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Friday, October 10, 2014

This atheist doesn't give a damn about Carrie Underwood's song

There's a rumor going around about atheists being angry about an overtly religious song by Carrie Underwood.  I wouldn't even have known about it if people didn't post this nonsense on social media.  Without checking sources to find out which atheists are trying to get the song banned, conservatives perpetuate a falsehood that raises the ire of the ignorant against people who aren't doing anything to harm them.


  • The United States Constitution prevents legislation that would get any song banned.  Sure, atheists might boycott overtly religious music, but get it banned?  How?  The claim is ridiculous on its face, and even if some atheist or group of atheists tried, it would be legal folly.  Expensive legal folly.  
  • They're assuming that atheists would care about Carrie Underwood's music.  I don't think I've heard a single Carrie Underwood song.  She doesn't sing in a genre where I'd have the opportunity to listen to her.  What is it, country?  Atheists who listen to country have to be used to religious themes by now; they've been part of country music for as long as I can remember.  
  • There are so many music choices out there, no one need be bothered by a single song by a single artist, ever.  Unless the music industry decided collectively to only produce religious music, atheists have and will always have plenty of opportunity to listen to music without religious themes.  Radio stations limit what they play, so this song might get a lot of attention on certain stations, but no atheists need be subjected to religious music against their will. 
I don't even have to ask if people are stupid enough to believe that atheists would be angry--as if atheists all think with one mind and speak with one voice--at a religious song, because I know they are.  If they weren't, this nonsense wouldn't be all over Facebook, Twitter, conservative blogs, and fake news sites.  

Just stop it, idiots.  We don't give a shit.  I don't know the lyrics, I haven't looked it up, and it's doubtful I'll ever hear the song.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Meltdown on the road

During the most recent IEP meeting I attended for my daughter, the superintendent of Student Support Services informed me that the school district sees no reason why Caitlin needs an aid on the bus, if I should ever allow the transportation company they contracted to take her to school again.  Well...we have very good reason to ask for an aid, and it was driven home to us in a big way yesterday.

Caitlin forgot a Ziploc storage bag full of little toys at school and realized it when we were five minutes away.  I told her they would be there tomorrow.  She had a meltdown.  People with kids who have autism know the difference between a meltdown and a tantrum, and this was a meltdown.  She threw her backpack into the front seat, threw toys, tried to pinch Jeanie (my significant other), and tried to grab and hit me.  She started crying and screaming.  Then came the big scare: she unlocked her door, unbuckled her seat belt, and opened the door while we were moving.  I immediately slowed down and pulled over.  We got out of the car.  Caitlin wanted to walk back to her school.  I wouldn't let her.  While I calmed her down, Jeanie set the child safety locks so Caitlin couldn't open the door from the inside again.

If I didn't have Jeanie there, I wouldn't have known she unbuckled her seat belt--which already had me slowing down to pull over.  If I didn't have her there, I might not have slowed down in time to make the opening of the door less dangerous.  If she wasn't there, I might have lost my child to a meltdown.  And here's another thing: I found out this morning that Caitlin knows how to switch the child safety locks.  Even if she hadn't seen someone do it, she can read, and the instructions are pretty clear on the door.  She tried to switch it before I could catch her this morning.

So...no aid on the bus?  No bus.  I suppose I should tell the story of what happened with the bus in the first place.  Caitlin was taking a van to school at first, but they switched her to another van after they added another child to the route.  It's understandable; they didn't want the other children to be in the van for an hour and twenty minutes one way (we are forty minutes away).  However, they put her in a van with a driver who apparently doesn't care whether kids get to school.  He didn't show up at the end of my driveway on September 12th, and he claimed to have stopped.  I can't trust someone who will blatantly lie to me and his supervisor to transport her to school.  I asked for alternative transportation, but the school will not provide it.  They said she can take the van she was on, or I have to take her to school.

They had a nurse on that van.  She was rude and combative with me from day one.  She seemed to be nice enough to my daughter, but I had two major problems with her.  First, she didn't even try to listen to Caitlin.  She mistranslated her constantly.  Secondly, she got Caitlin to repeat, "God bless you."  No.  "Bless you" is a cultural expression that has lost its religious meaning, but when someone throws "God" in there, it invokes religion where none is needed.  For fuck's sake, the expression comes from a belief that you're more vulnerable to demon possession when you sneeze.  Virtually no one who says, "Bless you," believes that nonsense anymore, but when you put "God" back in, you hearken back to medieval belief systems that have no place in this age of information.  I don't want my kid mentioning a deity she can't understand, either.  She is in a house full of atheists; "God bless you" has no place here.  It's not cute or funny to introduce religion to an autistic child with a language delay that prevents her from discussing and comprehending abstract concepts.

The school assured me that the nurse wouldn't make any religious references again, but I have trust issues with religious people since I was harassed at work years ago, and I will not trust the driver, no matter what.  He didn't get reprimanded, and the director of transportation even had the gall to tell me that he was "doing a fine job."  Really?  He not only neglected to show up at the end of my driveway on September 12, but he also lied about it and is okay with making me out to be a liar.  Would I spend an two hours and forty minutes of my day driving my kid to and from school if I thought there was any chance I was mistaken about the time I was at the end of my driveway?  Caitlin was watching the time.  We were there at 7:15.  She said at that time: "Van number of minutes?"  I said, "The van should be here in five minutes, kiddo."  Five minutes went by, and I heard, "Van number of minutes?"  I replied, "Any minute now."  Every couple of minutes until 7:35, I heard "Van number of minutes?"  I finally decided he wasn't showing up, so I went back into the house and called.  They said he called twice, the last time at 7:21, and said that I wasn't at the end of the driveway.  What I wonder is: where was he when he called?  It wasn't anywhere on my street.


Friday, September 26, 2014

Figuring out how to get my daughter to get along with the cats

Yesterday, Caitlin punched one of the cats, Paco, in the ribs, after becoming frustrated.  Obviously, this behavior is unacceptable.  Paco is as lovable as a cat can be.  He's friendly to everyone, playful, curious, and not at all skittish.  He's very social.  To his credit, he didn't retaliate at all, as one might expect (either fight or flight would be the result in most cases with the other two cats, I would think), but we have a real problem here.  Caitlin has to learn to get along with the cats and can't be allowed to think abuse of animals is acceptable.  

Caitlin has autism with a language delay.  Although her vocabulary is large, she does not have two-way, meaningful conversations.  She communicates her needs and answers yes or no questions, but an open question will not work with her.  Teaching her about respect for animals through reason simply isn't going to work in her case.

I did some research yesterday and this morning.  After encountering absolutely awful things people said about kids with autism, I did happen upon some useful information.  There are camps and programs, but they aren't accessible to me here (they are in New York; maybe I can find something in PA, though, given time).  The most useful thing I've seen so far is the social story.  Creating a social story with pictures about the correct way to interact with the cat and the correct way to handle her frustration seems like it could work.

Another bit of advice was to have rules.  Jeanie (my significant other) suggested that idea last night, and the presence of success stories regarding the use of clear, written rules reinforces her good idea.  Still another approach that we can use in conjunction with what I've mentioned so far is reinforcement of good behavior.  We've been using the promise of a visit to Chuck E. Cheese as a reward for being good all week.  Being good meant staying out of the "grumpy chair" at school and listening at home, but we can't let abuse of the animals slide at all.  However, the all-or-nothing reward approach doesn't do anything to reinforce all of the good things she's done this week.  She attended Jeanie's son's IEP meeting, where there was a room full of adults--a situation where she doesn't normally do well.  She behaved admirably.  She has been doing her shower on her own--turning on her own water, checking it, washing her own hair and body.  She has finally brushed her teeth willingly, without a fight.  She is doing very well in school, and has even received a reward from her principal for it.  All of these good things should certainly be rewarded immediately.  I think reinforcement of these good behaviors will encourage her to follow the rules and behave, as well as trying to do more things idependently.

Finally, a chart might help, or maybe a calendar.  Every time she demonstrates good behavior or does something new independently, she gets a sticker or a note on the calendar that says what she did and when.  She will get a mark on the calendar if she just gets through the day well, even if she doesn't do anything new or out of the ordinary.  If she does something bad like hitting the cats or refusing to listen, she will get a negative mark.  If she goes a whole week without getting negative marks, she gets a bigger reward, like going to Chuck E. Cheese or Guitar Center (she loves Guitar Center).  A park with a playground would be good, too.  

I am hopeful that all of these ideas in combination will get her to stop hitting--or even trying to hit--the cats.  Any advice from anyone who has been through a similar situation would be helpful.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Escalation

I really love my life at the moment.  I have a great woman in my life who makes me incredibly happy.  I love her kids, and I love my kids.  We have a nice house in a rural setting, set far off the road and away from neighbors.  I work from home the majority of the time.

Sometimes, though, parenting challenges me, and I hate myself for failures in administering discipline and keeping calm.

Last night was an example.  My daughter, Caitlin, gets more and more frustrated when things don't go her way, then does things that are rude and inconsiderate--but doesn't realize that they are rude and inconsiderate.  The following sequence of events led to her melting down and screaming at the top of her lungs:


  • She requested that we call my mom, so after work, we called her.  We got her onto Skype.
  • Caitlin wanted my mom to take the computer into the kitchen.  My mom didn't feel like unhooking everything and taking the laptop into the kitchen, so she refused.  It's a valid response.  
  • Caitlin didn't want to see my mom anymore, because the view wasn't changing to the kitchen, where she would see the microwave, the oven, and the refrigerator.  She is obsessed with these appliances.
  • After she asked to see "grandma's flowers" (when my mom doesn't have the camera on, it's  a picture of flowers on Skype, Caitlin would not stop interrupting.  She became more frustrated the more I told her to "stop" and "wait".  I stopped the conversation with my mom.
  • I told Caitlin she was being rude, and she smacked the laptop.  I became angry and snapped at her, telling her that she is not to touch to laptop.  
  • She wanted me to do her "Knocking on ____, bye bye _____" game (e.g., knocking on yellow flute, bye bye striped flute), and I refused, telling her that she needed to listen to what I was saying.  She became more frustrated.
  • The more frustrated Caitlin became, the more violent she was.  She finally slammed the laptop closed, and I lost it.  I yelled at her to get into her room.  
  • She laid down and put the blanket on her, but she came back out of the room.  I yelled more and got her back into her room.  She became more agitated and belligerent.  I became more irritated and frustrated, which made me more angry.  
  • After she throw her Spongebob Squarepants keyboard at the door, I finally went into her room, put her on her bed, and held her down like they told us to do in a class I took in Michigan.  Supposedly, the child will eventually calm down.  Not Caitlin!  She screamed at the top of her lungs and cried. 

I finally gave up and got off the bed, repeated a few things, then turned of the light and closed the door.  She stayed in her room finally.  

Then I started hating myself for my actions.  

Yelling doesn't do a thing but make my daughter more irritated and frustrated.  Refusing to do that game she does to calm her does nothing but make her more frustrated and agitated, then violent.  Getting angry does nothing to resolve the issue.

So what should have I done?  How do I even discipline her?  Where do I go from here?

One approach would be to calm her down first, but instead of doing what she wants, take her into her room calmly and read to her, maybe with a little bit of her calming game on the way.  When she is calm, explain to her what she did and how she should behave.  Unfortunately, I have my doubts that she will recognize that she's done wrong and about whether or not she will understand my explanation.

Another approach, suggested by Jeanie, is to mentally prepare her for my mom's refusal to go to the kitchen.  Mental preparation seems to work with her more than most things, and we prevent the incident altogether.  This might work.

Still another thing I could do is print out a picture of my mom's kitchen to show her, rather than asking my mom to move into the kitchen for us.  

I know for certain that I have to take an alternative approach, because what I did last night didn't work.  All it caused was anger, frustration, and--for me--pain.  I have injuries that the activity aggravated.  We need to work on remaining calm, no matter what. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why it's wrong to put an assault rifle into the hands of a 9-year-old

I can't believe I'm even having to write this article, but I live in 'Merica, so I shouldn't be surprised, I suppose.

A 9-year-old girl killed her instructor on the firing range with an Uzi in Arizona.  Later in the article, the revelation that this isn't the first accident involving a child and an Uzi; an 8-year-old in Massachusetts killed himself with one at a gun show.

I am not anti-gun.  I am not pro-gun.  I am fine with adults owning guns for protection (within reason), for firing on a range, and for hunting.  I am fine with older kids learning to hunt with rifles.  However, it's wrong to put an instrument of death into the hands of a young child.  A weapon designed only for killing is not something that should be included in childhood recreational activities.  I have several problems with this idea.

First, a child has not developed the judgment necessary to respect the danger guns represent.  How many children her age even have a grasp on the concept of death?  Why put a weapon designed for hitting multiple targets at once in a military situation into the hands of a person who isn't even allowed on a battlefield?

Secondly, a young child isn't going to be able to handle the recoil of an Uzi.  These are not toys, and should not be handled by non-military personnel.  A child doesn't have the strength to keep this gun stable.

Next, there is no reason to teach a child how to "safely" use a sub-machine gun  In what situation would a 9-year-old actually use an Uzi?  Do the parents think their child will fight in the upcoming revolution or something?

Finally, a child should be shooting squirt guns, Nerf darts, or, at most, an air rifle.  A paint gun might be within reason.  It is not reasonable to have a nine-year-old firing real guns, unless it's for hunting with family or something along those lines.

I'm truly angry at this incident.  The parents, the instructor, and the owners of the gun range are all responsible for this senseless death.  I hope some rules change at the range over this horrible tragedy.  I call it a tragedy only because of the scars it will leave on the child's mind; the adults in this situation should have known better.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Irresponsible Autism Story at Good Morning America

This story really pisses me off. I'd love to think that my child can get to the point where she doesn't need an IEP. Here are the problems with it:
  • These boys received upwards of 48 hours of therapy PER WEEK in their home. Anyone who has gotten therapy for their children knows how expensive that can be. How on Earth do I pay for that? I can't.
  • The one mother said that they told her she should institutionalize her child and have another baby. I call bullshit. That kid wasn't born in the 1950s. He was born in the late 1990s. They weren't going to institutionalize her child in the late 1990s.
  • The story starts out by talking about new research suggesting that children can be moved off the spectrum, then you get an expert saying "There's no magic bullet; no secret sauce. More research is needed." That statement sums up the difference between media hype and actual science. The media seize on a story about two boys--TWO--who APPEAR to have moved "off the spectrum" (when they probably had high-functioning Aspbergers in the first place, and just had therapy to get around the behaviors associated with it), and they run with it as hope to all parents that they can move their kids off the spectrum.
  • They bring in another expert who says that it puts pressure on parents to say that they can move their kids off the spectrum. He suggests that early therapy can get kids to reach their potential, WHATEVER THAT IS. The experts in this program in no way suggested that ALL children can be moved off the spectrum. Good Morning America is irresponsible for showing this story and hyping it to be hope for all kids to "move off the spectrum." Recent research has demonstrated that there are physiological differences in the brain in people with autism. You don't get off the spectrum; you get around the symptoms of the disorder.
Here's the link to the story:

Monday, June 23, 2014

Is this rape?


*I apologize for the grammatical errors.  I did not write this scenario; it's an image.

The above scenario appeared in a group I frequent on Facebook, and I found that I read it wrong at first, then got something else wrong when I re-read it.  I wanted to separate it from the group and parse it for clarity, although there is one thing I got right about the scenario off the bat: it is definitely rape.  You can disagree with me, but consent was withdrawn.  When consent is withdrawn, it's a full stop.  You do not keep going.  If you do, you are committing the crime of rape.  

This might not be a necessary exercise for everyone, but since people had all sorts of things to add and all sorts of questions to ask, it might be good for other folks as well.  That's why I'm doing it here, and not simply in a Notepad document for myself.  It's important, because there seems to be question about consent where none should exist. 

This couple was having consensual sex...

So, consent was there initially.  So far, so good.

...she reached her climax before him...

When I first read this part, my tired mind (I've slept about three hours in the past 48) inserted a "because" in front.  I realized my error after I re-read it.  Because of the initial misunderstanding, I interpreted her action as selfish, but there is no actual evidence of selfishness on her part in this scenario.

 ...and wanted him to stop thereafter.

Someone questioned this part of it.  Did she actually communicate her desire for him to stop explicitly?  When I went back and re-read it after that question was asked, I didn't re-read it all the way, so I said that assuming it was communicated at all, he should have stopped.  It didn't have to be assumed, as we will see later.

 He didn't stop right away because he also wanted his orgasm...

Now here, we see evidence of selfishness.  He wanted to get off, so he kept going, even though she said to stop.  Why did she want him to stop? Obviously, he was not sensitive enough to her needs, emotional or physical, to find out.  He just wanted his orgasm.  She wanted him to stop, but he didn't.  Rape.  Clear-cut.  Consent withdrawn.

...she later reported him for rape, claiming that he didn't stop after she said, "Stop."  

The only problem she's going to have is that it's her word against his...sadly.  If she did say, "Stop," she meant for him to stop.  Whatever her reason, he should not have continued.  There's no other way to interpret this scenario, based on the information given.  It is rape, and he should not have raped her.  He should have at least stopped to find out why she wanted to stop, and shouldn't have continued without her consent in any event.  She might have had to urinate, might have a medical concern, might feel nauseous all of a sudden, might have a cramp...it doesn't matter.  It's a full stop scenario. That's it.

What's your take on this?  Was she raped?

Yes.  Yes, she was.  He ignored her when she communicated that she wanted him to stop.  There is no scenario where it's okay to continue after she withdraws consent.

I hope this helps more people to understand the scenario and understand that consent can be withdrawn for any reason at any time.