Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Voted Out of Kindergarten-- Alex Barton

The blond-haired little boy stared back at me from a photo distributed on the w.w.w. [w.w.w. = world wide wasteoftime]. In a parody of democracy in action, Alex Barton was voted out of kindergarten for the remainder of the school day last Wednesday. His crime? Having a neurological condition called Asperger's and some associated behavioral problems. The teacher-- a Wendy Portillo-- cajoled her class into voting. And reportedly had children describe what they didn't like about young Alex. One reported adjective was "disgusting." Two kids voted to keep Alex in the classroom that day. The majority voted that he be excluded. Alex who was just returned to the class from the principal's office for his behavior spent the rest of the school day in the nurse's office. Needless to say, Alex has not been thrilled about his experience.

Although folks on both sides of the issue have resorted to name-calling, what I find even more repugnant are the public comments which support Wendy Portillo in her actions. Her excuse ran something like teaching the children about tallying. I wasn't there but I have an opinion anyways-- bovine fecal matter to that. Was the teacher lying about the whys and wherefores of her ill-advised election activity a la Survivor fashion? Nah, she was just being reckless with the truth.

Yes, I know how difficult it can be to maintain reasonable discipline and order in any rowdy bunch of human beings. Been there, done that. Yes I am intimately acquainted with the cluster of symptoms which comprise Asperger's. Of course I know how aggravating it is to herd cats.

I also know the frustration of living with atypical neurology.

I do not belong to the Autism Squeaks camp. [Autism Speaks but not for me, a curebie organization of unhappy parents]. I don't understand why forcing eye contact is such a big deal to neurotypicals, don't wish to blend in, will not give up my passions, and certainly will continue to celebrate diversity. I hate all clothing that is not cotton. I detest polyester and nylon in particular. I don't use makeup or wear high heels. I used to stare at the dust specks illuminated by the sunlight pouring through a window. I was clumsy rather than graceful and the last to be picked for any gym class team. I have been accused of staring too long, daydreaming, having obsessions with the things that are of intense interest to me, being intense or too intense or thinking too much about weird things or the wrong things, eating food in a specific order rather than varying what is on the fork from bite to bite, eating the same thing for breakfast daily, not making small talk, not caring about small talk or the lives of celebrities, being a geek or a space cadet or pedantic, not fitting in. And worse, daring to be content with my own company and my own internal focus and my own way of being.

No Child Left Behind. One Child Voted Out.

radical sapphoq says: A huge phooey to Wendy Portillo. As an adult and as a teacher, I cannot believe that she didn't have other options for dealing with a misbehaving five year old.
While I support reasonable discipline and consequences for one's actions, I abhor what happened to Alex Barton. I sincerely hope that he will find a new classroom where he is valued for who he is, a teacher who knows about the issues that people on the broad autistic spectrum face and who has a better arsenal of tools for keeping order in a classroom.

Bev over at Autism Square 8 has an excellent list of who to write to should anyone feel so inclined:

Educate yourselves if you wish to. Here is a partial incomplete list which includes two news articles from the same newspaper in Florida and some other bloggers who are blogging about this crapola:

excellent thoughts about this whole mess

Laura Hershey

the politics of exclusion


an interview with Alex Barton and his mother

two Palm Beach Post articles-- links working as of 5/28/08


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Saturday, May 10, 2008

SecondLife, a Virtual World

SecondLife is my reason for not blogging for the past almost two months. Thus, this review.

SecondLife (tm owned by Linden Labs) is a virtual world where folks get to look hotter than they do in first life. There are almost no fat people in SecondLife and that includes me. In SecondLife, my hair actually does something, I am tall and thin and blonde and hawt enough to be working as a stripper earning mucho Lindens.

Lindens are the monetary exchange units there. People can buy lindens with their real money or can earn lindens by camping (doing a catwalk, dancing, cleaning, or sitting around), getting a virtual job, or going into business for themselves or with partners.

Some folks buy virtual land in SecondLife-- like me-- and others don't. Some folks go on luscious virtual shopping sprees and others-- me again-- rely on freebies to outfit our avatars. There is plenty to do on SecondLife. Within the past month and a half or so I've taken some classes, joined some groups, hung out with other avatars, gone camping, did some discussions, went to some A.A. meetings, built some houses (that look like someone with brain damage built them, accurate on all accounts), and gone exploring. I've danced and rollerskated, flown and crashed numerous times.

The minuses are easy to delineate: some folks can spend too much real money having a virtual good time; there are avatars there who spam, try to convert you to their religion, or pick you up for a freebie session of virtual sex; sexual organs (vaginas and penises) are available as freebies but to get the really good ones (that respond to virtual probing) one has to pluck down some Lindens, and all of the orientation islands are totally whacked out and confusing. Oh yeah, and there is the same superficiality that plagues the rest of the worldwide waste-- we don't really know just who we may be communicating with most of the time.

So is SecondLife worth the annoying grid lock-ups and crashes? Maybe. Each individual will have to answer that one individually. It depends. Guardedly neutral on this one folks.