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His Brother’s Keeper

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It is a cold snowy afternoon, and the boys have just finished doing their homework. George – eleven years old now and as tall as me – is sitting on the couch trying not to cry. I am on the floor with my back up against the couch, holding his foot in my lap. I start ministering to his sore toe as gently as I can, knowing that no matter how hard I try, it’s going to hurt.

For the last couple of weeks, George has been plagued by an ingrown toenail. He was at the doctor earlier in the week – a feat in itself for this boy with autism who finds doctors to be mysterious and scary – and I am carefully following the care-and-cleaning instructions that I have been given.

He tries so hard to be brave as I clean and bathe his toe, but he cannot help getting distressed. As he cries out in pain, James suddenly appears in front of us. James – nine years old and full of energy – is just in from throwing snow in the back yard. His gaze moves from his brother on the couch to me on the floor surrounded by First Aid supplies.

“I want to do it,” he says.

“You want to do what?” I ask, not understanding.

“George’s toe,” he says. “I want to do it. George is my brother. I’m the one who gets to take care of him.”

I regard my son, blown away yet again by how much love and compassion is within him. I think about the practicalities of him dressing George’s toe and how I have already been kicked several times during these First Aid sessions. I don’t want James to get hurt.

But my Spidey-sense is telling me to listen to James. I switch places with him, and following my instructions, he calmly takes care of George’s toe. George is still crying but he is visibly less distressed. Maybe James’s small, light fingers are gentler than mine. Or maybe George is responding to the love of his brother.

James uses a little bit too much of the antiseptic lotion, and the dressing and bandage are a little haphazardly applied. But none of that matters next to the waves of kindness that are radiating from James.

With the job done, James gently kisses the newly applied bandage and gets onto the couch.

“You’re my George,” he says, wrapping his arms around his brother.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.

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2:15:00 in 2015

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At the beginning of 2014, I had grand plans for my running. I was going to run my first 30K race with a view to building up from there to a full marathon by 2016. I already had eight half-marathons under my belt, so while I knew it would be a challenge, I felt that it would be achievable. I registered for the Around The Bay 30K which takes place in March, and I drew up an ambitious but doable training plan.

The plan got derailed when the Polar Vortex hit. The temperatures were lower than anything I have ever experienced. Even with all of winter running gear, I wouldn’t have been able to handle running in that cold. The bigger obstacle, of course, was the ice. There were sheets of it on the roads and sidewalk that were inches thick in places. Even the most seasoned of winter runners were staying indoors.

As a result, I was forced onto the treadmill for most of my training. I did do a couple of grueling runs in heavy snow, but for the most part, I was clocking up 18K runs and more at the gym. A month before the 30K race, conditions were still too severe for outdoor winter running, and I decided to pull the plug on my training. I did not think it would be wise to attempt my longest ever distance right at the end of the worst winter in recorded history.

I went with Plan B: I sold my bib for Around The Bay and instead registered for the 30K Midsummer Night’s Run, which happens in August. That way, I would have the summer to train in safer conditions.

Enter the Ankle Of Doom. More than 20 years ago, my left ankle was seriously injured. In spite of a lot of medical intervention over the years, it has never really been right since. It always hurts for about 24 hours after a long run, but as long as it recovers quickly, I can live with that one day of pain each week. Except that this summer, when I was running distances of 22K and more, my ankle wasn’t recovering. It was constantly hurting and I developed a semi-permanent limp. When I set out for my long runs each week, I was still in pain from the previous week.

I knew I was pushing myself too hard, but I kept telling myself that it would improve, that all I needed was time for my body to get used to the longer distances. Even though I knew this wasn’t working, I was continuing on with desperate hope.

I was finally forced to face up to reality one day in July, while I was doing 25K along the lakeshore trail. Ankle Of Doom throbbed the entire time throughout the first half of the run. As I reached my turnaround point, I knew I was in trouble. I took a two-minute walking break and then, feeling a little better, I started running slowly again. About 3K later, I was feeling OK, so I decided to kick up my speed a notch. Five minutes later, I felt an almighty twinge in my ankle, as if someone had pulled back on an elastic and then released it.

There was instant agony. I could still put weight on my ankle, but with every step, I felt as if a hot poker was being skewered through my foot. I forced myself to continue: I was on a trail, nowhere near a road, and I did not have the option of calling my husband to come and pick me up. Only 8K to go, I kept telling myself. You can run 8K in your sleep. This is nothing for you.

8K is excruciatingly long when every step feels like torture. My ankle got more and more wobbly after every step, and I knew that if I wasn’t careful, it wouldn’t be able to carry me all the way home. For about 3K, I alternated fifty steps of walking with fifty steps of running. The counting definitely helped – it gave my mind something to focus on other than the pain, and alternating walking with running enabled me to keep going. Those three kilometres or so went a lot more quickly than I thought they had.

But then I reached a point of meltdown. I sank down onto a rock facing the lake and burst into tears. By this point, I had less than 5K to go, so I knew that I would make it home. It would take a while, but I would get there. But the realization hit me that I would have to forego the 30K. I knew that in all likelihood, I would never get to achieve my dream of running a full marathon.

I went through the rest of the season in a kind of haze. I switched my 30K registration to 15K and had a good race, and I ran my autism fundraising half-marathon, which also happened to be my 10th half-marathon. A doctor told me that if I concentrated on rehab exercises for my ankle for the next year, I might be capable of training for a marathon.

But I’ve decided that enough is enough. After having pushed myself very close to the point of not being able to run at all, I have accepted that a marathon is not a viable goal for me. I am proud of the fact that I can run half-marathons – for someone who, let’s face it, is not naturally athletic, that’s quite an accomplishment.

And so instead of hurting myself trying to chase a goal that could permanently disable me from running, I am going to improve on distances that I have already accomplished. I am going to get my 10K time back to under 1:03:00, and I am going to run a sub 30-minute 5K. Best of all, in 2015, I am going to run a half-marathon in under 2:15:00.

As modest as these goals are, I have my work cut out for me. But instead of making me weaker, working toward these targets will make me stronger.

Am I sad about giving up on the marathon dream? Of course I am.

But I would be sadder if pursuing the dream took away my ability to do anything at all.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Ludo Rouchy. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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New Year Roundup

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Every time the calendar ticks over to a new year, I invite friends and family members to share moments from the year gone by, as well as their hopes for the year to come. 2014 was a year of ups and downs: some had the best year of their lives, others had the worst. Many of us were on a roller coaster with good bits and not-so-good bits.

My friend Kandita, who I met when I roomed with her at a blogging conference a couple of years ago (that was an insane weekend) started 2014 with one last name and ended it with another. She looked absolutely beautiful and radiant as she married the love of her life.

My former co-worker, carpool buddy and maid of honour Michelle moved to London, Ontario a couple of years ago. Since then, she has dealt with many personal challenges, but she has never lost her desire to help other people. This year was a big one for her. She gave up her liver disease awareness work and started focusing instead on helping homeless and underprivileged people in her city. She also got a job, ending a lengthy period of unemployment, and she saw her daughter through some challenging times.

Karyn, who lives in New Zealand, also went through some major life changes. She decided to leave a marriage that was making her unhappy, and in doing so, she has started to rediscover her inner sparkle. In one of my favourite Facebook statuses on her wall in 2014, she said that happiness has become her default state. She starts 2015 with a goal to build a happier life for herself and her three sons.

Caroline, who lives a short way outside of Toronto, went through the shock and heartbreak of unexpectedly losing a very close friend. This brought home to her that we are not indestructible. Therefore, in 2015, she wants to take time for the things that really matter in life.

Corinne lives on the other end of the city to me, and a few months ago I saw her for the first time in years. She took the leap of reopening her business this year, and she enjoyed reconnecting with a lot of people she had lost touch with. She is looking forward to a year of discovery and success in 2015.

Sara, who lives south of the border from me, has a condition called Chiari, that results in debilitating headaches. Two years ago she had surgery, and in 2014, she finally got a handle on the pain. She is hoping that in 2015 she will be well enough to move out on her own.

Bronwyn also lives in the United States, but I have known her forever, since she was a little girl in South Africa. Last year, she quit her full-time job and went to work at a summer camp. This year she intends to continue the work she has started on her self-development, by getting her weight under 200 pounds and by going back to school full-time.

Fellow Torontonian Tawnya had a mixed year. She lost her beloved grandmother, but she ran her first half-marathon. She had two bicycle accidents, but is alive thanks to the fact that she always wears a helmet. In 2015, she wants to do the Army Run again, simplify her life by getting rid of clutter, and embrace challenges and changes instead of running from them.

My cousin Gillian, who lives in the back-arse of nowhere Tasmania, has family that is scattered all over the globe. Last year, she got to be with her whole family as they celebrated her mother’s 80th birthday. Her wish for 2015 is for health and happiness for everyone.

Noella lives in Missouri and is one of the loveliest people I know. She had a bittersweet year – she had a painful disconnect with her stepchildren, and at times her bills exceeded her income. But somehow her bills got paid, she was able to put food on her table and she got a part-time job just in time for Christmas. Her year did have some high points, like a Mothers Day trip to Memphis and a fancy birthday dinner, both with her son. Her health stayed strong and she received wonderful support from family and friends. Her dream in 2015 is to go to Savannah.

Jennifer, also from the United States, worked with her husband on putting their marriage first instead of focusing solely on their children. In 2015, she wants to find full-time work, get her fitness journey back on track, and go on a couples getaway to recharge and reconnect with her husband.

Elle lives in Australia with her husband Ray. In 2014, they flew back to South Africa where Ray proudly walked his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. This year, Elle hopes to find a job that she will be happy in until retirement.

And what about me? Well, 2014 was a huge year for me. I reevaluated my running goals, and through a bittersweet process I decided to take the full marathon off my bucket list. I also made the leap into self-employment and formally registered my own business. I have high hopes for 2015: I am going to run a half-marathon in 2:15:00 or less, I am going to build on the early successes in my business, and I am going to declutter and organize my home.

What were your biggest moments of 2014? What are your hopes for 2015?

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, with input from the above-mentioned individuals. Photo credit: Takashi .M. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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For James On His Birthday

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To my darling son James,

Nine years ago today, you finally decided to leave the comfort of the womb and join us in the world. You were a week overdue: either you were very comfortable where you were, or you figured that we would need an extra week of quiet before the adventure began.

The day of your birth was incredible, filled with little moments that I will never forget – like the little kid in the hospital coffee shop who was convinced that I was Santa Claus. You can’t blame him: it was Christmas morning and I had a massive belly and a Santa hat. The best moment of all, though, was when you came flying into the world like a cannonball, screaming in outrage. There was never any doubt that you had a very healthy pair of lungs and an abundance of energy.

Since that day, you have filled our lives with a very special kind of magic. You are never afraid to explore and discover not only what is in the world, but what is within yourself. Your massive imagination takes all of us on weird and wonderful journeys, and the front of my fridge is covered with your fabulous artwork. Your creativity combined with your love of animals has given us a zoo of animals that have been lovingly crafted by you. As I write this, you are transforming ordinary cardboard into a set of Wild Kratts creature power disks.

You have the biggest heart of anyone I know. You are one of life’s true givers who experiences absolute joy through the act of making other people happy. Every single day, I am on the receiving end of your spontaneous hugs and little handmade gifts and notes. I see the kindnesses you extend to your friends without even having to think about it. Being a caring person is so much a part of who you are that your school gave you an award for empathy.

The love that you have for your brother is genuine and complete. You do not take anything for yourself without first making sure George has something too. If George’s autism is making things difficult for him, you calmly and patiently do whatever you can to soothe and comfort him. You play with him, you share with him, you protect him. You take care of him so beautifully, and yet you think of him as your hero.

I know that sometimes I cannot keep up with your boundless energy and your constant chatter. But I absolutely love that those things are a part of your character, and I would not change a single thing about you.

I love you, and it is a joy and an honour to be your mom.

Happy birthday.

Lots of love,
Mommy

 

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Parenting: Live And Let Live

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Early this morning, while I was sipping my first coffee of the day and browsing through my Facebook feed, I came across a thread that made me feel incredibly sad. It was a post about co-sleeping, and one of the first comments was from a woman saying that she believed co-sleeping was fine as long as it was done safely, that she had co-slept with her first child and that she would co-sleep with any future children.

The thing that made me sad was how other moms lambasted this woman, told her that she was uneducated, and said that if she lost a baby, it would be her own fault.

I have no interest in starting another debate about co-sleeping. Quite frankly, I don’t have a strong position about the subject one way or the other. One of my babies slept in a crib, the other co-slept with me. I did what I felt was best for each child, and in both cases, I made safety the paramount concern.

What I do have a strong position about is the idea that the vast majority of parents do what they think is best for their children, most of them research their choices, and most of them do everything they can to keep their kids safe. Unless a mother is being deliberately and blatantly abusive or negligent, she should be allowed to make those choices for her children without worrying about what other people think.

It always fascinates me that a species as diverse as the human race tends to think in such absolute terms, and parents are no exception to this. Many of them tend to believe that there is only one right way of doing things, and it’s their way, and anyone who does things differently is a <insert insulting adjective> parent.

Frankly, I’m tired of it. When will parents just accept that what’s right for them is – well, right for them? The fact that some moms breastfeed their kids until Kindergarten does not give them the right to criticize moms who are unable to breastfeed or who simply choose not to do so. Parents who limit their kids’ screen time should not be accused of being unreasonable, and those who do not should not be branded as lazy. If you let your baby “cry it out”, you are not heartless and mean, and if you pick up your baby whenever he cries, you are not spoiling your child.

Your own personal experience – no matter how tragic – does not entitle you to judge other people. Your child’s autism diagnosis may have come shortly after a vaccination, but you don’t get to accuse pro-vaxers of being uninformed and ignorant. Maybe your formula-fed child developed life-threatening food allergies, but that doesn’t give you the right to tell other formula-feeding moms that breastfeeding would be possible if only they would try harder. If your baby died while co-sleeping, I am truly sorry for your loss, but please don’t go around telling parents who choose to co-sleep that they are potential child-killers.

I’m not suggesting that we all shut up about our beliefs and opinions, or that we stop sharing our experiences. On the contrary – parents who speak out about what they go through can be valuable resources to other parents who are struggling with their choices or looking for information about their options. It’s even OK to be passionate about something that you have a strong opinion about.

Just be respectful about it, that’s all. No blame, no finger-pointing, no judging.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: mariana f. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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Guest Post – Margie Webb: I Am A Loser

My friend Margie is one of the most inspiring people I know. To say that she has taken charge of her life would be an understatement. Over the last few years, she has tackled the various areas of her life, improved them and transformed them. Today, she writes about her journey toward better health. Read on, and prepare to be inspired.

Nov 2013, March 2014 & September 2014

Nov 2013, March 2014 & September 2014

My weight is going to kill me.

I knew this at the exact moment that the nurse had to take my blood pressure twice because she was concerned about the initial high reading. While I wanted to believe that it was her ineffective bedside manner because I know that my fat arms require the larger cuff, the fact that I knew I even needed the larger cuff DUE to fat arms was the moment that I had to accept my fate. My downhill march to death has started and I have nobody to blame but myself.

Granted, I hope that it doesn’t happen today, or tomorrow, or anytime in the near future, but eventually, if I don’t get healthy, my weight will kill me. Admit it, you never see elderly fat people just kicked back, living it up at the Senior Center. That’s because by the time you hit middle age, if you are obese, the health problems start to wear down your body and organs.

That’s blunt but it’s the truth. If you are reading this, are of a certain age and more than 100 pounds overweight, then you probably already know what I know: the life expectancy for a morbidly obese person who is past 40 years old is decreased by up to ten years. (http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/82/5/923.full)

I am 41 years old, a middle class Caucasian female, and I am trying to save my life. Earlier this year, I topped the scales at over 300 pounds. Looking back at pictures from that time is very painful because I can see the unhappiness in my eyes. Physically, I was at my highest weight and my body felt it in various ways. My struggle with my weight is the same story that my generation of women share: we came of age with mothers who learned in their 1960ish teenage years to fad diet their body images onto us. Then, the internet came along, which solidified the “skinny is perfection” belief, and as we have children, we are passing along that message. It’s a vicious cycle with serious consequences for our society’s future.

Every woman that I know is an expert in picking her body image to shreds and always, ALWAYS, believing that she needs to lose this much or just a little more and she will be perfect happy. Our society regularly rams this message down our throats and millions of us are the reason that the diet industry is a $20 billion dollar business. Twenty billion! (www.abcnews.com) That’s how much we have been brainwashed that quick-and-easy is the only fix.

In high school, I was a size 8 and you could actually see my collarbones. And. I. Thought. I. Was. Fat. That memory makes me laugh hysterically now because if I ONLY KNEW what was coming for me. But, I was told I was fat and I believed it to be true. I never much watched what I ate or exercised. Once I got in to my 20’s, started having children, and continued eating processed foods, my weight began to climb.

And yes, I succumbed to the diet schemes and again, like many women, I have a list of them that I tried. Oh and I would be successful with them too. That is, until I stopped taking the pills, or ate carbs again, or stopped howling at the moon at midnight, or whatever the tricks of that particular weight loss plan. Then, I would not only gain back what I lost, but I would add more pounds to the total. As I grew older, the weight started to affect my health.

At 40 years old, I was diagnosed with diabetes and high blood pressure. These are solely because I am overweight and I am overweight for two main reasons: I did not eat healthy and I never regularly exercised. That’s it. That, gentle reader, is the simple truth about struggling with weight issues. Outside of weight loss surgery, which I am against for opinions all my own, no diet or pill is going to help you successfully lose weight and maintain the loss.

This is a growing epidemic in our culture as our population continues to rely less on fresh, clean food and more on processed and fast food. We all know the statistics and that our culture is driven increasingly by the quick result. That’s a huge reason why so many people, like me, have been unsuccessful in their weight loss attempts. It’s all good those first few weeks but when you don’t lose 200 pounds at once, many have the tendency to quit.

I have worked for many things in my life, finishing my college degree as a working, older mother, being chief among them, but nothing, and I mean, NOTHING, has been as hard as losing weight. I started my wellness journey last January with a goal of eating less crap and moving my body more. Vowing to not use any diet tricks (and sad to say, I did get weak once and spent 14 days hating myself on Advocare), I started a journal and created a Facebook group just for women like myself. The name of the group is Losers, because that’s what we all want to be.

Here I am almost a year later and 54 pounds lighter. No, I am not even halfway to my goal weight and there have many bumps along the way. But, I have made changes and am baby stepping my way to a longer life. I credit the support that I surrounded myself with and the mindset that this is going to take a long time.

And yes, it’s going to take a long time. It just is, there is no way around that fact. But, it’s worth it: for yourself, for your family, for the sustainability of our society.

Are you ready to save your life?

Margie can be found on Twitter @thehunnyb and on Facebook under Margie Webb. If interested in joining her Losers support group, she can be reached at either. Photo credit to the author.

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Keeping The Conversation Going

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When Robin Williams committed suicide back in August, a friend predicted that everyone would post obsessively about depression awareness for a week before forgetting about it and moving on. Apart from the duration – the posts lasted for two weeks – her prediction was dead-on.

Three months after the death of Mr. Williams, Facebook and Twitter posts about mental illness had all but disappeared. Then a woman named Brittany Maynard started trending on social media when she chose assisted suicide over a horrible death from cancer.

Reactions to her death have been all over the place. There are those who believe Brittany’s decision showed courage and strength of character, and there are those who are convinced that she is burning in hell because of her selfishness and disobedience of God.

I want to make it clear that I am in no way equating the deaths of Robin Williams and Brittany Maynard. Robin Williams fought a long battle with depression. He felt desperate and hopeless, and when he looked into the future all he could see was a bleak, desolate landscape. Brittany Maynard was not suffering from depression, and she did not want to die. She simply knew that her death was both inevitable and imminent, and she wanted to spare herself and her family the ravages of brain cancer.

The only thing the two deaths have in common is that both individuals chose to take their own lives.

Whether or not terminally ill people are obligated to see their diseases through to the bitter end is a matter of personal opinion, and that’s another debate for another day. The thing that I took issue with after Brittany died was a comment posted by one of my Facebook contacts on a link to the story.

“Anyone who commits suicide is selfish.”

I was certain that I had seen the commenter’s name crop up in one of the discussions following the death of Robin Williams, so I started digging around in the bowels of her newsfeed. It took a while, but I found it: a statement to the effect that people really shouldn’t judge those to take their own lives without walking a mile in a depressed person’s shoes.

I’m not usually one to start a fight, but one thing I cannot stand is hypocrisy, and as an advocate for mental health awareness, I couldn’t just let it go. So I went back to the Brittany Maynard discussion and replied to her comment, reminding her of what she had said when Robin Williams died. She didn’t respond. Unfortunately, her comment about suicide being selfish was far from isolated.

I am left feeling somewhat disheartened. Did we learn nothing from the Robin Williams tragedy? If, three months later, people are spouting those cruel stereotypes that they previously vowed to help fight, how are we ever going to move forward? Will we ever be able to continue the discussions, or are we going to keep having to start the same discussions over and over again?

I don’t expect everyone to start posting endlessly about mental illness, but I would love to see it consistently treated with the same respect that is given to physical illness. I would love for people to feel able to talk about their experiences with mental illness without fear of embarrassment or shame. I would love to see the judgments and blame replaced with understanding and support.

And I would love to see more meaningful conversations that are not triggered by tragedy.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit: Victor. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.

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Running For Autism 2014: A Thousand Thank Yous

Today’s post is going to look a bit like a speech from the Oscars, only there’s no red carpet, I’m not wearing a ballgown accessorized with diamond jewellery, and I didn’t get a funny little trophy thing. Instead, there is the finish line of a race, a sweaty old running outfit accessorized with a space blanket, and a finisher’s medal. Just setting the scene so you can picture me as I start my speech.

<clears throat and waits for the audience hubbub to die down>

My 2014 autism run is now almost a week in the past. I have one day left of sitting on the couch doing nothing post-race recovery. The stiffness in my legs is gone, my knees have recovered, and the chafing from my sports bra is fading. Even the Ankle of Doom is feeling pretty good. I am almost ready to lace up my shoes for an easy run, and I have started thinking about my race calendar for next year.

I want to thank my mother, because people always start by thanking their mothers. And because my mom is awesome. She lives on the other side of the world, but I felt that she was part of the finish crowd cheering me on last Sunday. Thanks also to my brother, who is a loyal supporter and a great friend.

I want to thank my Dad, who was an elite runner in his youth and the first to fuel my love of running many years ago, in a previous life. Dad was a superb runner, and he always believed in me. He is no longer with us, but I still feel his presence when I run, and he was definitely with me on race day.

I want to thank the organizers of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half-Marathon and 5K for putting on a fantastic event. Everything was great, from race kit pickup right through to the post-race food. I enjoyed almost every minute of the race, and I even made it through my troublesome 18K patch better than I ever have before. I had enough energy in reserve at the end to really belt it out in the last kilometre, and the look on my face in my race picture tells you how I was feeling as I sprinted to the finish line.

Best finish line shot ever!

Best finish line shot ever!

Thank you to the Geneva Centre for Autism, not only for being a constant source of support for my family since George was diagnosed with autism in 2007, but also for getting me off the couch and into my running shoes a little more than five years ago. It is a true honour to be affiliated with this organization that has given countless autism families the most precious of commodities: hope.

Thank you to all of the people who sponsored me. Your generous donations are going to make a real difference for so many kids. Thanks to you, children and youth with autism will be able to learn how to play musical instruments, participate in sports teams, attend social skills training, go to summer camps, communicate via iPads and much more. Opportunities are being created for my son and other kids like him, thanks to you. My appreciation for your support has no bounds.

Thank you to the runners in my life, who have always been there with words of advice and encouragement when I’ve needed it. You have celebrated with me after the good training runs this season, and you have commiserated with me when the going has been tough. You know what it’s like – the long runs on rainy days resulting in squelchy shoes, the uncomfortable chafey bits where you didn’t apply enough Body Glide, the runs that are just bad for no reason – and you always encourage me to keep going.

Thank you to all of my non-running friends, who tolerate my running-related social media postings: the race-time status updates, the moans and groans about sore muscles, the Instagram pictures of my training watch. You are kind enough to like and comment on my posts, you tag me in running-related things that you think I will like (and I do – I love all of them). Your messages of support and love last Sunday were overwhelming, and they meant the world to me.

Thank you to my husband, who holds the unenviable position of being the partner of a runner. Over the course of the season, he made sure I could get out for my long runs and races, and he tended to my aching muscles with the right combination of concern and humour. The night before the race, he sacrificed sleep so that I could rest undisturbed by children, and he got up early to make sure I got to the start line on time.

Thank you to my younger son James, my tireless supporter and cheerleader. He cheerfully saw me off for my long training runs throughout the season, and he always welcomed me back with a hug, even though I was stinky and sweaty. He is a fantastic champion for his brother’s cause: it was his idea for me to run in a cape last Sunday, to “get into the spirit for autism”. His energy is contagious, and I took a bit of it with me on my race.

The final thank you is reserved for George, my older son, my brave and amazing autism boy. George is my inspiration. He is the reason I get up early in the morning to run in the dark, the reason I do ten-mile training runs in the midsummer heat, the reason I am willing to get rain in my running shoes on wet days. George teaches me about life every single day. And when I am struggling through a run, feeling like it will never end, thoughts of George get me through. I tell myself that this kid lives with autism every hour of every day. That doesn’t stop him from being one of the most determined people I have ever encountered. If he’s not going to give up, then neither am I.

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This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Finish line photo credited to Marathon-Photos. Picture of runner’s wall message credited to Kirsten Doyle.

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Product Review: Peace Of Mind With TRiLOC

One of the biggest concerns of most autism parents is the safety of their kids. People with autism – both young and old – are a flight risk. They can wander away, driven by motivations known only to themselves, and end up dead or seriously injured. Autism itself does not affect a person’s natural lifespan, but statistics show that people with autism are more than twice as likely as the general population to die of accidental causes, because of their tendency to wander off and get lost.

Thanks to companies like iLOC Technologies, the world is becoming a safer place for people with autism. iLOC has created a mobile personal emergency response solution called TRiLOC, which comes in the form of a GPS tracking watch worn by the individual with autism. A parent or caregiver can then track the movements of the individual using a secure website or a Smart phone app.

The TRiLOC GPS Watch

The TRiLOC GPS Watch

Although it is somewhat bulkier, the TRiLOC has the appearance and functionality of a regular watch. Because of its size, it is designed more for adults than children, but it does come with a spacer that can be attached to the strap to make it fit more snugly on children. Even with the spacer, the TRiLOC is probably not viable for children younger than about nine, since a child with a small hand would be able to slip it off. In any case, the bulk might make it too heavy and uncomfortable for very young children.

The strap fitted with a spacer

The strap fitted with a spacer

When I was told, before receiving the TRiLOC, that the clasp on the strap is childproof, I had my doubts. My child with autism has overcome many things claiming to be childproof, including just about every babyproofing device we tried to install in our home when he was born. However, the TRiLOC definitely lives up to this claim. The clasp is difficult for a typical adult to manipulate, never mind a child with autism. Not only that, it is lockable, and a sturdy cover clips over the top of the lock. I can close and lock the clasp and feel complete confidence that my child will not be able to get it open.

A lockable clasp makes this childproof

A lockable clasp makes this childproof

Before putting the TRiLOC on my son, I wanted to first use it myself to test the functionality. I had some initial trouble using the tracking app on my phone, but the man at iLOC Technologies was extremely helpful in getting me set up. Once I was sorted out, I discovered that I can locate the TRiLOC immediately, at any time, simply by tapping the “Find Me” button.

Map zoomed out for security

Map zoomed out for security

The app can be set up to notify you of the TRiLOC’s location every 60 minutes (default standby mode), every 10 minutes, or every minute (emergency mode). Notifications can come in the form of a text message to one or more cell phones, or an email to one or more email addresses. I have my alerts set up to go to both my text messages and my inbox. Alerts are also logged in the app itself, where they stay until they are cleared.

In addition to the basic alerts, you can set up the app so that you get notified about specific events, for example, the clasp being opened or the individual falling. The alert that really excites me, though, is the overspeed alert. You tell the app what the threshold speed is, and as soon as the TRiLOC starts traveling above that speed, you get notified. You can also set up the app to immediately go into emergency mode when the overspeed alerts kick in. Then you get minute by minute notifications of where the TRiLOC is, complete with full hyperlinked GPS coordinates.

Another nifty feature is the geofence. On the app, you simply select a central point and draw a circle around it. If the TRiLOC leaves that perimetre, you get a notification. Up to four geofences can be set for one device. We have one set up around our house and another set up around my son’s school. The geofence notifications can be turned on and off as needed.

After a period of rigorous testing, the TRiLOC definitely gets my stamp of approval. Right now, we are in Phase II of the testing, which involves my son wearing it on a day to day basis. A follow-up review will be posted, in which I will describe his experiences and those of his teachers and other caregivers in using the TRiLOC, and in which I will talk about more features that haven’t been described here.

In the meantime, it should be noted that although I am describing how TRiLOC can be used for individuals with autism, it can be a lifesaving device for people with other conditions as well. If you are the caregiver for someone with any developmental or neurological disability, TRiLOC is well worth considering.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle, published in accordance with my disclosure policy. A TRiLOC unit was provided to the author in exchange for an honest review. All photos are credited to the author.

 

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The Duck Pie Dance

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The nightly Duck Pie Dance starts at about 7:30 p.m., right after everyone has finished eating dinner.

“George, put on your pyjamas,” I say to my firstborn son, who at eleven, currently has the whole puberty-and-autism combination going on.

He stops whatever he is doing to look at me, and then he gets up and locates his pyjamas. He returns to the living room, and then standing directly in front of me, he puts them on. Without first removing his daytime clothes. He stands there looking bulky and rumpled, with an expectant look on his face as he waits for me to follow the script.

“George,” I say obligingly, “Take off your clothes, then put on your pyjamas.”

He takes off the pyjamas but keeps his clothes on. With a look of devilment in his eyes, he holds the pyjamas and slowly edges toward the door that separates the living room from my husband’s office. At a snail’s pace, he shuffles into the office, pulling the door as he goes. Right before the door is about to close, he flings it open, tosses the pyjamas onto the living room floor and dashes into the office, slamming the door behind him. Through the closed door, I hear him giggling hysterically.

“George,” I yell, pretending to sound stern. “Put your pyjamas on!”

He comes back into the living room and flops down in front his computer, pretending to ignore me. I get up and stand in front of him, wordlessly pointing at the pyjamas that are still lying on the floor where he threw them. He picks them up and puts them on, this time taking off his clothes first.

I sit back down, knowing that this is not over. George wanders around for a few minutes, playing on his computer, making words with his alphabetic magnets, playing a few notes on the keyboard. I turn my attention back to whatever I was doing.

Five minutes later, I hear his voice right beside me.

“What happened, George?” he says in an astonished tone, as if he’s reprimanding himself. I look up, and he’s standing there wearing nothing but his undies. I sigh and roll my eyes.

“What happened, George?” I ask, mimicking him. He giggles and runs away. No matter. He’ll be back thirty seconds from now. Or two minutes, or ten minutes – whenever he’s ready. You can’t rush these things.

When he does return, he has his pyjamas on upside down. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a way to put pyjamas on upside down, and my son has discovered it. He has put one leg of the pyjama pants over his head and the other down one arm. His legs are in the sleeves of the pyjama top, which he is holding at the waist.

“Duck pie!” he yells gleefully, with a gleam in his eye.

“Duck pie! Duck pie! Duck pie!” he chants as he prances around the house. He laughs as if it’s the funniest thing in the world, and we all laugh right along with him, not only because it is indeed the funniest thing in the world, but because he has the most delightfully infectious laugh.

Eventually, the Duck Pie Dance comes to an end and George puts on his pyjamas properly. He goes to bed and sings to himself for a while before drifting off to sleep, and I smile to myself, already looking forward to tomorrow’s performance.

This is an original post by Kirsten Doyle. Photo credit to the author.