Monday, October 17, 2011

A for Autism and awesomeness aka Temple Grandin

So this is a continuation of my previous post :)

When I first was told that I might have autism I freaked out really badly. That was understandable since getting a diagnosis of a disability is hard for anyone. But I truly felt like my future was over and that I would never be successful or achieve anything because I like most other people thought of low-functioning autism when I heard the term.

This picture was taken by the Fort Collins Coloradoan when they covered the celebration where the Temple Grandin Scholarship was unveiled. I was actually at the celebration and ACTUALY GOT TO SHAKE DR. GRANDIN'S HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) erm... I digress...

That celebration reminded me of how Dr. Grandin changed the way I thought about autism - about my diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. I know I've said this a million times on this blog, but it was her story that turned my thinking around from, "AAAH! I'm on the autism spectrum, this means I'll NEVER SUCCEED AT LIFE and I'm somehow lesser." to "Hm... maybe I'll become a famous researcher now that I know I'm way way way more nerdy than the average person." It made me smile a little.

\More importantly, when I think of autism now, I don't think of a child in a corner locked in his or her own world. I think of Dr. Temple Grandin lecturing, or being licked all over her face by cattle, or teaching a class. I think of the way she's honest about her continued need to adapt to sensory issues and how she's continuing to learn about the social world. I think of how far she's come with the right help from teachers, her aunt, and her mother. When I think of autism, I think of her and I think of how I can help my clients engage with the world and adapt just like she has. 

The scary A-Word!

This article here states that infants with low birth weight are at more of an increased risk for autism. The lay-press article is based off of J.A. Pinto-Martin et. al. (2011) Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adolescents Born Weighing <2000 Grams. Pediatrics, 128(5), 882-892. 

It's interesting because I think a lot of people freak out when they read a risk-factor related to autism. It's like the dreaded developmental disorder diagnosis.  Because people often think of kids and adults with the disorder as mute and having severe behavioral issues. They might think about the bad things like uncontrollable temper tantrums that the caregiver can't contain unless he or she figures out the sensory issues or frustration issues behind them. They might think of the things like the child or client not being able to reciprocate affection.

As a caregiver in a group home, I can appreciate how hard it is to deal with the behavioral issues. I have thought many times, "Hm. I wonder what it would be like to get into Client A's head." I can imagine that it would be difficult for someone to raise a child or care for a client long term and have much of that client or child's inner workings of his or her brain be a mystery. I could also understand that the reciprocal affection is not always there. For example, when I say good bye to a certain client, he will sometimes give me a wave, but other times he is off in his own world and will give me a slight glance as I wave to him to leave. On the rare occasion, his wave is paired with a smile. That makes me feel warm inside.

Even if I wasn't on the autism spectrum, I would hope I would have a better outlook when I hear the word autism. I think of when I watched Wizard of Oz with another client for whom tornados and witches are some of his special interests. The big grin he got on his face when I said, "Look, S! It's the tornado! IT'S GETTING THE WITCH!" and he laughed is an image that comes to mind when I hear autism. And the interested look and small smile another client gave me once when I turned on a string of decorative lights in the living room is another good image. Even if I never experienced autism myself, seeing people on the spectrum  enjoying their environments as well as when they struggle in their environment might give me a more balanced picture of autism. If I become an occupational therapist, I hope I can pass that along to others as well.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Feeling Behind no matter What

So today I had a moment of feeling behind in life. I just checked Facebook and found out one of my friends I knew from my time in an internship got married. She's younger than me and she adds to the ranks of other people younger than me getting a ring on it. 
I also hung out with my cousin today who's a teacher and is married with two daughters. Her daughters were really cute. My cousin is 2 years older than me. After we hung out, I went to the CSU campus to work on my Occupationaeltl Therapy school application. 

Suddenly I felt behind. 

Suddenly I felt like I wasn't where I should be in life. I should have a good career going OR I should be married and producing grandchildren for my mom. 

Even though my job at the group home is fulfilling, most people don't see it as a long-term career goal. And I obviously am not married. 

Yet as I entered my coursework into the application, I realized: I accomplished something: A CRAP-LOAD OF SCHOOL!!!!!! But seriously, not everyone gets a chance to go to a university or go to grad school. So those things are accomplishments. And not everyone has the personality needed to work in a group home. 

I thought about it further: What if I had a career? What if I was a program manager instead of a direct support provider at my group home? I could still feel behind if our organization wasn't running our facility like another in the region. I could still feel behind if I didn't have a ring on it. 

OK. Well, what if I had a ring on it and had a kid or so? If I stayed home, I'd feel behind because I wasn't working in the 'real world' even though providing direct care for a child's physical needs and teaching them social skills and helping them accomplish developmentally appropriate tasks is hard hard work. I get a glimpse of it when I work with kids in a classroom and when I see parents out in the field. 

Let's take it 1 step further: Let's say that I had a good career and was a wife and mother. First of all, I'd go insane. Secondly, I could STILL FEEL BEHIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No kidding. I could be like, "This person with the same family structure is moving faster in her career. This person with the same hours as me somehow scheduled in more activities for her kids than my kids have..."

Suddenly a lightbulb came on in my head: We all want to be ahead - to win the big prize of accomplishment.

I think it's just human nature and part of wanting to be a god of sorts.  Yet if I realize that God has a plan for our lives and if we are in Christ, God has our approval because we have Christ's righteousness that He gave to us on the Cross. So we don't have to work for some sort of tangible or intangible trophy. We fall in to the temptation ALL THE TIME. We just have to apply faith and do good in the stuff God calls us to do and tell people about Him. And the cool thing is God helps us with that. 

Then I don't have to bemoan, "Oh, I'm not married. Oh, I don't have an AMAZING career, oh, I'm going back to school while everyone else's lives are moving on.... oh woe is me. :P" I can thank God for where He has taken me, where I am now, and where He would want me in the future :) Then I don't feel behind anymore. I feel right where God wants me :)