Monday, July 18, 2011

Reading list about the Autism Spectrum

I'm starting to devise a new reading list to learn more about people's experiences with the Autism spectrum. I'm specifically looking for uplifting titles, stories that explore and champion the diversity of people who are regarded as different. I don't want to read any more books about the spectrum that categorise it, or list characteristics to look out for, or how to over come it. I want to read about people who have discovered their talents and achieved things, been supported and can describe their lives as something to be proud of. There aren't many books like this around. On searching I've come across depressing titles such as, Daniel isn't talking; Let me hear your voice: a family's triumph over autism; Pretending to be normal: living with Aspergers syndrome; The out of sync child; overcoming autism; the empty fortress; Facing autism; children with starving brains, and so on. Now I can't say that I've read any of these titles, so I really cannot say with any authority that they don't contain uplifting messages, but I find most of these titles depressing.

Today I began reading the first book on my burgeoning list, Be different: adventures of a free-range Aspergian with practical advice for Aspergians, misfits, families and teachers. I know, a really long title.
It's written by John Elder Robison, brother of the famous author Augusten Burroughs, and after reading only the introduction, I can already tell that it ticks all the boxes that I am after. Feel good, tick. Experiences, tick. How life has been for him, tick. Robison himself says, "There's so much talk about the disability of Aspberger's, so much focus on what kids who are different can't do, that I thought it was time for a book about what they CAN do". I read that sentence this afternoon, and had an eye-opening moment. This is exactly what I've been after.

I blogged not too long ago that I was beginning to tell people that my son has been diagnosed with autism. This is because I feel less anxious. A year ago I was devastated, and couldn't see beyond the spectrum that was being described to me. The black and white characteristics that were blurring and blinding me to my son who is just magnificent. All mother's say that I know, but try saying it when you have spent time de-valuing a person who means so much to you. When you think that it's all just hopeless and that there is no future. I now see the amazing memory he has, the astounding capacity of loving all of us, his cheeky sense of humour, and the quiet pride that comes from his knowing his alphabet, daily increasing numbers into the hundreds and all those hues of colours.

I don't worry so much. So now I'm looking for further supportive arguments to that fact. I want to hear the stories. I am ready to hear the stories.

Besides Robison's work, I have also come across, The game of my life: the story of challenge, triumph and growing up Autistic by Jason J-Mac McElwain; Born on a blue day: inside the extraordinary mind of an autistic savant (yes I know the title does still sound depressing but I read commentary that really it's uplifting)by Daniel Tammet; Thinking in pictures: and other reports of my life with autism by Temple Grandin; and Send in the idiots: stories from the other side of autism by Kamran Nazeer.

The last reading list I devised was on Steampunk as I was keen to explore this genre. I love embarking on new reading list. I'll let you know how it goes.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Listening to wondrous words

Yesterday my four year old son read on his own for the first time. He's been showing some interest in reading and six months ago I embarked on a program (of my own devising) to teach him to read. Six months ago he wasn't ready. But yesterday, there was focus, and interest and success! And listening to him saying the words on the page was fantastic. I'm unbelievably buoyed by this, as a year ago I was wondering if I would ever hear him speak, let alone read!

I've decided to use two books to start the reading process. One is a book I bought ages ago of the Dick and Jane series. I learned to read using these books as well as the Peter and Jane ladybird books.

As well as these books I'm going to use dr Seuss. This is a great series using phonics that are fun and memorable. Well we'll do more reading this afternoon and hopefully we'll continue to make progress. I'm very excited for him as I know that he's about to open a very special door.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

My Steampunk reading list

For some reason I thought I'd posted this list ages ago, but hadn't. So here it is. I've read probably three quarters of the titles so far, and they all have varying merit, but if you're a fan of the genre, or want to try some different reading, most of the books here are good reads - stand out being China Mieville. Literary genius.

Boneshaker Priest

The Windup Girl Bacigalupi

The monstrumologist Yancey

Flora Segunda Wilce

The glass books of the dream eaters vol. 2 Dahlquist

The dark volume Dahlquist

The manual of detection Berry

The somnambulist: a novel Barnes

The court of the air Hunt

The meaning of night Cox

The league of extraordinary gentleman Moore

Thomas Riley Valentino

Chenda and the airship Brifman Bush

Gaslight grimoire

Anti ice Baxter

The difference engine Gibson & Sterling

Perdido street station Mieville

The steampunk trilogy Di Filippo

The grand ellipse Volsky

Mairedon the magician Wrede

The strangely beautiful tale of miss percy parker Hieber

The dancers at the end of time Moorcock

Neverwhere Gaiman

Whitechapel gods Peters

King rat Mieville

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The name game

Being in the chapter of life, that is raising two small children, I meet lots of other mums. I meet them at Playgroups, daycare, kinder, the park, all those places that young families frequent. As a result I'm suddenly finding myself having to remember two to three names at a time. Allow me to explain. My oldest son is now four, and my daughter has just turned two. So this means over the last few years when I've met say, Joanna, I've also met her oldest, Matthew and his sibling Sam. Sometimes there may even be a third name to remember, this name accompanied by said littlie in a pram. Over time this translates to a lot of name-remembering! And I do also appreciate the fact that this happens vice-versa.

Yesterday I bumped into a mum that I had previously met at a playgroup easily three years ago. She also lives one street away from me. I knew she was expecting her third child in May, and had spent the intervening two months wondering if she'd had a boy or a girl and how they were all doing. So I was pleased to see her at the shops yesterday, and happily greeted her, saying 'congratulations, Gabby!' We then spoke for a couple of minutes, all things mum, when she then gently corrected me saying her name is Gina and her oldest girl is Gabby. OMG!

This means for three years I've been calling her Gabby in my mind. When she said this to me yesterday, I also did a flash mental stocktake and realised that I'd never really said her name to her (maybe there was a small part of me that knew it was incorrect?) but that she has always greeted me by my name. I felt really bad.

But then I got to thinking. I know that not all the other mum's I've met remember my name - though mostly they seem to. However my name is fairly memorable as a very famous song has been written about it and people always sing it to me. Gina was not upset or offended in any way, and I know that I'll never forget her name again. So in the last twenty-four hours I've been going over all the mum's names that I know, as well as their children. I figure that many of them will be around for a while, their children being friends with mine, and that really I should make more of an effort of remembering.

Saturday, July 09, 2011

A Long-ago Promise

I have this vivid memory of standing on the asphalt netball court of my primary school playground and announcing grandly to a fellow classmate that my ambition was to write a book. Looking back I must have easily been around grade four. Perhaps grade five? To this day I don't know where that statement came from. I love writing and still hold the lofty ambition of one day actually writing a published novel of some kind, but to say that at such a young age?

I achieved my Arts degree later in life, I was an older student, being thirty years old, and majored in Literature, doing this precisely before having my first child. The study came later on in life, mostly because I felt unsupported in my home life with my academic studies when I was in high school. But I try not to lay all the blame at parental feet because I'm a true believer that you are what you make of it. If you say you're going to do something then do it. When I started my degree my grandmother was adamant that I kept telling her that one day I was going to write and be a journalist. When I was in high school I harboured ambitions to study journalism but it was not to be - and truthfully I don't think I'm cut out for that particular profession.

In the last fifteen or so years I've been noticing something. Almost everything I have set out to do, I have done. It's been a lot of incremental things; getting married, buying a house, having children, studying, traveling, and now the extension. I have slowly set goals for myself and looking back I can see that I have achieved most of them. All except this one.

So even though I uttered that grandiose statement in my pre-pubescent years, I feel that I should hold myself accountable to it. I remember reading or hearing somewhere that the average age of an author is 50. I'm 38, so I reckon that I've got a bit more time up my sleeve to make that statement come true.

Today I read in the paper that 'Late-blooming' authors had won two of the Prime Minister's Literary awards. I was heartened to read this. Stephen Daisley is 56 and wrote the winning novel Traitor.
It's his first book but he says he's been writing for 20 years. Another winner Rod Moss, 63, won the non-fiction award for The hard light of day.
I've not read either book, but on reading the article about their winning books, reminded me of a long ago promise I made to myself. And it made me wonder, perhaps these first time published authors have blogs too?

Friday, July 08, 2011

Feeling stagnant

It feels as if the whole world has been asking me, what's happening with your house? It's frustrating me to no end. We were hoping to begin our renovation/extension by June and it's now July. By now we should be living on a building site! What is the hold up? Even I can't answer this question clearly. At the moment it feels as though our architect is paying us lip-service and wanting to show us a whole lot of pretty drawings.

At present we are waiting for the specifications that will go on the contract so we can tender the plans out to builders. (At least that's my understanding). Yesterday we got more drawings with specifications on materials etc, but the costing still had not been done. A few things that had been talked about at our last meeting had been ommitted. Also our architect seems to have handed over the project to the person who works for him. We're not too fussed about that, because he's very good and has had some great ideas. But me thinks that our architect has gone on to bigger and better projects now that he's at the tail end of advising us.

Tonight I'm out to dinner and the movies with some girlfriends, and I'm bracing myself for the inevitable questions. I've already had a telephone conversation with my mum today discussing it, and I'm soooo over it. I just want to hear builders on the premises - even if it is at 7.30am.

The questions are inevitable because everyone knows that a) we live in a small house; b) we have two small children who are GROWING; c) they're curious; and d) they may be thinking we don't have the money to start - not the case, it's sitting there waiting to be used!

I'm going to post about this in a week's time with the notion of starting a timeline of exactly how long this is taking. Either I will be pleasantly surprised that things are moving along, or incredibly depressed that we still remain stagnant.

Thursday, July 07, 2011

Butterfly or Bear?

I keep on hearing that we human beings are social animals. So then I ask myself, why is it that I am sometimes happiest, holed away at home, existing through a day-to-day routine developed by me, and sometimes not even jutting my nose out the door? I like nothing better than to be inside with a Do Not Disturb sign affixed. Unfortunately my two littlies ignore this sign consistently.

In fact, if it wasn't for my two children I think I could spend days at a time indoors and be perfectly happy. I wasn't always like this. Or was I? This is a question I keep asking myself. Have I always been so insular?

I don't think it's particularly good to be this way, especially when you do go outside and find yourself rapidly blinking from the bright light. In fact on those days that I do make an effort I always come away with some sense of exhilaration from having had some kind of human contact. But maybe this is so, because of having days on end at home prior to venturing out of doors?

The other thing is that I'm not socially shy. I can hold my end of a conversation. I can also usually fill in the gaps left in a conversation. This then makes me think that I'm at odds with myself. Take the other day for example. The kids were dropped off at daycare and I easily spent a half hour there stopping to chat with various carers as I slowly exited the building. I always have something to say. This was followed by two chatty phone calls. Then I went and visited another mum who is recuperating from an operation. All before lunch! I was quite tired in the afternoon, consequently spending two hours watching television recordings of my choosing. I loved it. Maybe even more so than the conversations I'd had earlier in the morning.

So, yes, we probably are social animals at best, but I think that we also would like to be a bit like bears who hibernate through winter. All for one's sanity of course. Or at least mine.

Friday, July 01, 2011

8am! Nooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!

I'm on semester break at the moment from uni. A few days ago semester two's timetable was released, and I'm going from a cushy two day a week - eleven to three - classes to two 8am starts. This is going to kill me!!! I have been blessed with two good sleepers. My son was sleeping through the night at four months and my daughter was three months. On our days of daycare and kinder I normally wake them up at around 7.30am. If we don't go anywhere ( I call it alarm-free days) then we wake up sometime between 8 and 9am. Yes, even with young children I get sleep-ins.

I've also had to ask for a day change at their daycare. My god it's like pulling teeth. But I wasn't taking no for an answer. Mind you, I'm still waiting for an answer! The director of the center asked me what would happen if she couldn't find them spots? I said I'd have to turn to my mum, but as she lives a half-hour away, it would prove to be difficult. Now to top it all off both my classes begin at 8am. The earliest I've ever had to be somewhere was 8.30am, and that was for my last job before having children.

I'm not looking forward to the early mornings, but who knows, maybe I will be completely turned around for the better.
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