii, but it is grown on the island of Hawaii as is another little known fruit, rambutan that I also love.  Rambutan is similar to lychee, also a locally grown fruit.  The rambutan is bigger and the outer skin is different, but the taste is similar.  I like to eat both chilled. Both rambutan and dragon fruit are high in vitamin C too.

Now that you know my favorite fruits, I want to share my favorite social media. Facebook helps me stay in touch with family and friends that live far away and it allows me to have a fan page and LinkedIn allows me to connect with other professionals, but Twitter and my blog have always been my two favorites.  My blog allows me to write articles to share with you and to interact on a more personal level through comments and Twitter has taught me how to get to the point in the fewest characters possible and given me quick access to a larger network.  Recently I have fallen in love with Klout.  It is an easy way to show others how they have helped you and to show your appreciation by giving them a K+.  It is an excellent accompaniment to Twitter, but it can also be used with Facebook or Google+, and you can link to other networks too including blogs and LinkedIn.  You should take a look at it if you have not done so already.

Those who have read my posts for a while know I love nature.  I have always been happiest when I am outdoors.  I love seeing local birds and hearing them sing and I love looking at the flowering trees, bushes, and plants.  I also love seeing all the colors of the flowers along with the wonderful smells they have.   I especially love the smell of the mock orange bush when it is flowering.  Sharing walks with my two four-legged friends is a joy  and I hope I can do this again soon.  My dogs do not do well when I use my walking poles and I do not do well on long walks without them right now.

I also love writing, reading, listening to music, and anything that inspires and/ or brings joyous laughter.  Of course, my most favorite thing is spending time with my family and friends, whether it is as simple as a phone call or sitting down to a meal and good conversation.  Spending time with the ones we love is priceless.

Wishes and Dreams 10

We were a happy family in the spring of 2001. We were in the land where wishes and dreams all come true. Yes, I mean Disneyland, but I also am talking about our hopes and dreams for our family too.  The future looked bright.

Traveling was difficult at times even then, but we managed. That was before my daughter started kindergarten at a highly competitive school. It was prior to the diagnosis, prior to the bullying, and a decade before the term “social combat” was heard. If only, I could go back to that spring and somehow shield my daughter from all of the mistakes that followed, I would in a heartbeat.

Of course, I cannot, so instead I try to educate you so hopefully you can avoid our mistakes and the world can remain innocent for your children a little longer.  I have learned the hard way that highly competitive schools and parents who push their children to always be number one at everything inadvertently encourage “social combat.”  I want to help put an end to this.

I interact with many on Twitter who are working to prevent bullying and I keep trying to get the word out locally.  Still, it feels like I am hitting my head against a brick wall and I am not sure for what anymore.  My son already attends the school that I think is the best in the state at preventing and addressing bullying when it happens and my daughter no longer attends a brick-and-mortar school.  I am not sure if anyone even listens to what I have to say except for those who already get it.

I am not giving up, but at times I do feel like I am giving out.  I get frustrated because I have been trying to get through to people for five years and we still only have baby steps to address the problem.  I get impatient with the experts who make it sound like the latest study is “groundbreaking” when the study only confirms what I have known all this time.  Please world wakeup!  Become kinder, gentler, more supportive, and more empathic.  Save our children.  They are our future.