Autism, Siblings and the R-Word Effect

Autism Siblings

Willie & Caroline

When we, the siblings of someone with special needs, hear the word “retarded” or “retard,” even in the most seemingly-casual context, it strikes us hard.

When we hear it, we hear it as an echo of all the times our brothers and sisters were not welcomed. It’s an echo of every rejection, overt or covert, of every uncomfortable moment when we felt that we had to somehow explain or justify our siblings’ very existence. It reminds us of every time we couldn’t find the words to say that, in our moments of clarity, we see autism as a unique part of who they are.

The r-word is a jeer, a mockery and an attempt to draw an ever-more-pronounced line between those who are considered neurotypical and those who are not. 

It doesn’t matter who says it – a dear friend or a stranger passing by on the street. Regardless of the speaker, the effect is the same: a feeling of uneasiness and hurt. As discussed in a recent article, the r-word is alive and well and we, the siblings (as well as parents, caregivers, friends and loved ones), are wounded every time we hear it. 

Sometimes, we swallow our anger and turn away. Sometimes, we ignore it, pretending it doesn’t matter. But every time we do this, we feel we have betrayed the person we love (and we have).

Other times, we are given the grace and courage to speak up and take a stand. In those times, we say in as calm a voice as we can manage, “Please don’t say that word. It’s offensive.” And more often than not, we get strange looks, or forced, unfeeling apologies. We may get derided for “making a big deal out of nothing.” On rare occasions, the request may be received with appreciation, and a true apology ensues.

Yet, regardless of the response, we must keep speaking up. We may feel insecure in doing so, but our love must be greater than our fear. As Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “A time comes when silence is betrayal.” Not speaking up when we hear the r-word is one of those times.

If you were to tell me that my brother is retarded because he has autism, here’s what I would say:

“Please don’t say that word. Language shapes thought and when you say that another person is retarded, you’re judging them as inferior. You’re saying that they are not worthy of being treated with dignity and respect. You’re treating them as though they are less than you, and in doing so, you expose a deep-seated ignorance and bias.

My brother’s gifts are different than yours, not less-than. My brother’s life may be different than yours, but again, not less-than. I would like to welcome you to a world of diversity, where deviating from normal isn’t a bad thing. I would like to let you know that there’s challenge in that world, but there is also joy.

If you call my brother (or anyone else) retarded, you’re being hurtful to them, and to those who love them. But on a deeper level, you’re also rejecting yourself. You’re rejecting the parts of yourself that need patience, acceptance and love. You’re covering up your own vulnerability by mocking the supposed weakness of another."

On March 7, 2012 , "Spread the Word to End the Word" will be holding its “annual day of activation” to help further raise awareness and educate others about this issue. Consider taking part in this event and let others know that each time individuals use the r-word, it can have a profound impact on others. And when they do, we all lose out.

About the Author
Caroline McGraw
Caroline McGraw is a would-be childhood paleontologist turned storyteller, digging for treasure in people with autism & intellectual disabilities (& empowering caregivers to do the same). Her younger brother, Willie, has autism, and she writes about finding meaning in your most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear. Her first book, Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive) is a guide for caregivers, free to all who elect to receive posts via email at:

Despite Increased Awareness, the R-Word is Alive and Well


I am not one who offends easily, nor do I consider myself overly-sensitive. However, there are some words that should simply be extinguished from our vernacular. "Retard" is one of them. 

Earlier this week, I was out shopping and overheard a young girl use the term in passing and it honestly bothered me a great deal. As the father of a child with autism, I’ve learned over the years that words and labels matter and many times, they can have devastating consequences. 

The R-word is almost always used as a pejorative and stems from the longer, medically acceptable term "mental retardation," typically describing someone who has an IQ below 70. But like many other words in the English language, it has evolved over the years and is often used in a derogatory manner. When used improperly, "retard" and "retarded" simply reinforce stereotypes of those with emotional and intellectual disabilities and degrade them as human beings in the process.

The shopping incident got me thinking all week about the topic, so out of curiosity, I decided to do a search on Twitter to see how many messages contained the term. Not surprisingly, a flood of results came up just in the last few days, many from teens and young adults who simply don’t (but should) know better. However, I also found some other tweets from older adults as well, some with a large number of followers:

There were countless others, but these examples are a stark reminder that our society still has a long way to go in educating the public that the r-word is no longer an acceptable term to use, even in jest.

To help shed light on this subject, The Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation (in conjunction with Best Buddies and the Special Olympics) has created a Web site and campaign for the sole purpose of abolishing the term once and for all. Established in 2008, has a stated mission to "Spread the Word to End the Word ®." The site accepts online pledges from individuals of all ages, who affirm that they will "support the elimination of the derogatory use of the r-word from everyday speech and promote the acceptance and inclusion of people with intellectual disabilities." To date, there have been over 235,000 submissions.

It’s heartening to see that this organization, and others like it, are proactively doing something about this issue. However, as many people prove by their tweets and conversations, we still have a long way to go.

Autism Group Offers Free Safety Kit to Caregivers

National Autism Association - Big Red Safety Box

Courtesy: National Autism Association

Wandering-related episodes involving those with autism is a serious issue and stories seem to come in on a weekly basis pertaining to the topic. Unfortunately, not all of them have happy endings.

Many autism groups and organizations have been pushing to curb this epidemic, and some have emerged as leaders in advocacy for autism safety and awareness. For example, Autism Risk and Safety Management, founded by Dennis Debbaudt, is an organization that trains police, law enforcement professionals and first responders on how to properly diffuse potentially adverse situations involving children and adults with autism. Debbaudt is a former law enforcement official and an autism father that offers informative seminars and training across the country.

The National Autism Association is another group that has advocated for increased safety and awareness for those with autism, particularly in the areas of wandering and restrain & seclusion. Taking its plight to the next level, the NAA has just announced the second launch of its "Big Red Safety Box," a special kit that includes items and information to help prevent wandering-related incidents by those with autism spectrum disorders. 

For a limited time (and while supplies last), the Big Red Safety Box is being offered to parents, families and caregivers of those with autism. The kits are limited to one per family and will be packaged and shipped by a company that employs adults with autism and other developmental disorders. Each box will include:

    1) Educational materials and tools:
  • A caregiver checklist
  • A Family Wandering Emergency Plan
  • A first-responder profile form
  • A wandering-prevention brochure
  • A sample IEP Letter

2) Two (2) GE Door Alarms

3) One (1) Who’s Shoe ID

This free resource is being made available, thanks to some generous sponsors and donors that have stepped up to the plate. Supplies will be limited, so be sure to head on over to and reserve your box today.

For those who would like to support this great initiative, the NAA is looking for sponsors to help keep the program going after supplies run out.

Drowning resulting from wandering-related episodes continues to be the leading cause of death of those with autism spectrum disorders. Hopefully, with programs like these, that will no longer be the case in the very near future.

Agency Involved in Autism Case No Stranger to Controversy

Ayn Van Dyk

How Much Longer??

In a follow up to our most recent update on Ayn Van Dyk, there have been more disturbing details brought to our attention that are worth passing along. Apparently, this is not the first time the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) in British Columbia has been involved in a major controversy involving the removal of a child from their home.

Back in October of 2007, Paul and Zabeth Bayne of Surrey, British Columbia (Canada) embarked on a four-year-long nightmare when all three of their children were seized and taken away after authorities suspected Shaken Baby Syndrome in their then-two-month-old daughter. The Bayne’s were adamant that the child’s injuries were sustained when an older sibling tripped and fell directly on top of the little girl, but their claims fell on deaf ears.

Despite unsubstantiated evidence, the children were stripped away from their parents and placed in foster care, shuffled from family-to-family over the years. To make matters worse, during the ordeal, a fourth child was also taken away by Ministry officials only five hours after Zabeth gave birth and was still in the hospital.

The Bayne’s horrifying ordeal finally ended in August of 2011 when they were exonerated and all four children were returned to them. However, the damage had been done, courtesy of the "shoot first" and ask questions later tactics of Ministry officials. You can read the full account of the Bayne story here.

Now, jump to June of 2011, when Derek Hoare briefly lost sight of Ayn, his nine-year-old daughter with autism. She had been playing in the backyard, which was surrounded by a six-foot high fence. Hoare immediately called police when she went missing and a search ensued, finding Ayn safe in a nearby neighbor’s backyard.

As with the Bayne children, Hoare’s daughter was seized by MCFD authorities, who claimed they were simply lightening the load of an overwhelmed single father of three. Ayn was placed in a psychiatric facility and given powerful and dangerous antipsychotic drugs and has been in foster care ever since. Hoare has unsuccessfully fought for his daughter’s return and his next court date is scheduled for the end of 2012. The judicial process will have Ayn’s earliest possible return in February of 2013, assuming there are no more delays. To add insult to injury, MCFD officials, at their discretion, can return Ayn at any time back to her father.

The cases involving Derek Hoare and the Bayne family are strikingly similar, not only for the gross injustices suffered at the hands of government officials, but because they both involve the same MCFD division in British Columbia. As if these cases weren’t enough, there is also the heartbreaking case of Betty-Ann and Allan Burnett — yet another family who’s lives were turned upside down by the MCFD in BC.  You can learn about the Burnett story here.

These cases (and others like them) are so upsetting in nature, someone needs to start asking some tough questions.

Things are seriously wrong when government authorities can arbitrarily take children from their homes without due process, leaving parents at the mercy of a painfully slow judicial system. 

Ironically, the MCFD claims to have the best interest of children at heart, but it’s these types of hair-trigger reactions that cause irreparable harm to to the very children they are purporting to protect. Undoubtedly, there are legitimate instances when children need to be removed from their homes due to abusive or unsafe environments, but at the same time, common sense must be administered.

Much like the Bayne family, Derek and Ayn have passionate advocates and Internet volunteers petitioning on their behalf. Let’s hope history doesn’t repeat itself and they don’t have to wait another 3 years to be reunited.

Christopher Duffley Overcomes Blindness and Autism


By all accounts, Christopher Duffley didn’t have a fighting chance. Born in May of 2001, Duffley’s biological parents tested positive for Oxycontin and cocaine, contributing to a premature birth. Weighing in at less than two pounds, Christopher was born permanently blind (detached retinas), along with a myriad of other health problems, requiring a seven-month hospital stay.

Initially placed in foster care, Christopher’s aunt and uncle soon took him in as their own, eventually adopting him at the age of 2.

As if the his existing health problems weren’t enough, Christopher didn’t speak in full sentences until the first grade and was later diagnosed with autism.

Despite the challenges, Duffley’s adopted parents (who are devout Christians), didn’t lose hope or waiver in their faith. And as the years passed, they would discover that Christopher displayed tremendous giftings in music. Particularly fond of Christian praise and worship songs, Christopher is now in high demand to perform at churches, sporting events and other venues.

Duffley’s story is an amazing testament that no matter how challenging one’s situation may appear, there will always be silver linings in the midst of the obstacles and pain. In fact, Christopher’s parents have used his story to advocate on behalf of pro-life groups to show that what society would often consider "damaged" or unwanted, is actually something to be considered very special.

Check out the performance below from last year, when Duffley sings "Open the Eyes to My Heart" at a church service — be sure to have some Kleenex handy.

Free Autism Conference to Focus on Safety Issues

Autism College


As autism rates continue to climb, so too does the problem of safety-related incidents, many of which result in injury or death. In the past year alone, it seemed as if a month didn’t go by without some kind of tragic story involving wandering, bullying and/or abuse involving individuals with autism.

To help address these issues head-on, the National Autism Association, in collaboration with, has announced the availability of a free online safety conference that will take place throughout the month of February. Educational webinars, all 90-minutes in length, will cover topics addressing sexual-abuse, bullying, suicide, wandering prevention and restraint & seclusion — all for parents and caregivers affected by autism and other related disorders.

"Autism Safety and Crisis Prevention" will feature presentations by topic experts, followed up by a Q&A session for participants. The webinar schedule is as follows:

  • Saturday, February 11, 8:15 am – 9:45 am PST, Dr. Nora Baladerian, Ph.D. will present “How Can Parents Reduce the Risk of Sexual Abuse of Their Child or Young Adult?”

  • Saturday, February 11, 10:00 am – 11:30 am PST, Dr. Lori Ernsperger will discuss “The 3 R’s to Bullying Prevention for Students with Autism Spectrum Disorders: Recognize, Respond, and Report.”

  • Wednesday, February 15, 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm PST, Dr. Joshua Feder will discuss “The Problem of Depression and Suicidal Ideation in Autism and Related Disorders.”

  • Saturday, February 18, 8:15 am – 9:45 am PST, Wendy Fournier of the National Autism Association will discuss wandering prevention and response.

  • Saturday, February 18, 10:00 am – 11:30 am PST, Pat Amos, M.A. will discuss “Preventing and Eliminating the Use of Restraints and Seclusion.”

It’s worth noting that the National Autism Association, who is helping to put this conference together, has an excellent track record of advocating for increased safety awareness within the autism community. In fact, they are a member of The Autism Wandering Awareness Alerts Response and Education (AWAARE) Collaboration. This is an organization comprised of some of the nation’s largest autism groups, focusing on preventing wandering-related incidents and wandering-related deaths within the autism community. They offer a great PDF safety brochure that can be downloaded here.

Be sure to check out the first set of safety webinars a week from this Saturday and make sure you tell others about it. Just one piece of information you take away from these sessions could help avoid an unfortunate situation and may even save the life of someone you love.

To register, visit and click on the brown ‘Register for Free’ tab at the top of the page.

Child with Autism Taken by Authorities, Remains in Custody

ayn van dyk

Ayn and Derek in Happier Times

Today is January 31, 2012. For Derek Hoare, this simply means it’s day number 230 — the number of days his 10-year-old daughter with autism has been kept from him by Child Protective Services (MCFD) in Canada.

The tragedy began in Abbotsford, British Columbia on June 16, 2011 when Canadian authorities removed Ayn Van Dyk from her home after a wandering-related incident. 

Hoare, a single father of three, briefly lost sight of Ayn while she was playing in the family’s backyard, which was surrounded by a 6-foot fence. Hoare immediately called police and a frantic search found her safe over in a nearby neighbor’s backyard. 

Four days after the incident, Canadian authorities whisked Ayn away to a psychiatric facility where she was given dangerous and powerful antipsychotic drugs, maintaining they were simply lightening Hoare’s load. Ayn has been kept away from the family ever since.

We have previously covered this story, never believing this nightmare would continue for so long. Unfortunately, it has and by the looks of it, could continue for the foreseeable future. 

Last week on a blog supporting Ayn, Derek was quoted as saying the process of getting his daughter back could continue well into 2013 and is being handled through a painfully slow legal system.

We need to rally around Derek and draw additional media attention to this story. The fanfare has died down because the process has taken so long but in the meantime, the Canadian government continues to steal precious time away from this beautiful little girl and her father — time that they will never be able to get back.

Government intrusion in the lives of its citizens continues to increase and if situations like these are allowed to continue, they will only repeat themselves — next time, it may even be your child. Spread the word of this injustice and help bring Ayn home:

Twitter:  @Justice4Ayn


Main Site for Ayn:


Autism Sunday to Celebrate its 10th Anniversary

Autism Sunday

February 12, 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of Autism Sunday, also known as the International Day of Prayer for Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. Founded by UK couple Ivan and Charika Corea in 2002, Autism Sunday has grown into an international phenomenon, with some of the world’s top religious leaders acknowledging the special day of prayer, observed on the second Sunday of February. As with previous years, churches of all denominations (and their parishioners) will be asked to pray for the autism community and those affected by the disorder.

Autism Sunday first began at a church service in St. Paul’s Cathedral (London) and was initially a small idea, but has since grown into a major worldwide event, recognized in the past by Pastor Rick Warren of Saddleback Church, Archbishop of York Dr. John Sentamu and British Prime Minister David Cameron, just to name a few.

If your church is not aware of Autism Sunday, please send emails and make phone calls to help spread the word. A note in your church’s bulletin and/or newsletter will also go a long way in helping to let others know about it.

The promoters of Autism Sunday are also asking social media advocates to get involved. On Autism Sunday, please tweet as many messages as possible with the hash tag #AutismSunday to get the topic trending.

We hope you’ll consider getting involved and help make an eternal difference in the lives of those affected by autism, which is estimated to be around sixty-seven million people around the world. I have personally seen the power and impact of prayer in my own family’s life and encourage everyone to participate in this special day.

For more information, visit:

Review of Touch from an Autism Mom

Fox Touch

Courtesy: Fox

It has been a long time since I have been profoundly moved by a television show that has left me feeling hopeful regarding the interconnectedness of humanity. For anyone who believes things happen for a reason, this will be your new favorite show. Having previewed their new baby on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, Fox will enjoy seeing news about this series spread in the coming months. When it debuts on March 19, 2012, it will be seen around the globe in more than 100 countries within 3 days’ period of time and try to achieve a level of connectedness by the fan-base as never before. Arguably it has been something people have been complaining about for quite some time about the US or Canada having exclusive access to a show, and other countries having to wait to see it, sometimes many weeks, sometimes many months, sometimes never, which leads to seeking access on torrent sites which ultimately results in the demise of a show because no one is live-viewing it anymore.

The story centers around Martin Bohm (Kiefer Sutherland) and his son, Jake Bohm (David Mazouz). Labeled “severely autistic”, Martin never believed in the diagnosis given to his child and seems to be just trying to do whatever he could to make a connection with his son, yet fully accepting and loving his child at whatever place he was (very Son-Rise-esque).

I am a mother with a child with severe autism. In the weeks leading up to the show, I seemed to be getting a lot of negative feedback about that–not ANOTHER show about another kid with autism–as if autism is the célèbre-du-jour of Hollywood. Indeed kids or adults with autism were turning up everywhere on every show either as part of the main cast or as a guest star. There are a few shows that got it right, but most did not. Most people with autism are not savants (only about 10%). While parents with autism appreciate the desire to bring awareness to the spectrum disorder, when it is depicted incorrectly, it hurts our cause. The general population has grown tired of hearing “My child has autism.” They scoff at you like you are just part of the misguided parents who need to have a diagnosis for their child. Or, you have the medical community trying to reclassify the spectrum of autism to water it down so it does not appear to be an epidemic (a blog for a later time). Even I started viewing this show with a bias.


The show opens with a narrative from Jake about numbers very similar to the a belief borne from the red string of fate, a Chinese legend that said the gods tie an invisible red string around the ankles of those that are destined to be soul mates and will one day marry each other. The two people connected by the red thread are destined lovers, regardless of time, place, or circumstances. This magical cord may stretch or tangle, but never break, a concept very similar to soul mates. But Tim Kring, the creator of Touch, twists this idea even further to tie a group of individuals together.

Fans of Jericho (or Three Rivers or Hawaii-Five-O) will be thrilled to see that Carol Barbee is executive producer on this pilot. Executive producer Peter Chernin now has another hit on his hands after enjoying great success with Terra Nova and New Girl, also on Fox. Also sharing executive producer co-credits are Katherine Pope (also of Terra Nova and New Girl), Kiefer Sutherland, and producers, Neal Ahern, Jr., (Terra Nova, Parenthood), and Dennis Hammer (Heroes, Crossing Jordan).

The show opens with Martin at his job at the JFK airport in New York where he is gathering a bunch of cell phones that were left in the lost and found and unclaimed, to his son who is fascinated by them. One of them rings as he is walking away. Apparently it is the owner of one of the phones trying to get the phone back after losing it at Heathrow Airport in London 2 days previously. He is not looking to get back the phone itself, but rather photographs within the phone. Apparently it is her birthday “tomorrow” but he is now in Mumbai. And he seems to be in great emotional distress. Martin’s phone is ringing so he places the man’s phone down in a bin. His son is in trouble. “I pay your school good money to keep my son safe. Are you grasping me?” Oh yes, I was relating to this character very much.

He’s off to talk his son down off an electricity tower, and I mean that literally. Meanwhile, the cell phone gets mixed up on top of some luggage. Jack Bauer is scared of heights? What? Oh wait, wrong show. It is hard NOT to put Kiefer automatically into the role of Jack. The workers want to know if the numbers 318 have any special meaning to Jake but Martin shrugs it off. A report to child services is going to need to be made.

On the way home, they stop at a gas station. Martin gazes at his son in the rear-view mirror while gazing over at the school bus filled with children talking and acting like normally developed children. My heart sinks. I know EXACTLY what this character is feeling. How many times have I done this with Patrick, just for a brief second wondering what life would be like? Martin and I share a common bond in addition to the fact that they are our only living child so we know really no other kind of life. He looks into the rear-view mirror and his son is gone, having taken off to go over towards the bus. Another similarity to autism–so I’m still very hesitant. How many of us turn away for a second and our kids with autism take off? Martin talks to his son like one would talk to their loved one in a coma, hoping that something they say will jar their loved one to respond in some way, desperately longing for that contact. I have been in this place, too, where Patrick was seemingly catatonic (but very noisy, unlike Martin’s Jake). Martin notices the number on the bus: District No 318. In the store, the TV is showing a story on “The Children of 9/11″ and the struggles they endure. A man is trying to buy a Lotto ticket. Jake looks up as the man calls out the numbers: 87 1 9 20 31 11. Jake grabs the Lotto ticket and runs to the car, locking the doors. He writes down these numbers on pages of numbers he already wrote previously and hands the ticket back. The man says, “You ought to keep that kid in a cage.” Oh yes, that is something we’ve had to endure hearing before. But this is actor Titus Welliver from “Lost” so I expect dark mystery to surround him.

Then we see a beautiful young singer, Kayla Graham (Karen David) on stage, surrounded by her fans, recording her performance on a cell phone that looks very similar to the one found at JFK. She does not believe she’ll ever be a big star. Her co-worker, Niles Borne, (Simon Delaney), tries to encourage her, saying half the company was there to support her tonight. He tells her that we all have a destiny, and hers is to be a big star. The cell phone, he believes, is the key. He found that the cell phone had traveled all around the world and now her recording was on it. The phone apparently right now is in Dublin, Ireland. He sticks the cell phone into the luggage of someone headed to Japan and away the cell phone goes.

An alarm set for 3:18 goes off at Martin’s computer. He goes in to put Jake to bed. Jake has apparently lined up cell phones. He mentions that the doctor said he was going to grow up bigger than him and how was that going to work? I’m already living that. I’m 5’3″ and my 16-year-old son is now 6 feet tall, and has seizures. The cell phones go off. Jake has all of them programmed to show the numbers 87, 1, 9, 20, 31, 11.

A family in the Middle East, Baghdad, is the next bunch introduced. The son is trying to imitate Chris Rock and wants to be a comedian. They need an oven to keep their bakery. It will cost 800,000 dinar (about $687 US dollars). The only way to make that kind of money is with shady characters who make people blow themselves up. His friend suggests they check out Hassam’s place.

Clea Hopkins (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) from family services show up at Martin’s door the next morning. One reality disconnect: They do not show up that quickly. I already dislike this woman, so she did a great job as an actress. She lists his inadequacies as a parent, supposing that the state could do a better job. Another reality disconnect: The writers did not Google: State facilities, Texas, fight clubs, Department of Justice report, Corpus Christi. “The financial challenges will only increase as your son gets older.” I can relate to that statement, but do you know what the first thing is to get cut when state budgets are on the line? Yep, people with disabilities. Good thing Martin lives in New York versus let’s say Texas.

Martin shares that her wife died in the 9/11 tragedy. While Clea is trying to “talk” with the silent Jake, Martin sees the numbers in the newspaper: The numbers belong to the new Lotto winner. The man (Randall) who bought the ticket realizes he is a winner and places a phone call to a woman. He says he wants to come home now.

Simon (the owner of the cell phone now off to Japan) is on a plane and calls a woman. He is on his way to Tokyo. He wants to be there for “her” birthday (the child) but the woman is short on conversation. She also appears to be in emotional pain. My first thought was a divorce. He asks her if they took any photographs of Lily while they were on vacation besides for the ones on his phone; a tear streams down her face as she says no.

Clea tries to explain the strange coincidence off as it being part of Jake’s autism, which Martin insists is NOT his diagnosis. Martin said that for all he knows Jake does not speak because he has nothing to say. Martin says he is trying to communicate; Clea belittles his thought to wish fulfillment. Her character then starts softening up, trying to say no one is judging him (but they are).

A young Japanese woman goes through the bag of the man who came from Ireland, the one with the cell phone in his bag. She and her friend, Izumi, are in a fan club of a group called “The Morticians” who are from Ireland (actually a band based out of Waco, Texas). The man lives in Tokyo but wants to have some fun with the young girl before going home. She grabs the cell phone in his bag and leaves.

Back in New York, Martin is leaving Jake at the boarding facility. Obviously no research has been done here either. These state facilities do NOT look like this gorgeous facility. My heart wrenches for Martin not only for having to leave his son in one of these places, but also that he cannot even hug him to say goodbye. Personally, I’d skip the country and run. No one is ever taking my kid from me. Martin then goes to visit the grave of his wife, Sarah. He says, “They say God never gives you more than you can handle. But I think he has this time.” Oh dear, the tears start streaming from my eyes. How many times have I felt and said the exact same words, or felt extreme anger at people who have said that to me, not having the slightest clue what our lives are like. He looks down to find a FDNY badge with the numbers 318 on them.

The Japanese girls see Kayla Graham’s video and decide to start up a fan club as they believe she is probably already a big star in Ireland. They are going to enlist the talents of their friend, Takezo, who runs the Jumbotron at Shibuya. They will get him to download “everything” on that phone and put it up on the Jumbotron (you can see where this is going). They’ll pass the phone to another client at 4:00 p.m. , who is catching a plane to Kuwait in 3 hours.

A search for mutism and cell phones leads Martin to the door of The Teller Institute that lists the following: Mysticism, Mythology and New Age interpretation; a rise in diagnosing behavioral disorders; for a select few, mutism is a false diagnosis; this is a beginning in a shift of consciousness. (Okay, now I’m thinking Mayan 2012 theories here). We are witnessing an evolutionary step (I’m thinking Alphas here). We must listen to their message. How string theory and quantum entanglement…. (I’m thinking Fringe). The geek that I am (and conditioned Lost fan) looked up the link to http://www.tellerinstitute/electromagnetism.html but it does not exist. He gets an address to this institute: 318 West Tesla Street, Bronx, NY. SWEET. It would have been really great if the address actually existed. A bath-robed Professor Arthur Dewitt (Danny Glover) answers the door. He talks about electromagnetism and that some kids (mostly) are just tuned into the right frequency. Interestingly, he gets Martin an orange soda, the same kind Jake drinks. Apparently Jake has discovered the Fibonacci mathematical sequence on his own. He shows him pictures of the curve, similar to how Jake lined up the cell phones. “The universe is made up of precise ratios and patterns. You and I–we don’t see them. But if we could, life would be magical beyond our wildest dreams, a quantum entanglement of cause and effect where everything and everyone reflects on each other. Every action, every breath, every conscious thought connected. Imagine the unspeakable beauty of the universe he sees. No wonder he doesn’t talk. ” Martin, excited, responds, “My son sees all that?” The professor continues, “Your son sees everything–the past, the present, the future. He sees how it’s all connected.” Martin responds, “You’re telling me my son can predict the future?” The professor adds, “I’m telling you, it’s a roadmap. And your job now, your purpose, is to follow it for him. It’s your fate, Mr. Bohm. It’s your destiny.” I know have complete chills. I see the parallels of my own life being reflected in this story. My Patrick has accomplished a great deal in his 16 years on this earth; my purpose is for him to fulfill his destiny. I have often felt like his conduit.

Back at the school, Clea becomes a believer when Jake uses popcorn to make the numbers 2, 1, 2, 9, 2, 0, 6, 9, 2, 2, the numbers which was her mother’s phone number before she died. And then her cell phone rings with that number. He goes over to circle 18 on the March calendar.

The Lotto winner is headed to Lynchburg, Virginia.

Martin looks at Jake’s numbers again and gets a phone number. Using modern technology, he puts it into the reverse phone numbers feature of a web site and it comes up as Grand Central Station at 87 East 42nd Street. Eighty-seven is the first number of the Lotto sequence. Clea knocks on his door; 3/18 is “today.” Martin is not sure if he is supposed to stop something from happening or make something happen, not only to happen on 3/18 but AT 3:18. Twenty-two minutes to Grand Central Station? Yeah, right. He better live close-by. When he locates the phone, there is a man talking on it. When he turns him around, he realizes it is the man from the store, the one who punched him. Now Martin punches back. The police break up the fight. It’s now 3:19 and Martin thinks he has failed.

Back in Iraq, a group of men walk in on the young boy at Hassam’s and they hide. They have a bunch of cell phones, including the one with Kayla Graham’s recording on it. A little girl sees them, but does not appear to give them away, but one of the terrorists comes back in. They catch him. He tells them about the oven and you can see the evil in their eyes. You know they are going to make him do something bad.

Back at Martin’s the 3:18 alarm goes off again on his computer; he notices there is a message on his answering machine. Randall Mead is calling him. Randall Mead who won Lotto; Randall Mead who was on the phone at Grand Central Station leaving Martin a message on his answering machine. He was a fire fighter on duty who tried to save his wife that tragic day. He was part of Ladder Company 318 on 9/11. He went to the 87th floor of the North Tower. His wife was alive, barely conscious and bleeding pretty badly. He carried her down 31 flights of stairs, but could not carry her any further. He convinced himself that she was dead, but the truth was he was not sure if she really was. He had been thinking about her for 10 years and had been playing the same lotto numbers every week for 10 years. 9, 11, 2001, 87th floor, 31 flights of stairs. He had wanted to try to make the numbers come out right. He was going to give all the money away. Then Martin hears himself on the phone answering machine, the encounter that happened at Grand Central Station. Then he hears Randall Mead’s name on the TV. Apparently the bus from the gas station had overturned in a bad rain storm. He pulled the kids from a burning bus. He said to the reporter if he had not missed his train, he would not have been there. Martin heads out to see his son, but his son escaped the state facility. Martin still does not know the further repercussions of this red thread.

Flash over to the Jumbotron where Simon, who is now in Tokyo, tries to call his phone: 44, 077, 0090, 0488. He gets Kayla Graham who is back at her day job. He wants her to find out where his phone is, but it is in “an invalid territory.” Kayla appears on the Jumbotron. He pleads with Kayla to please help him. Lily’s picture is in there, his daughter who died a year ago. Simon looks up at the Jumbotron and sees Lily’s pictures. It brings some peace to a grieving father. In Iraq, Simon’s phone rings. It is hooked up to a bomb that is now attached to our character’s chest. He pleads with Kayla to tell the world he was not a bad person; she tries to help him not explode. With all these wonderful connections, my heart was hoping this young man wouldn’t be blown up, that he would get his happy ending, too. Kayla tells him there is always a choice. They bond over Chris Rock. She asks him what would make him not do this. He tells her, “An oven.” She knows a guy (Simon) in restaurant supplies.

Martin and Clea find Jake at the tower. Jake narrates again: “The ratio is always the same: 1 to 1.68 over and over.” Kayla’s co-worker sees her video on YouTube with 1,621,318 views. Simon makes it home to his wife. Martin overcomes his fear of heights and climbs the tower to talk to Jake. Jake says, “Will these words be used to hurt or to heal?” Randall gets on a bus to Virginia. Martin tells Jake that he followed the numbers and people were saved. “I don’t know if you can even hear me, but I can hear you, Jake?” I’m sobbing at this point. How many times have I said this to my nonverbal son? Jake crawls over to him and for the first time in Martin’s life, gave Martin a hug. I have raccoon eyes by now; my mascara is flowing everywhere. I remember the first time my child have me what I call a half-hug. My dear friend who I shared my glee with said to me that she appreciated me sharing these things with her because it made her appreciate her neurotypical child even more. She never realized the things she took for granted, the comment that made me realize that Patrick’s purpose was for people to appreciate the people in their own lives and not take even simple things as eye contact for granted.

Jake grabbed Martin’s cell phone and pointed him on his next mission: 718-673-5296

Where I end my belief is this: How does Martin’s phone still work in that monster rainstorm?

My message to Tim Kring: Season 1 of Heroes was awesome. Touch has the possibility of great things that may start people thinking more about the ripple effect of their own actions, and acting more kind to each other. Don’t screw it up, okay? Save Touch, Save the world.

Reposted with permission from Hilda Clark Bowen (Twitter: @PBMom )

Assault on Autism Student a Sobering Reminder for Families

Autism Assault

Among the many autism-related stories I have read, written and edited over the years, there are some that have left a profound and lasting impact on me. Stories involving wandering-related deaths involving children with autism are always heartbreaking, as are stories involving injustice suffered by those with autism and their families — of which, Ayn Van Dyk, Neli Latson and Aislinn Wendrow all come to mind. However, there is one story in particular that has been extremely troubling, not only because of the initial events, but also the aftermath and lack of closure that followed.

In August of 2009, a 20-second YouTube video (posted below) was released and showed a Pittsburgh-area teacher slapping and verbally abusing a student with autism. The incident, which occurred in March of 2008, revealed every autism parent’s worst nightmare: a physical assault at the hands of someone who’s job it is to care for and educate a special needs child.

In the video, a student named J.R. is violently slapped by his teacher, at which point she screams, “Stop moving your chair back. Move it! And you stay back there! I’ve had it with you!” The video was secretly recorded by a student aid, who claimed to have witnessed the same teacher physically assaulting the non-verbal youngster on previous occasions.

I spoke to J.R.’s mother about a year ago and at the time, little had taken place in the way of closure. In fact, the YouTube user who originally uploaded the video, a family friend, wrote the following last year:

"Update:  This teacher was let go from her job, but no charges have been filed against her or the school district. The cameras that were supposed to be installed in all of the class rooms (sic) at this school…it has not happened."
This story is a sobering reminder of the constant vigilance that is needed when dealing with schools, teachers and caregivers that are involved in the lives of children with autism and other special needs. Hopefully, J.R. is doing well now and his family has been able to move on from this. Reopening old wounds is not the intention here, but this story should be a constant reminder of how vulnerable our children can be and how important it is to know exactly who we are entrusting them with.

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Did You Know?

  • * In 1970, Autism affected 1 out of 10,000 children
  • * Autism now affects 1 out of 88 children
  • * Autism affects 1 in 54 boys
  • * 1.7 million Americans have some form of autism
  • * 4 out of 5 autistic children are boys

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