Autism Awareness Month

April is Autism Awareness Month (as well as National Poetry Month, School Library Month and a few other things.) I’ll be focusing on Autism, as it is something that affects my life every day—both positively and negatively. It is also the inspiration for CORRODED (my yet-to-be-published novel.)

I’ve recently updated my category tabs on the right side of the website. There is now more organization between ideas, including an “ASD Autism Spectrum Disorders” main listing with subcategories, to make it easier to readers to find exactly what they are looking for.

This month on my Facebook page I will be posting daily tidbits about ASD so join in the conversation there if you’d like. Also, you can check out my Pinterest board for CORRODED, where you can find videos and pictures relating to the main characters including Aspie Ben Thomas.

This image was created by The Analyzing Aspie. Find him at https://www.facebook.com/TheAnalyzingAspie

This image was created by The Analyzing Aspie. Find him at https://www.facebook.com/TheAnalyzingAspie

Music: The Sensory Edition

If you know me, or have followed this blog for any amount of time, you realize that I love music. I use music for mood alteration, inspiration, and escape. My preferred listening method is live, in concert. For sanity sake, I try to attend at least two live performances a year but life doesn’t always allow that.

My second and third choices for listening are earphones and in the car—alone. 100_4829

Having songs plugged into my ears is great for tuning out exterior noise, but it isn’t always practical when supervising children. Plus, I don’t want to subject those around me to my butchered attempts when singing along.

When driving, I usually have my nifty homeschool kids in the car and they like music, too, just not always the same stuff I like. I used to put the “Children’s Music” playlist on shuffle when we went anywhere but I found myself getting a little snappy after fifteen minutes. So now the whole iPod—which is attached to a cassette adapter because I’m so last century—gets put on shuffle when we go.

A Disney song = the kids happy, or most of them, and often me.

A little Mitch Malloy = me happy, and sometimes the kids.

Queen = everyone is good.

Sesame Street = one happy kid.

The Beach Boys = all good, for most songs.

And on, and on.

There are a few times it’s easier to skip to the next song because the natives are noisily protesting, but most of the time they settle down when I say “it’s Mommy’s turn.” When a song I love comes on, my immediate reflex is to turn it up, but with boys with sensory issues in the car, they drown out the music with their own shrieking of discomfort. (That or I get “What’s Mommy singing?” from my teen with autism, as if he can’t tell I’m trying to sing the song that we’re listening to. Funny kid.)

All this—and more—is why my favorite non-live music experience is in the car. ALONE. I can turn it up as loud as I want and sing off-key without annoying people. (I’d also say without embarrassing myself, but I never know who is watching from the outside of the car.) Listening in a vehicle is a step above earphones because the music cocoons your whole self, not just your ears. At times you can feel it, but it’s an immersive experience and the steering wheel makes a good keyboard or drum.

What’s your listening habit?

Light it Up, Softly

Sensory issues are often the crux of the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders, and because most people spend their waking hours with their eyes open, visual problems are often the most tiresome. Light sources, rather natural or manmade, can be a blessing or curse for those with this sensitivity. 100_4588

In the U.S., we’re on the verge of a possible lighting crisis. The turn of the New Year will mark another reduction in light bulb options, closing the choice of yet more incandescent bulbs at stores around the country. Fluorescent lights, whether long strip bulbs or the compact swirly ones (which are terrible for the earth—read the disposal warning on them), are often visual triggers for susceptible people. The flicker, harsh glow, and even the hum of the offending bulbs can cause headache, eye fatigue or emotional meltdowns for those with sensory difficulties.

The same thing happened, not long ago, in the United Kingdom. You can read one account of it here. http://www.autism.org.uk/working-with/leisure-and-environments/architects/light-sensitivity-and-autism.aspx

This an important situation for me, as myself and loved ones suffer from light sensitivity. Ben, one of the main characters in CORRODED (one of my fictional labors of love, yet-to-be-published stories) has to deal with this as well. Here’s a little peek, from Chapter Ten, when Mary and Ben are at his house playing a round of Battleship.

“You never explained to me why you don’t go outside during the day,” I said.
“I go outside. Remember the first day we met? I sat on the porch with you and your mom.”
“Oh… well, then why don’t you go for walks and stuff?” I asked.
“I’m sensitive to sunlight.”
“Like, you burn easily?”
Ben shook his hands like he was air-drying them. “No, it’s my eyes. Bright sunlight causes sensory overload and I can barely function. Fluorescent light does the same thing. It’s common for Aspies.”
I looked up at the soft white glow of the over-head lights. “So, going to schools and office buildings must be difficult.”
“The worst. That’s one of the reasons I homeschool. If I do have to venture out for a medical appointment or something I wear sunglasses inside.”

Autism Conference

Yesterday I attended my first autism conference. I’ve gone to workshops and support group meetings, but never a large event. It was three days, but I could only make it to one. I chose the final day because John Elder Robison was a presenter. Yes, that means I missed the iconic Temple Grandin, but I was not disappointed. Not in Mr. Robison anyway. He redeemed the emotions and interest that the first speaker lacked/lost.
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Back to the beginning… I started off early and drove to The University of West Florida, just me and my iPod with the “Wonder Rock” playlist on shuffle. (Translation: lots of Europe, Boston, and Mitch Malloy with a sprinkling of other assorted rockers prominently from the 1970s-1990s.) The campus—sprawling with space between buildings and acres of natural landscape left in tack—was lovely and the fact that their logo has a nautilus was, in my mind, a nod of serendipity to my adventure.

Mr. Robison was hilarious and thought provoking. His passion for sharing his stories (Hello, three books!) shined as well as his social quirks—like pacing around the stage when his family was doing their Q&A. And his family was great, too! Lots of insight and they answered a question for me: What’s the value of getting an Asperger’s diagnosis as an adult? (Which now, with the new DSM-V manual, would be “autism” since the Asperger’s label was removed and it doesn’t differentiate between the levels on the spectrum.)
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I’m leaning toward Mr. Robison’ practical response, though greater peer acceptance and an official credential would be nice. The liability/cost of medical/life insurance when you are diagnosed is greater. Let’s hear it for logical thinkers!

One tool that Mr. Robison recommended was an Autism-Spectrum Quotient test that was posted by Wired magazine many years back. I took it and tested forty-two. No surprise to me. My husband scored seventeen—we’re a case study in opposites attract.

The conference was educational/life affirming. Lots of Aspies to hear from and several things were reinforced to me about what I can do to encourage my ASD son in his growth. What, you ask? Never give up because learning and development continues into adulthood and let him follow his passions/obsessions. Plus, I got two books autographed but I was too shy to ask for a photo.

I’ll diffidently go to another event where any of the Robisons are featured speakers. The day was well spent but I’m curious to see how my friends score on the AQ test. Leave your number in the comments if you’re feeling brave.

World Autism Day

April is Autism Awareness Month and April 2 is World Autism Day. While not everyone in the autism community can agree on theories of cause, treatment, etc, I think everyone believes that knowledge and understanding is a good thing.

Education is a good thing, no matter if you are looking at the autism spectrum as in insider or outsider. Feel free to share links to sites, quotes, books, and other tidbits that have inspired and helped you and your loved ones. My previous thoughts on the topic can be found under the category “autism” in the tool bar on the right side of this page.

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