How Women In Biz helped me open up about Autism

I had the pleasure of attending the Women In Biz Network Conference in Toronto last week, reuniting with a number of “old” friends and meeting new ones. #WIBN has a very soft spot in my heart as it was through Women In Biz that I truly figured out Twitter and via their networking events, have met dear wonderful people who I truly count as amazing friends now.

It helped me realize how very much I am not alone in the world of solo/mom/entrepreneurship and that many of the challenges I face are very similar to what they are going through. What I love about the Women In Biz Network (perhaps because so many of us are moms) is that unlike posturing at other conferences, there is a group of highly motivated, intelligent women, willing to talk about those key challenges and brainstorm together how to help one another. What I have also found was a group of kindred spirits in moms (who are business owners/bloggers) who have children with special needs. They have been a tremendous source of encouragement, comfort, laughter and that much-needed nod of understanding when you are detailing some of the latest challenges you’ve had with the school board. Their experiences mirror my own and help me get through the moments I struggle with.

It was during one of those candid conversations, as we laughed about some of the judgemental looks we’ve gotten at the grocery store,┬áthat I realized how much we have changed habits/behaviours within our life to accommodate Autism into it. None of it is really a big deal but when you start adding it up, you realize how many changes we have made to help keep things on an even keel and keep our family strong.

A few changes..

-We haven’t eaten pasta in god knows how long. We used to get upset with T when he would gag out the spaghetti he was eating (thinking he was being overdramatic) until we discovered that texture can be a major issue for Autistic kids.

-My mother loves buying really awesome outfits for the kids but even she is starting to recognize that T just won’t wear jeans and depending on the day, really hates collared shirts (sometimes he will so there is always hope!) His favorite attire, pajamas (you can find him in them at any given time of the day) and he also can be found wearing a long sleeve shirt in the middle of a heat wave. Again as we looked further into this, jeans can feel like sandpaper to a kid with sensitivities and sometimes the long sleeve shirt is a response to his heightened reaction to stimuli. The funny thing is is how often before we better understood this, that those were a root of frustration/anger/impatient arguments in trying to get T to do what he was told.

-T goes through obsessions. First it was Thomas, then Lightning McQueen (Cars), then onto Super Mario. We are used to it. The kids at school patiently say “Yes, we know T…Super Mario and Luigi say ka-pow…as they roll their eyes cause they have heard it every day X10 for the last 2 months”, other people are not, and we see them annoyed/confused/amused by his repetitive conversations or simply stuff like “Welcome to the Thomas and Friends DVD Experience. Please press play to start the movie” We roll with the obsessions and often use it as a reward for good behaviour. Trying to fight it has proven to just not work for us.

-We have become quieter in our house. We’ve realized that yelling or loud voices is one of the worst things for him. We use a lot of non-verbal charades to help slow his brain down and get him to focus on looking at us to accomplish tasks. We also recognize that after a while when there are a lot of kids over playing that he will disappear to go play on the computer. Yes, it’s rude but it’s how he copes and we are totally ok with that.

-We work on patience (my husband and I) daily. We try more now to figure things out. See what’s not working..decide whether its T being a 6 year old boy, Autistic or both. We still have some really sad days (usually after an incident at the playground or after talking to the school board) but we know that if we don’t work together on all of this (as many reports show) we won’t make it. Bottom line.

This journey has taken us sharp left…and it is definitely an interesting adventure. Obsessions will change, behaviours will differ, life is ever-changing and we are learning as we go how to work with it. That’s Autism. A different puzzle (or piece to the puzzle) all the time.

Original source: http://www.theshirtdudes.com/monopoly-change.html

What I’m Thankful For: Twitter to Wine to Work/Life Balance

I am working on a project all about Thanks next year. I can’t hardly wait…but I have to exercise patience while we wait for people to make decisions, agree to ideas and come to the table with the support needed to make this effort as huge as we want it to.
While we wait, I have been reflecting on what I’m Thankful for after living through a fairly turbulent albeit incredibly exciting year. Below are a few “Thankfuls” I have realized have been a major part in getting me to where I am these days… happy, fulfilled, and getting closer to balanced every day.

From Twitter to Wine to Work/Life Balance, life is good.
  • I am Thankful for a husband who is truly a partner & gets that in this period of our lives he is the cheerleader, supporter, parent, chief bottle washer and laundry keeper upper. These days I have definitely been the worker bee (this pendulum has swung many times throughout our relationship) but I think he sees that I am energized and excited by what I’m doing vs coming home in a big giant stressball.
  • I am Thankful that being forced into a career change has helped create a much stronger work/life balance than I’ve ever had before in my life. I had a friend recently post on her blog about the time element of work/life balance, discussing the fact that you are never really “on” and “off” working freelance or for yourself. I look at it from a different perspective and see all the other positive elements of that work/life balance, opportunities I have had a chance to enjoy since starting up my business again. A few examples…I can take my son to his speech pathology appt every week without having to beg permission or explain to a boss: I have been able to volunteer at my children’s school, which feels good and right: I can choose when to go workout to stay healthy and focused (certain weeks it doesn’t always work, but I am doing it a heck of a lot more than when I was working corporate side): and my overall happiness is balanced and positive..I don’t rush to get out of the house in the morning…I take a deep breath to enjoy a quiet moment at times…because I can.
  • I am Thankful that I am working on projects that truly resonate with me vs. slogging/marketing products for the sake of a paycheque. Figuring out and coming into my own on what I like to do, the strategy I enjoy developing and the social media engagement that plays a major role in my business.
  • I am Thankful for Social Media. I think in a world of working on your own and working from remote locations, Twitter and Facebook is a way to keep in touch..meet around the virtual water cooler and maintain that base social need people have to stay connected. I am also incredibly Thankful for Twitter. In the past year, I have met online and in real life, some of the most beautiful (and hilarious) people I have ever had the privilege of getting to know. I have such fondness for so many of them and enjoy the daily laughter, quips, support and encouragement that these tweeps have sent my way, and I in turn want to do the same.
  • I am Thankful that I can now fit into Banana Republic sizing (They have fabulous work/life balance cross-over clothing for the fabu working from home gig) because of actually getting into exercising and running specifically, learning to endure it and proudly achieving some major accomplishments this year.
  • I am Thankful for wine…this just an ode to the fact that a glass of wine can somehow magically soothe the day away, be enjoyed at a party, insinuate a romantic moment, and be the perfect company to a girls night out…
  • I am Thankful for friends. Real life, got your back, biggest fan, encouraging friends.  I didn’t realize how deeply those friendships went until so many changes happened in our lives. When I lost my job, I got Congratulations : When I decided to start my business again, I got absolute faith that I could accomplish it: When T was diagnosed,  we got “what can we do?”: When I don’t know how to talk about Autism and the roller coaster of emotions I have felt, they have listened, talked, hugged, been a shoulder, asked questions and quietly waited until we have found the ability to ask for help..Those friends have gotten me through so much and I cannot express to them how much I love them but hopefully as they read this post, they realize how very special they are.  THANK YOU.