Friday, February 29, 2008

I have a viral pink eye- very bad- and probably won't post for a few days, until the swelling goes down some. (Yes, Mom, I went to the doctor!)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Behind, as Usual/ Full-Price
Well, I’m only two days into Pesach cleaning, and am already behind schedule. It’s always like that. I tend to overcrowd the first several weeks of Pesach cleaning, in order to have more time at the end for the real important area, the kitchen and dining room. I feel that it is not very yomtivdik (holiday-wise) to enter Passover exhausted from the cleaning.

The missing part of Ricki’s hearing aid piece arrived. It cost me only 30 shekels (a bit under $10). The thing is, I happened to see the price that THEY were charged for the part: only 18 shekel. Which means that their mark-up is 2/3rds of what they were charged, or a full 40% of the total. I almost didn’t wish I knew……. I was happy with the price until I saw the amount of mark-up. But since they had to attach the part to the aid, I guess it’s OK. Twelve shekels (under $4) is more than fair for that.
I’m just wondering if the hearing aid itself (an expensive item) was ALSO a 2/3’s price mark-up. It’s true that they had to fiddle with the computer a bit to adjust the aid for her needs, but their service, in my eyes, is not worth $1000.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Word From a “Crazy Mom”

Someone who is trying to work and change things in the educational system here mentioned to a friend of mine the following, which my friend passed on to me. What is the tidbit? That in the corridors of our city’s educational branch, Rickismom is known to be “crazy”. They probably mean “fanatical” and “extremist”(about inclusion).
I am very passionate about inclusion, because I believe that for many children with Down syndrome, especially the high-functioning ones, it is the best choice. This is especially true due to the low expectations which our special ed schools have, and because of the tendency for kids with Down syndrome to be refused admission to classes for learning disabilities (even when these classes are the best “special ed” class for this child). Yet, in reality, I have often agreed with parents who are too poor and too overworked, that inclusion is not for them. (Since here in Israel there is NOT yet full governmental support for inclusion.)

So why am I “crazy”?
-I believe that my daughter can study and learn.
-I believe that she can learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.
-I believe that she can be taught to believe in her own self worth, even if sometimes people will stare at her.
-I believe that talking “down” to her is contrary to good education.
- I believe that conquering a challenge, on occasion, will make Ricki more happy in the long run than treating her like a child.
-I believe that her behavior, which has improved, can improve more.

In actuality, there is only one reason, in my mind, why I should be considered “crazy”: That I still believe that some of the officials in city hall are not there only for the money. That I believe that some of them will stop one day and listen. That I believe that change is possible.

Monday, February 25, 2008

At least my efforts to get Ricki to sleep earlier seem to bearing fruit. As a result this morning she got up early, quickly dressed, and then arrived late for school anyway, due to several last-minute shenanigans. That is SO exasperating. Rome wasn’t conquered in a day, and I guess she won’t be either.

Those Who Sell Lies

Tonight I went to a speech given by an educational psychologist who works for the city I live in. The speech was on inclusion, and I went for one simple reason. To cry “foul” if she would lie. Some of her points were good. She stated that a special ed class inside a regular school is not inclusion (as many people here mistakenly still think). She stated that if one wants to “do” inclusion, one needs time and money, as the government is not entirely supportive. That is also true. She even admitted that in academic achievements, inclusion is better.
However, most of the rest was lies.
She said she was “for inclusion”, but by the time she was finished, it was clear that she was for inclusion very much, only not after age 7 and also not before age 7. She talked a lot about the need for the child to feel accepted by his peers, and not to feel over pressured. This is true, but the implication that this can not be done in inclusion is false. But her reason for staying out of inclusion before 7 is what made me finally blow the whistle loud and clear.
This woman had the audacity to say that inclusion is bad because one must learn language and basic grammar by age 7 to get the benefits of the flexible neurons of the younger brain. Oh, this is VERY true, about the brain. But then she went on to say that the children in inclusion, in the twice a week afternoon help, will not get this, so they need to go to special ed to get the intensive daily reading help that they need. The audacity and ludicrousness of her proposition is this:
1) There is no reason why a child in inclusion can not have one-on-one help with reading, each day in an inclusion setting. True, it means that it must be arranged, and this wicked city hall has to get their arms twisted to spit up the money needed to pay for more aid hours… but it is possible.
2) The fact that the children in the half-included class in this city did not learn reading by age seven was not due to an inability of the child to learn in inclusion. It was due to the fact that the class did not use the right methods, even though those of us who are well-informed about Down syndrome begged them to do so.
3) The kids in the special needs classes in this city CERTAINLY didn’t read by age 7.
4) The kids in special ed are exposed to poorer speech than those in inclusion, and are much less likely to learn correct grammar.
5) Children raised in properly planned inclusion often reach this “basic grammar” stage by age 7.

So I called “ foul” loud and clear.
You might think that I love fights. After all, I went to make a fight.
The truth is, I don’t like making a fuss. But I KNEW that they would stretch the truth. I just knew it. _______it, I KNEW it!
I feel like swearing, at the evilness of this trying to hoodwink parents with emotional appeals (to protect their child’s emotional stability). I witnessed their fear tactics (your child in inclusion is likely to eventually have an irreversible nervous breakdown). And what are they offering as the alternative? State-of –the-art “Down’s Ed type of therapy? No, a special education school whose level and expectations are so low that it makes me want to cry. True, inclusion in this country is not ideal. It is no Cadillac. Lets say it’s a cramped Volkswagen. But it beats the skateboard that they are trying to sell me.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

“You Know What”

Well, the famous Harry Potter books villain is called a frightened “You know who”. The frum (religious) Jew woman has her own scoundrel, her scared “you know WHAT” : Pesach (Passover). Almost everyone I called tonight asked me: “Have you started cleaning?” “Have you started Pesach?”
No, I have not yet started the thorough all-house cleaning that must be completed by Passover. And I wish that somehow I had somehow managed to start. But more than all this, I know that to get hysterical about it won’t help.
We all like to organize our belongings, shine our silver candlesticks, and have the house sparkling by Seder night (the first night of Passover). But there is no Biblical or rabbinical injunction to do half of what we do. We know that there are areas we can cut corners if need be. So why the hysteria?

And more importantly, what type of message are we sending our offspring when they hear us moaning and bewailing our tasks? That “Yiddishkeit” , Jewish laws, are a chore?
Yes, I know it means more work. More work, less sleep, and aggravation with teens who could help but often don’t. But since we are going to do it anyway, let’s do it with a smile and a song (at least part of the time).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A (lack of) Sound Worth Two Thousand Bucks

I forgot to mention, but Ricki broke her hearing aid the other day, possibly on purpose. (It was squeaking in her ear, and before the aid could deal with it, Ricki did, in a rather unrestrained manner. But at least it was a small add-on type of plastic part and not expensive. However, we have to wait a few days until the replacement part arrives.
I was concerned about the delay, it making Ricki’s day in school perhaps less beneficial. However, as a result of not having the aid, she suddenly realized that it was hard for her to hear her favorite DVD. I don’t think she will break the aid again… For that alone, the delay was worth it. You’ve heard that a picture is worth a thousand words. Here a lack of sound could yield two thousand bucks. (I just wish they would hurry up. The loud volume she is turning the DVD up to is hurting MY ears.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Cooking Mistake

I am making an all-out effort to get Ricki’s behavior under control. My two main thrusts of action are to see that she goes to sleep early enough. The second is to teach her that doing homework is worthwhile, and should not be postponed. To this end I am preparing a schedule with fun activities interspersed during the homework period, and to award prizes for working steadily.
Sleeping is more difficult, and she falls asleep best if I am on the computer in the room. The problem is that if I get up, she wakes up. I am “quiet as a mouse”, but somehow she still senses if I leave. I can only make my get-away after she has been asleep a while. I hope to wean myself from the room, but first I need to get her general behavior disciplined.
Anyway, today’s planned activity was to make hotdogs in dough. I had it all planned:
-Ricki could hang up her coat, etc and then her a tape while I took a quick rest.
-We would make the dough…
-do some homework…
-deo the cooking activity…
-finish hoework..
-computer time for Ricki (she loves this)

While mothers can plan……
Ricki did not put her stuff away, but created more of a mess. So while she finally cleaned up (under threat of no computer in the evening), I made the dough. However, she was upset, and trying to get out of putting her things away. The end result was that I put way too much oil into the dough, and had to add two kilos more of flour to rectify the amount of oil. Thus a minor baking job became a major one. (I finished most of it after Ricki went to sleep.) In the long run, though Ricki did successfully do some homework, earned a few cents of prize money, and helped some with the baking. Not bad for the first day.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No More Scrambled Eggs

Ricki was so impressed by the fire that she doesn’t want me to cook scrambled eggs. And why only this?
As I mentioned previously, I have been teaching Ricki to light the stove in order to be able to make scrambled eggs. During the fire, I pointed out to her that you see, fires are dangerous, one has to be careful, etc. So it registered in her mind that lighting a fire to make scrambled eggs is dangerous, and so is playing with matches. She is even scared for me to make scrambled eggs. However, this fear did not transfer over to other foods.
This goes to show one of the most disabling things about retardation- the strange ways in which their minds make connections. Transference of knowledge for those with intellectual insufficiency is often sketchy at best. And often weird conclusions are reached. Thus, teaching has to be done in a very comprehensive way, in order to teach the needed transference of imformation.
Ihis, by the way, is one of the reasons I like Woodbinehouse publisher’s book on teaching sexuality to those with Down syndrome, by Terri Couwenhoven. (see: )

I like this book because besides being less coarse than most books on this subject, the author really gives very detailed lists of what needs to be taught. She also points out common examples of lack of transference of knowledge. It’s a very worthwhile buy for anyone with a child with a mental disability.

Monday, February 18, 2008


I have more interesting things to tell you about Ricki’s reaction to the fire, but it will have to wait for tomorrow. Today I want to dwell on the value of “community”.
My neighbor (whose house had a serious fire yesterday afternoon) is an important member of a Chassidic group. He has a big extended family, and is part of a community. This is a priceless asset.
This morning an army of men arrived to help. The burnt stuff was taken out, the floors and stairs were cleaned, and a first cover of paint was applied in the house. It reminded me a bit of how the Amish get together and build a barn in a day.
In our move-every-few-years society, and our distance from our parents’ abode, how many of us have this type of support? OK, I can imagine some of you saying, “Distance means no interference, no trifling into my private affairs.”
I still maintain that the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages. In addition, people with common sense ought to know how to mind their own business, at least most of the time. For example, my daughter-in-law lives almost under her mother’s doorstep, yet she manages to maintain her privacy and role as an adult within a loving relationship. Of course, belonging to a community means contributing to it as well. I think it behooves all of us to take stock occasionally of our families and community. Where are we in relation to them? How can we make the connection stronger and better? How do I protect my privacy? How can I contribute?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Exciting, Yet Beneficial (for us) Fire

Well, Ricki and I got very little homework done this afternoon. There was a fire in our building, and we spent about an hour outdoors until the fire was put out, checked out, and the stairwell aired out a bit. It was prime homework time.
My neighbors unfortunately lost their living room, and perhaps more. (I didn’t poke my nose in going up the stairs; they had enough people doing that already.) I did tell their daughter that they can turn to me if they need anything, but since they have a large family in the area, it is doubtful that they will need my help. I certainly don’t envy them the inconvenience, the costs, nor the clean up. I hope that they didn’t loose anything irreplaceable, of sentimental value.
So how is this beneficial for me? It is simply this: A long time ago I taught Ricki how to put the fire on the stove out, and how to fry an egg. The only thing I hadn’t taught her is to LIGHT the stove. This last week, I started teaching her this. Not that she is that ready, but because I can see from the looks in her eyes that if I do not teach her the correct way, she will one day soon try to light the fire on her own. So I started teaching her, but after one lesson, she is SURE that she knows it all, while I am more positive than ever that she does NOT.
Today Ricki gained true knowledge. To the point where she almost doesn’t want me to cook. (But hunger will take care of that.)

I Don’t understand

When I was in the US visiting last summer, I happened to see a fair amount of children’s TV. There was a lot of fantasy, a lot of violence. Bullying was a common occurrence in the story line.
Judging from the advertisements I see, movies today also tend to be pretty violent. And while many are rated “R”, I am sure that many kids load down these movies from file-sharing sites. Computer games stimulate situations where the driver is running from the police, or belongs to the mafia. The amazing thing is that the player running from the police can total his car on a pole at 100 miles an hour and he is OK.
Along with this, the public is inundated with features about wealthy stars, advertisements showing opulent surroundings. So what don’t I understand?
I don’t understand why people think that they can pour violence into the minds of children and teens, worship the idol of wealth, and still be amazed when someone goes on a rampage. While maybe most youth take these things and are not effected by it, in an obvious way, nevertheless, they are. Somehow, if you have seen murder on TV 200 times, I doubt that the atrocity of it can be the same in your mind.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Windmill, The Ticket

The Windmill
Ricki showed me today a picture she had drawn. It was of a windmill, she said. Now it did not LOOK like a windmill. (It would have, but she had drawn only one long wind-catching panel, instead of two, and placed it at right angles to the base, so it looked more like a top-heavy T than a windmill.) But what pleased me was the fact that she thought of drawing it. And that she knows what a windmill is.

The Ticket
One of my sons got a small traffic ticket, and promptly paid it. Today he received a notice in the mail, that since he is overdue in paying his bill, which was to be paid by the 28th of February, he must pay double the amount.
Seems to me that their computer is a bit confused!
A good idea, by the way, is to keep all paid bills in a file, so you can prove that you paid. You never know…..

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

“What, He can talk?”

Today I called up a fairly “fresh” parent whose newborn has Down syndrome. I wanted to invite the couple to the celebration a young man with Down syndrome is making on completing the study of Mishna Mesechat Shabbat. This is no small feat, and a few years ago he successfully finished a different portion, and knew it well.
Her reaction was: “What, he can talk? He can walk?!”
Now it would be one thing to blame this on poor information given to the parents, doctors with outdated information, etc. But it just so happens, that I remember talking to this mother a few months ago, over the phone, at length. Somehow, the message didn’t get through, and I don’t suspect my delivery. Some parents really have trouble believing the GOOD things about our children. I have one mother I have been talking to for two years already, and she still finds it hard to believe that her son can progress. Coupled with the fact that she does not take him to early intervention therapy, her son’s chances for am optimal life are slim. She is making a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure.
The big question is, what causes this type of attitude? An encounter years ago with a low-functioning child? Grandparental attitudes? A feeling that one is deserving of “punishment”, or unable to be successful? There is no way to know. But I do know that those of us active in outreach to new parents have to be aware of the possibility of these types of reactions. We have to try and stay in contact with the parents, encouraging them, and coercing them a bit, until they see for themselves, that yes, kids with Down syndrome do talk. And walk. And a world of a lot more.


I’m offering you today a few glances into my day- a few vignettes.

I had a longer-than usual talk with Ricki’s aid yesterday. I discovered, hearing between her words, her need to know that she is doing a good job, and that I am satisfied. After all, I am probably very intimidating to her, she being my daughter’s age, and with my very strong ideas on education. I told her that she is doing fine, and that she doesn’t have to be afraid of me. I won’t stab her in the back. “Anything that is wrong, rest assured, I will tell you.” I mentioned a few good points where she is doing excellently. I will need to do that more often, give her a boost of confidence.

I finally registered a new graphics program that I bought last summer. I called Corel Company and was very pleased by their phone service. The options were clear, and at the end, there was a choice to rehear the options. (Some of us with IQ’s less than 120 are so intent on trying to figure out which choice best matches our particular crazy situation, that we loose track of which number the choice we eventually choose was…..)

Ricki, for once, fell asleep early (well, on time) last night. Not surprisingly, this morning she was chipper as can be, and she was insistent on getting dressed on her own, and did so speedily, and combed her hair successfully as well. She did not act rude or mean. Can I order the “sand man” to show up tonight at the same hour? Wish I could….

The lady in the vegetable store is almost aristocratic in bearing, tall, and thin, but always has a smile to greet you with. She guides Ricki to act properly, without calling her an “angel” or the like. Her voice is firm, yet soft. She even remembers my idiosyncrasies, like putting the heavy items in the sack first, rather than the “squishable” ones.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Teens and Sleep (Hibernation)

What is it about a teenager that induces an at-least once weekly (if not daily) hibernation? Take a day off from school/ work. An adult will get up probably at the same time (his internal clock won’t let him sleep), or at the most an hour later. However, a teen with a day off, will undoubtedly “sleep in”. (Unless he has a trip planned, in which case he’ll get up before dawn.)
Is this sleep an “escape”? Is the world so much harder for him to face? Is it the lack of having an urgent list of “things that need to be done”? Is it perhaps the lack of knowledge that the adult feels:” A pity to waste time, it is limited”?
I do know, however, that if you want a teen to awaken on time for obligations, like school, the best method is to give the responsibility to them. Give them a LOUD alarm clock, and let them face the consequences of not waking up on time. It’s the only way that consistently works. And it saves you from having to nag.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

No Tinkerbelle, No Draw

Well, if any of you thought that after my previous post, I was flitting around Tinkerbelle style, sprinkling love all around today… well I wasn’t. Today was a “tough love” day. This afternoon, Ricki was trying her hardest to get a rise out of me, and so after several small warnings, I gave a big one, with stated consequences. The warning was ignored; the consequences were imposed.
It’s amazing how well she is able to read me, and try, often successfully, to get punishments rescinded. She has developed it to a fine art, to the extent that I ask “If she’s so smart, why does she need to resort to tactics like that?”
Anyway, lately I’ve been checkmating her moves more swiftly. No room for a draw game here. Because that’s true love, to draw the line.

Can I Change?

The Jewish New Year has come and gone. Many people have made resolutions for the upcoming year. I haven’t yet, and I’m not so sure why not. Is it because I’ve been too busy to think? Or perhaps because honest appraisal of my life will lead to realizations that I must make changes in areas I prefer NOT to change? Or is it because I am already questioning my ability to make any meaningful changes at this point in my life?

I suspect that it is a bit of them all…..

One change I AM making. I am cutting out a LOT of the blogs that I follow. I enjoy them. But I do not have the time to read several blogs daily. So if you see that I stopped following your blog, please DON’T be insulted. If you ever have anything really interesting, or something you would like my comment on, just tag the link on to a comment here, and (without promising) I will try and check it out.

Where is Love?

Where is love?Does it fall from skies above?Is it underneath the willow treeThat I've been dreaming of?Where is she...who one I close my eyes to seewill I ever know the sweet, hellothat's meant for only me?

For any of you who have not heard this, or can’t place it, this is from the musical “Oliver!” I heard it when I was an older teen, at a production in my home town. Many times after that, I found myself humming this song (when out of the earshot of others- I was embarrassed that others would find me funny), wondering when I would find my own true love. (Actually, I guess the song was written about finding Oliver’s mom, but I took it towards the direction of romantic love.)
Mind you, this is not about physical relations. The thing that we all search for, more than anything, is “the sweet hello that’s meant for only me”. Whether we are kids coming home after a bad day at school, a young teen looking for their life’s partner, a spouse who wants to still feel loved and esteemed, or an older person living alone, hoping that his children still cherish him and their memories of him. We all need the balm and elixir of being important to others. We all need to feel valued.
One of the things I enjoy about my oldest son is the exuberance he receives his children with on their return home from school. Such a priceless treasure his sons receive.
Once I was on a bus, and saw a woman with four young children. She was talking, explaining, smiling, and enjoying the ride with them. The optimism, the energy she had simply spilled over. Just as an onlooker I was affected.
I have a friend who is a “giver”, always giving and doing for others. At a wedding I once met her mother, who was busy checking that all the baby carriages would be put in a safe place. I instantly realized EXACTLY where my friend had learned to care about others. I know that I often bless my parents for the gift of optimism that they raised me with; it has been one of my most valued possessions.
Its funny, but love, one of the most precious commodities around, can not be bought. Nor taken by force. It can only be given. So let us give, freely, unstintingly. Hope you have (or had) a good day today!

Friday, February 8, 2008

Trying Our Best

Although I try and post every day (except Friday-Saturday), I am not promising it. (This will be more frequent as Passover approaches.) Besides, if I don’t have a good idea, why should I push rubbish into your minds? But yesterday’s lack of posting was not for the lack of a good idea. It was because I was too busy cleaning.

I think we all know that daughters-in-laws are apprehensive when their husband’s mother comes to visit. They will clean up a bit (or a lot), and try and make a good impression. This is one reason I would never “pop in” on my sons without calling first.
But it isn’t limited to mother-in-laws, either. My son and his family are coming for Shabbas (Saturday), and I made time to clean up the house as well as I could. Suddenly, all the places I have been meaning to “get to” screamed out their unseemliness as I saw them through my imagined “daughter-in-law glasses”.
It is hard enough for a daughter-in-law to pack up for the weekend, schlepping two children and a suitcase. In addition, there is less privacy, and undoubtedly the pressure on her to show a good face. In addition, the weather here in the summer is hot. All of this means that they don’t come that often. So why should I allow the house to be dirty, a factor that could only decrease their visits?
But frankly, it goes even beyond this. If the computer technician is coming, I will straighten up the room where the computer is located. If the stove needs fixing, I will move it and sweep behind it before “Mr. Fix-It” arrives. Why? What do I care if this fellow, who I have no need to impress, sees a dirty floor?
The answer is simple. The technician, who does not know me, will also not know all the varied reasons that my housecleaning is not up to par. And we all like to “look good”, and earn the respect of others. If we do not have the self-respect to try and make a good impression, if we don’t care about the opinions of others, it shows a lack of being connected to others. Yet at the same time, we have to have enough self respect to not overdo beyond our reasonable capabilities. After all, we are NOT our floors, and we have worth far beyond them.
So how much time did I spend cleaning, you ask? I plead the 5th.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sufganiyot on Sukkoth

Today is the start of the Jewish month of Adar, so I bought in the grocery store Oznei Haman (a pastry customarily eaten on the holiday of Purim). And I probably won’t buy again until Purim (and that only if I don’t bake our own).
Now these oznei haman have been in the store, on and off, since Chanukah. And the traditional jelly doughnut, sufganiyot, of Chanukah, made their appearance even earlier than usual this year. Instead of appearing on the shelves a few days after Simchat Torah, they appeared during chol hamoed Sukkoth (a full two months plus before Channukkah).

Traditional foods have a very important place in family unity and continuance. Remembering traditional family foods (especially home-made ones), is a part of our memory of home.
Once my mother told me how, during the depression, her mom made the “most delicious” soup. Years later, she asked my grandmother, specially, to make it. She was amazed at how unappetizing it was. Hunger had made it tasty during the depression. But the love was there, felt, and remembered.
And I remember the fun of baking with my mother, trays of oatmeal cookies, of which the first two trays were “polished off” almost as soon as we pulled them out of the oven. When I got married, I asked for the recipe (along with several other favorite ones), and my mom agreed, sending several letters headed with “Mother Knows Best Cookbook”. I still have them today, 30 years later.
Today in our busy world, we often don’t have the time to cook, or bake, and make do with store-bought items. But I think that mothers (or fathers) should take time, on occasion, to bake at home. And I think that this is most important when it comes to traditional holiday foods. For these traditional foods are a part of the family’s heritage.
This brings me back to the oznei haman. How special can a holiday treat be, when you only get the store-bought ones, and you have been eating them for two months before the holiday? Will the holiday be any more of a special day, if you are sick already of eating the traditional treat? If these articles are in the store so early, that means that they are selling. A shame. I say, save the jelly doughnuts for Chanukah, and the oznei haman for Purim. Make the holiday special. Make the treat a “treat” associated with the holiday, and not just a gastronomic indulgence.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008


I have written before (Nov. 25th) about how our memory can “flashback” to things unrelated to the triggering incident. The immense capacity that we have for remembering things, the instant linkage, is astounding. The brain links to certain things OH so much faster than even my new Pentium.
A few years ago, my husband happened to find in a thrift store a box of “Spick and Span” floor washing powder. Now this happens to be the brand that my mother used as we were growing up.
As I poured the powder into a half-bucket of water, the smell of pine hit my nose, and instantaneously I was felled by a wave of longing: HOME. Now I had not smelled that washing powder for some thirty years, but the connection was intact, and instantaneous. Amazing.

I was once at a conference held by the “Feuerstein” center of Jerusalem. This center works with individuals with all sorts of learning difficulties, using the method of instrumental enrichment and mediated learning. A speaker attending from overseas (Germany, I think), gave a very interesting presentation. He had worked with a child who had suffered a terrible amount of brain damage; the brain scan showed severe areas of impairment. Using the Feuerstein methods, he was able to help the child improve’ using the scant number of working areas the child had left in his brain.
The point of all this is the awe that I feel when contemplating the vast resources of the brain, and the idea that we dare challenge ourselves, and our pupils, to use it. And if the front door is closed, we have to investigate and try and find the side entrance.

Monday, February 4, 2008


I caught myself yelling at Ricki again this morning. And yesterday evening was no picnic either, as she dawdled on her homework to the point of being ridiculous.
Now, I know the way to work with her—more praise (I’ve been working on it, but not nearly enough), prizes for working well, etc. The question is why do I not implement the knowledge better? [This is similar to the question of why I am not really working on my diet, despite the knowledge that I need to.]
However, when it comes to Ricki, I am so frustrated when she acts in a self-defeating manner, and I expect better from her. So, in short, I am expecting her to improve, work on her attitudes, and to not engage in self-defeating behaviors… while not delivering on these things myself. If that is not hypocritical behavior, I don’t know what is.
So I guess I need to make some type of “action plan” for myself, before making one for Ricki.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Terrorism and the “Crazy Lady -Part 2, or HATE EVIL

Now for the other side. While all of the previous post is true, it does not mean allowing evil to run wild… or at all. While one can try to understand what is going on in the mind of a terrorist, or a criminal, that does not mean letting him do what he wants. We can not allow abusers, criminals, or terrorists to do as they please. If the only way to stop an impending terror attack is to torture a partner of the perpetrator, than do it. Not because of hate, but to prevent an evil act.
The Torah says that one who has pity on evil people, will eventually be doing a hateful act to innocent bystanders. As much as we need to “understand” those who are evil, we have first a mandate to understand the public’s need for protection. Society needs to impose penalties for crime, not only as a deterrent, but as Rabbi Moshe Feinstein said, as an indicator to the public of how wrong and immoral such actions are.
Understanding the evil person should only be used to try and solve the underlying problems. It should never be used to condone the evil intent or behavior.

Terrorism and the “Crazy Lady”

Well, I am surprised. In Iraq, the terrorists used two women, one (at least) with Down syndrome, as bombs. I am not surprised at this. I am surprised that the world is surprised.
This is not the first time that they have used people with Down syndrome as bombs. But why should we be so surprised? Do we really think that people who do not care about their bomb victims would care about using to their advantage someone with developmental disability? If you think so, than you are underestimating the power of hate.
Frankly, this abuse of these women seems to me no more wrong than the terrorists’ abuse of the victims of the blast. The killing of innocent people because you are angry, for political gain, for whatever, is wrong. It all stems from the dehumanization of others.
As a teenager, I read and “held” by a pacifist viewpoint for a while. That pacifism evaporated instantaneously with the Yom Kippur war. I suddenly realized that I had been basing my world view on the assumption that the Arabs have a mindset like ours. And while they ARE like us in many ways, the mindset of the culture is not the same as the western one. To know and protect yourself from an enemy, you need to know him, both the bad and the good. You have to learn what makes him “tick”. But I AM NOT SAYING THAT WE SHOULD CONDONE WRONG BEHAVIOR EVEN IF WE UNDERSTAND IT.
And this is a challenge for all of us. Since we hate wrong-doing, evil acts, and the like, it is oh so easy to dehumanize those that we disagree with. (Demonizing those who are only “different” is much worse.) But maybe if we could see what makes the other side tick, we could come closer to finding solutions. But one thing I am sure of: as long as people educate their children to hate, there will be terrorism and war. We must protect ourselves as well as we can, while teaching our children that we need to see what the other side needs, what are their real needs, and try and find a way to help them accomplish that without hurting ourselves.
And we adults have to be an example: not to treat as inferior any person, not due to color, religious belief--- or intelligence quota. This applies to all of us. Can we treat the grown child who thinks differently than us as an adult? The person we disagree with on religious issues (whether too lax or too religious)? (This does not mean giving up our beliefs, but realizing that we can not rule another person’s life.) Can we respect as a human the menial worker, the non affluent, the uneducated?
If we don’t than we shouldn’t expect any changes for the better in the near future.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Snow in Jerusalem

Note: Until today I did not write that I live in Israel, only from concern that cyber-nuts would post trashy comments, and I did not want my readers to deal with that. But since it inhibits me a lot in what I can post, I have decided to take the risk.

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There has been snow in Jerusalem the last few days. I remember when I sent my parents, during my first year here, a clipping about the snow; my Dad jokingly called it a “Zionist lie”. And as much as there seems to be global warming, it seems to me that there is more snow in Jerusalem over the last few years than there was 20 years ago. (But that impression is probably due to my having a “reporter” on site- my oldest married son. He himself had been jubilant at the first heavy snowfall he had witnessed, having only observed no more than a “flurry” of snow flakes up until the age of about 22. )
So a few days back I heard from my “reporter” that a significant amount had fallen overnight in the holy city. Yesterday, another married son, who also lives in Jerusalem at present, called. He mentioned in passing the snow, and that he had built a snowman, along with his wife. Now this is my son who is a diligent scholar, an extraordinarily persistent one. (I am biased, but I heard this evaluation from his older brother.) But he still found a few minutes to nurture the child within, to nurture his relationships. Now we can all do that, even without snow.
Did you have any fun today? A good laugh? It’s therapeutic, you know.

The Water Carrier

Ricki has been learning in several different subjects things connected to history, how life once was, and the industrial revolution. (Now we are reaping the benefit of historical sites we visited last summer.) In one subject, she had to write a sentence or two about any one of several pictures. She chose the picture of a water carrier. Then she proceeded to write the clearest, most grammatically correct sentences she ever has. She wrote:

“The water carrier goes with water in his buckets to sell . He goes to the faucet at the neighbors (to fill them)”.

I felt so sorry for her: two great sentences, which were of course not usable!

This illustrates so well the difficulty we have in teaching the mentally challenged. It is necessary to teach them EVERY single facet of a new subject; no osmosis can be assumed. For example, if you are teaching a child to button a shirt, that task itself is not enough. They also need to know that if a button is loose, or fallen, the shirt must be exchanged for another. They need to know what to do with this one. (He also needs to handle a situation in which the shirt is torn or stained.) They need to know to check their appearance, and what type of shirt is appropriate for which occasion, and which weather. They need to know where one can get dressed, and where this is not appropriate. There are many, many facets to putting on a shirt.
So we need to go to the well of knowledge, and draw… and draw… and pull up more, and more!