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Fourteen Days to Go: Republicans

I am not a fan of Republicans. I said yesterday, Democrats view individuals as the collective. Republicans dehumanize on the same scale by saying individuals are customers.

These are the Republicans I can tolerate. The George Will Republicans. These are the Republicans who think the government is a customer. I like free enterprise, but people are more than customers. These Republicans, the ones I can tolerate, support the military industrial complex, infrastructure contractors, contractors who think the buildings of a university are more important than teachers and want to cut medicare so government can buy more manufacturing products.

These Republicans see people as customers and also as employees. Employees who screw up prices because of wages and benefits. Republicans who complain that half the price of a car is employee benefits.

People are more than Customers and/or Employees/Operating-Costs.

The Republicans I hate are the Moral Majority types. Types like Richard Murdock who thinks pregnancy from rape is the will of God. What: CNN. Look, I’m a religious guy, but the hell is wrong with this guy? The close-minded nature of Republicans who use coercion to control morality. Morality they disagree with. Anti-abortion types who after stopping the abortion then do nothing to be sure those kids can grow up to be secure through the social safety net.

These are the hypocrite-Republicans. I dislike these guys more than any Democrat except for the Democrats who hate religion.

Republicans need to humanize their feelings about people who don’t have the money they have. Republicans need to spurn the Moral Majority. If Republicans can be fiscal-conservatives, not demanding the government buy good over helping people, and then can be socially-moderate to socially-liberal, then they will represent the current citizens of the country.

Assembly: Change Change Change

A long time ago I learned the truthyism: nothing is constant except change itself. This is not a bad way to understand the world, but for some reason some people just don’t get it.

We have a situation in Assembly that requires some people to be moved from one seat to another. Particularly one person, Person 1, but the last person we moved, Person 4, was very unhappy about it. Person 4 was convinced I thought she had done something wrong. She didn’t of course. She didn’t believe me. She actually broke down into tears. Sobbing, fifty-year old women from Boston are pitiful, but because the change was important and necessary, I didn’t budge (I can’t tell you why Person 1 had to move unfortunately).

This set the mood for the day.

A client/trainee, Person 2, who was a tiny part of the primary reason for the change is someone who taxes the patience of the faculty and other clients/trainees. Person 2’s disability makes her cranky. Constantly. She is a very nice person, but if something sets her off she complains non-stop (Hey is for horses! I can’t drink caffeine. Current events is only supposed to be on rainy days! I hate Bingo! Tell the other faculty they can’t boss me. So-and-so is bossing me! etc.). We moved her to her new location, because she has been doing very well and we had been looking for a way to integrate her better into the group.

Today, the first day of the move and person 2 is happy with the change, but one of her new neighbors was not too thrilled and started picking at Person 2. Person 2 complained. Eventually, Person 2 had to be taken outside until her “behavior” subsided. I have been working with Person 2 for as long as I have been substitute teaching with Assembly (since early February) and so I know how to weather her worst storms and to also help her understand we hear what she says, listen carefully and value her. It did not take long for me to get Person 2 to agree to ignore her neighbor at her new table. Now Person 2 and her neighbor have a long history of strife. Both are hard working, competitive women with very different disabilities. To say the least, the needling continued. The neighbor dislikes Person 2 (“She’s annoying”). We had two more blow-ups, both went outside for “talks” and both lost their end-of-day rewards for good behavior, but Person 2 is still happy with the change. Eventually, the neighbor will come around to Person 2 and everything will be fine. The stress of change eventually goes away.

It is too early to see if Person 1 likes the change. He’s sneaky. Person 3 was just fine with the change. Person 3’s OCDs are extreme and I was expecting problems, but I got none.

At the end of the day, the last thing I heard from Person 4 is: “I didn’t do nuttin. I was good. Why did you make me change places.”

Oh my!

Circles of Intimacy

Today at Central Utah Enterprises (CUE), I discussed the Circles of Intimacy with the staff and how it is being used with middle-school kids with the same or stronger disabilities than the clients/trainees in laundry and assembly.

I love the guys at CUE. In spite of their disabilities, they are some of the most authentic, wonderful people I know. Even the guy whose discipline problems are so severe he spends almost all his time with me with I work at CUE. The reason is when I walk in every morning, I get greeted by a chorus of hellos and hugs from almost everyone. Even the autistic men who normally do not like any physical contact will come over for a hug. The problem is this should not be happening.

None of the clients/trainees at CUE is a good decision maker or problem solver. They lack the skills to separate someone who cares for them or some one who would prey on them. Many of them are repeated victims and still they treat everyone innocently. While in a perfect world there is nothing wrong with this, we do not live in a perfect world. Far from it. To even become a person who works with the disabled, one must go through a serious background check and even then, there are predators.

The circles of intimacy is not a cure all, but it at least provides barriers. When the Pepsi guy shows up, some of these folks go up to him and give him a hug. They don’t even know his name, but they like him because he brings in the pop. In the circles of intimacy, he would be in the orange or wave circle. Someone you know, but not well who it might be best to keep away from. I would be in the yellow or handshake circle. The middle-schools have an in depth program and video series that over a period of months helps their students understand how the circles of intimacy works. If the staff at CUE could do it, they might be able to teach the same program to at least cut down on some cases of victimization.

There is a good argument against the program. Many of these guys do not have families. Many who do have families, only see their families once a year. A few still live at home, but all eventually move into institutional living. The concern is they would then never have physical contact if the staff at CUE stopped hugging them. The hug or blue circle is for family. Instilling these restrictions would eventually be heartbreaking for both the staff and the clients/trainees.

One of my best friends at CUE has no family that visits him. He is a middle-aged man who has serious issues, but is very kind and is a hard, hard worker. He is also very funny. He has been victimized by people who claimed to be his friends. He has only given me a hug twice, but both times I can tell he needed one. He was troubled because of something or the other or was telling a story about his time in jail or his prison tattoos. If he was restricted from all physical contact, he would be hurt, but if he had learned the skills the circles of intimacy program teaches, he might never have gotten into such serious problems.

While I recognize, this program would not address family members that would take advantage of the state-funds they receive (I know of two these cases at CUE), it would at least begin to help.

Mountain Ridge Junior High School: Life Skills

I didn’t know when I scheduled, but this class is also special-ed. I can’t tell you about the kids, but I can tell you about the situation and lesson. I scheduled the class on Saturday night. I would be subbing for the main teacher, where there should be a para-educator. In this case, the school forgot until this morning that there would be no para-educator. The para-educator quit on Friday. I didn’t know any of this until eight when I showed.

The teacher had emailed the lesson plan to the para by mistake, so there was no lesson plan for fifteen minutes after the first bell and no para with a class of seven middle-schoolers all on the autistic-spectrum and fourteen peer-tutors. Lucky for me, the speech-teacher was there and as well as a parent of a student working on a toilet training IEP. Both pitched in to help until the the lesson plan showed up. Thirty minutes later, a sub for the para showed up. Thirty minutes after that, two part-time aids showed up (the parent and speech-teacher then left). There we so many non-teaching adults, the class practically ran itself.

The primary focus of the day was something called the color circle. It looks like an archery target of the ROY G BIV rainbow with violet on the inside and red on the outside. Each color indicates a level of personal space. Violet and indigo represent personal space and personal rights. Blue represents the space family has. This means the amount of contact a family can have through touch, hugs, kisses etc.. Green, the color we focused on is for the very best friends, people who we share interests with and who we shake hands with, high-five, knuckle and elbow. The entire day was about friends. It was great because many of the peer-tutors have been friends with the special-ed kids since pre-school and have very special, long term relationships. We talked about proper contact and improper contact even with super-close friends.

The next layers were for people we don’t touch. Yellow is for teachers, assistants, substitutes like me, doctors, home-staff and other school friends. Orange is for people we know at school like the secretaries or the grocer or cashier at McDonalds. Red is for strangers.

I think CUE (Central Utah Enterprises–a transition center for cognitively-disabled adults I work at quite often) could use this and it is obvious that the younger clients/trainees at CUE already do. The older clients/trainees have no concept of personal space and love to hug just about anyone. The younger clients/trainees are just as friendly, but maintain a very safe and prudent distance.

The interesting thing as this applies to me, is that I don’t let anyone past the yellow layer. I am a very much don’t touch person, but when my kids were little, they didn’t have any concept of space. I hope these lessons are taught at very young ages and are repeated often. With the creepiness of society now, this is important stuff.

Mountainview High School: Sociology & Outcasts

Mountainview High School is an odd place. It feels like a prison. The kids are nice though and the teachers are very supportive. The first thing I heard as a walked in the door was: “It doesn’t matter as long as you love him.” I think I gasped audibly while thinking: “don’t go to a teen-ager for relationship advice–they learn everything they know from places like reality TV shows.”

Picking up the pace, I hurried to the admin office and picked up the keys, rolls and emergency procedures and ran off trying to avoid anymore ghastly teen-agery.

The classes I taught today was about being an outcast. The teacher left a video and questionnaire. The questionnaire was very detailed and took the kids an hour to do. The video was a fifteen minutes long section of a National Geographic episode. It showcased a guy who was partially covered in tattoo of a lizard-man motif. Here is a small snippet. I didn’t find the guy all that shocking. I know a guy with aspergers syndrome who used to work at the Lindon, Utah Wal-Mart who was covered head to toe with tattoos of Disney characters. Every inch. Still, the tattoos were supposed to set the guy apart from society.

The reactions were predictable ranging from shocked to jealous. Many of the kids in class already had tats. Some of the gangbangers were only too happy to show me theirs. I tried to point out that tattoos don’t really violate the rules of society. Tattooing is the rule society allows one to safely rebel from society while still being a part of it. I didn’t go too far into my conversation though. We didn’t have time and I don’t think identity politics is something parents want in eleventh grade classrooms coming from a substitute teacher.