Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Terrorism or Autism? The Alek Minassian dilemma

Toronto van attack: Terrorism or Autism? 
The events of April 23rd rocked those of us that live in the city of Toronto. A lone attacker, Alek Minassian, rented a van and drove on the sidewalk at pedestrians, southbound on a 3km stretch of Yonge Street from Finch to Shepherd Ave. Horrific scenes of bodies and emergency vehicles followed in the media for days. Our daughter was on a field trip at this intersection the week before. Far too close to home in so many ways.

As the city mourned the 10 dead and 14 injured, many continued to cry out in despair: "WHY?!". Who would do such a thing? Did he have ties to extremist groups? ISIS? Anti-women groups? What did his facebook say? Lots of questions but not many answers. While we wait for answers let me attempt to put a few of the puzzle pieces together (Autism pun intended!). This in no way is an excuse for Minassian's behaviour, or an exhaustive investigation. The Police will provide further details, however based on what has already come out this is simply an attempt to learn from the situation in order to get perspective and help those in Minassian's situation in future.

Minassian's highschool picture
Further details may emerge but so far here is what we know:

1. Minassian had social problems in elementary school
According to Shanon Goel who attended Sixteenth Ave Public School with Minassian: "“I just remember him acting out,” she said. “He would throw fits, he would always act out, and it was hard for people to control him.
2. In highschool Minassian was in a program for teens with special needs at Thornlea Secondary School:
a high school program for students with special needs where he would often walk the halls with his head down and hands tightly clasped, according to former classmates...making meowing sounds
3. In 2009 Minassian was part of the Helpmate program: 
Minassians LinkedIn profile
In 2009, Sona Minassian was quoted in a story in the Richmond Hill Liberal lamenting that her son, who suffered from a form of autism, was at risk of losing access to a special program called Helpmate that assisted the teen to “work though his cognitive barriers and prepare him for the workplace.”
4. Minassian attended Senecca college for 7 years (from 2011 to 2018) and had just graduated:
One Seneca student in computer studies said Mr. Minassian had graduated from the program just last week. The student shared with The Globe and Mail a message Mr. Minassian sent to the group “out of the blue” on April 19 telling off his classmates. He added that he believed Mr. Minassian was at Seneca for seven years because he held down several software development jobs.

Few of these details are being mentioned or focused on by authorities, politicians or the media. Piecing together the special needs of someone like Minassian should be an important step in the investigation and perhaps this will eventually become the focus, however from my personal experience this is often sadly overlooked.
     
As we have seen from the Chazz Petrella saga, kids with Autism need routine and a different learning environment. In Patrella's case his special program was coming to an end and the fear and dread of being put back into the regular school system was too much for him to bear. Petrella eventually chose to end his own life at 12, rather than go back to the system that he didn't understand and didn't understand him. 
More on Chaz here: http://www.shawncuthill.com/2015/09/parent-of-problem-child.html 

Our own son Sylas (here) has had his own unique challenges with the school system. He was on the Autism spectrum but was not diagnosed by experts or teachers for the first 10 years of his life. Suspensions, children's aid, safety plans and progressive discipline all were unable to get to the root of the problem. Finally in Grade 6 a proper diagnosis by an observant principal literally saved his academic career. We thank God for her every day.


Recently Sylas was participating in an Autism study where he went for a brain scan. While talking with the nurse she commented on how kids who are "high functioning" - like Sylas, like Patrella, like Minassian i am guessing - are only just now starting to receive support in the school system and through specialized programs. She continued with a comment that I will never forget: "Older kids unfortunately didn't get this chance - the school system chewed them up and spit them out and they either ended up in jail or worse". Only now are we starting to understanding and get help for the Sylas' of the world.

What am I saying here?


More programs are needed for kids with Autism. Young kids who are misunderstood. Teenagers who are bullied. Kids who graduate out of the school system and are launched into an unforgiving, confusing, harsh world. Pray for parents who are out of options as kids age-out of special programs. Time will tell what the issues were with Alek Minassian, however my guess is he completed school and had to face a world he was very afraid of. A world he didn't understand. A world he didn't feel part of. A major issue for parents like us with Autistic children. While we grieve the loss of lives and look for a motive, let's prepare to do something if we indeed find out this is what it is. 

God help us all understand these wonderfully confusing difficult challenging complex children on the Autism spectrum!

*UPDATED 01May2018:


Some great reporting from Global News as they interview Bruce McIntosh of the Ontario Autism Coalition (side note, their website features the hashtag #AutismDoesntEndAtSchool which may be very relevant to the Minassian situation). Watch as he rightly explains: 
"People with Autism don't always recognize when something is not quite right about the way that people are perhaps manipulating them"


Also, helpful commentary on the Toronto Star's article
Lewis said many incels self-identify as autistic. “You get a lot of people kind of embracing that identity, whether or not they’ve actually been diagnosed with autism,” she said. “It’s become this broader meme for being socially awkward and that’s yet another reason why they don’t see themselves as advantaged or privileged in society.”

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Billy Graham's successor announced

Local Toronto man to fill big evangelical shoes

Weeks after the passing of famed American Evangelist Billy Graham, executives at the organization he founded were stunned to read of the successor Graham laid out in his will. Billy Graham Evangelistic Association President Franklin Graham announced that Toronto native Shawn Cuthill had been chosen by his father to head up the ministry.

"It was a shock to all of us" said a visibly dejected Franklin from their ministry headquarters in Asheville, North Carolina. "I've never seen this Cuthill guy wear a tie and he barely gets to church on time!" the younger Graham huffed at a hastily organized press conference. "Every day this clown either wears a Flyers jersey or a Salvation Army hat. How is he ever going to be ready to preach to millions?!"

Evangelical backlash was swift in the US, as many denounced the unorthodox Canadian choice. Cuthill is a little known Toronto pastor who can be found mainly in the inner-city rapping with gang-bangers or giving Christmas presents to Muslims. Chick-fil-A immediately pulled their support for the ministry.

"He looks more like a homeless person than a preacher!" tweeted @redstateforjesus, one of many negative tweets directed at Cuthill. "I heard he spends almost all of his time with non-Christians. He hasn't even released his birth certificate yet!" raged @trutherteaparty, creator of the hashtag #CutHELLNO which was trending #1 worldwide.

Cuthills wife Hayley though was praised by the evangelical establishment, being compared to Ruth Bell Graham and Mother Theresa. She was even born on Christmas and grew up on an island named after a Prince.

In an undated photo found attached to Grahm's will, Cuthill is seen on stage with Graham waving to thousands of onlookers. It was not immediately evident when the photo was taken as the photographer had only written the date on the back: April 1!!




Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Sylas Cuthill the Autism kid!

Well our super special Sylas got to do an assembly about Autism yesterday and he did great!
Sylas is on the spectrum but has an amazing ability to talk about his challenges
Unfortunately my amateur video skills were not as awesome as his presentation.
Also the memory card filled up after about 30 minutes but you can get a good idea below how it went.
The principal mentioned that it was so good he should take his act on the road to other schools.
What do you think??






Tuesday, April 25, 2017

7 Reasons Why Your Smartphone Is the Ring of Power

Found this funny, but eerily accurate blog post at On This Rock blog:

7 Reasons Why Your Smartphone Is the Ring of Power


1) You randomly worry that you don't have it, check your pocket, your heart rate quickens, you check your other pocket, find it, and then slowly calm back down again

2) Your phone is powerful and magical.  10 years ago, if you told someone all the things your phone would do, they would have thought of it as magic.  Your phone also gives you the power to do everything you would need to do to run a Fortune 500 company for weeks from thousands of miles away.

3) You think sometimes of getting rid of your phone, but every time you get ready to throw it away, you step back from the edge and change your mind
Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"I can't believe I was thinking of  getting rid of this thing!"
4) To the observer at a distance, for hours on end each day, you look at it, make faces at it, touch it and stroke it and talk to it.
Image result for bilbo my precious
"It's mine.  My own. My precious"
5) Your phone, as studies suggest, through the course of months and years, slowly changes you into a different version of yourself

6) Your phone gives you the impression that you have great power and are in control (see number 2 above) but it actually ultimately gives much more power to "the great eye" (i.e. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung) who, as everyone knows, is storing and cataloging and quantifying every move we make and every single act we perform with our phones, handing over to such corporations an ability to "dominate all life"

7)  When you use your phone, you disappear to all those around you and are instantly transported to something that is like reality, but is a warped and clouded version of it
Image result for frodo wearing the ring
"It's like living in reality, only different"

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

The Longest Concert Ever!

It was great to visit some old friends recently. Kevin and Allan and their Epidemic Music Group" were attempting the World Record for Longest Concert Ever!!.

The concert ran from March 17 to April 4 (at 11:59PM) and actually set two world records - one for longest live stream and one for longest concert! Great job guys! More pics at:

Sunday, April 02, 2017

April Fools Recap! (Updated)

Over the years April Fools has been a special day in the Cuthill household. Starting waaaay back in the 90s, an April Fools joke on Hayley when we were dating started a tradition of seeing how many people would fall for my tricks. As the internet, blogs and then facebook emerged it became more and more of a family tradition to see how many people we could "fool". Here's a look back at some of the best!

2018 - Shawn named Billy Graham's successor - here
2017 - Olivia nabs lead role as Anne of Green Gables - here
2016 - Birthday switched to April 1 - click here and here
               BONUS - Lukas gets in on the fun - here

2015 - Sylas stars in Pixels movie: click here

2014 - Sylas suspended for fighting with Paul (reverse - people thought it was a joke but it was true!)
2013 - My phone is stolen phone, please help by calling it!
2012 - Earth Hour started a fire - click here


 2012     BONUS - Burka church visit - here and here

2011 - Sylas suspended from school - click here and here
2010 - Took a year off after being scolded for fooling an entire church - here
2009 - Eviction notice! Click here and here
2008 - Divorce scare - click here, here, here or here
2007 - We're pregnant - click here
2005 - The Pope ascended to heaven - here

See you next year!!! haha!!

Sing it with me:



Saturday, April 01, 2017

Toronto girl replaces lead in CBC remake of Anne


Olivia Cuthill named "Anne" amid controversy
By Sarah Fraser CBC NewsPosted: April 1, 2017 6:12 AM 

Controversy struck the set of CBC's hit show Anne this week as it was revealed lead actor Amybeth McNulty had no Prince Edward Island heritage.

"This is an outrage" huffed Angela McDonald, great-great-granddaughter of Lucy Maude Montgomery, as she protested outside the CBC building on University Avenue with a handful of relatives. "Islanders need to stick together and what they did is just wrong". CBC executives hurriedly snuck in a back entrance to attend a closed door meeting about the fate of their new hit show "Anne".

Released on CBC and slated for a later release on Netflix, "Anne" has been plagued with criticism from Islanders about McNultys Irish roots. "The girl is a green blooded carrot top!" shrieked Andrew Arsenault as he launched into a round of "From away! From away!".

After hours of deliberation, and extensive DNA searches, it was determined by CBC executives in Charlottetown that McNulty was not an Islander, had no Islander family or friends, had never visited the Island and could not locate PEI on a map. Having no choice, the broadcaster cut ties with the Irish actress.

In an official press release CBC named Anne finalist Olivia Cuthill to be the successor and fill in as the lead role of "Anne". "We feel the actor who plays Anne requires a certain Island heritage to understand Canada's Birthplace of Confederation. Olivia Cuthill has family on the Island, visits frequently, bought a PEI dirt shirt and even drank that horrible Raspberry Cordial we unload on tourists each summer"

After learning of her good fortune Olivia could not be reached for comment, but posted on her dad's facebook page: APRIL FOOLS

(Dont feel bad, this happens every year......)

2016 - Birthday switch - click here and here
             BONUS - Lukas gets in on the fun - here
2015 - Sylas stars in Pixels movie: click here
2014 - Reverse April fools - Sylas suspension for fighting Paul (Paul and Sylas!)
2013 - Stolen phone, please help!
2012 - Earth Hour fire - click here
            BONUS - Burka church visit - here and here
2011 - Sylas suspended from school - click here and here
2010 - Took a year off after being scolded for fooling an entire church - here
2009 - Eviction notice! Click here and here
2008 - Divorce scare - click here, here, here or here
2007 - We're pregnant - click here
2005 - Pope ascends to heaven - here

See you in 2018!!! haha!!


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Passing of a sports legend - RIP Bob Acton


Sad to lose a sports legend. Not Muhammad Ali, but my uncle Bob Acton who coached thousands of kids in hockey and fought ALS for the past 2 years. Yesterday the CN Tower was lit up purple in recognition of ALS Awareness month. They lit up the city for you Uncle Bob! Pray for those suffering with ALS and their families, that a cure would be found:

Sportsnet article:
Putting ALS Ice Bucket Challenge Into Perspective

Beaches Obituary: http://www.beachmetro.com/2016/06/14/20317/