Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Unconventional Therapy

I'm a little old to be in conventional therapy anymore. When I was young, we did run the gambit of regular therapy. Now I'm older, and my therapy is a little less conventional.

Movie and I recently started Brazilian Jiu-jitsu. Movie has been doing some form of ground fighting for the last couple of years, so he knows what he's doing. It was way easier for me to start something new because he was there to talk to me about it.

Wikipedia (the oracle of all knowledge) defines Jiu-Jitsu like this:
Brazilian Jiu Jitsu promotes the concept that a smaller, weaker person can successfully defend against a bigger, stronger assailant by using leverage and proper technique – most notably by applying joint-locks and chokeholds to defeat the other person.

What that really amounts to on a day to day basis is me getting flattened by people who have at least 60 pounds on me.

Now here's where this gets interesting, I love it. The amount of pressure from other people moving and working on my joints feels amazing afterwards.

You know how therapists recommend weighted blankets and doing exercises that put pressure on the joints? Jui-jitsu is like that, but on steroids.  

Here's how I know that these classes are good, and more importantly, safe:
Classes are small, and supervised by a black belt. Like bowling and unlike Vietnam, there are rules.
If it hurts, you tap and everything stops.
Before you start a move, everyone checks and makes sure that they are on the same page. 
You can only spar with people who are more advanced than you.
The best part, if you don't want to do something, don't do it.
Boundaries are totally respected.

But this isn't the only thing that I think makes for good unconventional therapy.

SeaStar and I started doing a Bosu class at our local gym.

A Bosu is essentially half of a huge exercise ball. The main focus of the class is to improve balance and build muscle.

It's like an hour of intense balance, cardio and strength building. You end up crossing the midline a whole bunch, which is supposed to be good for you. 

Now I can totally do this:

I actually think that in some ways I get more out of this than I do conventional therapy. It may be because you're thrown in the mix with people who are NT. It might also be because it works more than the parts of me that are NNT. Whatever it is, I know that after practice, I feel better about myself and that's what counts.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Do the science to it.

 Sorry, y'all, let's try this one again. I've made some edits!

One time, I was on the swim team. I learned a lot from swimming. I gained better balance and slightly better coordination from it. I also learned about the importance of the uniform.

You see, the swim team had mostly middle class and upper middle class kids from a few neighborhoods in my hometown. Most of the kids grew up together and had been friends for a long time. This being the middle school/high school years everyone dressed the same.

For the girls this meant the footwear was Ugg boots in the winter, and Old Navy or Abercrombie flip flops in the summer. For tops in was something from Abercrombie, Old Navy, American Eagle or Pacsun. The shirts usually had a tank top or cami under them. Jeans were either Abercrombie or American Eagle if you were cool and Old Navy if your parents didn't want to pay $50 per pair of jeans.

If you were super cool you had a name brand purse, like one from Juicy Couture, Dooney and Burke, or Coach. If you were less cool (your parents had better things to do) then your purse was from Walmart. Hand me downs were only cool if they were vintage, and they were never called hand me downs.

I was an uncool kid

from whatshouldwecallme

I didn't wear any of these things for the first couple of the years that I swam. My clothes came from Old Navy or Walmart, and that suited me fine. I thought that Ugg boots were stupid (they aren't even water proof!) I would have rather spent $50 on books or something. The purse I carried was really just an extension of my huge backpack and was totally not cool.

The Matriarch saw what was happening, (in fact she might be a wizard.) She saw that there was totally a group of girls that wouldn't talk to me despite the fact that we had known each other for two years or more.

She bought me a pair of Ugg boots when they went on sale at Christmas. She dragged me to the store to buy a pair of non-Walmart jeans. We went to Abercrombie and Fitch, which by the way, Dr. Capt. Daddy once described as bush wacking through a smelly jungle club. (It's not exactly sensory friendly.)

Exactly 100 exasperated teenaged sighs later I had what came to be known at the house as a uniform. The uniform was clothes that made me fit in rather than stand out. I had clothes that looked more or less like my peers along with a purse and boots to match. I thought The Matriarch was crazy and that this was a stupid idea. Surely we lived in a world where I would be judged by the content of my character and not on the label of my jeans.

We do not.

I wore the whole shebang one day to swim practice.

People who had not said so much as three words to me the whole time I'd been swimming were talking to me. They wanted me to have a locker next to theirs. They wanted me to swim in their lane.

It was totally weird.

People treated me differently because I was wearing different clothes. What is even weirder is that it is quantifiable.I wore my normal clothes one day to swim practice and counted the number of people who talked to me. The next day I wore the uniform and counted. More people talked to me when I wore the uniform than when I wore my sweat shirt and jeans.

The same thing remains true to this day. When I went to college, the uniform was different. I wore the same uniform Id worn in high school, and instead of fitting in I stood out more. Let me illustrate.

Paris, when we met, had shaved half of her head and wore the other half short. She wore combat boots and dresses that came from second hand shops. She didn't own a purse. We looked super different.

So our hippie campus has no less than three anarchist groups. They are super interested in taking down the man or something. Paris regularly got asked if she belonged to an anarchist group or if she would be interested in joining one.

Never once in the three years that I lived and attended hippie college did I get asked if wanted to join an anarchist group. (which is totally fine by me)

The point is that with a shaved head and combat boots Paris looked more like she belonged to an anarchist group than I did. In fact, my uniform was so wrong that often got looked at as though I was lost and had wandered onto campus by mistake.

Again, I did the science to it. I observed what people in campus wore, then bought it and wore it to class. I got the same results, more people talked to me when I wore a plaid shirt and traded my name brand purse for something less showy.

From whatshouldwecallme

Shortly after I conducted the first experiment,I asked The Matriarch why people talked to me because I had Ugg boots.

It's because those clothes make you less scary to them. Wearing those boots makes you One Of Them. It says that you share the same interests as they do. If you are the same as they are you can't be threatening to them. I like to think that my clothes are like keys, if you have the right ones, you are accepted socially. Learning how to dress allows you to pass more or less as a NT.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Throwing rocks that create tsunamis

Several commenters on Stark Raving Mad Mommy seem to be concerned that if they attempt to teach their children how to read facial expressions, the parents might come off too strongly and their children's feelings might get hurt.

I'd like to share a story with you, if I may, that might shed some light on the subject.

When I was in elementary school, I didn't understand the social thing. I didn't get personal space, or waiting for a pause in the conversation to talk, and my personal hygiene was lacking.

This did not go over very well with the other kids.

As punishment for my out of bounds social behavior, the kids at my school found a fitting punishment for me: they threw rocks. They were never very big rocks- mostly the pea gravel from the playground.

In contrast, any kind of guidance from parents is sweet and kind by comparison.

From johndavidthorntondrawing.blogspot.com

Think about a tsunami

Most of them are caused by an earthquake in the ocean. This earthquake doesn't have to be very big; it can be fairly small. In the middle of the ocean, a tsunami isn't very big- only about a foot higher than normal sea levels. As the earthquake causes a shockwave that travels closer to shore, the wave caused by the earthquake becomes more visible as it increases in amplitude.

There are stories of Japanese fishing vessels going out to sea on a calm day and returning at night to find their villages destroyed by tsunamis they didn't even see.

This is like the social thing. NNTs are like Japanese fishermen out at sea; we can't see the tsunamis until we get close to shore again. Everyone else are like villagers; they can see the tsunami coming. Parents, teachers, psychologists, etc. are like scientists: they have the equipment to see a tsunami coming- they might even be able to teach the fishermen to use those instruments.

Now, if you don't know what a tsunami is- or what causes them- you might attribute it to God, or demons, or Cthulhu. That's where parents come in: they can tell you that it is not God or Cthulhu, but an earthquake/weird behavior that causes tsunamis/rock throwing.

Today scientists have equipment that can help detect earthquakes that cause tsunamis; they detect changes that aren't visible to the naked eye. Even with this equipment, if you were to be in the ocean above an earthquake, you might not see anything other than a small wave. But you are a scientist! You know an earthquake has occurred- your instruments say so.

Children can be incredibly cruel and mean. If you love your kid and tell them so, and just keep trying to teach them the social thing.

I almost never get that my behavior is a problem until it becomes tsunami-sized. I still sometimes don't see others' facial or body expressions unless they are tsunami-sized. I forget to use my science equipment to look for the early warning signs of other peoples happiness, sadness and anger.

As a parent, your job is to give your child the tools they need to successfully navigate the world around them. If you are doing your best to prepare your child by teaching them facial expressions, you can bet that your techniques are more kind than the techniques used by your child's peers.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I'm still angry

There are a lot of great posts out there about teachers who made a difference. There are great stories from moms and dads about teachers, staff and administrators who are making a difference in the lives of non neurotypicals.

That's awesome, I love hearing those stories. They make my heart joyful and I'm glad to see those changes happening.

But here's the deal: I'm still angry. I graduated highschool in 2008, I graduate college this spring, but there are still things I'm angry about.

I'm still STILL angry at these things that happened to me 15 years ago.

I'm  angry that I had to stay in for recess and re color my rainbow because I can't draw inside the lines, four times.And when my teacher let me outside, it was less than 2 minutes before the bell rang to come back in.

I'm still angry that it took me 7 years to recover from the trauma of being in that kindergarten classroom.

I'm mad that my first teacher ever told my parents that the fear of God needed to be enstilled in me.

I'm  angry that I didn't ask where the bathroom was because my teachers made me feel stupid. I held it the entire day.

I'm still mad that my teacher watched as the other kids threw rocks at me. Both my teacher and the aide did nothing.

I'm still mad that when The Matriarch came to class to help my teacher would act one way and when she was gone she'd act another.

I'm still angry that I was the only kid in the class who didn't get an award for being helpful, the teacher's favorite student got two.

I'm angry that you let the bullies sit together, right next to me, in the back of the class. 

I'm still angry that bullying was such a problem that I would walk to my SeaStars class and walk her to the car so no one picked on her.

I'm still mad that I spent more time in the hall than in the classroom.

I'm still mad that my third grade teacher embarrassed me in front of the whole class because I got the lowest grade on the spelling test. She told me I should have studied. I spent hours studying.

I'm mad that the administrators said those accommodations would be difficult because the teacher would have to come in early to prepare a separate test for me.

I'm mad that the admin told me I didn't need accommodations because I got good grades.

I'm angry that the smell of elementary classrooms gives me anxiety. Before I go to Bunky's classroom, I have to take three deep breaths and remind myself that I am an adult now. 

I'm still mad that I spent more time doing homework than I did sleeping.

I'm mad that my parents spent more time helping me with homework than they did sleeping. 

I'm still mad that I couldn't sleep because I knew school would be awful.

I'm angry that I had a constant stomache ache from the anxiety.

I'm still mad that I let all of my teachers convince me that The Matriarch wouldnt believe me, that these things were really happening. I spent many years thinking that these things were in my head.

I'm angry that when I talk with my friends about school, they all have fond memories of it. I have memories filled with anxiety, fear and hatred. 

Today, when my friends tell me that they are thinking about becoming teachers, I sometimes look at them like they eat babies. When my friends talk about their school expirences as being mostly positive, I have little to contribute. When they talk about the joy of learning in the classroom all I can think about is how I don't have a single joyful memory of learning in the classroom from elementary school. When they talk about how they loved school and learning, I think how I would have been happier if I had been left alone.

When friends talk about how teachers are underpaid and often work in harsh conditions, I agree, but here's the deal: for every awesome teacher out there making a difference in the life of a child there are two teachers and one administrator who are making life difficult.  

I am very sorry that these things happened to me. I hope at some point, they stop happening at all. This life has made me who I am, for better or for worse.
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