Sunday, December 21, 2014

Musings On Solstice And Autism (yea I am weirdly tying them in together)

I prefer to think of Winter Solstice as Mid Winter up here in Canada...and not the beginning of Winter as it is said to be. Starting tomorrow days get a little brighter, and Christmas with it's sparkles and joy (on good years anyway) is just a few days away. If one suffers from SAD, this tends to be the time, that hope is seen around the corner. Weather is regional anyway, so I do not judge my weather by the supposed "official" seasonal times of the year. However, I do love Solstice. If we were to have had another girl, Solstice would have been her middle name. Despite how hippie that sounds, it brings meaning... Meaning of beginnings, of beautiful endings, darkness and light, and of the rhythm and flow of life.

Yesterday, I was having a dreary day so I decided to make something of it. I mustered up the strength to fill the house with the smell of cinnamon and baking. At first it wasn't too fun but eventually my mind was triggered and a feeling of safe, childhood feelings was evoked. I cleaned the house to innocent Christmas songs of peace and helping the world at large. The Christmas tree was glimmering and I forced myself to sit in front of it, inhale deep breaths of the spiced air, and stare at the lights the way I used to when I was little. After a few minutes, my forced reverie turned into a natural state of wonder. For a fleeting moment I had to remind myself I was not wasting time, but only for a fleeting moment, because my practical side does not often win when my childlike joy of beauty is in competition (probably because I tend to live in my practical logical way of Being more- but that childlike wonder is STRONG when it does show up.) I don't know how long I savoured this moment, it felt like forever and also like an instant...a very good sign that I just WAS, and in BEING I AM.  The lights shimmered and my soul sighed. Yes, there are bad events, life will bring my own share to my door and has in the past, but there is also the good. The good of simply forcing yourself to BE in a moment, and in BEING suddenly you ARE. Any Solstice reminds me of this. We do not mark them with huge events, but we make sure to have a form of light purposefully set (a fire, candles, the fireplace) and to take some time to BE in whatever state we ARE.

I felt my child self at five, sitting in wonder, care free to the worries of the world, and enjoying the fact that I could stare at a tree for hours and not be told that I was wasting my time. Peace is for everyone, if only for an instant. Crimson is in the embers, bells are tinkling, and the snow outside is melting ( a refreshing change from our LONG blustery winter last year.)

I have two sides to myself...most Autistic people would describe themselves as a Paradox. Part of my brain is logical, practical, reasonable, assessing and in tune with continual new is open to constant evolution. It's the side that is often shown to myself on a daily basis but is hidden when I am uncomfortable or not accepted. I can come across quite ditzy when my brain is actually a phenomenon. A metaphor for those who do not understand would be similar to Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory (except a lot more complicated and less straightforward.) Half of my brain really relates to Sheldon. But the other side of my brain is mystical, childlike, overwhelmed with sensory data, the source of my clumsiness and inability to feed myself, and the place that causes me to automatically clap and squeal when I am filled with joy. I could not stop this part of myself if I wanted to. Perhaps it comes out a little less in the daily but it shocks me how often it shows up in  unsuspecting moments. It's the reason why I still cry at the song "Where are you Christmas?" or why I look forward to the Muppet Family Christmas EVERY year. It's the part of my brain that forces my logical side to step aside for a moment and to STOP assessing, stop reasoning, and for heaven sake stop criticizing every philosophy or thought or perspective from each angle and just ENJOY. While I do believe there are certain gifts that come from being able to step outside boxes, think from another person's perspective (even the craziest person or the seemingly most mundane) or critiquing philosophy or religion, sometimes it can get a tad exhausting. There are times when I find it wearing to be the one who has to rise yet again to put myself in the other's place to extend grace, and find that they can not replicate back in quite the same way. There are times when it is slightly jading to be able to say in my mind, "I have already been through that transition that you at 60 are going through and it happened to me at fourteen." It may sound pompous but it's just a fact, a fact that leaves one a little more alone if not in the company of those who share this brain state, and a little bit misplaced. It's also disheartening because it can not be shared or stated unless in the company of others who KNOW because people just take it as attitude, judgement or haughtiness. Most do not see this as genuine. They also get  confused by the juxtaposing paradox. Who could really be truly like that? It seems to conflicting, but I know it to be my truth. There are perks to having a paradoxical way of being and some of them are quite enlightening.

My point is, that my childlike side that also can seem to the world like the "worst" part of Autism can actually be quite a gift. Sure, being subject to sensory overload can be painful at times, but it also opens my eyes and triggers my brain to the state of a child. Like the Solstice, there is dark before light, and there is a transition time. There is a moment when all that is needed is a shift. Yes, being clumsy from executive functioning issues has it's downsides, but it also forces me to stay humble...willing to take help where most 31 year old women do not need help. Not knowing left from right or not being able to wade through verbal instructions forces me to compensate creatively to get through the daily. It's not all sparkles and Christmas lights, but it has it's moments or CAN if I choose to see life that way. This is where hope comes in. Hope is found where BEING is. Hope is found in ACCEPTANCE and LOVE. It is found in the darkest of places where light is needed. Hope is an ending needed for another beginning.

This is where Solstice hits my heart. It's a reminder brought in by the earth that I am enough, I am what I am, and there is beauty and brutality in BEING. Life is here now and I must rise to that.

Wishing you the beauty of sacred beginnings and necessary endings on this Winter's night with you.

Disclaimer: I am not literally saying Autistics have divided brains NOR am I actually explaining the scientific theories behind Autism but I am describing SOME of the general consensus among my Autistic friends and I about how being in our brain feels...and the general feelings I have about myself and how it feels to me in simple terms.

This song is my Winter Solstice song and evokes all the emotion beautifully in it's imaginative, descriptive and romantic lyrics:

*To see more thoughts on Autism/ Aspieness click on the Autism/Asperger's label below...there are posts on  Creating Autistic Safe HavensAspie motherhoodFeeling Younger While Getting Older, The Consequences of Growing an Aspie up to realityGender Bias in PsychologyFamous People speculated to Have AutismHurtful Misconceptions about VaccinationsWhat Autism Means to MeGuest Post from Samantha Croft on Aspie Communication, Disclosing AutismAutism Positivity/ Autistic Healers FlashblogSensory Autism experiences at the ZooAutism DOES NOT cause ViolenceDealing with and Understanding Meltdowns Autistics Don't Need Your Awareness and Other Crucial Links Doesn't Everyone Have a Little Autism in them? (And other Wounding Statements Addressed)

Friday, December 19, 2014

Excellent Exercise (Cosmic Kids) for Neurodiverse Children ( ADD/ Autism/ Aspie/ Down Syndrome ect.)

*These are not my kids pictured.*

My kids are on the Autism spectrum and we have tried many forms of exercise. While we have found many enjoyable activities, nothing has captured their attention more than Cosmic Kids Yoga. Click on this link:

The beauty of Cosmic Kids is that it can be done in a living room, in a child's own sensory environment. Each Yoga session has a story to keep even the most ADD child captivated while engaging in healthy movement (I should know as my youngest has high attention issues and he manages each session...the 25 minute ones are a little tougher for him than the twelve but he generally still participates.)

My family all has different levels of Dyspraxia and Executive Functioning issues but we still managed to do most of the movements...I would say it took us a few months of doing the first sessions of 12 minutes over and over to be a tad more fluid, but it wasn't the frustrating experience that most class exercises are for me....Perhaps because it was in my own private home with no one to judge? We all took it at our own pace and when we couldn't manage we just listened to the story or performed other movements. (See Note on Bottom.)

My kids prefer the sessions if I participate with them and make all the necessary sounds and movements that are supposed to be made. It's a bonding moment as well as an opportune moment for storytelling, learning through emotion and sound, and following instructions. If they see mommy willing to be goofy and participate while creating the structured routines, they also are enthusiastic. One of my children especially struggles with emotions and meltdowns...and this child does NOT like to do things not deemed worthy. However, I have found it amazing how suddenly a smile surfaces after Yoga. Even if there is an adamant refusal at first to join, we are seen enjoying it, and eventually the story captivates. Almost every time, this child eventually joins in...which is rarely the case in other sports or such. 

My Aspie son who is obsessed with Star Wars (even though he has never seen most of it due to high anxiety and sensitivity) was ecstatic to see the Cosmic Kids Star Wars Episode. Of course, he had to point out the many differences between the actual film, his Star Wars books and the Yoga story, but he still had fun.

The rest period at the end of each session also has a special effect on my kids with a light moral lesson in each ending.  I have found that other children we have had over also enjoy these sessions. My daughter is older but she LOVES doing Cosmic Kids. I find that if the parent shows that no one is too old to join in a story and follow the instructions of the teacher (including robot noises ect.) the kids do not think they are too old for it either. I especially find that those who are Neurodiverse especially enjoy stories and movement because they are often young at heart, yet old in spirit. The Neurodiverse seem to get the beauty in the simple and the joy of a creative moment. I love Cosmic Kids and it really is my favourite type of exercise. The stories make it easy for the time to pass and I don't feel like I am stretching my body. I have Fibromyalgia as well as being an Aspie, and I find that it is light yet safe form of exercise to do every day with my sensitive body. 

I would HIGHLY recommend trying this with your kids. We started at around age 5 but I am sure younger kids may be able to follow along if they are given the opportunity. We mirror our computer up to our Apple TV or we find the episodes on Youtube to play on the TV from Apple or if you do not have access to that, just follow along on your computer screen (put it in a higher area where everyone can see.) This alone has been incentive to purchase our Apple TV (not discounting Netflix ect.) but there are definitely other ways to participate.

After each session of Cosmic Kids my children look up Just Dance sequences on Youtube and  take turns mimicking the movement to get out any bottled energy. These rituals are their favourite part of our morning routine.

NOTE: For younger kids I would start with the imaginative 12 minute sessions like Pedro the Penguin or Cracker the Dragon. Even if they NEVER get the proper movements” most children still enjoy the whimsy, the backgrounds and the story lines…my kids also enjoy her facial expressions of emotion and I feel they benefit regardless of the motion committed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Gluten Free * EASY* Gingerbread/ Cream Cheese Mud Cake (with Oat Flour) Made with Coconut sugar and Honey instead of Processed Sugar

I have had the toughest time finding cakes without complicated flours that are gluten free that have good textures. I adapted this cake and it was a raging success! We try to stay away from milks but use cream when necessary (you can research the effects of milk, the benefits of whole milks and creams and full fats, and alternative almond or coconut milks.) We are also gluten and processed sugars and preservative free...this IS very RICH and a small morsel does the trick, but for a special birthday or once a year treat it is a DELIGHT! As you can see, my eager family dug in with their five forks...we are a tad was a savoury moment of enjoyment:)
*** Please see note at bottom of page about Gluten free Cooking/ Baking.

 CHOCOLATE Gluten Free GINGERBREAD Mud CAKE Cake adapted from Martha Stewart:

 *1/2 cup (120ml) coconut oil
*1/2 cup (156g) molasses
*3/4 cup (150g) coconut sugar
 *1/4 cup of water
 *2 large eggs
*1/4 cup (60ml) half and half cream
*1 cup (125g) ground up gluten free oats or Oat flour
*1/2 cup (42g) unsweetened cocoa powder (use a top brand)
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
*1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
*2 teaspoons ground ginger
*2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
*1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


*1/4 cup (60g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
*1/2 cup of (4 oz (112g) cream cheese, softened to room temperature
*1/2 cup of honey
*2 Tablespoons of half/half cream
*1 teaspoon vanilla extract
*1 teaspoon of Cinnamon *chocolate (dark) for drizzling (optional)


Preheat oven to 325F. Coat a 9-inch bundt pan or round pan with coconut oil and dust with cocoa powder and tap out excess. Set aside.
*Over medium-low heat, melt together the  coconut oil, molasses, coconut sugar, and 1/4 cup water in a medium saucepan until all of the coconut sugar has mostly dissolved (only a couple minutes). Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
 *Whisk the eggs and cream into the molasses mixture after it has cooled (to avoid heating and scrambling the eggs). Set aside.
*Sift together oat flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, ground ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg into a medium bowl. Gently fold the flour mixture into the molasses mixture until just combined. There will be lumps remaining. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for about 30- 40 minutes until cake is pulling away from the sides and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow cake to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.
*As the cake cools, make your frosting.
*The butter and cream being room temperature is KEY. In a large bowl, beat the butter and cream cheese with an electric mixer until creamy. Add honey, vanilla and the cream,  until you've reached the desired thickness. I like to add a few sprinkles of cinnamon to this as well. Add a little more honey if necessary to achieve a spreadable frosting. Frost cake immediately before serving and drizzle with chocolate sauce (optional). Eat warm and refrigerate right away. SAVOUR!
*Note: My cake always falls apart because of the lack of gluten...but I pile it on to a plate, smooth the top and just pour the cream cheese mixture generously over the top and pour a bit of chocolate on top and it's an informal mud cake. My kids and I LOVE it.
Cake remains fresh for up to 4 days stored in the refrigerator.

*** I have researched many different diets. Our family was very sick dealing with different symptoms and many doctors could not figure it out. Finally we went to a Naturopath and my therapist suggested cutting out processed foods, sugar and gluten for two years to heal our guts. I also have possible celiac but cancelled my Gastroscopy as I was 8 months off gluten and doing so well I did not want to eat some beforehand. I eat according to a Celiac diet because so many symptoms I was hospitalized for in serious pain went away after about four months. NOTE: Some Celiacs can not have gluten free oats. I run into problems if it is not gluten free but I find I can process oats ok if I keep it minimal. The gluten free diet has gotten a lot of flack lately and I agree with many points on this...many on gluten free diets eat MORE sugar, MORE processed foods and MORE gluten alternatives that are not healthy for the body. We are careful to limit our rice products to twice a week, rinse well and only eat Basmati rice because of Arsenic levels. We substitute a small amount of honey for sugar and we only eat veggies, fruit, meats and my occasional baking with rice, potatoes and a variety of seeds, beets, fermented foods, high fat butters and organic Greek yogurt, granola and natural products. We also make sure we take a good supplement and drink plenty. A gluten free diet is NOT the only way to go and it does NOT cure Autism. In fact, we found cutting out sugar helped us with sensory overload the most, but it HAS cut down inflammation issues and other serious health concerns. Plus, for two years, if you have chronic pain, a diet similar to ours can help heal the gut and inflammation so you can slowly add things back in. But that does not mean you can't enjoy an occasional treat like above. Life is also enjoyed. I have enjoyed my food so much more since I adjusted to this diet. I can honestly say I do not miss my old foods and purely enjoy the treats when I can have them. We only drink water, club soda, pure home made blueberry juice and tea. Check out Gut Psychology in your search engine for more. I have adapted the Celiac diet with Gut psychology, the High Nourishing diet, Weston Price, and Paleo.
A fun version for you while you bake:) May your days be merry and bright.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

We (Autistics) Are NOT Missing! (#mssng / #NotMssng )

For more information, this post carries legitimate stats and explanations of why Autism Speaks is not a healthy organization:

Also John Elder Robinson, who QUIT Autism Speaks, (He was their science advisory board.  He resigned his position in November 2013.  See his blog. ) wrote a great post about this here:

Here is another link to why Autism Speaks does not speak for us:

If you participate on twitter join this statement instead:

I am not missing. My kids are not missing out on life. We are not a burden. We are a beautiful difference. I had to swallow my hurt at this ignorance and the feeling of being pre judged and found unworthy because of my brain wiring. Do not support the site Autism Speaks. We are not being spoken for or being represented. We are worth more and if we “get rid” of Autistics we will loose many people who have enhanced life on this earth. :

I have stepped out into bravery because I believe in people like you who believe in those like me:)

I hope you have a Happy Holiday season full of cheer and celebrations of all people groups and beautiful diversity! Thank you for supporting and “seeing” us.

Someday at Christmas we will find out what Autistic life is really worth...maybe not in time for you or me but if we keep speaking for ourselves, finding our worth and celebrate our Being, perhaps one day we will share a world where people care... when all our equal!

(The LeAnne Rimes version on iTunes of this song is worth looking into.)