Op-Ed: Missing the comfort of ‘my’ seat in synagogue when the whole world is askew

One Saturday morning last fall I arrived at my synagogue, only to discover that someone had taken my seat. I’ve never been a regular at a bar or a restaurant or even a gym. But on Shabbat, the Jewish day of rest, I go to synagogue. And I always sit in the same place: on the aisle, not too close to the front, not too far from the action. A couple of rows behind Ruth and Reuven, across the aisle from Cheryl, just in front of Len. What happens when you get bumped from your regular place, your set

Schedules Are Everything for My Autistic Son. Here's How We're Coping Now.

One day last week, my son appeared abruptly at the door of my home office. I braced myself, already numb from the barrage of coronavirus headlines. Then he came out with it: “They’ve postponed the release of Peter Rabbit 2 until August!” Ezra, who is 24, is autistic. For as long as I can remember, he has organized his life around the release dates of animated movies and other family films. He knows his subject so well that when he meets you, he asks your birthday, pauses briefly, then announce

How My Son Found His Way Back To Preschool

One Saturday morning a few years ago, I was sitting in synagogue when another congregant approached my wife and me from across the room. “Excuse me,” she said, “but are you aware of what your son is doing out in the lobby?” We have three sons, but we both knew which one she meant. Ezra was then 18, a delightful, enthusiastic and sometimes unpredictable bundle of energy. My wife and I exchanged knowing looks — What now? — and the woman gestured for us to follow her. As we made our way toward t

Tailor Made - U Magazine - UCLA Health - Los Angeles, CA

Precision health is medicine's next big thing, promising to revolutionize everything from the diagnosis of cancer to treatments for depression. Consider this scenario: At your annual physical, your internist notices that your blood pressure is elevated. Based on this reading and a few questions about your medical history, she diagnoses you with hypertension and prescribes a medication, one that she says works for about a quarter of patients. Give it a try, she says, and check back in a couple o

What Amy Krouse Rosenthal taught me

I first connected with Amy Krouse Rosenthal when I sent her an email in the late summer of 2009 to tell her how much I had enjoyed one of her books. You may have heard Amy’s name lately. She was the Chicago writer whose essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband,” became a sensation after it appeared in The New York Times in early March. Nearing the end of her journey with ovarian cancer, she composed what amounted to a dating profile for the man to whom she had been happily married for 26 years.

Memories Are Made of This - U Magazine - UCLA Health - Los Angeles, CA

Memories Are Made of This After losing his memory, a writer seeks to understand the elusive nature of our recollections and how they are created, retained and recalled. I never gave much thoughft to how my memory works until the day it stopped working. One morning, just before I turned 50, I was in my closet, choosing a shirt. Then — snap — I was lying in the emergency room, an IV tube in my arm and a neurologist asking me questions. My wife gently filled me in. That morning, I had become dis

He had a PhD in carefree, silly fun

His gym wasn't fancy, but Dave Rabb connected with kids. For another child that might have been a simple feat. For Ezra, it seemed nearly miraculous. Dave didn't need my help. He told Ezra to leave his shoes in a bin near the door, then led him onto the carpeted gym floor. Over the next hour, I watched from a bench as this man with his gravelly voice directed my son through an obstacle course of ramps, ladders and slides. To my astonishment, Ezra listened. . . .

We have autism all wrong: The radical new approach we need to understand and treat it

[Excerpted from "Uniquely Human: A Different Way of Seeing Autism" by Barry Prizant PhD with Tom Fields-Meyer] The first thing I noticed about Jesse was the fear and anxiety in his eyes. I was visiting a small New England school district when I heard about an eight-year-old boy who had recently transferred from a nearby district. There he had earned a dubious distinction: administrators called Jesse the worst behavior problem they had ever encountered. It wasn’t difficult to understand why, given his challenges. Jesse, a sturdy boy with straight brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses, struggled with severe social anxiety, extreme sensitivity to touch, and difficulty processing language. He also had a seizure disorder that was detected when he was a toddler, about the time he lost the ability to speak. . . .

Letter to a Young Writer: ‘Get Lost’

The best writing advice I ever got was to get lost. I spent many years as a journalist for newspapers and magazines, including a dozen writing feature stories for a national weekly magazine. Though I enjoyed the work, I had dreams of a different kind of writing — more creative, more personal, more from the heart. So I took a creativity workshop. Thirty of us — would-be authors, visual artists, dancers, actors — met one evening a week in a room off a New Age bookstore in West Hollywood. We created collages. We brought pictures of our “inner critics.” Sitting on white plastic lawn chairs, we shared our dreams and visions... One of our assignments was to start every day with three pages of unstructured writing — whatever came to mind. No agenda. No outlines. No editing. No reading what you wrote. Just writing.

A Brief Vacation From Myself

I was looking in my closet, choosing a shirt, when I lost my mind. Four hours later, I’m in the E.R., and I don’t know how I got here. My wife, Shawn, stands at my bedside, her expression alternating between reassuring and dismayed. Next to her, a doctor in his mid-50s calmly tells me he’s going to name three objects. “I want you to hold these in your mind,” he says. “Apple, table, penny.” I nod, noticing a semicircle of young interns behind him, listening intently. Then the doctor asks me to multiply 17 times 3. “I’m not very good at math,” I say. . . .

His autistic son’s terrific memory helps him connect with others

My son Ezra was 4 or 5 when he began asking people their birthdays. At first it seemed like a typical child’s question. But then months later he would encounter acquaintances — or even whole families — and reel off the birth months with perfect recall as he pointed at each person. Driving him to school one morning, I heard him in the back seat reciting what at first sounded like random dates and names. Then I realized what he was doing: listing the months in calendar order, each followed by the

Autism: Putting Ezra first

I'm grateful that scientists are focusing on autism. I'm going to focus on my son. So what's the parent of a living, breathing autism specimen to do with the constant barrage of speculation? My standard reply: I'm grateful that scientists are focusing on autism. I'm going to concentrate on my kid. This summer has seen a plethora of headlines on the topic. July brought news of a study showing an unexpectedly high occurrence of autism among fraternal twins, a finding that could implicate both ge

Following Ezra [Excerpt]

I’m walking with Ezra in Westwood—though if I had thought the plan through even a tiny bit more, I probably wouldn't be doing this at all. It's a warm spring evening. Ezra is eight, and we’re on our way to a store called Aahs!!, a gift shop near the UCLA campus. The store's name sounds like "Oz," as in the Wizard, but it's spelled A-A-H-S, with two exclamation marks for emphasis. As in "oohs and aahs," indicating, perhaps, that it's a place one might find overwhelming, or where you might come to...