Friday, September 30, 2011

A Plea For My Life

Dear President Obama,

Now that you've decided you can order the death of an American Citizen without any kind of trial or due process, I'm writng to you in case you decide to take a hit out on me. I'd rather die from something more exciting.

I know that you and I have seen things differently since a year after you took on the Pesidency. I think we should feed the poor and house the homeless, while you have fed the wallets of billionaires, and had my country at war in Afghanistan for the past 10 years. I get that. I just want you to know I'm not a terrorist.

I, also had nothing to do with the suspected crimes that my fellow citizen was killed for. I have no plans to do so in the future either. All I want to do is live out my years without the fear that I could be your NEXT target.

David McDonald

Friday, September 16, 2011

Motivation to Work

I've been listening to a federal hearing on people with disabilities and employment. I LOVE this sort of thing! A panel of "experts" discussing best practice and "thinking outside the box". I don't consider myself to be an expert on this topic, but as usual I have my own opinion(s). I'm also not hesitant to express them.

A blind doctor just stated that there's a presumption that people with disabilities are looked upon as "broken". Now THAT'S something I've believed for a while. Seems like people who don't spend much time around people with disabilities presume quite a bit. They either pity people with disabilities or look down on them. They are JUST PEOPLE! They don't need (or often want) to be looked at as "special", they need to be treated the same way non-disabled people are treated. It's pretty simple.

When my nephew moved in with Suzanne and I in 2000, he seemed abnormally "spoiled". I think that everyone who had been involved with him, up to his 16 years, had feared his autism. I knew that I was going to have to be firm with him if I hoped to assist him moving from childhood to adulthood, as I had promised my sister before she died. That meant I was going to have "expectations" that he'd be able to learn. Initially, it was a serious struggle for both of us. He was very resistant to change, and we bumped heads on several occasions. I spent a lot of time seeking ways to motivate him.

I found that the concept of being considered a "grown up" was something that appealed to him, so I began praising him when he chose to do something I considered grown up. It was a successful, if not easy, strategy. He began fishing for "grown up"s from me quite regularly. I had to tell him certain things he was doing were things everyone does, and didn't warrant praise. He started figuring out what I was trying to get through to him! He began shaving, putting on deodorant, brushing his teeth, and showering with the cuing of an alarm clock. Can you believe that??

When we were finished helping him become a man, it was time for him to do what all young adults do... move out! He was almost 21 years old, had spent the last year and a half at Sylvan Learning Center (if you want more info. about that, key word "Due Process" on this page), learning to read, write, and refine his math skills. We began a search for the right living situation for him, finding it in a Foster Care home with 4 other guys his own age.

Now came the whole employment piece. Joseph had never had a real job. Would he be able to understand the whole concept of working? He had proved to me that he was capable of doing MORE THAN what I thought he could, so the answer had to be "yes". He started out working at Goodwill. It wasn't a perfect setting, but they have a long history of working with people who are "differently abled". In order to find a solid motivator I wanted to give the idea of working some serious value. I settled on TRAVEL as the motivator. I told him if he worked hard and followed the rules, he'd be able to take trips. After he'd gotten a few paychecks, I set him up to go to a baseball game in Seattle. He loved it!

Using his new motivator, within a year he became a valued employee at Goodwill. Though he was being paid piece rate (which is really a rip-off), he was till doing better than minimum wage. Since he started at Goodwill he's been to Nashville, Vegas, Memphis, Mexico, Arizona, California twice, Alaska by rail, Hawaii, Greece, Missouri, and is signed up for Portugal next spring. Whenever I speak with anyone from the travel company (Trips, Inc. out of Eugene, Or.), they tell me he's their favorite traveler. Now he makes around $380 every 2 weeks, working 20 hours a week, and is one of the best workers in the system. Not bad for a guy with autism.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

On The 9/11 Anniversary

Rather than seeing myself as a citizen of the United States, I see myself a citizen of the Planet Earth. That may not make sense to some, but I could have been born anywhere. The fact that I've made it to 55 in America, instead of starving in Africa as a child, or catching an incurable disease at 20 in India, bears my thinking out.

That's why the whole renewed fervor around patriotism, as we near the 10th year since 9/11/01 is hard for me to wrap my head around. When one considers that every 9.62 days, there is an equivalent amount of casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan as September 11th. I mean Americans aren't "better" or "more important" than other people in the world. I find that I want to distance myself from the people who want to make this upcoming anniversary something larger than life.

Guess I've always been this way; believing that a candle light vigil should be going on every 9.62 days for all the people who have died in recent wars. Wars started by the very same people selling us the notion that we should care more about ourselves than "them".