A Jerichooncbs.blogspot.com and Jericho4Kids.com Interview with Sgt. Neal!

Thank you Sgt Neal for giving us a few moments of your time, so many
fans were so happy to hear from you through out last year and we are all very happy to be allowed to get to know you a bit better.

1. When did you get into Jericho, was the premise what drew you to watching?
I started watching Jericho from the second or third episode. I remember seeing the adverts for the show before the season started and had wanted to watch it from the premier but well life can sometimes get in the way.  I missed the first few but thank God for Comcast on Demand  I got to go back and watch the ones I missed.

2.  Can you tell us what types of entertainment the troops normally have access to while over seas?Is there a favorite entertainment of the troops?

                    Sure, we often have access to AFN for television as well as radio. Oh and they have started airing the Jericho on AFN!!! Most people bring a laptop or portable DVD players to watch movies and such. Probably the biggest thing over here is video games. Many in the military are gamers. It is starting to become part of the culture really. We’re getting so many young troops in and they almost always play video games. Some live entertainment happens here as well. It’s nice to have live shows here. Helps to change stuff up for the troops here.

3.  Besides entertainment, what other types of personal items would
be useful for the troops?  Are they lacking anything specific?

Personal hygiene items are always appreciated. Baby wipes are probably the best thing you can send a soldier. They just help keep you feeling fresh even if your grubby uniform doesn’t show it. Travel sized toiletries are a good choice as well. I know a lot of people like to send candy and stuff but to be honest that stuff should be kept to a minimum. Unless the soldiers are specifically asking for it. I know most candy either goes in the garbage or to the local kids (which does help the troops actually).
4. I would like to take a minute and talk about letters to the
troops.  The actor D.B. Sweeney had indicated to Shelby at
Jericho4Kids.com that the troops are inspired by letters from America's youth.  What have your experiences been regarding this?

  I know that Shelby has something in the works to get more letters from our youth out to the troops.Yeah we like letters from kids… The only problem is sometimes you get so many you just can’t respond to them all so many times no responses get sent. Truthfully there is something heartwarming about reading a letter from a kid back home. They are always so honest and a lot of times they make you laugh. Kids are great. They inherently know how to brighten your day. Here at the hospital we have billboards that we use to hang them up. You stop and read them and it can take you back home if it only is for a few moments.
5. What did you think the first time you made contact with the fans of Jericho on the boards, did you think we were all NUTS?I know were all nuts!!!

Jericho is a show to be nuts over. The Nuts for Jericho campaign was brilliant idea. Don’t they say most brilliant thinkers are at least a little nuts? Seriously, I really don’t understand why we’d need to even launch a campaign to save the show. It’s a great show. It has so many great elements to it. With so many other shows trying to just push the envelope that is FCC rules over sexuality, violence, profanity etc. to get ratings, Jericho is a show with a great plot and interesting characters and is delivering it all in a manner that anyone should be able to relate. I truly hope that Jericho finds a home so we can continue to watch the series grow.
6. What was the reaction of the troops upon receiving much needed
items from a group of Jericho fans?

                    I certainly don’t want to speak for everyone in this case but I know I am proud that the Jericho fans have sent what they did. Truth be told we get so many donations it can kind of seem like no one notices them. But they do. It’s is nice to have clean clothes and hygiene products for a wounded soldier after he is admitted to the hospital here. So, even if it isn’t expressed or even if the soldiers don’t know where exactly it came from, I know they appreciate it. And I certainly know I do!!

7. I would like to talk to you about your wife's web site, Piece of the Puzzle, how did that come about? http://pieceofthepuzzle.synthasite.com/index.php

Well, as I am sure some of you are aware my youngest son, Brenden is Autistic. Without being too long winded her (believe me I could go on and on about this one) finding help for him was not exactly the easiest thing in the world. I took us nearly a year to get him diagnosed and then the search for therapists and the like began. As anyone with an autistic child can tell you, you are working against the clock here. Look, Autism is still quite a mystery to even the experts. There is no definitive e treatment available only a lot of theory and conjecture. So often it is up to the parents on what is the best way to treat their child. So, after a very long year we started ABA (applied behavioral analysis) with which we began to see many improvements in many of his communication skills but it just wasn’t yielding the results we thought we should be seeing. Then my wife heard about the Son-Rise program. Immediately she wanted to know all about it and once she did some research she wanted to get Brenden in a similar program. Well, to get the training necessary, just like with many other things in life it costs money. Luckily there were scholarships available to help pay for the costly travel and consulting fees. Consequently, Brenden has gained so much from this program and we feel so blessed to have been able to attend the instruction program we wanted to find a way to help other families (specifically but not limited to military families)to attend by raising money to be used as grants. So POP was born.

8. Autism is currently at its highest diagnosis rate in the history
of the disorder, do you believe this surge in diagnosis is due to more
environmental factors contributing to the disorder or to better
diagnostic criteria?

                    Both. I think many pediatricians are reluctant to diagnose kids as autistic before they turn a certain age. I think that is starting to change though. I also think that there are so many more environmental stressors today that it is having an effect on our children’s’ development. There are so many arguments as to what exactly it is that causes the disorder. Probably as many as the differing spectrum s of the disorder itself. I think I remember hearing on the news that scientist believe they have found the defective gene in Autism. Let’s hope that leads us to a cure someday.
9. The American education system is moving toward a better system
for assisting and working with Autistic children.  What one thing do you feel needs to be improved upon the most in order to assure that children diagnosed with Autistic Disorders' receive the educational services necessary to reach their full potential?

        Wow, that’s a hard one. I mean, there is so much more needed to help out these kids. Basically there are two models from what I have seen. You can segregate them from their typically developing peers or you can integrate them as best as possible. These are two very hard choices to make. On one hand if you segregate them they lose the typical peer role-model. If you integrate them they can be a heavy burden on the teacher and/or be lost in the sea of other kids. It takes special people to deal with special kids. For our son we have decided to remove him from school completely. We wanted to have him in a comfortable environment with typically developed people and yet where he can get specialized one on one time. So if I had to chose one thing, I’d say more support for those parents who chose to not place their child in school. I know a lot of people may be opposed to taking a child out of school and as I probably would bungle the explanation for why it is a positive in this case, I’ll just say that it is actually a recommendation from the Son-Rise program facilitators. If a parent chooses to not use the school perhaps they could help fund the tutors necessary for the child’s therapy. Problem with dealing with the schools is they tend to believe they know best. So I can tell you from our experiences in dealing with the schools is the process of coming up with a plan of care for your child can seem more like a bargaining session. They’ll give you this if you’ll agree to that etc. They need to be more open to outside ideas.

10. Is there any thing you wish to say to folks about the need for more
support for families with Autistic Children? What is the most needed
support at this time?

                    Get educated. Support your local efforts to raise awareness and or fundraising. Above all be understanding.

Thank you.