October 06, 2015

What I Have Learned About Speaking Up and Out

I have been, at times, scared to speak up about certain things. I think a lot of people share this problem. Some of us, depending on the situation, may be more at ease commenting about certain topics more than others.

A dark grey megaphone picto with the words, "speak out!" in white on a light red watercolour background by OneQuarterMama.ca.
A dark grey megaphone picto with the words, "speak out!" in white on a light red watercolour background.

Sometimes on Facebook, I was scared of sharing some of my views, in case it offends family members who I rarely see or know very well. But over time, I started to let pieces out. I think also I've learnt that I don't have to disclose everything about myself in order to stand up for others. Standing up for homosexuals having equal rights doesn't make me a homosexual anymore than speaking out against routine circumcision means I have a penis. I think some of my initial hesitancy was because I didn't want people to think that perhaps I was some of the things I was standing up for. (Which, of course, was my issue to work through)

What I've also discovered, much to my delight, is how many people were already in my camp, but either could not or did not speak up. Of course, we all use social media for different reasons. I happen to be very political on mine, but I also share cute animal pictures. What I've come to understand is that even if people aren't necessarily posting and speaking out, they still carry those thoughts with them. For them, it is safer and easier to simply "like" or comment on something I said, rather than to say it themselves. I think this is ok, as everyone has their limits. There are times when the rallying of the troops is necessary and hopefully they will allow their voices to be heard, but it is still heartening to me to see those "likes" and comments and know I'm not alone.

I know I do it to let others know they're not alone. I do it to see who's in my camp, many of whom I didn't expect. I do it to share ideas. I do it for discussions and for others to keep me accountable. I do it for those who have no voice. I do it to keep learning. 

August 03, 2015

Where Am I Looking?

It's been established that Autistic people are not the best at eye contact, in general.

Of course, there are exceptions. It's not that we don't do it, it's often that we don't do it enough, or too much, or time it incorrectly.

I have an easier time looking at just one person talking to me. I prefer looking at brown over blue eyes. I prefer looking at female faces over male.

I learned, at a very young age, from reading about how investigators interrogate people, that you can look at the point just between two eyes and people believe you are looking into their eyes. It's a trick I use when I know I have to socially conform.

I'll admit, however, that if there is a group of two or more people talking, I really have no choice but to stare at the person talking, or not look at either. In meetings, I tend to want to close my eyes and concentrate on what is being said. I, of course don't, because I have yet to feel comfortable enough to close my eyes in a business meeting.

So if my eyes are open and I'm not looking at your eyes, or that point between them, where am I looking?

I look at mouths. A lot. So much so, that I'm a pretty good lip reader. I can tell you all about your teeth. Your lips. Your nose. Your ears. Your neck. And then I am forced to move my gaze up again because you noticed my eyes wandering and you think there's something on your face maybe?

Not everyone notices, but if you're the type that does, I have to think about what my eyes are doing, so I don't really listen to you. Sorry, but it's the truth. I hear you, but I can't listen properly.

If you have a shiny necklace, my apologies, but I am wondering about the material and make. I will try to guess the brand, the gems and the karats. I will identify the cut and style.

Like I said, if you are female, you are in better luck, as I am most likely looking somewhere around your face. If you are male, it's easier to avoid your gaze because most men don't seem to care as much about where my eyes are going. I tend to look at shoulders, arms and hands on men.

Unfortunately, according to body language specialists, looking at a man's mouth/lips makes him think you want to kiss him. Add to the fact that I'm most likely looking at his arms - he may get the impression I am checking him out or into him. Even worse, I have a thing for pinstripe (on men, women, mannequins, it doesn't matter) so if he's sitting, I am looking at his pants and he believes I am looking at something else....

All this to say, I'm good at isolated parts of people and not always looking at the whole person. If you are in a different context next time I meet you (in the caf instead of a meeting room), I won't immediately recognize you. If you are wearing sunglasses, I probably won't recognize you. Dyed your hair? I either won't notice right away or won't recognize you. But I would sooner recognize your voice, or a mention of where we met ("the numbers from Monday's meeting were thrilling, weren't they?") and I will jump back to the situation mentally and match the puzzle pieces.

There are, however, times this all comes in handy. I can find you in the dark. LOL. I don't judge people by appearances. I understand body language better than spoken words. It's really good when playing poker, since I can rely on other body cues. (And I can count cards...you've been warned)
Also handy when car shopping since we spend most of the time looking at the car and I keep a deadpan face - confusing them as to whether I'm interested - so they keep adding perks or dropping the price.

Curious to know where other Autistic people look - strangely enough, I like looking at other Autistics. It doesn't seem as harsh for some reason.

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.