From Our Listeners

Letters: Iraqi Translator, Autism and 'Thank You'

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Melissa Block and Michele Norris read from listeners' letters. Among this week's topics, Jacki Lyden and John McChesney's story about an Iraqi translator who was killed by American forces; Joseph Shapiro's piece on people with autism who want to be accepted as they are; and our story about thank-you-note etiquette.


It's Thursday and you know what that means. It's time to read from your e-mail.


We start with some comments about Joseph Shapiro's story on people with autism. He talked with people who had the disease, but rather than pushing for a cure, they want to be accepted as they are. Here's Jim Sinclair, the organizer of an annual autism retreat.

Mr. JIM SINCLAIR (Organizer, Autreat): What the rest of the world needs to know about autism is it's not something that can be separated out from the person. It's part of the person, and so you cannot meaningfully say I love my child, but I hate the autism. That's like saying, I love my child, but I hate that she's a girl. I'd like her to be a boy instead.

BLOCK: Following the story, we heard from a number of people for whom the story hit home. Richard Baim(ph) of Seacliff, New York, writes, “I find it wonderful that they want to be accepted as they are and it's wonderful that they can express their desires in a coherent manner. But I think that my son would express, if he could, that he would want to be free of the disability that does not allow him to express his thoughts in such an articulate manner. He would also like to be able to wash himself, shave himself and prepare a simple meal for himself. If that magical pill were invented tomorrow, we would be the first in line to take it.”

NORRIS: But listener John Lloyd, who says he has Asperger's Syndrome, a mild form of autism, writes that “the stereotype of autistic people is that they're pathologically schematic, obsessed with rules and classifications. Practically living by a flow chart, and a simple one at that. If you ask me, who are you, I might say, my name is John. That's true, but there is more to me than that. I'll mention neither my intelligence quotient nor my slugging percentage. I'm more than these as well.”

BLOCK: My story on training medical interns to be better communicators brought some response. Jerry Pause(ph) of Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, writes, “It's great that new doctors are being reminded to listen to their patients. Heaven knows that seems like a no-brainer that needs to be put back into their training. But when are the powers-that-be going to recognize that requiring human beings to work 80-90 hour weeks, including multiple days without sleep, is completely counter to the concept of health and wellness. How can it be good for patients to have doctors who haven't slept for two days?”

NORRIS: On our program last Friday, Jacki Lyden and John McChesney told about the death about an Iraqi translator, Yasser Salihee. He was killed by American forces. Here's his brother, Aymen Salihee.

Mr. AYMEN SALIHEE (Brother of late Yasser Salihee): When I saw the car and surround by, I think, two vehicles for Iraqi police, I just know that Yasser's gone and everything changed in my mind. And I couldn't think. I think it's over for me, because, you know, Yasser is everything for me. He's not just my brother.

NORRIS: William Campbell of Eugene, Oregon, writes, “As I stood weeping by my workbench, I could only feel sadness for the many lives affected by this one incident, one of hundreds as we were told at the end. Thank you for giving me such an even handed and honest look at one of the ugly, every day facts of this war.”

BLOCK: And finally, a few words about Michele's story on thank you notes. She asked several people a single question, is it okay to send a thank you note by email? Listener Deborah Kazlowski(ph) of Los Angeles defended the practice. She writes, “I routinely compose important emails after sitting at my desk with no distractions, dedicating myself to the task. Using email has helped me be more succinct and expressive, because I'm not worried about having to cross out things or write drafts and then recopy. Or have people comment on my notoriously bad handwriting. The trick is to put yourself in the reader's place to make sure the warmth and sincerity come through.”

NORRIS: And whether you've got warm thanks for us or pointed criticism, we'd like to hear from you. Just go to and click on Contact Us on the top of the page.

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