Behind starburst eyes

Corona’s Effect on Mental Health

It’s been months since Covid-19 became a worldwide epidemic, and while I am truly, deeply thankful that my family has not experienced this virus directly, sadly it still has had an impact on my children through their mental health.

He used to be gregarious, he used to be fearless, he used to be happy and confident…Used to be…

It makes my heart ache to see the changes in him, to see how scared he is to even leave the house because as he puts it “It’s invisible, I can’t see it, I can’t fight it” He used to be thrilled to pop over to the store for me, and he’d always ask if he could pick up something for dessert for everyone in addition to the bread or milk I was usually asking for. Now, his first response is “Or I could not go” with a pleading face as he says it. He used to love going for runs, now he says “there’s too many people”. He would rather forgo takeout or new toys if he has to go outside for them.

So instead I don’t ask him to go for me, but I do ask him to go with me. I’m willing to walk with him, because I’m determined to make him go out (while of course allowing precautions such as a mask and hand sanitizer) because he can’t stay locked inside for the next however long. It’s not healthy for him.

I know this might be a long road for him, but I remember when he was 2 and would have uncontrollable meltdowns when we’d walk different routes home from Airzone, he’d cry that it “wasn’t the right way home”. Back then I knew he had to learn there were many ways to get to somewhere, physically and metaphorically. I would hold him and tell him over and over he was loved and safe and I understood and he was my wonderful brave boy as he cried for hours even after we got home.

This is no different, I’ll be there each step of the way offering him love and support as I help him walk this hard path. I love him enough to do the hard things because he always has been and always will be worth the effort to help him thrive.

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Step 3: Kill it with fire

Every blog posting about buying a used trailer to fix up will tell you that more work is needed than you think.

Naively, I ignored the myriad of warnings ūüė¶ and I ended up finding this:

While I knew from the back that one small section of floor would need to be replaced I had no idea how bad it actually was or the real reason why.

I’d been told the back corner ripped when it was moved as a deck was attached to it and not properly unattached before they moved it, the real truth was much, much worse:

Carpenter ants, hundreds of them living and swarming throughout the entire inside of the walls and floor. The more we removed hoping it was the last “bad” section the more we found ūüė¶ Was it hard on the kids and I to realize we wouldn’t be travelling this summer and that our plan for this trailer was not going to go anything like we’d thought…yep!

But as we took the entire trailer apart, separated each type of material, recycled what we could and brought the rest in multiple loads to the dump, I was able to help them to see that even though we plan, life doesn’t always go according to plan and we have 2 choices: Give up or give it all we’ve got to create a solution.

For this specific case we simply started again but from the ground up lol. Which meant our new first step was cleaning any loose rust from the chassis and then treating it with tremclad.

Now the real building begins! With just over 5 weeks left until I begin University again and the kids start their homeschooling year again the race is on! Do I think the whole thing will be finished in 5 weeks, no I truthfully don’t. BUT we’ll have the floor, walls, and roof done at least and that will give us more time to work on the inside of it on weekends as it gets cooler.

As we build a tiny home now instead of fixing up a trailer we’ll learn lots, work hard, and grow a dream and memories together. Wish us luck! ūüėÄ

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Coronavirus Pandemic and Our Emotional Health

We live in Ontario, Canada and our premier has officially declared a state of emergency this morning. This means in addition to primary, secondary and post-secondary schools being shut down for the next 3 weeks, now our daycare centers, restaurants (dine in portion), bars, cinemas, libraries, museums, major venues such as the science centre, and recreation centers are all shut down until at least April.

We homeschool our 3, but my two stepdaughters attend public school at their mother’s insistence. So this changes some things for us, but not all things. Obviously daycare facilities being closed doesn’t effect us. However, everything else being closed does.

One of the ways all of these closures effect us is through fear and anxiety. My youngest son has asthma and has had to be on oxygen and nebulizers in the past, so I am in a heightened state of anxiety. But I’m not the only one, my children feel it too. Not just through me, but also because news of the virus is everywhere and both kiddos understand the potential implications for their brother, and he understands the implications for himself. To that end we have been working a great deal with the concepts of fear, anxiety and powerlessness.

Acknowledgement of Emotions:

We’ve spoken about how scary it can be to feel like you’re powerless in a situation, and how to work with that feeling to acknowledge it but not let it overwhelm us (a thing I am struggling with myself as well).

Then, I attempt to teach them how to work through their scary thoughts. We talk about their feelings, how their real and valid first. But also that even though their valid, we don’t have to be ruled by them. We can focus on the things we HAVE done, the things we ARE doing, and the things we CAN do during this time.

Breathing Techniques:

Once I’ve validated their emotions we do breathing exercises. Five deep breathes in through the nose and out through the mouth. This helps to calm the nervous system down and allow the pre-frontal cortex to come back online (center of logic and reasoning).

Mindfulness Exercises:

Mindfulness exercises such as finding 5 things they can see, touch, and hear can also help to refocus on calming the mind enough to work through any scary thoughts.

Positive Actions:

Finally, we focus on something positive, such as on gratitude, love, giving to others, or constructive actions. We do this because in allot of ways our thoughts are like roads, the more frequently their used, the more deeply they become entrenched and at times like this we NEED the positive perhaps more than ever.

For one child, focusing then on how grateful they are for the healthcare professionals or our ability to have things delivered to lessen our chances of exposure is helpful.

For another it’s expressing love through acts of kindness such as offering to play another siblings favorite board game or reading a book to a younger sibling.

For another it’s writing a card to send to someone they can’t see in person right now, or walks in the conservation area to be in nature.

For me, it’s constructive physical acts that help, for example organizing cupboards and labelling jars with our supplies or sorting the kids clothes for donations (I’ll wait to donate, but I’m happy to pop bags of donations in a closet ready to go once this is all over). Each person is unique, so choosing the positive actions that work best for them should be specific to them.

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Taking a leap

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When my mom was in palliative care she spoke with me about all the things she regretted. Only one was some thing she had done, all the rest were things she hadn’t done, dreams she had never chased, moments she hadn’t fully lived, chances she was too afraid to take.

I told her I looked forward to telling her about all my zany adventures when I saw her on the other side. Then to borrow one of her favorite sayings “I put my money where my mouth is”.

I applied to University again and was accepted as a full-time student for my bachelor degree in Anthropology and Psychology. I’m now in my second year, and I’ve worked hard to stay on the honour roll both years.

It hasn’t always been easy, as we still homeschool the kids, and we’re always working on various tools they need to learn to live their best lives too. But, it IS worth it!

I don’t want to regret all of the things I didn’t do, and all of the chances I didn’t take. Nor do I want them to live that way either. Being Autistic, I’ve noticed that my boys are encouraged by society to conform to social norms even more heavily than if they weren’t. Some thing I’ve noticed allot of adult Autistics speaking about lately. So when I say we’re working on the tools they need, a key one of them is the courage to be true to themselves. They are amazing human beings that I’ve been privileged to be a parent to. I never want them to lose sight of their authentic selves, and chase their own dreams. Can you imagine what life could look like if we weren’t afraid to take a leap?

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Dear Mental Health Professionals:

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I am aware that the DSVM (all editions since the 3rd) include Autism as a mental illness/disorder. However, just because they are included does not make the mental health field correct in their assessment of Autism as a disorder. It is included because Western society has a serious lack of acceptance of anything different. All things different should be treated and minimized to the greatest degree possible, is often the misguided thinking with Autism and many other neurodiversities.

The Ontario government has released a statement that they are pledging $333 million dollars towards treatment, but that the maximum age for treatments of IBI will decrease to 5 years old. This is said to be because the greatest chance for changing these children is until they are 5 years old. After that, it becomes harder to help change their behaviors to mirror neurotypical behaviors.

Autism is looked upon as something to correct, or at least to help intervene as much as possible and push towards encouraging the person to act as neurotypical as possible. I’d like to ask you why this is? I’d like to ask you why someone has to behave the way you do for you to see value within them? I’d like to ask you why biodiversity in the world is a plus, but neurodiveristy within humankind is not? I’d like to ask you why someone has to live in a predetermined manner for it to be the right way to live? I’d like to ask ¬†you what is so bad about allowing someone else to live their version of a happy life, even, especially if it’s not the same definition of happy as yours? I’d like to ask you what will it take for you to see that my sons do not have a disorder, they have a different neurological structure. What are the words you need to hear to understand that their value is not to be based upon how well they can become chameleons in society, but that their value is based upon the person they truly are when they stop trying to fit into your rigid, substandard predetermined cookie cutter shape of humanity…The Autistic Person they always have been and always will be does not need to be fixed, they just need to be loved, respected and appreciated for who they are, just like every other living creature on this biologically diverse¬†planet.

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Goodbye Toddlerhood

stock-illustration-58367370-cute-children-cartoon-waving-handMy youngest turned 4 this past week and with her latest birthday I now officially no longer have any toddlers. My youngest is now classified as a “preschooler”. The day she was born the doctor came to see me once I’d woken up and told me I could not have anymore children. He cautioned me that I’d barely made it through having her and warned me that if I became pregnant again I would not live through the next labour. Since she had been an emergency c-section because I was hemorrhaging so badly her and I both were lucky to have lived, I believed him completely. My husband and I took steps to ensure she was our last. I worried at the time that I might feel a loss from not being able to have any more children. I worried that since I had not made the choice, that I would be angry or even bitter as time went on.

I have had moments where I am a bit wistful for the baby stage, for the moments when they are so new and your learning their cries, coos and scent. But overall, I have been at peace with the fact she was will always be my youngest. As I watch her get bigger, develop into the person she is, I am thrilled and in awe. As much as I am certain that any other children I might have had would have been amazing individuals as well, I feel a deep sense of contentment with no longer having any in the baby or toddler stages.

I’m excited to now have two in the preschooler stage, in addition to a teen, and two tweens. (My eldest step-daughter became a teen in February) I’m looking forward to all of the adventures that I get to have with them as they continue to grow into the persons they are meant to become. While I adored each of their baby and toddler stages, I’m waving a happy farewell to that stage of parenting as I leap into the next one with them.

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Reacting verses Responding

It’s easy sometimes to forget how deeply our words impact those around us. It’s easy to forget that what we say and do lives in the hearts and minds of those we love and care for, especially our children. Times when we’re tired and frustrated by a bunch of things that may not even have to do with our child and then they do something, something they’ve done a million times before and we snap. We respond to their actions with our own frustration and upset instead of¬†responding to¬†it in the way our children deserve.

I’m human and I make mistakes, I get mad, and tired, sore and frustrated, and I too can react in a negative fashion. But I try every day to make sure I don’t. I try to respond instead of react.

My “trick” when I’m about to react instead of respond is to look at their hand. Why their hand? Because your closed fist is the approximate size of your heart. I look at their little hand and I see a visual reminder of how tiny their heart is just yet, and I refuse to fill such a small space with pain and words that will haunt them.

Looking at their hand helps me to be reminded that I am here to take their hand in mine and guide them, to show them how to access the great potential that is within each and every single person, their own personal greatness. I take a deep breath as I think of all this and then instead of reacting, I respond.

I respond with love. I try to help them find the most positive way of receiving what they wanted, be it a cookie or a toy someone else is playing with or additional attention. (Any project or chore can wait, but the giving of love and attention should’t be postponed when it’s asked for.)

Why do I say respond instead of react?

The dictionary’s definition of react is to act or do something in reaction to something else. BUT the definition of respond is to provide an answer to a query. In the middle ages respond was a noun for a pillar that actively supported. I feel that especially when they are young, they are looking towards the adults in their life to show them how to act, how to obtain what they want and need, and how to be the best them they can be. They are not purposely trying to “push buttons” or be “bad” they are simply making bad choices because they don’t yet know how to make better choices. It’s up to their adults to answer their unspoken questions and show them how to make better choices.

 

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Some things you just can’t Google

There are times when I get caught up in ensuring that Mr.C is “on-track” or “at grade level” with his peers. I get fixated from time to time on the lists lit up upon my computer screen of all the things our local school board says he should know at this time. Lists of facts and figures, books they have chosen, grammatical rules and scientific theories. But no where in their reams of pages does it speak of morals, attitude, creative thinking, leadership skills, ingenuity or honour.

When I get caught up on what he does or does not know academically, I remind myself of the following:

I am not here to create a robot that can spout facts or scientific theories verbatim, but lacks the ingenuity to put them to productive use when he needs or even wants to do so.

I am not here to force him to memorize plots and dialogues, but lacks the critical thinking skills to grasp the significance of some of the literary works of art we currently have access to as a society in general.

I am not here to ensure he conforms to someone else’s standards, but lacks the honour and strength of character to stand up for what is right when what is wrong is being accepted as the status quo.

What I AM here to do is to teach him to (eventually) be a good man. To be the type of person others will be proud to call their friend, their ally. To be someone with enough courage to stand up for what is right, even when he’s forced to stand alone to do so. To be a man of honour, of integrity, to be a man of ¬†ingenious¬†leadership abilities, even when he’s only leading himself along his own path.

Don’t get me wrong, I DO teach him academics, but if it takes him a bit longer than some piece of paper says to learn¬†about the periodic table of elements or the correct placements of commas I’m okay with that. Why, because he’s learning SO much more right now, he’s learning how to become the man he will be for the rest of his life.

Plus if he forgets the standard conversion rate of ATP to ADP he can Google it,¬†but when it comes to things like strength of character well there are some things you just can’t Google ūüėČ

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Grounded from Age

I recently watched this video and it totally struck me as my eldest has lost his last baby tooth just last week. It’s funny and sweet and a little bit sad all at once, and everything every parent out there feels as our wee ones become not so wee anymore.

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#HAWMC Day 7: Why I write about Autism

#HAWMC Day 7: Why I write about Autism. Tell us why you write. How long have you been writing? What impact has it made on your life? Write for 15-20 minutes without stopping.

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I write because if more people understand Autism than there will be less times that parents are ostracised and called out for their supposed flaws as parents. (Such as this)

I want to help show the parents of children that have just been diagnosed the beauty and wonder of parenting that still awaits them! I really am “Happy in Holland”¬†and I don’t wish for different children. Instead I get my butt researching and thinking and planning on how to best help them to have a life they define as happy.¬†¬†I’m going to repeat that, because I think that right there is a huge issue. I want them to have a life they define as happy. Nowhere do I say I want them to create the life I deem as happy, because it’s not about me, it’s about them. Just as my life isn’t about what my parents deem as a happy life, it’s about what my spirit says is personally fulfilling, and my children deserve the same right to choose their own happiness, as does every other person on this planet!

I write to help other parents see that they don’t need to feel helpless in their childrearing of Autistic kids; they can research and plan and create methods and ways to enrich their children’s lives and help them to access their fullest potential all without demeaning, or shaming them or their natural neuro-pathways. Such as ensuring their cortisol levels are decreased through regular physical activities so they have less overloading and meltdowns. Or making behavioural therapy plans while their waiting for ABA, or creating a sensory room, or finding ways such as massage or the creation of “nests” to make going to sleep easier for them.

I write about my sons’ health, about their “condition” because I want the world to understand the path they walk in this life. I want to share the beauty and wonder they bring to me, and to so many people around them. I want for others to see that yeah they’re different, but it’s beautiful and special and amazing and so incredible. I write about Autism because too many negative stereotypes exist and I can’t change them without shining a light on what Autism really is. What Autism really means and why neurodiversity desperately needs to be accepted by our society.

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