Archive for the General Category

On ASD and “AUTISM and the GOD CONNECTION” by William Stillman

Posted in General, Paranormal Books on April 28, 2010 by voicesofoctober

   

      Since April is Autism Awareness Month what better time to comment on a book which not only offers a unique perspective on autism but also bristles with paranormal overtones.  AUTISM and the GOD CONNECTION by William Stillman is such a book.

     Before I get into my commentary on Bill’s book however, I would like to give you a brief and hopefully simplified overview of Autism Spectrum Disorder, usually identified by the acronym ASD  (for the sake of brevity I will use ‘ASD’ when referring to autism throughout the remainder of this article).

 ♦ Autism Spectrum Disorder ♦

     As I said, I’d like to keep this simple and present some key points of ASD under the assumption that many of you who read this are either totally unfamiliar or know very little about autism.  I’m giving you this sort of  ‘introduction’  not only as a lead into my commentary about Bill Stillman’s book  Autism and the God Connection but also because many of you will know someone or someone who cares for someone on the autism spectrum sometime throughout your life.  

     According to the CDC:  Currently, “It is estimated that an average of 1 in 110 children in the United States have an ASD.”* I use the word ‘currently’ as it seems stats on ASD are ever-changing .   Simply stated ASD is a neuro-biological disorder involving  impaired social interaction, significant difficulties in understanding verbal and nonverbal communication, and exhibiting repetitive and challenging behaviors.  It has no cure.  Children with autism will become adults with autism!  No definitive cause for ASD has  been determined although genetics does  play a role but as many as 100 genes may be involved.  Symptoms  should manifest before 3 years of age but unfortunately diagnosis usually occurs a few years later.  Mental retardation can co-exist with ASD but is by no means always the case.  On the average 41 % of children with an ASD exhibit an Intellectual Disability meaning an IQ below 70.* Early intervention is the key to positive outcomes for children on the autism spectrum and the earlier the intervention the better.    Children with ASD show a preference for structure and predictability and frequently respond well to treatment based on the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis.  Something I would like to bring to light here is that although many of us like a predictable, daily routine, we usually do not overreact  if  we circumstantially and periodically need to deviate from our daily routine.  Not so with many folks with ASD.  Sometimes even a slight change in their normal schedule can have devastating effects!  Children and adults with ASD  are not going to accommodate us so we need to accommodate them to the best of our abilities.   There are many more facts and detailed explanations concerning autism throughout the lifespan which I will not go into here.   However there is something I would like to add.  As noted ASD commonly presents with 3 core deficits sometimes called the “Autism Triad.”  In addition to impairments in communication, impairments in social interaction and repetitive and limited interests and behaviors we might add a fourth, sensory processing disorder or sensory sensitivities.  Many times individuals with ASD exhibit significant tactile, olfactory, and especially visual and auditory sensitivities.  New research indicates that there appears to be a preponderance of gray matter in those parts of the brain responsible for processing visual and auditory stimuli.  Many of us exhibit some sensory sensitivities perhaps to fluorescent lights, certain types of  noise, or even the way our clothing rubs on a certain part of our body to name just a few.  In someone with ASD, however, these sensations are much more pronounced.  In fact so pronounced it can cause a person to be extremely restless or even engage in aggressive behaviors until they obtain some relief from the irritating stimuli.  When I was designing or consulting on designing a productive learning environment for adults with ASD, sensory sensitivities were always in the forefront of consideration.  This leads to the question: Is it possible that many individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder could also present with ‘special sensitivities or heightened  spiritual or ‘paranormal’ perceptions?’ 

*(Source http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html).  

♦ Autism and the God Connection – a book by William Stillman ♦

     William Stillman is an adult with Asperger’s Syndrome and has published numerous books on Autism, Asperger’s Syndrome, and Bipolar Disorder to name a few.  In addition Bill has appeared on national television and writes a column for the quarterly magazine The Autism perspective and is active in the autism self-advocacy movementThrough his autism workshops and private consultations he offers a unique perspective on autism through his humanistic point of view.  I have attended Bill’s presentations and they have touched me deeply as well as taught me something about myself in the process.

     Autism and the God Connection copyright 2006 is the first book in Stillman’s Autism and the God Connection trilogy which includes The Soul of Autism & The Autism Prophecies et al. 

   Autism and the God Connection is a ‘must read’ for many of you who are not only interested in autism but autism and its possible connection to psychic phenomena and paranormal encounters.  Although Stillman approaches these events from a mostly spiritual perspective, through his travels as a private autism consultant for people on the spectrum and through the willingness of people to share their sometimes unusual experiences while caring for someone on the autism spectrum he has compiled some compelling stories of clairvoyance, telepathy, spirit communication and connections, aura perception, and ‘hauntings’   Bill supplements these experiences with some of the finer points of his humanistic perspective on autism.  He explains it in a way that inspires and brings to light the unique attributes of people with autism and also discusses the awakening of his own spirituality.  Bill proposes that the senses of people with autism “vibrate at a frequency different from most.”  which in turn makes them highly sensitive and emotional beings.  Stillman also infers that autism may be more a “gift” than a hindrance given the sensitive, spiritual nature of people on the spectrum.

   It is understandable that raising a loved one with autism many times cultivates an atmosphere of confusion,desperation–and even hostility.  The last thing a parent wants to hear is that their child is a ‘Godsend’ or spiritual prophet!  Although Autism and the God Connection seemingly implies that, at the same time it offers another perspective on a profound and sometimes mysterious disorder.  Perhaps just a flicker of light and hope in the darkness.  

   Whether you are caring for someone on the autism spectrum, interested in learning a bit more about ASD, a Psychic or paranormal enthusiast or are looking for some illuminating  and spiritual food for the soul this book will fit your needs.

If you feel a loved one that you care for may be experiencing psychic phenomena or spirit communication or encounters,  I’d love to hear your story, of course confidentiality will be respected.  You can e-mail me at: grandpajoe2@verizon.net ~JJA

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On Animal Hauntings, Psychic Canines and things that go bump on the deck

Posted in General on March 10, 2010 by voicesofoctober

The following stories are presented as strictly subjective personal experiences and not as documented paranormal events.  All events portrayed here can be attributed to imagination, coincidence or other natural causes. ~ JJA

     I had never given much thought about animal spirits or animal hauntings even though I’ve  had many finned, feathered, and furry family members throughout my lifetime.  A few strange occurrences over the past few years have caused me to rethink my position on the possibility of visitations from some dearly departed pets.

∞ MANDY ∞

     About 5 years ago we lost our beloved dog, Mandy to natural causes.  Mandy was a Giant Alaskan Malamute bred with timber wolf and weighed in at 171 lbs. at the time of her passing.  The average lifespan for this breed of dog is from 10-12 years.  Mandy lived to the ripe old age of 15.  I insisted that Mandy be buried in our back yard along with a number of our other deceased pets.  Our soil is very rocky and crisscrossed with large tree roots which take a chainsaw to cut through.  Needless to say it took me most of a morning to dig a grave large enough to accommodate a very large dog in addition to a litter of  fifteen of her favorite stuffed animals-her babies, as we liked to call them.  After putting the finishing touches on her gravesite I felt Mandy was where she would want to be–peacefully at rest in the back yard–or was she?!

     Our deck runs the entire width of the house and Mandy liked to spend many a day pacing back and forth from one end of the deck to the other, the floor boards constantly creaking and groaning.  To make a long story short, a week or two after Mandy’s death I began hearing what sounded like the floor boards on the deck squeaking repetitively–the same sound they made when Mandy used to carry out her relentless march.  I kind of brushed the sounds off as my imagination.  A few weeks later Mandy came up, for whatever reason,  in a conversation between my wife and I.  I said to my wife, ‘You know, I would swear it sounds like her (Mandy) walking back and forth on the deck sometimes.’  “I hear that to,” replied my wife.  We both looked at each other and laughed. 

     I don’t know when it is we both stopped hearing (or imagining) the sounds of Mandy walking the deck as we never really mentioned it to each other again.  At twilight on warm summer nights, I occasionally go to the backyard to watch the bats perform their aerial displays and watch the fireflies rise from the grass.  Sometimes I”ll think I see what appears to be a dark, moving shadow near the tree where Mandy is buried–guess I’ll never really know.

∞ COCOA ∞

      Cockatiels are interesting birds–sometimes you absolutely adore them and other times you think  some big black crow you caught in the backyard would make a better pet! No matter, I talked my wife into letting me buy one (a cockatiel not a crow!) for my birthday back in 2004.  She was mostly yellow in color with some highlights of peach and white.  We named her Tiki.  Prior to purchasing Tiki I had taken a liking to cockatiels because a friend of ours had a grey male named Cocoa.  Cocoa was about 13 years old and had been given to our friend by someone who basically just didn’t want the bird anymore.  Male cockatiels learn to talk easier than females do and Cocoa  was definitely a verbose bird! 

     Tiki settled in to our household with some difficult moments at times mostly because of being weaned prematurely.  After having Tiki for a year or so our friend asked if we could take Cocoa for a brief period while she painted the first floor of her house.  Of course we agreed and she promptly delivered Cocoa and cage (and mysteriously everything else that belonged to Cocoa-including  a spare cage)) to our house a few days later.  Cocoa being a male and Tiki a female–well you  know how it goes–they took to each other immediately.  As I mentioned previously, Cocoa had quite the vocabulary.  He could whistle “Up on the Housetop” in its entirety and from everyone saying “Hi Cocoa” over the years, he could say “Hi Cocoa” as clear as it could possibly be!  Tiki learned “Hi Cocoa” in no time and would use it throughout the course of the day–and appropriately at times.  So you had one bird saying hi to itself and another bird saying hi to the other bird–quite the circus!  The birds could  not leave each other’s sight without raising a nerve racking ruckus!  A year later our friend told us she really didn’t want Cocoa back ( Hmm-like we hadn’t figured this out by now!).  Needless to say there were too many issues with the two birds and we really didn’t want to keep Cocoa either but we agreed to house him until she could find him a new home.  A short time later Cocoa moved in with a school teacher and over time we would hear that he was doing well and his new owner loved him dearly.  Cocoa lived almost another 2  happy years before taking wing for bird heaven or wherever it is that deceased birds go-if they go that is.

     Getting back to Tiki, she had adjusted well to Cocoa going to a new home thank goodness as we had some concerns since they were so attached to each other.  Although Tiki continued to whistle fragments of “Up on the Housetop,” which she had learned from Cocoa, she stopped saying “Hi Cocoa” completely after a few weeks.  We did not hear it again until one day, not long after Cocoa had passed on, Tiki out of the blue suddenly said “Hi Cocoa”  My wife and I both looked up at her cage and noticed that she was sitting on her perch staring off in the opposite direction almost as if she was looking at something.  Tiki repeated this several times and then abruptly stopped.  Over the course of the next few months Tiki would verbalize “Hi Cocoa” occasionally for short periods.  My wife and I both wondered if maybe…just maybe, Cocoa was paying a visit from the ‘other side’ when Tiki would display this behavior.  Of course it could  have been due to spontaneous recovery of the verbal behavior– obviously a more worldly explanation!  Whatever the cause Tiki has not repeated this for a long time now but you never know…

∞ BOONIE ∞

     This is a little bit different from the stories above but since I’m on the subject of animals and possible paranormal phenomena I thought I should include it here.  Boonie is one of two of my cherished NewFoundlands and I’m happy to say: ‘alive and healthy!’  I’ll briefly relate what happened:  While lying in bed watching TV the other night with Boonie also on the bed and asleep at my feet (yes, the 160 lb. NewFy not only sleeps in our bed but he and his brother are also giant lap dogs!) I began thinking of how attached I am to these dogs–probably more attached then I’ve ever been to any other pet I had.  I know that NewFoundlands have short lifespans relative to other dogs and I was thinking how much too short that is.   I began getting myself upset thinking about what I would do if and when something happens to them–all this while I was staring expressionless at the television.  Suddenly Boonie, who had been fast asleep and snoring, crawled up on to my chest, his two front paws on my shoulders, looked at me with the saddest expression I’d ever seen and then began kissing my face incessantly!  Did Boonie sense what I was thinking–and was this his way of consoling me?!  It does make one wonder… ~ JJA

In the Woodlands of Northeastern Pennsylvania – A Discourse on Deer Hunting, Nature Spirits, and Altered States of Consciousness.

Posted in General on January 28, 2010 by voicesofoctober

 

  Frankly I am no stranger to the forest lands of Northeastern Pennsylvania.  Being an avid deer hunter and outdoorsman I have spent many a day tramping through the woods on my way to somewhere-or nowhere at all.  The woodlands have always been my friend, an ever-present retreat from the stress of this fast paced life.  Ever-changing yet always the same.  A place of wonder and beauty-of loneliness and decay.

     Early December in Northeastern Pennsylvania ushers in the Buck hunting season once again.  The forests are an ash grey pruned by the cold November winds and sometimes whitewashed by new fallen snow.  Most of the birds have long gone to wherever it is they go but the Chickadees always remain, flitting from branch to branch and complaining loudly about one thing or another.  Their gray, white, and black colors blending well with the somber forestscape.

     This day began for me like countless others in the Pennsylvania deer hunting season.  I was up in the wee hours of the morning and into the woods before first light.  It was a cold, crisp December morning  and the leaves crackled under my feet as I attempted to settle in to my spot.  My back planted firmly against a tree, I sat motionless waiting for the first hint of light to peek over the treeline signaling the dawn of a new day.

     This year I had chosen a new location from which to hunt my prey and I had been coming here for three mornings now.  There was nothing particularly different about this area from any other place in the general area.  Most of the woodlands around me are second-growth forest, the old growth forest timbered out over a century ago when the land was raped and layed to waist by the ravenous timber companies.  The giant White Pines that once covered the ridges, valleys and swamps quickly fell victim to the axe and saw ultimately becoming ghosts of their former selves in the many sawmills on the banks of swift flowing streams–the drone of the mills echoing endlessly through the hollows and draws of the Appalachians.  What remained now were mostly leaf-bearing trees with  a white pine here and there like  solemn sentinels- reminders of the former grandeur of the Northeastern PA forests.  But the past is the past; what is done is done–or is it?

As the forest slowly came into view weakly illuminated by rising sun-a reversal of evening twilight-I thought I noticed movement among the trees. ‘Wait! There it was again!’  As a seasoned game hunter my senses have been trained to go into hyperdrive at the slightest indication of movement or noise.  Vision becomes finely tuned zeroing in and focusing on the area of movement. Auditory processes do the same, head cocking and turning towards the determined direction of noise.  Tactile sensation heightens immensely as hands slide quickly over the firearm instantly locating trigger and safety simultaneously.  The weapon is gripped firmly but delicately in anticipation.   No, these movements weren’t deer-or any other animal or bird or insect for that matter.  At first I attributed it to a trick of the light but, as I’ve made clear, Ive spent much time in the forest and movement such as this I had never experienced before.  It was subtle but all around me.  Very small shadows blocking out the light between branches and scrub.  I remember cracking a smile, free associating and laughing to myself, ‘Wraiths, faeries hmm.  I have invaded the woodland realm of …’   The movement seemed to dissipate but every once in a while I thought I saw it again although not as frequently.

     The sun had almost completed its slow ascent above the treeline within view.  I settled back against my tree in anticipation of my long vigil.  As I scanned the area, my head moving slowly in a semi-circle I suddenly felt extremely relaxed, as one with the forest.  I noticed every tree, upright or fallen and an overwhelming realization washed through me.  I remember thinking how beautiful this all is, this whole earth-the woodlands and streams.  How fortunate we are to have all of this within our grasp.  I had been relaxed in the woods before-but not like this!  I became cognizant of something else; I didn’t feel like it was me–or it was me thinking this (Very difficult to explain), yet I sensed something–something very old.  As I processed these newfound feelings the beauty around me seeming to course through my veins; to the very depth of my soul, a question suddenly materialized and was brought to the forefront of  conscious thought: ‘WHY!  With all of this beauty around us; here for us; why can man not live harmoniously with nature–with each other?!  What is so difficult about it?!  The absurdity of it was suddenly crystal clear to me.  It had never been so clear before.  Emotions welled up inside me as images flashed through my head.  In what must have been a few seconds, I visualized what seemed to be every war that man had ever fought for thousands of years–from the beginning of recorded time.  I saw man fighting man; swords thrusting, guns firing, explosions and mayhem–and I wept as the eternal question “WHY?” repeated itself over and over.  As the tears subsided and the visions faded along with it went the feeling of inner peace which I had experienced previously.  I began to feel my old stressed-out self again.

What had happened?!  Had I psychically connected with The Memory of Trees from Celtic folklore?  The Celts considered trees to be sacred and repositories of memory, lore and the presence of spirit-beings-or was it an Elemental’s cruel joke?  First imparting on me a sense of well-being and one with nature; then telepathically implying:  “Now here is man, see what he has done!” 

I returned to the same area for two days after my experience this past December of 2009.  Nothing unusual happened again.  I will be sure to return to those woodlands this spring and many times thereafter.  I will never forget the day I wept;  the day the forest wept-for all of us. ~ JJA

“Once there is a certain degree of Presence, of still and alert attention in human beings’ perceptions, they can sense the divine life essence, the one indwelling consciousness or spirit in every creature, every life-form, recognize it as one with their own essence and so love it as themselves.”  (From:  A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle 1999)

Personal Narrative

Posted in General with tags , on December 3, 2009 by voicesofoctober

Disclaimer:  I am not responsible for the content of this article containing any mindless rambling; repetitive statements; or delusional thinking-give me a break, I’m gettin’ old!

      I was born Joseph John Andrasi to a family of modest means in the city of Hazleton, Pennsylvania right smack in the middle of the anthracite coal fields.  My father was an easygoing, hardworking man; my mother was an incorrigible critic!  I had a childhood rich in adventure with many friends in a  great neighborhood.  Across from and within clear view of my home was the Hazleton #40 Shaft coal breaker a massive black edifice which was lit up like a skyscraper at night.  As a child I spent much of my time with my friends searching for fossils in the exposed slate and shale of the many strip mines in the shadow of the breaker. There was also an abandoned slope mine not far from my home meaning the site of what was once a fully operational mine until about 1956 complete with all of the buildings intact , the mine cars and the open entrance to the shaft itself which my friends and I spent many a day on our explorations into the bowels of the earth unknown to my poor mother.   The mines flooded in the 1950s and brought an end to deep mining in the area–strip mining became the norm. Huge dragline shovels as big as houses  were always nearby, and like mighty dinosaurs they continuously ate away at the desolate moonscape they had created. Many times at night the operators would allow us to come aboard and watch as the huge buckets rip into the earth under the intense lights mounted on the boom of the machines lending a surreal otherworldly feeling to the bleak, boulder strewn landscape. These dragline shovels continue til this day to carve huge craters in the earth although a project to reclaim the forlorn landscape was started years ago and has made some headway.

     Like all kids, I lived for Christmas but Halloween was also one of my favorite times of the year.  Like a coven of witches me and my friends met on the street corner to begin our night of trick-or-treating. (or in coal cracker slang ‘Halloweening’)  Back in the day we were able to trick-or-treat for two nights, mischief night and Halloween night.  Jack-O-Lanterns  glowed on almost every porch and most people welcomed us and filled our bags with treats (or the Jack-O-Lanterns ended up in pieces on the street). Of course it was harvest time and we did our share of raiding gardens at night. Dressed in black we resembled a covert team of military operatives rather than a bunch of kids illegally partaking of the fruits of the earth! 

     I could go on and on about my childhood but it would take volumes to cover.  All I can say is that is was a wonderful time of my life.  It definitely had a touch of ‘The Goonies’ in it and I miss it immensely! 

     I grew up in the late 60s early 70s and yes I had hair down to my ass, a Psychedelic room in my basement complete with strobes and color organs all in time to the music of Led Zeppelin, Creme, and Iron Butterfly among many! The ‘PEACE’ sign was my only form of social greeting in those turbulent years–oh, and sometimes the middle finger especially to figures of authority.

 Over the years I worked a various jobs from house painting to microfilming; from ice cream making to brick making.  In 1974 I applied and was accepted to a liberal arts college about 25 miles north of my home.  I dormed there for 4 years majoring in Psychology-and actually took 2 parapsychology courses seldom offered in other colleges.  It just so happened that the head of the Psychology Department and another professor of mine were professional ghost hunters-not something that you were fond of advertising back then.  Although I was always open-minded about the paranormal my true interest in it would not peak until decades later.  The college itself was an interesting place to live.  The campus was small and many of the main buildings were huge Victorian houses which had been the residences of the elite from back in the day when coal was king in northeastern PA.  Even many of the residence halls had once been private homes that are architectural wonders today.  The woodwork and immensity of these homes was truly amazing!-to think that people lived like that.  Grand staircases made of polished oak and cherry wood that ascended openly 3 or 4 floors; huge fireplaces with walk-in hearths-and yes, they had their ghost stories.  Of course then I attributed them to drinking too many spirits–and then seeing  many spirits-although my best friend would check under her bed every night because she claimed a little girl in Victorian dress appeared at the foot of her bed on more than one occasion.

After graduating from college in 1978-with a degree in Psychology and American Beer Drinking I lived at home and worked briefly in a brick factory close by.  After being laid off I procured a job working with juvenile delinquents and then with people with mental retardation.  Thus began my career in the field of developmental disabilities, a field which I would remain in for the next 30 + years.

In 1981 I began working part-time for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in a state institution for mentally retarded (the politically correct term these days is ‘state center for developmentally disabled’).  This is where I was to have my first encounter with the paranormal but that will be discussed in an upcoming article. In the course of my employment I worked myself up from aide to supervisor to directing an adult autism supports program on site; chairing 2 statewide workgroups involving assistive technology for people with developmental disabilities; developing the first statewide resource brochure for people with significant communicative challenges; leading a crisis intervention team; screening the entire population of people who reside in state centers for autism and becoming the lead of the autism specialty team on site.  The last few years of my job much time was spent traveling between the 5 PA state centers to chair meetings and participate in seminars.  The remainder of my time was occupied sitting at a computer coordinating statewide meetings, participating in live meetings and videoconferencing.  Needless to say, the politics and pressure eventually wore me down and I ended up retiring in December of 2008-a bit earlier than anticipated. 

After sitting at home for 9 months and driving my spouse insane–oh that reminds me, a few minor details I failed to mention:   In 1983 I was married and had 2 lovely daughters. In 1997 I was divorced and remarried again in 2007. OK, back to driving my wife insane: in this 9 month time span I joined a TAPS family group in the area.  My involvement was brief though as I soon returned to gainful employment which began to clash with the group’s investigation schedule,  for that and a few other reasons I bowed out gracefully. I had been independently investigating paranormal phenomena for a few years prior to 2007 and also did some consulting and referrals to paranormal groups when necessary. Continuing on, I began working at a private WhiteWater franchise doing campground maintenance among many other things.  Although the pay leaves much to be desired it pays the mortgage and the work is all outdoors which I absolutely love! A bonus is I get to go whitewater rafting as many times as I want–free!

I’m a simple guy who likes peace and quiet at this point in my life.  Being a simple guy, I enjoy the simple things in life:  fishing, hunting, camping, photography (other than paranormal), I read voraciously just about anything that catches my fancy but I’m especially partial to all that’s paranormal, civil war history, WWII history (my dad was in the invasion of Normandy), autism and much much more.  I am a connoisseur of fine handguns and an excellent at combat handgun courses (well, I used to be-the eyes are  aging rapidly) Just a note related to the gun thing: I grew up playing army, cops etc.-and yes, we pointed toy guns at each other constantly and to my knowledge none of us grew up to be mass murders or serial killers.-there, got that off my chest! 

I live with my wife -Tammy, stepdaughter- Kerry,  2 NewFoundlands-Boonie & Koda,  yellow cockatiel – Tiki, cat – ‘FatCat’, and a dwarf hamster Japeto.

Hope I didn’t bore everyone too much. I  promise that in the future I’ll talk more about–oops I forgot-not to worry it’ll come to me!

THE END