Shh...Mum is Thinking

Friday, September 29, 2006

Something From the Cupboard

I’ve been a bit scarce lately. That’s partly due to the number of things I’ve been juggling. But ‘busy-ness’ isn’t the only reason. I’m having one of those overload periods I think, similar to when my son was going through his diagnosis. Back then I was staying up late every night reading books, papers, research, opinions…gorging myself on information till it felt like my head would burst and eventually none of it was making sense anymore.

Do you ever feel you’ve read so much stuff and have so many thoughts to sort through that your head is becoming the equivalent of the messiest cupboard in the house? Too much stuff in there, put in too quickly, shuffled through by searching fingers until nothing’s in the right place anymore. That’s how I feel lately.

One of the things I have bouncing around in my messy cupboard of a head has nothing to do with research papers, and perhaps isn’t even directly related to autism. It’s a story my husband repeated to me, something he heard last week from a workmate, and to me it seems very relevant.

Here it is:

Workmate, lets call him Fred, goes to a large science think-tank type place for a visit, for a reason not of any interest to this story. While there, he remembers there is a man working there who he very much admires. A scientist. A Great Man. Lets call him Barney :-)

Fred says to his escort…”Oh, please, would it be ok if I meet Barney? I’ve always wanted to meet him, it would be such an honour.”

The escort says “Sure…he works over there” and points at an office.

Fred walks over. Looks in the door. The office is empty. He returns to his escort disappointed. “Darn, I must have missed him. He’s not there.” Escort stops in his tracks….”Oh, yeah, he’s there.” he says, and leads Fred back to the office of the great man. Escort walks into the empty room and knocks on top of the great man’s desk…and Barney sticks his head out from underneath. They all greet each other. Fred was pretty happy to meet Barney :-) Smiles all around.

Turns out Barney ALWAYS spent the first hour of his day under his desk. Sucking his thumb. He has to because it was the only way he could ready himself to deal with the world. He wasn’t particularly embarrassed about it and his workmates weren’t worried or upset by his *gasp!* ‘inappropriate behaviour’. That was just Barney. He was a great man, and great men can have their quirks. It was part of the package. If you want Barney, you take him quirks and all.

I don’t know if Barney is autistic, though I suppose it’s a distinct possibility. But, see, that’s not whats important about the story, at least to me. He could be bipolar or schizophrenic or even neurotypical. I dunno, I don’t care. The fact is he was able to contribute something to the world simply because his ‘quirks’ were tolerated and accepted by his fellow human beings.

This story has been bouncing off the walls of my head the last week, ever since my hubby shared it with me. I was so happy when I heard it, so happy to hear the evidence that it IS possible for people to accept the quirks of others. Even, perhaps, with affection!

But the more I thought about it the more frustrated I felt.

After all, why do you have to be a Great Man for your quirks to be tolerated? There are probably heaps of people out there that would be able to contribute to society and have a shot at supporting themselves or could simply live a happier, healthier life if only we were more willing to allow each other a few quirks. Personally I’d be a lot happier to see more quirky people around, they make me feel comfy. I’d be very happy to have a quirky cashier wait on me, or see a quirky doctor, or a quirky garbage man or have a quirky neighbor or...

It's the social butterflies that make my heart sink, because I know they're not going to think too highly of my own quirks.

I’m moving my blog over to Lori’s excellent Autiblogs. She has purty themes…thank you again, Lori, for your kindness! I’ll publish this one last post on both Autiblogs and Blogger, and from this day forth, you’ll find me only at: http://mumisthinking.autiblogger.com/

Friday, September 15, 2006

Weary of Lack of Acceptance

I started writing this as a comment to Soapbox Moms latest blog entry, http://soapboxmom.blogspot.com/2006/09/this-is-my-son.html and ended up tying in a few issues that have been weighing heavy on my mind lately. It grew to such monstrous length that I’m embarrassed to post it to her comments section, and hope she won't mind my publishing it here. It feels a bit embarressing to do this, but there are things I want to say here and some issues I think are important. So…here it is:

From someone who has to take an occasional break from blogging due to all the intensity...

To Soapbox Mom, I don't blame you for feeling frustrated and discouraged. It's hard to write about the things you love and care about most in the world knowing there are some people out there who will refuse to understand. The lack of respect and downright bile some parents show towards acceptance of autistic people can become disheartening. When you look in the face of your beloved child, it can also feel personal.

I find it especially hard to see autistic adults and parents who seek acceptance for their children ridiculed for speaking up about the things that really matter. They are brave to raise these important issues in the face of so much rabid opposition--and it's hard to see them slapped down time and again by militant biomed fanatics. When I see that it makes me feel a bit like watching someone ridicule my own son, because I know the issues important to autistic adults will one day be important to him. Seeing that can be very discouraging and more than a bit scary...I don't want to see him treated the way I've seen autistic adults treated recently. What makes the whole situation REALLY upsetting is that the very people who attack autistic adults and parents who speak out for acceptance on forums and blogs are also the parents of autistic children. They should KNOW BETTER for the sake of their own children, if for no other reason.

For my own sake (as an autistic adult) I don't care so much. I'm a crusty old gal and most of the time I can take it. But I don't want to see that sort of ridicule and dismissal in my SON'S future. And I especially don’t want to see that sort of treatment meted out by the very people who have the most reason to understand: parents of autistic children. I don’t care what their belief system is in terms of curing autism, they should show respect to all autistic people in the same proportion to the respect they would like given to their own children someday.

I cannot fathom why some people do not understand that very simple and basic point.

I also think it's unlikely that those very vocal biomed zealots are in the majority. There are probably more of us out there than there are of them. We are less visible simply because we are not fanatical.

For me personally, this is a long term labour of love, not a war campaign to be won in a quick short battle as it is for most fanatical biomed people. What I see with that crowd is the need to win as many people over to their side as quickly as possible to allay their own doubts about how they're handling their child's autism.

I think they know deep down in their hearts that the 'cures' of today will be one day be viewed in the same way as the ‘cures’ of yesterday...ineffective at best, abusive at worst. Theirs is a fanaticism of fear. What if they are wrong in their assumptions that autism is a horrible disease? What if the cures they espouse actually turn out to do more harm than good? Instead of contemplating those issues and thinking about the long term ramifications for their own children they turn to ‘faith’ in what they can not see and can not prove.

So there is a difference of tactics between us and them. I think we're in this for the long haul while they're in it for the quick victory. It’s frustrating and tiring to deal with people like that. So (to Soapbox Mom) yeah…I understand why you’d want a break.

But I do hope that as some point soon you'll return. There are many people who will be REALLY happy to see a new entry on your blog sometime in the future. Whenever you feel like writing...because even if you don't know we're here listening, we are.

And you ARE making a difference.

And to those parents of autistic children who think it’s great fun to disrespect autistic adults and parents who seek acceptance for ALL autistic people…look in the face of your own child, and remember this: those who fight for acceptance for autistics are paving the way towards a better future for your own child.

Mum Is Thinking

Friday, September 08, 2006

Taking the French Toast Cure

Are you a person living without a soul, disconnected from the wonders of the social world around you? Do you find idle chit chat, fashion magazines and social machinations as interesting as watching paint dry on a rainy day?

Are you in fact suffering in the miserable abyss that is… (gasp!)… autism?

What you need is French toast.

No, really! I’m serious. Check this out:

http://www.docguide.com/news/content.
nsf/news/852571020057CCF6852571E2006F2657

In the interest of helping all those poor suffering autistic souls out there, I’ve decided to share a secret recipe I made up a couple of months ago. This should have you making eye contact like a used car salesman in no time flat:

Baked French Toast with Ricotta

8-10 slices good quality bread (not the kind you can roll into a dough ball, ok?)
9 eggs
1 ½ Cups full cream milk
½ C Cream
½ Kilo (1 lb) good quality full cream ricotta, drain in a sieve lined with a coffee filter beforehand if it has a lot of whey, it should be fairly dry
Sugar
Vanilla extract
Butter

Mix 1/3 C sugar, ½ tsp. vanilla and one egg into ricotta cheese.

Spread this mixture very generously (about 2 heaping Tbls) on half the bread slices (you can spread a thin layer of jam or conserve of choice on bread before hand if you like, I’d recommend seedless raspberry or blackberry jam, mmm) place remaining bread slices on top making sandwiches. Carefully cut each sandwich in thirds lengthwise, place edge up in a buttered deep dish casserole (about 12x10 or 13x9” size). If there is any ricotta mixture remaining when all the bread is in the pan, spoon it in between bread slices where ever you can stuff it.

Whisk the 8 remaining eggs with the milk and cream, 1/3 C sugar and one tsp vanilla extract. Pour evenly over bread slices, smoosh it down with the back of a fork so the bread soaks up all the egg-y cholesterol laden goodness. Dot generously with butter (about 2 Tbls total) cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Next morning preheat the oven to 350 F (about 180 C), bake French toast for about 50 minutes, till it is hugely puffed and crusty brown on top and a knife inserted into the middle comes out dry.

Serve with syrup and strawberries if no jam was used.

Serves 6 generously

Oh…ok!!! I know what you're thinking, and you're absolutely right! This recipe will definitely not turn you into a neurotypical fashionista talk show host type person. But at least it isn’t dangerous, like chelation or treatment with a portable hbot unit or lupron shots. It doesn’t cost a lot, like supplements, creams and potions. It isn’t goofy like having your electrical field adjusted or wearing funky crystals to change your aura. And it doesn't insult your intelligence, like the thousands of quacks out there with their thousands of theories and 'cures', all with their hand out looking for your money.

And...it tastes good.

But the best thing of all is that mum can make a nice brunch for the fambly on a weekend morning without having to do anything harder than turn on the oven.

Now THAT is useful.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Book Tag

Thanks to both ABFH http://autisticbfh.blogspot.com/ and Taffy at http://prariehomeschool.homeschooljournal.net/ for tagging me :-D

One book that changed my life

By the Pricking of My Thumbs by Agatha Christie. This was the first adult book I ever read. I found the book in my grandmothers book case not long after I ‘relearned’ to read at about age 8, read the first few lines then hid behind the sofa to continue, thinking I wasn’t supposed to read grown up books. I remember my grandmother laughing at me when she found me; why did I think I wasn’t allowed to read it!? She encouraged me to finish it even though I was struggling with the new-to-me pictureless format and the grown up vocabulary. I already loved books at that age, but this was my initiation into reading ‘real’ books, the kind you read from cover to cover and it hooked me for life.

After all these years, I still feel this vague whisper of my grandmother whenever I read Christie's books. Grandma loved her writing, too.

One book that you've read more than once

If I love a book I will ALWAYS read it more than once. The book I’ve re-read most, though, is Jane Eyre closely followed by the LOTR books.

One book you'd want on a desert island

The complete works of Charles Dickens because I’ve missed reading so many of them.

One book that made you laugh

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, all parts!

One book that made you cry

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan

One book you wish you had written

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I love that book. It’s the only science book I ever read that made me laugh out loud. Bryson is like the Mark Twain of non fiction writers--you’d have to be a gifted writer to make science that accessible and enjoyable to the general public.

One book you wish had never been written

That’s a toughie as I’m not big on censorship. I mean, if I could wipe out the genre of romance novels from my personal reality it wouldn’t hurt me any, but I wouldn’t deny them to others.

Other than that…

Should we delete Mein Kampf from existence? Would it have helped to do so? If so, I wish it hadn't been written.

One book you're currently reading

Saving Fish from Drowning by Amy Tan

One book you've been meaning to read

I started reading Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts a few months ago, had to put it aside about ¾ of the way through, then found I’d broken my connection to the book when I tried to pick up the thread. I want to go back and start from the beginning again, but it’s so big I’ve avoided it for the time being. It’s a great book, but at over 900 pages it seems like a huge commitment to start over!

Tag five other book lovers

Hm…I’ll try tagging Aspiebird, Autism Diva, Lisa/Jedi, Rose, and Andrea, but if any of you don’t have the time or inclination please don’t feel obligated!

Actually I’d love to see a list from anyone who’s interested--I enjoy reading these lists! So consider this an open invitation.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Things That Make Me Go Hmm...

Shoelaces

My son learned to tie his shoes by himself about 1 ½ weeks ago. This was after our practicing together for a very long time, with me showing him over and over where the loop goes, pinch its bottom (giggle) and take the other lace around, under and through. My big hands were always in the way, my big head blocking his view, he unable to bring his foot up close enough to see properly…oh it was so frustrating for us both!

Then last week, older son was waiting outside to ride bikes, and mum was busy (Just a MINUTE! I called…a few times) He went quiet…older brother came in…and they both started cheering from the next room. Hurray! He’s done it!

He’s tied his shoes by himself at least once a day since, and he’s is so proud he learned at a younger age than I did. Good to have a chance to lord it over your mum. Indeed :-)

Now I wonder…maybe I should have been too busy to ‘help’ sooner. I think I was confusing him. Gah.

Maths

We sit together daily working our way through our maths book. He seems to find maths easy for the most part. But. There is something fishy going on…

Our math books follow the state guidelines for curriculum. They have a set way of teaching things. It seems the goal is to teach the simplest addition and subtraction problems by rote memory, then build on that to move upwards to using two and three digit numbers. Problem is, my son doesn’t seem to add and subtract that way, and strangest of all is that he is following the same path of thought with his maths that I did at his age. Say you’re adding 5 and 7…take 5 from the seven leaving 2, add the two 5’s quickly, put the ten in front of the two. I didn’t teach this to him, and in fact didn’t realise he was doing it until a couple of months ago, when I overheard him whispering to himself while working a problem.

It’s not so amazing that he does this as it amazes me that I did the same thing at his age.

Which wouldn’t be so strange if there were all there was to that...for example there's

Fon-icks

I was reading quite well in kindergarten. He was also reading at that age, not quite so well, but better than average.

Didn’t understand what the fuss was about when I was little. Neither did he.

But as soon as I went to first grade and the teachers insisted I read fone-et-ickly I lost the ability to read ANY thing, and didn’t regain the skill until 3rd grade.

My first grade teachers insisted I’d never known how to read, that I’d only learned to memorise a few Dr. Seuss books; my kindie teacher, parents and most importantly *I* knew different.

Phonics were my downfall.

They seem to be his as well. He hasn’t had the same dramatic loss of skills I experienced, perhaps because I’m not forcing him to SOUND OUT EVERY SINGLE WORD letter by letter as they did in my day and on failing phonetic reading he’s not being sent to remedial reading class after school as they did me (that was so humiliating after having been rewarded for reading in kindergarten).

But I know that he can read a word by sight quickly and easily, or struggle with it and more often than not fail to read it if I ask him to sound it out. We discuss and practice phonics but I don’t push it. Starfall.com has been a godsend in this area, it's a relatively pain free place to practice phonetic reading rules. Still, he relies most heavily on using beginning sound + context to help him work out new words, though I am seeing more use of chunking words into syllables, etc.

I wonder why we both had such similar strengths and weaknesses in this area.

Hm.

Monster Vegetarians

Son and I were discussing different classifications of animals the other day. He likes this sort of thing and the discussion was going into new areas as they so often do.

We were discussing herbivores, omnivores, carnivores when he asked “Mum, what would you call a plant?”

So we talked about why plants and animals were broken into two different classifications…that plants make their own food, but everything an animal eats comes from another living being, either plant or animal.

He sat and tapped his pursed lips…I love it when he does that. It’s a sign something good is coming soon.

“Mum, if plants could think would animals look like monsters to them?”

Hm. Good question.

Maybe a stalk of celery would view us as ravenous beasts, horrid in our need to consume the energy of other living things. What a thought! So we discussed how plants have come to rely on animals in many ways, and in fact many plants would die out if there were no animal life on earth. (Just don’t try to explain that to a tree that’s been chopped down, I think, but don’t say.)

It really was a fantastical conversation, the kind you sit and think about after the kids are snug in bed at night. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes home education can be frustrating, tiring or boring, but there are moments when it’s just magic.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Homeschooling tag

Thanks to Sharon at http://thefamilyvoyage.blogspot.com/ for tagging me :-) Homeschooling...one of my favourite subjects!

1) ONE HOMESCHOOLING BOOK YOU HAVE ENJOYED

Homeschooling the Child With Asperger Syndrome: Real Help for Parents Anywhere and on Any Budget by Lise Pyles. I read this before we started working on kindergarten curriculum three years ago. I didn’t find it useful so much for curriculum information or ideas, but simply reading the variety of approaches to home education gave me a sense of confidence as we started. I think I needed that extra encouragement towards flexibility and adapting towards my son’s needs rather than following a set curriculum or school of thought, especially at the beginning. I was entering uncharted territory and needed to hear there was no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to do this, only things that worked for us or didn’t.

2) ONE RESOURCE YOU WOULDN’T BE WITHOUT

I’m tempted to say food colouring simply because we seem to go through buckets of the stuff for science experiments, playdough and other crafts!
Honestly, there’s not one resource we rely on very heavily. We get more use out of practical household items than any specially bought materials. Things we use daily: calendar, table clock, buttons for counters, wall maps, measuring cups and jugs, measure tapes and rulers. Stuff everyone has lurking somewhere about the house, basically.

3) ONE RESOURCE YOU WISH YOU HAD NEVER BOUGHT

The set of flashy workbooks that are supposed to follow our state curriculum. Each page is brightly coloured and has lots of visual pizzazz, which is probably why my son hates them with a passion. We didn’t use them long and went back to the more humdrum books we’d used before. Same curriculum but easier on the eyes.

4) ONE RESOURCE YOU ENJOYED LAST YEAR

The books from enchantedlearning.com we printed out for our China studies were a huge hit with my son. He has such a passion for anything Chinese that he actually started reading and writing with more enthusiasm at that point. He loved trying to paint the Chinese characters for different words, too! We need to revisit Chinese studies sometime soon, methinks.

5) ONE RESOURCE YOU WILL BE USING NEXT YEAR

Our local swim centre for swimming and karate lessons.

6) ONE RESOURCE YOU WOULD LIKE TO BUY

A telescope.

7) ONE RESOURCE YOU WISH EXISTED

A place to download all the basic wall poster stuff. Like good maps of the continents with countries, pie charts, days of week, alphabet, months, counting in different languages, etc etc. You can find those things in different places if you look, or you can make your own but it would be nice to have them all in one place, easy to find, easy to print out.

8) ONE HOMESCHOOLING CATALOGUE YOU ENJOY READING

I must be hopelessly out of the loop LOL--I’ve never seen or heard of a homeschooling catalogue.

9) ONE HOMESCHOOLING WEBSITE YOU USE REGULARLY

We visit a LOT of different educational websites, I wouldn’t even know where to begin narrowing the list down to just one! So I’ll pass on the two resources I’ve found recently, in case someone else enjoys them as much as we have (these are both downloadable programs):

http://www.shatters.net/celestia/ My kids are in love with this program!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/sn/prehistoric_life/games/dinosaur_world/
The BBC site in general is a fantastic resource. PBS. ABC (Australian Broadcasting Corporation) And so many others. Oh my. SO many!

10) TAG FIVE OTHER HOMESCHOOLERS

Well, I don’t know who to tag! So I’ll just leave an open invitation to any homeschoolers out there, please, share with us! Leave a note in my comments section if you like…it’ll be fun!

By the way, I’ve turned on comments moderation for the time being. I hope ya’ll don’t mind…it’s just that I’m not too excited by the recent visit by ‘Mad Dog’ John Best JR--and after I posted my curbie kit, too (see my May 21, 2006 posting “No This Ain’t Your Playground”).

Some people just don’t get the hint, eh?

Guess we need more garlic.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"Red Hat and Purple Dress Time"


“When a woman reaches a certain age, even if she is autistic, it becomes red hat and purple dress time and one forgets to mind every last one of one’s P’s and Q’s and be totally polite and vapid and ineffectual. I shall be Eccentric and noisy.”
--Patricia E. Clark, Autism Advocate


I love that quote..."I shall be eccentric and noisy".

After spending over 40 years struggling to fit in with the 'normals', and failing so spectacularly, it's nice to think I could just be myself--joyfully! myself at some point.

But as I was painting this, I kept thinking how nice it would have been to come to that point earlier in life. I'm shaking my head at all that wasted time, effort and emotion trying to be someone I'm not. If we were graded on our ability to achieve "NT-ness", I doubt I'd have gotten above a D- even on my so called best days.

Sigh.

And how about passing that legacy on to my children? That's an uncomfortable thought.

Why spend years struggling to push our little square peg into a round hole, shaving corners here and sanding pokey-out bits there, to end up with a not so perfect anymore square peg that STILL doesn't make it through that round hole. And feels he's less for it.

Eh!

Red hats and purple shirts for us all, says mum.