Life Hacks

Visible Voices Vote

My Better Half shared this article with me on November 6, 2018 (Election Day), and I want to pass it along to others while trying to touch on some of the issues and resources in this article.

I really appreciate the idea and process of supporting all persons with making informed choices and to do so in a way that respects their autonomy as humans and their rights as citizens.

The idea of a social story and anticipatory guidance feels so smart and kind for most adults who are voting for the first time. I think many young adults could benefit from this resource and, as such, I consider it a gift from this mother to have created it for her son and share it.

As I read and re-read the resources in this article, I delved deeper into the Bazelon Center site.

It’s eye-opening and mind-blowing how variable and fraught with ambiguity the law seems to be on the matter of whether individuals with disabilities and mental health concerns can vote. It reminds me, in many ways, of the bar we set before people wishing to become a US citizen.

More specifically, my work often involves talking with families about the topic of guardianship for their children as they transition from adolescence to adulthood. This article gave me cause for pause and added to my understanding about how guardianship determinations could impact a person’s ability to vote later in life or in another state if they so choose to move.

In closing, I would like to encourage folks to share this Know Your Rights resource on voting.

"The Shitty Stop Saloon"

Most guys talk about a man cave as a place to escape and relax while watching sports. When you have two children in diapers at the same time, you manage to get creative about what constitutes a man cave. And then a third one comes along, and your remember the joy of it.

In the unfinished basement of an 86 year old house, there’s a high efficiency washing machine with my name on it (figuratively, of course). There’s two or three sacks of “used” cloth diapers gathered about this marvel of modern technology and gloves reminiscent of Breaking Bad.

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On Wednesday and Sunday nights, I trod down the steps to tackle all manner of excrement from cloth diapers and two twin cat litter pans beneath our wooden stairs. Before I started, I'd pop open a beer, plug my iPhone into a stereo I saved and retro-fitted from my middle school years (yep, old), and set it to play what My Better Half lovingly refers to as “my old fart music” (she’s right). I throw three days worth of cloth diapers in the basin and get down to scrubbing.

So here at the Shitty Stop Saloon, I take 30 minutes of musical silence twice a week and find comfort in the ritual of dirty work that remains a part of staying committed to cloth diapering.

After four years of this lovely routine, two children potty trained, we decided to do it again (and by “we,” I mean My Better Half). Our third child arrived in May of 2017, and I’ve started to realize how much I love the ritual of cleaning as way to care for and think of our children. It’s odd in the smelliest sense (pun intended!) to appreciate the value of an awful task, but it helps me absorb the awful with greater appreciation for how important each job/role is in our life.

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Now in an even older house, we purchased a high efficiency laundry machines (this time the largest size they have for residential homes) as a Christmas present to ourselves and set to the work of making “The Shitty Stop Saloon Part Deuce” (get it? poop - #2).

Much like the first, I have the same stereo, plastic gloves (new gloves every month but same old style), and stacks of the same diapers that have covered the butts of all three of our children. However, technology and time have afforded us some upgrades like a curated play list, windows to the outside to air out the funk, and a steam setting that really blasts out the ick. In honor of the new space, my Better Half and two big kids made a sign to decorate the cave.

You’ll find me here every Wednesday and Sunday night cleaning the diapers for their next wear. Hopefully I only have one more year of this before potty training. Here’s hoping (not predicting) a less smelly future.

 Full name added online only. We couldn’t bring ourselves to write expletives over the kids’ art. Parent-life.

Full name added online only. We couldn’t bring ourselves to write expletives over the kids’ art. Parent-life.

Get Your Sleep On

Above all else, they must sleep. They have to sleep. The theories for why we need to sleep are varied, but they all converge on the brutal necessity that we need consistent sleep routines.

According to the Gospel written by St. Matthew, Christ fasted for forty days in the wilderness before being tempted by the devil. But lo, nowhere does it say that Christ went without sleep during these forty days. So then, even God in the Incarnate Form seems to have needed sleep.

 The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, 1897, on display at MoMA

The Sleeping Gypsy by Henri Rousseau, 1897, on display at MoMA

There is a lot of controversy and debate about how to help babies sleep, so I will steer clear of this topic and direct folks to consider this resource for infant sleep guidance and references.

The things I would be willing to do to help my children sleep are too endless to count. Sleep is so incredibly important and necessary for adaptive daily functioning that I often do everything I can in my personal and professional life to steer others toward the best possible sleep time.

I want to share with you a blog I stumbled upon a few months ago that does a fantastic job synthesizing and distilling the clinical research related to the importance of sleep routines. This website by Craig Canapari, MD from Yale is a quick, personable, and approachable read.

I appreciate his website for a variety of reasons, but here are the main ones:

  • He's able to take and integrate multiple perspectives in his writing and recommendations.

  • It's pretty transparent that he is open to diverse parenting-styles and family dynamics.

  • He writes with an eye for the research and ear for what parents might use in their homes.

I loved his post on harnessing sleep rhythms for better sleep routines.

I also strongly recommend this post as we creep up on daylight saving time (November 4).

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Some quick thought nuggets regarding sleep for children and adults alike:

  • Knowing thyself and your daily rhythms. Do you know when you generally become most tired or drowsy? Do you know the same for your child? Track it!

  • Viewing technology prior to sleep onset is prohibitive for a variety of reasons. I strongly encourage families, if and where they can, to set clear limits on when technology goes away for the evening and where this technology is stored/kept safe over night.

  • Finding a routine that works for you/your kids is key. Rather than trying to make your family or child conform to other people's presentation of their own perfection, look for what works for you and your family and then find a way to stick to it most of the time. Consistency is the critical part.

If it were not already obvious, I am pretty passionate about this topic. One of my first blog posts provided advice and tips about "Bedtime Routines". The following post was "Product Review: Teach Me Time Clock," which we use in our house to help manage our children's nightly slumber times [Bonus: the price has come down since we first purchased it in 2014]. As I shared in my last post “Third Time’s The Charm” our youngest has needed our help throughout his whole life (all 17 months and counting) to achieve consistent, sleep-through-the-night sleep. I use these resources and suggestions in my personal life every evening, along with a prayer for a good night’s sleep.  

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Autism Evaluation Process

April is National Autism Awareness Month, so I wanted to post about topics that relate to the autism aspects of my professional training and practice. One piece that is often not discussed is what actually goes into an autism diagnostic evaluation - for patient and practitioner alike.

I take the process of conducting an autism diagnostic evaluation very seriously. I try to give as much of myself as I can intellectually and emotionally in order to provide patients and families with guidance. My goal is to offer an evaluation that is compassionate, informative, and useful.

These are the measures I routinely use as part of an autism diagnostic evaluation:

  • Autism Diagnostic Observation Schedule - Second Edition (ADOS-2) - clinician-administered
  • Social Communication Questionnaire (SCQ) - caregiver report
  • Social Responsiveness Scale - Second Edition (SRS-2) - caregiver & self-report
  • Detailed Developmental History - caregiver report
  • Chart Review - pediatric medical records and educational services & assessment history

As outlined above, the diagnostic evaluation is not just me and the patient taking a prescribed set of tests. It is often what I learn in the life narrative that gives me the confidence to proceed with a clear diagnosis and treatment plan. In order to get this information and an accurate health history, I need to talk to caregivers and review pediatric records. This is true for my adult patients seeking a diagnosis as well. While it may seem like a long time ago, childhood behaviors as reported by caregivers give me a fuller picture of the patient's life. 

Beyond the ADOS, I provide anxiety, ADHD, and mood screening Instruments when applicable. An evaluation is so much more than a "Yes" or "No" stamp for a single diagnosis, as it represents a person and a plan to improve their lives based on the challenges they have had and face today.

The inspiration for my wanting to be Ever Better at conducting autism diagnostic evaluations comes from the families I've met along the way. Those who've talked with me about what went well and what they wished could've been different on the day they learned the diagnosis.

I've also found new inspiration and room for growth in working with adults who are seeking a diagnosis later in life. The feelings and dynamics of obtaining a first diagnosis as an adult are something I am learning to navigate with my clients, and I am honored to learn with them.

I am starting to get into a rhythm with scheduling diagnostic evaluations, and I hope to keep receiving referrals for individuals across the lifespan who wonder if they're on the spectrum. In private practice, I am afforded more flexibility in scheduling and administering tests. What this has meant is that patients can get an appointment more quickly and often during "outside of typical office hours" so they can get the answers and help they are seeking more smoothly. 

This April, I'm providing autism diagnostic evaluations on Saturday mornings. So far, I have enjoyed serving new patients in a timely manner - it is very fulfilling for me to get a call from a new referral and be able to serve them within a week or two of their inquiry. Providing answers and helping families better understand their loved ones is one of the most satisfying parts of my work, and I am grateful for the opportunity to serve patients and families in this way.

More Do Less, Well

The March 2017 edition of the Monitor on Psychology included an article on how "...how smartphones are affecting our health and well-being..." I thought this piece dovetailed nicely with my recent post on Doing Less, Well and wanted to share it with you here in hopes of generating future discussion around this topic. I hope you find it useful and interesting to read.

The key points of the article that jumped out to me (as illustrated ecard):

Smart devices can wreak havoc on sleep routines and rhythms.

My recommendation: Initialize parental controls or Do Not Disturb at a specific time.

FOMO is real

My recommendation: Keep your account, but delete the Facebook app from your phone. Try it. I did and I've been mobile-Facebook-free for two months. It has really changed my perspective.

How we use social media (actively vs. passively) impacts how it affects us personally.

My recommendation: Limit your scrolling and commit to initiating conversations with others.

and one BONUS RECOMMENDATION:

Call someone instead of texting them. I'll bet you enjoy it and wish you had done it more often.

A habit I started over the last few weeks (and miss when I don't do it) is calling my mother on the way home from work. It reminds me of when I was in high school, and we could give each other a hard time every morning on the car ride to school and still say "I love you" at the end of the conversation.

I always feel more connected after hearing her voice.