March 20, 2018

Chewigem Reviews

Last fall we became Chewigem Ambassadors. We already had quite a few pieces we had already bought and used, but now Chewigem has been sending us their newest pieces to review. 

I've been making video reviews, so I'm compiling them here so you can check them all out, starting with the most recent. 

If you have any questions, Carla and Linda are there to answer you promptly and very accessible, whether by email, phone or even Instagram message. And shipping is fast! 

Check out what we think of our Chewigem accessories!

October 30, 2017

We're Not As Divided As You Believe

mage of a man icon on a circular gradient chart with sections of varying shades of pink, with black text which says "a community divided?" on blog
Image of a man icon on a circular gradient chart with sections of varying shades of pink, with black text which says "a community divided?"

If you speak to a lot of parents of autistic people, you'll hear many excuses for why they don't listen to us as authorities of the autistic experience. Aside from the whole, "you're not like my child" (well no, we've grown up), I'd say the most common way to try to discredit us is by saying our community is divided.

And I'm going to jump in here as someone who's very active in the community and say NO. That is not the case. If you choose to believe that, you're just making excuses. 

If anything, you are the one creating a divide by not listening to the many of us who are speaking. It's also amazing to me how much energy many would rather spend trying to come up with excuses for not listening to us rather than just listening to us. 

When I speak to and meet other autistic people, I feel an instant connection. Not only that, but even if I don't agree with them 100%, I am totally able to see where they are coming from and why they think the way they do. (I can't say the same for dealing with NT people)

Do we argue amongst ourselves at times? Yes, we're human. Do we get very passionate in our debates? For sure! We are logical beings. We have feelings and emotions. We have a distinct need to be heard. Do we disagree on language? Sure, while most people prefer the term autistic, some people prefer to be called people with autism. No biggie. These are not major devisive issues.

By and large, do we agree that ABA is abusive? YES.
Do we have issues with Autism $peaks? Many of us do.
Do we want to be cured? Nope.
Do we believe in neurodiversity? Yes!

When it comes to big and important issues, we're much more cohesive and in agreement than many might think!

I see it as no different than the Deaf community - there are many for sign language and there are some for cochlear impacts and verbal communication. There's a whole overlap within there, but they are still a distinct culture. Do we discredit the needs of Deaf people simply because there is more than one way to be deaf or hard of hearing?
(Actually, I'm going to say society finds way to discredit pretty much any disabled experience, but I'm trying to make a point here.)

Look, the fact is, people can pick and choose what they want to hear and what advice they want to take, but do not discredit us as a whole, or tell us you just don't know who to listen to because you've heard more than two opinions. Get more opinions and listen to the majority - even if it's not what you want to hear.

June 30, 2017

We Have A Male Babysitter

The title of this post has been sitting in my drafts since 2015. Why has it taken so long to write? What is the hesitation?

I guess I feared judgement. Or maybe I didn't think it's such a big deal. Considering how long it has been sitting in my drafts and my brain, I think it's something that does need mentioning and talking about.

So here goes: we have a male babysitter. I shouldn't have to qualify it that way though. Like "manbun," men can have buns. The hair style is not the sole domain of women. Nor should the title of "babysitter" be automatically feminine. So let's try again: we have a babysitter, who happens to be male. In fact, we're on our second one.

Why not? Perhaps it's not all that common, but it works for us. I think the next generations are going to be a lot more egalitarian.

Light blue icon of a male on a dark blue background with the text: We Have a Male Babysitter written across the top

The fact is, both my boys have gravitated to males. In my household, I am outnumbered. Even our pet rabbit is male. My eldest son was thrilled to find out his camp shadow this year is male.

But let's address the elephant in the room: Abuse.
Yes, pedophiles are more likely to be male than female. (They're also more likely to be left-handed...should left-handed people scare you? I'm a leftie!)  However, I do think both males and females are equally likely to abuse people in general (physical, emotional). Having grown up with an abusive mother I can attest that women are just as damaging, but are better at hiding their abuse perhaps.

Either way, we vet the people who care for our children thoroughly, and also go by our gut instincts. Male or female, we ask for First Aid/CPR certification, background checks, references, non-smoking, and no drugs or alcohol when you show up to work. Both our (male) babysitters came highly recommended by other families and/or their work.
If you sit and think about it, my own husband would not have been qualified to babysit our own child by our standards. (I already had my CPR certification with the Little Man was born, but he went and got it later. And yes, I insisted on it!)

In the end, I want my kids to have fun and be well-cared for. The gender of the person is irrelevant. I know we are in the minority and I think that's why I hesitated writing this.

I think, however, as my sons grow up, if they need aides for daily living tasks, they will still probably opt for a male. I don't know, but I think for myself, if I'm going to need help bathing or toileting, I would probably prefer a female rather than a male. I prefer a female masseuse. I have no preference for doctors, though mine are currently male. It comes down to individual preference I guess, and right now my kids are squarely in the man's-man territory.

Would you, or have you, hired a babysitter or caretaker who was male?

June 28, 2017

All The Weight of Our Dreams is Available

I am so happy because it's been a long time coming and I am pleased to announce All The Weight of Our Dreams is available!

I had mentioned last year I was contributing to two autistic anthologies and All The Weight of Our Dreams is the first one out. The second one should be available in November 2017. Cross your fingers!

Book cover of All The Weight of Our Dreams: on living racialized autism

Compiled by Autistic writers/editors and the Autism Women's Network, here is the description:

Delve into poetry, essays, short fiction, photography, paintings, and drawings in the first-ever anthology entirely by autistic people of color, featuring 61 writers and artists from seven countries. The work here represents the lives, politics, and artistic expressions of Black, Brown, Latinx, Indigenous, Mixed-Race, and other racialized and people of color from many autistic communities, often speaking out sharply on issues of marginality, intersectionality, and liberation.

It's also available from Amazon and a pay-what-you-can version is promised soon.

Stay tuned as I hope to be able to do a few public readings of my piece. 

June 26, 2017

This Language Ain't For Y'all

Let me state that language is a bit of "special interest" of mine - I have a degree in Linguistics - so I have an educated understanding of language and all its idiosyncracies and beauty. While there are hundreds of languages spoken in the world, communication, at its most basic, is any two people managing to understand each other. That's it. Communication may use writing, spoken utterances or gestures, but it just needs any two people to understand each other to be valid. I have a deep respect for this wonderful human process.

So why am I writing this? Because it annoys me when people criticise other people's language or communication because they "don't understand it" or they accuse other people's communication of "dumbing down society." Scientifically, this is absolutely ridiculous. Politically, it's bigotted, sometimes even ableist.

Take this Tweet, for example:

"On fleek" has been in use since 2014, if you use Merriam-Webster as a source, or 2009, if you go by whatever you find on the internet. Either way, it's not a mainstream word and not everyone uses it. However, you'll get plenty of people criticising it and other "slang" words' use.

"I don't get get it. It sounds stupid! Why can't people speak proper English anymore!" 

So there are a few problems with complaining about language evolution:

  1. You can't stop time and change, sorry to break it to you! No matter how much you complain, new people will do new things. The world changes and you're kinda stuck either adapting or being really unhappy.
  2. Who made "proper English" (whatever that is. That is not a scientific category) the Holy Grail of languages?
  3. These words or language being used aren't for you to understand. In fact, many speakers much prefer you not understand. 

Remember how I said communication is any two people being able to understand each other? Sometimes languages develop specifically because the speakers don't want anyone else to understand them.

If we look at the development of many creoles in the Caribbean, this is exactly what occurred. People from different African countries were stuck together on slave boats. They did not share a common language, so they had to find ways to communicate with each other. By mixing words and phrases from their own languages, and those of the slave drivers, they were able to create their own languages. In Linguistics, we call this a pidgin. Ideally, they did not want the slave drivers to understand them - I think we can all appreciate why this would be.

When a pidgin evolves and a basic grammar starts to emerge, it becomes a creole. The point I need to make here, however, is not only is language in constant evolution (just like people!), but the necessity to have communication that is solely for the understanding of certain groups of people has been going on since we started communicating with each other. Social groups use different methods to make themselves distinct such as diet, dress, creed, and of course, language.

Is it really any surprise that teens might make up their own words and use them with each other, maybe so their parents don't understand? It's creative and genius. There's nothing unintelligent about it and it certainly doesn't affect any one else's use of the dominant language.

Or if we look at African American Vernacular English (AAVE), again created by a racial group, which can serve as a marker the user is part of that social community. It's how people relate to each other. Contrary to "dumbing down" English (or any other language for that matter), all users of a creole or a vernacular speak the dominant language of the area (English) - meaning they are actually bilingual or polyglots (multi-lingual). They're actually using more of their brain than unilingual people.

As it's all communication, I see all languages (spoken, text, sign, morse code) as equally valid. A pidgin is not any less useful than "proper English" - both get the job done. Pidgin poety also exists, so fear not, the arts are not neglected.

[Image description: a corner of a keyboard, a cell phone and a pen with the words, "This Language Ain't For Y'all written in dark blue along the bottom]

When people hear slang and complain, "that isn't an English word! I don't get it! It's dumbing down society!" that's like saying Italian is going to ruin English because you don't understand it. And really, don't be so full of yourself. It's not for you to use. It's not even for you to understand. You're not part of the group that is using it! You weren't invited into their conversation. You're being the rude one if you're jumping in and demanding you understand other people's private (or exclusive) conversations.

Remember that any group of people excludes others from their conversations in many ways. Inside jokes are one. Or a family that uses a term for something their toddler came up with and it stuck forever. My husband's family has an "oompa." What is that? You can guess, but unless you're part of his family it doesn't make sense for you to know or understand. There's no reason for you to start using it, and his family's use of it doesn't somehow hurt the whole English language and threaten its very existence.

Certain words and phrases come into use because of spelling errors, or short cuts in written language (texting) being necessary or common. What might look "lazy" to you could just be someone's dyslexia. Is it really fair to complain someoene's learning disability is not only annoying you or is "ruining" the language? If that's the case, I don't want to hang around you.

So of course, you are free to continue criticising the words other people use, but please try to remember that it has nothing to do with you. It's not meant for you. You do you :)

April 05, 2017

Avoiding Snake Pits and Other Scary Things

I was being interviewed by a neurotypical about how I handle certain situations. I was asked how I might handle things that were challenging to me. I explained that I usually wait for another time when I am feeling my best. For example, I won't go shopping at a busy grocery store on a day I'm already tired or feeling overwhelmed. Usually there's nothing that can't wait another day. Or maybe I'll ask my husband to do it.

But, it was insisted, there must be other things I find challenging and *have* to do. I simply don't put myself in situations that are just too challenging.

 "So you just avoid things?"

Yes, the short answer is, yes, I avoid things that would be too challenging. It sounded really judgemental, the way it was said, as if I gave up on life. But I thought about it and don't most people? I mean, if you are scared of snakes, I would guess you'll avoid snakes or places where snakes might be. You might wait for a day where you are well-rested and ready to run, should you encounter one, but for the most part, you probably just avoid hanging around snake pits. That would seem logical to me! Surely there's no pressing need you need to go into a snake pit.

image of a brown snake with white writing Avoiding Snake Pits and Other Challenges by
By that same token, I've designed my life in a way where I can avoid my personal "snake pits." I don't particulary enjoy taking the metro in my city anymore, so I got my driver's license and a car.

I call it a life by design - I make it work for me. Why should I stress myself out to do something I'm not comfortable doing when there are other options? And why is finding another option seen as a failure somehow? As if using all my energy to fight a situation I don't want to put myself into is somehow more valiant? Or the "right way" to function in the world? Surely thinking up alternatives and finding solutions has some value.

I don't have to do things like others do or even enjoy the same things others do just because. My way of being or designing my life is just as valid. I do what works for me and makes me comfortable. I'm pretty sure you do as well. 

April 03, 2017

Picky, Selective, Autistic Eating

So many parents stress over their child's diet. I get it, I'm a mom, too.

"He only eats chicken nuggets and bread."

Usually when someone says, "they only eat...." that list becomes not just two things, but slowly expands to five, even 10 things. Yet they still complain, "but no veggies" or "they don't eat meat."

What I'm about to say isn't going to make me popular, but here goes: WHO CARES?

Plenty of people in the world don't eat meat. There are tons of adults who eat little to no veggies or fruit. Is it totally optimal? No, maybe not, but is your diet optimal? I'm going to bet you don't get the 7-10 daily servings of fruits and vegetables Canada's Food Guide recommends. So are you holding your children to a different standard than you hold yourself?
selective picky autistic eating habits plate of food with a knife on the side by

Are you able to fill in some gaps with fruit/veggie smoothies, vitamins or supplements? My son will drink Pediasure and take his essential fatty acids in liquid form. I don't sweat the rest.

There are a few concepts I'd like you to be aware of when it comes to Autistics eating:

1) Eating can be part of routine or rituals, so the whole routine is needed in order to keep anxiety down. The food itself may or may not bring as much comfort as the rituals around it do.

2) For some eating is comforting and the taste/texture is satisfying a sensory need. For others, eating is simply a means to an end. Depending on how my sensory system is working one day, I can truly enjoy food, and another I'm eating only because I know I want to stay alive, but everything tastes like cardboard.

3) We might need to eat alone to feel comfortable.

4) We might not tolerate a whole sandwich, but would be fine to take it apart and eat it. Allowing us to "pick at food" might be worth it if you want us to eat.

5) Many of us eat with our hands. Yes, even us adults.

6) We know how we feel after eating certain foods. We know what we can digest and what brings us discomfort. We avoid things that bring us discomfort. We don't have to have an intolerance or allergy in order to suffer from discomfort. If you know corn makes you bloat and gives you gas, you probably avoid it or eat less of it. We do the same! Fancy that!

It's especially because of #6 that I don't believe in "hiding" foods in other foods because you want your child to injest something. Don't sneak broccoli into chocolate muffins. Don't put ground up meat in pasta sauce. That's a really good way to get your child to stop eating their preferred foods and make them feel sick.
Trust we know our bodies and what makes us feel well and comfortable in our own skin.

There's no "one bite" rule in my house. Looking at a new food, touching it, smelling it, licking it and biting it and then spitting it out are all valid explorations of food. My son is always offered different foods and he's certainly welcome to try, but never forced. Put a new food on a plate in front of your child and leave the room if it disturbs you too much to watch them not eat it. Eating should not be a pressured, coerced or stressful situation.

Let them explore it (or not!) as they wish. Then let them eat what they want to eat. My son eats nut butter sandwiches every day. Lunch and dinner. That's what he likes. So be it. Eventually he will branch out to something else. Peanut butter comes in 1kg tubs and is quite affordable. Why should I stress?

I know that just like I did, he'll eventually eat a greater variety of foods as he matures. Or maybe not. But we're not there yet.

So my advice is really to not make stress for yourself where none needs to be and respect the fact we eat what works for us, in ways that work for us and are comforting.