Skeptical News

Unconfirmed Report: ‘Zoo Keeper Emeritus’ Jordan Schaul May Lead an Exploratory Legacy Commission for Trump Presidential Library Dedication After Administration Called “a Zoo”


From the Office of the Publicist for Dr. Jordan Carlton Schaul

December 8, 2017 (Los Angeles, California) 


Press Statement/Release: Developments concerning proposed Trump Presidential Library and Country Club in Atlantic City. The news was possibly leaked by unidentified archivist intern with the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

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Dr. Jordan Carlton Schaul & two orphans raised in human care in AK.

An unsubstantiated claim from an unverified intern’s Twitter account in Washington D.C. supposedly associated (albeit unofficially) with The National Archives & Records Administration (NARA), has possibly recommended or leaked plans regarding the next presidential museum and library site selection. In addition information concerning its architectural design and archival team assemblage has surfaced. The selected commission chair will have to be approved by President’s Chief of Staff and the First Family.

While unconfirmed as a nominee, Dr. Jordan Carlton Schaul, a former zoo animal keeper may lead an independent exploratory commission concerning development of Trump’s Presidential Library and his presidential legacy. If selected, Schaul will work with the Trump family and some of the President’s advisors.

Schaul, who proclaims to be an “over-credentialed” animal trainer and former zoo animal keeper, was a zoological park curator and courtesy professor. He also consults as a celebrity publicist through his boutique digital firm Starstruck Online. The burgeoning comedian and possible subject of fake news was initially unavailable for comment.

When tracked down this evening at a Playa Vista dog park by a presumed communication department intern from an unidentified federal agency who was escorted by an off-duty LA County Sherrifs Department deputy, he extended his appreciation and commented:

“While I’m grateful and humbled to have been recommended to advance the celebratory interests of the President’s career as a public figure and his legacy, in particular, I’m not sure that I’m the best fit for this post. However, I’m most honored to be considered. It is an important endeavor celebrating the leader of the free world.”

Schaul added that without question he thinks the Trump library should be commissioned for a ground breaking in Atlantic City, and if possible include a golf resort.

The intern, suspected to be a proxy for a senior archivist at the Library of Congress, explained that the Schaul was nominated because of his zoo experience. She indicated that because many political news journalists have made metaphorical references likening the current White House administration to a zoo, Schaul’s name was mentioned.

When asked for further comment,  he said, “Zoos are conservation centers and home to vanishing imperiled species. But just the status of being endangered is probably the extent to which the idiomatic expression from the 1800’s may be applicable to the current White House administration.”

He said, “Accredited zoos are exceedingly progressive organizations committed to the sustainability of nature and natural resources and have long been at the forefront of wildlife conservation. They are also increasingly recognized as the most progressive organizations poised to facilitate the most sophisticated behavioral health and welfare provisions for any animal populations in need. This would include wildlife, companion and/or other domestic populations.”

Schaul recommended in the event the First Family has not yet visited the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, they should, and shared that it is located in Washington D.C., should they not be aware.


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Join him on LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/jordanschaul/

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Join him on Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jordan.schaul/

Other Websites:

Animal Trainer Dude™🦁🐯🐻🐶🐱

https://animaltrainerdude.com

©Starstruck Online🤩😎🕴🏼💫🕺🏼

https://starstruckonline.com

________________________________

Uncategorized

Pat Harris is running for US Senate in 2018: “Bye” to the Feinsteins & “No” to the ‘Frumps’…

Political ’labels’ never insulted me. I was wholly unaware of what my ideological views really signified, much less what my values constituted.

I have been ‘apolitical’ my whole adult life. I almost most considered adopting Centrism because it sounded good.  But a cursory exploration into the ‘Bloomberg’ political ideology with the help of Wikipedia no less, encouraged me to revisit my options on a political front.

Undoubtedly, polling data will show that I’ve never even voted for any public servant, but that is about to change….

This is my third stint in California and I intend to vote. For better or worse, it has taken crazy, chaotic and deconstructive acts from an emotionally and intellectually unfit presidential leader and no paucity of self-absorbed congressional representatives to finally get me to the polls. So thank you Mr. Frump and in DC.

http://www.electpatharris.com


Please visit the official Facebook campaign page for Progressive Democrat Pat Harris (Elect Pat Harris for US Senate-CA 2018) to learn more about the progressive political ideologies of the critically acclaimed author and attorney…..

Pat is poised to replace California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein sooner than later. Feinstein has been in Congress for enough consecutive terms to exceeds my natural adult life span to date. Without as much as benign judgement, I think she and the citizens of California need a break from each other.

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Some thoughts on the tragedy in Nevada…

I extend my condolences to Las Vegas residents, including my my father, and visitors to the dazzling and intentionally ostentatious ‘urban center’ in the desert. And I can’t help but reflect along with every other FB user on what permitted or encouraged this unprecedented tragedy to unfold to the dismay of the Free World.

At the juncture of so many societal issues, which are continually dismissed or deflected daily with asinine tweet storms from our inarticulate ‘Tweeter and Thief’, we are indeed a nation torn and in trouble.

The POTUS offers us nothing but chaos to thwart drawing attention to his inability to lead us or even manage the White House culinary team.

At best, “Frump” is a reality show host and former beauty pageant owner. Sadly for all of us, his legacy may be that of America’s most accomplished Twitter account user and/or the most widely recognized political buffoon ever to hold any office as a public servant.

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We need to elect smart and effective congressional leaders like Pat Harris. Pat can see through the fog in Washington DC and the smog in LA and help us move beyond the damage to Americans by some seasoned but mostly ineffective congressional leaders and a miserably failing POTUS.

While our “Tweeter and Thief” is perhaps best described as ‘Crazy Like a Fox’, he is not remotely interested in “Making America Great Again.” It was never his intention and he would have no clue where to begin…

TPTB will continue to blame and scapegoat innocent targets beyond our borders as soon as they can.

With an obvious and disproportionate number of Americans calling California home, we are always poised to lead by example with anticipated and wide-reaching implications nationally and internationally.

While environmental issues are so much part of my professional life as a wildlife conservationist and applied animal welfarist, social issues that were once selfishly of little importance to me, are increasingly significant and relevant.

Having interfaced informally with congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle and been afforded the opportunity to converse with candor, I found that in meeting Pat, he is exceptionally capable of listening and understanding.

Not not only did he encourage me speak casually, freely and candidly, but he entertained my discourse on topics as disparate as conserving vanishing species overseas and here in CA to celebrity endorsements to health care for underserved Angelenos.

Harris is not just gracious and grounded, he is exceedingly approachable and accessible and it was appreciated and inspirational. Thank you again, Pat Harris.

Uncategorized

My “Natural” Response to Being Labeled An “Unnaturalist” By Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society”

My “Natural” Response to Being Labeled An “Unnaturalist” By Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society” –Dr. Jordan Carlton Schaul
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“Unnaturalist” or “Unscientist”?

Uncategorized

New ‘Housewife’ Eden Sassoon Discusses Life with her Iconic Father & her Evolving Brand

picture-8Ten years ago, Eden Sassoon was probably most known as the daughter of iconic hair styling pioneer Vidal Sassoon. Her father may have revolutionized the beauty industry, but Eden has diversified beyond beauty as an enterprising serial entrepreneur. She is extraordinarily humble, dismissing the moniker, and questioning it vehemently.

“Serial entrepreneur! I never thought of myself as an entrepreneur, even early on. I was just someone who wanted to offer services I am passionate about, including a business built around my lifelong passion. I’ve learned so much and over the years realized that becoming entrepreneurial was just part of who I am. Initially, I was afraid to own the title of entrepreneur, but now I’m not. It is safe for me and I embrace it. If you had asked me this a few years ago, I would have given you a different answer. But, yeah, I’m OK with you saying that now.”

Today, Eden is a bona fide public figure in her own right and known simply as “Eden Sassoon”. Thinking of her as the daughter of Vidal Sassoon is now more or less an afterthought, if anything. As much as her father’s notoriety and influence may have helped her in business, his clout has also inadvertently created some challenges.

I’ve had the pleasure of following Eden’s exciting career as she has developed her own brand. I suspect that it may be hard to gain credibility and secure one’s own legitimacy when your name was popularized in cosmopolitan culture around the globe before you were even born. However, Eden has navigated brand development and management in a cunning and strategic way, cultivating a following from the perspective of passion and not ego.

As a businessperson, she is known for not permitting ego to dictate how she does business. In fact, for someone of such prominence, Eden is void of excessive introspection and self-absorption. She is genuinely secure with who she is and it is reflective in her parenting and relationships with friends and clientele. It may be natural to think that as the daughter of Vidal Sassoon, she stepped out from under the shadow of her father, but she doesn’t see it that way.

Eden said, “The irony is that my father was caught up in his own shadow of being the “Hair God”. However, she says, “He was spiritually grounded, incredibly astute and very intelligent.” She said his relationship with nature kept him balanced and allowed him to live with a healthy perspective and a world view that was unusually progressive, if not ahead of his time.

She said, “For me, I grew up knowing health and beauty. As we grow, we learn more about ourselves. We become individuals, and we find out who we really are without our parents. The person who I was getting to know was very much like my father. I had no premeditated plan to be like my father or follow in his footsteps. I just evolved organically. It was natural for me to take this course. I follow my heart and intuition. I do only what feels right by me and what seems to make a positive impact on others. “

picture-9There are a lot of successful children of notable people, but when your parent is an icon, it may be much more difficult to break away from recognition by familial association and emerge as a distinct entity, either publicly or in private. In some ways Eden did not fall far from the tree but she has fallen.

I suggested that she must be exhausted as a mom and businessperson and people often ask and assume that her lifestyle must lead to a tiring existence. But Eden looks very much refreshed and relaxed more often than not. I wondered if she had an extensive support network to help advance or diverse business interests.

“I get asked this question a lot. I couldn’t do any of these things on my own nor would I want to do these things on my own. I’m grateful for my team who I love and respect and honor. Together we create and move forward collectively. Each business has its own sort of dance and flow. I learned that with respect to each of my businesses, I have to wear a different hat and for a while, I was wearing multiple hats all at once. My life was not just hectic, it was emotionally “decapitating”. Each business drew from different parts of me. I had to check in with myself mentally and emotionally and approach each role as a business owner strategically, yet mindful of my passion for these industries.

Vidal Sassoon grew up impoverished and spent time in an orphanage. Eden, however, grew up in Beverly Hills, but her father’s early life experiences had great influence on the worldviews of his children. His work ethic certainly rubbed off on Eden and her siblings. Vidal is famous for having said, “The only place where success comes before work is the dictionary.” Eden takes this to heart and walks the talk. She has carved out a niche for herself as lifestyle coach extending her brand to include fitness and healthcare, which help people far beyond the services that are synonymous with her last name.

When I first met Eden, she made it very clear to me that she doesn’t consider herself an expert. She doesn’t see herself that way at all.

Hollywood is obviously not recognized as a Mecca for the humble and authentic, but Eden is an exception. She is open about her struggles and simply comfortable in her own skin. Growing up in the public eye comes with its own stressors. It can hinder the cultivation of a healthy sense of self. And this is considering that growing up is difficult enough for those unused to public scrutiny. She’s quite unscathed for offspring of the rich and famous. Independent, self-aware and grateful, she is known today as “Eden Sassoon” who happens to be the daughter of Vidal.

Her father would be proud, but not surprised that Eden is so enterprising. She owns a very popular salon and a Pilates studio. You could say that she is validated by her success.

Eden said, “I grew up without a voice and literally hid in my father’s shadow or behind his leg. As a child I was exceedingly shy. It took me years to find my own voice and the journey was very painful. It hurt to speak, but when I finally discovered my own voice, it was on. I was determined to take my own path, and nothing was going to get in my way. I realized that the louder I became, the more I could achieve and the more I could heal.

Undoubtedly, genetics and rearing should dictate that Eden knows something about hair styling and hair products, but I wanted to know if her father’s intellect, creativity and drive had more influence on her success than her own passion and experience.

She said, “Initially, my father shaped my development as a child. I saw him as a visionary who was both creative and driven, but also a relentless and powerful force. He was very funny, but also the epitome of constant energy in motion. A child can’t really appreciate or make sense of this dynamic, non-stop energy, which was boundless and pervasive. But I soaked it up like a sponge and it began to take on a life of its own. At the same time, as I grew older I would contemplate my own purpose on this planet and how his unbridled energy would manifest within me. I began to search for my own independent identity.”

Some people never experience success because they are afraid to fail. Eden has experienced success and is certainly not afraid to fail.

picture-10She said, “In the beginning I used to be afraid to fail and very much so. But that is not the case anymore. I finally learned that in failing you discover your greatest strengths. Failing is our teacher. It’s our life lesson and it’s our friend. What does failing even mean? It just means learning. Evolving. Next level shit.”

Curious about the competitive nature of the industries she promotes, I was curious about the egos that influence the world of aesthetics and fitness. She said, “When your ego gets involved, you are regressing and putting yourself in the small box we were born in. Our society permits this and it is something that some people try to break out of on a daily basis.”

I also asked Eden about her mantra. She said, “Have no ego. Look, if you are going to come from a place of ego, you are not going to get what you are looking for. At least I’m not going to. There are a lot of people out there operating off of ego. In my case, I have done a lot of work to let go of it. If anything, I have made a concerted effort to be more self-loving and nurturing and giving of myself. My mantra is F- your ego! Be selfless!! It does take a lot of work. It is a daily practice. Life is hard and I believe, in fact, that we are in a living hell. But it is how we choose to live. We need to accept what is and choose to make the best of it. We can choose our destiny!”

Eden just joined the cast of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I can’t congratulate her enough and look forward to following this new chapter in her life.

screen-shot-2016-11-20-at-3-17-46-pmDr. Jordan Carlton Schaul is an American zoologist, exotic animal trainer and professional writer based in Southern California. In recent years, he has combined his interest in celebrity and wildlife conservation for the benefit of endangered species around the globe.

Click below for some more biographical info:

http://voices.nationalgeographic.com/author/jschaul/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/jordan-schaul/

http://www.facebook.com/jordan.schaul/    (verified FB page)

http://www.instagram.com/drjordanschaul

screen-shot-2016-10-25-at-6-40-18-pmPlease contact my partner Cristina Clark
at cmcpartnerjcs1@gmail.com regarding past or prospective interviews. Thank you!

 

 

 

 

Antisocial Personality Disorder, Autism/Apserger's Syndrome, Parenting

Spectranomics & Why I liken your Autistic Child to a Zoo Animal

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Dr. Jordan Schaul

WHY I LIKEN YOUR AUTISTIC CHILD TO A ZOO ANIMAL

(that is just to get your attention and hopefully get you to read this, whether your life has been a breeze or a struggle)

I’ll preface this by saying, I’m on the Autistic Spectrum and I don’t really think your child is like a zoo animal, God Forbid. He or she will grow up and they may face the same challenges I have and so this is worth sharing with people as part of an awareness campaign because it doesn’t get easier, it gets harder.
There comes a time when you have to pry open people’s mouths and force feed them information because it is not getting to their brain. That is what advocacy in this “genre” has been like for me.

People aren’t listening or are not interested.
So I’m hoping that if I extend myself begrudgingly that perhaps it will reach their cognitive faculties through their mouths and their stomachs.

Who knows, stranger things have happened. I had a recent discussion with a prominent and distinguished professor of psychology and psychiatry and an MD/PhD at UCLA.
He said I should share this construct I described with him because clinicians much less the general public have trouble wrapping their heads around a relatively simple notion, which I write about in a blog here.

Since several people in my family have been affected by autism and they don’t even understand it, this may be a futile exercise but here it goes.

People have asked me why I was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at age 40? What they really meant is that you seem really “normal”, so why did you bother? Well obviously there was a problem. I somehow managed to get into graduate and professional school and contrary to what people think it was a huge struggle for me because I have executive function problems. The PhD was a cake walk, but doing it at the same time as veterinary school was a challenge.

Difficulties with executive functioning are common with ADHD and high-functioning autism, which I have both of. This does not mean that I drool all over my shirt or otherwise bang my head against a wall incessantly. In fact, I’m told I have an abundance of sex appeal!! What it does means is that I process certain information faster and slower and differently than other people.

There are a lot of highly educated people on the Autism Spectrum holding Masters’ degrees and PhD’s and professional degrees. Some of them are aware they are on the Spectrum and some aren’t.

Regardless, nearly 90 percent of people with high-functioning autism are unemployed or underemployed. In this economy the number can only be increasing.
Working as a zoo keeper was not particularly challenging because you don’t really exchange words extensively with zoo animals even when training them. So you don’t have to flawlessly navigate any conversation or read their minds as they react fairly well to routinized structure. In other words, their lives for better or worse are extremely predictable.

This is not to say that anyone with reduced emotional intelligence can work as a zoo keeper, but you certainly don’t have to be close to a skilled social butterfly to clean up after the animals and tend to other zoo keeping duties.

Even zoo managers, and not all of them, are not known for their social acumen and people skills. Hence, the column in one well -known trade magazine to industry people was entitled “People Skills for Animal People”.
Go to a zoo conference and you will see what I mean. The people who move up in the zoo world are neither the most credentialed nor those with greatest animal sense (for the most part). The one’s who move up the ranks from zoo keeper to curator to director are usually those with the best people skills. Although some could probably handle any social environment, the ones in zoos are just the best of their industry and zoos are not reservoirs for those harboring etiquette and social graces compared to the general population. I may offend my colleagues, but I’m telling it like it is.
I certainly wouldn’t excel as a corporate executive, but some how I managed to move my way up to some degree in zoo settings.

As much as they aren’t working venues for the socially gifted, they also are not particularly sensitive to the neurodiverse. As we know, they are focused on animal care and not people care. So for better or worse, I had great difficulty managing people in a zoo, which is not my best skill set by any stretch of the imagination.
Example: I had left my position in Alaska to take another curatorial role at a facility in California. I politely asked my staff to come out and help me on one rainy day to rake leaves as I had done at other facilities where I had also shoveled snow and to my dismay they responded saying they don’t work outside in the rain via a radio correspondence/transmission. To say that I almost had a mini-stroke and lost my shit, or at least my patience, would be putting it mildly. Someone neurotypical may have been able to regain their composure, but I was so angry, they are very lucky no one on my staff perished that day. So without further ado….

I have seen in the psychiatric/psychological and popular literature, discussion of autistics and sociopaths and the presumed commonalities they share.  The reason I mention this is because contrasting both conditions, which are both spectrum disorders helps me explain to people unfamiliar with Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning autism, what it is exactly. If one day I write a book about this, I hope to be credited with introducing the subject matter having coined the term “Spectrumnomics” because I consider my construct to be a give and take of two emotional currencies (i.e. compassion and empathy) across two spectra.

Fundamentally, and remember I’m a zoologist and neither a comparative or cognitive psychologist, but the sociopath is someone who can turn on and off empathy, but really has  no compassion (no feeling). This discussion is largely about semantics and the use of the terms “empathy” and “compassion”.

Sociopaths perceive how others may feel but have no feelings themselves. That is why they make great con-artists and professional felons. The autistic on the other hand is someone with plausibly a lot of compassion and no empathy. This can lead to a heightened sensitivity with an inability to seemingly modify extreme behavior or react in a way that is commensurate with the inciting stimulus. That is why these people can be highly emotional even though they can’t read the intentions of others. -Jordan Schaul, PhD

Recommended Reading:

www.kmarshack.com

Look Me In the Eye

The Sociopath Nextdoor (Review)

Spectronomics / Spectranomics are registered Trademarks

(COPYRIGHT 2016)

Parenting

Parenting Kids on the Autism Spectrum & Teaching Tolerance: An Exclusive Interview with Autism Awareness Advocate Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger

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This article has also appeared on the Huffington Post website:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/exclusive-interview-with-dee-ocleppo-aka-mrs-hilfiger_us_57fbc969e4b090dec0e7196d

In a recent correspondence with my friend, former model, fashion designer and Autism Speaks board member Dee Ocleppo Hilfiger, I mentioned that I was eager to talk to her about autism awareness. Mrs. Hilfiger is a staunch advocate among public figures for people on the Spectrum and her mantra is as follows:

“Tolerance, patience, compassion, acceptance, and love is what is needed on all fronts [when it comes to autism].”

I have generally learned a lot more about life on the Spectrum from moms of children afflicted, including some I’ve dated, than from clinicians who treat autistic people. This may induce smiles and smirks among the readership, and it is sad, but very true. When a clinician says they have treated a population of high-functioning autistics, do more research into their training. Don’t take their word for it.

Note on Autism vs. Sociopathy (Empathy & Compassion)

Briefly, autistics may have plenty of compassion, but they completely lack empathy, whereas sociopaths (those with Antisocial Personality Disorder), in comparison, completely lack compassion. However, sociopaths can apparently turn empathy on and off. Empathy is more about perceiving something from another’s perspective, whereas compassion is about caring. These are two different things and they are not interchangeable in usage.

Being empathetic allows a sociopath to con and manipulate people, whereas lacking empathy precludes autistics from the ability to see something from another’s view point. Please ponder this before you dismiss how challenging a lack of perception can be for someone who otherwise seems neurotypical or “normal”.

I generated this very simplistic comparative construct in an effort to explain how this one ”limiting” diagnostic parameter can confer high-functioning autistics such difficulty in life (e.g. professional and academic and any interpersonal relations). Unfortunately, the notion of completely lacking empathy is unappreciated by some on the Spectrum. Assuming other adult autistics read this, it wouldn’t be the first time I offended someone, I assure you.

I have discovered that families, friends and high-functioning autistics, themselves, don’t like this fact, but it is largely because they don’t understand what empathy is in the first place. Contrary to what many, if not most people think, “empathy” is not synonymous with “sympathy” or “compassion”. Rather, it means something entirely different. Even clinicians treating those with Asperger’s or high-functioning autism fail to make this distinction.

This basic paradigm, has support from two distinguished clinicians in both psychiatry and cognitive psychology. Both Kathy Marshack, PhD and Ramzi Kiriakos, MD, PhD, a UCLA professor of psychiatry and psychology recognize this distinction in their respective practices.

Accepting Neurodiversity:

Sadly, accepting neurodiversity and particularly a tolerance for the broad spectrum of neurodevelopmental conditions known as Autism Spectrum Disorders, as published in 2013 in the Fifth Edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), is not a serious concern.

In fact, when I first learned of my diagnosis, I was known to wear a shirt that reads, “I’m Autistic, What’s Your Excuse?” I have a very sarcastic sense of humor. Dee would say her oldest son Alex, who is on the Spectrum, has a great sense of humor. For me, wearing the shirt served as a bit of a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ public service announcement, if not a badge of honor for surviving tumultuous times.

I’m 6’0 and 190 pounds, and used to train grizzly bears. Embarrassingly so, as a young adult, I was also once arrested for fighting, so I’m not exactly fragile or timid. But the misdemeanor was a pivotal and isolated incident that lent itself to some surprising self-discovery. I realized then that my emotional reactivity was not always commensurate with the inciting stimulus and I had a proclivity for a short fuse.

I had been erroneously diagnosed with bipolar disorder among other things.  But as recent as two years ago, I found some relief from a life full of seemingly excessive trials and tribulations. I had seen a physician for the treatment of Attention Deficit Disorder and he suggested that I might also be autistic or have Asperger’s Syndrome. Asperger’s is not a mental health issue, but it can certainly lead to co-morbid mental health conditions like anxiety and depression and sometimes presents with or erroneously as ADHD.

Recently, I was confronted with a difficult experience where, to my dismay, I felt I was bullied and the recipient of abusive language from an ignorant, yet prominent female colleague of notability and celebrity. While some in the high-functioning autism community consider the stigma associated with the neurodevelopmental condition to have lessened in recent years, I think tolerance for neurodivergence is still quite low.

Interview with Mrs. Hilfiger: So, I reached out to Mrs. Hilfiger because you never know when a well-connected friend with the courage to publicize her own family’s struggles, can provide some refreshing perspectives. Dee is exceptionally gifted with emotional intelligence. She also confesses that both she and Tommy have developed a great bit of patience, which she concedes they have as a result of raising three kids on the Spectrum.

In her role as a board of trustee/director of Autism Speaks, Dee serves along with Tommy as an ambassador for both people afflicted with autism and parents of autistic children.

“Autism Speaks, through a series of mergers, has combined organizations that [fund] peer reviewed research into genetic causes, [champion] alternative theories and therapies, and [advocate] for individuals with autism.” – Wikipedia.

Although heavily involved in advocacy, and targeting a lay audience, she and Tommy are regularly made apprised of the latest research findings.

I suggested that perhaps some clinicians are “out of touch” with autism. She said it may be because the diagnostic criteria has changed and high-functioning cases and/or Asperger’s Syndrome represent somewhat newly described entities to the broader medical community.  With that said, Dee has also reassured me that there is no paucity of research in to treatment and cures and coping strategies both in terms of behavioral adaptation and modification. In addition, there are now pharmacological therapies and other clinical care modalities that operate on neural pathways implicated in autism spectrum disorders. Autism Speaks is partly responsible for this progress.

Dee and I discussed that some people on the Spectrum, particularly those that are high-functioning or moderately-functioning, have achieved great success, and thus are opposed to the notion of finding a cure for Autism.

When I asked about her kids, Mrs. Hilfiger reported that her oldest son Alex is 22 and extremely happy living in Europe. Her youngest of the three sons, Sebastian (age 6), was also diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. She said that she sometimes regrets that Alex did not get the same kind of early intervention that Sebastian will undoubtedly benefit from.

Dee points out that although controversial, the experience of people who are nonverbal may be so difficult that to challenge parents of these lower-functioning individuals who advocate for a cure would be unfair. In these cases, the financial and emotional burden of caring for an autistic relative can be particularly devastating.

Dee and Tommy have a big and blended family. Kathleen who is just a year younger than Alex lives in the states. The Hilfiger’s share that their blended family of seven children largely functions like any family, neurotypical or not, and that Alex and Kathleen are sometimes at odds.

“Naively, we thought, ‘They’ll get along great, they’ll be best friends,’  ” says Dee, lounging on a sofa with her husband a few hours before the grand opening of his L.A. flagship store in February. “But in fact …” She looks to him for the words, and he finishes her sentence with a wry chuckle: “They get on each other’s nerves.” (Parade Magazine, 2013)

“We should have known, since both have a condition that makes social interaction difficult,” says Dee. “They often have zero patience for one another—but then they don’t really have any patience for anything, period,” Tommy adds. “Alex will touch Kathy’s arm, and she’ll draw back and yell, ‘Don’t touch me!’ ”

Selfishly, I’m more concerned that cognitive therapists and psychopharmacologists are often perplexed with “autism light”, as it presents in adults and have difficulty making a diagnosis. In the course of our recent conversation, Dee taught me to be a little more forgiving because autism can be such a profoundly debilitating condition as well as something challenging and pervasive. It can also be quite tolerable and permit a good quality of life, especially for high functioning people, and particularly for those who receive early intervention. Indeed, we agreed that autism, is a complicated deficit if you consider it as a spectrum of disorders.

Mrs. Hilfiger is very poised to advocate for autism awareness given her roles as both a parent and friend of parents of children on the Spectrum. She travels extensively, but is quite accessible. In addition, she has a remarkable amount of experiential and practical expertise with autism, not to mention an appreciation for reaching a lay demographic of people affected by the disorder. Although Dee has certainly “lived autism” first-hand as a parent, I think because she is inundated with similar stories with such frequency, she is particularly in touch with the needs of the global community that is becoming increasingly autism aware. She is also cognizant that much still needs to be learned.  Dee is humble about what she knows, but she is a fantastic ambassador for a really important cause that has touched both our lives very closely.

As a biomedical scientist, I realize the limitations of some peer-review contributions to helping caregivers in the immediate future. It is also healthcare issue that can be convoluted and imprecise at the patient-doctor interface.

We certainly need more data and more research investigations into various facets of ASD’s and co-morbid pathologies, but we also need more people to share their stories, and high profile people at that.

Dan Aykroyd and Jerry Seinfeld come to mind as public figures who have graciously shared their stories about definitive and tentative autism diagnoses. Dee agrees that it can’t hurt for more celebrities afflicted or celebrity parents of children afflicted to come out of the “autism closet”.

As much as, I’d like to think that I’m a celebrity, I realize that my following of exotic animal trainers and zoo professionals limits my reach. Seriously though, when I advocate and raise awareness for both personal reasons and for others afflicted, I find that celebrity experiences break stigmatized beliefs and stereotypes quite quickly.

People relate to public figures, and whether they are typical representations of people on the Spectrum or not, the power and clout of notability is unrivaled. Dee is a public figure. But Dee, as I mentioned, is not only known for her grounded warmth and charm, but for her aptitude and appreciation for the autistic experience as she sees it herself.

Mrs. Hilfiger is a refreshing voice on the topic because she is exceedingly enlightened about it. She and Tommy also share a balanced attitude toward the developmental condition as parents.

As Dee retrospectively compared her parenting experiences with two boys of her own and a stepdaughter, it was tremendously reassuring to hear her perspective, if not therapeutic for me.

I mentioned above that if you meet one child on the Spectrum, you may think you have met them all. As Dee said, “This couldn’t be further from the truth.” Mrs. Hilfiger is also a testament to surviving parenthood for those with neurotypical children. And she has four of them! Dee says that parenting kids off the Spectrum has plenty of challenges of its own, but certainly admits that she and Tommy have cultivated a tremendous amount of patience parenting seven children regardless of their developmental status.

When she learned that Sebastian was autistic, she said, “It wasn’t her first ‘rodeo’ .“ She meant this both figuratively and literally.  When I first mentioned my late diagnosis to Dee, she kind of took pause, as her children were diagnosed fairly early. She encourages afflicted adults with a latent diagnosis to be tolerant in their own right and not get frustrated as I have with a discovery of autism at 40.

It gives me great confidence in Autism Speaks, that its Board of Trustees picked Dee and Tommy to serve their organization. The most prominent autism advocacy organization in the US was founded 11 years ago by General Electric’s Vice Chairman Bob Wright and his late wife Suzanne. This was only a year after their grandson was diagnosed on the Spectrum. No one can doubt that Autism Speaks has made positive impacts on awareness and advocacy for both those with a voice and those who can’t speak for themselves.

As for Dee and Tommy, they seem to take things in stride. As a mom, Dee reminded me that as much of struggle it can be to raise children with autism or be one yourself, there are worse conditions out there to be stricken with than high-functioning autism. “Yes, she said some of her friends’ children are severely compromised as young people with ASD, but hopefully through the work of Autism Speaks and other organizations, there will be a brighter future for everyone on the Spectrum.

Mrs. Hilfiger has a great deal of empathy and compassion for other parents. She said, “Parents approach her all the time to tell their stories. They share joyous experiences and commiserate about some of the less enjoyable incidents. It is part of life,” she says.

Most avoid discussing stigmatized topics at all costs. So when a really high-profile public figure used to life under a microscope shares the less glamorous aspects of the human experience publicly, it is worth sharing. We need voices like those of the Hilfigers.  Autism can be a messy and high-maintenance condition and in my opinion, as someone afflicted it is such a pervasive condition, that it is hard to relate if you have not lived with it or cared for someone afflicted.

To compare, I have asthma. A pulmonologist or immunologist need not have asthma themselves to appreciate what if feels like to experience a shortness of breath. But when every neurotransmission, if you will, is tainted by autism, it affects how you perceive and react to the world and how others perceive and react to you.

Fortunately, Autism Speaks is committed to making sure healthcare providers are trained to deal with neurodivergence. It would also help greatly if everyone just practiced tolerance.

My friend and noted entertainment executive John Ferriter, shared the following quote:

“Always remember that life is a broken play. Improvise, adapt, accept and change and remember if there is no solution to something then there really isn’t a problem to begin with.”


screen-shot-2016-09-26-at-5-20-52-pmDr. Jordan Carlton Schaul can be reached at his verified public Facebook page. Jordan is an American wildlife conservationist, animal trainer and popular culture contributor to a number of publications.

As a zoologist and wildlife park curator, Jordan contributed regularly to National Geographic online as an editorial news science writer. His email is jordan.schaul@gmail.com.


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Click here to read this more recent post on autism.