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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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.

The pause…

Our presents are opened and mostly put away. The wrapping’s been pitched and the gift bags carefully saved for another day. And we have just under a week until New Year’s Eve. But this week is empty. No school, no groups, and, depending on where you work, no shifts.

I like this week, it’s a pause between two major holidays, a time to reflect on the previous year and prepare for the new one, if only by thought instead of deed.

This year I’m going to serve healthy meals that I enjoy. Colin has a very limited palate and dislikes most vegetables and all legumes (other than baked beans). I’m tired of making bland dishes for him to enjoy. He’s old enough to cook and, while he’s ignored my multiple offers to teach him some basic cooking skills, he’s more than capable of trying to prepare a meal and asking for help if needed.

I’m going to keep up with my walking. I’m aiming for seven days a week but am happy with five. I’ve got my Fitbit to track my 10,000 and it’s making a difference. I want to encourage Colin to walk with me more. He’s gained so much weight in the past couple of months. I handed him a sweater of his to wear to his grandparents’ house on Christmas Eve, a lovely black sweater with tiny sequins on it, only to find out he’s outgrown it. Luckily I had a tank top which fit. One of my favourites with red sequins across the top. It looked festive so that part’s good. And he liked it which was better. Hopefully he’ll forget that by summer because I’m not sharing it.

I’m going to spend more time with friends. Which is easier said than done because most of them have social anxiety, but I’m at least going to try. I have one friend who’s an extrovert *waves at Allison* and I plan on spending more time with her. Woo hoo… karaoke in a week.

I’m going to push Colin into bringing his dishes into the kitchen when he’s done eating, not when he gets a whim to carry in an armload or two. That’s way too overwhelming for both of us and gross besides.

I’m going to get back to writing, which is also easier said than done. I’m going to get back into reading too. I’ve got a $50 Indigo card from my parents and I’m going to buy ebooks for my phone.

I call Colin, Emma at home because she enjoys hearing it, just not in public where her masculine looking features contrast with her name. With family I tend to flip between the two names, depending on who we’re with. I use Colin and he/him on the blog so I don’t confuse everyone here by using two names. But I need to remember, despite my own confusion, to continue doing so. I’ve called her Emma on the blog five times so far and have to keep backspacing and writing Colin. Using one name would be so much easier but it’s his path and not mine.

And I need to be more gentle with myself. I look around at other people and think *I should be doing that* but I’m not them and I need to make sure I don’t overdo things. Otherwise I end up overwhelmed and the next day’s ruined too with high anxiety. I need to do the best I can, not the best someone else can.

Well my hot chocolate (in my new handmade mug from my parents) is done and it’s time to get Colin up to buy kitty litter and cat food (I’m telling you, my life is a font of excitement). I hope those who celebrate had a wonderful Christmas! And enjoy the pictures 🙂

Kait, Kathleen, and Emma

Kait, Kathleen, and Colin. Colin’s wearing the emergency top and you can barely tell he’s wearing it with his track pants LOL

Emma's new kitty ear headphones

This is one of my favourite pictures of Colin because you can actually see him smile instead of the usual half grimace he claims is a smile. And he’s wearing the kitty cat headphones I bought him. He’d asked for them but it’s nice to get verification that a gift’s enjoyed anyway.