Autism in the news…

I’ve recently become aware of a website, Healthline News, which has printed several articles on autism. Which is good because they are the second largest health information site that’s aimed at regular people, not medical professionals. They have an audience of 60 million readers, which is almost twice as many people as there are Canadians. Their articles span a variety of issues, not just autism, but I’m focusing on their autism spectrum articles today.

One article that’s interesting is an article which looks at white matter in the brain in comparison with the severity of autism and ADHD. Another looks at both the employment rate of people with autism, which sucks by the way, and how autism is portrayed in main stream media, which is improving. They also have a list of phone apps that can help teach young children and can help busy parents stay on top of appointments and therapy sessions. I could have used several of those apps when Colin was little, that is if we actually had smart phones back then.

Searching their site brings up over nine hundred hits for autism so you’re sure to have a variety of articles to read and information to peruse when the kids are settled down and not interrupting you every 3.5 seconds. Plus there’s many other articles on a variety of topics, from sex to cooking to improving your memory.

So, if you’re looking for a free website, with more articles than you could read in a year, this site is for you. Enjoy!

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Reality is just a word…

I woke up this morning feeling discombobulated. Well actually I woke up feeling like I had to pee but as soon as that got sorted out I felt discombobulated. Like the rest of the world took a step to the left and I misread the instructions and took a step to the right. Everything looks the same but there’s something off. Chances are it’s me. Meanwhile life goes on, even if it doesn’t feel quite like my life. As if I’m running after normal… kind of like when I was a kid and tumbled off the wagon at the apple orchard. Running as hard as I can and hoping someone will reach over and help me back up.

My eleven year old cat Blackie has lost a bunch of weight, like half her body weight. I didn’t notice at first because she’s fluffy and has a big round tummy. Plus I usually scratch her neck and chin. But last week I ran my hand across her back and felt backbone. I did more rubbing and found her collar bones and her breast bone. I’d originally called that her keel bone but that’s in birds and I’d have to take another step to the right to get that far from reality.

Last night I sent Colin out to get wet cat food and he came back with Whiskas Duos. My plan was to get a small plate and open the tin in the bathroom. Colin pulled a Oprah instead, snapping off cans and handing them out willy nilly. Here’s wet food for you, you, and especially for you. They all loved it and, most importantly, Blackie immediately started gobbling it down. Then I looked closer and realized she was only eating the broth, not the chicken bits.

This morning, Blackie was sitting by the electric fireplace, just relaxing, so I got her a container and spooned it out on a plate. And today she started eating the chicken pieces. I don’t have a “way to go you’re eating chicken bits” award but if I did, she earned it. Then I made the fatal mistake. Smudge likes to lick peanut butter off my finger while I eat breakfast. She’d been there before I served Blackie but wandered off.

“Smudgie… Smudgie-pants… I’ve got peanut butter for you!” I called.

Smudge ran over, sniffed my finger and walked away. Behind her came Lara, Angel, and Oreo… while I blurted “I didn’t call you”. Soon they were all crowded around Blackie. I went from eating breakfast to turning into a cat bouncer. And all the while, Blackie gobbled away. When she stopped, Angel (our 12 year old) was the only cat left so I let her have a shot at the plate. Ten minutes later, the sounds of retching filled the air. I followed the sound to the bathroom, where Angel was busy vomiting.

“It’s okay baby. Sometimes food is like that,” I assured her as she gagged. It didn’t come back up last night so I’ll give it another chance, maybe it was just a coincidence. Maybe she took a step to the right too. Maybe the food’s different here. Whatever it is, she gets one more chance with wet cat food, otherwise she’s staying 100% dry.

I don’t know what time Colin went to sleep last night but I woke him up at noon and just now, at 12:40pm. Hopefully he’ll stay awake now because I want to clean up the living room today and all the mess consists of his computers and two chairs which he insists we need and I insist we don’t need… especially in the middle of the floor.

One weird thing I’ve noticed is I don’t rock when I’m typing. But today I’m rocking all the rest of the time. Maybe typing counts as stimming? Maybe that only works a step to the right?

I’ve got a prescription to give to my pharmacist. My psychiatrist does not like the sheer number of pills I’m taking a day, which would be ten. I just counted. So he’s switching out the clonazepam for another pill that also works as an antidepressant and will continue to drop and modify my prescription with each appointment. He also knows my blog address now. I don’t know if he was just reading it that once or if he’s checking in every once in a while. It was probably just a one time thing but, just in case, hi Dr. K.

With any luck, Colin will be willing to drop off my prescription today. Otherwise I’ll have to do it tomorrow. I’m not going out feeling like this. I have to cross an intersection of two fairly big roads and I don’t feel connected enough to my body to do that. I’ll stick with dishes and standing in the living room saying, “I’ve got half a computer tower here. Where do you want it? No, the centre of the living room is not an option.”

But maybe I’ll cuddle with Blackie-boo first.

Winter Blues…

For anyone who is thinking about giving up because they have nothing to look forward to.

Winter is a horrible time to make decisions like this. Depression lies and winter just eggs it on. Wait. Just wait.

spring blooms1Spring will come with new leaves and flowers and baby bunnies. Wait for the lilacs to bloom and the sun to fall, warm, across your cheeks. Wait for your first chance to head outside and go for a real walk, one with trees arching above you and flowers opening through the brilliant green grass.

Wait for that first gentle breeze. The one that drifts smoothly across your arms and wafts the smell of green and growing things past your nose.

Wait for the sound of tiny frogs peeping in the ponds and the singing of -spring birds. They aren’t quiet but every sound drips into your heart, relaxing it, telling you that all is right in this world.

Wait for every colour known appear in gardens and meadows. For bumbling bees to come out of hibernation and bobble along, wiggling and dancing into and around the flowers.

Wait for all of this to happen, then decide if you have anything to look forward to.

If you want help, this link includes a list of a variety of help lines from around the world.

Creeping out of hibernation…

The kittens were wild things all morning. I had to lift them out of the storage container cupboard, pull them off the hutch, and coax them out of the fine china. After that Smudge went on a major grooming spree while Lara chased her tail in the bathtub. Then they proceeded to chase each other all around the apartment and over the other cats. My senior cats were decidedly confused.

Colin stayed in his room offering commentary on different videos, interspersed with his braying laughter. I miss the giggle he used to have. Meanwhile I made vegetable soup then retreated to my room to chat with friends on Facebook and to try and calm down. It’s been two weeks since my schedule changed for Christmas break and I’ve come to realize I really need one. A schedule, not Christmas, although I could use another of those too. My anxiety has been revving up and it’s hard to concentrate or get anything done.

If you want an idea what anxiety is like, picture yourself in a car driving down the road. You go around a corner and there’s a transport truck right there in your lane! The crash is imminent and you can’t stop yourself from saying “holy hell, we’re going to die”. Except there’s no car, no road, and no transport truck. There’s just that “holy hell, we’re all going to die” feeling. And it keeps coming as waves washing over you. It’s been like that for me pretty much all day. And, yes, I’ve done my breathing.

It’s been much too cold to go out for any length of time. The temperature has ranged from the -20’s to -30s. We went next door on Thursday to help a friend and, on the way over, I thought my eyeballs were going to freeze. I didn’t even know your eyes could get cold. It felt really weird. The weather is rapidly rising today and it’s supposed to be 2C tomorrow, which is a decent temperature for a winter walk. Emma’s school starts tomorrow too and my groups start up again this week. I even see my psychiatrist and I’m planning on showing him my list of questions.

Up until Christmas break I’d been either walking to or from my groups. Thanks to the weather this week, I should be able to continue with the walks, hopefully indefinitely, although I wouldn’t be surprised if we have another cold spell. Disappointed but not surprised.

I was too anxious to go outside today but Colin had some things to buy and went out instead. He needed a battery for starters as our smoke detector’s battery failed last night. Why do they only fail at three am? I don’t think I’ve ever, in my whole life, had a detector start beeping at 8pm. Colin needs a box of envelopes too because it looks like he’s getting reimbursed for the money he was scammed out of. Which is amazing.

And now the sun is slowly setting and Colin’s back home, bubbling over about his purchases and how he got a Steve Jobs movie just to see what they got wrong. And it’s time for me to make dinner. Tomorrow’s another day and, hopefully, a warmer and better one.

Tim Hortons…

I worked for eight years at Tim Hortons and only left because I went on disability. People talk about it being an easy job, you just have to stand at the cash register, but it’s not. You have to gauge how much coffee you need to have brewing and good luck if you underestimate because each pot takes five minutes. Heavy garbage bags need to be taken out back to the dumpster and boxes of cups and lids need to be brought in from the storage area.

It’s a job where you are on your feet for eight hours a day, aside from two fifteen minute breaks. Fifteen minutes. Picture eating your entire lunch in that time, as well as using the washroom and heating any food. And you’re expected to be back on the floor at the fifteen minute mark.

This is a job where you are constantly moving around. I have a Fitbit and I used to always hit my 10,000 steps at work. Every single shift. Some busy shifts, I hit my step goal before lunch.

Staff members are not allowed to talk to each other while on the floor. Even if it’s dead and there isn’t a single customer in sight. Even if you’re cleaning while you talk. The owner doesn’t like it. So if it’s quiet, there are tasks to do. Squeezing into the space the garbage can usually sits to clean the walls. Getting up on ladders to clean shelving units. Scrubbing fly specks off the menu boards. Sweeping the parking lot. Actually, sweeping the parking lot and changing all the outdoor bins was my daily job, which I enjoyed because it gave me a break from people.

I liked the people I worked with. I even liked the managers and supervisors. But I hated the don’t talk, don’t question attitude. Once every couple of months the owner would waltz in. He knew who we all were, I’ll give him that, but otherwise I have no idea what he did other than deep sea fishing. He must have done something but it was the managers I saw writing schedules, ordering supplies, and getting our paycheques ready.

In Ontario, Kathleen Wynne has raised the minimum wage up to $14/hr from $11.60. It’s then going to increase to $15 next year. The owner of my store used to time our yearly review and raise to coincide with the minimum wage increase. As if he couldn’t afford to give us a 20 cent an hour raise on top of the minimum wage. This increase jumps the hourly wage up by $3.40,  which is quite the raise. Talk about happiness for the workers, many of whom are mothers who could use the extra cash.

But not so fast. The owners are revolting. How dare they be expected to pay their staff anything near a living wage? They’re ranting about no longer paying for fifteen minute breaks, which is unethical. They’re also demanding that all tips go into the cash register, which is illegal. But who cares about illegal when your worker’s $3.40 wage increase are cutting into your deep sea fishing and vacation to France?

I know that Tim Hortons is everywhere and that they’re cheap and convenient. But McDonalds is everywhere too as well as smaller coffee shops. If you have a small local coffee shop, give them a try. It’ll only take an extra minute or two to walk in. Otherwise go to McDonalds or Starbucks. They haven’t complained about the wage increase yet.

There’s one thing the owners and CEO understand and that’s money. If it starts dropping they’re going to want to know why. And if people are being vocal about their attitude toward the raise, maybe they’ll pipe down and stop trying to screw over their employees. They are very easy to contact via email and that will let them know how the customers feel.

Thank you

Edited to add: It looks like Tim Horton’s head office is scolding the owners who are planning on cutting paid breaks and taking tip money. Hopefully they’ll convince the owners to follow the law.

Gratitude…

It’s dark outside, the snow still softly falling. I sit in my room, surrounded by sleeping cats, as my electric fireplace hums behind me. Dinner’s been eaten and the dishes, yet unwashed, will only take a few minutes to clean. Colin’s in his room, playing video games and laughing. In a few more hours we’ll be heading off to bed in our nice, safe apartment and clean, comfortable beds.

I wasn’t nearly so peaceful earlier. Colin had an optometrist appointment this morning and a mix up left me with a $105 bill. It turned out I didn’t need to pay it after all. Then there was an issue with the bank, which was solved in five minutes on the phone. Then Colin needed to go to the ER to get a new prescription because his old one was finished and his psychiatrist is away until July. That got sorted out as well. When I got home, I sat down wondering when the next shoe would drop and hoping it would be as easy to fix.

Then I woke my computer and listened to Colin laughing at a vlog, while my electric fireplace warmed my back. And I thought about gratitude.

We did an IQ test today, Colin and I, on separate computers. It was just for fun and obviously not on par with the ones done by psychologists, not that those are necessarily accurate either. We both started at the same time and kept pace with each other. I ended up with an IQ of 140, which is pretty much what I usually get and Colin ended up with an IQ of 120, definitely a respectable result.

I’m glad Colin’s out of the school system which labeled him developmentally delayed and in a program which lets him go at his own pace. A program he’s doing quite well at. He’s emotionally delayed, which is normal for autism, and has poor fine motor skills (anyone who’s seen his handwriting with agree with that) but he’s definitely not developmentally delayed. I can’t wait to see how he continues to do at his school.

I’m grateful for our safe, clean apartment in a decent neighbourhood. Our neighbours and quiet and generally friendly, holding open the elevator door and making small talk on our ways home. I’m grateful for the little things we take for granted here in Canada. The hot and cold running water, electric appliances, a flush toilet, grocery stores nearby.

I’m grateful for our health. I had a bit of a scare earlier this month when the optometrist sent me to a specialist to check for glaucoma but my eyes were fine and so are Colin’s and Kait’s. And our physical health is good too, for the most part.

I’m grateful for our cats, who fill the little spaces in our hearts. I wake in the middle of the night to find myself surrounded by four cozy cats keeping me warm, the fifth lies with Colin. They each have their own very distinct personalities and our home wouldn’t be the same without them.

I am thankful for my two daughters. Kait has my off beat sense of humour and it’s wonderful to watch her grow and thrive. Whereas Colin is more eccentric and runs experiments I would never think of. The two of them are more amazing than I could imagine and my life has been enriched by them.

And now it’s time to wash the dishes then settle into a warm bath with the bath bomb I made in my Wellness group. I hope you all have plenty of reasons to be thankful and may your joyous times outweigh any sadness.

The hard decision…

I was in the living room with Emma Colin yesterday, after taking our Christmas stuff down to storage, when he suddenly announced, “I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to transition or not but right now I’m leaning toward not.”

“Because you want to have kids?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. We’ve talked about it enough already and he’s been wavering on the border of transitioning or not for months now.

“Yes,” he replied. “It’s so hard to choose to transition and have kids. What if I decide I want to adopt and the agency doesn’t accept me?”

I had no answer for that. I have no idea what parameters adoption clinics have for their prospective clients. I made my kids at home, from scratch, for free. So I changed the topic slightly.

“If you decide you’re not going to transition, will you want me to stop calling you Emma and start calling you Colin again?”

He nodded then said, “It’s such a hard decision to make.”

“I bet it is,” I replied.

That’s something I never had to worry about. I’d just turned 25 years old when I had Kait and there was every expectation that if we did the deed enough (but not too much) a baby would ensue. I wasn’t worrying about infertility, sperm banks, or adoption… especially not at 20 years old. I tried to think of some way to support Colin, considering he wants both options, transitioning and a baby, pretty much equally.

“When I was trying to decide whether to leave your Dad or not, I thought a lot about if it would be fair to you and Kait. My thoughts ran round and around. Then I pictured Kait as an adult and in the same situation. Would I want her to stay or to go? The answer was unequivocally to go. Why would I treat myself worse than her? I too am someone else’s child. So you picture someone you love in your situation. And picture them struggling for an answer. The gender dysphoria isn’t going to get any better. Would you wish that on someone you love?”

“No,” he replied.

“So why would you wish it on you?”

“Because I really want kids,” he replied.

Which is where I bite my tongue. I know he wants kids but he doesn’t have them yet and I can’t bring myself to worry about kids who don’t exist. I care for and worry about him.

“I know,” I assured him. “Just remember this conversation and that if things get rough you always have more than one option.”

Later, after we’d eaten our fill of homemade tempura, I stood with Colin while he took his medicine and asked, “Do you want me to start calling you Colin now.”

He shook his head. “No, can you please keep calling me Emma?” he asked plaintively.

“Of course,” I replied. “I’ll call you that until you ask me not to.”

And now all I can do is hope that he finds an answer he can live with.