Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Awakening of the Children of America- The Recent Protests for Gun Reform

I have watched the tragedy in Florida closely over the last few days. As the politicians who happily took millions from the NRA have said, this is a tragedy no parent or child should ever endure. Children should always feel safe, especially while learning. Teachers should feel secure in their jobs. Administrative staff shouldn’t have to go to work thinking about how they would most likely encounter a shooter first. Eight-year old children shouldn’t be afraid to wear their light up shoes to school because they’d make them a target for a shooter. There should be no fear associated with school. Yet in America there is. There is great fear in every community, every day, by parents’ and children alike.

Now, I could start a big debate on Gun reform but I’m not going to. As long as the NRA is buying our politicians off there will be little change. But for argument’s sake, let me break down some of the campaign contributions received from the NRA to our leaders…

Top NRA Campaign Contributions

I’d like to add that Donald Trump has received $30+ million from the NRA, Paul Ryan has received more than $171,977, and Mitch McConnell has received more than $771,175. If you are wondering how influential these donations are- "In 2014, the NRA had a nearly perfect track record in its top races. In the ten races the NRA spent nearly a million dollars or more – eight Senate races and two House races – the candidate the NRA backed candidate won in every race except one." 

Another point worthy of mentioning is that almost a week after this tragic shooting that took 17 lives in 6 minutes Florida officials voted down a bill that would make assault rifles illegal, instead voting pornography as a public health issue. It seems to me that they had the real public health issue at hand and failed our children with their vote. Many survivors of the shooting sat and watched as they voted down the bill. They didn’t go silently into the night though. They spoke out against it.

With that said, I want to talk about the students not the politicians. These remarkable individuals that have taken this tragedy and turned it into an opportunity to say, “NOT ONE MORE! WE WANT CHANGE NOW!” These amazing human beings that are using their voice for the change that some of the adults in their life have fallen silent on over the years.

These are the children most of us raised telling them daily that they had a voice and could do anything with that voice. They are showing us now that they heard us and understood all along. They are proving that teenagers aren't just Tipe-pod eating delinquents. They are showing us exactly how strong they are in the face of evil. They are destined to go down in history. They are what our future looks like and I couldn’t be prouder.

The world first took notice of the students’ voice’s in this with a speech given at a rally by a Miss Emma Gonzalez, a survivor and Senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (sight of the recent school shooting.) Emma’s voice was heard loud and clear as she called “BS” on the ability of the mentally ill to obtain a gun and the lack of progress in keeping our student’s safe. She spoke loudly and proudly as she declared, “NOT ONE MORE!”

Picture Courtesy of Lalo Alcaraz

Days later students held a lay-in in front of the White House. Protesting for gun control reform. In typical conservative fashion, these kids were attacked for their protest. Many adults wishing death on them, one in particular asking where a suicide bomber is when you need them. Another saying that we should take a bulldozer and push the children off a cliff. This has not silenced them. Not long after the lay-in protest students across the country walked out of their classrooms and marched the streets of their towns in protest for the same. They are protesting for the right to be safe in their schools, for a ban on assault rifles; and you know what, according to a MSNBC poll out on Feb. 20, 2018, 67% of Americans agree with what these children are asking for.

These victims turned advocates have been woken up. They are currently planning a mass walk out in April. These young adults are amazing and show how much good parenting and exceptional teaching can help a person make the right decisions. How the right influences in a young person’s life can lead to an uprising that nobody can ignore. This country is going to change. The question is, in what direction do we go from here?

I saw it said recently online that when your leaders act like children and your children act like leaders, you know change is coming… I’ll tell you one thing- I sure do feel the change and I embrace it for all it’s beauty, stolen innocence, and knowledge. Don't disregard these young people, don't disregard our future. They will make our laws one day. I, personally, can't wait for that day. 


Thursday, February 15, 2018

Opioid Addiction: A Choice or a Disease?

Here lately I’ve been seeing a meme going around social media debating whether opioid addiction is a disease or a choice. I think that is a topic worthy of conversation. When does it stop being a decision and start being a disease? When does it stop being a lifestyle choice and start being a disease? When does it stop being an act of devastation for a family, for the children sometimes involved and start being a calling for serious, obtainable help?

It is no secret that there is a history of opioid addiction in my family. I am somewhat bias to this specific topic. I am always looking for an answer. Or as we call it in the autism community, that “magic bullet.” That cure-all. That one answer that will end the pain they feel and the pain they cause in the wake of their addiction.

Everybody knows that my family has dealt with opioid addiction, but few know that we once again find ourselves looking for that “magic bullet” for our loved one. Once again, we find ourselves sitting up at night hoping we don’t get that phone call. Once again, we start our fight for a loved one's life. So, yes, this is a deeply personal issue for me. I need an answer. Is it a choice or is it a disease? Or is it both? This has become a matter of life or death for someone I can’t imagine living without. I imagine that some of you find yourselves in the same spot as me. In fact, I know you do. Per the National Institute on Drug Abuse 115 people a day die of opioid overdoses. This includes prescription pain relievers, heroin, and synthetic opioids such as fentanyl. That is 115 families destroyed a day. This is a real issue not a joke on social media.

Every single day in this country we hear about someone passed out behind the wheel of their car, overdosed. Or someone found in their room dead from that last fatal dose of heroin they really thought they could control. Most of the time their addiction started with a doctor not monitoring how much of a pain killer they dispensed to their patient. In 3 months’ time my brother was given over 1000s of oxycodone due to having a broken arm. It was downhill from there. That was 12 years ago.
We have cities and counties in this country essentially debating if saving an opiate addict’s life is worth it. They are truly questioning if Narcan should be administered on repeat overdose patients, or if they should be left to die. Butler County, Ohio Sheriff, Richard Jones is actually quoted as saying, “It's just reviving somebody who's going to go back and get high the same day. It's a war that we're losing."

Those individuals aren’t just addicts- they are someone's child, sibling, and grandchild. They contain somebody’s greatest memories and somebody’s greatest needs. They are not loss causes, they deserve help- not societal shunning. So, as I do with most any question I have… let's look at some of the science and statistics surrounding opioid addiction.

How did this start

With a lie. It started with a lie. According to the Institute on Drug Abuse: In the late 1990s pharmaceutical companies essentially walked into doctors’ offices and spread misinformation to doctors which subsequently led to a rise in the prescriptions written for the pain medications. Essentially then raising the drug companies’ sales. From there is wasn’t long before opioid overdose rates actively increased. In fact, it is reported that in 2015 more than 33,000 Americans died as a result of an opioid overdose. It is also reported that drug manufacturers that encouraged doctors to overuse opioids are now facing lawsuits for their role in creating the opioid epidemic.

Number of prescription painkillers written from 1991 to 2013. Picture Courtesy of the Institute on Drug Abuse

The Science of Addiction

The overdose death toll has grown 532 percent since 2002. Would it surprise you to know that it now overtakes car crashes as a leading cause of death? The truth is that no one human is immune to opioid addiction. These drugs are prescribed by the people we trust the most and they work at the cellular level. My question is how can this be called a choice when “these drugs take over a person’s brain outside of the point where they can control the chemical processes that are occurring. Essentially, addiction seizes a person’s ability to control their impulses. It is reported that this causes hundreds of changes in brain functioning.” So, is that a choice?

When you look at the research being done on addiction there seems to be a genetic link. Per a report by Mr. Gene M. Heyman, Department of Psychology, Boston College, Boston, MA, USA, “Twin and adoption studies have repeatedly demonstrated a genetic predisposition for alcoholism and the limited amount of research on the genetics of illicit drug use suggests the same for drugs such as heroin, cocaine, and marijuana.” But it is worth mentioning and was mentioned by this report that “all behavior has a genetic basis, including voluntary acts. The brain is the organ of voluntary action, and brain structure and development follow the blueprint set by DNA.”

More research into the genetic links are currently being done. Genetic mutant mice “lacking various dopamine or opioid receptors, various monoamine transporters, and various growth factors” are being developed and tested for their "sensitivity to drugs of abuse." The University of Strasbourg reported work with mice having 3 of their opiate receptors deleted. While pharmacological studies have suggested there are “subtypes within the classes of opiate receptors,” the genetic studies call this into question. Let me get scientific on you for a second. This study suggests that “while the μ opiate receptor appears necessary for the addictive and painkilling effects of morphine, deletion of the δ opioid receptor appears to augment the effects of deletion of μ receptors in heterozygote animals with one copy of each gene deleted. Animals with the μ opiate receptor deleted appear relatively normal, suggesting that the function of endogenous μ opioids may be largely restricted to abnormal conditions of stress and pain.” Basically, suggesting a large genetic proponent to opioid addiction.This study goes a step further to claim that drug addiction is a cause of Brain Disease.

These studies also suggest that opioid addiction can be a form of self medicating for the mentally ill, or for those predisposed to genetic conditions of mental illness. The self-medication hypothesis of addictive disorders comes mostly from clinical observations of patients with such disorders though. Per Harvard, a person with substance use disorders "suffer in the extreme with their feelings, either being overwhelmed with painful affects or seeming not to feel their emotions at all. Substances of abuse help such individuals to relieve painful affects or to experience or control emotions when they are absent or confusing." 

So does self-medicating for a mental illness make addiction a choice? Mental health help is almost as impossible to obtain as rehab and long term addiction counseling is. For those of you questioning how unobtainable drug rehab is for addicts, let me break it down for you...

Drug Treatment Costs in the U.S.A, per the Addiction Center

Outpatient detox: Out Patient rehab ranges from $1,000 to $1,500 in total. Most inpatient rehabs include detox in the cost of a program. The exact cost of detox depends on whether it’s part of an inpatient program and the type of drug addiction being treated. Substances with dangerous detox side effects require more careful monitoring, making the price higher.
-Inpatient Rehab: Some inpatient rehabs may cost around $6,000 for a 30-day program. Well-known centers often cost up to $20,000 for a 30-day program. For those requiring 60- or 90-day programs, the total average of costs could range anywhere from $12,000 to $60,000.
-Outpatient Rehab: Outpatient programs for mild to moderate addictions are cheaper than inpatient rehab. Many cost $5,000 for a three-month program. Some outpatient programs, such as the program at Hazelden Betty Ford, cost $10,000. The price tag depends on how often the individual visits the center each week and for how long.
-Medications: The type of treatment and medications needed affects the price tag on rehab. Some people don’t need medication for their addiction. Medications most often treat alcohol and opiate addiction. It can cost several thousand dollars a year. Year-long methadone treatment for heroin users costs around $4,700.

How does anybody expect a middle class family to be able to afford treatments with costs like that? You should also keep in mind that even with treatment some 91% of addicts will relapse.

So, does having a genetic predisposition to addiction make it a choice? Where does that fine line lay that distinguishes the difference between the two? Yes it is their choice to take that first pill, but by default does that make the whole addiction their choice? When do they cross that line that makes it no longer a choice and makes it a desperate need for them to get help?And when the hell did we get the gull to question whether a person's life is worth saving simply because they may use again? Every life is worth saving.

There is another point to this question and this meme going around... Has claiming it is a choice made the situation worse? I read an article while researching for this that said it all to me. It stated that, “Falsely characterizing addiction as a moral failing led to another epidemic — the epidemic of silence that so often surrounds overdose deaths. The stigma and shame imposed on family and friends and the pressure to attribute the deaths of their loved ones to accident or suicide has allowed the opioid crisis to flourish in secret: Americans haven’t understood the enormous scale of this crisis until recently.”

So is it a choice or a disease? To me, I think it is both. It starts out as a choice, whether made because of a doctor's directions or not, and for some people ends up being a disease that they need immediate help to get past. Jail doesn't help this. Shaming doesn't help this. Truth, care, understanding and long term treatment helps this. When does an addict and their family become worthy of that? It seems to me that to some, sadly understanding and care only comes after opioid addiction touches their lives.


Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Using Nasal Spray to Treat Autism?

Autism is one of those disorders that is clouded with mystery. We have no one solid cause and no exact beneficial treatment for it. It all feels like a big game of “guinea pig” once you start down the road to trying to find the correct medication and therapy. Even finding the correct doctor is a challenge. There are so few out there that know what they are talking about. As a mother of a teenager with Autism my journey on this path started around 12 years ago, when my son was first diagnosed.

Since that day we have been through so many medications it’s easier to tell a doctor what he hasn’t tried than to sit down and try to list the medications he has. Luckily in the last few years we have found the right combination of medications and therapies to work for him. Unfortunately, due to our insurance company refusing to allow him to continue that treatment once we moved states we have had to since find one that works almost as well. Even though he is being treated that doesn’t mean my journey ends here. It is just beginning.

It has occurred to me that I am about to jump head first into a world I do not know. The world of having an Autistic ADULT son. I feel like my research is starting all over, mostly because it is. While looking into pre-voke rehab services for my son I remembered years ago, when writing Painting the Spectrum Gold, I stumbled across a study that suggested a new treatment for adults with Autism that potentially would work for children with Autism as well. I also wrote about this in an article for 4 years ago. If you are interested in that article click here.

The initial trial study of interest occurred at the Institute of Cognitive Science, Centre de Neuroscience Cognitive, Lyon, France. It was published in PNAS in 2010. During said study 13 adult volunteers with Asperger’s were given Oxytocin to inhale. An additional group of volunteers were given a placebo to inhale. In the end it was found that Oxytocin Nasal Spray is beneficial in the treatment of Asperger’s in adults with the diagnoses. The study claims that the volunteers had better response time and ability to understand in a simulated ball toss. In addition, the volunteers given the Oxytocin Nasal Spray were able to increase the amount of time they could focus their eyes, or “zone out,” into a picture.

Getting results on oxytocin treatments for autism in America was a step by step process that started with Autism Speaks. Much like the abovementioned study, the first step to getting a trial done in America started overseas. The initial study was conducted by Hebrew University in Jerusalem in 2008. Autism Speaks gave a total grant of nearly $380,000 to make this study happen. The Scientist were charged with researching the effects of oxytocin levels in a mother prior to birth and then the use of synthetic oxytocin (Pitocin) on the infants and rate the overall correlation.

Directly after the Hebrew University study, Autism Speaks gave the University of North Carolina $119,000 to begin a trial on the treatment of autism with Oxytocin Nasal Spray. Since then the United States Government has gotten in on the research. They gave $12.6 million dollars to begin the SOARS-B study in 2013.

The official name of the study is Study of Oxytocin in Autism to improve Reciprocal Social Behaviors. SOARS-B is currently following 300 autistic children; half of which are being given oxytocin and half a placebo. This is to happen for ½ the life of the study. The second ½ of the study all the children are given the Oxytocin Treatment. The results of this study are still unknown, as the study is still being done. There are several universities in on this study.

Universities participating in the study are:

• The University of North Carolina ASPIRE program, in Chapel Hill and Durham• The Lurie Center for Autism at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston
• Seaver Autism Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, New York
• Seattle Children’s Research Institute
• The Vanderbilt Treatment and Research Institute for Autism Spectrum Disorders in Nashville.

If you are wondering how all of this ties together, I am about to tell you. As I stated in the previous article I wrote. In 2012 a Stanford University study proved to be extremely valuable. "In this study they were able to make a correlation between Oxytocin and Serotonin levels in the brain. They were also able to effectively show that oxytocin influences the levels of serotonin seen. That oxytocin actually acts much like an antidepressant does. It increased amounts of serotonin present in the brain. The Stanford team was also able to show that oxytocin increased serotonin levels specifically in the brain’s nucleus accumbens. This led them to the conclusion that the relations between oxytocin and serotonin could be fundamental in making social interactions enjoyable for an autistic individual."

Additionally, when lead researcher of the Stanford study, Gül Dölen, was questioned it was stated that "there are at least 14 different subtypes of serotonin receptor [in the brain]." The researcher went further to say that, "We've identified one as being important for social reward. Drugs that selectively act on this receptor aren't clinically available. But our study may encourage researchers to start looking at drugs that target it for the treatment of disorders such as autism." 

A comment given when Angela Sirigu (lead researcher of the French study I mentioned above), was told of the findings of the Standford study sort of puts it all together for you. She replied by saying that the findings were "interesting since they confirm our previous results obtained on adult Asperger patients we published in PNAS in 2010, and they also show that therapeutic potential of oxytocin can also be extended to children."

I previously wrote that "scientist who support the Oxytocin claims say that using this hormone on our children will increase their ability to recognize emotions in others. That it helps with repetitive behaviors, social memory and it, overall, helps their whole emotional process. The claim is that these responses are seen in Autistic children as well as in Schizophrenic patients, and patients with Social Anxiety Disorder; furthermore, sometimes these positive results are seen within 3 weeks of treatment. These scientist and doctors are so confident that they say Oxytocin Nasal Spray Treatment addresses the “core symptoms’ of Autism."

Doctors that champion for this treatment claim that it

-increases ability to recognize the emotions of others
-increases social memory
-lowers repetitive behaviors and scripting
-lessens social anxiety

My emaxhealth article pointed out the down sides of this treatment as well.

I wrote, "Now before you run out to your child’s doctor’s office begging for this ‘magic bullet’ there are a few things you should know. The University of New South Wales researchers did their own research study in 2013 using 38 boys ages 7-16 years. They conducted their study much like the pilot AutismSpeaks study. At the end of the study they concluded that there were no improvements in emotional recognition, social interaction skills, repetitive behaviors, or in general behavior with the use of the nasal spray. Also, as with most medicines, you must remember that there are side effects that come along with the use of Oxytocin Nasal Spray."

Side Effects of Oxytocin Nasal Spray Treatment

-runny nose
-irritation of the inside of the nose
-excessive eye watering
-mental disorders with loss of normal personality and reality
-bleeding not related to a menstrual period
-uterine contractions

Given those side effects, this is a treatment route that needs more research before being used widespread. Understand that most of the pharmaceutical treatments we currently have for autism have many of the same side effect. Nevertheless, this idea is interesting. The potential of this treatment helping adults and children who fall on the Autism Spectrum is actually just plain exhilarating.


Thursday, February 8, 2018

ICE: Tearing Families Apart?

When I think of America I think of a melting pot. A place where all are welcome to come make a life for themselves. A place of second chances. Growing up in the Midwest this is what you learn. After all, most of us come from a background of immigrants. I, myself, come from a rich family history of Irish, French, and English immigrants. This doesn’t exclude our President. He comes from a German ancestry from his father and a Scottish ancestry from his mother. Despite this he has made it his mission to rip families apart over the last year.

It all started with the January 25,2017 executive order on immigration signed by Trump. It cracked down on illegal immigration in a more ruthless fashion than former President Barack Obama’s rigid immigration policies did.

This is what the executive order read, as to who should be deported:

(a)    [any immigrants that] Have been convicted of any criminal offense; (b) Have been charged with any criminal offense, where such charge has not been resolved; (c) Have committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense; (d) Have engaged in fraud or willful misrepresentation in connection with any official matter or application before a governmental agency; (e) Have abused any program related to receipt of public benefits; (f) Are subject to a final order of removal, but who have not complied with their legal obligation to depart the United States; or (g) In the judgment of an immigration officer, otherwise pose a risk to public safety or national security.

The deportations and detainments of people with simple misdemeanors started in February of 2017 with the deportation of Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, a 36-year-old mother. She was arrested while making her routine check-in with immigration in Arizona. He deportation was widely reported on and highly protested. Since Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos, who was called Lupita by her friends, the deportations have shown little sign of slowing down.

To understand the plight of the illegal immigrants being deported and/or detained, and their families, you must actually look at them as people instead of statistics; instead of “illegal.” You must remember that they are your neighbors and your friends; your coworkers and your pew mates in church; they are the productive members of society that we pass in the streets every day. Do not allow the image of the “dangerous illegal immigrant” that the Trump administration portrays to cloud your judgement. If you want to be technical, most mass shootings committed in the United States are committed by white men with mental issues that should’ve never had a gun to begin with.

Hear me out for a second. Let’s look at a few of the immigrants that have been deported 
and/or detained in America since Trump took office.

Guadalupe García de Rayos

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos; Picture Courtesy of

Guadalupe García de Rayos, or Lupita, was residing in Phoenix, Arizona. Lupita would “check in yearly with Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) with no problem for four years, without incident. On February 8, 2017 Lupita was detained while making her yearly check in and deported.” This story isn’t unique to Lupita. Immigrants have been “tricked” into a false sense of security for the last year with these annual check-ins.

García de Rayos is now in Nogales, Mexico. She has left behind a husband and two children. They are all U.S. citizens. Activists and protesters came out in force to try to prevent her deportation, even going as far as to hug the wheels of the van that was attempting to take her to the airport for deportation.

Protester blocking the van from leaving with Lupita; Picture Courtesy

Yes, Lupita has a criminal record in the United States. She did what many illegal immigrants have done on and along the west coast. She was caught with a fake Social Security Number. NOT A STOLEN ONE, a FAKE one. It was used to obtain employment as an adult.


Lukasz Niec

Lukasz Niec is a staggeringly messed up case. He was arrested in January of 2018 based on misdemeanor charges that he obtained over 26 years ago.

Lukasz Niec; Picture Courtesy of The Washington Post

He was 5 years old when his parents brought him and his sister to the United States from Poland in 1979. It is reported that this was about two years before the Polish country’s government declared martial law. He grew up in the U.S.A. and became a lawful citizen, receiving a Green Card in 1989 and renewing it regularly. Niec also has a well-paying job as a physician. He specializes in internal medicine at Bronson Healthcare Group in Kalamazoo, Mich. He told reporters that he doesn’t even speak Polish. He is American.

Immigration authorities arrested Niec at his home, just after he had sent his 12-year-old stepdaughter off to school. A complete surprise to his family seeing as though he has a Green Card. Per reports, “Niec has been a doctor for more than a decade. He treats patients at three different Bronson hospitals, and is responsible for scheduling all physicians in his group, covering about five hospitals in the area, his wife said. He was picked up by immigration officials on his first day off after working a week straight, including several double shifts.” His wife is a nurse at the same hospital.

As of today, it is reported that Niec is still fighting to stay in this country. He is awaiting removal proceedings. He has even gone as far as to ask the Governor for help. Per reports, “Gov. Rick Snyder [of Michigan] received the request on behalf of Lukasz Niec and forwarded it to the Michigan Department of Corrections Parole Board, the Kalamazoo Gazette reported Wednesday. He was arrested Jan. 16 for ‘administrative immigration violations.’”

Luis Plaza Moreno

Luis Plaza Moreno, a father of 6, was deported in October of 2017 after being pulled over on an icy road. Mr. Moreno did not have a valid driver’s license on him. Instead of being charged he was handed over to ICE. The deportation was devastating to the family on many different levels. One, he was deported quickly and unexpectedly. Two, his youngest son has Autism. Any change for a child with Autism can be absolutely devastating.

Luis Plaza Moreno; Picture Courtesy of

I am a mother of a child with Autism. If I was ripped away from him for any reason he’d never recover. Despite being a hardworking member of society since 2002 the U.S. government dropped Moreno off at a bus station in Mexico with only the clothes on his back, according to reports. This treatment seems less than humane. They left him with nothing, without his family.


Cristina Rodriguez-Sagarnaga

Cristina Rodriguez-Sagarnaga’s story is much like Lupita’s. She was picked up during a regular ICE check-in that she routinely did annually. The Colorado woman has lived in the United States since she was 5 years old and has three U.S. citizen daughters. Rodriguez-Sagarnaga was in the United States with her mother; both of whom were victims of domestic violence escaping their abuser. Victims of crime and their immediate family members who have suffered substantial abuse, are eligible for the visas. They were awaiting decision on their VISA’s when she was picked up.

Cristina Rodrigues-Sangarnaga; Picture Courtesy of

Rodriguez-Sagarnaga entered the country illegally in 2012 after being previously deported. ICE than granted her a one-year stay of removal on June 20, 2016. Per reports, she requested another stay, ICE denied it back in June of 2017, without informing her lawyer.
This is a mother being ripped from her children. One mother of many. This is happening all over the place. Leaving family members to pick up the pieces. All while doing untold damage to the children involved.

Marco Tulio Coss Ponce

Marco Tulio Coss Ponce was deported from Mesa, Arizona in May of 2017. Just like Lupita and Rodriguez-Sagarnaga’s stories, he was picked-up while doing his routine ICE check-in. He had previously been allowed to remain in the United States by immigration officials under supervised release, per reports. He has resided in this country for nearly 20 years. His life is here.

Marco Tulio Coss Ponce; Picture Courtesy of

Upon deportation he was also dropped off at a Mexican bus station with nothing but the clothing on his back. His family is left behind here, trying to pick up the pieces. Marco Tulio Coss Ponce is also a father leaving behind his child in the United States.

Amer Adi Othman

When reading reports, you find out that Amer Adi Othman was given only hours to say goodbye to his family via phone call before being deported. Othman, who is 57, had been detained by ICE officials after a routine check-in on Jan. 16, 2018.

Amer Adi Othman; Picture Courtesy of

He had been preparing to leave the country of his own accord following a deportation order he had previously received. This order stemmed from a false claim made by his ex-wife. Despite her recanting her claim, immigration officials claimed it a “sham” marriage. This marriage took place back in 1980. That means he has been deported based on claims made before I was even born, before my mother even graduated high school.

He was initially guarded from deportation under President Barack Obama’s administration but was targeted following the election of President Donald Trump. The man who has lived in America for 40 years was hurried onto a plane and sent him back to his native Jordan. This was done despite his case being taken up by a House committee.

I read an article from the LA Times while researching for this blog that said, “Today's solutions become tomorrow's problems.” The deportation of nearly 2.5 million undocumented immigrants makes this statement ring even truer to me. These individuals are more than “undocumented immigrants” or “illegal,” they are human beings with families. It’s about time we start treating them as such. 


Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Parental SSRI usage and Autism risks...

When it comes to Autism we are always looking for an answer. I wrote a book a few years ago called, Painting the Spectrum Gold, which investigated different areas of Autism research. Here is an excerpt from that book. It is on a study that was done on antidepressant use by mothers and fathers prior to and during pregnancy. Here is a look at that chapter…

Chapter 14

“A Swedish study done from 2001 to 2007 investigated a link between Autism and mothers OR fathers who took antidepressants during their pregnancies or before.

The researchers involved were:
Dr. Dheeraj Rai
Dr. Brian Lee
Dr. Christina Dalman
Dr. Jean Golding
Dr. Glyn Lewis
Dr. Cecilia Magnusson

Said study consisted of 4429 children with Autism (1828 with an intellectual disability and 2601 without) and 43277 age and sex matching control children. To make this work they matched up each Autistic child with 10 control children. They were primarily looking for a correlation between autistic children and their mothers or fathers taking SSRI’s and mothers who listed depression on their pre-birth paperwork.

Other than a solid Autism diagnosis these researchers also used the following to come to their conclusions, based on their association with Autism:
Maternal Age
Paternal Age
Family Income
Highest level of education by either parent
Highest occupation class of either parent
Maternal region of birth
Parental smoking
Maternal diabetes or hypertension
Apgar Score at birth

An interesting point to take in is that during their research they discovered that 70% of mothers were prescribed antidepressants during their pregnancy and this trend has been climbing since 1995. In the end, there were clear (yet somewhat confusing) results.

Of the parents and children looked at, there’s no evidence of a link between paternal SSRI usage raising the risk of Autism. There is, however, a significant correlation between maternal depression and Autism. It seems that a depressed mother raises the risk of her child developing Autism by 60%. The confusing part is that there was no correlation found between maternal SSRI usage and an Autism risk.

Picture Courtesy of

It is worth mentioning that one California study done years before had opposite findings. It is acknowledged that the difference in findings is linked to the vast difference in the number of individuals used in the study.”

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

School Shootings: An excerpt from my newest book, “Sticks and Stones: A Comprehensive Guide to Bullying”

School Shootings: An excerpt from my newest book, “Sticks and Stones: A Comprehensive Guide to Bullying”

Though school shootings have been an existing problem in our society since the first known instance of a shooting in a public school (not bullying related) was reported on November 2, 1853, it is a relatively new threat to most. Much of the time these shootings are motivated by the intense pain and/or anger that the shooter feels because of bullying.

The fact is, this isn’t a new occurrence [the frequency is new however.] Years ago, news like this was not reported on as often as it is now. It seems that virtually every day you hear about a new shooting in a school somewhere in America. As horrible as it sounds, these shootings are becoming so common it has almost developed a sense of normalcy to it. [President Trump feels that building the wall is more important than school shootings] That in itself is a scary thought.

The history of school shootings is unknown by most. In fact, many believe that the first school shooting was the unspeakable massacre that happened at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado on April 20, 1999… The important thing to remember is that before Columbine there were school shootings reported in many other states. Many of the lists of shootings you will find online only date back to the 1960s. In fact, we did not start taking regular record of school shootings and/or researching causes for them until somewhat recently with the beginning of the ‘Crime and Safety Reports’ and the ‘National School Safety Center...’

Picture Courtesy of

 Per the History of School Shootings in the United States, between 1986 and 1990 there were at least 76 individuals killed at school with a gun. 65 of those being children, 6 being employees. 

Per the same report, it is indicated that the ‘National Safety Center’ reported the following figures [pertaining to individuals killed in school shootings per year.]

1992-1993: 55 deaths
1993-1994: 51 deaths
1994-1995: 20 deaths
1995-1996: 35 deaths
1996-1997: 25 deaths
1997-1998: 40 deaths
1998-1999: 25 deaths
1999-2000: 25 deaths
2000-2001: 19 deaths
2001-2002: 4 deaths
2002-2003: 14 deaths
2003-2004: 29 deaths
2004-2005: 20 deaths
2005-2006: 5 deaths
2006-2007: 38 deaths
2007-2008: 3 deaths
2008-2009: 10 deaths
2009-2010: 5 deaths

All together it is reported by the nyupress that between 1979 and 2008, “170 students and 110 school faculty or other adults were killed; at least 397 students and 75 adults were wounded [in school shootings.]” The motives for each school shooting varies, but many are related directly back to some sort of bullying.

The motives most commonly named are:
challenges to masculinity
domestic violence
and racism.

It is suggested by the nyupress that “in three years (2009-2011), 43 shootings took place. This is almost two thirds of the number of shootings that occurred in the preceding decade. In subsequent decades, it seems likely that shootings will continue to increase unless something different is done. In fact, at this rate the next decade 2009-2018) could well see 143 shootings- which is about the same as the preceding decades (1979-2008) combined.”

This isn’t a new problem, just a newly “brought to light” problem. Columbine brought international attention to an issue that has needed it for over 100 years prior. Our focus on this issue is still not what is should be, worldwide. This is one issue that we must address more forcefully, without delay.

For more bullying related information check out my book, "Sticks and Stones: A Comprehensive Guide to Bullying"


Want to read more from Brooke?

Saturday, January 27, 2018

DACA- No Human is Illegal

Let’s talk about something absurdly important and astoundingly human. Let’s talk a little about DACA, or the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Plenty of people have heard the word DACA lately but few people have actually taken the time to learn what DACA is.

Imagine being a child and having a family member bring you into a place that you never knew in order for you to have a better education, or them to have a better job, or to escape violence. Imagine being this child and knowing nothing but "We are moving." Now, imagine growing up in this place thinking that you were just as much a part of the place as the little girl or little boy that sat next to you in class and learned with you... just the same as the children you ate lunch with and played on the playground with. You know equal to the individuals that you worked your first job with and maybe even attended prom with. Then imagine finding out one day that your whole world was a lie. There are people that could come in after you have lived in this place and had children there and deport you back to a place you never knew, without your family... Imagine doing everything right in order to be legally there once you found out you were not and still feeling as though you have to hide to stay safe because people different than you are coming to take you off to a place you don't know. Imagine feeling like you want to scream because your whole life changed with the outcome of one presidential race. That's the life of a Dreamer.

These Dreamers are important individuals to our society. They pay their taxes and work their asses off. They have families here and are our neighbors and friends. While there are more than 43 million immigrants in the U.S., according to the Migration Policy Institute, of those 43 million, about 11 million are undocumented immigrants. Around 22 percent of undocumented immigrants are under age 25, according to the Department of Homeland Security.  So, what’s the difference between being undocumented and being a Dreamer? What’s the difference between an illegal immigrant and someone “protected” by DACA? A program that in 2016 had about 1.9 million people that were eligible for it...

Well, let me break down some of the facts for you

- About 788,000 have had their requests for DACA status accepted, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
- They must have come to the U.S. before turning 16.
- Have continuously resided in the United States without legal status since June 15, 2007.
- Be less than age 31 as of June 15, 2012 and at least age 15 at the time of the application.
- Be currently enrolled in school, have graduated high school or obtained a general development certificate (GED), or be an honorably discharged veteran.
- Have not been convicted of a felony or multiple or serious misdemeanors and not pose a threat to national security or public safety
- About 72 percent of respondents were in higher education.
- After getting DACA, nearly 80 percent of respondents said they got driver's licenses. About half became organ donors.
- DACA recipients average hourly wage was $17.46 an hour, which was up from $10.29 before receiving DACA.
- In a Center for American Progress survey of roughly 3,000 DACA recipients, nine-tenths of respondents said they had jobs.
- Of DACA recipients, around 77% (428,000) are Mexican. El Salvadorian immigrants make up the next highest percent, at 4%, no other country accounted for more than 3% of approvals.
-California has 162,000 deferred action recipients, compared with 88,000 from Texas. Both states border Mexico and have the highest populations of Mexican immigrants. 
-Arizona has the highest application rate. Around 66% of 34,000 eligible people have applied.

These humans are important to our Country, despite the Republicans relentlessly combating against them. And NO! Promises are not enough, we need a clean DACA bill that guarantees their ability to stay in this country.

These individuals did the right thing, they gave their most private information to the Federal Government with the assurance that they would be able to stay in the only country that most of them have ever known. We waited for months to find out where President Trump stood on DACA and it still seems that we are not 100% clear on what his stance is (because the man flip-flops left and right on just about every issue depending on whom he is talking to in that moment.) Most of the time though, the way the Trump administration would have you believe, most Americans are against DACA; well, SURPRISE, the administration is lying.

In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

Most American’s want these humans to stay in the only country that they have ever known. Most Americans believe that no human being is illegal. If you need proof, a Morning Consult poll from April 2017 found that ‘56 percent of registered voters said Dreamers, another name for people who came to the U.S. as kids, "should be allowed to stay and become citizens if they meet certain requirements."’

If you want to be forthright about it, continuing to deport these individuals would be detrimental to the United States of America. There is proof of that in the form of actual numbers. The Center for American Progress estimated that the U.S. would lose about $460 billion in GDP over the next 10 years without DACA. It is also estimated that around 700,000 people could lose their jobs.
In the past year it is reported that more than “1,800 governors, attorneys general, mayors, state representatives, judges, police chiefs and other leaders signed onto a letter supporting Dreamers and DACA recipients.” A move showing how important these individuals are to us.

With the all so famous wall hanging over our heads (You know the one that most Americans are against. The one that originally the administration said Mexico would pay for, then decided that Americans had to pay for it and still hasn’t gotten approval to build) and the fact that most DACA recipients are Mexican, it is hard to reconcile in any mind how this isn’t a racial issue being ignited by our President more than just a political bargaining chip… 

Want to read more from Brooke?