In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am reposting this blog which originally appeared in January 2010.
A note to my readers-The following is a political post. If you believe that it is permitted to walk into a pizza parlor in Tel Aviv and blow yourself up, or that is ok to blow up a school bus full of children in Jerusalem or attack a Jewish center in Argentina, Seattle or the Holocaust museum in Washington D.C.; if you think its ok to deface a Jewish cemetary or synagogue, or attack people because they wear the Star of David; if you think that the Holocaust did not happen and call it a war crime to teach the Holocaust to children, or send over 10,000 rockets into civilian areas, while calling for genocide against another 6 millon Jews, if you think there is a vast jewish conspiracy to control the world and that the Jews and/or the United States caused 9/11, if you think that the only nation on the planet that can’t defend itself is Israel, if you repeat anti-semitic blood-libels and and if you think it is ok to behead people in the name of God you are NOT welcome here.
This week marked an interesting international event. January 27th was the commencement of an annual Holocaust Remembrance Day. Now the Jewish people have annually marked this day on Yom HaShoah every spring for decades. So in many respects it was nothing new for me to see the services and speeches dedicated to the remembrance of genocide. But what was interesting was that you had an Israeli President speak before the German parliament in Hebrew. The grandson of holocaust victims speaking in the revived ancient language of the Jewish people to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who sought to obliterate the Jewish people from the face of the earth, a truly poignant and redemptive moment in history.
I have written before about the Holocaust, its meaning for our children and why it is so important to remember such evil. Never forget, that before the Nazis began their campaign of mass murder against the Jews of Europe, they practiced on the disabled. Yet, while a large part of the western world stood in silent contemplation on that day, the overwhelming majority of college campus worldwide ignored this day’s significance. Even collegeman’s school which houses one of the largest holocaust libraries in the country had no ceremony of remembrance. I think it bodes an ill wind that the future leaders of our world are taught to protest, speak out, and march in solidarity against every global rights violation but cannot bring themselves to commemorate one of the greatest evils ever perpetrated by man. I leave it to my readers to wonder why, on college campuses, the world’s inhumanity to its Jewish citizens goes unnoticed.
A quick note: it is also important to remember that most colleges also do not offer appropriate accommodations to meet the needs of autistic students. It seems that the liberal world of academia is the last beachhead in the war against ignorance towards those with unseen disabilties.
While the world marked Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish Agency, which is now headed by Natan Sharansky (a human rights hero who stood against Soviet oppression), released a report dealing with global anti-semitism. It is at a height not seen since the advent of Nazis Germany. Sharansky writes about the growth of modern anti-semitism with the three D’s. Holding the Jewish people to a double standard, delegitimizing them if they do not live up to that standard and then dehumanizing them so it is not a crime to murder Jewish people once again. These 3 D’s are rampant within the world’s media, international organizations and yes, on college campuses. But what does this have to do with our autistic children? Well here are my thoughts:
I believe there is a double standard when it comes to our children’s behavior. I have come to realize over the years that schools do have a very strict code of conduct for special needs children. Parents shudder every time the phone rings. Just waiting for that call that tells them their child is once again suspended for something they could not control. We joke that we are all survivors with PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder, from just waiting for the next detention, suspension or emergency conference at school. I still remember when Highschoolboy got in trouble for hitting a classmate in gym. The classmate by the way was cheating at a game, and no one would stop it even though HSB had pointed it out. HSB got detention. The cheater’s parents never even got a phone call. The school nurse was furious.The schools, she said, always blame the special needs child first. The problem here is that the adults who were supposed to be supporting HSB also did not get in trouble. They just got told to watch him closer. They failed in their job both as far as his behavior plan went, and quite frankly in teaching ethics and sportsmanship to the gym class.
Another case in point involves collegeman. When he was a freshman in high school, another autistic boy, who by the way has enough cognitive ability to drive and attend mainstream school, decided it was ok to hit collegeman and attack him whenever he could, especially when adults were not around. One day this child attacked collegeman, and collegeman ran after him yelling at him to leave him alone. The only interaction the adults saw was collegeman yelling at the other autistic student. They sent collegman home for abusing a fellow student and nothing was done to the other child. The then vice-principal, who is no longer at the school, told me that even though my son said he was hit since no adult saw it they were not going to take his word for it. Do you think they would have said that about a non-special education student? Luckily collegman’s case manager went to bat for him and eventually it got resolved in my son’s favor.
I think another reason that there is a double standard for our children is that they are always being watched. My boys have always had a one-to-one. I figured out one day, that on any given day in the school that there were at least 5 adults there to make sure they functioned. Most students have one adult supervisor and in the high school they really are on their own. Only if something truly egregious happens with a regular education student does the administration actually learn about it. But nontheless the rules are constantly applied to our childen without question.
The second D, is delegitimizing our children. How often have you been told that our children cannot think, they cannot play, they cannot laugh, and they cannot be like everyone else. As I have written many times before, the psychiatric community, school districts, state legislatures have decided that our children cannot show empathy, they cannot lie, and they have no ability to understand humor. It disenfranchises them of their humanity. It takes away from them the right to try to strive in the world and to make of their lives what they will. To delegitimize someone is take away from them their very basic human right of self-determination. No one has the right to take from our children the future of their choice. But it happens every day. It is only recently in fact, that children with disabilities were even considered able to go on to high education; that they weren’t shuttled into remedial programs and sentenced to a life of menial labor and state dependency.
The third and last D is the dehumanization of the special needs child. There is a law before Congress to Prevent Restraint and Seclusion of autistic children. Please call your representatives and senators and make sure they vote yes on this bill. The utter terror of it is that this bill is even needed. Who puts a child in a locked room alone? Who puts a child in restraints? Who sits on a child and refuses them food? Who hits a special needs child? Who votes a child out of class? These are all actions done to thousands of our children throughout this country every day. None of which by the way, is allowable in dealing with regular education students. Our children are not seen as equal members of society when they can be treated like this with impunity. We need to stand up and shout from the highest roof tops no more, and to borrow from the lessons of the Holocaust, never again.
I wonder what future generations will think of us. Will we be strong enough to fight the three Ds? Will we stand up and be counted? Will our children be able to turn to us one day and say thank you or will they want to know why we gave up? Will our children understand that we did everything we could for them? That we fought every step of the way? That we demand compassion be taught on our college campuses, to the future leaders of our world, that all be thought of as human beings.
Philosophers say that you judge a society by how it treats it weakest members. Our children are about as weak as it comes, and while some things may be getting better I think we still have a long way to go.
Until next time,