July 26, 2015

Through Our Eyes - Living With Asperger's Out on DVD

You may remember, just last month I reviewed Alyssa Huber's new documentary called, "Through Our Eyes - Living With Asperger's." 

It's available to order on DVD now.

You can still watch the mini-version for free on YouTube to give you an idea of what it's like, but the DVD is the full version. There's also a special edition version.

If that's not enough, a line from my review ended up on the DVD jacket, so it's obvious I totally endorse this documentary!

Watch it and let me know what you think!

July 14, 2015

The Value of Good Neighbours

I grew up in the city - not downtown, but not far from the core. I was about 30 minutes away on public transit. Houses (duplexes - multi-family homes) were close together, if not completely attached and kids were everywhere. It was generally safe to run in the street (one time my sister actually lay down in the middle of it, much to the anger of my father when he saw her) and everyone's doors were unlocked all day long, as troops of children ran through. In summer, the sound of kid's playing outside did not stop until it started to get dark and the street lights came on.

All this to say, there was community. Though at the time our school system was segregated between the English-speaking Catholics, and English-speaking Protestants or others (since the Protestant schools were the only ones that would allow people from other religions in them), and the French Catholics, we all still played together on the street despite not attending the same schools. Our street was a wonderful mix of Blacks, Italians, Portuguese, Greek, French Canadians, Anglos and Indians, and all different age groups.

That community is missing now where we live. While the Little Man was born closer to the downtown core in a highly-populated part of the city, we opted to move to a part of the island a little further out, with a big backyard and a completely detached house. I didn't want to hear neighbours and noise. I always dreamed of a big backyard. But now, unfortunately, there are hardly any kids in sight. It seems that people keep their children inside, or maybe playing in their own backyards.

The Value of Good Neighbours - green text on white background with a row of green house outlines - a post by OneQuarterMama.ca.

So when everyone is guarding their kids and helicopter parenting, I'd like my son to be able to experience the freedom of wandering around all day with a gaggle of other kids - getting dirty and into trouble. Going to the corner store to get candies (or see if we could get away with pocketing a box of Nerds), going to the park and the pool. See how fast you can ride your bike and how far you can get before you get lost. Running back home only when someone scraped a knee or needed a popsicle, or when you heard you mother yelling your name from the front door telling you to come in for lunch. To me that is what childhood is about.

I guess more playdates are in order to get around this, but I find parents reluctant to just leave their kids in our backyard. It could be because special needs kids are a little more sneaky at times.

Anywho, luckily we have a nice retired couple living next to us. The guy's name is Bob and the Little Man likes Bob, which is the reason I think he wanted to be called Bob for a while.

Probably because I gave them lettuce from our garden a few days before, the Little Man decided he wanted to give them an orange. Fine, I said. 'Go put on your socks and shoes and ring their doorbell.' While he was getting ready, we called Bob to give him a head's up - we're sending him over by himself to practice. He needs to ring the doorbell, say hello, give the orange and come right back. I wanted to warn them to send him back because otherwise he will get into a whole big long conversation and take up their whole afternoon!

At first the Little Man protested about not being able to put his socks on by himself. Well, I said if he really wanted to do this, he would find a way. We helped him a bit, but in the end, he did the rest. He opened the front door, orange in hand, and took off running to the neighbours'. Then we waited. And waited. We gave him five minutes and then I peaked out the front door. He was on their porch talking the neighbour's ear off.
I told him it was time to come back now. He finished his story and informed them how great it was they wouldn't have to buy an orange now and came running back home.

He came in and said, "I went over to Bob's house all by myself!" and was so proud.

This to me, is what summer and childhood is about. Testing yourself. Learning. Sometimes failing and bruising knees. Sometimes doing something new and being proud. This is what I want for him. Thank goodness for good, patient neighbours.

June 08, 2015

Back to Work!

I signed my offer and had my first day at a new job today!

I had been freelancing since I quit my other job at the end of February. While I got a lot accomplished, I also became very scattered and disorganized. I didn't manage my time very well and I felt like I could not give my best to the various contracts I was trying to juggle. Plus, not being able to predict how things would go long term didn't really sit well with me.

Back to Work by OneQuarterMama.ca
Yellow text that says "back to work" against a background image of a building.

So while I just reaffirmed that I don't like the hustle and unknown of freelancing, it still allowed me to catch up on some other things I wanted to.

It allowed me to spend a bit more time with the Little Man and become a bit more involved at his school. I went on two school outings with him and was able to take him to OT once a week after school. That time also gave Hubby a break - not just time-wise, but also not having any extra worry, knowing I was there with him.

I also watched all three seasons of House of Cards (omg! I need someone to talk to about this!).

I learned a lot from the other contracts I took on. I realized in some ways I knew more than I thought I did, and in others I had stagnated at my old work. So freelancing gave me a fresh perspective.

In the end, I decided I needed the structure of an outside office, with a routine. I seem to do my best work that way. I went to A LOT of interviews, thought a lot about my options and in the end, went with a company that knew almost everything about me before I even stepped in for the interview. See, this HR was smart and checked me out online first. As you can tell, I don't hide a lot of stuff about myself. Some details I keep private, but when it comes to my advocacy and my opinions, I'm pretty much an open book.
So it was wonderful and refreshing to see the whole "autism issue" was very much a non-issue.

While there were opportunities somewhat closer to home, offering more money, I decided to go where I felt I could be myself and accepted, as well as make a difference. It's a new position at this company, so I get to chart my own path to a great extent. This works for me since the basic structure is in place, but then I have the freedom to work in such a way that helps me produce my best work.

So today was my new start and it feels natural and right.

June 07, 2015

Unlocking Autism

This is a short clip from 60 Minutes Australia called Unlocking Autism. It centers around Daphne Proietto, a piano teacher who lives just outside Melbourne and teaches autistic kids.

While hardly any comment or perspective comes from the autistic students themselves and there's lot of speculation by NTs, it's sweet that she appears to patiently and respectfully teach them. She doesn't charge for her lessons, which is also very generous of her time.

It made me think about my own experiences with the arts. I was put in ballet because my mother thought it would fix my bad posture (I still have bad posture), and I was forced to take piano lessons because I had "long fingers" which were apparently good for piano playing.

While I quit piano earlier than ballet, I felt very free while dancing - and still do. In the video they talk about music "removing autistic symptoms." I don't really agree with that. I think because I was doing the same thing as everyone else, I was not seen for my weirdness or awkwardness while I was dancing. I was judged solely by my dancing abilities. So it didn't remove my symptoms, it just made them less visible to NTs and they could look beyond whatever ideas they had of me for that time. For a short time, I could be equal.

What do you think? Is Daphne working some sort of healing magic on these kids or are people just perceiving them as special because they're doing something "normal" people do?

June 05, 2015

A Lack of Services

TRIGGER WARNING: descriptions of murder and filicide.

A couple are married for six years. Things are good at first, but the wife gets into an accident and has long term injuries that stop her from being able to work. She is still quite happy with her situation and does her best around the house. Still, they struggle a bit and even though the wife feels she is contributing in her own way, the husband starts to see her as a burden.

He tries to access local rehabilitation services, but there are long waiting lists. By the time they are offered, the wife doesn't want to go. She doesn't feel she needs them and is happy enough. She doesn't understand why her husband can't accept her as she is and is always trying to find new treatments to change her.

The husband is unable to force her or control her and becomes more and more annoyed with the situation. Rather than look for help or counselling for himself, he continues to try and change her. She is the one with the injury! She is the problem! He feels like all his money and time goes into caring for her and she does nothing to repay him.

He decides the best course of action is to kill her. She won't cooperate with what he wants and it's better to take her out of her misery. If he can't love her, surely no one else can!

So one night he suffocates her in her sleep. That was the nice thing to do. He is a little disturbed with himself, so he takes a bunch of pills, half-heartedly trying to kill himself. He ends up just throwing up and calling 911 to admit what he's done.

The news reports show happy pictures of the couple from before she was injured. They show recent pictures of her, injured, but with a broad smile, full of life. The reports paint the husband as an evil man, a sick man without compassion. Neighbours say they never expected such a callous thing to happen in their town. They knew the wife struggled, but she was a sweet woman nevertheless and everyone loved her smile. The citizens rally for justice for her. They want the husband to rot in jail. No mercy for him!
The husband is eventually tried and gets a life sentence.

The fictional story above is too often a reality for some families. The only difference is instead of a husband, it's a mother. Instead of a injured wife, it's an autistic child. And instead of citizens demanding justice, they feel sympathy. The apologise for the mother's actions. They make excuses for her behaviour and they ask why more services weren't offered to her to help her cope with her burden. They forget about the child - the innocent child - or paint them as needy, uncooperative, irredeemable. They spend an inordinate amount of time looking into the history and finding every moment the child may have become frustrated or lashed out. "Once he punched his mother," they say. "There was no fixing him." So what's a mother to do? Kill him, of course!

And services. If we only had more services then innocent, caring mothers would never have to kill their own offspring! Yes, SERVICES. If we had more of them - more places to hide our imperfect children away when we adults lack coping skills - then that would stop normal healthy mothers from killing their burdensome children.

All over the world, every day, people struggle. People fall on hard times. They lose their jobs, they lose their homes, they go to bed hungry. Sometimes their kids behave badly. Sometimes their children hurt them. Despite all that, they don't. commit. murder. 

In the rare times they do, we don't turn around and say, "well, geez, if only someone had given them a new car or an extra food stamp that day, then maybe they wouldn't have killed someone!"

"You certainly can't blame him for committing murder, I mean the guy had just received a bad review at work the day before! Where were the services to help him?"

You can accuse me of black and white thinking, I really don't care. You can accuse me of not having a child horrible enough for me to understand. Go ahead. I say a healthy person doesn't consider their child horrible. A healthy person doesn't solve problems with murder.

A healthy adult walks away and gets help for themselves. A healthy adult takes responsibility for their own actions. A healthy and loving parent gives the child someone else, for a time or permanently, so that the child has the opportunity to grow and be loved by others.

I want you to know there are always other options. I want you to know you can show up on my doorstep, any time, day or night, with your child and I will not ask any questions. I will take them in, and I know plenty of other good people who would, too. PLEASE don't hurt or kill your child. They deserve more than that. They deserve life, whether you believe so or not.

June 02, 2015

Through Our Eyes - Film Review

screen cap of blue eyes from Alyssa Huber's documentary, Through our Eyes: Living with Asperger's on OneQuarterMama.ca
Screen cap of a pair of blue eyes from the documentary, Through Our Eyes: Living with Asperger's

Alyssa Huber is a young Autistic film maker and creator of the documentary, Through Our Eyes: Living With Asperger's.

She reached out to me sometime last year and I've been loosely following her latest developments. So after months of effort on her part and patient waiting on mine, she finally released her film.

I'm going to send you directly to her site link to watch it because there's a donation button her page. She's letting people watch for free, so if you appreciate her work, send her some money!

I watched the roughly 30 minute documentary (there's an extended version for sale on DVD) and it follows Alyssa and her self-referred "Aspie" friends, describing their lives. In that short time, they manage to cover many common Aspie experiences, such as sensory issues, routines, thinking patterns, and anxiety and depression.

They also talk about their experiences in regular schools and during home schooling, and the transition into higher education and adulthood.

The documentary also gives the perspectives of parents, educators and a psychologist, who refers to autistic strengths as "super powers."

All in all, it's a very positive and informative look into the Aspie world through their eyes. I'd say it's an absolute must watch for young Aspergians, especially teens. They'll be able to relate to Alyssa and her friends, and I think they can serve as excellent role models. It's also just a great documentary to help anyone really understand Asperger's and get a different perspective on our lives.

May 29, 2015

The Ultimate Goals of Positive Parenting

The word 'discipline' comes from the Latin 'disciplina" which means "knowledge" or "instruction." In modern English, a lot of people have added the connotation that discipline involves punishment.

If we look at a related word, "disciple," we see it means "student" or "learner." There's a sense of volition involved as well. This is someone who is eager and willing to learn or follow.

I think we can all agree that children want to learn. They are eager to please and soak up information like sponges. They ask tons of questions and are just trying to understand the world around them. They make the best disciples and we can be the best instructors, if only you nurture that natural curiosity and teach them respectfully.

To accomplish this, we engage in what I call "gentle parenting." Some people call it "positive parenting." I think those terms simply mean that we respect the child as a person, with rights to bodily autonomy and opinions. I don't want my son to obey me or anyone else blindly. I don't want him to fear me. I want him to feel he can come to me when he is overwhelmed, and together we will come up with a solution. I want him to know he has a right to his thoughts and feelings and a right to have them respected.

We can do all that, and do it without punishments. We do not hit, spank, call him names or shame him. We don't put him in "time-outs." We don't take his toys away.

Instead, we do a lot of talking. A lot of negotiating. A lot of getting to the root of understanding what the real issue is. See, kids don't always have the tools or vocabulary to express what they are feeling. Often they do things that may seem unrelated or even opposite to what they are really aiming for. They simply don't have the necessary skills to act in more congruent ways.

It's counter-intuitive to me to punish someone for a lack of maturity or skill. I don't think it accomplishes anything other than shame and distance between you.

Instead, as a parent it's up to me, the adult, to be the model and mature one. If I don't want a child who screams to get what they want, it's important that I lead by example and don't use screaming as my reaction to things I don't like.

If I want my child to be able to say 'no' to things like, for example, an extreme but valid case like molestation, I need to respect his 'no' even when it doesn't suit me and my wants. A child who is scared to say 'no' to their parents will be scared to say 'no' to other family members, friends, or strangers.

I want my son to think for himself and for that, I need to teach him how to make good decisions. This comes from talking about the various outcomes to a situation. For example, one day he said he would like to let our pet bunnies run free in our backyard. I didn't say no, but I did tell him that if we did that, we probably would never see them again. I explained that we don't have good fences, and the bunnies move fast and are not trained. I explained that while it may be possible they would run back towards the house, it was much more possible they would run away. I asked him if he was prepared to deal with that possibility and he decided against it. I believe I met him where he was in his stage of maturity and allowed him to feel empowered making his own choice. If he were only two or three years old, it would have been a different sort of conversation. It probably would have been more along the lines of, "we are not going to let the bunnies run free today because we don't want to lose them, just like we ask you to stay close to us when we go out. We don't want to lose you." That's simple, it explains the reasoning and adds in a lesson that he can relate to - child thinks, "I don't like being lost. Bunnies don't like being lost. Stay with mommy. Bunnies stay with me."

None of this means I never get angry or upset, or that my son is perfectly behaved at all times. Far from it. He still tests the boundaries and I still have to take a deep breath now and then. However, I make it my ultimate goal to remain calm and remember my job is to teach him. I wrote a list of things you can do if you think you are losing control.

I think the main thing to always keep in mind is that you are the adult one in this relationship and it's your duty to model the behaviours you want to see and teach the skills your child needs to develop.

This post is part of the Positive Parenting Day Blog hop, hosted by Thoughts of an Introverted Matriarch