Education a giant step toward freedom

Since classes at the University of Akron resumed on March 30, I teach the same class twice daily to accommodate my students’ schedules because some are essential workers while others have returned to homes in other time zones. In a physical classroom, I seldom sit down. I walk between desks asking questions of students in […]

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Inclusion is a blessing for all

I first saw Todd Eisinger’s photo in Firestone High School’s Hall of Fame when my eldest son, Claude, was a sophomore. Todd’s picture hangs alongside other accomplished Firestone alums, including astronaut Judith Resnik and rock star Chrissie Hynde. Todd is in the lineup as an athlete who swam for Firestone. Later, in China in 2007, […]

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Christmas, chaos and time well spent

“Christmas in Connecticut” has been my favorite holiday movie for many years. Just ask any of my children, two of whom refuse to watch it yet another time. Filmed in 1945 before the war’s end, Barbara Stanwyck plays a food writer whose column includes details about her life with her husband and baby on their […]

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Supporting student success should be top priority of universities

Dear University of Akron President Gary Miller: Welcome to Akron, a great place to live for many reasons: its park-filled river valley, friendly residents and housing stock, over which a Goodyear Blimp regularly sails, that is both gorgeous and affordable. Also, we have a killer library system, art museum and performance venues. And, of course, […]

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The time-consuming job of affordably clothing multiple children

Two seasons of the year, spring and fall, one parent in every household with children too young for high school takes on an unpaid, part-time job: clothing processor. The assignment is most labor intensive in the fall thanks to school clothes and winter gear. With my first three boys, the task was simple. Sorting in […]

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On Depression and Parenting

Opal drives a lackluster Ford pickup, its faded paint more of a burnt umber than the original Santa-suit red. With her dogs riding shotgun, Opal leaves Ohio one day without notice, driving west through the skinny states and a few of the wide ones. The journey ends in Montana or maybe Idaho. Somewhere in big […]

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Cleveland’s Playhouse Square understands importance of sensory-friendly productions

During his job interview with Cleveland’s Playhouse Square, Daniel Hahn was asked about programming he wished to initiate. He then pulled from his valise a framed photo of two boys — his son and his son’s best friend — hamming for the camera. “I want my son’s best friend to be able to enjoy live […]

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Today’s immigration stories are little different than those of previous generations

When 13-year-old Christina Gyllenskog and her family left their country forever, she had never been away from her family’s farm for more than a short while. Mormon missionaries converted the family in North Sandby, Sweden, and soon thereafter my great-great grandma Christina, her parents and five siblings traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark. There, her two sisters, […]

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Children need freedom to venture out on their own

    Before she retired, my mother-in-law was an elementary school principal. Recently, a former colleague of hers became the principal at a failing charter school, which she promptly overhauled. Student performance quickly began to improve — from academics to a reduction in behavior problems. But not everyone liked the changes. A parent called the principal […]

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Teach children respect and politeness for all

Back when “Talk of the Nation” was a call-in program on NPR, it aired a show that hit home: Middle-class parents who were raised in working-class families often rigorously monitor their kids for elitist behavior. Where and to whom we are born is the ultimate crap shoot. No matter your circumstances, one human is not […]

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The upward spiral of integration of people with intellectual disabilities

Babies with Down syndrome are the cutest, with their round little faces and eyes, tiny ears and noses, cuddly bodies. Even as they become toddlers, it’s not uncommon for strangers to comment on just how adorable kiddos with DS are. But most parents of a child with DS harbor this fear: What happens when our […]

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Social contracts of last century brought prosperity and need reimplemented

Siblings attending rival schools has become a family tradition. I went to Ohio State University because I lived in Columbus. The year I graduated, my younger sister (from my father’s second marriage), graduated from the University of Michigan. My eldest son, Claude, graduated from Michigan in 2016. This fall, his younger brother Jules will matriculate […]

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Tending to my children’s spiritual development

In the 17th century, Jesuit missionaries traveled to Tibet. There they met the fifth Dalai Lama, the spiritual and political head of the country. Graciously welcomed to the high court in Lhasa, the missionaries worked tirelessly to learn Tibetan so as to translate the Bible. Once their task was accomplished, they presented the book to […]

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Approach is important when talking about vaccines

After several recent outbreaks of measles in the United States, the anti-vaccination movement has gotten renewed attention, much of which paints “anti-vaxxers” as either ignorant of basic science or sociologically indulgent, willing to coast on the high vaccination rates of others. I have found neither to be true. Choosing whether and when to vaccinate my […]

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Letting go of third son is hardest yet

My first child was born shortly after I turned 28. Having learned nothing about babies in my own upbringing, I approached my new role like a college course I refused to fail. Between the deficit of attention in my childhood and the fact that I waited until I wanted children before having them, I glommed […]

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Family’s tragedy shows need for sentencing reform, affordable childcare

The grisly murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, allegedly by order of his country’s de facto head of state, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, caused me and many other Americans to finally recognize the horrific genocide occurring in Yemen, also by bin Salman’s order. One dramatic event can shed light on a greater, […]

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Prison sentence for child’s accidental death benefits no one

My daughter, Lyra, has become a runner. I don’t mean she’s racing fellow kindergartners in track, but like with many children with Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder, she takes off with no regard to safety or even a destination. I have written about her running and all that we’ve done to keep her safe, […]

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Finding joy in a cold, snowy winter

If you want someone to blame for last week’s weather, look no further. For several months, I have been using all my mojo to call up a hale and hearty winter in Northeast Ohio. I began doubting my powers as we slogged through a muddy autumn and early winter. But then, success! A large polar […]

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The Golden Rule of Parenting: Just Show Up

When I met the big boys’ father in the early 1990s, he was a young architect. He worked at a drafting table with draftsmen’s pencils shaved into fine points with specialized sharpeners. I can still hear the whir of his leads spinning to precision, the mechanical sharpener held in one hand, the pencil in the […]

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Curiosity, essential to learning, is threatened by social media

The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, Claude picked up Hugo in Rochester and together they drove through Canada to their grandparents’ home in Northern Michigan. On their way, they listened to 1984. Hugo is taking a class on George Orwell, and Claude is reading along. The rest of us also arrived on Tuesday, but much later, having headed […]

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LIFE Project teaches parents how to advocate for kids’ educational needs

By the time he’d finished the third grade, my eldest son, Claude, had attended a public school, a parochial school, a Quaker school, a Waldorf school and a Montessori school. The following year, when he was in the fourth grade, he attended the Lawrence School, a private school in Broadview Heights that specializes in remediating […]

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Those who sexually assault women do not consider them fully human

Earlier this semester, students in my English composition classes at the University of Akron read Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal.”Written in 1729, Swift’s satirical solution to rampant poverty in Ireland was for English overlords to buy and eat 1-year-old Irish babies. Swift compares the Irish to livestock, which is to say, less than human. My students […]

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Capstone trip with young adult children marks new relationship

A Viking inheritance as sure as my blue eyes, wanderlust courses through my veins. I’ve purchased less expensive houses and driven old cars to have more money for travel. Any dog I adopt and any child I birth quickly learns to enjoy road-tripping. When he was 6 months old, I conked Hugo’s head on the […]

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Runners: A terrifying behavior in certain children, including one of my own

“One of the first questions I ask parents who come to my office is, ‘Do you have a flopper or a runner?’ ” The audience laughed knowingly. We were listening to a talk given by a doctor of behavioral medicine at the first National Down Syndrome Congress convention Max and I have attended. Lyra was only […]

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Mom, stepdad and kids work together to create a family

The wedding of our friends Michael and Jessica, celebrated 10 years ago this week, was an event that brought together more than just two people. For weeks, people prepared the farmhouse of Jessica’s grandmother. In the backyard, the couple were wed by Michael’s father on a platform built by Jessica’s father, covered with an awning […]

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Akron Children’s Hospital: Great for everyone, invaluable for frequent flyer

They say it’s impossible to know how good your homeowner’s insurance really is until you file a claim. The same can be said of your local hospital. Until 2012, I had only a handful of experiences at Akron Children’s Hospital. When he was in the second grade, Jules was tested and diagnosed with dyslexia at […]

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Childhood abuse still echoes in adult survivors’ lives

In a room recognizably located in a nursing home, a tiny lady with white hair speaks in a bird-like voice to her young nurse, “I must hide under my bed.” “Why?” asks the nurse. “He’s coming!” says the old woman. “Are we playing hide and seek?” “No, my papa is coming, please don’t let him […]

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No more: All sexual assault is intolerable

On February 1, 2014, Dylan Farrow published an open letter in the New York Times describing how Woody Allen, her adoptive father, had sexually abused her. A week later on Facebook, I shared a Vanity Fair article that deconstructed, point-by-point, claims made by Allen’s defenders in response to Farrow’s letter. To my surprise, several friends […]

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