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 OneQuarterMama.ca
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 OneQuarterMama.ca

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.

February 28, 2017

The Mom Project

I just found out about this free virtual conference and it starts TOMORROW! You need to register to get access to the content, which looks amazing - and I can say that and I'm promoting it because I know some of the speakers personally.

It's geared towards moms, but I think any busy professional will get something out of it. There are talks about health & wellness, finances, social media, blogging and being an entrepreneur.

The great thing is while it is free during the days of the conference - March 1-3 - if you pay a fee you can get lifetime access afterwards as well and watch them at your leisure.

The Mom Project

I say, sign up for free and get the most you can out of it and if you like it, then consider paying for playback access. 

It starts at 9am EST on March 1st, so hurry up and register now

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!