Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Do You Want Me To Write?

Dear everyone,
You haven't heard from me for a while! It has been about three weeks I think. A lot has happened, and I  have had a lot that I have wanted to write about in this blog, but I haven't had the energy. I've been pretty overwhelmed in life and I still am. I've been working pretty much full time ever since I got better from being sick in January... mostly at one long-term subbing job as a 1:1 assistant for a little boy with severe anger and behavioral challenges. When I come home from that, I'm pretty much exhausted, and sometimes I just can't make myself write. I've really fallen behind on my product reviews and everything else that I meant to blog about.

I've been doing a lot to organize my life lately. I actually have a personal organizer (my friend PJ volunteered for the job) and have been getting my room into a workable state. I made a visual schedule for myself that I follow every day. I think I could make myself a blogging schedule, something like, Write on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, read others' blogs on Tuesdays and Thursdays, do sponsored reviews on Saturdays, and Sunday is freestyle.

However, I just want to know... basically to figure out for myself whether I should get back into writing this blog, and how much of it is a hobby versus a serious writing project... how many people out there are actually reading, and how many would want to keep reading my blog?

You don't even have to leave a comment... you can use this anonymous poll if you want. Or if your answer is "no," you could just not answer at all. I won't be mad or anything... I am just trying to decide whether, and how often, to keep blogging.

Okay, thanks!

Do you want to continue reading this blog?

Maybe... this is my first time here
I don't really care.
Poll Maker

Sunday, January 10, 2016

What I Want

Hi everyone! I was missing again for a while... but this time it was because I was really sick. I won't go into all of the gory details here, but to make a long story short, I ended up having to go to the Emergency Room in an ambulance, and I spent most of the rest of the week being exhausted just from walking across the room. (Taking the garbage down to the end of the driveway on Wednesday night nearly did me in! I didn't even bother with the recycling bin because by that time I was worn out!)

Auntie Em and Uncle J were on vacation while all that was going on, so they missed the worst of it. Our family friend PJ came over to help me out... she was the one who called 911 finally because I couldn't even stand up! She came over every day to check on me, and another friend came a few times too. It is nice to have a sort of community of people who can help you!

After being sick, things went downhill from there. I think Auntie Em and Uncle J got overwhelmed from worrying about me. The next day Auntie Em suggested that I go back to Illinois for a while.

I am already planning to go back to Illinois for a month or so to help my mom in March after she gets out of the hospital, because she's going to be recovering from stem cell chemo and she wanted my brother and I to come home and help her.

The problem is that I can't really commit to a full time job right now since I am planning to leave for the month of March. I can sub full time though, easily... in fact I was subbing full time for the past few weeks up until winter break, and the only reason I didn't sub all last week was because I was sick. DBT has helped me a lot with dealing with my anxiety and being able to tolerate it.

Of course I really wouldn't mind going back to Illinois for an extra month or so to be with my mom... except that I don't think my parents are going to see it that way. Auntie Em said she's going to talk to them about it. But I am almost certain they will say it has to be one way or another... they'll say Auntie Em can kick me out and I can go back to Illinois for the long term, or I can choose to go back to Illinois for the long term, but I cannot go back and forth. They'll say, "Coming back to Illinois for several months? But you won't have a car! You won't have a job! You need to get a job! Job job job job job job job job!"

What I am AFRAID will happen is that the decision will be made that I have to go back to Illinois... and I won't be able to come back for a long time. And I won't see Auntie Em or Uncle J or my new friends any more, and I won't get to have my fish anymore, and my fish will die and be flushed down the toilet, and Lily won't get to hike anymore, and I won't see the goats anymore, and Lily won't get to go to the river again, and we will just get stuck in Illinois forever. Illinois has a way of sucking you in and not letting you go.

What I WISH would happen is this...
1. I could stay here and keep subbing full time until my mom is ready for me to go to Illinois to help her.
2. But I can take a break and go visit Bro because he really wants me to and he is pissed at me right now for not jumping in my car and driving to California immediately.
3. I can stay in Illinois for as long as my mom wants or needs me to stay. Even if it is several months.
4. I can come back again even if it is just to sub for the rest of the school year, plus hopefully I will get my summer job again from last year. And still see my mom for part of the summer when I am not working.
5. I could get an apartment here. I wouldn't even mind living with a roommate for a while, IF I was the one who had the apartment first. In roommate situations I've had in the past, I was the one who moved into an already-established apartment, so I was pretty much just a room-renter and it was all of their furniture and decorations, and their rules. I had a roommate once who required me to be inside the apartment at 8:00 each night, because that was the time her 4-year-old son went to bed, and he wouldn't go to bed unless he thought everyone else in the apartment was also going to bed. I had roommates that drank and partied so much at night that it was impossible to go to sleep. I just want to be the one to put MY stuff in an apartment, have it be MY place, and then choose a roommate who could deal with MY life... instead of me having to be the one to slip in and out of the apartment like a ghost.
6. I could get a job for next school year. I think I could do it. The fall before I moved here, remember, I actually got two job offers and got hired for one, but I flipped out about moving and ended up having to bail on the job I'd accepted. But if I was already here, it would be a lot easier!

It is just hard having to miss my parents so much. It shouldn't be this hard because so far I've pretty much got to see them every 8 or 10 weeks or even more often. I will probably always be putting most of my "fun money" towards traveling to Chicago, instead of doing the types of things ordinary people do for fun like, I don't know, whatever people do?

Anyways I am just so tired. I wrote this post the other day but never published it because I thought it sounded too crazy: "Sorry for the lack of posts lately! I have been really sick and the whole week just went down the drain. I had to go to the hospital and everything. I am typing this on my phone because I don't have the energy or motivation to get out my laptop! But I just wanted to check in. Between missing my mom so much, and getting so sick, and other things, I feel like my heart and spirit have been crushed. I've disappointed the world lately including myself. I don't have any energy left. I miss my parents so much but I don't want to leave here, but I am unsure of how to survive. I feel like a plant that has been getting watered with Gatorade. I don't know why I thought of that. Typing on my phone feels weird. I am sad. Maybe it is just from being sick. Maybe it is from the medicine. Maybe it is from worrying about my mom. Maybe I am just homesick. Maybe it is all of the above. Maybe I am cuckoo. Sometimes I feel like I am in a nightmare because I don't like who I am, I don't like feeling bad, and the whole world seems like a scary and overwhelming place." 

I think I am just in a messed up space right now. I feel like wherever I live, people end up getting tired of me and wanting me to go, and then I have to start looking for another place to belong. I am never going to belong in Illinois... I already burned up that state! (Metaphorically. I'm not some sort of arsonist. I didn't start the Chicago Fire. A cow did.) I don't want to leave everything behind again. It was so hard for me to move all the way here and leave my family. I don't want to give up and go back to Illinois and just live there until I die or until my parents decide to move.

I am tired and I am sad and I miss my mom and I need to sleep now.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Top Ten Posts Of 2015

Hi everyone! I am still not feeling too great... pretty homesick and having trouble getting myself to do things such as keep up with my blog... but I'm working on it! I at least thought I'd pop in here to do a nice Top 10 post for the end of 2015! I am going to link to YOUR top ten favorite posts from this year! The results from what you like... which I got from Google Analytics... were a little surprising! What do you think of these?

10. Maybe Nothing To Lose. This is sort of a sad one for me. I wrote about my big plans to start a preschool program for neurologically diverse children. I wanted to start it as soon as I moved out here. But due to lack of money and encouragement, I had to let that dream slip from my grasp. I still haven't given up on it. There is so much I hate about the public school system, that I no longer really want to be a part of it... I feel like I am helping to abuse children when I am working in these schools. I am still broken-hearted that it didn't work out. But maybe in the future...? 

9. Review: Peace Weighted Products Weighted Stuffed Animal. Well, this one is pretty self-explanatory. I am glad to have found out about, and shared, this awesome business!

8. Autistics Speaking Day. For this special Internet holiday,  I made a short movie about my everyday life. Definitely one of my favorite posts as well!

7. Trip to the Pumpkin Patch. You liked reading about how I got to go to the pumpkin patch that is owned by the family from Little People, Big World!  I also wrote about wondering if it was better to be with groups of more "low functioning" people where you were one of the most independent people there, or with groups of "neurotypical" people where you would be the least independent and possibly most isolated person there.

6. Little Lily Takes The Wheel. This is the one in which my dog, Lily, wrote about being a psychiatric service dog. One of my favorites as well! 

5. Not Knowing What I Need.  In this post, I talked about my frustration with not knowing what sorts of services and accomodations could help me, and the lack of availability of these things even if I did know what they were. Nice of you to let me vent!

4. My review of Stimtastic, the online store that is all about stimming.  I am glad my reviews are actually benefiting people out there! By the way, my aunt got me a new Snake Twist necklace to replace the one I tragically lost while hiking!

3. First Week of 1:1 Therapy or Counseling or Whatever. In this post, I started therapy and unwittingly convinced my therapist that I was suicidal. Interesting, for sure!

2. Conversation With My Mom About Autism. This is the post where my mom told me some things about my early childhood and how she came to find out (or, rather, not find out) that I was autistic. I also wrote about how the story of Stellaluna can be compared to a child with undiagnosed autism, growing up being told that there is something wrong with them, only to find out that the problem was that they are a bat trying to live as a bird. Good choice, friends! I like that one too!

The number one favorite? My review of Dose Of Nature CBD Oil.Since I wrote it in March of this year, it has continued to be the post with the most pageviews, You guys really want to learn more about how hemp oil can help you with ADHD! I have not used it for a while myself, so I can't give you an update on that. It is not quite in my budget right now. But I still do believe that it can be very helpful in treating everything from ADHD to cancer!

So those are your collective favorite posts from 2015. What about you, personally? Which posts on my blog did you like the best?

Thank you all so much for your support, this year and all of the years since I have started it. I hope to continue blogging for many more years into the future. I hope you all have a wonderful New Year!
Rainbow New Year image

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Product Review: Simply Earth Pine Scotch Essential Oil

Hi everyone! Sorry this is going to be a short post... I just got back from my trip to California to spend time with my family, and I am feeling really sad today. I will write more about it later... but for now, just picture me with a black rain cloud above my head and a sad look on my face. It is hard to make myself do anything other than watch TV.  However, I remembered that I had this Simply Earth Pine Scotch Essential Oil to review, and I also remembered reading that pine essential oil can help with emotional release or stress relief. I decided to give it a try, and write about it as I go along.

How I feel now: Calm but sad. In low spirits. Listless. Also starting to have a headache, which I think is from crying so much in the past two days. (I don't know why, but crying jags always leave me with a headache!)

Using the essential oil:  The information I've read suggests putting drops of pine oil on a tissue or on your pillow and breathing it in. There is also the "direct palm inhalation method," which involves putting a few drops on your palms, rubbing them together, and then cupping your hands over your nose to inhale the vapors. This method is mostly used for emotional relief reasons, which is what I am going to use it for. It should only be used with oils that are safe for direct skin contact. I read that pine oil can cause irritation to people My skin is not particularly sensitive, but I decided to play it safe and put it on a wash cloth instead. Steam inhalation is one way to use essential oils. You can use an essential oil vaporizer or inhaler, but I don't have those, so my plan is to just get a wash cloth really hot, and then add a few drops of pine oil.

I did do that. I added about ten drops of pine oil to the wash cloth, and then cupped it over my face and inhaled. To my surprise, the scent was very mild, It reminded me, for some reason, of my Nona's house when I was a small child. As I inhaled more, I could feel the vapor going into my lungs. It feels a little bit like breathing in Vicks Vapor Rub, but much milder.

How I feel now: My headache has gotten milder, and I do feel a little less sad, at least for the moment. In DBT, one of the skills we learn is "self-soothing," which involves doing things to comfort all of your five senses. You could listen to music that calms you, for instance, look at beautiful art, or eat comfort food. Or, you could use one of your favorite scents. So it is possible that the scent of the pine oil, which brought up pleasant memories of my Nona's house, actually made me feel better. Of course it is also possible that the pine oil itself has properties that help calm the emotions.

I decided to try again, this time just using a dry paper towel to inhale the scent of the pine oil. Again, it is a very mild scent, and very comforting. I think I might sprinkle some on the collar of my pajama shirt tonight so that I can smell it while I fall asleep!

I've used Simply Earth products before, and I always feel good about it. First of all, they guarantee that their oils are 100% pure and therapeutic grade. Second of all, they donate 13% of the profits to organizations that serve human trafficking victims. The reason they choose to donate 13% is because the average age of a human trafficking victim is 13 years old. I am always proud to use a company that gives back to the community!  I know I will be looking for more Simply Earth oils in the near future!


Monday, December 21, 2015

California, I'll Be Knocking On The Golden Door

Hi everyone! This is going to be a short post because I am so tired, but I just wanted to say a temporary goodbye. I am going to be going down to my brother's place in California until the 27th. My mom is meeting me there, and we are going to spend Christmas there! Bro and Sunny couldn't make it out to Chicago for the holidays, and my mom couldn't stand the idea of not being with Squeak for his 3rd Christmas! (So far, we've been together each Christmas of his relatively short life.)

I am not going to be bringing my computer with me, because I want to take a partial technology break. Also they barely have Internet there, so it would be hardly worth it. I will have my Kindle to check email and stuff, but I won't be blogging. So... don't forget about me!

Until we meet again, I just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas, if you celebrate it, or a wonderful week in general if you don't.

Alright, I gotta wake up and go to the airport in just a few hours, so I am going to take a shower and go to bed. Peace, everyone! I love you all!

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Kids Always Win Me Over

Christmas is almost here! Have you checked out my Autism/ADHD/Special Needs Gift Guide yet? 

Hi everyone! It is finally Friday, and I am exhausted because I've had a busy week! I actually worked every day this week! You might remember last week I worked all week helping some kindergartners with behavioral problems in a regular ed class. Then the people from the office had asked me to come back this week to work in a special education classroom. As it turned out, the job was not in a special ed classroom at all, but another job as a 1:1 assistant for yet another little kindergarten boy with behavioral problems! This job turned out to be good and bad in many ways. The little boy I worked with was named "Myles," and he reminded me in some ways of "Taz," which was hard for me.*
Like Taz, Myles was a little boy who was living in kinship foster care because his parents were, probably due to drugs and other problems, unable or unwilling to care for him. I didn't get to know that much about Myles's background because I was just a lowly sub, but I did hear a few things. Like Taz, Myles was a very smart kid, although he had some learning problems. Like Taz, Myles was very hyperactive and really did not have much control over his activity level. You might picture trying to get a four-month-old puppy to sit quietly and work on math problems, and that would be pretty much what it would be like to get Myles (or Taz) to do these things. 
It is actually hard for me to write about Myles today because I have so much to say but I can't really organize my mind around it. On my first day, they only told me what classroom to go to, and what the child's name was, and nothing else. When I got to the classroom, the teacher pointed him out to me (he was wearing a red sweatshirt) but told me nothing else. When I sat down next to him, he was friendly and told me all about his breakfast, his Matchbox Cars, and the names of his friends. When the teacher called all of the children to come sit on the carpet, and Myles bounced around the classroom instead, and I tried to get him to sit on the carpet, he ignored me. The teacher whispered to me, "Being near him and talking directly to him doesn't work."
Uh... okay...
The special ed teacher gave me this clip board with all of these charts that I was supposed to use with Myles. On one chart I was supposed to tally up how many times he needed to be told to do things before he actually did them, throughout the day. Another was some sort of smiley chart, on which you were supposed to mark a smiley face, straight face or sad face for each activity of the day. On another chart, he was supposed to earn stars for following directions, and when he got ten stars he could get a break. But the classroom teacher told me, no, he doesn't use any of those behavior charts, but yes, I was supposed to do the tally mark things.
The children switch classrooms for one of their Reading sessions. Because now in kindergarten they don't do much playing... they do reading, writing and math all day long. So anyways I went with Myles to the other kindergarten class, which was actually the class I worked in last week with Josh and Tony. Instead of going to the carpet in that classroom, Myles ran over to the puzzles and started trying to play with them. I tried to figure out how to get him over to the carpet without being near him or speaking to him. I wasn't successful. Then some random assistant who was in there started trying to get him to go to the carpet... she apparently was familiar with him... and when he wouldn't go, she went to get the special ed teacher, who also tried to get him to go to the carpet. They finally got him to go by saying he could earn two puzzle pieces for each thing he did in class. 
I was already wishing I could be anywhere else but there, but that point. I hate not knowing what I am supposed to do! But actually, it wasn't so bad. Myles was a sweet little kid, really, the problem was the teachers. Each person who worked with Myles seemed to have different theories and plans. The classroom teacher's theory was, "Myles needs to be able to do exactly what all of the other children are doing. If he can't, then there is a problem and he shouldn't be in this class." She told me that. So the special ed teacher was giving me these things to do with Myles... like the visual symbol page, which I eventually replaced with some smaller cards with stick drawing pictures that Myles could hold and read... and the break schedule (because, yes, he was supposed to be earning the stars and taking breaks) and half the time the teacher was just thinking I was coddling him by letting him earn extra breaks for doing what the other children were just expected to do with no extra reward, and the other half of the time she was just glad for me to take him out of the classroom for any reason, even if he spent all day playing with an iPad in the library. 
Most of the time, he wasn't even that disruptive... no more so than any other 6-year-old who has to spend seven hours at school doing academic work. There were plenty of other kids in the class who were doing the same things as Myles, sometimes even more frequently, like interrupting during story time or talking without raising their hand or moving their legs out of the criss-cross-applesauce position during the never-ending carpet lessons. Occasionally  he did have what could be called a tantrum or "melt-down," and it was a doozy. But the rest of the time... it was like he was being disciplined all day long, for things that were pretty typical little boy behaviors, just because he also occasionally had more severe behaviors. Because these severe behaviors existed sometimes and because he had so little control over them, he was expected to be behaving BETTER than the other children. Seven kids could all be crashing the Matchbox cars together during play time, but Myles would be the one who had his Matchbox car confiscated. And to me, what 6-year-old doesn't crash the cars together when they play with them? 
The adults frustrated me. But the kids always win me over. I connected with Myles. He listened to me most of the time. He wanted to please the adults around him, He tried. During our breaks when we escaped from the classroom and went to the library, I played board games with him. I played Matchbox cars with him on the floor. I taught him how to draw snowflakes. I drew stars on his chart when he was doing good work, and then changed the stars to smileys, and then boots, and then cars, and then M's, at his request. When he had one of his biggest meltdowns, he clung to me and cried. I thought he was having a pretty good week. The classroom teacher said his behavior was going downhill. 
The kindergarten has a special day when everyone's parents are invited to come make mini gingerbread houses with them. The houses were made out of graham crackers. Nobody from Myles's family came, so I made his gingerbread house with him. I helped him spread the frosting onto the graham cracker walls. I told him I was good at spreading things because I loved peanut butter sandwiches, and he laughed. He was excited that I helped him, and told his teacher, "She helped me! She did the frosting, and I put the candies on!" He worked very hard on his little house. Later they had to write in their journals. He drew pictures in cars, and I wrote down a few sentences that he dictated to me. Again, he was excited to have my help, and he ran to the teacher to show her his journal. "She helped me with the words!" he said. (Myles never did learn my name.) 
I mentioned to the special ed teacher that I would be glad to come back after winter break to keep working as a 1:1 for Myles. She told me it was "covered," but that there would be other kids who would need help. Later as I walked Myles to the bus for the last time, I told him, "When you come back from vacation, I might not be in your class anymore. Someone else might be coming to hang out with you and help you."
He frowned and said, "But I want you to hang out with me!" It had only been 5 days, but it felt like it had been a year. 
Earlier today while we were taking a break, Myles was drawing on a dry erase board. He drew this picture and said it was him and me. He had to erase his head and re-draw it three times because he kept making it too small to fit his smile onto. I wanted to take a picture of it with my phone so I could remember. I let Myles take the picture. He took about fifty, and then somehow took an extremely fast stop-motion video of me from about twenty different angles. I have no idea how he did it. He scrolled through the other photos stored in my phone, and wanted to know the names of all of my pets and how old they were. He took pictures of the table and the ceiling and my feet. Later, I would not want to delete them. 
Here is the one of his drawing of him and I. I am the tall one. I am bald, I guess.

I hate these jobs because the teachers and other assistants confuse me and frustrate me. But the kids always win me over... especially the ones like Myles. It is always really hard to say goodbye.

*Taz was a first grader I worked as a 1:1 for a few years ago and it was a horrible experience, not at all because of the child, but because of the teachers and other staff members I worked with. Horrible. I think this job was one of the reasons that I started having even more anxiety about work and have had such a hard time with jobs ever since then! You can read about Taz here if you want to.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Review: Peace Weighted Products Weighted Stuffed Animal

(Part of this review was also published in my ADHD/Autism/Special Needs Gift Guide!)

Children with autism, ADHD, and various other special needs are often calmed and centered by holding, pushing, or being covered with a heavy object. Kristi Samson, the owner of Peace Weighted Products and also the mother of two children with special needs, makes weighted stuffed animals and other things for children. She started her store in order to provide weighted products at a more affordable price than many of the other stores out there sell. I had the opportunity to review one of her products recently and my opinion is that her products are high quality, durable, and loveable.

Kristi asked me if I would like to review a lap pad or a weighted stuffed animal. Of course, you know, I chose the stuffed animal! I love animals... even stuffed ones. I had not looked at pictures of the weighted stuffed animals Kristi makes, and I was somehow expecting some sort of weighted pillow shaped like an animal. I was delighted to get this tiger in the mail!

He is very soft and snuggly, with floppy arms and legs. He weighs about two pounds. I wasn't sure that would be enough weight for me... ideally I would sleep with a 150 pound blanket over me... although it would definitely be heavy enough for a child. However, I found that sleeping with him sitting on my belly actually helped... and he also helps me get work done when he sits on my lap while I'm at the computer!

The weighted stuffed animals Kristi makes include a cow, a monkey, a pig, dogs, cats, a dinosaur, a giraffe, a ladybug, teddy bears, a lion, and a tiger. These stuffed animals look just like a regular stuffed animal you'd find in a toy store, with sweet faces and soft fur. They are weighted with bean bag pouches filled with nontoxic aquarium gravel. Stuffing is then added around the bean bag pouches, so they are still soft and cuddly instead of crunchy!

Kristi suggests many ways that a weighted stuffed animal can be used by a child. For instance, a child can carry his stuffed animal while going on an errand with his family, such as to the grocery store. The heavy object in his arms serves to help him stay calm and grounded, while also keeping his hands busy and less likely to touch random objects. It can act as a transitional object that the child can bring with him from home, to school and other places.

Peace Weighted Products also makes weighted blankets, lap pads, neck wraps, and shirts. Be sure to check them out! 

With the holidays coming up, a weighted stuffed animal would make a great gift for some lucky kid! (Or adult... as you can see, I am very happy with my tiger!)