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In new book, well-known psychologist argues that autism is grossly over-diagnosed



book cover
author Shoshana Levin Fox

Book review by TOBY KLEIN GEENWALD Dr. Shoshana Levin Fox has authored a book that will hold you spellbound. Section I is titled “Children.” These first eight chapters are the stories of Jack, Sasha, Annie and others (all the children’s names used are pseudonyms) – children who came into the Feuerstein Institute after having been diagnosed as autistic. They exited with new hope, not only for themselves, but for their parents, who were usually devastated by their children’s diagnoses and needed their own emotional propping up.

The central theme of this book is that autism is grossly over-diagnosed. Levin Fox is a psychologist and play therapist who has worked with children for more than 30 years. In addition to lecturing and giving workshops in North America, Israel and Europe, she worked for 25 years in the prestigious Feuerstein Institute of Jerusalem, founded by the late Sorbonne-educated Professor Reuven Feuerstein.

Dr. Levin Fox lived for nearly twenty years in Canada. She completed an M.A. at Simon Fraser University and a Doctorate in Counselling Psychology at the University of British Columbia and worked for many years as a counsellor in the Special Services to Children program of the Vancouver Association of Neighbourhood Houses. Levin Fox was awarded a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada) post-doctoral fellowship, which enabled her to do research and practical work in the field of autism at the world-renowned Feuerstein Institute in Jerusalem. Coincidentally, for many years Hadassah WIZO Canada were the prime funders of the Feuerstein Institute’s programs related to autism.

I warmly recommend the book, not just for the moving stories of the children who were salvaged from what proved to be inaccurate assessments, and not only for the intriguing descriptions of the practices of the world-renowned Feuerstein Institute, which Dr. Levin Fox combined with the wonders of the DIRFloortime method. This book should be read for its critical message to parents who have received an autism diagnosis for their son or daughter: Believe in your child. Talk to your child. Keep looking till you find her the best and most appropriate help and hope. Don’t let the “experts” get you down, because a true expert will find the formula to lift you – and your child – up.

Most importantly, do not assume that an expert who gave you an assessment of autism, that may feel like an emotional-cognitive death sentence, is right, and even if the assessment is accurate, and the child is truly autistic, that does not mean there is no hope.
This book is not only for parents of children with autistic symptoms; there is a message here for all parents: Even when there is a diagnosis of less daunting conditions — such as learning disabilities, ADHD, or other emotional, cognitive or developmental challenges — keep shopping till you find the professional who will light the way through the tunnel.

The idea of plasticity of the brain, writes Levin Fox, entered mainstream medicine several generations after Prof. Feuerstein had intuited and created materials and methods based on that reality. “There were no sacred cows for the Professor,” she writes, and decries the fact that “the diagnosis of autism is used as a sacrosanct truism…I have found that the term ‘autism,’ as it appears commonly in the field, in actuality is being used to describe children who suffer from a vast range of communication difficulties, from extreme shyness to psychotic conditions and just about everything in between.”

It is not clear to her how research studies can be reliable, writes Levin Fox, “with the current diagnostic criteria of autism so elastic and with the use of the term so liberal.”
The children whose stories are recounted in this book all made significant, even dramatic, progress. Levin Fox writes that, “Not every child began to speak fluently, to learn at a normative level and to play happily with friends…However, it can be safely and honestly stated that, inspired and mentored by the Professor, my colleagues and I made a huge difference in the lives of hundreds of children originally thought to be autistic.” She sees them, as a team, as having saved many lives.

Feuerstein sought to find the child’s latent strengths, and what he called “islets of normalcy.” She explains how “islets of normalcy” are identified and worked with. They include, among other elements, eye contact, human relationships, symbolic play, curiosity, humor and more. “The notion of islets of normalcy helps both parent and practitioner recognize the non-symptomatic behavior [of autism symptoms], the sparks of life and the glimmers of normative functioning within a child’s autistiform presentation.”

There was five-year-old Jack, whose parents came to the Institute and Levin Fox discovered in him an engaging child with a rich imagination. His parents told her that, as he had verbal communication problems, they had taken him to be tested and had been told he was autistic.
Levin Fox emphasizes that helping the parents to understand their children’s challenges, and not to be fearful and depressed about them, is part of the battle.
At the Institute Jack thrived, and left the early diagnosis of autism far behind. The details of the process are in a fascinating ten-page chapter.

She writes about a little girl, Annie, who clearly had developmental difficulties, but, “Each of a child’s tangible, visible symptoms is a world in itself. Like the shoots of a green plant, symptoms have intricate roots.”
Levin Fox gave the parents tools to work with their daughter and continued to follow her progress. When she met her again at the age of six, she wrote, “The sweet, charming, warm, open and communicative child…bore no trace of the detached, imploded, silent, starving two-and-a-half-year-old of years ago.”

Then there was Davie, who had “a longer journey,” and teenaged Joe, who did not make progress to the same extent as some of the other children, but who years later was a happy, functioning adult living in a group setting with other mildly impaired adults. And Mikey, who began to improve significantly when his parents began to talk to him. He still had a long way to go, but Levin Fox writes, “I learned never to give up on a parent.”

There was Max, who had oral dyspraxia, and his lack of speech had been “misunderstood as an autistic avoidance of speech…his story…dramatically illustrates the tragedy of this kind of misdiagnosis.” She cautions that children’s hearing should always be tested; sometimes the non-responsive child is discovered to be simply hearing-impaired.

In Part II, “Theoretical Groundings,” Levin Fox gives the intense and thorough theoretical background to the success stories, which are plentiful. Six more case studies are interwoven in the text to help bring the theory alive.
This section also describes the fascinating roots of Feuerstein’s methods. He began by working with orphan children who had been traumatized after WWII, decided there were flaws in the standard diagnostic tests, and rather than focusing on performance, he focused on the child’s ability to develop learning processes.
“Current studies on brain plasticity…scientifically substantiates what [Feuerstein] proposed two generations ago – that brain cells are modifiable and respond to the stimuli of the environment.” She writes that for Feuerstein it was an “I told you so” moment.
“He understood that human beings can change…when the environment anticipates and promotes such change.” The children mentioned earlier “markedly diminished their autistic-like symptoms…We believed that the potential was there. We sought it. And when we could not see it, we worked hard to elicit it, and even to create new facts on the ground.” The staff saw themselves as warmly interactive mediators.

One of my favorite stories appears in Chapter 15, “A Paradigm Shift,” where Levin Fox describes in great detail the captivating case history of Ben, whom she first met when he was five-years-old. The end of the chapter, with the sub-heading, “Ben’s Epilogue,” describes a chance meeting between Levin Fox and Ben’s parents, many years later, at the luggage carousel in the arrival area of the airport. “Dr. Shoshana!” they called out, and his mother pulled out her cellphone. “The happy faces of Ben and his wife, holding their newborn son, smiled back at me,” writes Levin Fox. “For Ben, the paradigm-shift had indeed been life-saving.”

I found other words to describe the journeys and the miracles of the children portrayed in this book: life-affirming.
And hope.
“An Autism Casebook for Parents and Practitioners: The Child Behind the Symptoms” is published by Routledge, Taylor & Francis and available on Amazon. Read more about Dr. Shoshana Levin Fox’s work at:

Toby Klein Greenwald is an award-winning journalist, educational theater director, teacher and the editor-in-chief of

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Ron Telpner: the adman and his music



By GERRY POSNER Now this is a story. Talk about someone who has had the full package in life and you are talking about Ron Telpner. For those readers too young to remember the Telpner name, Google Gene and Fritzi Telpner (née Shuckett). Gene was a featured columnist for the the Winnipeg Tribune, the Winnipeg Free Press, and The Jewish Post & News. Anyone over 60 would likely have been aware of that.Ron is one of three Telpner offspring, a former resident of the north end, and a graduate of United College and the University of Manitoba, where he acquired degrees in English Literature and Psychology. In 1973 Ron earned a journalism degree from Carleton University in Ottawa. This was but the beginning of a long career followed by challenges far more daunting than his work.
Upon graduating, Ron took his first real job as an information officer with the Province of Manitoba. At the age of only 26 he became the Director of Promotion and Information for the Province of Manitoba. That job proved frustrating for Ron as a result of the slowness of bureaucratic goverment decision making and he soon joined the prestigious McKim Advertising firm in Winnipeg, in 1978.
One year later, he was the manager of McKim. During that time the firm was dominant in the Winnipeg adverting world. Ron created campaigns for the then Premier of Manitoba, as well as Canada’s Finance Minister, during their respective election battles. In 1989, Ron, still with McKim, by then the largest ad agency in Canada, made the big move to Toronto. The direction was clearly set for Ron Telpner.
In 1992, Telpner boldly started his own advertising agency in Toronto, known as the BrainStorm Group. Ron even brought into the partnership his senior creative director and senior account director from Winnipeg. The agency was successful to such a degree that offices were opened up in Denver – in 2003, and Dubai, in 2007. Telpner and his company worked with such leading brands as Canon, Calvin Klein, Polo Ralph Lauren, Kenneth Cole, Molson USA, Baxter’s of Scotland, Mike’s Hard Lemonade and ADP, in various countries. BrainStorm had as its main objective to be focused on inspired, integrated thinking.

All went very well until 2010 when Ron, then 60, was diagnosed with prostate cancer, which changed his life dramatically. The energy which Ron had so expended on his career was now channelled into dealing with cancer. Of course, he had the total support of his wife Patsy (Katz), also a former Winnipegger, along with his two children.
Ron decided to sell his ad agency. In the same way that he brought the best talent he could get find into his BrainStorm team, he made a plan and enlisted a team of support to deal with his cancer. He spoke with many doctors, Googled many sites, listened to different opinions and, as he puts it, “was almost overwhelmed by the information.”
That effort, together with his work in charitable areas, as well as taking an active role in men’s heath issues, combined to bring him a measure of success in his fight to deal and live with cancer. He ultimately made a major decision to have a prostatectomy. That big step seemed to have helped him.
Ron has been on many television programs , has written for various magazines and has been an MC for a variety of fund raising events. Significantly, when Ron learned that his lungs had also been adversely affected, he was told that what would help him was singing.
Now, Ron had some definite talents, but singing was a whole new challenge. Not to be deterred, he bought his very first ukulele, a Kala Travel Tenor, and taught himself to play. For several years now, Ron Telpner has both been playing the ukulele and singing along – and not just to himself. He has his own account on Instagram and anyone can both see and hear him. He is passionate about Rock & Roll, Blues, and Country and Western, so you do get a mix when you tune into Telpner. He has a large following and he says that the ukulele and singing have added years to his life. He also continues to give back every “Movember” and the 4 Doane School of Music. He is as well the co-founder of the Annual Flashmob for Peace.

Of course with all of this, you would be hard pressed to miss Ron Telpner in a crowd, as he is an admitted fashion plate with a penchant for vivid colours. So, here is my best suggestion for you to lift up your day: Search out Ron Telpner on Instagram, watch him perform in what is sure to be an outfit resplendent in multi colours. As he has done all his life, Telpner is charting a new path – and with enthusiasm.

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Jerry Seinfeld may be one of the world’s most famous comedians now, but in 1987 he didn’t win over an audience at the Rosh Pina



Jerry Seinfeld in a 1987 poster

By BERNIE BELLAN Jerry Seinfeld played at the Canada Life Centre to a large crowd on Friday evening, September 22 – and was generally well received, although I noted that there was no mention of his being here in the Free Press – either before or after his appearance.
By now we’re all quite familiar with Seinfeld’s style of “observational humour,” in which he talks about everyday matters, but notes the actual weirdness in so much of what passes for normal.
His delivery was flawless – never once stumbling over a line even as he was on stage for almost a full hour.
And, as a stand-up comic who refuses to resort to using the “f” word, which seems almost mandatory among so many comics these days, Seinfeld relies upon his ability to articulate rather than punctuate.
Still, as much as Jerry Seinfeld may be a “bit shot” these days, as Frank Costanza would have referred to him, in 1987 Seinfeld received a decidedly cool reception when he played to a mostly older audience at a Hadassah event held at the Rosh Pina.
Following is my late brother Matt’s account of Jerry Seinfeld’s appearance at a May 1987 event:
Comedian Gets Cool Response at Hadassah Event
May 14, 1987
Winnipeg Hadassah-WIZO raised more money for its network of Israeli children’s villages through the 46th annual Men’s Youth Aliyah Dinner at Rosh Pina Synagogue May 6.
But comedian Jerry Seinfeld, the featured entertainer, got a generally cool reception from the several hundred dinnergoers.
Seinfeld, 33, has appeared on the Johnny Carson and David Letterman shows, and has a gift for a certain kind of off-the-wall humor.
“Weird” material about cows running away so they won’t be turned into hamburgers for McDonald’s Restaurants, or clothes twisting together in a kinky way in the washing machine might go over with a college age audience watching a late-night TV talk show. But they didn’t work for Seinfeld at the Rosh Pina where many in the audience were decades older than 20.
He tried to tune in to the Rosh Pina crowd with a few jokes about elderly people: “My parents moved to Florida this year. They didn’t want to, but they’re in their 60s, and that’s the law.”
Seinfeld cracked another joke about his parents feeling “the thermostat is their area. I didn’t dare to touch a thermostat until I was 28 years old. “

But some in the audience muttered that they couldn’t understand his stage patter because of his heavy New York accent, and the way he slurred his words and talked quickly.
The most laughs came when somebody backstage dimmed the auditorium lights.
“Oh, we’re going show business,” Seinfeld said, sarcastically.
But the room grew dimmer and dimmer, leaving even the comedian in shadow. And he impatiently shouted offstage:
“Just leave the lights alone.”

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Remembrance of Rupertsland Avenue – 1950 to 1975



Rupertsland Avenue between McGregor and Parr as it appeared in the 1950s and how it looks today

By BRIAN M. GILFIX Cote Saint-Luc, Quebec September 18, 2023 I have read with interest in various past issues of the JP&N (Sept. 16 and 20, 2019, Sept. 30, 2020, and Nov. 10, 2021) descriptions of streets or blocks where all or most of the houses were occupied by Jewish families. (Ed. note: All those stories – about McAdam Avenue and Bredin Drive, can be found on this website. Simply go to “Search archive” and enter the name of either street. The entire issue in which the story about that street appeared will show in the search results.)

This was not all that unique in the 1950s and 60s, especially with the Jewish population of Winnipeg peaking close to 20,000 individuals during that time. During the immediate post-war years, individuals and families were leaving the Magnus and Flora Avenues with their wooden shuls and moving more northward to the then developing West Kildonan and later developing Garden City areas. This was reflected in the establishment of shuls (Rosh Pina, 1952; Bnay Abraham, 1958; Chevra Mishnayes, 1965) and schools (Talmud Torah, 1952) in the area.
Rupertsland Avenue was a new street developed in 1950 by Edward Rosenblatt. The street name obviously echoes the name given to the territory draining into Hudson’s Bay , which was called Rupert’s Land. Looking at the actual mortgage documents, houses cost about $8450 for a bungalow (1 storey) while a cottage (2 storey) cost about $2000 more. By the mid-2010s the value of a bungalow style house had increased thirty-fold in value. The street changed appearance somewhat over the years with some upgrades – paving of the back lane (1950s) and planting trees on the front boulevards (1960s).
I grew up on Rupertsland Avenue in the 1950s and 60s. Then, in the block stretching from McGregor St. to Parr St. and comprising about 50 houses, over a third of the houses were occupied by Jewish families. Most were tradespeople or small business owners. None of that generation were professionals. Then, your neighbours were also your friends with whom you socialized. For example, my parents belonged to a bridge club on the street, comprising amongst others the Stollers, Brasses, Bogaches, and Jacobsons. As few trees were planted, we, the neighbourhood children, played across the front lawns of neighbouring houses, effectively making one long field.
The children (including myself) walked to the local schools regardless of the weather: Victory, what was then known as Jefferson Junior High School, Garden City Collegiate, and Talmud Torah – affecting the school demographics such that on major Jewish holidays the public schools “shut down.”
We had deliveries from the milkman and bread man. The street was visited by vendors selling eggs and, on one occasion early on, vegetables from a horse drawn wagon.
From my memory, I have provided a list of the Jewish families that lived on the street during this period. I have also given a few short vignettes of some families as I remember it from my then youthful perspective aided by information gleaned from the JP&N and Google. I apologize for any errors in advance. I should note that of the families listed here, with rare exception, the parents have passed away. In some instances, I have noted the year of passing.
565 Rupertsland – Stoller. He was an accountant or bookkeeper. He and his wife had a son & daughter, Elaine (?).

517 Rupertsland – Name unknown.

513 Rupertsland – Kesten. Their son Cyril currently resides in Vancouver.

509 Rupertsland – Tennenhouse – Sam (d.2001) and Gertie (d.2014).
They had four children: Karen, Ronnie, Marsha, and Kenny. He farmed with his brothers during the summer and had a small machine shop in the basement in winter where he made house numbers. They were long time friends of my parents. They had a “bogey man” is their basement, actually an old coal style furnace. The oldest daughter would bang on it to make the “monster” noise to frighten the kids. They were perhaps the first family to leave Ruperstland for the then new Garden City. I believe some family members still live in Winnipeg, but the son Ronnie lives in Toronto.

505 Rupertsland – Gilfix (us) – We were Joseph (d.2014), Betty (d.2021), Debbie (Edmonton) and myself (Montreal). My parents moved to a new home on Rupertsland in 1950 from the Carmen Apartments on Burrows, which is still standing, leaving behind a walk up and ice boxes. The years saw a transition for heating the house with coal to oil to gas. My sister left for Edmonton to attend university, later married there, and has lived there since. My journey was more peripatetic, moving in 1975 to London, Ontario to pursue my PhD, followed by a post-doctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School, and finally returning to Canada and McGill University to pursue my MD degree and specialty training. I married in Montreal and have been on staff at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal since 1993. Due to age and infirmity, my parents finally left Rupertsland in 2014. I believe my parents were the last Jewish family on the block and street when they finally left.

501 Rupertsland – Dutkevich – Ann Dutkevich (d.2000), husband Nick, daughter Sally and son Joe. She was affectionately known to us as “Mrs. D”. She was very kindly. Once, when my sister decided to “run away,” she packed her bags to move to Mrs. D. next door.
I believe the children still live in Winnipeg. Their house was later purchased by another Jewish family, the Greenholtzes (daughter Faye & son Joey). He was a tailor and both he and his wife worked in the garment factories. The parents later relocated to Toronto to be closer to their children.

493 Rupertsland – Gabor. They had a son, Brian.

489 Rupertsland – Name unknown.

485 Rupertsland – Bogach – Frank and Ann, her mother, and son Howard. Frank with his brothers ran Tasty Seeds located on Alfred that they had inherited from their father. Howard was recently profiled in the JP&N (August 16, 2023).

469 Rupertsland – Bogach – Maurice & Goldie Bogach and their daughters, Mindy and Evy. The parents played bridge with my parents and he owned Tasty Seeds with his brothers. I believed their children still reside in Winnipeg.

465 Rupertsland – Rodin. One of their two sons, Greg, is a lawyer in Calgary.

461 Rupertsland – Brass – Abe and Rose Brass and their children. Following his passing she moved to Vancouver to be closer to her children, where she later passed away.

516 Rupertsland – Plosker – Max and Bertha Plosker, daughter, and son Erron. The family owned Direct Home Furniture

512 Rupertslsand – Spiller – Jack and Ailenne and their children, Harley, Susan, Sari, and Deborah. I believe some of the children still reside in Winnipeg.

508 Rupertsland – Terhoch – Kurt & Pearl. He was an electrician. They had two sons, Leonard and Marvin, and a daughter, Cheryl. The oldest son, Marvin, was at one time a producer at CBC Winnipeg.

504 Rupertsland – Jacobson – Anne, Nat (d.2002), son Gary and daughter Arlene. Nat had a part job running the projector in movie theatres. At 106 (!), Ann is probably the last living individual of the generation that first moved onto Rupertsland Avenue. She currently resides at the Simkin Centre. Gary still lives in Winnipeg.

496 Rupertsland – Chodiker. One son, William (Bill), is an allergist, now retired, who lives in London, Ontario.

476 Rupertlsmand – Golubchuk – Samuel (d.2008) and Dora and children, Percy and Miriam. I believe they were the last Jewish family to move on to Rupertsland. Samuel was at the centre of a controversial legal battle dealing with the question of who has the right to make end-of-life decisions. This case was widely written about.

468 Rupertsland – Beloffs

Lastly, at the end of the street, there was a corner store (700 McGregor) run successively by Jewish owners, Mandel and later Slutsky.
Interestingly according to my late mother, Paul Snider of Dorothy Stratton murder fame, apparently lived on Rupertsland Avenue for a period of time.
Rupertsland was not a Jewish island in West Kildonan. Immediately behind my parents’ house across the back lane on Enniskillen Avenue, there were the:
Bokauts with sons, Barrie and Brad. I remember walking back home with Barrie and his father from the Bnay Abraham synagogue on Shabbat mornings. Barrie went on to work for Foreign Affairs Canada. I believe Brad still lives in Winnipeg,
Lezacks whose son, Jack, is a hematologist in Winnipeg, and
Este and Morris Katz. Their sons, David and Philip, tragically past away at early ages.
On Smithfield, there were other Jewish families such as the Senenskys and Gorewiches (my father’s brother-in law and sister).
Over the decades the ethnic and religious composition of Rupertsland Avenue changed as the original inhabitants aged and they and their children moved to other areas. Many of the children left Winnipeg – often to Calgary, Edmonton, or Toronto. Consequently, the demographics and character not only of the street but also of the local schools, institutions, and West Kildonan have changed. On Rupertsland at its peak, probably a third as many Jews lived there alone as compared the number of Jews now living in the entire West Kildonan area (205) according to the latest census. Consequently, many of the local Jewish institutions have moved, closed, or amalgamated. When my parents, being the last Jewish family on that block of Rupertsland Avenue, finally left in 2014, it marked the end of an era for the street.

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