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Jamaica Tallawahs Captain, Chris Gayle addresses members of the media at a press conference at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds (CPLT20.com)

Jamaica Tallawahs Captain, Chris Gayle addresses members of the media at a press conference at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Grounds (CPLT20.com)

I don’t know about you but I think Chris Gayle’s recent comments in response to a question from a reporter at a press conference were totally sexist and disrespectful – And the reporter laughing is at best irrelevant and at worst heartbreaking.

In case you missed it here’s a clip of the comments (within the article)

For those who think she wasn’t offended… So what if she wasn’t? If my boss refers to a female colleague as a bitch and she’s ok with it – HELL NO it doesn’t make it right and he better think twice before he refers to me as one. I for one see that laughter though, as nervousness/I don’t know how to respond/Should I respond?/What are people going to think?/It’s Chris Gayle! I can’t challenge him. Can I?/I’m going to be labeled a feminazi. Or it will be said that I have an agenda/It’s Chris Gayle! The cricket star! So shocked and unconsciously mute now – What comes out instead? Nervous laughter… It’s a coping mechanism. Raise your hand if you’ve never witnessed it or more likely experienced it yourself.

So, yes, Chris needs to apologize – And if enough of us get together, we can make it easy for him to do so or very difficult for him not to. We have unlimited access to sports (and other) journalists online and they are always looking for stories. Well… We need to give them one. At the end of the day, the goal as I see it, is not so much to get Chris to apologize. Yes, we want that to happen and for him to recognize that what he said is unacceptable but I see it more as us preventing others from making similar utterances and understanding that what he said was totally inappropriate. You must think twice before you say stupid shit. We know… Speech is free – But – Consequences will cost you.

I haven’t seen anything about Chris Gayle’s comments on my FB timeline so I will be putting this comment on my timeline. I will also be posting this (what I’ve written here) on my blog. Is there a Twitter hashtag? I know; there are some out there who think hashtag activism is a waste of time and does nothing but I disagree with that notion. At its core it’s an awareness tool which is a big part of activism. So it’s not going to solve the problem on its own but it can make the unknown mainstream and put pressure on people to act.

Don’t even get me started on the CPL statement with their… “Chris’ comments were mere pre-match hijinks and made with no malice intended…” Seriously! Pre-match hijinks! We’re talking about a grown man here, right? And malice…! I really wonder how many people heard that and thought he meant any malice. We thought he meant something more sinister… Just creepy! He was disrespectful, plain and simple. I’m not sure about any of you but I’m deeply troubled that they continue to support him – And – their ill-advised statements make them just as bad.

Here’s an article referring to the CPL statement in The Daily Observer.

This event has many sponsors, who have been decidedly quiet. All of us need to start calling/emailing these establishments/people and let them know that you are horrified that they can continue to support the person who made such sexist comments. I would want to believe those comments he made are in direct conflict with their company’s culture of respect for all individuals – And if it is, they should say so and demand he apologizes and for CPL to retract their absurd “Mad Men era” statement and treat this matter with the seriousness and urgency it requires.

 

In the movie The Lion King, Simba goes back to fight Scar for his rightful place in the Pride Lands. It’s one of Kuba’s favorite movies – And if it’s only one thing that he learns from that movie… My hope is that it’s the lesson of courage.

Courage to do what’s right and to stand-up for himself and others.

It’s also something that I hope time will tell that we did a good job in shaping in him. And I think a lot of it will come from us modeling that behavior ourselves.

Before autism, and everything that comes along with it, came into my life I didn’t consider myself to be a courageous person. I really didn’t. Actually, I’m not sure if I now do. Add to that, my private life back then was just that… Private!

Then I became mom to an autist and things changed. I realized very quickly that I had two choices; I could do nothing or I could do something. I chose to do something. Anything! Anything that I thought would help him overcome any challenges he had. I never saw it as a courageous act. I didn’t think I was doing no more than any parent of a “typical” kid would do for them. I was speaking out, I was advocating, I was demanding more for my son and for others like him. From time to time I get parents who would say to me; “I read your blog and I think you’re so brave for speaking out and advocating for your son. Where do you get the courage from?”

I say to them; because I owe it to him.

I remember when Kuba was initially diagnosed, we met with a psychiatrist and he asked what did we want for Kuba – And his dad responded and said that we wanted him to be the best he could be, whatever his best was. I couldn’t have said it better because nothing – ABSOLUTELY NOTHING – in this world is more important to me than knowing that Kuba will be ok on his own when we’re no longer around. It is what keeps us up at night – It’s this fear that drives me. The fear that sometimes fills my mind with thoughts of perpetual unemployment, homelessness, drug-addiction and prison – And I was going to do everything in my power to give my child a shot at a better future than that. After all isn’t that the dream of every parent, to have an independent, happy, adult child who’s capable of living on their own. My dreams are no different for my child with autism. But the attitude here is that they will continue to live with us (parents) until one of us dies. After that it’s “Good Luck Chuck”.

To date no government agency has been able to tell us how education will be provided to our kids once they enter the school system much less what happens to them once they reach adulthood. What we know now is purely anecdotal; and the picture is bleak. There’s very little opportunity for them to fully explore their full learning potential or career capabilities. And just for the record… For those of you who, sometimes with the best of intentions, when autism is mentioned, go to your only source of reference and that is the character, Raymond Babbitt, played by Dustin Hoffman in the movie Rain Man and offer a compliment alluding to the myth that we have nothing to worry about because our kids are smart… Thanks but no thanks. What I want you to do; before you think our situation is not so bad and that we all have little Einsteins and Mozarts who will have us rolling in a pile-of-dough soon enough and then we can do whatever we want. Think again. This is a spectrum of disorders all different to varying degrees… No two are the same and no two have the same differences.

In the process of writing this article I decided to do a bit of research to see what other people had to say about courage. How did they define it? I came across a site that described it this way: Courage: the emotional strengths that involve the exercise of will to accomplish goals in the face of opposition, internal or external.

I like the fact that they highlight that the opposition could be either internal or external. There’s still many of us who have not accepted that our ideas of perfection have not been realized in our child. “If only she would just…” or “Why can’t he just…” When you really stop to think about this, and I hope you do. Ask yourself if you have fulfilled all the expectations your parents had for you – And not that this is right or wrong either. It’s just that sometimes; our expectations are just that; our expectations.

You see, I think that Simba was courageous all along. He just didn’t know it. He initially told Nala when she found him; “They don’t need me!” But when she told him about what his uncle Scar had done to the pride lands, he had to go back to save his people. In his eyes that was the only choice for him. I call this “courage that knows” – Knows the risks that lies ahead but still takes action anyway because the consequences of taking no action or lesser action are unacceptable.

I sometimes end up having very intimate conversation with some moms and dads who I’m meeting for the first time and I’m sure it took quite some courage for them to talk to me about certain issues. Perhaps I would have never found my courage if it hadn’t been for son. Perhaps I would have kept on thinking that courage is something only the people who risk their lives have.

So, I still don’t quite see myself as being courageous – But there is something there, whatever it is, that makes me get out of bed each day, no matter how much I sometimes want to give up and… make another call, send another email, write another letter, reach out to someone who I think can help us move forward. Because like I said; there’s nothing – NOTHING – I will not do for my kid. After all, I owe him at least that.

I have a contagious jungle fever. Some call it courage. Don’t worry though; it’s the one you want to get.

Ok… This story has riled me up to no end…

Probation for Ex-Principal Sex Offender

Is it me or the punishment meted out does not match the seriousness of the crime committed. Yes, all men are created equal but in a civilized society there’s a certain level of trust that’s placed in our educators, pastors etc. There’s an expectation there that they will act in the best interest of our children. When this trust is betrayed in a most vicious way they should be severely punished.

So we’re to assume that he will never do this again – That this was his first offence – That his daughter will suffer if he’s imprisoned because he’s the sole breadwinner for his family. From what I know I think they’re many other breadwinners who are in prison. But what about the kid who didn’t deserve this – Did not ask for this – Did not expect this – Trusted this person. What about all the other parents whose kids were in this school (or who came in contact with this man perhaps at church)? Who are probably now asking their kids; “Has he ever touched you?” and hoping for an honest (although they want to hear “no”) response. What about them? I don’t want to think that I’m the only one who thinks that this is just absolutely outrageous!

He took her into a room – On school premises. Locked the door – Obviously had more in mind than saying hello. Pulled her onto his lap – Started touching her ass and asking her if she knew what sex was. A principal, predatory and opportunistic, did this! To a fourteen year old! PERV! PERV! PERV!

How does an offense like this result in such an unreasonable lenient sentence?

PROBATION MY ASS!

Just saying…

I was pleased to see the follow-up story to the article on special education in Monday’s (Sept. 3) issue of The Daily Observer – And I would have felt this way even if the article had come out against ABILITY. At this point one of our aims is to engage the public. We need this issue to become more important, especially to the people who are not directly affected by it. We have to create widespread understanding and awareness among them. This is not just our problem. Like tourism; education is everybody’s business.

However, when I read the (unfortunate) comment made by Ms. Etinoff, the Chair of the Special Education Council; and I quote: “The group is currently working on a number of initiatives to be announced at a later date.” I can’t help but think… Now isn’t that the story of our lives.

I’m not entirely sure when this happened but somehow, somewhere along the lines, our society has become stuck in tomorrow (future) even though it’s not here yet. Tomorrow there will be this, tomorrow there will be that, tomorrow we’ll have a better plan for your kids – But the question is; who is thinking about today? Let us begin today! We only have that! Don’t get me wrong… Hope is good; it makes you believe in the future, and we all want that – But hope without action will result in absolutely no progress. And alas, that’s where we’re at with regards to special education in our school system.

Fortunately we don’t get to choose to educate the children we used to have or want to have, but we have an obligation to educate all of our children. After all, isn’t that the basis for public education? Come… We’re open.

“The important work of moving the world forward does not wait for perfect men.” – George Eliot      

Below is a piece I wrote on behalf of the Special Education Lobby Group ABILITY which appeared in The Daily Observer today. I’ve just had it up to here (my hands are way past my head now) with this bullshit. Yes, that’s what it is. I don’t think the Observer would allow me to say that in their paper though. I swear, at times it seems as if the way some systems are setup it’s almost as if any opposition is destined for failure. Anyway, I’m tempted to rant like 3 pages long so before I do (it would have been ugly) I will end my comments here. I think what’s below can speak for itself.

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When we’re out there talking to parents, we talk about what we’ve done, what we would like to see over the coming years, and why the authorities have done so little to change the archaic and dangerous policies that have failed and continue to fail our children.

But there is another question that keeps coming up, and you need to know about it: “Why does the Ministry of Education continue to say that this is a priority when so little is being done?”

You don’t need us to tell you that our education system as it relates to special education is inherently flawed and we have allowed a bad situation to get worse. ABILITY has been calling on the Ministry of Education to do more for students with special needs and was cautiously optimistic when the ministry said that this was a priority area for them.

But to this day, no one outside of the Ministry of Education has any solid idea of how to go about changing/revamping the system. Even after setting up an advisory council (Special Education Council) almost a year ago, the ministry has released scant information about future plans.

We have been asking for more information forever, essentially. We’ve sent many letters of concern to top ministry officials. Details have come out in dribs and drabs. The one detail the ministry touts most often is the diagnostic centre it plans on opening. When and how it will function, to a large extent has been a mystery. When it comes to more complex and meaningful information the ministry has been mum.

Has the priority for special education shifted? If so they need to tell us – But we can’t imagine why. Have the number of students needing support in this area declined? The answer is no. As a matter of fact the numbers are growing. Are parents satisfied? We are parents – We’re not – And there are countless others like us. Where have the trained special education teachers in the system been placed? Ministry officials should know this but they don’t. This is key data which would help in the decision-making process. What is the ministry learning (from a top-level view) about instruction for students with special needs? How is it working (or not) from school to school? We are confident that it’s not working and want to do all that we can to change this.

There are questions we’ve asked again and again and we believe these questions should be answered.

We have met with top ministry officials and we were confident that the ministry had the students’ best interests at heart. They had even responded to some of the suggestions, for example providing informal training to teachers – Various topics related to special education was a major part of a one week summer program offered to teachers and parents this year. But we have to admit that we’re growing increasingly alarmed that the ministry has not come forward with more substantive plans.

Building a diagnostic centre and offering scholarships in that field of study, although great, cannot be all there is to the plan. First of all; you build it and they will come; in droves; for sure. Then what? Can’t be that we’re going to diagnose them then put them in the same school system that we already know is not working.

For those of you who are not as engaged; here’s what we’re seeking: A special education mechanism that isadequateefficientequitablepredictableflexibletransparentfully placement-neutral and accountable for spending and student outcomes.

We realize that funding is an issue but we know too that sometimes, it is not always a matter of more money; it is a matter of smarter money. For example; collecting (accurate) data and using it to drive decision-making – No one seems to be doing this. Too much guessing is going on and we can’t afford to do that with taxpayers dollars, and more important, with the lives of so many school children in Antigua & Barbuda. Plus there is still a need for a solid policy. We still firmly believe that the current Education Act does not speak enough to special education – There’s no “teeth” to it.

So, what ideas do we have? Here’s what we think are some easy-to-implement solutions, along with more sweeping measures for lasting change.

  1. Resist the urge to establish any new public schools to be used primarily for students with disabilities. We know it may seem an unlikely solution coming from us but we believe that the taxpayer dollars would be better spent improving and expanding our capacity now, rather than building and financing new separate buildings.
  2. Directly encourage public/private partnerships. This will bring first-rate, specialized services into all settings – Helping to ensure that our students receive their special education services in the least restrictive environment.
  3. Funding to any public school should be based on actual enrollment. This means that it would be generated based on the degree of the student’s needs – So the school zones with greater needs will get the funding they need to serve the students they identify – A school with fewer students classified for special education should not be receiving more funding than a school more classified students. There can be no room for competition among programs; neither turf guarding nor rigid specialization. The goal is to keep our students closer to home.
  4. Special Education should be a mandatory course for teachers in training. Currently this is an elective course and too many of our teachers in training are opting out of it. Also the course is very “weak” and need to be more robust.  The reasoning behind this is that these students can show up in any class – We believe our teachers should have some solid basic training in this area further equipping them to better manage a wide range of skills in the classroom.
  5. Designate a quota of all annual (teacher awarded) scholarships to special education.

In order for this to work, programs must be linked, people must work together, and program goals as well as individual school improvement goals need to support the same standard. It’s important for the Ministry of Education to take on a big-picture view. They cannot afford to become enmeshed in one aspect of reform such as building a diagnostic centre or embark on any other new project in a piecemeal effort to achieve reform. This type of systemic change will require people who have an overall vision of where special education needs to go and a willingness to reorganize and support system-wide change.  Unsystematic efforts will waste time – and we think we can all agree that we’ve lost enough of that – diverting the focus from the larger goal of ensuring that each child with special needs receive a free appropriate public education, just like any other child.

You’re getting this email because you know what the stakes are. You know the facts about what we’ve asked the Ministry of Education to do (they’ve come up with no alternative) to prevent a deeper crisis and to start building an educational system that works for all.

But it looks like the only thing that can bring about change is you.

So the next time you hear a ministry official saying that special education is a priority, remember that they’ve done nothing about it. Ask them to explain why.

Thanks for standing with ABILITY.

 

I’m a tigress in the bedroom, celeb chef in the kitchen and blah, blah, blah – You know the rest. All that wrapped up into one… Then I wake up and it’s Kuba’s dad telling me about a dream he had. (LOL)

Anyway, all kidding aside; I’m finding that many people think that we’re supposed to be some type of supermom or something like it, whatever that is. Or we can’t be happy because of our circumstances. Or we’re some type of saint because we’re raising kids with special needs. Or just simply that there must be some type of joy that is missing from our lives because of our kids.

I can only talk from experience (Really! – LOL) but sometimes I think the world perceives parents (actually moms, dads don’t usually get this – Think I just had another Aha Moment) of special needs kids in a certain way. So I’m about to give some advice. Please stop! (I’ve learned that simple is better :))

You’re delusional if you think…

On top of what moms generally have to do, add special needs kid to the mix and you’ve got “SUPER mom”!

This is such a myth for any mom. The truth is this perfect supermom does not exist – And if they do I say we hunt them down and put them out of their misery. Because they MUST BE MISERABLE! Why you ask? They can’t do it all! None of us can! There have been times when I’ve left my office with Kuba in tow at eight o’clock at night. Where he had fries for dinner because that was the only thing our café had that he would eat. On the ride home I’m telling myself that he’ll live if he doesn’t take a bath – He’s asleep on the backseat. By the time we get home it’s almost 9PM and I’ve made my decision, he gets a “cowboy” – Don’t even pretend like you don’t know what that is (LOL). I try to read him a bedtime story to squelch my guilt but at some point I fall asleep only to wake with the book on my face still fully clothed. I get ready for bed feeling more like a slaughtered lamb a tigress would eat. This is hard! Something’s got to give and it won’t be me tonight. SIDE NOTE: Oops… Should have edited that last line from the paper version – And I’ve already gotten a “raised eyebrow” from some critics – Whose “business meetings” I’m beginning to believe must be ending to abruptly so they never get to do a wrap-up. LOL – Oh no… Ok… I’ll end here 🙂

We’re sad all the time.

First off; that would be too much therapy for one (our) household.  Secondly; who never gets sad? I would hate to be that person. If you’ve been following this series or my blog you will know that I’ve talked about my sadness and the unbearable grief I felt when Kuba was first diagnosed. These days those feelings are rare at best – And probably have more to do with me and my limitations than with him. Mostly, I’m a happy chick.

We’ve been elevated to sainthood.

You know, you’re doing all those other things moms do plus you’re raising a special needs kid.  You’re such a saint! Ladies and gentlemen…  In your sweet ignorance; that doesn’t make us feel any better. Actually I think it just puts more pressure on us to be/act perfect – And we don’t tell you when we’re feeling overloaded and a little “nut-so” because that’s our dirty little secret… And saints don’t have those.  Listen… We’re parents, we’re parents, we’re parents. These are our kids! We’re not being nice to them. We love them and would do anything thing for them like any other parent – But we make mistakes like all other parents do – And… Don’t call the cops but we sometimes yell at our kids. Now I’m not condoning or condemning any behavior and I pray that no parent ever hurts their kid and that there’s someone they can talk to before this ever happens – But, please; we’ll pass on the unsolicited but well-meaning flattery.

We don’t know joy.

To that I say… “No one knows joy like we know joy!” Well, yes, others know joy too – But you have to admit – That was a good line :). Seriously though, when our kids make progress, sometimes progress we ourselves doubted – The joy is indescribable! They type of joy that make you want to call everyone you know. (I’ve so been there and done that). Just absolute bliss, like many other parents have with their kids.

My advice…

Pray to God for guidance. Give your kids lots of hugs and kisses, “I love yous”, encourage them to go after their goals. Pray to God that it’s not a professional stuntman or a commercial fisherman. Have you ever watched an episode of “Deadliest Catch”? Trust me on this one. Seriously though; just try to be the best parent to your kids whatever best means to you and them.

The thing is I think one of life’s biggest myths is the idea that another person’s life is much easier or harder than our own. At the end of the day we all have things in our life that suck but who wants to dwell on that?

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April is Autism Awareness Month and this is the fourth of a five-part feature I will be writing each week which will focus on my experiences raising a child with Autism.Your feedback on each article in the series will determine what I write about for the next. If you have a story to share, any words of advice to add or questions to ask please do so by sending an email to: salma.crump@gmail.com or the editor at: editor@antiguaobserver.com

 


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