Time to go

“How long can it take to walk out the door?”

Other people ask us this. They are incredulous as we struggle to get to places on time, much less with all the materials we needed to have.

We also ask ourselves this when we are getting ready or planning. Surely, we think to ourselves, merely walking out the door and getting into the car takes almost no time at all.

As if!

And that’s why we struggle to get to places on time.

It takes us far longer to “get our shit together,” to remember everything we need, and then get into the car, and unload all the baggage, settle down, and get ready to drive. The least speed-bump in the getting-ready process (like a mislaid car key) throws everything into chaos, which stresses us beyond dealing with that little event, often resulting in getting so distracted from our tediously-created coping methods so that we forget something we usually can remember, or almost-forget and have to go back in (maybe more than once) to fetch something nearly forgotten.

Take a deep breath.

Let it out slowly.

Yeah. Just thinking about these situations reminds us of all those crazy days, weeks and months and years of them. We remember all the scolding, the embarrassment of being late, of missing appointments, of getting to places without something important or even the most necessary thing that may have been the reason for us going there in the first place.

Just being stressed about trying to leave on time makes things worse; the clumsiness increases. Even after finally getting ready one morning (in N-recursive steps, as usual), Read the rest of this entry »

De-stressing with O.T.S.

Funny short story:

Hubby and I are at the local pub having a Guinness. Naturally, the big-screen televisions are on, and he asks me, “Are you watching the basketball game?”

Are you kidding?! I think to myself, and answer, “No.”

There’s a slight pause, then he asks, “Are you staring at the ceiling fan?”


Well you know, I’m there to relax, right? Chatting with hubby about life, and enjoying my ale is only part of that.

A pal of mine is very stressed. Sadly, this is a common problem. But even worse, over the years the repertoire of natural coping methods have been so discouraged, extinguished or suppressed that my pal can hardly name what is helpful. Now that is really sad.

We all have ways of dealing with stresses. They can be roughly divided into three general categories: organisation [O], timing [T], and soothing activities [S]. I have denoted each with an initial because the text flow did not easily lend to listing these in categorical sections.

Prevention [O]: We avoid situations that we know will be stressful. Sometimes we can have someone else do a task for us, or set things up so the task does not actually have to be done.

For example, Read the rest of this entry »

Random bits from bed (thoughts before arising)

I tossed and turned all night.

Well, not really. Tossing and turning implies far more bounciness and energetic mobility than I had. Rather, I woke up every couple hours when it was time to shift to another sleeping position. There were no comfortable positions to be had (there never really are), but with enough pyjama-straightening to remove the deadly little wrinkles pinned under my hips and shoulders, by shifting the spare pillows to completely pad between my bony knees and feet, and plumping up my head pillow again, I could reach a level of acceptable discomfort and fall asleep again.

I get plenty of REM sleep; in fact, it seems like all I do is dream because any disturbance wakes me from a dream. (An article in Scientific American describes just how more interrupted sleep results in longer and more intense dream periods.) I just don’t know that I’m getting enough deep, restful sleep. When I’m sick I’ll be in bed for eight to ten hours more-or-less sleeping, but I still seem generally stuck at six-hour nights. I can’t remember the last time I slept through the night, but it was several years ago.

The good news is that Read the rest of this entry »

Some things improve with age

The other week, one of the profs was looking up medication side effects for a parent. This prompted some vexed musing aloud, “Does anything improve with age?”

In retrospect, it was probably one of those rhetorical questions that people don’t really expect to get answered. With my attention mostly focused upon some specimen slides, I answered, “Wine and cheese.”

“No,” he clarified, “in people.”

“Oh.” Slight pause on my part while I did a mental search. But of course, my inner google is a buggy beta-version. “I know there’s something, I just can’t remember it right now.”

Later on that evening I remembered them:

  • Perspective: When you’re older, you have a much better idea of what things really are important.
  • Coping : A lot of things that we do as coping skills are so ingrained we don’t even recognise that they are coping skills. We forget how many things used to be laboriously taxing, like driving stick in traffic, juggling different kinds of demands, and so on. (The reason we get grouchy when things change is because that means we have to re-arrange all those coping strategies we had forgotten we were using.)
  • Discrimination: After a lifetime to buying clothes, cameras, eating out, and other complex choices, we have developed internal algorithms that take into account numerous objective and subjective qualities. We have figured out what things are worth spending money on, and what things aren’t.
  • Appreciation: We also know just how important seemingly inconsequential things can be, like dry socks.

Not so lucky

The other day at the college I was waiting for an elevator (lift). It’s rather slow, but a sleet storm was heading in and I was especially achy. Just a few feet away was a bulletin board for a program the college runs, including a series of non-credit weekend classes for people with Down’s and other developmental or cognitive disabilities. One of the things thumbtacked to the board was a yellowing newspaper clipping. The photograph showed a young man busy in his kitchen, with his father standing nearby, watching him. The article began by mentioning how lucky the young man is because he has resources to help him learn to live independently, to get his own apartment, to get a job to support himself, and other important things.

He is lucky.

“Lucky” is one of those stock newspaper words that seems to be required in stories about disabled people. It’s right up there with “amazing”, “inspiring”, “challenged”, “journey” and a dozen other terms that I’m blanking on just from sheer nausea factor. (I’m sure you can think of several others.) I finished reading the story by the time the elevator moseyed up to the top floor. By the time I descended three levels, I had gathered up a fair bit of annoyance. Read the rest of this entry »

burning questions about phonics versus … pig ovaries

Yes indeed, it’s another exciting episode of your favourite irregularly-scheduled posting, Weird Search Terms. “Teh interwebs” is a strange and wondrous place, and some of it lands here! So without further ado (cue drummer):

More queries for the Interwebs Oracle:

  • i have to tell you something important
  • sleep recording surgery in rat brain
  • burning questions about phonics versus
  • pig ovaries
  • do i have fluid in my ear
  • can’t hear the fairy music
  • oxymoron – i need the number with no dig
  • how many bottons do air-planes have

bottoms? buttons?

In answer to your question: No. No. No. No. (Wash, rinse, repeat.)

  • chronic sleep deprivation causes autism
  • challenge test for heavy metals?
  • testimonials as evidence in science
  • egg white cures mercury poisoning
  • tinnitus green tea
  • sympathy and pity help the person to adj
  • vaccinations causing learning disabiliti
  • does finger flicking pages mean autism
  • asperger self hatred
  • auditory processing disorder stupid

Things get even weirder, leaving me blinking and repeating, “G’blrrg?” (the non-word I say when I am utterly baffled): Read the rest of this entry »

A shot in the arm, A slight kick in the butt

Last week I took two of our cats to the vet for their annual check-ups, including the Rabies, Feline Distemper, and Feline Leukemia vaccines. Some years ago we lost one of our cats to Feline Leukemia; the poor kitty died just a few months before the vaccine was available.

This Saturday past I reminded my gardening students that if they cannot remember when they last had a Tetanus booster, they they should go and get one, because a booster is recommended every ten years. The number of people to have survived Tetanus is vanishingly small; it’s pretty much a death sentence. It’s also easily prevented by a simple vaccine. Sure, your arm is a bit sore for a couple of days, but that beats dying an extremely painful and highly unnecessary death. As I reminded my students, “You get your pets vaccinated, you get your children vaccinated, so you should get yourself vaccinated!”

Except there are a few people who don’t want to get their children vaccinated. A drop in vaccinations means not only that some people get sick, but a drop in vaccinations also means a loss of “herd immunity”, meaning that most of the population is not immune, so there are enough people who can catch and then transmit the disease. When you make a decision to not immunise, you are not making a decision that affects just you and your children. You are a making a decision that affects everyone else in your community.

That is why we had recent epidemics of mumps and measles in the UK and the US, leading to hundreds of sick people, and some who were disabled or killed. Because I work with students in various schools, I get lots of exposure to viruses. I had not previous had a mumps vaccine or the disease, so during those epidemics I went and got the MMR. Now I’m protected against Mumps, Measles and Rubella (even though I had the other vaccines in ’63 and ’70, the combined vax helps boost my immunity). I also went through the Hepatitis B series that year.

So yes, I’m a big proponent of vaccinations.

And no, I do not subscribe to the hysteria generated by a few noisy, well-meaning but seriously-deluded or paranoid people who believe that there is a world-wide conspiracy Read the rest of this entry »

Communication Blips

I’ve not been posting much lately, due to a combination of a head cold (you would think that would result in more sleep, but good sleep still eludes me), major changes in my job schedule, an evening class that I’m taking sucking up time with studying, new Saturday classes that I’m teaching sucking up time with preparations, and ongoing communication blips between my household wireless router and the AirPort card in my MacBook. I think the wireless problems annoy me most of all, because it’s being able to rely upon the little things that enable us to deal with the big things.

Having digital communication blips reminded me of the other sort that we sometimes deal with around here.

So. I have a teenager of the typically reticent sort, who at times is given to answering open-ended questions in monosyllables. That in itself is not particularly uncommon. What we do run into are situations where the Kid is still learning what needs to be actively communicated, rather than assuming that others will know what is wanted or planned. These are the little blips of “mindblindness” that we sometimes run into with the Asperger’s and/or AD/HD kids. (Adults have these problems at times too — the difference being that we have figured out the more common situations, but still miss moments here and there, leaving our spouses and co-workers puzzled or annoyed).

What are these communication blips? Read the rest of this entry »

Maslow Cleans House

This How-To post is dedicated to a pal of mine who was commenting about how hard it is to get the apartment (flat) tidied and cleaned up. I was trying to describe how I used Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, natural supports, and the Premack Principle together as means for organising this most mundane set of chores.

In this case, we don’t mean that housekeeping is “hard” in the sense of physically mopping a floor, but hard in the sense of figuring out where to start, how to keep the momentum going, getting the job finished, and even figuring out what to do with stuff. The so-called “executive functions” of planning, execution, self-monitoring et cetera are not limited to office work — they are just as necessary in the realm of what used to be referred to (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) as “domestic engineering”.

Amazingly, tidying and cleaning a small apartment is more difficult than doing the same in a full-size house. Granted, the larger house has more rooms, which in turn means more square area to be vacuumed or mopped, and may mean twice as many toilets and tubs to scrub. But the problem with the tiny domicile is that the average 21st-century post-industrial resident has a certain amount of Stuff for daily living, and that amount of stuff does not shrink proportionately just because the domicile does. (I love the German word for “stuff”, Kram, because cramming my Kram into odd places is what I spend a lot of tidying time doing.) Worse, small residences usually lack great amounts of storage space. Unless you are spartan in your personal possessions by dint of poverty or strong design aesthetic*, you have more stuff than the meager cabinets and closets will hold.

Of course we have to pick up first to clear the surfaces so we can clean them. But we could spend all day trying in vain to get things picked up, especially if we have AD/HD and are easily distracted. Picking up is way too recursive — you pick up one thing to put away, take it to where it belongs, find something at the end point or en route to the end point, pick it up, maybe put away the first thing, try to put away the second thing, maybe manage to do so without being distracted by the third thing, or get interrupted by a phone call or a cooking timer or remember something else or…

Heavens, at that rate you would need to get your shoes re-soled before you got the place picked up! And in all that, you’re making a half-assed attempt at trying to clean things as well, because you got thirsty and found something moldy or spilled in the fridge and —


To make any headway in my own domestic engineering, I finally had to set up a hierarchy, somewhat similar to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. The needs are dual, based upon the needs of the residents for living there, and also upon the housekeeper for being able to get things done effectively. My own order of operations is set up as much as possible for natural supports to be created. Read the rest of this entry »

Love Bug

I love a good debunking!  Bug Girl has an appropriately geeky and humorous  Skeptic’s Circle #80, “The Valentine Edition” going on over at her blog.  Go check it out!

Fishing With the Wrong bAIT

The other day (er, week) I promised to post some thoughts on AIT, so here they are.

There are plenty of treatments offered to cure or improve Auditory Processing Disorder (APD). Auditory processing is not just about hearing. Hearing is the sensory business that the ears do, and the auditory processing is what the brain then does with the signals from the auditory nerves. The ears also have the semicircular canals, which provide us with information about balance — that sense of balance, along with the proprioception of our joints, ligaments, muscles, tendons and bones, give us the sensory information we need for coördination. In auditory processing disorder, the sensory part of hearing often works just fine; it is not a hearing problem, it is an understanding problem. The ears are getting the information and are sending suitable signals; but there are some “tangles” or “speed-bumps” in the interpretation of the signal.

One treatment popularly lauded on Web advertisements is Auditory Integration Training (AIT), which is supposed to also help problems related to tinnitus, hyperacussis (oversensitivity to high-pitched and/or sudden noises, or sound in general), autism, ADD or ADHD. Depending upon the practitioner, AIT may also be sold as effective treatment for dyslexia, stuttering, depression, speech delay, and even head-banging or echolalia. That’s quite a list of highly diverse issues, which immediately sends off mental warning bells.

AIT was developed by Dr Guy Berard, who is also the author of the (out-of-print) book, Hearing Equals Behavior,

“Everything happens as if human behavior were largely conditioned by the manner in which one hears.”

(Hmn, I bet a lot of Deaf people would beg to differ with Dr Berard’s assertion!)

So how is this method supposed to work? Read the rest of this entry »

The Blue People are gaining!

Here is another edition of the Weird Search Terms, because I know you folks just live for these.

Trend alert! Blue people is gaining on Cat drawing for frequency. I have no idea why folks are looking for blue people, unless they’re looking for the band Blue Man Group?* Then again, a lot of these queries don’t make sense:

Just Can’t Do

Wheelchair Dancer had a recent post where she was musing aloud about why a neighbor might keep refusing various opportunities “because she is a quad”. WCD and those commenting raised a variety of interesting possibilities to answer that question. It’s both a thoughtful and thought-provoking post, and reminded me of similar issues that I have encountered over the years. (What I am describing may or may not be the same kind of situation as what Wheelchair Dancer’s neighbor is dealing with.)

Granted, we all have limitations. Some of have have more limitations, and some of us have different limitations than most people. And yet, we have all encountered those people who get “stuck” on their limitations, well beyond the whole (initial) phase of learning to accept and cope with whatever the causes and effects are from those disabilities. They keep talking about what they CAN’T DO, not just as a practical reference to “no, that won’t work for me,” but as refutation to suggestions for a number of ordinary or alternative activities.

Trying to earnestly offer suggestions to such entrenched Can’t-Do frequently falls flat in a conversational game of “Yes-But”, leaving one feeling frustrated and eventually rather disinclined to continue offering suggestions.

Once in a while I run into this kind of thing with a tutee or student. Read the rest of this entry »

Circus of the Spineless #29: Making A Living

It’s tough making a living, whether you’re finding a nursery for the young’uns, molting, trying to get a mate, or avoiding ending up as someone’s dinner. Part of the fascination with the invertebrates is just how many “weird” and surprising ways there are to solve the basic problems of life. Plus, we also like them just because they’re so damn gorgeous! This batch of posts has some terrific photography.

Ants may be industrious, but by all accounts they may be easily outwitted. On Not Exactly Rocket Science, Ed Yong has the great tale of “Evolutionary arms race turns ants into babysitters for Alcon blue butterflies”, giving the story of how the larvae of the beautiful Alcon Blue butterfly are really just a bunch of slackers — these brood parasites make ants fawn over them at the expense of the ants’ own larvae. Meanwhile, GrrlScientist is Living the Scientific Life where she describes, “Berry Butts: Parasitized Black Ants Resemble Red Berries”. More weird parasitism: “an amazing example of a parasite that causes its host to resemble a luscious red berry — all so the parasite’s eggs are passed onto birds, the next step in the parasite’s life cycle.” The ants continue their march (one by one) across the Interwebs, and at his Myrmecos Blog, Alex describes how we can find “Ants from a Kilometer Up” by using Google Earth to find their mounds. (Gee, if you make it that easy, won’t the grad students waste their time doing silly things like catching up on sleep?)

So what do Superman, strippers and training wheels have to do with arthropods? Read the rest of this entry »


There are lots of changes going on over here, especially on the job scene. Change is a bumpy process; sometimes it makes me uneasy about unknowns, often eager for new things, and frequently ambivalent from both.

Over in the tarantularium, I noticed that one of the crickets was also going through some changes. The plastic wall of the box is the reason for the slightly blurry quality of the photograph. There’s really no excuse for all the bad puns and silly jokes about Superman, strippers, training wheels on bicycles et cetera, except for the otherwise dryness of the subject and the stressed busyness of my recent days. Read the rest of this entry »