“…she should sue Angelina Jolie!”

OK, so this video has absolutely nothing to do with my post – I just thought it was funny.  Yet, perhaps… it DOES set the ‘right mood’!

It is not often that I mention ‘tabloid stuff’ here, but – well, this one just bewilders me.

Now, some people think I am just a little bit opinionated.  Hard to believe, I know, but, some people…  I do, however, have some very strong opinions about ‘babies’, children and that whole parental responsibility to ensure the best possible chance of success for their kids.

And, I do – at times – get a little ‘worked up’ when I see people doing patently stupid stuff that will damage their kids for ever.  Possessing an industrial dose of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I did what anyone who intended to reproduce does (or, perhaps I should say ‘ought to do’):  I read anything and everything possible to make sure I did things ‘right’.

Perhaps that is why I now know that my opinions are right!!!

For example, I did not partake of alcohol (except once, with a non-drinker recording my reactions for my reference…it is important to know one’s own reaction to a potentially addictive substance) at all before I had my kids – and, of course, while pregnant and nursing.  There were not too many studies on this, but – since alcohol decreases the blood’s ability to carry oxygen, this could potentially affect the development of my eggs long before I ever got pregnant.  Therefore, I chose to avoid that risk.

I paid close attention to my choice of husband:  he had to have complementary genetic traits to mine, high intelligence, good looks (the kids had to get THAT from ONE of us), and he had to come from an affectionate family so that his nurturing instincts would be properly developed for potential parenthood.  Selecting the best potential father for one’s kids is not an easy task, but I got lucky – I found the perfect one!

I read research, read texts and articles, searched through statistics for such things as ‘age of mother vs. mean IQ’, nutrition (depriving an infant of breastmilk will reduce a person’s potential highest IQ by about 10 points – and LaLeche League volunteers will share their breastmilk with mothers who cannot breastfeed), early developmental needs, amount of skin-on-skin contact, stimulus levels… well, the list is rather long.  Anything I could think of  or that I learned could be a factor, I educated myself on.  You get the picture…

And this is just simple ‘due diligence’!  Something I thought every potential parent did – perhaps not as obsessively as I had, but, did none the less.  Get educated, establish a stable social unit with sufficient economic security, get the nest ready – and only when things are ready, bring a child into this world!

Today, I went grocery-shopping with my older son.  Yes, we both get a kick out of packing the groceries into the cart in the most space-efficient manner, then from organizing the groceries on the belt that leads to the cashier ‘just right’ – and today, we got told off for ‘overloading’ it… too much of a good thing, I guess.  As we hung our heads in shame, we could not help seeing this  Octomom’s picture all over the tabloids near the cash…

Just thinking about what this creature is doing to her children floods my blood with dangerously high levels of adrenaline!!!

OK, so she had 6 kids at once.  There is no way these 6 babies got sufficient room/nutrition in the womb to reach their fullest developmental potential.  It’s a simple matter of demand being greater than a single womb can supply!  But, well, these things CAN happen… and, though I do not agree with artificially setting up a pregnancy like this, I also understand that IF this happens to someone – they simply cannot harm the fetuses, and so they carry through.  I get it.

But, looking after 6 little ones is hard!  It would be a full-time job for several adults!

Then, to go and do it AGAIN???  With 8 more babies???

Yet, this is not the worst of it.  Not only did she do nothing to ‘prepare the nest’, this creature spent tens of thousands of dollars on breast implants (so much for nursing!) and plastic surgeries to make her face look more like Angelina Jolie’s!  That has to be some unhealthy obsession this scary woman has…

My son watched my fury at her irresponsibility, then laughed and (mock seriously) said:

“I’m surprised she has not started to think that she should sue Angelina Jolie!  Obviously, all this only happened because Angelina Jolie is so beautiful, successful – and an excellent mom.  She’s too perfect!  If she weren’t so awesome, this poor woman would not need to go to these lengths in order to stop feeling inferior!  So, you see, in the end, this is all Angelina Jolie’s fault!”

This would be way more funny… if it was not actually likely to happen!

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Stray thoughts…

This is a bit of an unusual post for me… I would like to simply put forth a few ‘stray thoughts’ which have been occurring to me, yet none of which is really significant enough for a separate post of its own. I don’t necessarily have a formed opinion on them – answers, if you will – but that does not mean that the thoughts are going away.

If you can add something to them, please, do so – I will welcome any ‘food for thought’!

***

In the little clip of the ‘Harper Fox interview’ which I heard this morning, Mr. Harper described Canada as having ‘universal health insurance’. This, of course, is not the same thing as having ‘universal health care’. Is this a signal that things are going to get better in our health care delivery?

***

After all, things could not get much worse…

This morning, Ottawa’s ‘Medical Officer of Health’, Dr. Kushman, was interviewed on the radio station CFRA regarding the ‘long waits for MRI’s in Ottawa.  While in the Ottawa region, the average wait for a diagnostic MRI is ‘only’ somewhere around 270 days, at The Ottawa Hospital, this wait is a full 360 days.

This means that if you have a medical problem serious enough for your family doctor or your specialist to requisition an MRI, it will take about a week short of a year for you to actually get one.  This includes the times when your doctor thinks you may have had a stroke, or a malignant tumour – as well as serious injuries to your back, neck or just about any other reason an MRI would be ordered.  The only way to shorten the wait time is – according to my family doctor – to go to the emergency room while experiencing externally visible symptoms (like of a stroke).  And, while the wait times in some emergency rooms in Ottawa are currently as long as 30 hours, this is better than dying on a waiting list.  (This is, of course, assuming that you could survive in the waiting room for that long.  People have been known to die of heart attacks, miscariages and appendicitis while in The Ottawa Hospital emergency waiting rooms.  But, that is not the point here….)

And, getting the test is just first step… about a year ago, I had a test (not MRI) done at The Ottawa Hospital.  It took eight and a half months after the test was done for me (and my doctor) to actually receive any results of the test from them…

My point here is the response Dr. Kushman gave during the interview:  big part of the problem, he said, lies with doctors who just rely on MRI’s as their diagnostic tool (sic!).  He specifically said that for many musculo-skeletal injuries, the treatment consists of time, anti-inflammatory drugs and physiotherapy.  Yet, he lamented, many physicians persist on sending their patients for an MRI to be diagnosed for the type of musculo-skeletal injury they had suffered, thus overloading the system.

His implication was clear – the backlog is caused by the abuse of the system by physicians who send people to be tested ‘frivolously’.  You know, with back problems and whiplash and such…

Now, let me re-iterate what he said:  MANY of the …..injuries….CAN be treated….

The point is clear:  NOT ALL!!!  SOME injuries will be untreatable using the ‘standard’ method – and not treating them properly right away will result in permanent disability.  (Ask any MD – I did!)

Yet, without the diagnostic capability of the MRI, the doctors cannot tell which injuries fall into the ‘many’ category, treatable by the ‘standard’ method, and which are serious enough to require other interventions.

I present to you that while the ‘good’ Dr. Kushman did speak the literal truth (i.e. ‘MANY of the musculo-skeletal injuries are easily treated in the ‘standard’ way’), he implied the opposite of the truth in his conclusion:  instead of commending the MDs who use a diagnostic tool in order to separate the injuries treatable by the ‘standard’ method from the ones that need other, immediate attention, he implied that taking proper medical precautions is, in some way, an abuse of the system … and the direct cause of the backlog in the wait for an MRI!

Frankly, I find his attitude outrageous, offensive – and very dangerous.  To my health – and to that of all us poor souls within his jurisdiction!

How come he was still the ‘Medical Officer of Health’ by the end of the day???

***

OK – an unrelated thing…

When America’s President, Mr. Obama, was in Ottawa last week, he had a little chat with our Governor General (GG), Mikael Jean.  The head of the government of the United States of America and the head of the State of Canada speaking together:  very statesman-like, even if they did look like they giggled.

Did not Mr. Obama come out saying he would like to offer help to HAITI???  What?  How about talking about CANADA and the USA?

Can someone please explain THAT one to me?

***

And while on the subject of Obama’s visit to Ottawa last week…

The guy had admitted to ‘using’ Cocaine in his youth.  So, now he walks about ‘The Market’ – THE spot in Ottawa for buying drugs – and asks “where does one buy a ‘SNOW-GLOBE’ around here?”!!!  Is the guy nuts (or are these the type of effects past drug users must live with)?

First, I would like to know what his handlers have to say about this, then I’d like to know how come the media is not having a feast with this juicy line!  (OK, perhaps most of the members of the media are suffering through brain damage of their own…most HAVE shopped for ‘snow-globes’ of their own in the past.)

***

OK, these are not ‘complete’ and ‘finished’ thoughts in themselves.  But, are these not things to wonder about?

Warren Kinsella’s new low

Blazing Catfur has the whole story...

Warren Kinsella (of the ‘women politicians would be better off baking cookies’ and ‘let’s go to Chinatown for some barbecued cat and rice’ fame) does not like Kathy Shaidle.

While Mr. Kinsella is pro-censorship, Ms. Shaidle is a leader in the fight to preserve our freedom of speech.

While Mr. Kinsella is smooth, political insider, Ms. Shaidle is brash, outspoken commentator/poet.

While Mr. Kinsella is among the forces trying to build politically correct society, Ms. Shaidle wants people to say what they mean, clearly and unambiguously, using words that do not hide their real meaning – even if these words are colourful and perhaps even offensive to some.

While Mr. Kinsella is tries to silence all the voices he does not like, Ms. Shaidle actually helps people be heard – regardless of their message.

Mr. Kinsella is sympathetic to the Palestinian people – even at the cost of supporting the Palestinian terrorists which oppress the Palestinial people more than anyone else ever had.  Ms. Shaidle defends the right of Israel to exist and openly (and colourfully) says that terrorists are not nice people.

While Mr. Kinsella is someone who sues the people he disagrees with, Ms. Shaidle is someone who had been/is being sued by Kinsella for disagreeing with him.

Perhaps there is an underlying pattern here…

When Ms. Shaidle was invited to appear on TVO’s Agenda, to comment on ‘The Atheist Bus’ campaign, Mr, Kinsella went, well, a little too far.  When the host of the show, Steve Paikin, refused to ‘uninvite’ Ms. Shaidle after Mr. Kinsella’s first demand that they do so, Mr. Kinsella threatened ‘there will be consequences’ because ‘he wrote to the Minister of Education about it’.

Had Mr. Kinsella been an ‘ordinary citizen’, this would be an empty threat.  But, he is not:  he is the Liberal spin doctor who helped get this Minister elected, and as such, the Minister ‘owes him’ – on one level or another.  This little fact gives the whole threat a brand new twist – and a very sinister one, at that.

Here, I should declare my personal bias:  I respect Kathy Shaidle greatly, I admit I also quite like her – but I cannot say I agree with her views on Atheism.  I most vociferously disagree with some of the comments she made during the show.  This can be seen from my post on this last week.   I know Ms. Shaidle and I also do not share the same views on Christianity:  she had bought me lunch last summer when I popped into Toronto, the topic came up (briefly), and we walked away respecting each other, even if not agreeing with each other.  Nonetheless… that is not really the point here.

The point is that is Mr. Kinsella’s threat is not an empty one – if his action will really result in the Minister of Education delivering those ‘consequences’ against TVO, The Agenda and Mr. Paikin – then we have even more to fear.

Why not drop Kathleen Wynne, the Ontario Minister of Education, a line?  You can tell her what you think about Mr. Kinsella’s threat here:  kwynne.mpp@liberal.ola.org

Update: It looks like the Canadian Jewish Congress has just decided to no longer associate with (employ) Kinsella…. don’t know the details there is a non-disclosure agreement in place.

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Anti-Islamist coalition

A new blog has entered ‘The ‘Sphere’!

Anti-Islamist Coalition

Anti-Islamist Coalition

Thanks to Babazee for creating this logo!

And, just to avoid any possible confusion, let me re-state this once again:

Islam is not the same as Islamism.

Islam is a religion, which is practiced in peace by millions of wonderful people.  I know and love some of them, and I certainly respect many of them.

Islamism is not the same sort of thing at all.  It is a political movement, intent on world domination, which just happens to be dressed up in the guise of Islam. These types of political movements have plagued humanity for thousands of years – and they have usually sought to legitimize themselves by wrapping themselves in the respectability of a ‘religious movement.  It just happens that this particular political movement is abusing Islam for its ends!

Certainly, Islamists believe themselves to be following Islam – which is why they cite it as a justification for their crimes.  And many Islamists truly believe what they are doing is following their god’s will – which is what makes this such a dangerous combination.

Which is what makes it that same old …

Go ahead and hate your neighbour,

Go ahead and cheat your friend,

Do it in the name of Heaven Islam,

So you can justify it in the end …

And THAT is why Islamism must be opposed.

It is an insult to Islam, and a deadly threat to the rest of us.  Never forget what happened to the ‘Mountain People’…  If you don’t know, then, listen, children, to the story that was recorded long ago…

(Please, take a special note of how the ‘Valley People’ reacted when invited in to share, as equals…  Of couse, were I the composer, I would have the ‘Treasure’ say ‘Freedom of Speech and Equal Rights for ALL’!  In my never-humble-opinion, without these, there can be no true peace!  But, that might be too big a mouthful for a song…)

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Ottawa bans ‘Atheist bus ads’

I am shocked at this.

Ottawa buses have sported all kinds of ads – religious or not – which I thought were, well, ‘offensive’.

Few years ago, they ran that ad which had attempted to lure children into the hands of pedophiliac priests:  an outwardly ‘pro-religion’ ad that urged EVERYONE (including underage children, who, of course, can read) to ‘go to church’ to ‘get guidance’.

If one reads its meaning in the ‘commonly understood’ way (at least, commonly understood among the people I know – the ad raised a lot of comments when it ran), it is simply and unequivocally luring children into the ‘dens of pedophiles’ also known as ‘Churches’. (Actually, about 15 years ago, a stranger who happened to be a ‘Mount Cashel’ survivor gave me a very poorly written, yet highly personal and extremely convincing note to warn me that letting my children near a Christian Church is putting them in the hands of pedophiles.  I have not found any evidence to disbelieve him – to the contrary.  When I took my son to a Pentacostal Sunday School, I found a person I knew to have a sexual orientation to ‘children’ – but I do not know if he ever acted on it – to be in charge of the program….and, when I alerted the Church hierarchy, they told me that since he had ‘found Christ’, it was important that they give him a ‘second chance’.  NOT WITH MY SON!!!)

We all know that many pedophiles like to use the ‘channel of divine authority’ to force young people into sex and silence.  It does not mean that every priest is a pedophile, only that pedophiles like to infiltrate the ranks of clergy, because the blackmail of ‘eternal damnation’ is a powerful tool to manipulate.  And, it does explain why the prices of houses within sight of a rectory (or, indeed, a Church) tend to be below the expected market value…. most responsible parents are just not willing to expose their kids to that high a risk!

So, ‘bus ads’ urging young people to ‘go to church’ can, in an undeniable way, be perceived as sending them into an environment where they are much more likely to encounter a pedophile than they would among the general population.  And, in any ‘moral’ judgment, this makes such ads ‘offensive’!

If, on the other hand, one were to read the ‘go to church’ ad in a different way (which, frankly, many Christians have assured me was the intent of the ad), the ad becomes offensive on a completely different  level.  Should the meaning of the ad have been ‘come to our churches when you are most vulnerable, so our priests can emotionally blackmail you to submit to our dogma so you will give us money – and thus buy God’s love and approval’ – well, frankly, that is rather offensive, too.  People who are going through a hard time and are vulnerable are the last ones who should go to places that tell them that ‘giving away money in this world’ will ‘buy them salvation in the next one’!

I also find it offensive in the extreme when some religious people misconstrue the meaning of ‘morality’:  instead of defining ‘morality’ as ‘deep, introspective reasoning to choose the best – least damaging/bad/evil – course of action based on their own experience, reasoning and their specific circumstances’, many religious people reduce ‘morality’ to ‘obedience to a set of dogmatic rules’.  That, in my opinion, is reducing ‘morality’ to the level of ‘puppy-training’ – and something which offends me on the intellectual, spiritual and moral levels!

To sum this up:  I find ads telling people that ‘going to church’ is ‘a good thing’ to be offensive in the extreme!

Yet, ads urging people – especially emotionally vulnerable people – to ‘go to church’ were deemed ‘acceptable’ and ran on the sides of Ottawa buses.

And, that is a good thing:  matters of freedom of expression are more important than any ‘sensitivities’.  Protecting the right of people to get their message out (provided they pay for it from their own pocket) – however much I despise their message – is much more important than whether or not I (or other people) find that message ‘offensive’!

Today, the sides and rears of Ottawa busses sport a different kind of an ad:  ones paid for by our own local ‘Cruella deVille’ and her little furrier empire!

Please, do not get me wrong.  I think that if an animal is killed for food, it is only reasonable to use every part of the animal, including its skin or fur.  However, that is a very a different thing from raising animals in small, crowded cages and then electrocuting them (so the pelt has no holes) and using only their skin to create a ‘luxury product’.  And, it is this latter practice that I find extremely offensive.

Actually, I asked a few of my Hindu friends what they thought about these ads:  they were not particularly fond of them, to say the least!  Their religious sensitivities were deeply offended by the ads promoting frivoulous ‘luxury furs’!

After all, NOT ascribing animals a soul equal to the soul humans have IS just as much of a a religious prejudice as NOT ascribing them one is….   Please, think about this, long and hard.

Yet, these ads urging people to indulge their religious prejudice that animals have no soul (or, at least, not one worth considering) and to indulge themselves by wearing their pelts as an expression of luxury – these are allowed to run!!!  Offensive in the extreme!!!  (Please, ask PeTA what they think of these ads!!!)

And, that is a good thing:  matters of freedom of expression are more important than any ‘sensitivities’.  Protecting the right of people to get their message out (provided they pay for it from their own pocket) – however much I despise their message – is much more important than whether or not I (or other people) find that message ‘offensive’!

Yet, ads urging people not to take their religion to the point of extreme – not to obsess about it, to the detriment of their quality of life (and those near and dear to them) – THOSE ads are deemed to be ‘offensive’?!?!?

I have heard objections to these ads, based on the grounds that ‘seeing them might make people do immoral things’!  Yeah, right… Yet, if that is so….

Well, then, what about a person so obsessed with his religion, he is planning to strap a bomb to his body and blow up himself, along with a busload of schoolkids?  What if THAT person sees the bus and decides not to chance it?  What IF God is NOT real – who would give him the 72 virgins?

Would that be so bad?

Or, what about the father who is planning to clense his family’s honour in his daughter’s blood?  What if HE sees the ad, and realizes that killing his daughter on the GAMBLE that there IS a God just may not be worth it?

Would saving the life of one girl not be worth offending a few people?

Or, what about the man who loves his wife, but who is told by his spiritual adviser that it is not just permitted, but ‘necessary for her salvation’ that he beat her?  It is not so long ago that Christian priests preached this from the pulpit – and many Muslim Imams still do!  So, what if a man who believes them sees this – and it helps him find the courage to respect his wife and treat her like an equal – which is what he wanted to do in the first place, were it not for the ‘religious teachings’???

Would THAT be so offensive?

I suppose that some people think so.  I guess the only time Jews, Christians and Muslims gang together is to lynch atheists – and to silence the voices of reason that threaten the power of clergy to control the lives of nice people.

How ‘offensive’!!!

UPDATE: This week ( ending March 14th), the Ottawa City Council has reversed the ruling and the ‘atheist ads’ will be allowed to appear on the sides of busses.

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Carleton University introduces new course: ‘How to rig an election 101’

Warning:  In order to comply with the CRTC  (CBSC) ruling on a similar situation, please note that the following post may contain sarcasm and may employ facetiousness as a method of criticism.

Press release by Carleton University Faculty of Social Engineering:

For immediate publication:

Following the failure of the progressive students in their attempt to only support research into diseases which are politically correct, it has been deemed necessary to introduce more effective training in social engineering into the curriculum of Carleton University.  We are therefore proud to announce that, the Carleton University Faculty of Social Engineering is introducing a new course, titled ‘How to rig an election’.

The course number is ‘CUFSE 101’ and will be open to all students deemed ‘intrinsically sufficiently progressive’ following an extensive interview process.  If there is sufficient demand, higher-level courses will be designed to follow.

CUFSE 101 Course Curriculum:

This course has been specifically designed to teach students how to ensure that our governments – at all levels – are sufficiently progressive and promote the development of diverse and inclusive society.  In order that proper government policies are developed, it is necessary to teach future progressive candidates how to ensure they will be successfully elected.

To train students in the required skills, the course will focus on the following electoral techniques:

1.  Long term strategic planning:

  • ensuring that the body which supervises the election is stuffed staffed with progressive individuals.  This step must be undertaken by the progressive elements who have been elected, in preparation for future election.
  • ensuring that the wording of electoral rules is sufficiently vague and obscure so that, if necessary, it can be interpreted in completely unexpected ways.  Particular attention will be given to teaching the proper language which will not give any future non-progressive candidates clues as to how these rules can be applied.

2.  Short term measures:

Specialized linguistic training will focus on

  • skills in interpreting electoral rules so as to penalize or disqualify those candidates who have won, but who are undesirable due to their lack of intuitive progressive thought.
  • design of ‘election results’ web page which will obscure the number of votes won by undesirable candidates, or be similarly conducive towards positive reactions to progressive candidates.
  • phrasing of ‘electoral board rulings’ against undesirable candidates in  a way that will raise the least journalistic interest and minimize any attention to the techniques employed to achieve the desirable ends
  • how to engage popular – but not appropriate – candidates in conversations calculated to make them loose temper.  Any resulting ‘strong response’ will be a useful weapon against such a candidate, while an absence of a ‘strong response’ will indicate the best methodology for marginalizing said candidate.

In preparation of this course, a pilot project has trained some progressive candidates in the 2009 Carleton University Student Association (CUSA) elections in these skills.  As can be seen from the CUSA 2009 election results, the pilot was successful beyond expectations!

Points of particular success:

  • Within 4 hours of winning the largest number of votes, the undesirable candidate for CUSA president, Bruce Kyereh-Addo, was notified that he has been disqualified as a candidate, and therefore did not win.
  • To ensure that the ‘progressive candidate’ won, the pilot study graduates outdid themselves in also disqualifying the other non-desirable candidate for CUSA presidency, Cameron MacIntosh.  Thus, Erik Halliwell, the progressive candidate, was the only candidate who was not disqualified, ensuring his election to the post of ‘President of CUSA’.
  • Only anecdotal evidence exists that the electoral board was ‘stuffed’ with Haliwell’s friends, making it easy to dismiss any charges of ‘partiality’ as ‘hearsay’.  The praise here falls on the previous CUSA councillors:  having failed to stop ‘Shinerama’ fundraising to go to support a research into a non-inclusive disease which “has been recently revealed to only affect white people, and primarily men”, they have now redeemed themselves in ensuring that the right people staffed the CUSA elections office – and, more importantly, they have not left tangible trails.
  • The CUSA election rules are so well written, the disqualified and/or ‘ruled against’ candidates were completely unaware of how the election rules could be applied.   This has left them unprepared and unable to effectively defend themselves.  Kyereh-Addo is quoted as saying:  “This is just ridiculous. I can’t believe what’s going on right now.”
  • Had this been a credit-course, rather than a pilot, high marks would have been awarded to the person(s) who devised the successful application of the rule that ‘unapproved Facebook messages sent by their supporters’ – without the candidates’ knowledge or approval’ – are a misconduct’ which earns the candidate(s) a ‘ruling against them’.
  • Another sign of brilliance among the ‘election rule drafters’ is that it is a breech of the rules if there are any posters/promotional materials – or electronic messages, approved or not, by the candidates or their supporters – which promote more than one candidate – or which are posted in ‘non-approved areas’!  Simply brilliant!
  • The ‘linguistic training’ also scored a major success when an electoral board officer managed to involve Mr. Kyereh-Addo in a conversation so frustrating, Mr. Kyereh-Addo lost his temper and punched a wall.  As this was on the grounds of Carleton University, the electoral board promptly charged him with “damaging university property in a physically violent manner”:  and thus supplied the grounds for his disqualification of Mr. Kyereh-Addo as a candidate.  Kudos!
  • Much praise also goes to the pilot programme graduate who managed to handle the press coverage of the event, as can be seen in the ‘Charlatan’ (campus newspaper) coverage of the election.  There is not hint of ‘scandal’, ‘electoral fraud’ or even ‘serious controversy’.  This is success beyond expectation.  When reading the article, please note the successful spin which does not even identify that Mr. Kyereh-Addo simply ‘punched a wall’, but leaves the reader with the impression that he had indulged in wanton destruction of University property.  Well spun!
  • The ‘election results’ webpage:  brilliant!  Conveys the ‘information’ without letting people know what happened, does not even make the appropriate candidate look like a looser!  Not including the ‘total number of votes cast’ per category on the website hides the truth without telling a lie!!!  Faultless!!! Simply brilliant!

The above notes are only a few of the examples of the many successful applications learned by the progressive students in the pilot study on the basis of which ‘CUFSE 101’ was developed.  The Carleton University Faculty of Social Engineering is confident this success will lead to an establishment of a large number of courses in this area in the future.

The instructor for this specific course has not been named yet, though among the leading candidates are such role models as Warren Kinsella, Richard Warman and our own Matthew Crosier.

For any additional information, please, contact the information officer of CUFSE.

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Apergers and reading – practical strategies

Recently, I received this comment on my Aspergers and Reading post which I thought deserved a longer response… one which might be helpful to other parents (or Aspies) out there!

My Aspie son is 10 and we have homeschooled since first grade. He was extremely behind in his Reading skills in K and made very little progress. Teaching him has been very trying. He is resistant to reading at all. He is able to read about 200 common sight words on cards, but then can’t seem to read them in text. Generally if he sees a word like “has” he will not recognize it, but will get the word if I spell it. I have no idea why this works for him and I haven’t been able to find more information on how to capitalize on this strength. He has an incredible vocabulary, very good comprehension, and generally is at grade level for other language skills.

It sounds to me like there are at least two separate problems your son is dealing with.  One is the mechanics of the reading – but that is the simpler one of them to solve (and the one I will address in this post).  The most pressing problem here, the one that is the greater stumbling block, is that it sounds like your son has a bit of a ‘block’ when it comes to ‘reading’.  Until that is solved, addressing the mechanics of teaching him to read will do very little.

I am basing this presumption on the fact that you wrote that your son is resistant to reading.

I understand!!!

And, I have done my best to address this ‘block’ in an earlier post: Aspergers – ‘reluctance’/’freezing up’ explained. It might also be useful to read my posts on how I motivated my older son to learn how to read (he is now a speed-reader, with 100% comprehension of what he reads at a rate of ‘2 paperbacks/day’…) and how I tought my younger son to speak

Now, to the ‘mechanics’ of teaching an Aspie to read:

Aspies like rules.

We like to apply rules.  Especially (or, perhaps, only) rules that make ‘sense’ to us.

This makes the world make sense to us.

However, we have a very bad memory.  Especially ‘rote learning’ is something we are poor at – much poorer than our intellectual peers among ‘neurotypicals’.  Yet, if we ‘figure something out’ ourselves (i.e. our mind creates an ‘internal rule’ for it), we retain the knowledge better than our non-Aspie peers. I explored some of this in  Aspergers and memory – part 2: rote memory vs. reasoning.

One thing in the comment ‘jumps out’ at me:sight words on cards”!!!

This suggests that the Aspie child is being taught to read by ‘whole-word method’.  Using this ‘technique’, a child is not taught to read by synthesizing the word from its constituents sounds.  Instead, one is expected to recognize ‘the visual symbol’ of the ‘whole word’.  This may be partially plausible for people who have truly amazing memories, but – in opposition to the fanciful theory that spawned this idea of  ‘holistic perception’, the practice reduced ‘reading’ to ‘rote memorization’ of ‘words’ as ‘pictograms‘.

In the words of one critic of the ‘whole-word’ approach to teaching reading and literacy (my emphasis):

My research pinpoints three factors that effectively render Whole Word null and void.

1) English is vast, almost a million words and names. A child learning Whole Word is aiming for a mere 800 words a year, thus guaranteeing that the child is illiterate through high school. Real literacy probably requires a vocabulary of more than 50,000 words; virtually no human could memorize that many ideographs, which is what Whole Word turns our words into.

2) A second obstacle you never see mentioned is that while Chinese ideographs are written in only one way, all English words routinely appear in multiple forms–lower case, UPPER CASE, Mixed Cases, scripts, handwriting, and exotic typefaces. Imagine how bewildering this profusion would be for a child.

3) English, like Greek and Latin, is an alphabetic language. Sounds are built into every nook and cranny. If you force a child to ignore these sound-clues, and focus only on design-clues, the child will probably experience great frustration and may well develop a reading disability, such as dyslexia.

–   Bruce Deitrick Price

Now, this is an observation of ‘neurotypical’ children – ones whose propensity for ‘memory’ or ‘rote’ learning varies greatly.  Children with Aspergers fall into the ‘low-rote-learning’ and ‘high-rule/comprehension learning’ category – we are talking the ‘2 standard deviations from the mean’ area here…where this method would fail an ‘average’ kid…  Trying to teach an Aspie kid to ‘read’ using ‘sight cards’= ‘whole word method’ is a guarantee for failure.

So, what do I suggest?  Phonics?

Well, it is not a bad beginning – for an Aspie child ‘starting out’.  Once some reading skill has been attained, one needs to be a little more creative and tailor the ‘method’ to the individual child.  Phonics alone will not be ‘sufficient’ for a child to learn to read English (though it might be perfectly adequate in languages where there is less variation in the way individual letters are pronounced).

The key to success for this child is also something contained in the comment:  “Generally if he sees a word like “has” he will not recognize it, but will get the word if I spell it.”

This seems a pretty good indication – extrapolating from the short comment – that this child falls into the ‘#2’ category of the criticism ‘whole word method’ received from Dr. Price, above!!!

If the word is in a ‘familiar form’, on the ‘cue-card’, he can ‘remember it’ – but within a text, where the presentation is altered, the word appears so ‘different’ that he has no ‘means’ of deciphering what the word is!!!  It must be so very confusing and frustrating for this child….

Whatever the reason, the “will get the word if I spell it” is the key to the solution!!!

If it ‘works’ for him to hear you, the parent/teacher ‘sound it out’, then the next logical step in learning to read himself is to teach him to ‘sound it out himself’!

Now, we just have to ‘find the right lock’…

It is difficult for me to guess how well this particular 10-year-old Aspie handles other, non-language related tasks:  these can (and should) be ‘harnessed’ as the ‘vehicle’ through which to ‘unlock’ this.  So, I am going to make a few ‘blind’ suggestions and hope one – or a combination of a few – will help.

First and foremost, it is essential to ensure that the Aspie is familiar with all the different letters, the various ways they are pronounced (not just the ‘one way’ as ‘recited’ in the alphabet’).  Included in this must be all the ‘two letter’ sounds:  it is best to teach these as a ‘double-letter’, matter-of-factly, not making a big deal about it.  Just another rule… when they appear together, the ‘double-letter’ sound takes priority.  These ‘double letters’ will include things like ‘ch’, ‘sh’, ‘th’, ‘ee’ and so on.  If the child does not know them, use games to teach them – and read them out loud every time they are encountered (separate from surrounding sounds).

Independantly of (but, hopefully, complementing) learning to read the ‘sounds’ above, it will help to play games ‘picking out sounds’ in words.  You might have a ‘th‘ day:  encourage the child to identify any object (or word) in the house – or wherever you happen to be – to identify anything with ‘th’ in it by over-eaggerating the sound of ‘th‘ as they say the word.  For example:  ‘TH-umb!’ or ‘TH-ank you’.  Do not introduce it as a ‘reading exercise’, but rather as a game.  Get other family members involved.  Laugh at the exaggeration:  it’s the joke of the day!

The goal here is to use this child’s audio-processing preference to begin to identify the sounds – and groups of sounds – that make up the words we use – without any reference to reading or anything visual.  Aspies learn best using rules:  if they learn the ‘rule’ of the ‘sounds’ which make up a specific word, recognizing the written symbols for these ‘sounds’ will make it easier to ‘decipher back’ the ‘full sound’ – and thus read the word.

It is harder to play this game with vowels – ‘see’ sounds like ‘sea’ and so on, and one does not want to set the child up for failure by trying to ram down the differentiation in letters, when there is no ‘sound’ basis to do so.  Avoid the problem by ‘searching for ‘ee’ sound’ – regardless of how it is spelled!  That can come later…

Next, let’s get to ‘reading’.

Start by using groups of 3-4 letter words which ‘sound’ similar, but alter one letter only.  Words like ‘cat’, ‘hat’, ‘sat’, ‘bat’ – and so on – should be introduced as a ‘group’.  Do NOT introduce any exceptions at this time.  The idea is to reinforce the ‘rule’ that they ‘sound’ the same – except for the ‘beginning sound’…or, later, in other groups (e.g. ‘hot’, ‘hop’, ‘hock’) they share the ‘ending sound’… but NOT ‘how’ – ‘how’ would be grouped with ‘now’, ‘brown’ and so on.  Eventually, alter the ‘middle sound’, like ‘map’ and ‘mop’, ‘hip’ and ‘hop’, ‘tip’, ‘tap’ and ‘top’ – and so on.

It is essential that – because he is ‘audio-processing’ – the young Aspie first learns to sound out each word, one letter at a time.  And, it is important to teach the Aspie to listen to himself say each letter/’sound group’!

The second most important step in learning to read fluently is to transfer this skill to ‘similar’ words. That is the point of the ‘group’ of ‘similar’ words:  Aspies can ‘grasp’ the rules.  The idea here is for the Aspie to LEARN:  NOT to READ a particular word, but to LEARN to CREATE A RULE of pronunciation for a particular sequence of letters!

(Aside:  recently, my mom admitted to me that she can only read IF she says each letter out loud and then processes the sound…even if she ‘says it’ only in ‘her mind’.  Without going through this ‘virtual sounding-out’ of each letter, my mom – who spent decades as an award-winning teacher of biology, who succeeded in developing new and demonstrably successful teaching methods in getting all children interested – and successful – in science, while she also taught gym, art and languages…and continues to teach art to this day – is unable to make sense of written words in any language without resorting to ‘sounding out’ each letter!!!  Yet, she speaks quite a few languages fluently!!!  In other words, many professionally successful people can – and do – succeed using ‘sounding out’ as their ‘coping mechanism’ to process ‘visual information’ when their brain will only effectively process ‘audio information’….  Did I mention ‘Aspergers’ is very hereditary????)

It is an extremely useful tool for Aspies in this situation (especially if ‘sounding it out’ is just ‘not enough’) is to use other ‘bits of the brain’ to help get the ‘information to be processed’ to the right ‘processing bit of the brain’. Using the ‘saying it out-loud’ method helps, because it engages the ‘audio’ input of the brain:  if there is a problem/blockage in the ‘visual-processing-passing-information-to-language-processing’ bit of the brain, the act of hearing one-self ‘say’ the letters will help by-pass this – even if one eventually trains himself/herself to only say it ‘in their mind’!

Audio-processing – as in ‘sounding out’ – is only one of these methods.  It is easy, well understood, and as the person learns it, they can also learn to attenuate the volume at which the ‘letters’ are ‘deciphred’, until the voice can only be heard inside one’s own head.  Yet, if that does not work, there are other mechanisms one can try.  And, this next one has been particularly successful in helping several Aspies I know. (This advice comes from an aunt-in-law who, as a professional educator, headed a large school-board’s ‘special education – with particular focus on Aspergers – section’ – and whose ‘brain’ I often ‘pick’ for help… )  Actually, I was shocked at how well this worked for many of the adult Aspies I know…

When looking at (or hearing, or ‘sounding out’) a letter (or a phone number, or a new name – for that matter), use a finger of one hand to trace it on the palm of the other hand.

This introduces two new methods of bringing the information to one’s brain:  the process of writing (which, I must admit, is what I use as my personal ‘memory aid’… I often ‘take notes’ while speaking to someone, not because I will ever read them, but because the ‘act of writing’ something down will help me remember it) as well as the process of ‘feeling it written’ on the palm of the hand are two other, tactile ‘ways’ to ‘bypass’ the ‘blockage’ many of us Aspies have in our ‘reception centres’.  Alternately, the young Aspie can ‘trace’ the letter on very fine sand-paper, to create the ‘tactile input’…(while working in a controlled environment).  It sounds crazy, but – try it!  It just might w0rk!

Next – and this will require some significant ‘rule learning’ by most native ‘English speakers’ – introduce the actual rules of pronunciation in English!  For example, the difference in the way a vowel is pronounced (‘open’ vs. ‘closed’) when it is followed by one consonant, or by two consonants, or by one consonant and then a vowel, and so on.

I realize most ‘English-as-a-first-language’ schools today (to their shame) do not teach these rules, but that does not mean the rules do not exist.  In most non-North-American schools of English-as-a Second-Language, these rules are taught as a matter of fact:  in order to properly teach an Aspie how to read, it is essential that one becomes familiar with these rules, and is comfortable explaining and teaching them.  English pronunciation is nowhere near as ‘random’ as many native-English-speakers seem to think…  So, get educated…and get ready!

Once the Aspie has mastered the basics of reading, it is time to introduce English grammar:  without a ‘formal presentation’, we will not ‘grasp’ it!  So, please, take pity on us and actually teach us the rules of grammar in a formal, to us easy-to-understand way!  (I used Latin to do this for my older son, with incredible success.)

Next- and this is the beautiful part of this process – is to trace specific words and their roots.  One of the beauties of English (it is my favourite language – along with my ‘mother tongue’) is that it is an ‘amalgam’ language.  As different peoples migrated into Europe, they ‘pushed’ the ‘previous settlers’ further West….and, the British Isles (including Ireland – no prejudice intended) are just about as ‘West’ as one can ‘push’ a population inside Europe… In addition, English adopted words from other ‘literate’ and ‘scientific’ languages, retaining the original language’s convention of how to pronounce the word.  Thus, by learning the ‘roots’ of words, an Aspie can not only gain a pleasurable mastery of English, it can prepare him/her for the further study of other languages!!!

It is all about patterns:  something most Aspies find fascinating…  but only if they are presented it in a particular way!

Of course, this is just the icing on the cake…(if you like icing, that is – many Aspies find icing overpowering!)

Please, do let me know if this works for anyone!!!  (The corrollary, of course, stands as well – please!)

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