Friday, October 28, 2016

Book Review: A Real Boy

A Real Boy: a True Story of Autism, Early Intervention, and Recovery

It probably says something uncomplimentary about me that I keep taking offense to the various book titles I run across in the library.  But I mean, come on... how does that title not shriek "Pinocchio" at anyone?  Like the kid in question wasn't a real person until after he got therapy.

But if you read the book, that's really not at all what the parent-author is saying.  The "real boy" phrase is something the author's kid said, after a lot of therapy and exhaustive work.  So my ire is mostly unwarranted.  Mostly.  I realize unique titles are hard to find, but.  Uff.  There's an entire chapter devoted to talking about how autism isn't inherently awful and autistic people can be a huge asset to society.  Given that insight, you'd think someone (maybe glaring at you, publishing company) would take more care with the title.

My not-entirely-deserved umbrage aside, this is the story of one family trying to get their son to thrive.  The mother-author is your guide through the trying, exhausting, and even heartbreaking months and years of early-intervention for her son.  The story is told matter-of-factly, not sparing the feelings or actions of the people in the story.  This is not a fairy tale story.  It ends happily, thankfully, but there are plenty of moments of despair, loss, fear, and dread.  There is blame and conflict alongside the joy and hope.  The marriage of the author and her husband is tested, repeatedly. I somehow doubt this book goes into every pitfall, trial, and unkind word that happened in this time period, and it seems to me like the author is a bit too perfect of a character in her recollection, but I can't say I'd do any better if I wrote a memoir. 

Like many success stories, this one involves not one single effective therapy, but many.  This is most commonly the case with autism.  There is no single fix.  There is no magic pill.  Instead, you're left weaving together psychologists with ABA (applied behavioral analysis) with gluten-free casein-free diets with prescription drugs...  Even chiropractic, neurofeedback (oh hey that's me), and supplements.  Any of these fields on average, will swear that they and they alone have the key to helping you or your child, but in reality, it usually doesn't work that way. 

The author is an excellent writer, and I found it easy (if depressing, often) to follow the thread of the narrative and empathize with her trials.  I kind of got lost on the timeline of things, and if there was a recap or summary at the end, I missed it.  Best I can tell is that it's a story from birth to about age 6.  I somehow doubt the kid's story is over... he struggled hard to get as far as he did, as did his parents... but the difficulty level of his life is about to ramp up.  School gets tougher, emotional spectrums expand, societal pressures and expectations broaden, hormones hit... I didn't, as far as I know, struggle that hard at that age... but middle school and high school were all kinds of awful.

The book may end here, but I have no doubt further challenges are in store.  I can only hope the parents will face them with the same tenacity they faced these early challenges. 

Read This Book If:

You want an idea of the struggles a family (and a marriage) can go through when a child is diagnosed autistic and struggles to find the right therapies and supports.  Especially since you can be assured it's a story of success in the end. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Legwork and Life, week of 10/25/16

Y'know it's funny, normally I'd be stressing about my birthday creeping up on me, but I really don't even care right now with all the wedding prep I have yet to do.  I extended my To-Do list to thrice its original length and I'm still not sure everything's on there.

I guess it's not really an important birthday, that much.  It's not like I'm hitting a year-based milestone, like 25 or 30, and there's not anything impressively aging-related about this year.  There've been notable health changes, and changes in my family, but nothing like, say, developing early onset Alzheimer's.

That said, regardless of how I feel about it, Chris is being sweet and making a point of celebrating it.  We're probably going to take advantage of the Halloween-reduced entry fee for the John Ball Zoo (the place is riddled with Charmanders in Pokemon GO, besides all the real animals!), plus he's taking me shopping at a jerky store in the area that carries bison and other unusual meats.  That'll get expensive fast, so I'll probably help with the final bill.  I love jerky, but it's pretty much only beef and turkey you find in grocery stores.  I won't eat either of those without knowing the source is humane, so it ends up being less popular meats, or nothing.  Usually nothing.  But there's much less call for, say, ostrich, or alligator, or even bison, so my chances of consuming factory-farmed, miserable animals are much less.

I already had a friend get dibs on my first birthday present for the year: a fancy subscription to Spotify, which is a music-streaming service.  I haven't gotten to play around with it a ton yet, but it seems to have a very respectable Classical section, plus some electronica I'll probably enjoy, and various popular artists.  It should make for a much nicer car ride to CT.  My own musical collection is extensive, but it's also unwieldy and somewhat unorganized.  Spotify is very simple: pick a genre and hit play, or search more specifically if you wish.  There are mood music categories as well, such as soft and relaxing piano music section I'm fond of.  In addition, the gift-giver also sent me a custom playlist of chant music, which he'd put together on his own.  Overall, pretty cool.

Another bonus to this year's horrendous 13-hour one-way ordeal in the car...

If you're wondering if you're looking at a one gallon thermos, the answer is yes.

This was not a birthday present, but we did find it for a very good price and almost immediately realized that it's ideal for carrying icewater on road trips.  Or gatorade, I suppose, but I'd rather not clean sugar-residue out of the nozzle.  When I was much younger, my mother would painstakingly pack water bottles, sandwiches, and healthy snacks into a rectangular cooler for the 20 hour trip between the twin cities area of Minnesota and the far side of Detroit, where my grandparents lived.  We had to be careful about opening the cooler, though, because once the cold was gone, it was gone.  Chris and I aren't so good about the healthy snacks and sandwiches, but we do very much like having cold water along.  This particular cooler isn't the biggest cooler I've ever seen, but it will keep its innards cold for a literal 24 hours.  We have several smaller versions of this brand, so I can safely say that's not a marketing exaggeration.  And admittedly, if we ever have a party or something here, instead of having guests have to pour out of the water filter-pitcher, I could just direct them to the silly cooler.

I wouldn't say I'm looking forward to the 13+ hours in the car, but I would say they'll be much less misery-inducing hours than previous years.  Chris and I are both already looking forward to the vacation at the end of November, though. 

Friday, October 21, 2016

Book Review: The Un-Prescription for Autism

The Un-Prescription for Autism: A Natural Approach for a Calmer, Happier, and More Focused Child, by Janet Lintala with Martha W. Murphy.

You know, I'm pretty sure both my mother and my first school taught me not to judge books by their covers.   That said, it didn't take much education in psychology to know that people may be taught that maxim, but will absolutely ignore it immediately.  The saying is more meant to be applied in dealings with people, not physical books at a library, but the principle does apply.  I always envisioned the saying referring to the pictures and colors on the book cover.  Particularly after I learned that the modern author has about as much control as a reader in regards to the cover of their book.

But I should probably start applying the saying to book titles, too, because those also are sometimes determined by the publishing companies.  And also because of books like this one.  My first thought, upon reading the title of this book, was, "Gee, people will do anything to avoid saying 'cure' in regards to autism, won't they."  Which I'm afraid was rather unfair of me, to this book and its authors, at least in retrospect.  I'm not yet convinced that the whole of the autism world isn't dancing around the word like it's a Nazi comparison in an Internet debate, but this book, at least, explains itself quickly.  "Un-Prescription" is not meant in the sense of "undiagnosing" or "curing" someone with autism.  It's meant in the sense of propping up the body's own systems using "natural" supports.  I put "natural" in quotes because while prescription medication is hardly natural, shoveling helpful bacteria down your throat is also not terribly natural either.  There is, however, a body of evidence supporting probiotics, so, y'know.

This book is divided into two parts: theory and practice.  Theory covers chronic pain and problems, organizing your data, probiotics, enzymes, and antimicrobial agents.  Each section comes with footnotes and a body of scientific studies, which can be found at the end of the book.  You check off your child's particular problems, if the section applies at all, and come up with a "to do" list of sorts custom made for your child.  I hadn't heard of either enzymes or antimicrobial agents being treatment options in autism, so that alone was kind of interesting.

More interesting to me though, was the explanation of why gluten-free/casein-free diets can help autistic people.  Actually, it was downright horrifying to read.  In brief: the idea that incomplete digestion of gluten and casein (dairy) can leave proteins (peptides) that closely resemble morphine.  Normally, this wouldn't be an issue because the brain is protected from the bloodstream and digestive tract by a barrier.  But if you add in leaky gut syndrome, you get, well... leakage.  So morphine-like substances affecting the brain. Remove the gluten and casein, or as this book suggests, take enzymes to aid in digestion of gluten and casein, and you eliminate the digestion problem, and the morphine-like substance.

So, uh, at least according to the authors' experiences, some bad behavior and suffering in kids with autism is caused by opiates.  As I mentioned, I found the concept absolutely horrifying.  Probably because I learned some of the effects of opiates in my various school anti-drug campaigns and my psychology education.  Morphine is used for controlling pain, but at least in popular culture, it has the side effect of making you not feel or care about anything.  Given that I don't generally recognize fun when it's dancing in front of me wearing a clown suit, I kind of wonder if the opiate effect applies to my case, too. 

I spoke with my LENS-doctor (and supplements-doctor) about feasibility of the theory, and she didn't even blink.  According to her, any person with leaky gut can have these effects, but people with autism show symptoms of it louder and more obviously than the general population.  Some schools of thought call us "the canaries in the coal mine," regarding things like this.  But my doctor assured me that it wasn't simply an autism thing.  Schizophrenic people, and people with biopolar disorder, also show signs of increased suffering from this awful quirk of biology.

So that's a thing, apparently.  The book's solution was twofold: the first is obvious, transitioning to a gluten-free casein-free diet.  The second, which is easier to start but should transition in the first, is enzymes.  My fiancee, Chris, is lactose-intolerant.  He doesn't naturally produce enough lactase, the enzyme that digests dairy, to digest say, a glass of milk.  So we mainly avoid feeding him dairy-heavy products.  But if Chris needs to drink a glass of milk, or say, eat ice cream or some other dairy product, there's an option.  He can chew up a lactase tablet with his first bite of food, swallow it, and then for a short time, his body will digest the dairy normally.

The concept behind these enzymes for gluten and casein seems more or less the same to my eyes.  The authors actually recommend those enzymes, but also a broad-spectrum set of enzymes to help with digestion in general.  Every person's biology is different, and some people only need a couple for a short time, while others may be using enzymes for the rest of their lives in addition to having a GFCF (gluten-free casein-free) diet.

After the wedding and honeymoon, I'm going to start on the enzymes under the care of my LENS-doctor, to see what happens.  Going casein-free would be easier than going gluten-free, but depending on how much change I see, I might end up doing both. 

The remainder of the book was practice: how to build these theories into your child's life.  Calendars, tips for keeping the supplements, probiotics, enzymes, and special diets organized and regular, even recommendations for supplement companies, smartphone apps, and other useful tools.  At the very back of the book is the science: 20+ pages of citations. 

The tone of the book is friendly, optimistic, and helpful, and the advice generally seems consistent.  One of the major emphases of the book is to treat the underlying disorder, rather than simply slapping a bandaid on the symptoms.  For example, some people on the spectrum have constipation.  A normal schedule for pooping is once a day, but sometimes these kids don't poop except once a week or so.  In many cases, the book says, the doctors prescribe laxatives to get things moving.  But that only treats the problem, not the cause.  The book purports to treat the cause, so the problem won't need to be treated.

This kind of focus is consistent with what my LENS-doctor preaches and does: treat the cause(s) of the problem, and the problem should cease to be. It also makes logical sense, at least to me.

Read This Book If:

You or your child (autistic or not) suffers from digestive problems and behavioral problems.  It's much, much better to treat the cause of a problem than to treat the problem itself.  In addition, the book can help you organize your detective work to figure out what's going on, as well as give you things to ask your doctor(s) about.  The popular tendency is to prescribe medication at the first sign of behavioral problems, but it may not be needed, and the side effects are often harmful even when you find the right combination of medications.  Speaking as someone on the autism spectrum, I would much rather try propping up the immune and digestive systems before resorting to antidepressants and anti-psychotics.  

Please, if you have a child that meets the criteria I've mentioned above, give this book or at least its recommendations a try before resorting to medication.  If you're an adult with the same issues, I hope you'll consider it as well.  Suffering through life is all we can manage sometimes, but it's not all our lives were meant to be.  If any of the treatments in this book can make your life easier to deal with, it would be worthwhile. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Legwork and Life, week of 10/18/16

"Tired" is the word for this week.  My progress with using the melatonin has stopped dead, despite increasing the dosage.  I'm not sure what to try, and the sleep study results still haven't come in yet due to procrastination at the sleep clinic.  My doctor had a friend of hers look over the results, though, and it doesn't seem like I have sleep apnea.  This is good, because two of my family members snore very loudly and that can be a sign of sleep apnea.  So that's one bullet dodged, I guess.

The downside is that I now have no idea what to do regarding improved sleep.  Besides the annoying things, anyway, which would be to take a walk about an hour before bed, and put all electronics away 2 hours before bed.  I practically live on the computer and carry my tablet everywhere with me.  Putting them aside for two hours would be extremely difficult.  For example, I like to read before bed, but my shelves have a very limited capacity, so most of my books are kept on my tablet.  So reading is out.  I can't read the news, because all of that is online too.  I can't play a simple puzzle game to settle down, because that's on the computer.  Oh look, we've just summarized everything I like to do in the evenings!

Light from electronics is one factor in sleep hygiene, as my doctor puts it.  So I should probably brush up on the rest, just in case it's less onerous.  But I doubt it.  I don't recall any easy answers the last time I read up on this stuff.

In happier news: wedding stuff is coming along!  The last piece for the wedding favors is in, which means Chris and I will be able to start assembling the favors.  I'm excited about that, because these should be pretty cool favors.  In addition, I have a prototype for a table centerpiece for the reception.  I finally got my butt in gear and made plans into reality.  My grandmother, a skilled and experienced flower-arranger, has tentative expressed approval, so that makes me happy.  I'm hoping the final product will look a less less haphazard about the spread of the flowers, but overall it appears to be a good design.  Once the design is finalized, I need only line-produce the various pieces until we get to CT.  I can put them together there and not worry about them getting flattened or destroyed.

I'm also, if barely, managing to start a buffer for the Friday entries.  I have a backup plan for if I can't manage to cover November's Friday entries, but since I'm likely to be very busy getting married, and then trying to enjoy my honeymoon, I'd rather not have to worry about it.  So I'm still busily reading books and trying to write reviews.  I hope y'all aren't too tired of them.  As I've written more and more, it's been harder to find opinions and topics to talk about that I haven't already gone over.  I know from experience that a little repetition isn't a bad thing, but I'd hate to post the same thing twice in slightly different words and have people wondering whether they're wasting their time.

As if I wasn't busy enough, I've also gotten the first episode/session/meetup for a D&D group done.  It's a small group of friends from Michigan and Connecticut, and they're good folks, so I organized and led the first session.  Which was thankfully very simple, because boy howdy I do not need extra complexity right now.  Subsequent sessions won't be nearly so simple, but the next one isn't for a couple weeks, so I have time to flail, panic, and prepare.  Probably in that order. 

Friday, October 14, 2016

Article: Microsoft Hires Autism

I was sent this article by a conscientious friend of mine, and it was interesting reading.  Background in brief: the unemployment rate for autistic adults is horrifying.  The underemployment rate, or the rate at which adults are being employed in menial labor positions because it's the only work people think they're suited for, is also horrifying.

I've seen both these things personally.
  • I struggled to have a job after graduating college, eventually failing out of it entirely, and am presently unemployed save my efforts with this blog and volunteer work.  
  • A friend of mine, also a college graduate, runs his own website design business, but struggles to find and keep enough clients to have a stable, comfortable life.  
  • An acquaintance of mine works part time, without benefits and for minimum wage at a thrift store, despite being more than intelligent enough to run the place.  
Generally speaking, these kinds of situations are the norm.  There are exceptions, but they are few.  Often these exceptions are because of connections: one of the parents or friends of the autistic adult knows someone, who was able to slip the adult past the normal hiring process.  The normal hiring process, I should point out, that is often torturously twisted, punishing any honest and thoughtful applicants.  Practices such as only hiring the people that in the most extreme for optimism, enthusiasm, and idealism on carefully manicured psychological tests, are commonplace. 

Sometimes, those of us who blend better into neurotypical society manage to get a job despite our diagnosis.  These opportunities seem to come in two flavors: in a small company or small work group that isn't bothered by our differences, or in a huge company where those differences are irrelevant to the corporate machine.  In the former case, our differences are at worst tolerated, at best celebrated and encouraged.  In the latter, it's usually more a case of the autistic individual adapting themselves to the often rigid corporate rules, and struggling with the unwritten rules.

This article details a third, burgeoning option.  Microsoft is, generally speaking, one of the towering, faceless, enormous corporation type companies.  But it seems they're trying a different tactic here.  They're trying to make small group environments inside their enormous rigid corporation, in hopes of recruiting good talent from the autistic community.

I'm a cynical, skeptical person by now, so I had to wonder why they were bothering.  There's little apparent profit in helping the marginalized.  The answer?  At least according to this article, parents.  Silicon Valley and other hi-tech places are particularly rife with autism.  Some of the parents at Microsoft have kids on the spectrum.  Their natural concern for their children's future is spearheading the development of a streamlined "autism hiring" program at this giant of the tech world.

I may never personally profit from their efforts, but I can't help but admire their results.  If Microsoft can report a profit despite the extra costs and effort required to train and support autistic workers, other companies will take notice.  And Microsoft will likely not hoard their program, given who spearheaded it, so it may be available in a general format for other companies to use.  In which case, the options for a tech-minded autistic adult will be much expanded and much more friendly than they are at present. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Legwork and Life, week of 10/11/16

"Busy" is the word of the month.  October, as my mother put it, is a birthday blitz.  My birthday, my mother's birthday, my father's birthday, and my sister-in-law's birthday all fall in October.  In addition, at least four of my friends' birthdays fall in October.  While not all of these people hold birthday parties or require presents, it's still a strain on the finances.  Just in time to almost recover before Christmas. I like October, as months ago, but I don't really relax until after the 24th of the month.  That's when everyone elses' birthdays are over and I can start to look forward to/dread the coming of mine.

In supplements news, I'm struggling again.  I now recognize the vitamin B overdose episode I had earlier as a stronger version of what I'm currently dealing with.  I notice, after taking my vitamins, that I feel wired.  I'm presently reading a book that specifically calls out being tired and wired simultaneously, so clearly I'm not alone over here in crazyville.  Something to talk to my LENS-doctor about.

I'm sleeping... somewhat better, since starting the melatonin back up.  The timed-release stuff, by the way, not the regular "puts you to sleep and expects you to stay there afterwards" type.  Most types in the store just put you to sleep, they don't keep you there afterwards.  Timed release (or sustained release, or whatever your brand is) come in two parts- the initial one to put you to sleep, and the second part that goes off later, after a few hours have gone by, so that you stay asleep through the night.  My issue is not falling asleep, but staying asleep, so this is really the best option I have at present.  I still don't feel rested and refreshed in the morning, though...

I haven't managed to get ahold of the sleep lab yet, and I haven't yet spoken to any of the three doctors to whom I directed the results be forwarded.  So either today or tomorrow, I need to do that... but I also need to set up a Livestream for the wedding, and get started on the wedding flowers, and a lot of other stuff.  It must be time to break out the dreaded To Do List again...

On the bright side, my potter friend got me the "vases" for the arrangements, so I'll be able to make proper prototypes!  Up 'til this point it's mainly been imagination and fussing.  She did give me a previous prototype, but one of the key features was different enough that I worried about using it, plus the power of procrastination is strong in me when I'm stressed.

I'm looking at "life management" type apps for autism and other special needs type situations, to try to juggle my symptoms, what I've eaten, my moods (still not always predictable), and other factors in my health.  It seems exhausting and time consuming to write all this stuff down, but if I could get a decent interface to do so, and keep track of it all, it might be invaluable in managing myself.  The problem is cost.  So far I have yet to find anything that won't cost me upwards of $90 a year.  The book I'm presently reading highly recommends Birdhouse, but they want $8 a month for their premium, which is basically the only usable mode.  I was trying to work with the free version, but it's so stripped down as to be useless on a tablet.  Not sure yet about the online interface, but I hate being glued to my computer.

I presume, like other dietary and symptom trackers, they don't care to offer low-income folks a reduced rate.  It makes some sense- they have to pay their employees and run their servers, but I can't help but feel like the price is kind of onerous when a family or individual is already pressed so hard for cash.  I'm speaking somewhat of myself here, but more of the families I helped serve while I worked at Hope Network.  A sizable amount of their business came through the local Community of Mental Health, meaning low income families on Medicaid.  In many cases, both parents worked full time or as close to as they could get in order to keep a roof over their kids' heads, and pay for ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) and other therapies.  Autism isn't polite, only limiting itself to affecting families with resources, it affects everybody.  Some of the families that came from Medicaid only had one parent that spoke English.  One of my jobs as administrative assistant there was calling a translator to help facilitate clear and unbiased communication between the ABA tutors and overseers and the parents.  These were folks that would- and did- drive their kids an hour one way every week morning, or 3 times a week, to get them to ABA.  Through rush hour traffic.  Despite the cost of gas.  And the cost of losing sleep. 

Friday, October 7, 2016

Book Review: Born on a Blue Day

Someday my rampage through the local library system may end, but today is not that day!


Anyway, I took a break from the instructional and educational books I mainly seem to bring home, to pick up this book: Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant, by Daniel Tammet.  The cover immediately threw me for a loop by portraying a blue sky, when in fact the author explains the blueness of the day had nothing to do with the weather, and everything to do with how he thinks about numbers and days.  Mr. Tammet has synesthesia, or in layman's terms, some of his senses are mixed together.  He sees numbers as colors, textures, shapes, and motions, to give you a starting idea.

It only gets more interesting from there.  I won't go into too much detail in hopes that you'll read the whole book. It's a memoir, so it covers Mr. Tammet's life from birth to current time, where he has a job, a spouse, stability, and a good social life.  His life, as the title suggests, has been extraordinary.  He was the sort of baby that quite literally cried all the time, so while he eventually achieved many measures of success, the journey was hardly a cakewalk for him or his parents.  The story is told from the author's point of view, in a matter-of-fact and direct tone I found easy to read and comprehend.

As with most of these life stories, I found myself drawing parallels between my life and the author's.  Though I was born nearly a decade after the author, much nearer to the advent of Asperger's Syndrome as a publicly understood concept, both he and I suffered from lack of understanding.  But, we also benefited.  There is, in the nobler sort of human being, a tendency to shrug off differences that one does not understand.  Not ignore them or pretend they don't exist, but simply coexist with and accept them as part of that person and part of life.  It seems to me that the people most important in Mr. Tammet's life were mainly of this nobler type of humanity.  With those kinds of people, you don't need to explain away your unusual behaviors, or feel like you have to apologize for existing, you can simply exist.

Another thing I noticed is that the author seems to have avoided contracting depression.  Anxiety he has, when his routines are disrupted or life isn't being predictable, but he doesn't describe it as the constant presence I tend to think of mine as.  And while his parents certainly had their difficulties, which he describes non-judgmentally, he himself does not describe any depressive behavior.  For that reason, and others, I'm kind of envious of him.  I'm sure his success in life thus far also plays into this, but perhaps I shouldn't whinge too much, I'm not his age yet.  I guess I still have time to succeed. 

The other major envy-inducing reason is his phenomenal grasp of languages.  This is a man who learns languages for fun.  I took German in middle school, Latin in high school, and Japanese in high school and college, and while I tried hard and liked learning the culture, I never managed anything close to fluency.  I don't know if it's blamable on the anxiety, which kind of undercuts anything practice-related with avoidance behavior, or if I'm simply just not good at languages in general.  My command of written English is excellent, but some days I honestly struggle to put sentences together verbally.  Meanwhile Mr. Tammet has so many cultures and ideas and people available to him.  One of the things he did was travel to Lithuania to volunteer there, teaching English, and I sat and envied that experience.  Not only did he pick up the language, he also made a few friends there, one of which he still speaks of keeping in touch with.  He had real, good, life-changing experiences.

I miss those kinds of experiences, I guess.  The inside of my apartment is very comforting and safe, and the outside world is very hostile and scary and unpleasant, but I did once take a trip to Greece via a college program.  It was kind of an extensive experience.  We were required to pass a test on the culture of Greece to even go, and once there we had to present a topical report on an aspect of the country.  Everything from mythology to politics to history.  In addition, and my most favorite aspect of the trip, our guide was native, and actually liked what she was doing.  My crowning success of that trip was not my report, or getting to study how other college students act in other countries, but learning how to say "hello," "please/excuse me," "thank you," and "bless you," in modern Greek, without more than a trace of an accent.  Our guide made us practice, and I applied myself to trying to say the words exactly as she did.

I suppose it helped that she was also one of those nobler people that didn't mind oddities, because I followed in her wake and listened to everything she had to say.  In my defense, she had tons of interesting things to say, and I had many questions.  But she apparently didn't mind, and took to calling me her shadow.  If it weren't for the fact that travel is very expensive, I might try to do similar trips, either through the college or through other means.  I find it anxiety-provoking to not be able to understand what's being said around me, and not be able to read signs, but with the right guide, I wouldn't feel like I need to care.

In any case, travel was only part of the author's life, albeit an important one.  I think, for purposes of making the story easier to read, and perhaps also by virtue of events being clearer in hindsight, that Mr. Tammet's life seems smoother and more predictable than mine ever has.  I'll bet dollars to donuts that wasn't the case as he was living it.  So perhaps I shouldn't feel the way I do, that I have no chance of living up to this sort of example.

But I guess that brings up the last part of the envy.  In one of the last sections of the book, Mr. Tammet describes meeting a fellow savant who shared his particularity for numbers.  They connected on a wavelength I have yet to manage with anyone.  As far as I know, I am not a savant.  I do not have specific "special interests" which I pursue with zeal beyond that of neurotypical ken.  I've seen this in others with the autistic diagnosis, and it's often the key to their success: linking that special interest or singular talent into a program or job that they can do.

It makes for excellent stories.  Mr. Tammet started a company teaching languages over the Internet, which he does from home.  Other people love outdoors and animals, and so get jobs on farms where they can be around both those things.  And me?  I went into the world of autism thinking my command of English and writing, and my particular life experiences would make a difference, and... in the world of autism, I'm one of actual dozens.  And many of those have books to their names.

I don't have a special interest, or a particular impressive talent for any subject.  I think if I ended up writing a book at this point, it wouldn't be called the title I'd originally had in mind (Driving Cars Through Pudding), it'd be called Head Down: A Guide to Trudging Through Life.  My singular defining attribute, so far as I can tell, is being too stubborn to quit.

But perhaps I should take those thoughts with a grain of salt, considering I am currently very tired, very grumpy, and very much in pain thanks to lady cramps. 

Read This Book If:  

You like a good success story, or like seeing the world through a very unusual pair of eyes.  This book is well-written and thoughtful.  The author is very logical, which I found comforting and familiar.  Give it a read! 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Legwork and Life, week of 10/4/16

This week has felt hilariously busy.  I think that's because I'm finally buckling down to do a lot of the wedding prep stuff I'd been putting off.  Like, say, buying the rest of the origami paper for the flowers.  And a hot glue gun.  At this point I have most of the bits for the wedding favors done, though I could stand to make more.  There's still one piece missing from the process.  It's not a mandatory piece, but it is a pretty cool piece, so I really hope it ships soon.

No word yet from the sleep laboratory regarding my lack of restedness in the morning.  If I don't hear from them by this Thursday, I get to call and pester them.  In the meantime, I've started taking melatonin again on pointed proddings from my LENS-doctor.  It's reduced the number of times I wake up in the night, so that's nice.  Kind of annoyed, though, because it is working, which means my brain has stopped making the appropriate amount of melatonin by itself.  Also means I'm likely to need to keep a range of melatonin dosages available for the rest of my life.  At least, unless something really insightful comes out of the results from the sleep study.  But granted how life-changing and problem-solving the other results have been, I'll not hold my breath.  (For newer readers: that was sarcastic, they haven't been either of those things.  I'm seeing incremental improvements, which often backslide while I'm not looking.)

I don't have quite as lengthy of a recitation of events for this last week, but it was busy.  I've had little time to sit at home and relax, let alone work on my mindscape or other coping techniques. 

It was the 3 month evaluation done at the chiropractic this week, though.  Fresh X-ray, more of the tests we had in the intro.  They were aiming at trying to put more curve into my neck, mainly.  My neck, you see, was trying to be ramrod straight.  Your vertebrae are supposed to gracefully arch at about a 34 degree angle, at least ideally.  Upon starting this whole mess, my vertebrae were saluting at about a 4 degree angle.  After three months of shoving my spine around, my neck has started slouching a bit in its salute, at about 14 degrees.  This is apparently nearly unprecedented progress for such a short time.  They usually only see a couple degrees' difference, and that tells them what they're doing is working. So, y'know, guess it's working. 

I'm wondering if my case isn't an outlier for this sort of work.  I am, overall, fairly healthy for someone going to the chiropractor.  While the US medical system preaches that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, it teaches that you don't go in for treatment unless there's something very wrong with you.  In this case, when everything hurts and you can't avoid it, or after a part of your spine is likely fused from being out of place so long.  Also known as "when it's too late to reverse most of it" in chiropractic care.  In my case, I have the resources to start before my neck hurts to that degree, and I bought enough of their "there's no time like the present to start reversing bad stuff!" spiel to pay them for the pleasure.  I don't have back pain in the traditional sense, but there were headaches and minor musculo-skeletal aches and pains.  That was enough to make me think it was worth the time and money.  Thus far, I have fewer headaches (actually, none this month.  Yay.), and an x-ray that says my spine is improving. 

Other stuff... Ah.  So I already mentioned I had a bachelorette party last week.  That was fun.  Well, this week I got to be very spoiled and also got a bridal shower.  Different group of friends, and handmade gifts only (with a couple exceptions).  It was a nice party, if a somewhat trying one.  Not all the people in that group have flawless conversational skills, so a couple of them sort've hijacked the conversation for minutes at a time.  But you kinda have to shrug at that after awhile, it's not like they're doing it to be rude.  I did put my foot down when the conversation got stuck on politics, though.  I have nothing kind to say about politics, and since basically everyone kept assuring me that it was my party and I was allowed to do whatever I want, I barred politics from further discussion.  I'm still not sorry. 

Beyond the unfortunate conversational flukes, the organizer had gone all out and snagged take-and-bake pizzas of excellent quality, along with a truly enormous cake with buttercream icing (my favorite) and two kinds of ice cream.  Between that and the recipes, ready-made-scrapbook, handmade coasters, cards, and other kindnesses, it was really nice.  I wasn't expecting any parties, given my general state of busy-ness and lack of initiative in planning parties, but I got two.  : )