090 – Doctor & Boxer Hackie Reitman’s Daughter’s Aspergers Has Propelled Him To Advocate For Neurodiversity
On this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast, host David Hirsch speaks with Dr. Harold Reitman, a retired orthopedic surgeon and former professional heavy weight boxer, an author, a filmmaker and founder of Different Brains.org. Dr, Reitman is father to Rebecca, 38, who has Asperger Syndrome. We’ll hear all about Harold, or Hackie and he’s known in boxing circles, and his incredible and inspiring life on this Special Fathers Network Dad to Dad podcast.
Hackie Reitman Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harold_Reitman
Dad to Dad 90 – Doctor & Boxer Hackie Reitman’s Daughter’s Aspergers Has Propelled Him To Advocate For Neurodiversity
Dr. Reitman: And I was making all kinds of deals with God in the waiting room as we parents are prone to do, just let her do. Okay. And I’ll go back to boxing and I’ll donate it. The purpose is to children’s charities. I’ll find the biggest toughest guys. I could find that on a fight and just let us do good. And you know, so. So she did good and thank God they still didn’t know what it was. And, uh, I went back to box.
Tom Couch: That’s Dr. Herald Reitman, a retired orthopedic surgeon and former professional heavyweight boxer and author, a filmmaker and founder of different brains.org. Dr. Reitman has a daughter, Rebecca 38, who has Asperger’s.
We’ll hear all about Harold or hacky as he’s known in boxing circles and his incredible and inspiring life. That’s all on this special father’s network, dad to dad podcast. Here’s our host David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: Hi, and thanks for listening to the dad to dad podcast, fathers, mentoring, fathers of children with special needs presented by the Special Fathers Network.
Tom Couch: The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for dads to support dads, to find out more, go to 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help for. We’d like to offer help. We’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups and search dad to dad.
Tom Couch: And now let’s listen in as Hackie Reitman talks with David Hirsch.
David Hirsch: I’m thrilled to be talking today with my friend Hacky Reitman of Fort Lauderdale, who is a father, a retired orthopedic surgeon, former heavyweight boxer, author writer, movie producer, founder of different brains.org podcast hosts and neuro diversity advocate Hackie.
Thank you for taking the time to do a podcast interview for the Special Fathers Network.
Dr. Reitman: Thank you so much.
David Hirsch: So you and your ex-wife Marilee are the proud parents of Rebecca who’s now 38. Let’s start with some background to your parents on the gas station. Your dad was the mechanic, your mom pumped the gas.
You were the youngest of the four kids in your family. How would you describe the relationship with your dad?
Dr. Reitman: It was good, but I never told him how much I appreciated what he did for me. He was one of the strong, silent types I would think. And I think it culminated once after I was a doctor, we were over one of my brother’s house and my father and I were having a drink together.
And I said, dad, how come you never came to any of my basketball games? Or you only came to one fight. And when I won the golden gloves and. You never put your arm around me, like they do in the movies and said, this is the secret of life son. And my father looked me right in the eye. He said, well, I’ll tell you son, because I think that’s a BS.
And I think the important thing is you saw me get up and work. You saw me go to work at six 30 every morning, put on my overalls, go to work. I always put food on the table. I made sure you got education. I was faithful to your mother and we showed you guys how to have a good time, because there was always parties going on at the house.
It was people around friends. And he said, if you didn’t take the example, it was your tough luck. And he turned around, looked over his shoulder and said, by the way, last time I looked you weren’t doing too bad.
David Hirsch: Sort of the strong, silent type, but, uh, giving you a pretty good insight into what is parenting philosophy. And I’m assuming if you’re the baby in the family, you’ve got some older siblings that probably got the same type of parenting from your dad as well.
Dr. Reitman: Yeah. Well, we rolled there from the oldest is my sister, Alice who lives in Turkey and she was like the crazy one.
She would, uh, in high school get into trouble because they’d go on a field trip all the way up to West point and she. Run off with a cadet or something, but she’s great. She became a teacher. My older brother, Fred became a physician and my brother Billy took over the family business, turns it into a big car business, and now has in tech leasing, which is a big leasing financial company in Jersey.
And everybody’s got families and everybody’s doing pretty good.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, kudos to your parents for ’em. Being the role models. That’s what I heard you saying your dad described as you know, that’s the most important thing is that they’re role models. They make a commitment to stay with one another and, uh, you know, it seems like you’re all, you know, successful in your own, right?
Dr. Reitman: We’re all different. We’ve all done. Well, men, no small part because of our parents. And I remember once my mother was pumping gas and one of my brothers and my brother Billy came over and said, ah, Hey mom, I got a 90 on the spelling test and she said, I’m going to make cookies for you tonight. And the next day I come back and I say, mom, I got a 92 on a spelling test.
And she starts hitting me with a dog leash. I said, what is this about? He gets cookies. I got a dog leash. She said, You can get a hundred and you know it, and you have a moral obligation and don’t you ever forget this? You got a moral obligation to work up to your full potential with the gifts that God gave you to help yourself, your family and those less fortunate.
And this is the part that gets lost. David, have a good time doing it. That’s the key. And you’re sitting here on your podcast, helping a ton of people and you’re laughing and having a good time. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it sounds like your parents were on the same page as far as their parenting, very consistent and, uh, you know, it’s, uh, it’s one of the reasons we started the, uh, Special father’s network doing all the work that we do with dads is it’s the exception, not the rule that people are growing up with those great role models.
And we’re hoping to be able to inspire some dads to be more engaged, um, whether they live with their kids or not. So, thanks for sharing a little bit more about the family tree. Did your grandfather’s either on your mom or your dad’s side, uh, play a role in your life when you were growing up?
Dr. Reitman: Well, my mother’s father, my grandfather used to say.
What I’ll never forget, man plans. God laughs. Which is certainly coming. You get a lot of sense now with this Corona virus stuff. Oh yeah. And I only got to meet my father’s mother. I just remember that everybody was hard working. That’s what I remember. And that was the biggest compliment I used to get, even in the box in gym, like at the old fifth street gym down in Miami and all these famous fighters working out and everything.
Nobody works harder than the doc look at him work. And then, cause I wasn’t that good as a lot of the other fighters wasn’t as big as the other heavy weights and I was older and slower and everything else, but you can outwork the competition. I love it.
David Hirsch: Uh, well I think that there’s some adage that successes.
90%, um, inspiration or the work that you put into it and 10% luck. So I love the way that you’ve lived your life from the role models that you’re describing. Any other father figures growing up when you were a young man or a young dad for that matter,
Dr. Reitman: I was lucky I’ve had a lot of great mentors, not necessarily father figures, but in fact, I’m writing a book on, uh, on some of my mentors now.
They taught me so much at different levels in different times. Some of them were in boxing and, uh, Tommy Terino my manager, and train a lacing me up for my first 10 round fight, which in boxing, when you find a 10 round main event, televised fight, that’s like the major leagues, you know, and I was like 42 years old at the time, the guy was fighting was much younger and much more experienced in the ring and everything.
When he was lacing me up, he said, uh, you know, somewhere in these 10 rounds, your character is going to be exposed. I don’t believe that boxing develops character. I think it exposes character. And so is that of your opponent now go out, knock them out and let’s go that stuck with me because man, when you, when you, when you go on a full 10 rounds and I remember I had them down.
He was beating me every single round, the first five rounds. And then I was coming on strong. Then I knocked him down twice in the ninth round and couldn’t finish them. And then it was the 10th round and you just had to pull everything up and you had a go and you had to do it just like my father, if his back hurt, he had put on his.
Work boots and put on his overalls and go get over that garage and work and just like you do every day and everybody else, that’s the metaphor for life.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, um, everybody has different metaphors or analogies that they use and I appreciate yours. Boxing seems very, um, mano, a mano it’s a little bit subjective as far as you know, who won that round or who.
Want to split flight, but it’s black and white. You know, if one guy’s laying on the ground and the other guy is standing over him,
Dr. Reitman: well, I gotta tell you, I had a fight. Once in new Orleans, I was fighting a guy to Cajun stallion. They called them these big hometown favorite. And, uh, I thought I was doing pretty good in this fight and it gets a little late rounds.
They come back to the corner and Tommy Trino smacks me in the face. I said, what’s that for? He goes, you blowing the fight. I said, I’m winning every round. He said, not new Orleans. You’re not dissent. If he’s standing up at the end of the fight, you lose. You know, I went down and I was trying to knock him out and he was given as good as he was getting a great last round, the crowds on the feet.
And. Sure enough, they called it a draw, you know,
David Hirsch: Thank you.
Dr. Reitman: So, um,
David Hirsch: let’s switch gears a little bit. Uh, you made reference earlier to where the early seeds were planted as far as you pursuing a medical career. And I understand that, uh, you were in an accelerated program, six year program at Boston university while you were in medical school.
At age 21, you entered the, uh, new England golden gloves championship. Was that the beginning of your sort of fighting
Dr. Reitman: career? Well, yeah, I had learned boxing in Jersey city at the Jewish community center. We had a great teacher, Archie Louis Guinea first lesson was to teach how to be a gentlemen. And I used to get into some fights in Jersey city.
Only one I had to cause I was a big chicken. I didn’t like the, I didn’t like the fight. And, um, but I was pretty good boxing, although I never did any competitively. And. And as I was saying before, I was jealous of my friends, Royal American football players are on TV every day. May I would be jealous and I would tell them, I was, and they’d say, why don’t you fight you?
Not how a fight. So I went in the golden gloves back then they didn’t use headgear was 1971. And, uh, they, uh, they put me in with the guy who was knocking everybody out, who is beaten everybody whose brother was a catcher for the red Sox at the time. And, uh, he was getting all the publicity. And when I knocked him out in the first round, I became the darling of the media or TV and radio and newspapers.
And my reward for that was the Dean of the medical school called me in. And he said, listen, I saw you on TV. I said, yeah, I’m like a 21 year old kid. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. There you go. He goes, well, I just want to tell you, if you have one more fight, you’re out of medicine, it’s abhorrent and it should be banned not get out of my office.
David Hirsch: Oh my gosh.
Dr. Reitman: So I said, Oh my gosh. So I, uh, I went and talked to our student Dean, dr. McNary, who was wonderful. It’s a great guy. And he said, look, I’ll see what I can do, but you’re going to have a choice to make. So I’m saying, who can I ask for advice on this? I can’t ask my parents they’re busting their chops so I can go to medical school.
And so I called my uncle Mo worked out in Las Vegas and he was a, nobody that everybody loved. He worked in the slots at Caesars Sinatra used to say hello to him. Everybody liked him, but his best friend who I still talk to once in a while was the most powerful man in Vegas at the time, Len banker, the professional gambler for football, basketball, and baseball, who really liked me.
And he was a bit of a jock too. And, uh, I call him Moe and most say, Oh, you better talk to Lem about this. So I call up Lam. I tell him what I just told you. And he says, uh, well, it’s obvious to me what you should do. I said, what? Yeah. He said, never have another fight. I said, you know, I’m surprised to hear you say that.
Lim. Why do you say that? He said, because it wasn’t fair. That you asked the Dean to get in the ring and take the punches for you. I said, I didn’t ask him or anybody else take the punches. He said, that’s right. That’s why you can tell him to go F himself. I didn’t tell him that. Okay. But I just kept boxing when I won the whole thing.
The Dean wanted to take pictures with me because the Harvard club had added me over. But it’s something I told my daughter, Rebecca. And that she throws up to me that I actually put in the movie I made about her, where she actually threw it up at me, where she was choosing to take on the entire system at Georgia tech, because she felt it was unjust and they offered her a deal.
And I begged her to take the deal and she says, we, Hey. I’m not asking you to take the punches. So, Whoa.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, the Apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree. That’s what I’m hearing you say.
Dr. Reitman: Great story. Well, it was great. I got to tell you it was tough because after I won the whole golden gloves, they, uh, the boxing promoter up there, Sam Silverman, he called these gov fellows from New York who came up.
Took me to lunch at the Athens Olympia restaurant at the time of Washington ed and put a hundred thousand dollars in a Brown paper bag to go pro. Oh my, I was so scared. I didn’t know what to do. I just said, well, look, I, I only have two questions. So what I said, well, you know, that’s a lot of money. I said, if I take that money, do you own me?
And they said, well, we’re going to get 35% of everything yet you’d make, but you’re going to make millions of dollars fighting the same kind of guys who would knock it out there and you’ll be the media sensation. And then what’s your other question? I said, well, are you going to be mad at me? If I don’t take it?
Let me say it, if we catch you box and for anybody else, who else said that it was like Don Roberto, when the godfather look what time it is, I ran all the way. Then I had a 17 year layoff. So something happened to my daughter. And for those personal reasons, I went back in the ring at age 38 and turn pro and at 26 pro heavyweight fights, the last one was when it was 52.
I got great access. I gave every purse to children’s charities. I, it was a great story. So the media really went nuts on it and loved it. And, and, uh, it was a great ride.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I, um, I admire you for a lot of different reasons and, uh, The fact that you pursued something like you did your love for boxing at a later age, which was you had to get an exception.
Right? Um, my understanding was you were a little bit too old to go into professional boxing. I did my homework. You know, you were actually known as the boxing doctor or fighting surgeon, and you actually had fights against Roberta Duran. Tim Anderson, both in 91, you were ranked 12th in the heavyweight.
Division in the world in 92, you knocked out more opponents that knocked you out, which was pretty cool. Markable in your career. I think you ended up to be like 13, seven and six is there’s a certain flight or a certain experience that, you know, you want to add. To those that you’ve already mentioned that would sort of summarize your boxing experience.
Dr. Reitman: Well, boy, you did your homework. Uh, it was a great thrill boxing and exhibition actually did with Roberta Duran after he won the middleweight championship. And, uh, what was great was that I got this fall with 38 world champions over my lifetime and, uh, you know, champions. Or a little bit different, you know, world champions are a little bit different.
If you have an opportunity to meet somebody, who’s the best in the world at what they do, they can always teach you something that has to do with life. Not just what they have, like the world’s greatest surgeon or the world’s greatest boxer or the world’s greatest poet, they can always teach you.
Something else. And I, I learned a great deal and I tell you, I missed the, I missed the fact that there’s no more boxing gyms. They’re extinct now because you used to be able to go to these pro gyms. And the comradery was great in the gym. I mean, about 80% of profilers have been in jail for one thing or another, but in the gym.
And everyone’s nice to each other. When you, when you talk to Mike Tyson in the gym, He loves talking about, uh, you know, old fight films. We used to talk about Marsianno films a little bit. He would insist when he would come to a gym that they would bring in the disabled kids, like from the Anne Storch center to watch him work out.
Whereas outside of the gym, it was a different story with, with everybody. So it was a, it was a good, it was a good time.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thanks for sharing. Uh, one last question about boxing. Did you ever have a chance to Spire with Muhammad Ali?
Dr. Reitman: No, but I got to spend a lot of time with him and his family. I was at his daughter’s wedding.
I’m doing a documentary on Angelo Dundee, his manager and train who had 15 world champions. But no, I never did. I never did spar with him, but I got to tell you one thing that happened with him, they were naming the Miami beach convention center after him. Back in the nineties. And, uh, I was doing some European TV color work for these, the fights to have, and that night at the Miami beach auditorium there.
And so I got to spend the whole day with him there. Wow. And in those days, It was like around 1990 or so. I don’t remember exactly when he had slowed down from the Parkinsonism, but he still had all his marbles then, you know, and he talked very softly, but he could talk well and all the celebrities were there and I got to interview so many different people and it seemed to me at that point in time that God had slowed him down just so people could come up and touch him.
I mean, there were, it was like magic and. We got to sit alone for five minutes and a little vestibule off the side of the hall there. And I figured, you know, I’m alone here with Muhammad Ali. What can I ask on? You know, what can I say? And he was real tired. He was just sitting there and I said, Muhammad, you’re a Muslim.
And I’m a Jew. What’s going to be in this crazy world. And he leaned over. He said, Hockey all religion is lack water. It all flows to one river peace brother, Michael let’s hop on a plane, go over. We’ll straighten everything out. That’s the kind of inspirational guy he was.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, that’s an amazing story.
Thank you for sharing.
Dr. Reitman: So
David Hirsch: let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about special needs. I’m sort of curious to know before Rebecca’s emergency brain surgery at age four, did you or Marilee have any experience with the special needs community?
Dr. Reitman: No, not really. I was a totally agree. And, uh, I had an experience with kids and I was very active with the boys and girls clubs of Broward County, where we serve 12,000 kids, a past chairman and on the board and everything.
But the peanut practice, I treated lots of them, everybody, and I was a doctor, but like so many of us, I was totally ignorant of. Neurodiversity and special needs.
David Hirsch: So what was the diagnosis? Uh, she needed to have brain surgery. Um, what was going on that required the brain surgery and how did that all transpire?
Dr. Reitman: Well, she was two years old. She had a seizure, which is not uncommon. Kids have seizures because she was a doctor’s daughter and they wanted to do a very extensive workup. They immediately did a cat scan and I went to look at the cat scan with. The neurologist and the radiologist, because I was a doctor active in that hospital.
Then let me look at it and words you never want to hear from a doctor. They looked at it and said, I don’t know what the F this is. It was 23 brain tumors in there of unknown origin or what, and it hit me like a. What, what is this? We don’t know. And then we went to a pediatric neurologist and through no fault of anybody, we started getting opinions around the world.
Nobody knew what this was, was a case of one MRIs were not quite invented. Then there were going to be a couple of years off and a short time later, one of these lesions bled down here in Florida and. She almost died. And they had her in the ICU and the bleed was going on and they had it stabilized. And I flew her out to the Mayo clinic.
They did emergency surgery that saved her life. But after the surgery, they still didn’t know what it was. It was like a, a dream, you know? And then one of the tumors got so big right along the motor. Cortex who was in an inoperable area, but the Mayo clinic had a fellow dr. Keller, who was doing this new fangled stereotactic surgery, where you go in and CT guided through this little drill hole.
And yeah, you do it under a. CT scan and magnification everything. And I was making all kinds of deals with God in the waiting room as we parents are prone to do, just let her do. Okay. And I’ll, I’ll, uh, I’ll go back to boxing and I’ll donate all the purses to children’s charities. I’ll find the biggest toughest guys.
I could find that on a fight and just let her do good. And you know, so. So she did good and thank God they still didn’t know what it was. Okay. And, uh, I went back to went back to box, which was, it was probably too long a story now, but one of the first things I did was go to this little gym out there with fifth street gym, and I went to this gym.
10 o’clock at night when I got back, cause I was going to keep my promise and it was a little African American older man sinking as though he was waiting for him, it was legs cross, just like this. And I walked in, I was fully ready to work out and he looked at me and said, come on. We got work to do, get on the bag.
When’s your fight. And I had already signed up. On the way back to fight in Tampa at the sunshine state games, because all the heavyweights and no one would fight this guy who was this 1985 around them. The NFL fell only had one, 300 pound player refrigerator Perry, Chicago
David Hirsch: bears,
Dr. Reitman: Chicago. Best this guy, Steven Elmore was 325 pounds.
And it was as though God said, like to know, Oh, you want a little rain? I’ll give you some, you want a big cup? Okay. So then I had, I had like two weeks to get into shape while I was still working as an orthopedic surgeon. So I went to this gym and BoJack kept me. Yeah. For two hours said when I saw a fight and I said, Oh, it’s about.
Two weeks. He goes, okay, let’s get to work. Let’s get to work. And I, I fought him. I lost a split decision, but I, and then the last guy I operated on before I went, there was Tommy Terino, who became my manager and trainer and said, you know, you’re going to get hurt doing this. Why don’t you do it the right way and come with me and do whatever I tell you and go pro.
And do it right? So you, you know, everything’s good. And that’s what happened. I did it and I did donate all the persons to children’s charities. It gave me great access because New York times wall street journal. Good morning, America. Well, the, you know, it was a great story this morning. We’d like to introduce you to a doctor with a great ringside manner.
By day, he men’s bones as a distinguished orthopedic surgeon by night. He breaks them figuratively. Of course, as the 12th ranked heavyweight boxer in the Americas, his name is dr. Harold hacky Reitman. And since returning to competitive professional boxing a few years ago, he has won eight of his 11 bouts, all of them by knockout.
And by the way, this is dr. Harold Reitman orthopedic surgeon. And this is hacky Reitman, professional heavyweight boxer, same body, different mentality. Boxing was always part of Reitman’s life. He was in new England golden. I even got to meet with the president of the United States. George H. Bush briefly.
He and his wife, Barbara, to talk about children’s problems. And I said, mr. Prison, isn’t there some, I’m getting this meeting, not because I’m a doctor of boys and girls club or any of that cause thing. And I knocked out some people, you know, he said, well, if you’re not a billionaire sports, media and entertainment are a good way to get access.
That’s what it is. I mean, look at the Kardashians and go into the white house. Getting prison reform done, you know?
David Hirsch: Yeah. Go figure
Dr. Reitman: whatever works
David Hirsch: was that back in the day, out of curiosity, about the points of light foundation when George H w Bush.
Dr. Reitman: Yes, exactly. And then he became Misty eyed talking about it.
And when I went and told my friends from Jersey city, He got missed the yard. They said, hack, what do you want? Maura? And the guy was headed the CIA, you know what I mean? People he had whacked.
David Hirsch: So those are great stories.
Dr. Reitman: It doesn’t mean he’s not a nice,
David Hirsch: um, so Rebecca goes through these, uh, surgeries at a very young age.
She was experiencing the seizures. I’m assuming it was epilepsy. You didn’t say that. And did the surgeries. Well, were they successful? Did the seizures go away or is that something that you had to work at getting seizure control thereafter?
Dr. Reitman: All it did was decompressed the brain when she was bleeding and also get rid of that one giant tumor that she had, but they finally made the diagnosis sometime later of multiple cavernous hemangiomas with a special little bit of a special look to it.
And, uh, The seizures, you know, the abnormal electrical activity. I mean, if you look at her MRI, you see all of these, you wonder how our brain communicates at all sometimes, but, and she’s very bright.
David Hirsch: So were there some important decisions you made along the way, raising her, knowing what some of the complications or challenges were at an early age?
Dr. Reitman: Well, yeah, so it was a catch 22 because you wanted her to do everything and have a normal childhood. It’s the same token. You want it to protect her? Because if she took a whack in the head, it was like a big problem. So we overprotected her, I think it would be a fair criticism. She gives me this day, you know, and she, uh, ran cross country and she worked, she did a lot of different things and, uh, she decided she wanted to.
Get it, she loved mathematics and she wanted to get a discrete mathematics degree from Georgia tech. She got into Georgia tech and got through it. And I’m still not quite sure what discrete mathematics is, but I think it’s the math that controls all the computers, but she had a big struggle at Georgia tech and, um, after she had graduated, I was so inspired.
Because she underwent all these challenges had some different problems with roommates felt she got very much unfairly treated. And so before she graduated, I started writing and producing and directing this movie, the square root of two starring Darby Stansfield. You might’ve seen her in scandal. Oh yeah.
After we made the movie and everything, it was a great experience. Rebecca went to tutor kids. With autism at Cumberland Academy of Georgia and the owner of the school Metta for 10 minutes said, you know, your daughter also has Asperger’s. And I said, what’s that? So while it’s on the spectrum of autism, and I said, what’s that?
And realized as an MD, as a physician, I had had zero training. Zero training in any of this neuro diversity or anything. So I held up release of the movie cause I figured we should find out what it was about and that where I studied for two years and read a lot and everything. And then. When I had my aha moment, that’s when I wrote the book, asked for tools to practical guide, to understanding and embracing Asperger’s autism and neurodiversity.
Because by then I realized it’s true. I just asked versus fanciest autism. It’s not just, Kevin is demand. Gentleman’s it’s not just epilepsy. It’s not just anxiety and it’s not just PTSD and it’s not just. Neurological things or mental health things or developmental things. It’s all of the above. And that led to different brains.org where we could get all of it under one roof.
David Hirsch: So would you say that turning point, just to summarize what you were just saying was while she was still in college, you were working on this movie and then the, ah, ha moment where this fella. It says, by the way, did you know that your daughter has Asperger’s? Was that sort of the tipping point for all this?
Dr. Reitman: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Okay. That’s when it clicked that would Rebecca had been telling me, see, when she wanted to go to, to there. I said to her, why don’t you get a real professional like teaching? And she said to me, what’s on the cover of the book. She said, dad, you don’t get it. Brains are like snowflakes.
No two are alike. That’s the key.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, it’s a, an epiphany and I don’t think that everybody knows or maybe appreciates or understands that because there’s this fallacy I think in society and I’m not a medical professional, like you are, but just a pedestrian, if you will, that we’re all sort of equal.
And I think that it’s obvious crystal clear that. We are equal at some level. Like we’re all human beings. We are entitled to the same rights and privileges as the next person. But in reality, we all have a different makeup, not just DNA, but some of us are tall. Some of us are short. Some of us are heavy.
Some of us are not so heavy. Some have Brown hair, some have red hair and you just go on and on and on about all the. The differences that people have and why would everybody’s brain be the same, right. Um, people, well, or missing parts of their brain. People have, you know, super brains. They don’t have to study, or they can just look at something once.
And they have this, the equivalent of a photographic memory. And, um, we shovel people through school just because of the age they are. And we expect everybody to know perform just because of what year they were born and what year they’re in school. And, uh, Pretty obvious, you know, with anybody who has any experience raising a child or family, that everybody’s a little bit different, right?
And if you don’t make the adjustment as a parent, you know, you might be the one that’s punishing yourself, punishing your child for not conforming to some arbitrary standard. Are we on the same page?
Dr. Reitman: You said that far more eloquently than I’ve ever heard. It said that’s exactly what we’re saying. It is not one size fits all.
It’s not, we’re all different. And it’s like, I tell the kids that over at the hacky Reitman unit, the boys and girls club, I don’t believe in treating people equally. I believe in treating them fairly, fairly. We’re not all the same. So like you said, some people are tall, some people are short. What makes you think our brains are going to be the same?
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, we have to somehow embrace that. Um, and the way I think about it is that, uh, You know, if we are all the same, we would be robots, right. That we would be living like mono type of lives. And I think really what makes life more interesting is the fact that we are different. And if we can embrace those differences and celebrate those differences and not be judgmental about, you know, I’m better than you or that person’s better than this person, you know, life would be so much easier.
And, um, I think, you know, as a dad speaking from one day to the next, really all we want for our kids is to help. Them reach their full potential, whatever that is, right. Whatever their God given potential is, is that they’ll realize that. And if we can do something to get them there a little bit sooner than they might have on their own, or to help equip them to reach their full potential mission accomplished.
Dr. Reitman: Very well said you’re on a roll. Keep going. I’m learning. Nope. It says this is
David Hirsch: good. Nice of you to say that, but
Dr. Reitman: no, it’s true. Very eloquently. After we finish this interview, you ought to start writing your book. Another book, Fred, another book, I think you should.
David Hirsch: So beyond your own personal experience with raising a child with Asperger’s with the benefit of hindsight, you didn’t know that until she was in college. One of the things that you’ve done is you have created something called PCE media. You’re the CEO and this organization produces movies of which I’m familiar with too.
The one that you made reference to earlier, the square root of two, which, uh, was written produced, uh, in 2010, what was it that motivated you to
Dr. Reitman: that movie? That was Rebecca. That was a fictionalized version of Rebecca struggles at Georgia tech. Okay. And we fictionalized and, uh, dramatized it and, uh, Was a great, great experience, great experience doing that.
Your unreasonable and violent behavior has forced me to take these steps. I don’t
David Hirsch: understand.
Dr. Reitman: You’re going to have
David Hirsch: to move out by Sunday noon. That is housing’s
Dr. Reitman: decision. This is your official notice.
David Hirsch: I’ve watched the movie and then some additional pieces that were done around the movie. I was moved. It was very powerful. And one of the things that really stuck in my mind was this contract that Rebecca came up with that you needed to sign. Why don’t you relate that story?
Dr. Reitman: Well, this is a true story. We were getting ready to drive to Atlanta from Florida, and we’re getting ready to get in a car.
And she says, dad, I’m not getting in the car. Do you sign his contract to go? What is it? Yeah, she thinks that this yellow piece of paper that I still have the original executed one hanging in my office. Says, uh, I will not buy a condo or rent an apartment closer than two miles from the Georgia tech campus.
And I will not visit without permission more than whatever time that was. She said, and I said, I’m not sorry. I knew she goes in. I’m not gone. She’s much tougher than me. She’s smarter. She’s tougher. She means it. And I, I signed it and I went to, when I did buy a condo up there, I wanted to check in on her every couple of weeks, you know, I had to be outside of the perimeter with the visits.
David Hirsch: Oh, that’s a funny story. And it’s a true story, which I find even more, uh, entertaining. Um, but, uh, that just demonstrates something about her personality, right. That, you know, these are the rules. You need to play by the rules. I know I’m the child, but you know, I want some independence and you know, that that’s really important for young people.
Not all young people are that demonstrative about their independence, but it sends a crystal clear message about who she is and what her personality is in a positive way. So another thing I remember about the movie is that there’s this. Sort of black and white nature the way Rebecca. And I think you might be able to say it’s common with people with, Asperger’s see the world in more black and white terms, right.
Or wrong terms. I’m wondering how that played out. Not only in the movie, but how that’s played out in real life.
Dr. Reitman: Well, it’s, it’s, you know, one of the things, first of all, they, they do like rules and they. They are great rules, followers too, but, um, in life it can, um, it can hold you back in the sense that people don’t realize that you’re taking everything.
Literally, they don’t realize that, uh, your, everything is black and white. This is good, and this is bad and that’s it. And there’s nothing in between. And it gets mistaken for, for, it can be actually turned into a rudeness. Well, you’re wrong. I’m right. And it’s a, it’s a different way of thinking of things.
Cause as we know in the real world, there are shades of gray and a life isn’t really like that. Also, when I made the movie, I did not know that the hypersensitivity to sound, to lights, to everything and what this father, who’s the fictionalized version of me does this one scene where he’s in the diner.
Raising his voice, which is driving her crazy though. He doesn’t realize it and saying, literally he’s saying where you, everything is black and white. You know, the real world is shades of gray. It’s not like math. And she just says, well, it should be.
David Hirsch: So we’re talking about PCE media, and I understand that you, uh, co-produced another film entitled foreman, which is based on the legendary George Foreman.
Dr. Reitman: back after
David Hirsch: a 12 year high apes.
Dr. Reitman: It appeared to be
David Hirsch: a publicity stunt.
Dr. Reitman: He was overweight. He was past his prime.
David Hirsch: Those
Dr. Reitman: were facts.
David Hirsch: I went to my wife and
Dr. Reitman: told her, look, I’ve run out
David Hirsch: of money.
Dr. Reitman: I’m going to have to go back into boxes. She pleaded don’t do it. They’re going to kill you, George. You’re not that guy anymore.
David Hirsch: so beyond the two movies, um, is there another movie movies that you’re working on in the name of PCE?
Dr. Reitman: Yeah, the next different brains documentary that our neurodivergent team is finishing up is I’m one of the first in a series called. Are different brains Asperger’s, which is interviews with all people, with Aspergers, all self advocates with Asperger’s, as opposed to all the experts in everything.
So that’s going to be a documentary. We also did the documentary that you can view free of charge on a website. Called Asperger’s autism and neurodiversity in the square root of two and neurodiversity documentary. Jarvey Stanchfield did a great job displaying the emotional difficulties that she
David Hirsch: experienced
Dr. Reitman: and told me the whole movie is about Asperger’s.
I believe that Asper tools, a square root of two, and dr. Hackey Reitman are at the Vanguard of changing people’s perceptions about what’s going on. There’s always a story behind the movie and without the story behind the story, the movie wouldn’t be right. And if we can just get people in general, just to understand that life would be easier.
David Hirsch: So let’s talk a little bit about your book, which I’m also came out not so long ago, which is Asper tools, the practical guide for understanding and embracing Asperger’s autism. Spectrum disorder and neurodiversity. Was this a compilation of the work that you were doing in the name of different brains?
Or what was the impetus for writing the book?
Dr. Reitman: This was, this was just after I found out after Rebecca graduated, uh, college, that she also had Asperger’s and autism, which I do not knew nothing about. And I said to myself, if I don’t know anything about this. Then there’s a lot of people don’t I better do something about this.
And so I just kind of studied for a couple of years. And when I happened, aha moment, I wrote that. Yeah. Book, just to be a simple book. It’s not an academic book. It’s just, it’s kind of common sense approaches to this stuff so that people would have a little bit of a cookbook and know some good things to do.
And. Here’s what works and here’s why, and none of it costs anything. Right. I mean, from the point of view of having a positive routine, You know what all of these kinds of things that help all of us. The thing that I like really particularly liked about the book was I would write a chapter and then there would be two little boxes.
One was for the special ed teacher, Patty Fasano, who really knows so much about autism. And she’s a mentor to Rebecca also. And then there’d be a little box for Rebecca where she’d say things like, Hey, This is what my dad thinks, but he’s all wrong. Here’s how it really is like about a meltdown. You know, she’d say he can say whatever he wants, just be quiet and get them to a quiet, safe place.
There’s nothing you can do. All right. Don’t try.
David Hirsch: Um, so let’s talk about different brands.org, the five Oh one C three that you founded, uh, dedicated to promotion of the understanding and acceptance of the basic variations in the human brain known as neuro diversity. When was that founded? What was the motivation for creating a not-for-profit?
Dr. Reitman: It was founded a couple of years ago, uh, because I saw the great need to get all of our different brains under one roof because everything was in different silos. So yet. Yeah. And Alzheimer’s over here and you had autism over there and you had dyslexia over there and you had PTSD and mental health issues there.
And so many of the same tools and resources that will help one will help another. And that was my goal. My goal was to get everyone to play nicely in the sandbox and to help each other out instead of. Just watching your own turf and everything. So, you know, for me to get the people in Alzheimer’s research, communicating with the people in autism research is a great feat that’s needed to be done because there’s an example of today entities where the research hadn’t gotten us very far.
Especially in Alzheimer’s. I mean, it’s just that barking up that same old tree all the time. And I’ve been able to at least stimulate some discussion, some communication, different things. Uh, when I interviewed, uh, um, You know, dr. Karen Parker out at Stanford at the neurodiversity project, doing some real out of the box thinking and everything.
It’s great. But then, then again, as you know, the way the grant system is set up that, uh, unless you no preexisting work in that area, they’re not going to give you the money. So when you get these far off thinkers, Like, you’re going to need for this Corona virus thing that I’m sure there’s people thinking way outside the box and they’re changing the usual way of doing things here, which is going to be needed.
David Hirsch: Absolutely. Well, it’s pretty challenging to get, I’m not for
Dr. Reitman: profits.
David Hirsch: To work together, even if they have a common mission.
Dr. Reitman: Yeah.
David Hirsch: You know, I admire people like yourself who are trying to figure out how to connect the dots. Right. Because, um, it, you’re not going to come up with the winning solutions by working or operating in your own silo.
Right. And people are okay. Very territorial, this my experience, thinking about the not-for-profit world, it’s viewed as a sort of a zero sum game. There’s a finite amount of resources. And if I give up something that means. You’re getting it or vice versa and that’s not a healthy way to problem solve. Um, so I think we’re birds of the same feather from that perspective.
Dr. Reitman: So one of the things that I learned
David Hirsch: about your organization is that you have these really interesting internships and whose idea was that? And how has that played out?
Dr. Reitman: I’ve always done that, you know, we were doing in everything I’ve ever done, whether it was orthopedic associates during my years there, it’s just.
Invite people if they want to, if they want to learn some or if they want to help out, could just come and join the team. And, um, one of my big grudges against the education, the whole system and the employment system is that it’s one size fits all. And I think that everybody, I, all of our interns can make their own schedule.
As long as they make their schedule in there, they’re going to show up and do what they said. They’re going to do. They’re all different. They stay for different lengths of time. It’s nothing is fixed so that we have one gal, Julia Futo who’s wonderful. Who has so many different labels. I couldn’t even begin to give them.
She gives a very eloquent speech about them, but she’s going to college. She’s holding down a job at Publix. And she’s interning with us or whatever you want to call it. Trainee, mentorship, whatever. All right. And then she’s contributing all of our neurodivergent interns help produce all of our media. We are the largest producer.
I’m very proud of this, of neurodiversity advocacy media in the world, between our podcasts for females only spectrum Lee speaking. The 200 interviews I’ve done on exploring different brains with people, leaders such as yourself. It’s wonderful. It’s great. And then we have community leaders and nice enough to come over a little green screen studio here in Fort Lauderdale and introduce themselves to whatever interns that they have that day.
So we go around the room and everybody’s got introduced themselves. And then on exploring different brains. When I interviewed people like you, you got to meet a couple of our interns. That was a big thrill for them. I looked you up online. They looked at something, they listened to some of your podcasts.
Now they get introduced to you. How cool is that? That’s great stuff. Yeah.
David Hirsch: Well, you do an amazing job of mentoring young people and exposing them, right? Because that’s what life is all about is just getting exposed to things.
Dr. Reitman: And we make them 18 plus years old because I think we, as a society have inadvertently discriminated against the adults.
It’s all about the children. Well, guess what the children grow up now, what are you going to do? Exactly.
David Hirsch: So I want to ask you a personal question. And it has to do with brains and specifically your brain. You’re a boxer. I associate boxing with concussions. Do you know for a fact that you’ve had a certain number of concussions?
Is there any fear about having CTE on your part?
Dr. Reitman: Well, I’m probably going to get some CTE because. While I was never counted out. I took a lot of shots that I had no question about that it’s like, if you become a swimmer, you’re going to have to get wet. I was asked this chord, this question sometimes, but it’s, you know, it’s interesting how times change back when I was fighting me, which was say in the.
You know, nineties. Okay. Team concussions would not a big thing. And I used to joke with many of the interviews, whether it’s good morning America or Roy Firestone, who was trying to make me cry. You know, like Roy Firestone says, aren’t you, you’re a surgeon. Aren’t you afraid to hurt your hands? I said, why does nobody asks me about my head, a surgeon you’re going to hurt your hands back then was not a buzzword.
It is not good to get hit in the head. But as I said to the media, then, because some people appropriately called me a hypocrite in the following sense. Friday night as an orthopedic sports medicine specialist, I’d be on the football field as the team physician for say, American heritage down here. Great.
Great school here in Florida. And, uh, if the quarterback got his bell rung, I’d take him out for two weeks. And then Saturday night I’d be on TV, getting knocked down three times in one round. Like, what the heck is this? You know, but my justification was, look, it’s my brain. If I want to get a beat in for what I think is a, a good purpose, that’s my right to do it.
I’m not encouraging other people to do it. But I gotta tell you this, you fast forward now, 30 years later, it’s more in the mainstream. It’s more in the news. It’s more accepted to, Hey, look, if you’re going to get hit in the head, you’re going to have consequences. If I had a young man now for a son, I would not encourage him to play football.
I don’t know if I’d forbid him, but I’d kind of encourage him to other things. And I feel. I feel bad saying that and what I want to do. And if I ever get the bully pulpit, I hope to do this. Like if I got a meeting with the NFL commissioner, I would say this, I don’t want to do anything to hurt the sport.
I don’t want to take away anyone’s livelihood. Let’s nibble at the edges for whatever we can do to help that one hurt the game. Here’s what I would like to see. Stop. Your players from congratulating each other by budding their heads or slapping each other on the helmet, make that a penalty. And that way all the kids in pop Warner and high school and college will stop doing it too, because research does show that those repetitive things are bad of a running back, just goes through the line.
Boom, boom, boom. And he gets up and what happens. They stopped button’s head. So stop that tomorrow, that will serve the, as the wanting missile to start getting serious about it, then America as a whole, we gotta get, we gotta, we gotta be having fun, honest dialogue with ourselves about this and not try to say well, It’s okay to get hidden and no, it’s not.
And it’s going to have repercussions.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, I guess the net result is people are more conscientious, conscious, no pun intended about the development of the brain and brain injuries. And if you were to air, why wouldn’t you air on protecting your brain? Why wouldn’t we air on protecting the environment?
So under the banner of advice, I’m wondering if there’s any important takeaways that come to mind that you might suggest to a dad who’s listening to this podcast about raising a child or grandchild with a difference.
Dr. Reitman: The most important chapter in my book, Asper tools is the last one. Unconditional love.
That’s the main thing. Don’t let that get lost in the weeds. Unconditional love. They’re not on trial. They are not on trial. That’s the main thing I would say.
David Hirsch: Excellent. Thank you for simplifying that and emphasizing your book again. I’m wondering what is it? What motivated you to become a special father mentor father as part of this Special Fathers Network?
Dr. Reitman: Well, you did, you did because I’ve, I’m always complimenting the moms all the time. I call them in my book, the angels with a pit bull mentality. And to be honest about it, many of these single moms, God bless them. They bring home the bacon, they fight with the schools. They fight with the doctors. They fight with the medical system, the insurance, everything else as do the dads too.
But a lot of the dads head for the Hills. That’s why they need you to encourage them. No, you stay there. Stay there where your kid, even if you’re divorced, separated, whatever. You’ll be a major factor. Don’t you disappear? We need the dad’s like my dad and so many dads out there. And I think what you’re doing is wonderful because dad’s, I didn’t have anything in my book.
What about a special note to those special debts for the moms? All right. And why is that? Well, Probably a lot of reasons, which we won’t go into now because I probably won’t figure them out. But at the hacky Reitman boys and girls club, how many of those kids have dads at home? Not a whole lot of them.
All right. Not a whole lot. Let’s get the dads involved, whether they’re at home and not at home, whatever these kids are wonderful. And the adults who are your children are wonderful too. So I can’t tell you how. Important. I think your work is.
David Hirsch: Yeah. Well, thank you for being part of the network. We’re thrilled to have you let’s give a special shout out to our mutual friend, Jim Mueller of Delray beach, Florida, a fellow special father’s network, mentor, father, and podcast, ad number 13 for helping connect us.
Dr. Reitman: Well, thank you, Jim.
David Hirsch: Is there anything else you’d like to say before we wrap up?
Dr. Reitman: Just a big, big, thank you. And let me know anything we hear at different brains can help to spread your message and let’s not let this be the last time I want to get you for another interview for exploring different.
David Hirsch: Well, that’s very nice of you.
Thank you. If somebody wants to learn more about different brains. About your book, the movies podcast, or contact you. What’s the best way about doing that?
Dr. Reitman: Go to different brains.org. Our website, their email me email@example.com. Those are two of the ways and you can just Google me.
You Google Hackie Reitman. You’ll find a lot of different fun stuff too.
David Hirsch: And I really enjoyed your Wikipedia page. That was a very good source of information as well. So we’ll put that all in the show notes so everybody can find them there. Packy, thank you again for the time. And many insights. As a reminder, Hackie is just one of the dads who’s agreed to be a mentor father as part of the Special Fathers Network, a mentoring program for fathers raising a child with special needs. If you’d like to be a mentor father or are seeking advice from a mentor father with a similar situation to your own. Please go to 21stcenturydads.org. Thank you for listening to the latest episode of the Special Fathers Network, dad to dad podcast.
I hope you enjoyed the conversation as much as I did, as you probably know. The 21st Century Dads Foundation is a 501 c3, not for profit organization, which means we need your help to keep our content free. To all concern, please consider making a tax deductible donation. I would really appreciate your support.
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Hackie, thanks again.
Dr. Reitman: Thank you so much. Take care. Bye bye.
Tom Couch: And thank you for listening to the dad to dad podcast presented by the Special Fathers Network.
The Special Fathers Network is a dad to dad mentoring program for fathers, raising children with special needs through our personalized matching process, new fathers with special needs children connect with mentor fathers in a similar situation. It’s a great way for fathers to support. Poor fathers go to 21stcenturydads.org. That’s 21stcenturydads.org.
David Hirsch: And if you’re a dad looking for help or would like to offer help, we’d be honored to have you join our closed Facebook group. Please go to facebook.com, groups and search dad to dad.
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The dad to dad podcast is produced by Couch Audio for the Special Fathers Network. Thanks for listening.