Forgive my absence and lack of words. I don’t have much I can or want to say right now. No way to articulate it myself.
With much love, kindness & respect,
I promise I’ll return to posting more stuff at some point. For now, let me take a second to throw this out there, because it’s near and dear to my heart.
April is Autism Awareness Month – LIGHT IT UP BLUE!!
1 in every 88 kids is diagnosed with Autism. It’s more prevalent in boys; 1 in 54 boys.
April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day, and the entire month of April is Autism Awareness Month. Throughout the month you may see neighbors with blue light bulbs illuminating their homes. This is in honor of Autism Speaks’ Light It Up Blue initiative. The Home Depot is an official sponsor of Light It Up Blue and they have arranged for the specially marked Light It Up Blue light bulbs to be manufactured and distributed throughout all of their stores March 1 through the end of April, or while supplies last. The light bulbs retail for $1.97, and $1 from each purchased, up to $150,000, will benefit Autism Speaks.
Autism is a brain development disorder that first appears during infancy or childhood and there is a vast spectrum for the disorder, ranging from high- to low-functioning. Symptoms are different for each person and tend to continue through adulthood, though they may become more subtle over time – often due to the Autistic person learning about themselves and how they should or shouldn’t behave in a given situation.
Autism is often characterized by challenges in the following areas: social impairments, communication development, repetitive behaviors, resistance to change and limited or obsessive focus. Autism often goes hand-in-hand with other disorders, such as ADHD, OCD, Tourette’s and even depression. Ultimately, the specific characteristics of Autism in each individual are as varied as fingerprints – as the saying goes, if you know one Autistic person then you know one Autistic person.
Social Impairments are typically apparent early in childhood. Autistic infants smile and look at others less often and respond less to their own name. Autistic children are less likely to approach people spontaneously, communicate nonverbally (such as making faces, nodding, waving, etc), or take turns with others. Their awareness of personal space boundaries, social norms, and appropriate reactions to stimulus can be extremely limited.
Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of all Autistics do not develop enough natural speech to meet their daily communication needs. Autistic people often have great difficulty understanding non-verbal communication, including body language, facial expressions, or tone of voice. It’s important to make messages verbal and explicit when talking to them. They are typically very literal and often don’t understand the use of sarcasm or humor through tone of voice.
Repetitive behaviors, often called Stimming, are typical of Autistics and can be indicative that their brains are processing something unknown or uncomfortable to them. Though it may seem odd to us, the repetitive behaviors are actually a self-soothing mechanism. The behaviors can range from hand flapping, making the same sounds over and over, body rocking, or arranging objects in a certain way.
Following a set routine is extremely important for families with Autistic children. Avoiding deviation from a planned schedule or other ritualistic behavior pattern can be instrumental in getting through every day without a meltdown. When asked to change “on the fly,” an Autistic person can shutdown, meltdown, and/or begin stimming to self-soothe through the change. Early preparation for any pending changes is key.
Also characteristic of Autistics is limited or obsessive focus, such as preoccupation with TV or movies, a specific toy for children, or even intense interest in specific people or events in history.
As I mentioned earlier, adult Autistics, generally those that are deemed high-functioning, learn to adjust their behaviors in order to live and thrive in society. It’s entirely possible you know several people, kids or adults, who are Autistic. It’s natural for us, as neuro-typicals, when we witness a behavior we don’t understand, to categorize that behavior according to our own world view; maybe we see them as naughty, rude or unfeeling when, in reality, they are none of those things. If you see a kid having a meltdown it could simply be that he is over-stimulated and the meltdown is his reaction to the tangled yarn in his brain. Be aware and be compassionate; his parents are probably completely frazzled and could use some support and empathy!
For more info, go to:
Long ago, in a galaxy far, far away, before I had kids, I enjoyed crafting. The process of deciding on a project, getting the supplies and then putting it all together for a purpose. So fun. I loved thinking, “wow, look what I made with my own two hands.” Then I got married, had kids, and time for crafting was non-existent. Such is life.
Before I moved to Idaho and and before I met my husband, I had a teeny, tiny adorable apartment in my hometown in California. The building was a house in an old, beautiful section of town that had been renovated to hold three apartments. I loved it. It had a laundry room in the apartment but I didn’t have a washer & dryer so I instead put all my craft supplies there. I had a dresser (that I had painted and stamped all over) that kept my stuff: one drawer for my paints, another for my stamps & brushes, etc. I didn’t crochet, knit or sew, and I still don’t, but I would love to learn! Paint was my preferred tool then, but I have developed a deep love & admiration for my glue gun since that time.
But then I sold most of my stuff and moved to Idaho and my crafting fell by the wayside. I did some things over the next few years – I made my bridal veil, I decorated Christmas trays one year when we were broke & barely getting by, and occasionally I would paint a yard sale find, but no big projects.
Then, flash forward about 7 years after my youngest was born, and I couldn’t remember what a personal hobby was much less recognize what *I* wanted to do. The kids had gotten older, a little more independent, and they didn’t need mom every second of every waking hour. It was in this time that I realized I had forgotten some of the integral parts that made me who I am, or who I was, before I became a mom-monster. Something had to be done.
So, first, I started reading blogs. That’s how I found my friend, Joni, who I am constantly in awe of for her incredible crafty talents (forgive her lack of new posts – she’s a mom of wee ones again, but she does post a lot of crafts on Instagram). She had a lot to do with pushing me towards being crafty again (whether she knows it or not).
This was my progression:
I jumped into felt in a huge way and decided I was going to do almost an entirely handmade Christmas this year. Every moment thereafter was about making ALL THE THINGS I could with felt. I’m not an expert by any means, but I got better the more I played with it and I just loved the process if creating something for someone in particular. I customized according to what I thought fit them, their style and their personalities best.
Here, in no particular order, are some of the things I have made in the last 2 months. There were quite a lot I didn’t get pictures of in my rush to finish and mail packages. Others I photographed and later embellished and mailed without re-snapping a pic. But I think you’ll get the idea.
Pins, wreaths, ornaments, hair accessories – I loved making it all. I’m having so much fun doing this that I think I’m going to continue past Christmas and make MORE THINGS. I’m carving out a crafting corner in my house as a permanent residence for this on-going project and I couldn’t be more excited. The boys even had the idea to get me craft supplies for Christmas because they are enjoying the things I’m making as well.
The process of making and giving these presents was so rewarding for me. It helped me to recognize my talents – other than working & mothering – and that I can be creative in this realm too. Special thanks has to go to Pinterest, though, for all the wonderful design ideas. I can’t wait to play around and create new designs! And if you normally get gifts from me you can pretty much assume, going forward, they will be along these lines so I hope you like them.
This is the hardest time of year to lose weight. I’ve been plateau’d since October, but then was able to shift another 5 pounds in December. I’d love to lose another 10 (or at least 5) by mid-January so I’m posting this pic here to keep me moving!!
Please give me encouragement! I’d like to lose another 30-40 so I’ll need all the support I can get. Thanks!!
Yours, in striving for health & fitness,
I borrowed the concept and some of the text below from a post I saw on an Autism awareness page on Facebook. I liked the concept – it does a good job of showing life from an Autistic person’s point of view – but the original was quite long and, um, a tad rambling. I’ve edited quite a lot for length and pertinent content.
Though every Autistic person is unique in how their developmental disorder manifests itself, these 5 things are fairly common among all Autistics. This is important stuff – especially right now. Contrary to what you may see in the mainstream media these days, Autism is not a mental illness; it is a developmental disorder.
5 Things a Person with Autism Needs
Realize that it takes me longer to do things. It takes me longer to process what’s going on, what I have to do next, and how I’m supposed to do it. Please do not get frustrated. I work best at my own speed. Do not try to rush me because I will only get more confused and more anxious. I often have trouble applying past experiences to new ones and at times it feel like I need to learn new tasks all the way from square one. Please do not give up on me.
There will be many times when I will turn inward. I like to shut out the world around me; block everything out. My focus is in a place you can’t see. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t make it less real for me. I’m not doing it on purpose or to hurt you. It’s like a bubble engulfing me and it’s hard for me to pop it. When I get in this place it’s calming for me and my thoughts aren’t racing like they normally do. It is safe.
I have sensory issues so please remember that when things get loud, crowded, or chaotic, I get overwhelmed, frightened and over-stimulated. Please don’t stare, point or ridicule when you see me acting strangely. I may flap my arms. I may hide underneath the table at a restaurant. I may curl up into a ball or burrow under a pile of coats. I’m just trying to insulate myself from the chaos around me. Reset my spinning brain. It’s not because I’m misbehaving. Please do not give up on me.
I need to find my niche, my favorite activity, my talent. Please help me to find it so I have something to do that I am good at. This will give me confidence in life. This will be an activity that will calm me and make me feel happy. I need something to keep me busy that makes me feel good at the same time. When I find what I am good at, my self-esteem will increase. This will help my life progress and blossom. It may be something simple – like stacking blocks, riding a bike, or listening to music – or it may be more complex but it will make sense to me. Please give me the support and environment I need to find this activity.
This world often looks down on people like me. I need a little extra help and I need advocates who will help to get me in a good place in life. I may always need some guidance on how to maneuver in this world. I appreciate everything you do for me but sometimes my Autism makes me unable to show you that. Please do not give up on me.
I work best when everything is predictable. When things are always changing my brain can’t keep up. It feels as though the world spins too fast for me and everything is out of control. Many days I live in fear of something drastically changing. It can be the smallest thing that can send me into panic: the wrong brand of cereal, a strong smell, a weird sound, the feeling of stiff, hard jeans on my legs. I am more sensitive to everything around me; that is how my brain works. The best thing for me is consistency in my daily activities. Routine makes me feel safe. Feeling safe and comfortable makes me happy and that enables me to flourish. Please do not give up on me.
5. Understanding and Love
The world can be a scary place for me. I have difficulties with socializing and communicating, but I do have feelings just like you. I have trouble expressing them and bringing them outside of my head so you won’t always be able to tell what I’m feeling. But I love, just as you do, and I need your unconditional love in return. Even when I’m mean to you. It’s just because I can’t say what I’m thinking and I don’t know how to reason through my feelings.
There will be a lot of people in life who will not understand me, who will be annoyed or even afraid of me. I will feel that shadow over me. All I need is your love and to know that there is someone, if only just one person, who loves me unconditionally for who I am. Please do not ever give up on me.
Yesterday I heard that there was a vile person who put up a Facebook page saying if he got 50 likes he would go BURN an Autistic person in retaliation for the shooting in Newtown.
I can’t even. I just can’t.
Look at this boy:
He is light. He is life. He is LOVE.
To think that someone would consider hurting him is beyond comprehension.
He’s been having a hard time lately. He’s had trouble at school. Trouble tolerating the stimuli around him. Lashing out in frustrated anger at his teachers and peers. We’ve been having meetings. Making phone calls. Seeking help, instruction, assurance. How do we help him to cope? What can we do to teach him coping skills? What can the school do?
We’re on a path. We just keep trudging along. They are making adjustments at the school. It’s been going on for a few months and seemed to peak following Thanksgiving break.
But the other day something momentous happened. I was trying to get him to go to the bathroom. I knew he needed to go. He was doing the thing he does when he’s holding his pee. He got angry at me for telling him he needed to go. He came up to my face, yelled at me, and he was about to hit me – I know, it’s happened enough times – and then a wonderful thing happened. The look on his face changed; some of the stormy-ness fell away. I saw the moment he realized what he was doing and stopped it. He dropped his hand, stepped back and turned away from me. He walked a few steps back and looked away. He stopped himself in the middle of his emotional outburst. That has NEVER happened. I was so proud I may have cried. Just a little.
Then, the next day, his communication log that came home from his paraprofessional at school was glowing. He participated! He engaged! He didn’t get upset, frustrated or angry all day. He played football at recess, for goodness sake! WHAT THE WHAT??
Is it a sign? Are the coping skills that he needs at this point in his life (the onset of puberty, escalated school demands, peer group involvement, etc.) finally kicking in? Oh please, oh please, oh please, make it so. My momma’s heart needs some positivity right now. I need to feel confident that my baby will grow and learn and adjust and thrive. I need to know that so badly.
I don’t mind if he’s weird just as long as he has growth. Weird isn’t bad. It’s just different. Different is good. Can we all start teaching that to others now? Different is okay. Different is normal. Let’s embrace the people in our society who are different and not make them feel like outcasts. It’s so important to our collective consciousness as a nation to feel a little more unity and a little more acceptance.
Now go forth! Be tolerant and spread love. Be the change you want to see in the world. We’ve all heard that, but do we live it?
Yours, in hope,
Mental illness does not equate to “criminally insane.”
First, let’s start here: I actually prefer the term “mentally different” versus “mentally ill”. “Ill” implies that the person is sick and they can be cured. And when referring to Autism, specifically, that’s a developmental disorder. Not a mental illness. The mentally different, and Autistics, are wired differently, making it harder for them to learn and assimilate into society like neuro-typicals. But they aren’t broken; they can be fully functioning members of society. They have hearts and souls, and they need love just like the rest of us. We need to help those people even more – those people AND their families – some how, some way, so they aren’t made to feel bad for being different. Or resentful or angry.
And (in-an-oh-by-the-way-how-come-you-didn’t-know-this-already-tone) we really need to not keep guns near them too. Because, duh, impulsiveness is pretty common in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).
Autistics are not naturally calculating, violent predators. Their violence is reactive, unplanned and immediate. Generally a response to frustration and an inability to make themselves understood. Other conditions can influence this, of course, like ADHD or other neuro/developmental disorders, and those people who have combinations that can lead to violence, or a history of minor violence, should be monitored and provided all the help and support they need. It’s incredibly heartbreaking but it doesn’t always have to be. They can learn to cope.
I don’t know why Adam Lanza did what he did. I wish I understood. I wish I knew. My son is Autistic with ADHD and has some emerging aggressive behaviors. Tell me – how can I help him? How? Am I doing enough?
I know the answer to that last question – NO.
I should be doing more. I should have every measure of support possible made available to him. He is so worth it. I want him to be that kid on the news who has Autism and ADHD and beats the odds to give the Valedictorian speech at his school, or invents something truly amazing and scientific, or who uses his amazing heart & soul to develop a non-profit organization with grassroots support that spans the world.
I don’t want him to be that kid that everybody shakes their head at and calls a soulless coward, or a lunatic, or they say he’s “mentally ill” with a sneer in their voice and the implication that within that phrase is the answer to the whole story. It’s not.
Off the top of my head, I want my son to have these things:
Somebody told me that I should tell my 10 & 8 year olds about the shooting in Connecticut to “prepare them” and to “teach them what to do in that situation.” Sorry. No. I will NOT being doing that. We should NOT have to prepare our kids for a situation in which they may have to HIDE FOR THEIR LIVES. At their SCHOOL.
Let’s protect our children. ALL of them.
Yours, in despair, anger & heartbreak,
Stef (just another mother of a mentally different person)
Edited on 12/17/12 to add reaction to new information.
Today I am only a mom. I am not an employee today. I am not a daughter or a wife. I am just a mom.
I will never understand the thought process that tells a person it is okay for them to take another life. I will never understand that. To take their life? It’s not like robbing them of all their cash, or stealing their watch, or even burning down their house. But to end their life? Just like that and in the blink of eye? No, never.
But even worse – children. Innocents. I can’t even think of it. My heart is exploding with empathetic pain and anguish for every loved one of every murdered child. And today, especially, today.
I’ve been to Newtown, Connecticut, and it’s a small town. A tight community. I know people with children there. They are safe, thank goodness. But so, so many others are not.
Once upon a time I supported capital punishment. Why shouldn’t a criminal, someone obviously evil who have (likely) hurt others, get the ultimate punishment?
And then I realized – I don’t have the right to make that decision. The government does not have the right to make that decision. As humans we are flawed, vulnerable, and set upon this earth for a limited time. Our time is up when the universe (God, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, Divine, Great Spirit, Creator, or whatever you believe) has determined it to be up. No mere mortal should be able to independently make that decision.
I want those sick criminals to feel the pain and punishment of their actions. I want them to agonize and wail and fight and hurt for what they have done. As thinking, feeling humans they are compelled to reason through their actions over time in the best way they can. That may equate to remorse and acknowledgment of their bad deeds. It may just fuel the anger, hatred and resentment within them. In either case – they need to feel those emotions to torture them for what they did. Killing that murderer, as the “eye for an eye” believers push, will not punish the murderer. It just ends their pain.
The shooter is dead – whether by his own hand or another, I don’t know as of this writing. By this act he was essentially committing suicide anyway. What a coward. To inflict such pain on innocents. To hurt so many people so wholly unconnected with him. If the soul does live on at all, whether there is a hell or through reincarnation, I hope this man is made to feel the pain & anguish of every relative of every person he killed today, over and over and over again, throughout his existence.
May those children and teachers, whose lives were lost today through this senseless act, never be forgotten. I will never forget.
Tell me this – how do I protect my children from being murdered? How do I keep them safe?
Yours, in love, anguish and paralyzing fear,
Stef (just another Mom)
Edited to add: Since writing this on Friday I’ve found out more about the shooter. The speculation/assumption from apparent people “in the know” is that the shooter, Adam Lanza, was mentally ill. Possibly Autistic/Aspberger’s. Now I’m just sad for all of them. Sad and broken-hearted and I can’t think about those poor innocents and their families without breaking down entirely. Peace be with all 28 people who died as part of this tragedy.