Posted in Parenting, Self-Care

Bad Advice: Autistics and Sleep

My little guy stayed up all night again last night.  He’ll sleep eventually, either later today or tonight.  One of the beauties of homeschooling is we can just work around these phases.

They do happen to kids who are traditionally-schooled, too.  They just have to deal with it (sadly) and go to school in their increasingly zombified states.  I imagine a fair number of times they have meltdowns at school.  (Speaking of meltdowns, I’ll repost something on those soon.  The brief version is they LOOK like tantrums, but unlike tantrums, they cannot be controlled by the Autistic.)

[Image: A British Shorthair with Siamese-like Markings (Black ears, paws, parts of the face, with whiter upper arms and head) sleeps on a sofa. This is a close-up of the cat’s face and front paws as he snuggles against the cream fabric that has orange and yellow capped-mushrooms on it;] image from Pixabay

The last time we went through this no-sleeping or limited sleeping phase was a few weeks ago.  In the middle of it, his neurologist’s office sent us an e-mail that I found bordering on offensive about trying to keep a routine to avoid sleep problems.  You see, the experts believe that if we keep a routine going then somehow, magically, our Autistic kids will sleep.  They think if we take away screens a million hours before bedtime, our kids will sleep better.  This is true, perhaps, of neurotypicals, but the amount of screen time our son has each day (Microsoft sends me an e-mail each week with the total of our son’s computer time) doesn’t seem to correlate at all with his sleep.  Take a moment and think over your own, adult life.  Do you always have a predictable routine, or not?  Doesn’t life happen?  Do some of your insomnia nights connect to being on the computer all night, but others just…happen?

It’s worth noting that sometimes when our bodies are growing, we either sleep a lot more or a lot less.  When my little guy was younger, he slept more.  Now, it seems, he sleeps less.  We also noticed, in speaking with my aunt who has a probably Autistic daughter around my child’s age, that the days she uses less executive function, she stays up later.  The more choices she has to make, the more she sleeps.  She used to sleep very early, like around 7 p.m. when she was traditionally-schooled, but since she’s been homeschooled, she’s calmer and gets a whole lot more schoolwork done…but some nights, she just can’t sleep.

So it can’t be JUST about routine.

Why should we keep our Autistic kids in a bubble of routine, exactly?

Continue reading “Bad Advice: Autistics and Sleep”

Posted in Catholic education, Self-Care, Teaching

Neurodiversopia: A School Where We Can Be Ourselves

When you’re in the middle of just running your school and living your life (and often fighting for the opportunity for your school to stay open), you forget sometimes to appreciate what you have.

I administrate and sometimes teach in a tiny Catholic school and my kids are in, currently, a one-room schoolhouse configuration, from Kindergarten through 8th grade.  There aren’t many of them, and they learn together and separately, on their own work, at their own paces.

At times, when people come to my school, such as the guy who comes to read the gas meter, he asks whether school is open.  Oh, it’s open.  They’re just upstairs and not that loud.

The thing of it is, it’s not that quiet ever.  My kids love to run and jump and play like everyone else.  My girls shriek, and I have a student who struggles with modulating her voice.  They can be very loud.

But it’s not really all that loud as compared to a school with mostly neurotypicals.  As it happens, I maybe have one or two neurotypical students, I think, and that’s not because I chose to have them; those are the kids who stayed after I became principal.  And the kid I think is neurotypical is a sibling of one or more Neurodivergent siblings, so he is growing aware of how to live Neurodivergently.

Anyway, we went to a very, very large Mass this past week, and it involved people from all over.  It’s helpful for young Catholics to see they are not alone in a highly secular world, so on a theoretical level, I was glad to go.

In practice, it was very overwhelming.  Here’s what happened, and what we learned from it.

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Posted in writing

Autism and “Shitty First Drafts”

I’ve read Anne Lamott’s ever-handed-out chapter from Bird by Bird called “Shitty First Drafts” many times and also read the entire book.  They throw it at you constantly when you’re learning writing.  Before I realized I was Autistic, I nodded and smiled and figured I was supposed to accept this as sage advice.

But…the problem is, I didn’t need it.

Let me stop you before you think: oh, she thinks her writing is somehow perfect the first time.

I don’t think that.  But I’ve noticed I come to accept “good enough for this project” a lot more than most people.  That said, before I was Autistic, I worked on a novel for over a decade.  Same one.  Taking it apart, redoing it constantly.  I realized I was Autistic this year, and finished it up fully and I am reasonably satisfied I can now revise it.  Not take it apart a million times for another decade, but revise it.  It’s in the drawer now because I’ll have to polish the first 50 pages of it for my “thesis” (final project) in the spring of 2017, but to polish it, I need to have it DONE now, and I do.  I can move onto something else while that rests.  I’m being somewhat pragmatic; I know I have risk of melt-down or being overwhelmed at some point, but I accept that it must be done.  I have gotten used to planning around my husband and son, who both have unusual times where they need help (like any Autistic family) and I know now that I’ll have my own times when I’m not productive, so while the productivity strikes, I gotta work.

Anyway, If you’re not familiar with the “Shitty First Drafts” piece, it goes over how Anne Lamott truly struggles to write.  Yes, a published author struggles.  Yes, it is hard.  We are meant to feel better.

I don’t, though.

Continue reading “Autism and “Shitty First Drafts””

Posted in Autistic Identity

I Don’t Know Any Autistics: Thoughts On How We Hide in Plain Sight

A lot of people are familiar with Autism from the movie Rain Man, and while the Tom Cruise-Dustin Hoffman film is not an inaccurate depiction of Autism, it is one type of “white male” version: Dustin Hoffman’s character, Raymond, has clear social skills abnormalities, but gifts in his numerically-based interest of recalling, by memory, baseball stats and telephone information.

There’s also the story of Temple Grandin, touted as the female version of Autism.  She is known for thinking in pictures, and being able to envision complex systems before they’re produced.  She can also empathize with animals so she can tell when they’re scared.  She has used her interests to revolutionize the meat industry to make it considerably more humane.  Movies and biographies tell about how her sensory issues make it difficult for her to be touched.

The trouble with these two being the primary representatives of Autism is that it’s hard for people to realize they may very well know Autistics in their lives, but neither they, nor the possible Autistic person, is aware of their possible difference because they’re not “Rain Man” enough or “Temple Grandin” enough.

But we have a saying in the Autism community: If you know one Autistic…you know one Autistic.

So, let’s look back in time at your school experiences.

Continue reading “I Don’t Know Any Autistics: Thoughts On How We Hide in Plain Sight”

Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting

Empathy and the Autistic: Learning the Words to Match the Feelings

While this post is from my archives and happened about a year ago, other than the fact that my husband no longer works with many neurotypicals, this post is effectively still true.  Hope it helps someone!

Funny thing happened that got me thinking.  Technically, a pair of funny things, close enough together for me to notice this.

Empathy is a skill people are somewhat overtly taught as a way of telling people you care about them.  This empathy thing matters a LOT to neurotypicals.  I remember learning about it in the (quite fabulous) book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish, which can ordinarily be quite helpful.  I say ordinarily, because a lot of people are neurotypicals and expect this.  Or, they’re Neurodivergent types like me who have been socialized to believe that this empathy stuff indicates caring.

 

[Image: Book cover of the Faber & Mazlish book. It’s yellow with two conversation bubbles on it]
My husband’s boss recently tried to empathize by telling him that she got “anxiety,” too, and my teacher tried to empathize by saying everyone hates construction and driving in the rain in the dark.  Well, yes, these are true facts, but they disregard our Disability as no big deal.  I get that commonalities are a way to bring us together, but if you’re actually saying the panic you get from driving in the rain, in the dark, will stay with you for hours upon arriving home, rendering you potentially unfit for work in the morning, okay, you get it.

But I suspect that’s not what you meant.

But it wasn’t my teacher, or my husband’s boss’ fault.  This is what we’ve all been taught to do: to focus on what makes us same.

This comes along with the idea of “empathy” where, even if we can’t sympathize (know what someone else is feeling), we can try to imagine ourselves in your shoes and go with it.

After coming to terms with my Autistic self, I realized that I don’t really give a damn about empathy (or even sympathy) because both assume that my FEELINGS are what I want validated.  I know that feelings are feelings; they are neither right nor wrong; rather, they just are.  This is the post in which I unpack empathy.

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Posted in Autistic Identity, higher education, intersectionality

Practically Theoretical, Theoretically Practical: Ableism in Higher Education

Lydia X. Z. Brown , also known as Autistic Hoya, tweeted this recently: “It is absolutely, indisputably a privilege to get to higher education.  But for the marginalized who do get there, it’s so intensely violent.”

I retweeted and added to it that when I was at public university, this was incredibly true.  In Catholic circles, however, which are still every bit as racist, sexist, ableist, classist (etc.), they are at least, by and large, open to learning they are being ableist, racist, sexist, classist (etc.) and learning from that.  There are exceptions, such as the ones who think our current Pope is not actually our Pope due to a complicated story that basically consists of saying “I hate Vatican II and you all suck.”

I’d like to tell you it’s more complicated than hating one council, but it isn’t really.

For those who don’t know, this is the council where we stopped being so “out of the world” and talked more to people in the world (ie. not Catholic) and stopped doing a bunch of racist, ableist, sexist, and classist stuff (yes, we still do those things, but we try not to now).

Let’s just say I don’t have a lot of patience for that group.

HOWEVER, most Catholics I’ve worked with in academia are not that group.  Instead, Catholic academia is an environment that is less like the shark tank of the public academe and more like a family that consists of a whole lot of weird uncles and aunts who do stuff you don’t like, but you put up with them anyway because after all, they’re family.  A few people who hate Vatican II can typically be offset by a bunch of hippie-type Catholics so, by and large, you all manage together.

In other words, it’s not perfect, but no family is, right?

Anyway, this is my long way of going around to reintroduce the blog I wrote called “Practically Theoretical” about why I struggled (and still do) in Academia.  It’s got more editing than usual since it was an early blog piece and I’ve learned a lot more since then, but here it is!

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Posted in Catholic education, leadership, School governance

Tired of being Pollyanna

One of the things my pastor and I are known for is being so positive even when something is clearly not going well at the school.

A teacher quits?  Well, we’ll find another.

An aide quits?  Well, we’ll save money.

The same aide comes back?  Well, we missed her.

Kids leave?  Well, at least they’re trying another Catholic school (or: well, there are counselors at that school, at least).

That sort of thing.

The Director of Religious Education is floored by our ability to say, well, we’ll try this instead whenever something goes wrong or to spin anything that happens as another facet of God’s will, and keep trying.

The trouble is, we’re not really doing that so much anymore.

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Posted in Advocacy, Disability in Education, Teaching

How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)

This happened within about two weeks of my return to teaching last year.  Given all of the flak I get for talking about taking Disabled students now that I’m a principal, I imagine this blog to be still relevant.  In interacting with the one group dedicated to inclusive education in Catholic schools on Facebook which is only run by parents and insists on person-first language and fills my feed with inspiration-porn…very little has changed.

So, let’s explore how NOT to discuss Disability in Catholic Education (or in any educational or religious circles)…

Continue reading “How (Not) to Discuss Disability in 2016 (or 2017, or…)”