There is a Special Place in Hell

Four employees of a Long Island group home have been fired and charged with endangerment for pitting two disabled individuals against each other, according to Newsday and News 12 Long Island.

Cellphone video of the fight shows the four workers laughing.

I think there is a special place in hell for those who are cruel to the helpless — to children, or animals, or, in this case, the developmentally disabled. No doubt that is where these “aides” are headed. They won’t get any sympathy from me.

For Luckie: A Special Dog for our Special Needs

I must admit, I didn’t much like dogs. I was raised to be afraid of them, and I brought that fear into my adulthood.

But 13 years ago, I had bigger issues. My wonderful, fun, beautiful, brilliant daughter was enmeshed in the throes of OCD—obsessive compulsive disorder. Fifth grade is a very difficult year socially for anyone, and she was being tortured by the need to turn on and off light switches 26 times, to pack and unpack her backpack the same number of times, rendering her incapable of leaving her classroom, and unable to cross a line—impossible in a tiled school hallway. So, fifth grade is a minefield for anyone, and she was primed for failure.

She needed a friend. And so I, who had sworn that we would never get a dog, got Luckie. For my daughter’s 12th birthday, we wrapped a number of gifts. First, she opened a placemat with little colorful paws on it. “Okay, I guess” she said, “Thank you.” Next, she opened a package containing a bowl, with colorful dog bones. She looked more confused. We encouraged her to open the next gift. Inside was a leash. She looked at me, she looked at her father. She had the most wonderful expression on her face. Confused and hopeful all at the same time. She stammered, “but, you said, I could never have a dog.” I told her we had changed our minds. I will never, ever forget that moment of pure joy.

My daughter had a friend, and called Luckie her sister. I will never know who was luckier, Luckie for having my daughter, or my daughter for having Luckie. Or me, who was lucky for having them both.

A year or two later, my daughter was off at sleepaway camp, and her father and I decided to divorce. As so many of you know, special needs children bring added stress. I found out I had a benign brain tumor. Reports from camp were not good. And I was angry. Angry at the entire world. It would have been easy to stay in bed and hide. But I couldn’t. I had to walk Luckie. So, Luckie and I walked. And walked and walked and walked. We walked until I finally opened my eyes and saw the sun shining, and that I was breathing and grateful that I was able to walk and breathe and hope.

So, thank you, Luckie, for everything you did for us, and for the joy you brought us.

Still Skeptical About Autism Vaccine Link?

A widespread perception that autism is caused by either childhood vaccines or by too many vaccines in one day has again been shown by scientists to have no link to incidents of autism spectrum disorder.

According to NPR, the study by researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention measured antigens, the substance in vaccines that causes the body to produce antibodies.

Sandy Hook and Mental Illness: No Easy Answers

The intense grief we feel for the victims and families of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, has ignited, or re-ignited, two of our great national debates: the obvious one about gun control, and a less obvious one about the nature and treatment of mental illness.

(Photo credit: DON EMMERT /AFP/Getty Images)

As yet we do not know the exact nature of the illness affecting Adam Lanza, the perpetrator of this horrible crime. We do not know what efforts were made at evaluation or treatment. Nevertheless, the debate is on.

In our 24-hour-news-cycle world, even backlashes have backlashes. One of the first to enter the fray was Liza Long, with this essay entitled I am Adam Lanza’ mother detailing her struggles with her mentally ill 13-year-old son. If you are, as I am, the mother of a special needs child, it is impossible to read Long’s story without emotion.

And the backlash to Long’s story confirmed some of our worst fears, with a distinct air of “blame the mommy” about it.

Parents of special needs children are understandably worried that the school shooting will exacerbate the fear and suspicion already directed at children with autism or other mental illnesses.

This, even though medical experts discount any connection between autism and planned violence.

For some of us, it is an abstract debate over national mental health policy. For others, including myself, it’s much more personal.