‘Brain Health’: Benefits to Working Out

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From time to time we have different bloggers write for our site. This week we hear from Karl Sterling, CEO: PhysioChains Education, and Creator of Parkinson’s Regeneration Training and instructor for the Brookbush Institute of Human Movement Science.
For most people, when they think about exercise they correlate it with the physical health of their body; things like weight loss, fat burn, increased cardio endurance, building strength and muscle mass, and looking better. While all of these benefits are relevant, did you know that exercise can jump start your brain? That’s right – brain activity is stimulated during exercise and many benefits can be realized! So, read on and if your physical goals aren’t enough to motivate you to “just get started” there’s a good chance you’ll find motivation in the information below!

In 2008, Dr. John Ratey released a book entitled “Spark,” a book that examines some complex chemistry of the brain as it relates to exercise. Through many studies cited in the book, we see that there is plenty of data to support that exercise does, in fact stimulate healthy brain activity. We now have quantifiable data showing increased neural activity in the brain as a result of exercise. We also have research showing that exercise increases reading comprehension, test scores, and the ability to think quickly and clearly. In addition, research shows that people with brain issues and symptoms such as ADHD, PTSD, anxiety, and depression can also benefit from adequate exercise.

Looking a little deeper into this, we know that exercise can be correlated with slowing the progression of certain neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.

So, how does this all work and how is it possible? Ratey points out that significant physical changes occur in the brain during exercise. The brain has what we call neuroplasticity, meaning that it can grow new cells when pushed to do so. This increase in cells occurs through a brain-emitted chemical called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). In fact, laboratory testing has shown that brain cells in a petrie dish sprinkled with BDNF will actually grow more neurons. That’s right, BDNF is like miracle grow for the brain!

The late visionary physical education teacher, Phil Lawler of the Naperville, Illinois School District decided to implement a cutting-edge strategy of exercise with students. His goal was to educate them on a “life skill” of how to achieve, maintain, and experience the benefits of a good level of physical fitness. And, while other phys ed concentrated on grading students on performance, Lawler graded his students on effort. Heart rate monitors were worn by every student and they were graded on their effort and the amount of time they kept their heart rates in the aerobic training zone. The more effort, the higher grades they received.

The result: Naperville students consistently rank among the top in the United States. Among a 1999 class of eighth graders who took an international standards test called TIMSS, Naperville finished first in the world in science and sixth in math out of approximately 230,000 students from around the globe. In addition, in one class of Naperville sophomores, just 3 percent were overweight while the national average was 30 percent.

So, there you have it, friends! JUST GET STARTED with your exercise program. Not only will you realize the physical benefits of exercise, you’ll start building new brain cells right away, creating immediate short term and long term “brain health” benefits.


Karl Sterling is an NASM master trainer based in New York. While his extensive experience as a trainer includes working with a variety of populations, he primarily specializes in working with clients who have Parkinson’s Disease. Karl travels extensively throughout the United States as an educator in the fitness training and human movement arena. He is an instructor for the Brookbush Institute of Human Movement Science. In addition, he is the owner of PhysioChains Education which currently offers level 1 and 2 “Parkinson’s Regeneration Training ®” courses nationwide.

How Will the Repeal of the Affordable Care Act Affect Families with Children with Special Need

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From time to time, we like to invite guests to share their perspectives here in our magazine. Today’s guest blog is written by Leona E. Filis, an attorney licensed in Texas and North Dakota–Ed.

With the upcoming administration, changes to the House and Senate, and the echo of campaign promises, many parents with children with specials needs have concerns about the continuation of their families’ health care coverage. Several provisions of the Affordable Care Act (“ACA”) are relied upon by our families.  One of the key provisions enjoyed by many families is the mandate that allows adult children, up to the age of twenty-six, to be included in their parents’ health insurance policies.  A number of adult children currently covered by their parents’ policies are disabled and are particularly vulnerable if they are excluded from their parents’ health insurance. Options are quite limited for these children who may not be able to work and have access to job-based health insurance plans.

Additionally, the ACA contains protective provisions that prohibits health insurance companies from imposing a waiting period for coverage of a pre-existing condition. Further, all new-health plans are required to cap out-of-pocket costs each year.  Also, under the ACA, employer plans are prohibited from including lifetime limits to coverage and health insurance coverage will not end when medical costs reach an arbitrary amount.

Another provision of the ACA relied upon heavily by the disability community is the expansion of Medicaid; however, this is limited to states that chose to implement the expansion. In such states, people with disabilities could qualify for Medicaid benefits due to eligibility based on a low income of up to 138 percent of poverty. Qualification for Medicaid benefits could occur earlier in time than qualification for eligibility of benefits based on a disability.

What are the changes taking place now? The Congressional Budget Act of 1974 allows for the expedited consideration of mandatory spending legislation. Recently, the U. S. Senate voted to approve a budget blueprint, by way of a reconciliation bill, to allow the removal of significant components of the ACA, without the interference of a filibuster.  The U. S. House of Representative voted to approve a budget blueprint as well.  A repeal to reform Medicaid is supported by many in congress.

To date a comprehensive reform bill has not been provided for review.  President-elect Donald Trump has expressed approval a couple of aspects of the ACA, such as the inability of insurer to deny coverage for people with pre-existing health conditions and allowing children to stay on their parents’ insurance policies longer.  President-elect Trump’s ultimate goal is to repeal the ACA replace it with a plan essentially simultaneously. Trump’s proposes his plan will provide “insurance for everybody” and that pharmaceutical companies are “politically protected but not anymore.”

Unfortunately, one cannot predict whether the two ACA mandates approved by Trump will ultimately be a part of TrumpCare. A House republicans have a Better Way plan that promises to protect patients with pre-existing conditions and allow dependents up to age twenty-six to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans.

Parents of children with special needs have valid concerns if the ACA is repealed. Will their children, especially those over eighteen years old, with pre-existing medical conditions have private health insurance? If not, will Medicaid be an option and if so, how long is the wait for eligibility for benefits?


13406834_576875372474442_6870463253382894447_nLeona Filis is a Special Needs Attorney who is a partner and a resource to parents by helping them navigate those tough decisions for their children.Her goal as a Special Needs Attorney is to be a partner in the children’s lives and a resource to the parents to help the children from the first step to the very last stepwww.filislaw.com

Affordable Care Act Appeal


By a contributor of Jason’s Connection

We need to stand together. Donald Trump promised to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. Now the Senate has voted to repeal the ACA without any replacement. This will leave 30 million Americans including many with disabilities and mental health needs to be uninsured. We need to let the politicians know that we expect Donald Trump to keep his promise and that breaking the promise to replace the ACA with something better will have serious political ramifications for them. (The above is an opinion of an contributor of Jason’s Connection)- Image of ACA seal

Here’s how to contact your representative if you agree.Call the five Republican senators who have broken away from the GOP to demand a slow down of the repeal. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to stop the repeal and share your story. They are:

Senator Bob Corker – (202) 224-3344
Senator Lisa Murkowski – (202) 224-6665
Senator Rob Portman – (202) 224-3353
Senator Susan Collins – (202) 224-2523
Senator Bill Cassidy – (202) 224-5824

We are happy to report that Donald Trump announced he will make sure all Americans have healthcare. This is particularly important for people with disabilities and mental health needs.


5 Personal Discoveries Of 2016: A Guest Blog written by Hilary K.

On and off of cyberspace, I encountered music, film, and literature that left a lasting impression on my brain (I’m noticing that my picks that I chose to publish have largely to do with relationships, Autism, mental health, and emotional abuse in some way). There’s actually a great deal more of these discoveries than a mere 5, but I want to keep this post a reasonable length.

1. The Disney film”Frozen.” frozen-picI grew up with and adored Disney films (being a Walt Disney Studios animation artist was one of my childhood dreams). By age 13, I owned a vast Disney VHS library. Around the time of my 20th birthday, I began to see the cracks in all the story lines of my favorite films. Disappointed and questioning the studio’s choices in character development, I began to see clearly the ableism, racism, sexism, class profiling, and other insidious designs which were unearthed by the new level of critical thinking imparted to me from two exceptional college professors.

But today, when I watched Frozen, I noticed something that I think is unique for Disney. I will admit, I was reluctant to pop the DVD into the player. I had the feeling that I should have the remote close by, ready to fast forward through any stereotypes I’d have too much trouble explaining to the youngsters (they are natural-born film critics). Of course, there were those *signature* Disney moments that make me cringe, but the feature affirmed a reality that a certain demographic of minorities have been living with for decades in America: disability and ableism, sexism and gender profiling, psychology and the spectrum of sexual expression in our material, political society. It seems as though Disney can’t perpetuate old stereotypes, at least not quite in the same way as in it’s past, nor can the current state of the American psyche be swept under the magic carpet.

Before watching Frozen, I had to do what I always do – read criticisms that were written about it. On Arts.Mic, I found an article that listed points about the film which, in the critic’s point of view, made it the studio’s most progressive film ever, including some astute observations having to do with how Frozen challenges the social status quo of gender and sexuality. As a gender queer person with a whole lot of professional and social setbacks and traumatic life experiences under my belt, I realize that’s a pretty big leap for Disney (irrespective of its intentions), perhaps the biggest ideological wellspring for my childhood bullies’ rationale. Though I haven’t seen my own perspective of the film in writing yet, I have seen “Elsa, Autistic?” articles.

From my perspective, Frozen may be the first Disney film that brings mental health, neurotype, and disability under the umbrella of inclusion, and embodies these different psycho-social issues in the main characters. Elsa, Kristoff, Olaf, and even Anna have something to offer up by way of what isolation and inclusion can do to people negatively and positively. Even the villain, Hans, is a posterchild for narcissistic personality disorder.

Straight away, I identified Elsa as being autistic. Little Anna’s adoration of her big sister’s magical power to conjure ice and snow flurries formed a bond between the two children, though one day during play with Elsa’s powers, matters got a bit out of hand. In an attempt to keep Anna from slipping and falling, Elsa shoots forth a spray of ice crystals which accidentally strike her little sister in the head, causing her to fall unconscious. Their parents come to the rescue, scooping up Anna and bringing along Elsa to the counsel of the trolls. In the wisest troll’s assessments, it is best to have Anna’s memory purged of her big sister’s magic. Turning toward the father, the troll solemnly recommends that Elsa’s powers be contained, hidden, and restrained. This scene touched me personally. It came through to my understanding as an attempt to “cure” Elsa through managing her behavior.

There wouldn’t have been much tension in the plot if Elsa’s parents provided boundaries and spaces for their different daughter to develop naturally. The crux of the story leverages itself by the stigmatization and demonization of Elsa’s powers as a force of destruction and harm, rather than an integral aspect of her that needed respect, balance, nurture, and unconditional love. I saw Elsa’s “stims” and “fascinations” as her own way of relating to the world, which were evident in the frost, snow, and ice that emanated from her touch, emotions and physical sensations causing varying degrees of icy effects. All of this was part of her mental health and identity, as inseparable from her as the heart beating within her chest. Covering her up, hiding and restraining her did not change her attributes or physical characteristics. They did change how she saw herself, though. They shifted her mental reality and imprisoned her.

After the fateful visit to the trolls, Elsa’s new life takes form: gloves upon her hands, layers of clothing to conceal her expressive flesh, and isolation from the outside world. This didn’t only afflict Elsa; it injured Anna, too. As the movie rolls on, we get to the pinnacle of conflict, the reason for Elsa’s banishment from her kingdom and her exile to the snowy mountains of Arendelle. When the famous “Let it Go” musical scene opened, the waterfall gushed from my eyes. Here are Elsa’s words which accompany emotionally-stirring imagery:

                   The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
                   Not a footprint to be seen.
                   A kingdom of isolation,
                   and it looks like I’m the Queen
                   The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
                   Couldn’t keep it in;
                   Heaven knows I’ve tried

                   Don’t let them in,
                   don’t let them see
                   Be the good girl you always have to be
                   Conceal, don’t feel,
                   don’t let them know
                   Well now they know

Imposed – or forced – isolation can be an abusive control tactic that family or caretakers use to corner and exploit an autistic, disabled female or differently gendered person rather than a self-generated state. To give you an idea of what imposed isolation looks like: shame and fear were injected into my psyche when my stimming would not be tolerated because it was seen as threatening and embarrassing, and my meltdowns and overwhelm were met with punishment and public shaming. I didn’t want to hurt anyone or embarrass anyone by being myself. I was led to believe that I created this isolation, that it was the same as the self imposed isolation used to regulate overwhelm, and that the two of them afflicted my loved ones. Later in life, I was labeled “mentally ill” or “sick” by people who couldn’t face me as I am or accommodate my needs, much less accept that I required considerations that may put a damper on others’ plans. When they rightfully felt guilt, I took the blame for the isolation, having to “take responsibility” for my sense of otherness and my shame. Elsa’s imposed isolation reminded me of what I’ve been through.

In Frozen, the autistic female (and/or one who appears to have the physical traits of what female is culturally  expected to look like) is suppressed with ferocious tenacity and expected to look and act “normal” at all costs. Isolation is imposed upon the child, and as the child grows, their isolation is given a new label. The isolation morphs into a symptom of mental illness, if not outright causing emotional distress to the developing young autistic adult. For me, the name “Ice Queen” would follow me throughout my teenage and young adult life, given in resentment by failed lovers who felt threatened by what and who I was underneath the concealed parts.

I felt that Kristoff was similar to a close friend of mine in childhood and even had some traits of being an Aspie. Animals are close friends; people less understood. Sven the Caribou is Kristoff’s best friend and closest confidant. This sort of relationship may be lost on many neurotypical people. Personally speaking, I’ve had depthful dialogues with animals and even plant life with little effort. Disney portrays this as a flaw, however, and that was my suspicion, that the studio was delivering its own opinion on society’s definition of mental illness.

In his naivety, Olaf, the snowman, 11-best-olaf-quotes-amp-sayings-6006-10pines for the warmth and sunshine of the summer season. Unaware of what would happen to a snowman in summer, Olaf’s aspiration becomes comical, even adorable. I laugh heartily at this scene (I hope you watched it from the above link) because its an uncanny and amusing depiction of how I get with the things I enjoy and wish for, and I wonder how many people throughout life were just dying to burst my bubble.

At the end of the movie, when unconditional love prevails and acceptance finally becomes a reality for Elsa, the frozen Arendelle thaws. Olaf gets that warmth and beauty of summer that was long hoped for, but it comes at the price of melting. Elsa understands Olaf’s needs and uses her powers to create a little flurry cloud that hovers over Olaf, maintaining just the right temperature to prevent melting, allowing the snowman-in-wonder to enjoy all the scenery of spring. This is what inclusion looks like to me. It looks like our friends, family, and society making an effort to accommodate and include us, so we can live a good life, too.

Here’s a video from Noah Britton I want you to watch. Wraps up this personal review for me. He talks about some of the mechanics of Autism and our behavior that is lost on neurotypicals, especially those who are against us in one way or another.

Moving on to number two…
 2.   Grey’s Gardens.
“To my mother and me, Grey Gardens is a breakthrough to something beautiful and precious called life.”
— Edie Beale, 1976

This documentary came heavily recommended by a close friend of mine. I’d poked around on different websites that advertised it and watched an array of trailers. None of that would prepare me for the psychologically engrossing phenomenon that is this formerly wealthy and mentally ill mother and daughter interacting with each other in near complete isolation. This film struck an uncomfortable chord with me because I grew up with a type of grandmother figure that resembled Big Edie in many respects. The mother-daughter relationship seemed OK enough, it’s what I expect from two people kept in isolation together having to confront points of tension that lead to family discord in the past.

I want to refrain from making criticisms on the people themselves as this is a documentary, but I can’t help but comment on the later instances of Big Edie (Edith Ewing Bouvier Beale) emotionally abusing her daughter. I don’t know if it’s codependency or feelings of obligation or something altogether different that keeps Little Edie living there.

So anyways, the two women are relatives of Jackie Onassis. They live in a derelict mansion at 3 West End Road in the wealthy Georgica Pond neighborhood of East Hampton. Seems sort of boring, doesn’t it? Well, let me tell you, I just got sucked into it! I don’t smoke cigarettes anymore – I’ve been clean for over 8 years – but half way into this documentary at 1:30 in the morning, I found myself craving a pack of Camels and a pot of coffee. I don’t think I would have had this reaction if it weren’t for the memories it was churning up. The effects of mental illness and abuse is palpable, and not withstanding that, I see Aspie traits in Little Edie which makes my heart ache for her, because the way she was living was a detriment to her well being. Her mother constantly berates her, picking at the way she looks and sings (bespeaks of Narcissist envy I think) while cornering her in mind games having to do with self esteem. This further reminds me of the unreasonable demands elderly parents sometimes place on their adult children, and that often time, what most people don’t realize, is that’s an extension of an unhealthy parent-child relationship going way back from youth. You see abuse in adulthood because it was present in childhood.

So, I don’t want to give too much of this gem away. You’ll just have to see it for yourself. I’d recommend researching the life of Edie Beale (Edith Bouvier Beale) to put this film into context. She was stunningly beautiful, sentimental, kind, talented, and intellectual to boot. You can either get it at the library or watch it on YouTube. I must also post this parody of Grey’s Gardens which I watched approximately 6 months before I discovered the documentary. If you really want a good chuckle and a blown mind, I suggest watching the parody first. (please bare in mind, that the chuckling at parodies is something I’m entitled to, because it’s my coping mechanism for what I’ve been through with similar types of people to Big Edie).

IF you enjoyed this documentary, you may be interested in this website about it. I was surprised to see it has such a culture around it.

 3. Black Moth Super Rainbow.

I discovered them at the beginning of 2016 while searching for some good beats to paint to. I am blown away by their music, and it gets me into my “zone.” Ideally, I like to create my art while in a trance, and I’ll select any sort of music that uses a lot of rhythmic synthesizers, voice boxes, and other electronic elements, though Inuit throat singing can achieve the same result with my mental state.

This group also produces pretty interesting music videos. “Twin of Myself” is one of my favorites – the light trailing and symmetry effects on the dancing figure soothes me. There’s also a small piece about them up on wikipedia, but they don’t really have much up on the internet. If you enjoy the Flaming Lips, you may like this group, which opened for them in concert. I found some articles about that concert in fact, and can I say, “I’m not surprised”?  WARNING: be very careful clicking on any image links. If you have trauma triggers, Tobacco’s concert visuals may put you in a bad place like what happened to me. This group is so unique because they are who they are, they stand by that, unwavering. That’s a sign of a strong artist.

4. Asperger’s Are Us. 14691326_1828234754056267_5165031031860492886_oThis is the first documentary where I feel like I could reach out and touch the people in it. I think this is because I felt a strong longing and a sense of belonging through watching Ethan, Noah, New Michael, and Jack interact. Their friendship as I could see it on film, reminded me of my teenage social life with a best friend who was willing to play along with my deep interests, and so our childhood past time became producing films and music videos that had a comedic element running through them. I also identified strongly with New Michael who seemed to have the same difficulties I had working within the group and conveying ideas. His comedic sense seems a lot like my own, and I could see a lot of strengths that we have in common. It was just a relief to see someone else like myself, that person coming out their hard-earned performance empowered.

Nostalgia was something flowering in my brain while watching this with David, someone who I met in college who understood me in ways that no one else could. And, we just clung to each other from the point of introduction onward. We delved into our interests and pursued them with playfulness and (safe) adventure-seeking, casting aside public opinion and disregarding the backlash from certain relatives. Freedom for me looks like just being able to have fun, my own way, in my own skin, without shame. For David and I, our adventures and projects have always been about creating writing, art and music, experimenting with personas and challenging popular ideas. This documentary was a comforting and reaffirming experience for us both, to see that there are people like us, doing what we love to do, and being pretty darn good at it.

I do have some things to be nit picky over, though.

The editing emphasized conflict and disability. Also, the comedy was sorely lacking. For all the buildup of the troupe’s last performance, I would have hoped Alexandre Lehman and Duplass Brothers Productions would have filmed a substantial portion of the show or even ran a single sketch the whole way through. Instead, as we observed, there was a lot of focus on instances of conflict within the troupe and the friends’ relationships with their parents (two members of the group are either in the background or entirely absent). The conflict and difficulty they experienced in collaborating seemed like the point– their overcoming of obstacles, not the quality of their comedy itself. The show is even shot in such a way to emphasize the more “offensive” material and show people walking out, again focusing on the difficulty rather than the comedy.Of course, this made me uncomfortable and was left wondering about aspects of myself that seem “dysfunctional” to neurotypicals who cannot relate at all to an autistic. David and I would have LOVED to see the entire show. This troupe is one of my favorite comedy groups, and I’d like to see more.

For more about this troupe and what they are up to, you can visit this website.

5. Two Essential Reads on Autism. Temple Grandin’s The Autistic Brain, and Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes.

I’d like to open my take on Dr. Grandin’s book with a YouTube video from her appearance at the Chicago Humanities Festival in 2013.grandinThe Autistic Brain was my first practical introductory read on the preliminaries of Autism, which for me served as an instruction manual to my brain. As funny as this may sound to most neurotypicals, for most of my life up until my official diagnosis as an adult, I felt like I was stuck in a vehicle I did not know how to drive with my lead foot duct taped to the accelerator, forced to maneuver all types of roads in all weather conditions with traffic laws still applicable to me regardless of my inability to operate the vehicle and not understanding why law enforcement is banging on the rolled-up window while making serious verbal threats on my life. This is the baseline plot for one of my most potent recurring nightmares since pubescence. This book helped me to navigate through some of that terror by rationalizing with scientific and anecdotal data the reality of my neurotype, brain structure, and corresponding types and patterns of behavior. The result: some of my fears about myself lessened.

One of many qualities of this book that I like so much is that Dr. Grandin writes like she speaks. This is an amazing feat from my own literary perspective because, for me, reading involves hearing a voice speaking to me, and if the language isn’t formulated and typed out in just such a way, I don’t hear a voice and cannot continue reading the material. Each chapter is cleanly layed out, with Grandin getting straight to her explanations of the mechanisms that comprise the neurology of various thought patterns. For example, Dr. Grandin describes to me how an individual’s ability to see effects their ability to read and draw, and this has a correlation to how they think and interpret and interact with visuals. The individual is probably a visual thinker, and if there were an MRI of their brain, the visual cortex would probably appear thicker with a great deal more activity in it than the brain of a neurotypical. She describes auditory thinkers, pattern thinkers, and word-fact thinkers, even offering up bullet-point suggestions for each type on how to manage stressful disturbances in sensation and perception. She also writes that many autistics aren’t a strict one or the other but a blend of two or all of the types.

Another quality of this book is its physical appearance. The font isn’t fancy – neither too angular or rounded, bold without being blurry, and large in comparison to many other books I’ve read. The paper is cream colored, rather soft to the touch and more fibrous, and the chapters aren’t that long.

I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting an informative, constructive look at the mechanics of autism without political or overly cut and dry scientific overtones.

Neurotribes is an entirely different book. 

neurotribesIt’s journalistic approach, shaped primarily by anecdotes, finds balance between all of the scientific and historical trivia peppered throughout it. Admittedly, I am not finished with this read because it is difficult to hear Silberman’s voice on account of how the book is written and the look of words on the page (small type, brighter paper, much longer chapters). I began the book with the introduction, which I only got halfway through. From there, I flipped to a random page and found myself zeroing in towards the middle of the book at the point where Silberman gets into the evolution of the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) through the period of the 1950’s and onward and what this meant for patients’ treatment under certain problematic diagnoses, the wording of the symptomatology criteria for each disorder,  and, consequently, the interpretation of all this data by certain Health Insurance CEOs as a financial risk, which, in turn, influenced patients’ medical coverage, making the road to a correct diagnosis all the more twisting and arduous. Moreover, what the information presented in this book suggests is that the diagnostic process right down to the actual diagnosis was dependent on a financial structure. It comes to no surprise why this portion of the book hit me hard like a hammer to nail – it revealed the hidden aspects of my struggle with the system in receiving a timely diagnosis, notwithstanding how the reality of my gender would factor in.

The diagnostic evolution of Autism as presented in Neurotribes is as astonishing as it is disturbing. The bit I’ve read opens up an inexhaustible list of questions in my mental Word Document file. None of this do I think I could ask my insurance providers or even my doctors for fear of termination of care, to give you an idea of how potent this material is. I’d really like to get through this book because I find it absolutely crucial to my understanding of Autism in a socio-economic context and as a valid diagnosis and neurotype demanding supports and respect. When I do finish this work, I want to give it the more multi-faceted, *autistic* review it deserves. In the meantime, I can offer up this phenominal NPR interview with Silberman on the topic of this book that sent chills down my spine.

This concludes my list. There were so many discoveries on the home front in 2016. I look forward to experiencing all the good of what 2017 has to offer!

hilarys bio pic

I’m an autistic writer, philosopher, artist, spouse, and parent who home-educates my three neurodiverse children. I’ve taken up blogging and begun to express my thoughts and feelings about autism, mental health, gender, chronic pain, chronic illness, disability, and civil rights in visuals and writing. My calling is to not only give my children the best of myself so they can grow up to be confident, caring, and empowered adults, but to be an artist advocate and story teller, flowering forth work that represents and/or supports the diversity of life experiences of those of us in the IDD community. Along my journey, I hope to reach other Autistic parents with my blog, Healing Hilary’s Heart: A Facebook Parent With Autism

Look at my Assets: Re “seeing” people

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The United States of America has a great legacy of individualism. How many times have you heard about someone pulling themselves up by their own “bootstraps?” I am not going to discount that notion but let’s take a look at that idea further. How have so many people in the United States allegedly pulled themselves up? People, who have built themselves up, tend to focus on their assets. They focused on what they liked, what they could do, and what they desire. People have helped them in some way cultivate their capability and confidence.

We see Steve Jobs through his assets. It becomes a footnote in some ways that Steve Jobs was not American born, or an orphan, or smelled bad, or even that he got fired from Apple once. His assets are what we recognize. This isn’t just true for famous people. This is true in our everyday life. We like people for the assets or value they bring. Sometimes that is monetary, sometimes that is position-based and other times it is based on skills or personality.

People love hanging out with that one particular person because they are funny or socially outgoing or have a great job.

A personal example is my identity of disability. I do have an invisible disability that was evident from an early age. When we look at disability we also look at needs. I was initially diagnosed with a learning disability. A lot of diagnoses come with the assertion that one will never be able to do certain things or have limitations with the added assumption incur struggles/challenges and have multiple needs.

First off, it is important to recognize, we all have trouble with some things; that is life!

I have never met or heard of a person without flaws, trials or tribulations. It is also okay to admit that. I don’t want to work in the field of math because it is tough for me. I also choose to park my car in parking lots instead of on the street parking because that is easier for me spatially. So the mindset or worry that I may never being able to do something, may not happen. However, this sometimes becomes the mindset of how we work with people who have challenges and needs in our communities.

Most of my school age life was spent trying to “fix” myself. I learned to do what I felt I needed to do, to be accepted. I always felt that I was only as good as the next thing I worked got right. In the end, I didn’t know what I was truly good at and to some extent I still have trouble with that. My identity become what I Could Not Do and What More I Needed To Achieve, rather then being able to focus on what I was good at or interested in pursuing. I went to college because that was normal and expected. Once I made it to college, my focus was on what do I need to do “to be better.” Then and now I still have trouble seeing what I have done well.

Some of that might be personality. However, I know there were so many times that I tried telling others what I needed or ways to help me in another way that was a better fit for me. Often as a result there would be a backlash that made me feel bad about myself for not being heard but also feeling maybe I was inflexible.

Recently though I have not necessarily denied that I have needs, but more and more my focus has become on my Assets and my Abilities. How to put my “best foot forward” is a newer strategy.

I am lucky to have made that internal shift. Not all people are in an environment that can help nurture a positive shift and mindset when they do have struggles. Some with disabilities are forced into places that take care of them or jobs that are limited based on what others think they can achieve.

Let me give you an example of how needs versus assets work. One of the things I still want are friends. In a “needs” based approach; it would be Jason has autism. Because he has autism he probably has problems with social skills. Lets teach him social skills. The asset model work likes this, Jason wants to meet people, and Jason does well and likes discussions. One discussion Jason likes is history. Maybe a history group will be good for Jason. This asset does not ignore the fact of my need or some hiccups but the focus is on myself and my assets; not the negative. In service work we tend to get so much about the result and the problem that we sometimes forget the person’s individuality and skills. This does not solve everything but it does seem to be effective. Of the people I know with disabilities, the people who I know are the happiest, most productive, have relationships and so forth have an ability to focus on what they are good at and have a background of people not putting unnecessary presumed limitations on them. I find that I am happier and more productive when I perceive that myself and given opportunities to show my assets and have it be part of my identity.

3K6A9522Jason P. Harris is the Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with unique needs, disabilities, and mental illness. He regularly contributes to the online magazine in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country speaking about Hidden Disabilities.

Why Rudolph The Red-nosed Reindeer is About Disability Rights.

38433433 - santa and his reindeer, santa claus flying in his sleigh being pulled by his reindeer. santa & the reindeer and the background are on separate labeled layers.

picture from 123rf.com

I love to watch movies and I love Christmas. One of my favorite movies is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964). Rudolph is the ultimate example of the medical model figure trying to switch to a role that is more socially inclusive. Rudolph gets made fun because of his physical difference. It is seen as “his” problem that makes him an outsider. He attempts like many to fix or cover up his disability or difference because otherwise society aka the other reindeer would have a problem with him for no other reason then his one single difference. That difference, the red nose, defined Rudolph over everything else about him. This difference led to him being ostracized by the group. This is common for people with disabilities to be excluded because of their differences. Rudolph like many people had to find his own way in a world that does not accept him and wants him to change so as to fit in. Like many disabled people, Rudolph eventually gets noticed and cherished because of his disability, but this time this recognition is for his ability to be better than the other reindeer. This very much is inline with the idea of the super crip having to be super human to gain respect or be valued. If it were not a foggy night, would Rudolph have been accepted as a valued member of the group??? With the social model peaking through I think the answer is yes. Claire and another boy did accept Rudolph. Other people such as Hermey and Yukon Cornelious. They also go to the Island of Misfit of Toys where they have actually built in some ways a community of acceptance that doesn’t try to change who they are. In the end Rudolph was ahead of his time for disability awareness and acceptance in a way that the creators and even viewers may not have recognized. And for this reason, Rudolph will always have a special place in my heart.


3K6A9522Jason P. Harris is the Founder of Jason’s Connection – an online resource for those with unique needs, disabilities, and mental illness. He regularly contributes to the online magazine in his own series called Jason’s View and travels the country speaking about Hidden Disabilities.


Champion Monsters: We All Need A Protector

“When your child is scared or crying, there’s not a lot you can do to comfort them. You can hug them and say it’ll be OK and you try to make them feel better as best as you can. It’s one of the most helpless feelings and that’s exactly why this was created. It gives parents a real tool to address the situation that they’re going through”

Lindsey Womack is the author of Champion Monsters. The story was developed over many years in trying to comfort her children’s fears. The Champion Monsters book and monster doll are designed as a tool to help ease children’s fears and provide additional comfort in all situations.image2-5-300x225


Lindsay started Champion Monster projects to bring this book and the monster idea to life. Having four children that went through different scenarios where they needed a little extra comfort from her and her husband, she developed a story that could help comfort them.


One of her sons was particularly afraid of the dark. Every night was a huge process getting him to go to his own bed. She felt there had to be something she could give him at bedtime to keep him in his room and to make him feel a little safer, so she came up with this story. He was afraid of monsters like many kids Lindsay flipped this fear and used monsters as something that could protect him, keep him safer and be an extra comfort.


Hazel, her brother and their Champion Monsters.












The first book is an introduction to the Champion Monsters, which are a team of monsters that help kids overcome their fears such as fear of the dark, or going to school or going to the doctor. The book comes with either a boy or a girl, large cuddly monster.

Two more books are to be published, one of which is called Champion Monsters and the Doctor Visit. It addresses both getting a checkup and having to stay at a hospital for an extended period of time. It will provide some games. Each of the books will be designed to be individualized. The child gets to name their monsters.
image1Recently Lindsey and her Champion Monsters received the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award.

For more information on Champion Monsters please visit http://championmonster.com/