January 27, 2017

The Essence of Autism

I was in an autism discussion group and we were talking about how anxiety can play a big part of being autistic. I mentioned that if I could do away with the anxiety part and keep the autistic part, I think that would be ok. Someone else said that anxiety was autism and it can't be separated. I'm going to have to disagree.

I get that we get anxiety for a lot of different reasons, many of them being sensory issues, some of them being social issues, and others from childhood trauma or C-PTSD. But you can have anxiety without autism, just as you can have sensory processing disorder without autism. Anxiety isn't part of the diagnostic criteria for autism, nor do I think it should be.

What I do think is that we can have it better. We can have and deserve a better quality of life. We don't have to just throw up our arms and say, "well, I'm Autistic and anxious and there's nothing I can do!" Nor do we need to hold the belief that if we manage to control or get rid of the anxiety issues, that we'll somehow lose our autistic identity. 

I really believe the essence of autism is in our brain structure - the connections it has created that are different from neurotypicals. It's deep in our chemistry and make up. It's not something that can be fundamentally changed or taken away. But I do believe there is hope and possibility to alleviate some of the most trying symptoms, like the incapacitating anxiety, and the sensory discomforts.

It's true, as adults, we can often change our immediate surroundings to suit us. We make cozy homes for ourselves, when we can. But we still have to go out in the world, which is by and large not suited for many of us. I think we have been and can continue to make changes in the outside world as well, but I also see a need for us to be able to just be more comfortable in our own bodies. That might be medication. That might mean therapy, but whatever it is, I think we should be confident that we do not have to hold on dearly to the symptoms that are holding us back in order to preserve our autistic identity.

I write this as I'm coming out of a shutdown/burnout. What I wouldn't do to be able to remain functional. I have a family, a job - I can't afford to shutdown, but it happens and I don't blame my autism. I don't think I win any autism brownie points for having them. I think I could be just as authentically autistic without them. Just because I hate my anxiety, it doesn't mean I hate myself or autism. For me, my identity isn't so tied up in that part.

What do you think? What is the essence of autism?

January 25, 2017

Adoption Day

We'd already been living as a family of four for over a year when we finally had our adoption finalization court date. Despite telling everyone this would be the case from the beginning, people still expressed surprise - "you mean...all this time!?"

All this time we were not his legal parents.
All this time we had no birth certificate for him.
All this time we had home visits from our social worker to check up on us.
All this time we waited.

I barely slept the night before our court date. I was excited to officially become a "forever family" and I also felt sad for his birth family. It seemed so final...and it was.

We paid our fee to our lawyer and entered the court room.
Hubby and I both testified and the whole process took maybe 10 minutes.
And that was it. After over a year of being together, a judge finally declared us a real family in the eyes of the law.

We exited the court room and I played We Are Family on my phone as we walked out of the court house.


And that's how our family was made.


Ev'ryone can see we're together
As we walk on by
(Hey) and we fly just like birds of a feather
I won't tell no lie
(ALL!) all of the people around us they say
Can they be that close?
Just let me state for the record
We're giving love in a family dose

We are family
I got all my sisters with me
We are family
Get up ev'rybody and sing

Living life is fun and we've just begun
To get our share of the world's delights
(HIGH!) high hopes we have for the future
And our goal's in sight
(WE!) no we don't get depressed
'Cause here's what we call our golden rule
Have faith in you and the things you do
You won't go wrong
This is our family Jewel

Sister Sledge - We Are Family Lyrics

January 18, 2017

Montreal Resources for Parents

After dealing with two kids with gastroenteritis ("stomach flu") and not able to send the baby to daycare because of it, Hubby and I didn't have much sleep, laundry was piled up, and we were still trying to work our jobs. It was too much!

So I went searching for resources. For families like us without extended family able to lend a hand, it can be rough. I went in search of emergency babysitting and in that search, I found a bunch of other resources that might help. I'm sharing what I found in case others find it useful:

La Maison Kangourou - I've mentioned them when they opened in 2011 and they're still going strong. They offer emergency respite at their three-floor home, 24/7. You can drop off a child (up to 12 years old) any time and know they will be safe. They can stay up to two weeks at a time. They also offer weekend respite for $40/child/day.

We Care Home Health Services - Provides health care in your home.

Bayshore Health Care - In-home health care available 24/7. They care for seniors, children, and do light house work (dishes, laundry, sweeping).

Information and Referral Center of Montreal - Not sure who to call or where to start? No clue what's available in the city? Call 211 and they do the searching for you. It's free!

Premiere Ressource - Do you need to vent about challenging parenting issues? Have a parenting question? Just need someone to listen? Premiere Ressource is free, anonymous, and staffed by psychologists and child specialists. You can call between 9am-9pm most days to speak to someone.

As usual, for any non-emergency health issues, you can always speak to a nurse by calling 811.

If you are in a state where you may harm yourself or your child, please call 911 or head to your nearest emergency room, police station or CLSC for immediate assistance. 

January 13, 2017

Home Speech Therapy Exercises

Using my Repeat, Simplify and Wait process helps give children the time, tools and confidence to practice speaking.

If your child has Childhood Apraxia of Speech, these tips are really helpful. Combine oral language with sign, prompts and Pictos to reinforce and encourage. Always do it in a spirit of learning and fun.

Don't forget to give lots of praise for any speech attempt!

Let me know how it works out for you and feel free to ask me any questions!


Fidget Cube Unboxing

two boxed fidget cubes. Image from onequartermama.ca
Two white fidget cube boxes side by side

Hey everyone! I bought two fidget cubes to have me and the Little Man try them out. I didn't give him his yet, but I made a little unboxing video so you can see all the features and decide for yourself if you want one! 


one half unboxed grey fidget cube. Image from onequartermama.ca
Grey and black fidget cube sitting in bottom half of opened box

 Watch my video to see it in action!



November 08, 2016

The 2016 Au-Some Conference

I laughed, I cried, I spoke, I stimmed...I attended what I hope will be an annual conference organized by Autism Canada and Every1Games, the Au-Some Conference.

Months in the making, it was amazing working with other autistic adults to plan and make it happen. We had conference calls that left me with a great sense of community, and email exchanges where we were able to respectfully share our opinions on everything from the cost, format, location, vendors, speakers, food, and t-shirt design. Throughout it all, we had the support of Autism Canada, who brought us all together. Planning and discussions were broken up into easy chunks, so the process did not seem overwhelming. Sub-committees were created to have people focused on certain parts of planning as well. This took a great load off my shoulders since I still work full-time. However, our input as being the authorities on the autistic experience were always taken into account and respected.

A big thank you to everyone who took part in the t-shirt fundraiser (which I'm wearing in the video) or contributed to Autism Canada during the campaign. It paid for my airfare and hotel to attend the conference, so I really appreciate that.

I am also grateful for the many new connections I made at this year's conference, as well as seeing many people from last year's conference. When I say I laughed and cried, I really mean it. There's a wonderful sense of community and belonging being able to be with people who really understand you - your tribe. Even without knowing every person there, I know I can be myself and I enjoy seeing other autistics comfortable and in their element.

So without further ado, here is the video of my talk at the conference. Not the best presentation, in my mind, as I had a cold and hadn't practiced my speech at all (oops!). But my words were well thought out and that's what matters. So look past the way it was delivered and listen to what I have to say. I hope it inspires and encourages you!



Kelly Johnson (2016) Autism at Work from Autism Canada on Vimeo.

https://vimeo.com/album/4154026/video/183538493

June 26, 2016

It's Not My Party

The Tiny Man's court date for his adoption (all this legal stuff!) is coming up right before a long weekend, so I was thinking of having an adoption party. After all, we never had a baby shower or even a "Sprinkle". The speed of how he came to be in my arms one winter day really left us no time for such things.

With the warmer weather, I thought it would be nice to celebrate our new family and mark the day the papers are signed; the I's dotted and the T's crossed. Then I started reading about Adoption Day celebrations and "Gotcha Days". Then I started reading what adoptees had to say...

If you stop to think about it, "gotcha!" doesn't have the most positive connotations. It sounds like a game of tag and I tricked someone. Or I stole him away from someone else. Certainly, our "gotcha" day is someone else's horrible day of loss. My son might not like this idea, and he's allowed to not like it.

In reality, we became a family the day I brought him into our home. We kept to ourselves those first early months and kept things low-key for all our benefit. I had tears of sadness and joy. Similarly, with any other "celebration" concerning adoption, he gets to take the lead. He gets to decide how or if he wants to mark these days.

So even though us parents certainly felt a moment of relief, and maybe even wanted to mark the occasion, it's not our day. It's his. It's not about me. It's all about him. It's not my party, and he can cry if he wants to. Or not. When he's old enough he'll get to chose.