Thursday, March 31, 2011

An emotional end to an intense year

Today was D's last ABA therapy session at his Autism Centre. In Canada, funding for ABA Intensive courses finish at the age of 6. After this we, as parents, only get about a quarter/third of the allocated funding to be used for therapy. The rest get's given to the school board. After that, we have NO idea how it spent or where the money goes. (To be fair, D has a full-time aide dedicated to him, so we pretty much are on the winning side of an funding arguments here - A full-time SEA costs more than the funding he's allocated.).

D turned 6 in January and we used some of his over 6 funding to carry on the intensive program till the end of spring break- Today.

So Today, we waved goodbye to everyone at his Autism centre and contemplated the last year as well as the future before us. Well I did. D is just ecstatic that these long trips and sessions are finally over. No matter how fun his Interventionist's are, they can't compete with PS3 games and play-dates.

D was only diagnosed in February last year, so he has only had one year of intensive ABA therapy (about 10 hours a week). The change in the last year has been amazing. His control over himself; his ability to articulate his difficulties has grown so much that even his day-to-day Interventionists are astounded. He is calmer, more able to cope. It validates everything that ABA pertains to accomplish.

So when we left today, I had very mixed feelings on today and what the future holds.

I am sad. I have made so many great friends in the last year, it's sad for me to realise that I won't see them on a daily basis. You only truly understand what it's like to have an Autistic child WHEN you have an Autistic child. Even when they are on the mild end of the spectrum like D, it's draining to have to consider the minutest detail of his/her environment every minute of the day. It's like constantly walking on egg-shells. Simple things trigger these children off, and you are so mindful NOT to make this happen, you finish the day exhausted. Yet, when an explosion happens you are conscious of all the looks and stares other people give you. No matter how thick-skinned you are, little bits of their criticism wipe off on you. You just want to scream at them... "He's Autistic, you do any better!", but instead you grin and suffer their negative energy. The fellow parent's I met at D's Autism Centre understood this. These people got me; I spent half my week with these people and I am going to miss that support so much.

However, I am also relieved. I spent 4 afternoons a week at this centre. Thirty minutes driving there, then ten hours over 4 days waiting - usually in a waiting room, and then thirty minutes driving home. This was a job, a full-on job. Forget anything else being done. The housework wasn't done. Paperwork wasn't done. Errands weren't done. Only the basics for keeping the house together were guaranteed. If I managed anything else you were bloody lucky. Thinking about all this time I am going to have - WOW. The weather is getting warmer now; I can see trips to the park, play-dates, half-an-hour to wipe the floor as D plays outside. I am relishing the freedom of not being tied to this centre. I am looking forward to the fun stuff I have missed out with D in the last year.

Despite this, my main feeling was worry. Worry over how both D and I were going to cope over the next few months. D has only been in therapy for a year and I wonder if it's enough. Is it enough time for him to have learnt and practised everything he needs to have a vaguely functional life in school? I am not so sure. I am really worried he is going to back-slide and his behaviours are going to increase and get more intense because he isn't getting the constant prompts and teaching. If that happens I have NO idea what we are going to do. We can't afford to pay for the intensive program out of our own pockets. He isn't going to get this therapy in school, so if things go backwards, I have no idea. It's not to say we aren't being pro-active about this situation. I am hoping to take an ABA course in May, which I hope may mean I can implement some form of ABA program at home (with some guidance from an experienced consultant). If I can keep the situation going, I can re-train as an Interventionist myself and then do all of his programs at home. If this works then great. If it doesn't, well I have no idea... if I can't do it at home.. well let's not think on that.

My other concern is my sanity. As mentioned before - dealing with a kid with ASD is exhausting and I am only really understanding how important those few hours a week -where I could reset myself mentally- were. What's going to happen without them? I don't know. Initially it won't be a problem. D is still in morning school, so I will get 10-12 hours a week peace when he is in school (excepting the school meetings and other paperwork I need to do). However, when summer recess hits. I don't know. I remember how frayed I was when I had to deal with D full-time and NO help before. I was on medication and on the edge of being a basket-case. I DON'T want to go down that route again and I am so scared I am going to. I am just hoping that I am more aware of D, myself and our own issues, that that won't happen again.

So there are lots of mixed emotions today. As you can tell from the post, not much frivolity or fun, but very thoughtful. I suppose I just needed to get everything written down and clear my head from all the thoughts rattling around that empty void in my head. How else am I going to enjoy the next glass of wine and some episodes of good natured kick-arse fun from a over-the-top spy drama (where all the spies are fantastically cute) if this crap is hanging around?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

When the Universe is laughing at you..

I am one of the biggest procrastinators I know. If I could be bothered to "google" it, I am sure I would be on the top 10 list of world famous procrastinators, however that seems like hard work, but I am sure I will get around to it one day.

I spent most of this winter procrastinating when it came to running. The weather was particularly dismal here. Okay, it's Vancouver, so it was a pretty typical winter, very wet and a bit on the cold side. Combined with life being more hectic than usual, it was pretty easy to skip a run and do other things. I mean, Starbucks don't earn their profit without the tireless work myself and others like me spend drinking coffee and reading books. It's a hard job and gawd damn it... some of us have to step up to the plate and be counted.

However, when it became clear I had to make a choice between getting out there and running OR going to the store and buying bigger pants; well running won. Trust me, I hate clothes shopping. It ranks on the list of things I would "prefer not to do", in-between dental work and probably going to a Celine Dion concert. So out came the black lycra, the winter jacket, toque and hacked water booties.

It became clear early on that my fitness had suffered a little , (okay, a lot) since I made the decision to buy 10lbs of Dairy Milk chocolate and then eat it. Even through the interweb I can hear certain phrases, something to do with a Bear's occupations in the woods and a fictional detective who was a huge opium addict. The image of me puffing and panting in the woods -because I was running people! Tut, some of you have dirty minds- is not that glamourous, so I was spurred on to get my butt into gear.

The Universe however can't have that. I mean where is the fun in that? So in a concerted effort to get me into whale sized pants, the Universe decided to throw a few challenges my way. The Universe has to have a laugh sometimes. Why should we have all the fun?

It's first challenge was to send the plague to the SD43 school system. Fine! It wasn't the plague, just a random collection of flu's and viruses designed to attack the kiddies, but not the adults. D is in Kindergarten this year, so is ripe for every strain of cough, cold and sniffle that is wandering about. In the last couple of months I have had a sick kid to look after. Poor lad, I don't think I have seen him so sick for a while. This has now resulted in a very nice bum-shaped dent on the sofa. The one thing that goes with sick kids, is a bored Mamma sitting next to them, because it's the sick kids aim in life to pass on said sickness. You can only do that with close, snotty nosed, contact with primary caregiver. Despite D's best efforts, I however managed to avoid the germs and remain healthy, if a little bum-numb from all the sitting.

D was back in school, so the Universe needed to come up with something more elegant. Enter stage-left; potentially rabid, ferocious dog the size of a walrus. Again, you got me, it wasn't any of those. It was however a very sweet, brown, standard poodle (probably puppy), who wanted to play. It's way of getting me to play, was to bite me. On the calf!! I mean, we don't need calves for running, do we? It's not important, is it? I couldn't believe it. It's not as if the dog was being overly antagonistic or gave the appearance that it was going to bite. I was walking up to the trail start from my car, it bounded along, happy as a happy thing on happy Tuesday. I let him sniff me, and then it just bit me. I know my dress sense is a little bizarre and I hadn't showered that morning, but really, a little post-it note would have sufficed. I managed a couple of miles before I realised that yep, it was bleeding a little, I cut the run short and got it cleaned up.

So a couple of days missed, but, I still had the horrific image of clothes shopping in my head. I will not be deterred. (Even if I had to have a tetanus shot- damn, those things hurt!).

I even managed to organise D's Autism therapy, so that despite Spring break, I could still run every day. It was working. But the Universe is a powerful force; mere mortals cannot subvert it! So in comes the big guns. The plan to completely scupper my running schedule. SPRING. After months using the weather as an excuse not to run, the Universe decides to use the weather as the reason I CAN'T run. How funny is that?

Yesterday was a beautiful day. The temperatures were in the high 50's (about 15C). The sun was out, there was cool breeze from the mountains. I didn't need layers of clothing. No rain jacket. I even had to hunt for my sun-glasses. I celebrated this rare event, (sunshine in Vancouver), with a good hill trail run. It was glorious. I was fast, I didn't need to stop, I managed the hill with little problems. I was back in the game. Then I got back to the car. I then started sneezing. I haven't stopped since.

Allergies. Who would have thought it. My one weakness. Flu, rabid dogs, intermittent schedule couldn't deter me. Yet, give me itchy eyes, runny nose, blotchy face and I am done for. So in the end the Universe had to wipe out my ability to see and breathe to get it's laugh. Well, I have something to say about that Universe! Are you listening? It's called "over-the-counter" drugs. I am chocked full of them. In fact if I have any more I would probably rattle if you shook me. Give me a couple of days and I will be back out there. Just you see. Either that, or the typical Vancouver weather will kick in and we'll get rain. I never thought I would be glad to run in the rain... see Universe, your plan has backfired! HA! Okay... just thought... playing chicken with the Universe is probably not a good idea, right? Umm... Universe? Forget everything I just said.. You win, honest.. *cough*, *sniff*.

Do you think I got away with that?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Perhaps they knew me better than I thought...

Last week I had a message from my Dad to tell me that in a sort-out of his house he found a bible that was given to me by my High school as a "prize" in my last year there.

I am not sure if it is just a British invention, but "Prize day" was an important event. Prizes were given to students for achievements in various subjects or accomplishments. I was always a mediocre student. I was never the brightest button in the pile and as such never excelled in a particular subject. I tried and although I never failed, I never shined. I didn't mind, I am who I am and even then I was fully aware that academia was never my strong point.

Despite teachers comments I continued school after 16, (It's not compulsory to be in school to 18), and I took my A-level (senior exams). Again, I tried hard, but I was never more than an average student. It was a surprise then, when in my last term in school I was told I was going to receive a School Prize at the "Prize Day". I was going to receive the "Armstrong prize for Endevour". I remember thinking at the time that it was a made-up prize. Almost as if the school felt they HAD to give me something because I had just spent 5 years of my life there, but I wasn't good enough at an subject to get an academic prize.

I chose a Bible as my prize -it had to be a book, vaguely useful, and I was in a "religious phase" at the time. My one and only school prize.

A definition of endevour is as follows:
"earnest and conscientious activity intended to do or accomplish something"

Looking back, I now wonder if the teachers that voted for me to have that prize actually knew me better than I knew myself.

When I was 18 I was in a culture where achievement was seen as academic accomplishments. Grades, exam marks; all the right ticks in all the right boxes. My view of the world was so narrow. This was something I was never going to excel at. I never counted myself as a failure, but I wasn't a success.

Now I am older and perhaps a little wiser. I look back over the last 20 years and I see everything I have managed and everything I have done. I have met so many people, seen so many places, lived so many different "lives". I now know that achievement is about how we grow into ourselves and what we do to make our lives a richer tapestry. It's not about meeting defined expectations of others, but it's about the relationships we make, the places we go, the events we experience. It's about meeting the expectations we have of ourselves. A few of my friends have posted about how "Home is where they are in a state of peace and not a place of possessions". I wonder if I would have been happier being in the same place all my life, with the same friends, but with the academic achievements and tangible possessions I craved when I was 18. No, I wouldn't. I am glad I was mediocre at school, because it allowed me the time and freedom to investigate other places, my other strengths and find new adventures.

So as I contemplate my old award for endevour, I wonder if the teachers at my school saw the person I would be before I did. Did they realise that I would employ "earnest and conscientious activity", but not in accomplishing degrees or certificates, but in something a lot more important, a full and vibrant life. Did they know me better than I thought...

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Attitudes are changing

In September, I started running at a long-standing club hosted by my local running shoe store. I wanted to join because I was in a bit of a running lapse and I found I had more of an incentive to run if I was with other people. Not quite misery loves company, but more of a running funk shared is a running funk... well... ignored (maybe??)

I was a little nervous and that nervousness made my attendance a little intermittent. It's hard to walk into an environment where people all know each other and have done for years. Where everyone looks very.. well serious about running and where everyone wears shoes. I wasn't a fish out of water, I was a fish stationed on the International Space Station waiting for a ride home from a passing space shuttle.

I wasn't ignored or unwelcome, but I still felt like a freak, walking into the store with my 5 toed shoes and my bizarre dress sense. I am not a unsocial person per-se, but I did feel like the geek who had been invited to the frat party by the captain of the football team and I wasn't sure why. Yeah, you can tell I am a John Hughes fan. Breakfast club rules okay?

I had my running lapse (aka running funk v2.0) around Christmas and I was pretty much determined not to go back, until I checked their web-site. I was contemplating joining one of their marathon clinics in an attempt to kick start my running (AGAIN) -maybe if I paid to be there I would feel less self-concious- when I came across a notice stating they were going to start a "Good Form" clinic. I have to mention I didn't realise it was based on the "Good Form Running" clinics based in Michigan, US. As you can tell I have evolved how I run, instead of learning it from "specific sources". It's another way to say I am "clueless" - wait that wasn't a John Hughes film. Damn.

I was intrigued. A running store having a "Good Form" running clinic. It seemed strange to me as "Good Form" and "shoes" are difficult to balance in my head. How do you prevent heel strike if you have a raised heal? So I put on my lycra, put on my brave face and decided to go back.

I had, at this point forgone, my VFF's and was in my hacked water shoes. So I did look like an authentic SCUBA diver -although one with a really cute pink running skirt- as I walked in from the Vancouver rain into the store. I initially hid in the corner, not making eye-contact and then slipped out with the "Good Form" group.

As we started running, there were comments from the group about my shoes. Mutters and whispers behind me as I scampered along, the patter of the "Shoe-Goo" drowning out what people might be saying. People then plucked up the courage to ask me about what I was wearing and why. The guy that was running the clinic also came up and talked to me. I was relieved, that I wasn't been counted as a complete freak. My attitudes were changing. Perhaps a barefoot/minimalist runner could attend a shoe store organised running club. Maybe being invited to the party was because the guy liked me and not because it was a kick-arse joke by the cool kids. (The John Hughes references are getting a little hard to make relevant now).

I talked about why I ran barefoot or minimalist. Why I thought it worked for me and how I thought it improved my form (which as it was a "Good form" clinic was handy). The points mentioned about form were pretty much what we as barefoot/minimalist runners already know. Okay, there were a few things I would or wouldn't have mentioned, but it wasn't my clinic. I was there as an observer.

I had to skip a couple of clinics and when I came back a couple of weeks later, the response to me was positive. People started coming up to me before the pre-run briefing and asking questions. I was then asked to make comments by the clinic organizer and asked to help the others with tips and hints.

Every-time I go back, the response to me has become more accepting. I get asked about form, minimal shoes and background. People are more receptive to what I am saying and are trying to see my point of view. I think they all breathed a sigh of relief when I didn't de-cry shoes or people that wear them, but more offering an alternative if people wanted it. As it became apparent that I wasn't a complete zealot, (barefoot runners always get bad press - few rotten apples I think), I can see their acceptance increasing.

This week I again attended the clinic. The organizer actually asked me to give a little talk on foot placement and form. I was being included. I think this is where I am starting to see the change.

I have maintained that Canada is about 12-18 months behind the US when it comes to Barefoot/Minimalist running. It's only with a few big name players in the shoe industry, who are bringing out their own minimalist/reduced running shoes, that people are beginning to consider the possibility. That less is more and that not everyone needs orthotics and structured shoes to be able to run.

This is good. The shoe store is stocking the NB Minimus, which although not a "minimal shoe" in my mind, (it's a reduced running shoe because of the heel-toe drop), it's a start. Who know's in 6 months time, they maybe receptive to complete "minimal running" shoes. Perhaps when you walk in you will see VFF's, Merrells, Terra Plana's, even Huaraches! Maybe they may want to do a barefoot/minimal shoe clinic. I can see potential there. I can see the difference in attitudes. It's nice to know that barefoot and minimal running is getting kick-started here in Canada and that in 12 months time, you won't feel like a "John Hughes" freak if you walk into the running club.