Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Movie That Made Me Think About Bullies

Here is another one that may seem to have nothing to do with being an author, but the more I think about it, the more I disagree (with myself only, so far). Everything that happens to us influences how we write-whether we write fiction or non-fiction, fantasy or mystery or sci-fi, ultimately we write about our own lives and experiences. I'm watching a movie I've never seen before. It's called Artificial Intelligence. It's about a futuristic civilization that has robots as part of the community. Mostly, I think they're workers. But they decided to make child robots that could love. The first experimental model went to a couple whose son, Martin, was in a coma and unlikely to recover. When they get their child robot, Mom is unsure, but the kid grows on her. They decide to keep him, which involves completing his programming so that he will bond with them, love them only, forever. I'm not sure what he's supposed to do someday when they die. They are quite delighted with him and begin settling in. Just then, their own son wakes up from his coma. I'm at that part of the movie right now, and I have no idea which way they're going to go. Right at the moment, I don't like what I'm seeing, and I'll tell you why. David, the robot child, is so much like William that it's difficult for me to watch this movie. He's very curious about everything, but understands little. He mimicks their movements-he doesn't eat, but watches them while they eat and pretends he is eating and drinking too. He is extremely gullible and believes everything he is told. I have just updated to include pictures-one from the movie of Haley Joel Osmont, who played David, and one of our William. They even look just alike, right down to their hair color and the little forehead cowlick that makes the little triangle shaped void in their bangs. The resemblance wasn't lost on me. Everything changes for David when Demon Child Martin comes home. Martin, having the true nature of a bully, immediately begins zeroing in on David's weaknesses. His curiosity becomes a weakness. His programmed love for his parents becomes a weakness when Martin tricks him into doing things that are wrong, telling him his parents will love him if he does these things. Martin makes David eat, knowing it will harm him. Martin tells David to sneak up on Mommy in the middle of the night and cut off a lock of her hair, then she will love him. Mommy and Daddy wake up and mistakenly believe that David was going to hurt Mommy with the scissors. Martin's equally bullying friends come over and test out the possibilities of David's natural defense systems, by purposely cutting him. As his gullibility does not allow him to see Martin for what he really is, he turns to his brother for protection from the other boys. David and Martin fall into the pool and Martin almost drowns. David gets the blame. Parents or educators of autistic children won't need to wonder for very long why these things are bothering me. Autistic children are often victimized in the same ways. I mean, the exact same ways. I have heard more than one story of "normal" kids doing things to harm special needs children who were unable to feel pain. Many autistic kids have problems processing pain. They can get hysterical over a hang nail but something that should usually cause severe pain, like a bad cut or a burn might go unnoticed. I heard a story of an autistic boy who was found with hundreds of cigarette burns all over his body because his "friends" were fascinated with his inability to feel pain. Thinking that they were his friends, he let them do it. We're all taught that our real friends will never hurt us, right? He thought they were his friends and so he let them do it. Bullies often coerce innocent special needs children, even adults, into doing their bidding, doing ridiculous things in public, things that make fools of them, things that will get them into trouble-and of course, afterward, these bullies will know nothing about any of it. I know we aren't really talking about robots here. I'll never know how the movie ended. I decided to quit when, after the pool incident, Mommy takes David out into the woods and leaves him there. The parents couldn't see their "real" son for what he was. The boys had a toy robotic teddy bear that saw what Martin was doing and he tried to help David. Pretty bad when Teddy Ruxpin is smarter and more compassionate than Mom and Dad. Do parents really not teach their kids how they should treat special needs people? My perspective is unique. My oldest child is special needs. I was teaching the world how to treat him. I wasn't wondering how to raise my normal child. I was wondering how to protect my special one. Then we have a second child, and he is raised from birth, realizing that his brother is different and learning how to deal with him just like we do. So tell me, someone tell me. Why do they do it? Is there some natural urge to seek out and prey upon weakness? To press vulnerability? Does it really make their day to send the weird kid into the girl's bathroom when it's full of girls? Do they go home proud of themselves, patting each other on the back over how cool they are? Someone please, tell me what it is. Do they and their parents really think that my son is any less a person than they are, that he is less loved, less important, less intelligent, less able to contribute to society, that he is less anything that is positive and good? The only thing that he is really less is less cruel, less dispassionate, less hateful and less harmful. Please teach your kids how to be compassionate with those that are different. After all, are we not all different? We all have vulnerabilities and quirks. If a society makes it acceptable to victimize the citizens that are most vulnerable, then I cannot be a part of society. Since William's diagnosis almost 9 years ago, I have slowly backed away from society. Some of it is because his behavior in public can make him difficult to handle. But I have come to realize that a lot of the reason for my withdrawal is because the behavior of society is difficult to handle. If you see a special needs child behaving strangely in public, please try to remember that you are not at the zoo. Many special needs children look normal but act strangely. If you see a child acting strangely, even behaving abominably, please don't start whispering behind your hands about how you would handle that kid if he were yours. If he were yours, you would understand. It may or may not be a special needs child that you are looking at, but the point is that you don't know. End of rant.

Friday, June 29, 2012


Usually I get on here if I have some story that's cute or funny or touching to share. Today I just don't feel that way. I wish I had a way of yelling at the world, and this is the closest I can come. I have a kid who repeats everything he hears, and also repeats actions that he sees, because he doesn't know any better. So think about that when you are out in public and are loudly exercising your right to free speech frequently punctuated with completely unnecessary profanity. Look around you and think about who might be listening. A week or so ago, my 11 year old son asked me, "Mom, what does f**k mean?" After my husband had revived me with our home defibrillator, I had to explain to William, who has the maturity of a five year old, that this is the worst of all the bad words and that he must never say it again. I have tried every which way to explain WHY I don't want him using profanity, and after every session, I can see that he absolutely does not understand. I used to hear disabled young adults and even disabled kids using bad language all the time, and I was so haughty! "Well! They must hear it at home! How else could they pick it up?" Now I know! We do NOT use it, at all. In fact, if you come into my home and use that kind of language, I will send you out the front door on the business end of a cannon. I try to moniter what they hear online and on TV. It may be naive, but I want them to be innocent for as long as possible. Desensitize them to it now, and they will find it as acceptable as many people do. And when we do hear it, they ask me, "Mom, was that a bad word? Is it wrong to say that word?" So at least we do talk about it. And now when they hear a bad word off the TV or something, they both look a little worried and sad and seem concerned for the person who said the bad word, especially William. Almost everyday after school, I take both boys to either the playground at William's school, or the one at Sean's school. Since the weather is nicer, we frequently have older kids from the nearby Jr High and High School who come and seem to be there for no other reason than to just hang around and be offensive. A couple of weeks ago I had to chase off 2 boys, one of whom was exposing himself and both were using lewd and offensive language. All while surrounded by kids Sean's age (6). Today on William's school playground, were 2 girls and a boy, Jr. High age, who were fooling around. The 2 girls were trying to get the boy's pants off. 10 feet from me. I ran them off pretty quick too. In both instances, these kids looked at me like I was an alien from another planet. Now I know I don't really look that bad, so I could only assume that their experience with adult discipline is limited. None of them mouthed off at me, I have to give them that. But I think it was only bercause they were shocked that someone had said something to them. I bring this up only because I hope people will read it and think about what they say and do, and also because I hope they will all talk to their kids, know what they are doing after school and who they are doing it with, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT!! How would you feel if you found out your son was exposing himself on a school playground in front of 10 elementary school children? Or if your daughter was giggling over a boy on the ground getting into his pants? What would you do? If adults were caught doing what these kids were doing, they would be arrested and become registered sex offenders. Your thirteen year old doesn't need a boyfriend or a girlfriend. They're physically old enough, but mentally they aren't old enough to make mature decisions. They're STUPID!! They need you!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Great Danes

I have decided that when my book is finally published, I'm going to donate a portion of the proceeds to a Great Dane rescue organization. One of my main characters is a Great Dane, after all. When I was 9 or 10 years old, my Aunt had a friend who was involved with a Great Dane rescue. My Aunt had already adopted 2 Great Danes and when this woman contacted her about one more, my Aunt called my Mom. My older sister wanted that dog. And so we got him. He was about 2 years old and had been found wandering the streets, terrified. He was wearing a choke collar that was so tight it had become embedded in his neck and had to be removed surgically. He wore forever a scar that was in the shape of a chain, the ghost of a noose. My sister Jody thought carefully about the name for him. She searched through some history book or other and found some ancient German character by the name of Johann Heindrich Von Daniker, and that was his new moniker. A big dog like that, after all, needed a big name. Below is a picture of a scupture entitled Ariadne On the Panther, by Johann Heinrich Von Danneker.
I wish I had a picture to post of our Johann. He was a Merle, black and grey. And he was a big one. When they stood him on his two hind legs, they measured him at 6'2". He was the sweetest, gentlest thing this side of heaven. I had a dog too, a little female dachshund, also a rescue dog (that is another story). Her name was Jaime and she may have been small, but she was full of vinegar. For whatever reason, Johann quickly took over the job as her protector-and her employee. Maybe he figured she was such a nasty little thing, she might just need him someday. There was a time when you could get big bones free at the grocery store and we used to give him a cow's thigh bone whenever we could get it. Once when she wasn't even full grown, she took that bone away from him and it took her about an hour to drag it from where he had it to the living room, where she wanted it. He followed slowly and mournfully after her, wondering whether he would ever get it back. That's just how he was. He wished she wouldn't take his stuff, but he wouldn't stop her, either. He didn't bother the cats that I remember, but Jaime was the only other dog he ever liked. We had a couple of male barn dogs outside and had to make sure he never got near them. Once two big dogs start fighting, it's very hard to get them apart. But we made it. He was the big protector of and loyal family member to all of us. We had him for several years. There are certain problems that tend to beset Great Danes and he was no exception. Danes of his type are prone to all kinds of difficulties, one of them being serious joint problems. The size of their large bodies is too much for their joints to handle after a time. I believe he started with having difficulty just walking. His legs could give out suddenly and he would lose his balance and sometimes he fell. Trips to the vet got him shots that would get him through until the next time. I don't know now what they gave him-it might have been steroids. If anyone knows different, please comment! When he got towards the end, he was more and more disabled. He often couldn't even get up, and when he did, being able to walk without falling was hit and miss. Every few months my parents would take him to the vet with the intention of putting him to sleep. They'd get there, get him the shot, and bring him back home. And he'd be better again for a little while, until next time. Then one time in November of 1983, they came back without him. I'm not really sure what it was that made me decide to make the dog in my story a Great Dane. Maybe one of the sweetest personalities I have ever known was whispering in my ear, prompting me, making me remember. He was not a demanding dog and a whispered suggestion would have suited him just fine. Someday I would like to have a Great Dane, but right now we just don't have the yard. I also have a little autistic son who has a phobia of dogs. He is used to my two little terriers but they are not allowed to touch him. I don't think he could live with such a large dog. So I thought, if I can't adopt and help one dog, maybe I can help many instead.