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Autism Doesn't Make You Kill People

Editor's Note: In response to last week's tragic shooting and a recent article linking autism and violence, Aaron Feinstein shares a conversation about empathy that he shared with young people who have autism following the Sandy Hook shootings last year. 

There is a myth that autism is defined by a lack of empathy, but this is not the autism I know. People with autism are some of the most empathetic people that I have ever met.

Autistic people and their families are once again being asked to make sense of the terribly tragic shooting at Isla Vista in Santa Barbara with the rest of the country. The difference in the autism community is that our grieving is in the shadow of a recent Washington Post article linking mass shootings to autism. Although the article is based on poor anecdotal evidence and should easily be dismissed, it still further stigmatizes people with autism as somehow having an inherent connection to these horrific mass shootings.

Because of the shooting, and that article, I felt compelled to share a discussion I facilitated with a group of teenagers on the autism spectrum that emerged after the Sandy Hook massacre in one of our Miracle Project classes in Brooklyn. 

Catskills On Broadway

“It was air conditioning that leveled the Catskills,” one of the cross-dressing characters in Harvey Fierstein’s excellent new play, “Casa Valentina,” says. “Why drive when you can use a machine to cool off your home?”

Nick Westrate, Patrick Page and Tom McGowan in "Casa Valentina." Courtesy of Manhattan Theatre Club

Has Bibi Been Too Effective?

It is possible to be too successful? 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deserves great credit for focusing global attention on the potential Iranian nuclear threat.  Threats to wipe Israel off the map cannot be dismissed as the rantings of a crazy man when his government is secretly building nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them while fomenting terrorism against the Jewish state. 

"Great In Uniform:" Inclusion In The IDF

Editor's Note: In 2001, IDF Lt. Col. Ariel Almog was driving in his car near Sde Trumot junction in the Jordan Valley. Ahead of him was a bus, stopping to take on passengers. He averted a catastrophe, at great risk to himself, and during his convalescence he encountered many people with disabilities. The result is a groundbreaking IDF inclusion program.

A "Great in Uniform" soldier salutes. Courtesy of IDF

The Yiddish ‘Godot’ To Open Irish Festival

Attendees at the opening performance at this summer’s annual Beckett Festival in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland will hear the Irish-born Nobel-prize winning author’s most famous play not in French, the language in which he wrote it, nor English, his native tongue into which he translated it, but in Yiddish.

David Mandelbaum, Avi Hoffman and Shane Baker in New Yiddish Rep’s “Waiting for Godot.”   Ronald L. Glassman

Rand Paul Beats Hasty Retreat

Until this week Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky had been one of the few Republicans to criticize his party's campaign of voter suppression and intimidation, but he seems to have changed his mind.

Sitting Alone in the Hallway

At times, the world of typical families can feel like a country club that doesn’t allow families like mine, which includes a child with special needs, to enter. And unlike Groucho Marx, who once famously said, “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member,” I desperately want my family to be accepted. Unfortunately, there is no button on the Little League website, or parks and recreation swim class sign-up, or after school club enrollment page that says, “Click here if your child has special needs.” The message I repeatedly get is, “Of course your child has a right to play baseball, take swim classes, pursue a hobby. Just not here.”

That’s a bitter pill for any parent to swallow.

The author with her family. Courtesy of Alison Auderieth Lobron

Success Story: Man With A Disability To Give Thousands To Charity

Editor's Note: Jonah Selber's experience is an inspiring story -- he has received the vocational and housing support that he needed to succeed. This feature is the start of a monthly series in which "The New Normal" will share about a person living successfully in a different kind of housing model for people with disabilities.

Jonah Selber, who was born with a developmental disability, is a longtime, successful employee of Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals in Philadelphia where he serves as an office assistant in the Information Systems Department. He loves his job and never takes it for granted. Unlike 70 percent of working age Americans with disabilities who are out of the workforce, Jonah has been working for 17 years delivering important business documents and greeting customers in the Information Systems service center at one of the nation’s top hospitals.

Jonah Selber

GOP Warned Split On Immigration Costly

Ronald Reagan once explained a dispute within his party as "Sometimes our right hand doesn't know what our far right hand is doing."

That helps explain how today's Republicans are dealing with immigration reform.

A comprehensive bipartisan bill passed the Senate last year and there was a feeling of momentum since the GOP's post-2012 "autopsy" of its defeat concluded it needed immigration reform to attract Hispanic voters, who had given Barack Obama 72 percent of their votes.

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