13 September, 2008

Taxes make a difference in lives.

I believe in paying taxes and I hope you do too. Here's why:

Samuel is allowed to ride his bike around our block. He doesn't do this anymore now since we took the training wheels off of his bike, but when he did, we asked him to ring his bell when he came by the house. We knew about how long it should take for him to complete a circuit, so this helped us know he was okay without having to just sit and watch and it allowed for a certain amount of independence.

The last Saturday in June 2006 (Samuel was 13), we finally noticed that he was gone for a longer while without checking in. First we walked around the block to see if
we would meet up with him. When we didn’t see him we got in the car and drove around the neighborhood looking for him.

We belong to a cabana club so we went by there, which is almost a mile away. He wasn't there. We told some friends who were there that if they saw him to grab him and hold him, then call us. We drove around our neighborhood a bit more. A friend that had been at the pool dropped that and went in his car searching our neighborhood and called his son to get on his bike and do the same. After driving around for about 20 minutes I went home and called 911 while my wife continued to drive around.

While on the phone with 911 and giving them the pertinent details, including that he has Down Syndrome, not a minute later a San Jose Police Department (SJPD) helicopter started prowling around over-head. The 911 operator told us that this chopper was looking for our son. I had been getting upset at the possibilities. The chopper made it all too real and the emotions took over; my tears began to flow. I held it together as best I could in talking with the 911 operator, but it was not easy.

A few minutes later a patrol car pulled up in front of our house. The officer in that car took over from the 911 operator. We told him that Samuel was wearing his bike helmet that had black and white checkerboard with flames at the front, a bright blue tee-shirt, and off-white shorts, riding his yellow bike with training wheels. The officer said that he was the site commander. Other patrol cars came by, perhaps two or three, and took direct orders from the site commander. In all, based on what our neighbors and friends who had also taken up the search in their cars said, more than several patrol cars were engaged in the search.

We were on the phone with friends that were searching constantly, but I stayed planted at home now while my wife continued to drive around, gradually increasing the perimeter of where she was driving. Needless to say, it was very difficult emotionally. He had never done this and in cases where he had wandered some, we had found him quickly. This was out of the ordinary and definitely scary.

After a while one of our friends called from the pool. Samuel had been riding by on his bike. One of the folks from the pool that knows him, saw him riding by and managed to get him to stop and come into the pool area. He didn't want to and told her that he needed to get home. She said that he was hot, sweaty, without his shirt, and looking a bit disoriented. It was a 100+ degrees that day and he did not have water with him. Our friends called us from the pool to let us know that he was there and that they were giving him fluids.

We told the police he had turned up at the pool. They asked if it would be better for his mother bring him home or them. We said no, we want the police to bring him home, hoping that he would get the message: kid, you scared the snot out of us!

The site commander sent a patrol car to get him and his bike. As he rolled up, sitting in the perp seat (back seat), he was waving out of the window to us, seeming to be excited at the special treatment. As he exited the car, we hugged him, told him we loved him, hugged and kissed him, cried, and then began the effort to explain to him how scared we were.

He had ridden about a mile and a half away to see a young lady at our gym that he liked to flirt with. My wife had stopped by in the process and learned that he had stopped, and then moved on. He was in his community and he was looking to touch someone he knew where he knew they should be, just wanting to be like other kids his age. All told, it was a happy ending.

So what does this have to do with taxes? Everything. Have you ever wondered how much it costs to fuel a chopper? Train the pilot? What does it cost to put four to ten police cars on the street for an hour, just driving around? The salaries of all those cops and the dispatchers? The equipment they needed to do all of that efficiently? I sure can't guess.

It is clear to me that our taxes are needed and I have never had a problem paying my share. The services our taxes provide every day are real and are all possible because of you, me, and corporations.

I think I pay not only my fair share, but likely a bit unfairly more than my share. I certainly don't think that the taxes being paid by big oil companies is commensurate with the record profits we keep seeing reported. The current administration has given corporations huge tax cuts in the hopes that this will trickle down and provide more jobs and investment in our communities. I don't think we can say we've seen that fruit sprout, do you? Not when it can be farmed out to countries where labor is only pennies on the hour. McCain proposes more of the same. I'm not sure how much more of this we can take as a country.

I believe that we need to balance the tax equation so that you and me, the working folks of this country, can have a chance at getting our kids into colleges and actually be able to pay the tuition. I think that corporations need to pay their equitable share and help keep America strong and balanced, socially.

I'm willing to pay what is required of me. Our taxes save lives in so many ways. I hope you agree and help do something about the politicians who are looking to give corporations yet even more tax breaks. This political season, there is a choice. A change of parties in the White House is needed.

12 September, 2008


I have two articles to write this weekend; one on paying taxes and the other on this article.

07 September, 2008

On Special Needs Advocates

Much has been and will continue to be written about Sarah Palin. For my part, as a liberal democrat, I really have nothing to add for her politics. I just don't agree with her or McCain. I believe that the policies of the current administration have damaged this country and that the current republican ticket is more of the same.

What is interesting to me about Palin is her last child, Trig. He was born in April with Down Syndrome. In her speech to the RNC this week she spoke directly to me and other parents of children with Special Needs and said, "you will have an advocate in the White House.".

Well, I suppose that might be interesting to see. From what I am reading about her, she is a career woman and even in that, she has taken Trig along with her out and about. I'm not prepared to comment on her parenting cause I'm not one of her kids and I can't assess what kind of mom she may or may not be. In the end, it's none of my business.

What is my business is the idea that she might be an advocate for people with Special Needs. From where I sit, I'm gonna call bullshit on her suggesting she has the credentials for that role. An article in the New York Times indicates that this has not been part of her history as yet as the Governor in Alaska. There's more there, this is a recommended read.

First, I've been struggling with this blog and how to proceed. It was an effort for me to be able to process my son's surgery back in May. I've put up a few posts since and have been getting feedback that folks are still enjoying reading what I have to say and are interested in Samuel's life and continued growth and recovery.

Too, with this nomination of a parent of a child with Down Syndrome, I've had a couple of folks ask me about this and what I think about it. So, here goes...

As I said earlier, I call bullshit on Palin being an advocate for us parents and our kids with Special Needs. I say this because I don't see how she can. She's busy on the campaign trail and from what I can tell, her husband is too. At the same age Trig is now, we were busy taking Samuel to early intervention. Early intervention
(EI) is a wondrous thing for all kids that are identified and placed in such programs. I say this from first hand experience.

We took Samuel to EI twice a week for his first three years from when he was 2 months old. Rowena and I had the good fortune to work at a place that allowed us to take the time to work at home one day a week so that we could both participate. I would take him on Thursday's one week and the following week on Tuesday. Rowena would alternate the days with me.

These classes helped us learn how to stimulate him and work with him. We learned that instead of wiping his mouth like you would any other child, generally away from the mouth, that we should wipe inwards towards his mouth to help stimulate the muscles and improve oral muscle tone.

We did all kinds of things each week, and we always shared what we did after each class with each other so that we were consistent with how we worked with him. It is a constant effort that continues to this day. I notice that Rowena and I *still* wipe his mouth, when we need to, towards his mouth, not away from it, because we just don't know how to do it any other way now.

After early intervention, Samuel went to a pre-school program for a couple of years until he was of age to begin Kindergarten. When Samuel was born, I apparently told one of our pastors at the time that as our son, our responsibility to Samuel was to help him be the best Samuel he could be. So we sought to have him included (see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclusion_(education) )in the regular kindergarten class environment.

When Victoria was born, I began speaking Spanish to her exclusively at birth. I did this until she was in about 6th grade or so. When Samuel was born. we wanted to do this, but didn't know enough about Down Syndrome and learning, etc. We asked the social worker who was assigned to us at the hospital. She told us we might try to teach him a few words, but that it might confuse him.

We asked the nurses, who didn't really know. We kept asking folks we came across. We finally asked his pediatrician who said to us, "Of course you do. You treat him the same way you treat Victoria. If we see it causing problems then we'll rethink it." Or something very close to that. That's when we finally realized that we were asking because we didn't like the answer we were getting. Our instincts told us that speaking Spanish to him would only be a good thing.

That's what we wanted to hear and that is where and when we started our journey as Samuel's advocates.

So, we followed our pediatrician's advice and that is how we have treated him all along. Our expectations of him are very high, and therefore our view of what and how he should be treated / managed in school are along the same lines.

What Sarah Palin can't do for us as parents of Special needs, is to understand what it all really means. She and her family will never know what it means to have to fight with the school district to get such a placement. She and her family will never likely have a school psychologist tell her that as "the professionals", they knew what was best or her child. The Palins will never have to deal with a principal who doesn't support their efforts at something different than what they knew. They will never have a lawyer attend an IEP meeting to assure that their rights are not violated.

Sarah Palin will *never* be in a meeting with teachers that is supposed to be about process, have it turn into specifics about her child, seek to exercise her rights, and have the Director of Student Services threaten to call the police and have her arrested because she began to record the meeting.

I'm not advocating that pain for anyone. However, I think that as a parent of a child with special needs, having made the choices she has made for her and her family, make such experiences for her, hence her ability to be an advocate for parents like us, virtually impossible. This journey for them as a family is just beginning.

Does that mean if you are a parent of a child with Special Needs that you shouldn't vote for her? I don't know. I know that because she has a child with DS that it doesn't really mean anything to me. I just think that she shouldn't be dangling hope to parents like me that she will be an advocate for what matters to families of kids with Special Needs. I'm not sure she has that credential just yet. Let her and her family live in the shoes of folks like us, where you need a village to help make things happen.

No, having been blessed with your lovely son Trig is not enough Governor Palin. Live the life. Be the parent. Be the advocate for your child. Then, come talk to me and let's see what may be done. I'd be happy to advise you on the issues that face you on your return to Alaska as Governor to help the families of children with Special Needs there. I don't trust you with the deep and critical role you propose for yourself: an advocate for my son.