Thursday, July 28, 2011

More On Thoughts, Guilt and Time...

I have been doing some posting about time management and how more is not necessarily better in this post.    I have been monitoring my own behavior when it comes to my daily routines and what I seem to feel is important and what I stress over. (I think if I listed what I don't stress over the list would be shorter!) As well, as what seems to follow most parents, especially parents with special needs kids.  You know that feeling that you get at the end of the day when the kids are about to go to bed, or perhaps after.... the one that nags in the depth of the back of your mind all day.  Lurking, but not terribly vocal, but always present.  Guilt.  The feeling that maybe you could have, should have, would have done more.  You read a blog from a parent where they have it all together.  They did therapy for all 7 of their special needs kids, made 3 gluten free from scratch, homemade meals, went to lunch with their friends, potty trained one child, house is cleaned and even had the time to write about it in their award winning blog before they go to bed. 

Maybe, the above is an exaggeration, but still.... I think there are several of us parents with special needs kids that feel that way at the end of the day.  I carry this narrative around all day that I tell myself all these negative, half baked truths about what other moms are and what I must be compared to them.  The story that I tell myself is familiar, but not useful for a calm, mindful parent that I'd like to be.  When I come down hard on myself and expect a certain level of unattainable perfection I am grumpy, short, and snappy.  When one feels bad on the inside you will reflect that on the outside, no matter how much we think our feelings and emotions are ours alone to contend with.

I have been telling myself these stories with my thoughts for so many years that it's automatic.  I had to really put some effort to go off of autopilot to examine my thoughts.  It's been an experience for me to mindfully look at what I believe and really question the truth to it.  To hold up my own thoughts and examine them.  Before, I didn't think much about them, nor did I question them.  I just bought my thoughts as true.  My reality.  But, what if they weren't true?  How will I know?  What is the test?  Is there such a thing as true or false with thoughts and feelings?

And, so with Mindfulness and the ACT therapy I have been studying comes in handy here.  Let's break this down using a common thought or two of mine that is less than positive....

"I didn't take Beans to the bathroom today to practice potty training"

Now, the above thought can be replaced with, I didn't try to incorporate enough signs in his day, or engage him enough, or exert enough effort in making sure I somehow snuck enough nutrition into his diet.  As well, as with my other son, maybe I felt I didn't write a social story to explain something to him better, or socialize him more, or practice emotion cards with him... the list is really endless...But, back to breaking down the italicized thought above.  Who's voice is this?  Is it mine?  Or is it someone from my past that may have always said critical things to me?  Do I like this story, or benefit from it?  Is it helpful?  How does this make me feel and does it motivate me to be the self I want to be in order to meet my own goals and values? 

After I have asked myself the questions above I come to the realization that this is not my voice, I don't like how it makes me feel and it's not helpful to me.  It's not necessarily bad or wrong, but also not a thought that I am buying into as something that is representative of me.  I notice the thought and let it go without reaction.  I can't be perfect. I'm human with limitations and feelings.  The kind of mother I want to be is one who is happy, relaxed, and confident.  I can't be her when I'm buying the stories that I spoke about above.  I have to make a choice and a conscious decision as to what kind of parent I can be vs the kind of parent I think I ought to be. 

This isn't to say that sometimes we don't have to make changes and do thing differently.  The diet that I often speak of in this blog was a big change and one that required effort.  I didn't lose weight by simply being upset at myself, though.  I vowed to make some real changes, because I felt that I needed that to happen to be the person I want to be.  I am not berating and depriving myself of treats and freedom, but rather eating better.  I don't chastise myself into dieting, because that never works.  Same with parenting.  Truth be told, Beans is in the very early stages potty training and isn't cognitively or physically ready to be trained yet.  Myself, and the staff that work with him are just acclimating him to the toilet by introducing it slowly.  The fact that I didn't take him very much, or at all for that matter, isn't a big deal and I shouldn't make it one inside of my mind when it's time for me to relax.  Letting myself be, in the moment without judgment is a difficult task, but worth the practice.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

When "just not a math person" doesn't add up: Dyscalculia and what it means for kids

http://chicagoparent.com/magazines/chicago-parent/2011-august/back-to-school-special-section/discalculia-math-disability
Above is a link to a site that describes something called Dyscalculia.  It is basically like dyslexia, except for words and letters, its math and numbers.  I think I may have this.  I have always struggled with math, and I still do, though with lots of practice it is better.  Good enough to get through the day.  I think most of that was strenuous practice when I was a cashier.  There was one place I worked at where I was required to count change back to the dollar before they let me on the register.  Not only that, but I was trained with a group.  This was extra incentive to get it right.  So, I bought a bag of play money, went home and practiced it.  Even if my register broke I could, without error, count back your change to the dollar even to this day.

As a child, I really struggled through math tasks.  When I had to work, I had to rely on counting on my fingers, which was very frowned upon by my second grade teacher.It got to the point to where she recommended I be tested for special ed.  Even though this was 20 yrs ago, they did special ed testing quite a lot the same as today.  I was tested in all areas and when was all said and done I was found to be gifted, with the exception of math, of course.  The school forgot all about my math issues and focused on the where I can get my needs met in all the other areas.  Which was okay, because I was just as bored in class as they thought I to be after seeing where I was academically.  The school I attended was very small and didn't have a gifted program for grade school students, so the faculty tried to move me up a grade in effort to alleviate my boredom.  I as a young aspie child was vehemently opposed to such a drastic change.  So, I remained in the same grade, but without any aid in my math skills, which seemed more and more behind with each passing year.  By the time I got to algebra I was failing.  I had no concept of what to do and no amount of extra tutoring seemed to help.  I wish that I had gotten the extra help when I was young.  I get by, but still count on my fingers. ;)

How Mindfulness can improve your health

Taken from :http://www.thesuntimes.com/lifestyle/x1009563003/Bridget-Rolens-How-can-mindfulness-improve-your-health 
A straightforward guide to Mindfulness and meditation. Short and to the point.

Have you ever had the experience of focusing all your attention on what you are doing, whether it be gardening, working a puzzle, engaging in your favorite hobby, eating your favorite dessert?
Have you ever just enjoyed the activity for its own sake, without any judgment or criticism, without having to achieve any particular goal?
Have you ever been fully absorbed in the experience of the moment, letting go of any thoughts about the past or the future, about what happened earlier in your day or what you have to do later?
If so, then you have practiced mindfulness.
Being mindful means focusing your attention fully on what you are experiencing in the present moment with an aware, balanced acceptance. You are aware of physical sensations in your body: tasting, touching, hearing, smelling and seeing. You are aware of how you feel emotionally.  You are aware of what you are thinking in the present moment.
You meet your experience without judgment or expectation of how it should be and, instead, embrace it just as it is.  You bring that same non-judgmental awareness to yourself. Your body, emotions and thoughts are in the present moment, no matter what is going on or how we are reacting. 
How can mindfulness improve your health?  Research has proven that there is a link between stress and health.  Those with high stress levels are more likely to develop diseases, such as hypertension, heart disease, some forms of cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, back pain, anxiety, depression and diabetes.
Research also shows that meditation practices like mindfulness produce a relaxation response in the mind and body that counteract the effects of stress. When we approach life with this non-judgmental awareness of present-moment experience, we reduce our stress levels.
A Harvard study on the effects of meditation on blood pressure showed that meditating for 20 minutes twice a day lowered blood pressure in a test group. Other studies have shown that meditation can be used to reduce physical and emotional symptoms related to stress.
Try this:
  • Sit comfortably in a quiet place.
  • Close your eyes and take three or four long, deep, even breaths.
  • Invite your body to release any tension it is holding.
  • As you breathe deeply, focus all your attention on your breathing, and feel the sensations of the inhale and the exhale.
  • When you are ready, let your breath return to its usual pattern, and just let the breath breathe itself.
  • As you breathe in, silently note “IN” and, as you breathe out, silently note “OUT.”
  • Accept each breath just as it is. Let your mind become very interested in your breathing, noticing all its qualities: long/short, deep/shallow, even/uneven, constricted/easy. Watch how it changes from moment to moment. The important thing is to open to your experience with acceptance, with a receptive, friendly attention.
  • Take an attitude of passive disregard for distracting thoughts. If you start thinking about other things, say to yourself, “There's a thought.” Then release your attention from the thought, and focus once more on your breath.
Bridget Rolens is the mind-body skills instructor for St. John's Hospital - Center for Living in Springfield, Ill. For more information go to http://www.prairieheart.com/cfl or call 314-544-LIVE (5483).
-- Be Healthy Springfield (Ill.)

Sanity Test-How Sane Are You?

I took the Sanity Score test at http://www.sanityscore.com/ .  My  score was 75 out of a possible 200 something.  The lower the score supposedly the more 'sane' one is! lol It declared me sane, but with two areas that need work, self-esteem was the highest followed by anxiety, even suggesting I have an anxiety disorder, which I have been diagnosed with.  The anxiety was indicated by obsessions and compulsions, which here again, is quite true.  It's fun and free, so go ahead and take it.  If you do, please come back and share your results and thoughts on the test.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Time and to-do lists Part Two:

In the last blog post I talked a little bit about how we schedule our days with more than can reasonably fit.  Some by choice, some by necessity.  As I mentioned, some of us don't have the time energy and money to be able to do what we would like.  Some people work 14 hour days not because they want to, but because some people have to.  Some of us with special needs kids don't have respite or family to help.  There is no 'outsourcing in childcare' as one article put it.  So, as I write about slowing down and being more in the moment I am also sympathetic to those in society that for a variety of reasons don't have the resources to pick and choose their schedules with ease.  I am one of those people and I am well aware of the conditions when money and time is finite.

I think what I have noticed in myself as I try to be more flexible in my routines (no easy feat for an stubborn aspie such as myself) is that I worry too much about what others think, or what may happen if I don't get X task done.  I also feel a constant need for perfection.  I feel I have failed if I don't live up to certain expectations that I have set for myself.  These expectations are always unattainable by any human. I am almost guaranteed to fail.  Self compassion and a dose of realistic thinking can go a long way in making my life more content just by giving myself a break.  Will I always remember to take my 7 yo (who is in the beginning stages of potty training) to the bathroom several times a day? Or remember to get use his special therapy cup to enhance learning to drink from a regular cup vs a sippy? Or, the slow, slow, slow process of exposure to the hair clippers daily? Or to stop and make him sign for simple things?  How about all the social stories and emotion cards that are never printed for Bubby?  Or the tutoring for CJ's dyslexia?  I do remember most of those thing most of the time, but not all of them all of the time.


I am finding that as I realize that my part of my own downfall is my attachment to perfection.  As I let go of what I think I *should* be or *should* do life is getting fuller and more enjoyable.  I have lived my life from a view of distance rather than being in the moment feeling fully in tune with what I am doing.  Just being  aware of how the choices that I make in my day to day life can make all the difference in leading what I would like to call a fulfilled life. I try to rank importance of tasks relative to time. What will make the most difference is 5 days, weeks, or months? How much does having my house dust free matter vs taking the kids to the pool daily?  What will matter more in the long run?  I have to be aware that it's unlikely for me to do both all the time.  Once I have gotten rid of that illusion the choices seem more clear.

Time and to-do lists Part One:

There was something I noticed while trolling the many news feeds and such that I frequently read... there were many that were telling me how to get the most out of my day. How to maximize my whole time potential, like in this article here  .  I think if this woman was off her schedule by 10 minutes her whole day would probably fall apart.  Every minute seems planned and accounted for.  It seems that there are some that have that kind of control over their resources to be able to strategically plan that way.  Living with autistic children don't always go to plan, so making myself a priority in every waking moment of my pre-planned day would not work.  No matter how many spreadsheets of data I take on how I spend my time and how many 10 minute intervals that I allot myself to think. (rolls eyes) Who schedules time in to think? And, how have we become this multi-tasking society that pencils in every waking moment of everyday with tasks and activities?

That's not to say that the article isn't without a few good ideas.  I do think it's worthwhile if you've not ever done it (especially if you're not a routine oriented person)  to get out a notebook, spreadsheet, whatever and document your day in 15 minute intervals.  How much time do you really spend on Facebook? How about in front of the TV?  Or any of the many other activities that fit in your day.  Knowing this information is important in deciding if you're living your days out to what matters most to you, or if you're just drifting by doing things that hold little meaning for you while wondering where your time goes.  Or feeling that nag of boredom.

I have slowly started to adopt the approach that less is more when I am looking at my schedule. Like in this article about slowing down  I am realizing that I am not more fulfilled when I do more.  Sure, there are days where I get a ton of errands or housework done, but there are also days where my energy wanes and that's okay, too.  Accomplishment feels good, but when is it that our lives became are about a monumental list of tasks to tick off?  When does that feeling of accomplishment feel like a dog chasing his tail?

To be continued in the Next Post

Monday, July 18, 2011

Asperger Syndrome and Depression

Asperger Syndrome and Depression  

The link above is to a short but informative article about AS and co-morbid depression.  I always kind of thought that the two were kind of one in the same.  I wonder how many people on the spectrum have not had depression or suffer an anxiety disorder? This would almost certainly be a small percentage, I would think.  Then I wonder if it has more to do with nature or nurture?  Is it our brains that are that way almost from the beginning?  Or is it a case of it being nature in that we struggle to fit into a world that is alien to us?  Seems like it could be the latter to me.  I feel like the struggle for me has definitely been more of an environmental one than anything.  Would acceptance, tolerance of the differences that those on the spectrum have be a almost cure for the depression and anxiety that so many of us carry around with us?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Antidepressant Controversy: What Does it Mean For You?

http://blogs.psychcentral.com/anxiety/2011/07/the-antidepressant-controversy-what-does-it-mean-for-you/
The above link is something that I  find very interesting.  Here in the US the prescription of anti-depressants is quite commonplace.  As a matter of fact, I meet very few people that have never been on one before, or aren't currently taking one. (people feel prone to disclosing personal info with me, I have no idea as to why, and most confess that they don't either after they tell me personal info.)

I do think that more research is required, but from what I have experienced and seen/heard from others anti-depressants may not be anymore effective than a sugar pill.  It would explain how , from my personal experience, I would seem to feel better at the beginning of starting a new medication, only to have the effect wane after a few months. 

I am now med free once again after attempting to take a new medication for my anxiety and it causing side effects that I found undesirable, namely insomnia.  At first, I was feeling good.  The relaxation was nice compared to my usual tense, worrying self.  Then, the same as with anti-depressants, the anxiety starting returning in small doses, and to add to that I was finding it increasingly difficult to fall asleep at night.  I've not had this problem ever in my life, but I found nothing more anxiety provoking than needing to sleep, not being able to, and watching the clock tick off the hours. It was a viscous cycle, because the later in the wee hours of the morning it got, the more anxious and agitated I became.  So, I have been off of Buspar for 2 days now and my sleep is returning, well when Beans will let it!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Authentic Happiness Tests

Authentic Happiness

The link above is a site that I have found interesting. It has several questionnaires designed to see how happy you are when compared to others in the same gender, occupation, ect... There's also a lot of positive psychology info that I have not had the chance to do more than browse through, yet.  So far, all the tests that I've taken seem to place me in the middle of the happiness scale, suggesting I'm not happy or unhappy.  Seems about right! lol I always seem more neutral than anything.  Seems to be my default mood!

Nyan Cat [original]


This is Bubby's new favorite video that he likes to watch, over and over and over.... Used to be Warner Brother's Logos, and cat videos.

Friday, July 8, 2011

New Specs Could Take The Guesswork Out Of Reading Emotions

http://www.vancouversun.com/health/specs+take+guesswork+reading+emotions/5066407/story.html

Sounds really interesting. I would love to see that work in real time.  It would be interesting for me to see what I am interpreting wrong, or just plain oblivious to.  Though, it wouldn't work on me, or probably most autistics.  My facial expressions are misinterpreted all the time by NTs.   So, such a device would say that I was mad or upset probably all the time, even when I am not even close. lol

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Autism and sexuality.

Autism and Orgasm
The above blog post is one I think should be well circulated through out the whole autistic community. Parents as well as individuals on the spectrum should read it.    There is so much misinformation, or complete lack of, about sexuality and autism spectrum disorders.  Being a moderator for some forums for autistics and such I have most definitely had my fair share of private messages coming from others on the spectrum asking about sexuality and related issues.  Some are my age or older and have been in a relationship for many years, but have been unable to achieve intimacy in a sexual way with their partner. 

For many of us, we were not diagnosed until our adulthood. But, for the school aged autistics, I think there should be a separate class on sexuality that goes beyond the basics of human anatomy to help them become more knowledgeable about how their body works and other pieces of info that may not apply to the NT population.  Sensory issues, anxiety, poor nonverbal body language interpretation ect...can make intimacy with a significant other very difficult, but most definitely NOT impossible for those of us on the spectrum. Having the right knowledge could make all the difference.

When friends are enemies

I think continuing in the direction of being misunderstood because of one's autism that I spoke about in an earlier post  today I'll talk more about it in more detail.

The other day I went to the pool with my kids like we do every weekday during the summer.  Things were going well, and we were having a good time.  Sometimes, Bubby sees boys from his class and tries to play with them. They usually ignore him, or humor him for a few minutes until they slip away to play with someone else. Today, there was a boy there that sometimes comes over to our house to play with Bubby and seems to genuinely like him....Or so it seems... The two began playing and splashing and having fun. Until, another boy came to play.  I watched from a few feet away as he dynamic competently shifted.  Once, the other boy was added to the mix I could tell things were now different between Bubby and his 'friend'.  It started to resemble more of a game of keep away, but without an object to keep away.  The two other boys were now on a team, and my son was the odd one out.  They got aggressive and pushier. What was a fun game of spitting water in each other's faces was now turning into ugly.  I never know when I should intervene on these sorts of things.  I never trust my own intuition, as I can tell things aren't going right, but I can't read the body language to tell why.  I just know it seems that way to me, but can I trust my own perception?  I can't put into words what is wrong, so I doubt myself. I also don't want to be one of those helicopter parents that flit and hover intervening and micromanaging every moment of their child's life.  So, I waited as they got more and more aggressive to see what my son might do.  He grew tired in less than 5 minutes of them getting a turn to splash and spit water on him by force and did it back to his friend.  Bubby grabbed his friend and did the same thing back to him as he was doing to him.  So, what do you think happened next?  Did he get respect by standing up for himself?  Did he at least show them they can't do that?  No.  The boy gagged and coughed with drama so loud the life guard was looking. It was quite a show, and unfortunately if I hadn't been there to tell him that's what he gets for doing it first, guess who would have gotten reprimanded?  That's right, Bubby.  If I hadn't been there my son would've gotten into trouble for standing up for himself.

That made me wonder how many times has that happened?  It seemed almost like it was a familiar dynamic to the three of them. I wondered how many times my son was treated like the bad guy for being the victim. Then I realized that it won't be the last time it will happen and if I'm not there to see it I'll never know about it.  Bubby won't/ can't tell me.  He doesn't have to ability to recall a past event and register it as something he ought to share with me.  That takes way more social ability, and vocabulary then he has.  Also, he is not able to discern when someone is not nice to him, quite a bit of the time.  He knows it, but like me earlier, doesn't know how to explain it with words.  When he arrived home from visiting with his grandparents at the lake house I found him sitting alone in a quiet moment later than evening with tears streaming down his face.  I asked him what was wrong and he just said he was sad, but didn't know why.  I did.  It was the leftover feeling of being mistreated and dismissed.  Those moments sometimes come upon you when you least expect it. You don't know why suddenly you're swallowed up with sadness, but you are. Sometimes, I am able to put together, way after the fact, that someone was rude to me, or rejected me, or made me a butt of their joke.  Sometimes, it's hours later, sometimes, for no reason at all I'll remember something that happened 25 yrs ago and finally put the pieces together on what happened.  I'll finally see the social side that I was missing.  Those moments are coming more and more often as I see it replay again with my son.  It's awful.  I feel a certain desperation to stop him from having to face it.  I worry about it day and night.  I'm terrified to send him to fourth grade where he'll be in a new school with lockers and so much change.  I know what awaits him.  I am fully prepared to home school him if necessary.  I just hope it never comes to that.