Friday, December 2, 2016

Book Review: Stressed Out! For Parents: How to Be Calm, Confident & Focused by Dr Ben Bernstein

Stressed Out! For Parents: How to Be Calm, Confident & Focused by Dr Ben Bernstein with Michelle Packard, author of Family Ever After. 

Stressed out is a bit different to the books that I normally review on Life with Aspergers, particularly because it has no direct connection to autism.

Nevertheless, stress is something that most parents are very familiar with, particularly parents with children on the spectrum. Stress is also something that people with Autism, Aspergers or Anxiety experience a great deal.

Throughout the book, it sets up scenes of parental stress ranging from bad behaviour to unmet expectations and full-on family disputes. In those early chapters, I kept expecting the information on calming down to be followed by alternate and workable solutions.

There are no solutions to parenting problems in this book. It's simply “not that kind of book”.

This book aims to make you a better parent but not because of solutions to specific problems. Like the serenity prayer, this book helps you to find your calm centre through the recognition and acceptance of the things that you cannot change.

For example, you want your daughter to clean her room and you become stressed when it doesn't happen. The book doesn't teach you how to motivate or coerce her into doing the work but teaches you to recognise that the stress and the expectations are coming FROM you. You’re bringing those to the table, not your daughter. 

At the end of the day, it’s better to have a messy and happy family than one that is stressed.

The book covers three major concepts and presents three “tools” to help with each. I'm not personally sold on every single one of the concepts in the book but that doesn't mean that they won't be more effective in the hands of people with a less cynical point of view.  Certainly the main stress reduction concepts are valid.

With acceptance out of the way, the book concentrates on empowerment, giving parents the tools to boost their personal confidence and the confidence of their children. It’s the second part of the serenity prayer; the courage to change the things you can.

As it turned out, my review copy of Stressed Out! arrived during a particularly stressful time for me (actually, the last three years or so have been super stressful). I found it very helpful and I'm now approaching my oncoming stressful "event horizon" in a much calmer manner. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone who is feeling overwhelmed by the stress in their life, regardless of whether or not it's "parenting stress".

Stressed Out! is published by familius and is available from Amazon in Kindle, Paperback, Hardback and Audible formats. It's also available from Goodreads.


Honesty clause: I was provided with a copy of this ebook free of charge for review purposes. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Book Review: My Wonderful Fran: The Biography of an Amazing Girl by Paul Spelzini

My Wonderful Fran: The Biography of an Amazing Girl by Paul Spelzini

My Wonderful Fran is a touching memoir of a very talented girl by her father.

It covers her life in a very natural and straightforward way, covering her likes and dislikes, family relationships, holidays, school and sports.

While the word Aspergers is used a lot in the book, it's really much more a study of how schizophrenia can quietly enter the lives of families and how powerless we can be without appropriate support networks.

If you're the parent of a child with schizophrenia or chronic depression or if your child has been behaving suspiciously with possible intentions of suicide, then you need to read this book.

Ultimately, My Wonderful Fran is about how even the brightest and most gifted of us, with the best of families, can stumble in difficult circumstances.

My Wonderful Fran; The Biography of an Amazing Girl by Paul Spelzini is available in hardback, paperback and kindle formats from Amazon,

Honesty Clause: I was provided with a copy of this book free of charge for review purposes.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Trump, Depression and Looking After your own

So, it's happened. Donald Trump is now the President of the United States. There's been a media frenzy and amongst it all, barely even acknowledged, a wave of suicides.

So, whose fault is it? Trump's? ours? The media? The victims? More importantly, what can we do to protect our own?

The Trump presidency is a macrocosm of the microcosm I currently find myself in. Yeah, it's all about me…. it's a similar microcosm to what many people, particularly those with differences, find themselves in every day.

...and the answers are just as simple, and elusive.

It's not the end, we're still here!

Despite all his pre-election rants, no president has the authority to take away basic human rights. They can't launch nuclear weapons simply because they don't like somebody and they're not going to wander through homes deporting or imprisoning people simply because of where they were born or what their sexual preference is.

To suggest otherwise is “fear-mongering” and it's very harmful.

The Microcosm of Depression 

I've worked in the same place for sixteen years. I'm quite comfortable there. We have taken our specialised IT systems at work to levels of complexity that the original designers never dreamed of. The stability has worked wonders for me, for IT and for the company in general.

A few months ago, my boss of 10 years left the company. He was replaced by a new one who doesn't have the time or the interest to understand our current systems but simply wants to “rip and replace” them with things that he is familiar with…. regardless of effort, security or record keeping.

My once-trusted advice is now being ignored and I'm going from a position of deep expertise to a relative “newbie” in these systems. It's all very depressing.


Of course, there are rumours flying everywhere, will I be replaced? Demoted? Rendered obsolete?

It's been affecting me badly. I've hated going to work these past months and I've found myself pondering how nice it would be to just die.

Fortunately, I'm an old hand at dealing with depression and when I reach that point I know “it's the Aspergers talking” and I have to make changes in my life and thoughts.  I have responsibilities to my family and no stupid job is worth a life.

Things are a little better now. Nothing has changed except my attitude. At this point I'm going to follow the new boss into the abyss and accept the change for what it is and see what I can learn from it. All going well, I'll be an expert in the new technology in no time.

I'm not going to keep trying to rescue the company from management stupidity. It's not up to me to rescue people who don't want to be rescued. If they fail, it's on them. If they succeed, I will have learned some valuable lessons and will probably develop new respect for the new boss.

There's no need to go burning bridges but I'll be keeping my eyes open for other jobs just the same.

The Macrocosm - It's only four years 

Back to Trump. He's the president for four years.Many of his policies might sound terrible and they may have a short term negative effect on the country but then again, they might work- even if it's not for the reasons that he intended.

At the end of the day, America will still exist in four years and you'll all have another chance to vote. In the meantime, the different management style is an interesting learning opportunity (not just for America but for the rest of the world too).

Looking After Your Own

As I mentioned earlier, it's an easy slide downhill from depression to suicide and that's a real problem. Now, more than ever, we need to be protecting our vulnerable people.

Protecting people means reassuring them that you love them, that they're not alone and that they're valuable members of society - and valued FOR their differences, not “in spite of them”.

It means that we need to think twice before forwarding on yet another fear mongering meme about Donald Trump.

Sure they're funny but they're clearly affecting our vulnerable, special people - and like jobs, no stupid politician is worth a life.

Book Review: Color my Senses: The Sensory Detective Coloring Book by Paula Aquilla BSc, OT, DOMP

Color my Senses: The Sensory Detective Coloring Book by Paula Aquilla BSc, OT, DOMP is a colouring book with a difference. It goes into detail on the human sensory system and covers not only the five “major” senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing but also three less discussed senses; 


  • Proprioception; knowledge of where your body is in relation to the world.



  • Interoception; knowing how you feel inside (eg: stomach grumbling)



  • Vestibular; balance and movement 


As a frequent reader of books about autism, I'm very much aware of these other senses but I think that this is the first time I've found all three in a book aimed at children.

For me, that makes this the most accurate (perhaps the only accurate) kid's book on the sensory system today.

Having introduced all of the senses, the book uses a “crossing the road” example to show how the various senses work together. It's a very effective example.

At times, the level of detail is astonishing for a kid's book and the words used never pander to the very young but remain consistent and scientific. The words visual, auditory, olfactory, gustatory and tactile are used instead of simply sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.

This makes the book much more interesting and useful for older children while not excluding younger readers.

Finally, there's a paragraph on sensory modulation. It never actually mentions autism or sensory issues but it leads the reader right up to that point. It makes an ideal book for a teacher to read to the class before explaining how some children and adults can experience sensory overload.

The drawings are simple and self-explanatory. They look very easy to colour in too.

The author, Paula Aquilla has been an occupational therapist for more than thirty years, she and has extensive involvement with kids with special needs. She’s the founder of the YES I CAN! INTEGRATED NURSERY SCHOOL, YES I CAN! SUMMER CAMP and the I LOVE MY BABY PROGRAM in Toronto. Paula was also the founding executive director of GIANT STEPS, a private school for children with autism, at Toronto. She runs a private practice serving children with special needs and their families.

Color my Senses by Paula Aquilla BSc, OT, DOMP is without a doubt the best book on the sensory system aimed at young children but due to the language and detail, its usefulness extends well beyond the early years and it is equally suitable for older children who need an introduction to the senses.

Color my Senses: The Sensory Detective Coloring Book is published and available in paperback from Future Horizons. It's also available from Amazon and Goodreads.

Honesty Clause: I was provided with a copy of Color my Senses free of charge for review purposes.


Sunday, November 6, 2016

Book Review: Edward Unspooled by Craig Lancaster

Edward Unspooled is Craig Lancaster's latest "Edward Stanton" novel.  It follows on from the events of 600 hours of Edward, reviewed here and Edward Adrift, reviewed here.  It's funny because I really wanted more after 600 hours but felt closure after Edward Adrift. I didn't think there was much left to write about. How wrong I was. Edward Unspooled is easily the best of the three. 

Edward Unspooled is one of the most enjoyable books I've ever read - and for that reason, I read it very, very slowly trying to enjoy every nuance of it. I've only finished it now because I've gotten a backlog of other books to review.

You don't have to have read the other Edward books before reading this one but I think it probably helps. This time, the pacing is a lot tighter. Craig has dispensed with the weather reports and added a female voice to the mix. It makes things far more dynamic and personal.

One of the things that I'm always talking about on this blog is "letter writing to your partner".  (See: Letter Writing in Relationships Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 and Marriage Encounters Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4).

If you have Asperger's syndrome, particularly if you're a "writer-type aspie" like I am, this is one of the most critical tools to have in your relationship arsenel.

Without giving too much away, Edward Unspooled takes the form of a co-written diary in which a couple talk about marriage issues during a period of significant change. There's a lot going on and given that people with Asperger's syndrome don't always handle change well, there's a lot to disucss.

Edward is a masterclass in Asperger's relationship letter writing and it's a great story with enough unexpected twists and turns and a shocking moment or two to keep you hooked.

Like all the Edward books, there are no car chases, no murders, no spaceships. It's all about family and about Asperger's syndrome but mostly this time, it's about relationships. It's about give and take, about change, compromise and forgiveness.

Edward Unspooled is available from Amazon as a kindle eBook, Goodreads as a paperback and there's an audio book version available from Audible.

I honestly can't praise this book enough. Just get it. 

I'm now planning to read one of Craig's other books; The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter, and if you've read Edward, you'll know why.



Honesty Clause: I was not provided with a review copy of this book. I simply bought it and read it because the others were so good. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Creating Job Opportunities for Your Kids with Special Needs

I've posted a few times over the years on the difficulty of finding appropriate jobs for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome and other special needs.

There's the need to find a job that matches their special interests but also doesn't involve a lot of confrontational personal contact.

You need to find a boss that is understanding of your child's differences and who knows when to push and when to relax the rules… and of course, you need to get your young adult past the interview stage.

Sometimes it's just “all too much”, sometimes you need to create that employment environment yourself.

Picking the right career 

There are two major factors influencing the choice of career;


  • Special interests 
  • Long term availability 

Special Interests

Your young adult with Aspergers will thrive in an environment that is tied to their special interests but not all interests are career-worthy.

If your young adult has an interest in cars, woodwork, animals or computers, the career opportunities are clear but if their interests lie in less career-oriented pursuits, you might have to get creative, or you might have to look for employment opportunities outside of the special interests.

Long Term Availability 

It's not a good idea to start a career in an area where the prospects are shrinking. 

For example, it's a “given” that although they're very suitable for people with Asperger’s, jobs in libraries are becoming scarce. The same goes for general store checkout jobs as these are being steadily replaced by automated systems, and by purchases over the Internet.

Even fast food and package delivery jobs are short term with drones moving in on those spaces.

The most future-proof jobs are those which need lots of “hands on” and those with permanent or growing patrons.

Setting things up for your young adult with Aspergers 

Unless you have a lot of spare cash, you'll have to start slowly, perhaps with some volunteer work just to be sure that your young adult is interested in the work.

If all goes well, you'll want to set up a company and make sure that you have the right equipment and insurance.

From there, it's just a matter of marketing. Setting up a web site is easy and can be done at low cost (or even “no cost). Distribution of pamphlets can also be done at low cost and of course, “word of mouth” counts for a lot too if you're doing a good job.

Some Business Ideas

Here's a bunch of easy “starter” ideas to try;


Gardening

Busy business people and the elderly are usually in need of gardening and/or mowing services.

Technology

Visiting the elderly and helping them to learn how to use their devices, fixing problems and helping those who can't learn to at least read and answer their email. If you arrange visits to local retirement villages and charge a small amount per person, it could become a worthwhile activity. If you're particularly proficient in computers, you could offer support to a wider audience- or even small local businesses.

Pet Services 

There are plenty of opportunities for simply dog-walking as people these days are often too busy to walk their dogs. As you become more experienced, you could offer additional services such as washing or grooming.

Child Minding and other Child Services 

There's always a need for babysitting services but there's also a lot of opportunities for after school care. It's important to note that this is one job that you can't do alone. You'll need two responsible adults at all times.

If you're academically inclined, you could offer one on one after school tutoring, or even special needs tutoring.

Driving 

Obviously there are plenty of driving jobs for delivery companies but there are also opportunities via new services such as uber.

Hairdressing and Makeup 

If you're good with cosmetics, there are plenty of opportunities to visit people ‘s houses and help them with this sort of thing. You may also be able to sell beauty products at the same time.

Photography 

There aren't so many jobs in photography now that digital cameras are so simple but there's still a lot of people out there who would pay for quality photos. If it's something that you're good at, you might want to consider pet, child or beauty photography.

Perhaps approach the local preschools and offer to take photos. You could send low resolution images to the parents and let them decide if they want to pay for them.

Other Diverse Interests

If your young adult has other diverse interests, look for a way that they can be monetised. Sometimes this is as simple as setting them up as an eBay "broker" for the buying and selling of things.

If your young adult has an interesting collection of items or has particular skills, for example, in electronics, they may want to develop a "lesson" that they can take to scout halls. The scouts are always on the lookout for low cost activities. An electronics activity that costs $5 per scout could bring in $150 if there were 30 scouts.  If the activity is successful and well received, you could branch out to schools.

Whatever you choose, let the special interest be your guide. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

If you love someone who might have Asperger's syndrome, should you tell them?

Over the years, I've been asked this question many, many times. It is a really tricky question because you never quite know how someone is going to take the news. 

The problem occurs when a neurotypical person has a partner who displays many of the signs of Asperger's syndrome but doesn't know that they have it. In this case, the relationship can quickly become very strained. A person with Asperger's syndrome needs to know that their responses are different to a person without Asperger's syndrome.  They need to know that their emotional needs are quite different from those of their partner, more different for example, than simply the differences between men and women.

Unfortunately telling someone that they have a "mental condition" never goes down very well.

Should you tell them?

If you feel that your partner would be open-minded and willing to work on adjusting to your needs - and if you're willing to adjust to theirs, then it's worthwhile telling them. If on the other hand, you're fairly sure that your partner will simply reject the information, or that it will make them angry, then it's really not going to do any good to throw a diagnosis into the mix.

Telling your Partner

If you do decide to talk to your partner about Asperger's syndrome, consider a more tactical approach.  If you have a child with Asperger's and/or suspected Asperger's then it's easy to supply your partner with books on the subject under the guise of "divide and conquer".  If you say, "we'll each read a different book on the subject and talk about what we've learned, you'll probably find that your discussions naturally lead you down the path you expected.

If on the other hand, you don't have a child who can be discussed, things are a little different.

You could try reading out a short passage from a book or from the web and saying "does this sound like you".  If your partner doesn't realise that it's a diagnostic thing, they might be more open to talking about it. If all else fails, and if your partner is willing to give things a go, you can always try the RDOS Aspie test together.

The RDOS Quiz is here; http://www.rdos.net/eng/Aspie-quiz.php  You don't have to logon if you don't want to, you can go straight to the test.