Thursday, January 17, 2013

Getting Back to The Write Stuff at Aspierations

Hello Aspierations Friends!

I have been spending so much time focusing on the growth and sustainability of Autism Empowerment, that I have not been personally blogging here at Aspierations - Come As You Are, Let Your Light Shine.

I miss that.

I have a tendency to tell myself that I can blog at Aspierations after I get "such and such done" and only if I accomplish "this and that."

For those that know me, I am pretty high energy and for the past year, it seems there isn't a week that has gone by where I don't have a variety of projects, programs, blogs, books, meetings, trainings and events to be working on.

It is quite a different life than a few years ago, when I had a tendency to isolate myself from the community. I still had stuff going on but it was different stuff. Business stuff.

Now my "stuff" can be categorized into "God stuff", "family stuff", "Autism Empowerment stuff", "Autism Empowerment Radio stuff", "volunteer stuff", "networking stuff", "Count Your Beans stuff (our online retail / eBay / Amazon business which we're moving soon from full-time to part-time)" and at 1 a.m. each night, "decompress and watch TV for an hour stuff."

I kind of feel that just spending a few minutes here writing, I'm cheating on some of the other "stuff" I could and should and would have been doing.

I forget that writing stuff is important stuff too... as is exercise stuff and the things that I need to do to take care of myself so that I can be the best me I can for my sons, my husband, my parents and for the Autism and Asperger community.

My point? It's time to do the WRITE stuff!



So like it or not, you're going to see more writing from me on a regular basis. A little bit of humor (intentional and unintentional), a little bit of plugging what is going on at Autism Empowerment and Autism Empowerment Radio, a little bit of what is going on parenting my 6 1/2 and 13 year old sons and a chunk of planned randomness (yes, that was meant to confuse you) about my life as an Aspie.

What "regular basis" constitutes at this point, I don't want to promise but I truly love writing and it seems like most of the writing I'm doing nowadays constitutes grant-writing, business writing, emails to individuals who contact Autism Empowerment or daily emails back and forth with customers of Count Your Beans.

That creative outlet which I want so much to be able to let out at Aspierations needs to take better form. Heck, I need to take better form and I'll be talking about that soon as well. A weighty matter for sure...

I do have some exciting news!  If you've been a reader of Aspierations for awhile, you may remember the poem that I wrote and posted on this blog back in April of 2010, "Autism Does Not Define Me" that was written during Autism Awareness month and dedicated to my two sons who like me are diagnosed on the autism spectrum and journey on the road less traveled.

(As an aside, did you see how Alexis Wineman who is Miss Montana and recently competed in the Miss America pageant used the phrase "autism does not define me, I define it" in recent interviews? I thought that was interesting and am proud of Alexis for all her accomplishments and for being such a lovely advocate inside and out for the autism community. Once things are a little less hectic, I'm going to invite her as a guest onto Autism Empowerment Radio.)

Back to my story. Last year I saw a posting on a blog that Chicken Soup for the Soul was going to be publishing a book in April of 2013 called, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Raising Kids on the Spectrum - 101 Inspirational Stories for Parents with Children with Autism and Asperger's and the publisher was looking for submissions from parents who were raising children with Autism and/or Asperger's.

You could submit a story or a poem so I submitted my Autism Does Not Define Me poem along with a story that explained the inspiration behind my writing and I learned recently that my submission has made it to the final round and there is a very good chance it will be published as one of the 101 stories! COOL!

They won't be making a final decision until about a month before but I'm sure hoping it will be one of the choices! The poem meant a lot to me and was always something I wanted to see published and/or made into a children's book. I have always been a fan of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books and own a number in my home library.

No matter whether my writing makes the final publication or not, I do recommend purchasing the book as it will be out at the start of April for Autism Acceptance and Awareness month. You can pre-order now through Amazon.com. (They even have it on sale, BONUS!)


When I'm not blogging personally, I do try to post a couple times a day on Facebook / Twitter with things of interest to the Autism / Asperger community. 
http://www.facebook.com/AutismEmpowerment
http://www.facebook.com/AutismEmpowermentRadio

The one for my blog is:
http://www.facebook.com/Aspierations

If you're a really social media kinda gal or guy and like spreading the word and connecting others together, we'd appreciate your referrals, likes and shares. We are truly interested in building a positive and vibrant, collective and collaborative, inspired and empowered autism and Asperger community and we want you and those you know within your circles to be a part of that vision!

I also have been enjoying hosting Autism Empowerment Radio. I have interviewed some really amazing and inspirational people and all our broadcasts are available for free listening in archive.

We finished up 2012 with 40 shows and have 3 under our belts this year so far. As I mentioned, we're available to listen to for free at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autismempowerment and you can also subscribe for free and download our podcast at iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/autism-empowerment-radio-blog/id550043011

Guests of our radio show also receive a free book from Brian Tashima, author of Secret of the Songshell, a young adult sci-fi fantasy book featuring a teenage musician on the autism spectrum who travels to an alternate world and use his abilities and unique talents for good!  Recently a finalist in the 2012 USA Best Books Awards for Fantasy Fiction, this book was a favorite with our teenage son and with his Mom & Dad as well!

If you're interested in being on our show or know of someone who would make a great guest, please feel free to connect with me at any of the above links or through Autism Empowerment.

I hope to be sharing more of my writing stuff with you soon! It is SO WONDERFUL blogging again (even if I end up being the only one to read it, ha.) Feel free to share what stuff is going on in your life!


I'm thankful for you stopping by! / Which one is the turkey?
 You pick the caption!

I am grateful!
Karen

Friday, December 14, 2012

Healing, Hurting, Trying to Make Sense in Times of Tragedy


Healing, Hurting, Trying to Make Sense in Times of Tragedy
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Today I planned to work, do a bit of Christmas shopping, work some more, catch up on email, blog and attend a play in the evening with my sons to celebrate the end of a long week.

Instead, like many around our country today, I found myself transfixed to news reports about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, CT. Being the mom of a 1st and 8th grader, the news resonated very hard as I know it has with so many around the nation trying to logically make sense of something which seems senseless.
As I watched the news, I kept thinking about earlier events this week. Events which hit just a little too close to home...
Three days ago, on December 11th, 22 year old gunman, Jacob Roberts shot and killed 2 before turning the gun on himself in a shooting at Clackamas Town Center in nearby Clackamas, OR. Our family had visited there not too long ago. Friends were to be there that day. Fortunately they were not.

Then the next day, December 12th, the feeling of terror continued in our hometown of Vancouver, Washington when lockdowns of several schools in Evergreen School District were announced, including the Early Childhood Center where our youngest son had attended preschool. The Columbian reported that a 15 year old student at Evergreen High School had brought a gun and ammunition to school with the alleged intent of selling it to another student for
$40 and an iPod touch.

Fortunately no-one was hurt in the latter incident however Facebook exchanges among Vancouver, WA and Portland, OR friends were understandably somber and reminded us to take the time to stop and appreciate each day with family and friends.

Then today happened. Gut-wrenching sadness. Innocence lost. A community that would never be the same. Tragedy.
On December 14th, in Newtown, Connecticut, the deadliest shooting in US history at an elementary school was reported... and reported... and reported. Everyone wanted answers, tidbits, some sense to understanding a horrifying crime that shook individuals to the core. Twitter and Facebook blew up with speculation. Conflicting reports about the shooter and victims were released throughout the day as different stations reported varying information. Finally it was confirmed in various reports that Adam Lanza, a 20 year old man had killed his mother at home, drove to the elementary school where he mom had once been an aide and then killed 20 children and 6 adults before killing himself.

With such horrific news being covered on every USA station, most people missed that in China on the same day, 22 children were reported injured by a 36 year old man during a mass stabbing. Twenty two children stabbed... Another community in mourning.

What is going on?

Although I’d like to believe I’m a quick thinker, in reality, it takes awhile for me to process situations. My initial thoughts were shock, sadness and sympathy.
As much as I tried to separate myself from the overwhelming range of emotions I experienced and the visuals that were constantly replaying, I couldn't shake one thought from continuing to permeate and jump into the forefront of my mind.

I prayed for all the families impacted. I prayed for my children and husband. No matter how I tried to distract myself, the nagging thought kept breaking through. How was I going to keep my innocent 6 year old son from finding out about the Sandy Hook shootings?
You see, my youngest son currently has a HUGE fascination with watching the TV news. Part of his routine is the daily news at 4 p.m. on KATU. He also likes ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer.  I’m not sure what initially prompted his news kick (generally, his passion is for cars), however it started in October before election time. For Christmas break he wants a tour of our local news station. He can rattle off the daily and weekly programming for our local stations quicker than you can sing the alphabet song.

I just am not ready for him to find out about this today.  I’m not ready for my older son to find out about it either. Is it my parental instinct? Yes? Wanting to protect their innocence as long as I can?

Absolutely.

My sons are both on the autism spectrum. So am I. Earlier this afternoon, much to my dismay and yet unfortunately not surprisingly, rumors started to surface and be reported on ABC News, FOX, etc that Adam Lanza, the perpetrator in today’s shooting may have been somewhere on the autism spectrum.  It started out with speculation that his brother had told officers he was “developmentally disabled” and morphed into “autistic”, “slightly autistic”, “Asperger’s Syndrome”, “personality disorder”, “OCD”, etc, etc, etc.

Now I REALLY didn’t want my children to hear about this because quite frankly, autism and Asperger’s gets thrown under the bus enough already. The last thing children, teens and adults with autism need is to be unfairly associated and linked with such a horrific situation. Individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities are no more likely to commit violent crimes such as these then those considered neurotypical. Many in the autism community have been victims of bullying and crime. They do not need to be further hurt by misunderstanding. They do not need to be feared. They need to be accepted for who they are. They need to mourn and grieve just like everyone else.
When I co-founded Autism Empowerment last year with my husband, I never thought I would have to be writing a blog like this. 
We are working very hard each day to take the stigma of autism away. Autism Empowerment was founded last year with four foundational pillars: Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower. By promoting acceptance, enrichment, inspiration and empowerment within the autism and Asperger communities, our mission and vision is to help individuals and families impacted by ASD to reach their highest potential. We promote positivity.
We work hard every day to destigmatize autism. To help people accept others for who they are, where they are at...

Today’s violence was the act of a troubled man who we know little about. No one will be able to ask him why he did what he did. No one will be able to question the mother he lived with. Many will be looking for answers that they just won't be able to get. There will be a lot of speculation, lots of stories, lots of Monday morning quarterbacking as people have visceral reactions to something that seems too horrific to be fathomable.

Whether or not Adam Lanza turns out to be on the autism spectrum, it is important for people to realize that it is unfair and hurtful for people to draw cause and effect correlations between autism and violence that are going to further stigmatize and isolate men and women, boys and girls who are on the autism spectrum trying to make the most of their lives every day.

Rather than speculate in the media where children and adults are going to be listening and searching for solutions, let us make sure we take time to mourn the victims of all tragedies and show support to all who are hurting. If we are in a place to do something proactive to help others heal, let us step up and do so. Let us be cautious about labeling and generalizing. Think before we speak, listen before we label and be people of integrity. May we be the role models that we want our children to see and emulate..

Let us do what we can with our gifts to make the world a better place each day that we have here to live. Let us
Accept. Enrich. Inspire. Empower.
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For those with family or friends on the autism spectrum who are currently experiencing loss, I would also like to recommend the recent 2012 release of a book by licensed professional counselor, Karla Helbert, “Finding Your Own Way to Grieve, a Creative Activity Workbook for Kids and Teens on the Autism Spectrum”. I recently received this book in the mail about a week ago. Please make sure to read the section in the front also for parents, caregivers, teachers and therapists.

My thoughts and prayers are with all the individuals and families impacted by recent events. My thoughts are also with the autism and Asperger community.
Be good to yourselves and each other, Aspierations friends.
With love and respect,

Karen

Friday, September 14, 2012

Autism Empowerment Radio is 3 months old!

Hello Aspierations Friends!

First things first! Today is my Mom & Dad's 60th Wedding Anniversary! WOW!  John and I celebrated 20 years in July but 60 years... well, that's just FANTASTIC!

My Mom and Dad are loving, honorable, humble, amazing, compassionate and a real inspiration to the entire Krejcha family. WE LOVE YOU!!



I have been having a lot of fun hosting and co-hosting at Autism Empowerment Radio. It has been a real pleasure. The station launched at BlogTalkRadio, 3 months ago today and we just completed our 15th show.

We have really had a wide variety of fascinating, brilliant and charming guests and wanted to make sure if you weren't familiar with our program, that you had a chance to plug in for free!



Singers Colin Brennan and Justin Hines - Listen to Colin perform on our 9/14/12 show!

All of the shows we broadcast are available to listen to online live or in archive at any time for FREE. This provides a great opportunity for you to share favorite broadcasts with friends, family and your social network.

We also have a sister station, Autism and Scouting Radio which is hosted by my husband, John. He occasionally lets me co-host and it was a real treat to co-host his 2 year Autism and Scouting Anniversary show on September 13th. If you're interested in knowing more about Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting Program, this is a great show to plug into. I believe John just completed his 13th program over there!

You can also find all Autism Empowerment Radio and Autism and Scouting Radio shows at iTunes. Subscribe for FREE, download for FREE and please spread the word so we can attract more listeners and provide more great content.

We provide links below for each broadcast as well as details about that broadcast and a link to any blog posts we made about that broadcast. All programs are 30 minutes in length unless indicated otherwise.


Here are our first 15 shows from 
Autism Empowerment Radio 


June 14th, 2012 - Welcome to Autism Empowerment Radio 

June 30th, 2012 - Interview: Brian Tashima - Secret of the Songshell Author 
Featured Blog Interview with Brian Tashima (Brian is an awesome writer and very generous. He is donating a portion of the proceeds form his book to Autism Empowerment - THANK YOU!)




July 5th, 2012 - Autism Empowerment's Autism and Scouting Program overview 
July 6th, 2012 - Snippets from the Spectrum: This is What Autism Sounds Like 
July 19th, 2012 - Jennifer Cook O'Toole Interview: Aspie Mom, Asperkids Author
July 26th, 2012 - Jennifer Cook O'Toole: Special Interests, The Way In To Asperkids
August 2nd, 2012 - Jennifer Cook O'Toole: A Collection of Strategies for Asperkids
August 3rd, 2012 - Dr. Liane Holliday Willey - Safety Skills for Asperger Women - How To Save A Perfectly Good Female Life
August 7th, 2012 - Sequel Interview - Brian Tashima - Musican, Dad, Secret of the Songshell Author 
August 8th, 2012 - Michaelbrent Collings Interview - The Meridians Author (fiction thriller featuring a boy on the autism spectrum)
August 22nd, 2012 - Snippets from the Spectrum: TigerCub Ryan, his Carnival Cruise & Maps
August 23rd, 2012 - Jennifer Cook O'Toole - Back To School and Social Rules
August 24th, 2012 - Karen Krejcha hosts a special Autism Empowerment broadcasts, Ladies / Girls with Autism / Asperger Syndrome - You Are Not Alone
September 12th, 2012 - Jack Ori - Entrepreneurship, Freelancing and Employment for Individual with Autism / Asperger's
September 14th, 2012 - Colin Brennan - Autism & Music - Amazing 10 year old Autistic Singer (sings I'm Just Different from the musical, "Honk")




Our next show will be with Erika Schron on Tuesday, September 18th at 1 p.m. PST talking about Homeschooling for Children with Autism, Asperger Syndrome and other Special Needs.

Karen with Autism Empowerment Radio talks about Homeschooling Special Needs children with educator, scouter, entrepreneur and dedicated mom, Erika Schron. Erika has been homeschooling her 3 boys with special & gifted needs since 1997. 
 
During her family’s many years of homeschooling and their journey with multiple neuro-developmental difficulties, Erika enjoys sharing her experiences through many different educational methods, curricula, therapies and research.
 
In 1999, Erika began advocating, consulting, writing & speaking about Homeschooling Special Needs children with a focus on the Autistic Spectrum and Sensory Processing Disorder by starting Journey of Learning Academy. http://journeyoflearning.com.  Erika also breeds and trains Chiweenie service dogs and will be coming back on Tuesday, September 25th at 1 p.m. to talk about Service Dogs for Children with Autism / ASD

Thank you so much for tuning in!  We appreciate your support!

If there are any show topics you are interested in, please let me know here or through Autism Empowerment.  This is still my personal blog, however I like to post Autism Empowerment updates here as well. It is my passion and calling! (I think you know that by now!)

Best wishes,
Karen

Friday, August 10, 2012

Aspie / Autistic Girls & Ladies, You are Not Alone

Aspierations Friends,

This blog entry is for the ladies... those of us gals who are on the autism spectrum, whether we're diagnosed or not.  Parents, spouses, family and friends who love these amazing women, you can peek too! 




Whether we call ourselves Aspies or Aspergirls or Asperkids or autistic or Autie or girl, lady, woman or something else...

This is for you...

You. Are. Not. Alone.

Even when you feel isolated, even when you think no-one around you gets it, even when you have gone through the most exhausting day trying to navigate the increasingly confusing world of neurotypical speak... you are not alone.  When you wonder if this planet is really the one you were meant to be on and that your presence here is some weird cosmic injustice, you are not alone.

As it turns out, we Aspie gals often feel growing up that we are from another planet.  Another plane of existence. Anywhere but here...  because somehow HERE just does not fit.  It can't possibly.

We think and speak a foreign language (Aspie / Autie) from the day we are born and our second language we spend our lives trying to pick up is neurotypical speak.  Oh YES, many of us women are pretty darn good at faking neurotypical speak, pretending to be "normal" and so forth.  So many of us women and girls are not diagnosed on the spectrum nor even considered for it.  We're unknowingly good at carrying off the facade that we're okay and often have the world fooled... even though inside we feel like we're crumbling. Of course that stress may lead to other things... eating disorders (trying to get some control), workaholism, alcoholism... obsessive-compulsive challenges... which of course will often lead to or coincide with anxiety, depression, PTSD... and a vulnerability that makes us prone to victimization and abuse.

Many of our sisters have never heard of Asperger's or autism in girls and so they have no idea what that might look like.  Some see it as a stigma or are in denial.  Some of us grew up having never known such a thing existed and thought it was just us... something wrong with us...

We go through our days and evenings trying our best to get by following social unspoken rules that don't have much logic and don't match our concrete, tendency toward black and white thinking. By the time we're ready to go to bed, we're EXHAUSTED.

Imagine going to a foreign country and not knowing the language but you have to be able to speak the language in order to be able to get anything accomplished.  Eventually you're going to have to pick up on bits and pieces and eventually you may even become fluent

.... but it's still not your native tongue and while you're learning that language and being immersed in a culture that is not your own, you are constantly being bombarded with foreign lingo and dialect coming at you from many different angles.  Who wouldn't be tired?

Being an Autism Spectrum Gal in a world of neurotypical speak is Overwhelming with a capital O.

Many of us are great actresses both on stage and in our daily lives. (It can be often be so much more fun playing a part that is not ourselves!!! ESCAPE!)

We are very good at convincing the outside world that we are part of their culture and especially if we know nothing or little about autism or Asperger's, we do a pretty darn good acting job convincing others we fit in. As it is very common for autism and Asperger's to run in families, it's very possible the ones closest to us don't even notice our struggles as big deals. In fact... when we're with people like ourselves, we might even feel more like we fit.  Yet once we get out of that comfortable safety zone we realize that without a net, flying solo can be quite scary indeed.

As Dr. Stephen Shore says in many of his speeches, "if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism."  That goes for Aspies too.

For those of us on the spectrum, we'll always be a foreign language student when we're among native speakers. A number of years ago, a website popped up called WrongPlanet.net.  Why do you think that is?  So many of us feel the same way!

To give a visual, if we were part of a 500 piece Springbok puzzle (my favorite brand growing up) trying to find where our piece fit in with the others in the picture, we would often feel like someone was playing a trick on us and that our piece was part of another puzzle altogether.

And it is...

It is part of a much bigger picture puzzle.  A glorious one. One we ARE part of.  Where we are NOT alone.

We should never ever need to feel ashamed of who we are because we feel different.  In my heart of hearts, I truly believe (and I don't know if you're spiritual or not but I'll just put it out there) that God meant for us to be in this world and He gave us each beautiful gifts and talents for us to utilize and grow. He meant for our lights to shine and even though we may not yet understand how that is all supposed to take place or why we go through some of the experiences we do, He does have a place for us and we are part of his Kingdom.

In my opinion, this world here is just temporary until someday we are with God in heaven. We have a mission or calling to fulfill while we're here and then someday we'll be back to our real home.

I don't normally talk about religion on my blog as I know it's a subject of great controversy and quite frankly, it's personal.  I believe in a personal relationship with God and do my best to love my neighbor and not judge others. I do attend a local church but I believe that the most meaningful conversations and soul-changing revelations I have had in my life are in the privacy of my own home, in my own bedroom with God.  Just opening up my Bible, doing some Bible study and conversing with God...



I realize some don't believe in God and as a woman whose faith has been tested many times, my journey to where I am today has been a rocky road.  Yet I believe that the adversity I have gone through has been for a reason and that reason is so I can share with others and fulfill the calling God has for my life. I am on the path I am today because I am the sum of my past and I am living in today and I'm open to what the future holds. I am following my calling that God has given me. I am remembering that He is always there with me and for me... and if I feel alone, He will always be there and He created me and loves me for just who I am.

We are all imperfect, all fallible, all sinners. If your religious beliefs are different than mine, that's okay... I just hope we can respect one another.

Because sister... you are not alone.

I want to tell you that if you feel like no-one gets you, if you've been living your life exhausted and struggling to find girls, teens, ladies, women that get you for who you are...

Please know, girlfriend...

that there are many of us out there who want to get to know you.  We're searching for similar things.  We have shared experiences.  We have many of the same heart-wrenching challenges and co-morbidities that you do.

You'd be surprised at how much spectrum gals can have in common...

Although this isn't true for all (autism is never one size fits all), here are some commonalities I've personally experienced with gals and women I've met along the spectrum in my life.  Admittedly these are mostly women I've met who would identify as Aspie so if you don't see yourself identifying with all this, that's okay too.  Remember, each of us in this world is unique and wonderful.




Artistic (visually or creatively), prolific writers, perfectionist, passionate, compassionate so much that it hurts, animal lovers, lovers of law, puzzle solvers, mystery enthusiasts.

Many of us are drawn to words and teaching and performing arts. We mimic and love drama. We have what many would call a bizarre sense of humor and often laugh socially inappropriately. We want to counsel others and make this world a better place. We root for the underdog perhaps because we sense a vulnerability in her that we see in ourselves as well.

Hygiene is sometimes an afterthought. Comfort comes before style. Fashion is not our forte' but we may become very good at it by studying magazines... almost as if we're rehearsing for a part. Unfortunately, we sometimes buy into needing to look like what we see and can end up with distorted body issues and self-esteem problems, especially when we're growing up.

Some of us are extremely good at sports, some not so much. Many of us love to read anything related to special interests and often end up teaching what we know...

We may find ourselves with male friends, older friends or younger friends but during our adolescent and teenage years, it is very difficult for us to have female peer friends.  Interestingly enough, a lot of the women I've talked with on the spectrum happen to have also grown up with friends who later came out as gay.  I'm not sure why that is but it seems to happen often enough that it's noticeable.  Perhaps we are drawn to one another because we both feel we're in a closet of sorts hiding?

We also have challenges... sensory issues (smell, taste, textures, sound, etc), tummy issues, naivety, feeling super smart yet oh so dumb at the same time, eating disorders, compulsions, obsessions, battles with workaholism, tendencies to isolate ourselves, depression, social anxiety, greater risks of sexual abuse...

We prefer email to phone, one-on-one to group, don't particularly enjoy strangers popping up at our door and many of us think visually and have great long term memories (but not so good at the short-term...).

If people were to describe us they might use words like kind, compassionate, loyal, honest, bright, intense and driven.

The challenges can really bring us down, make us feeling vulnerable, unsafe and unworthy. Yet sisters... it is time we rise up and are here for each other.  I never was very good at the sorority stuff in college (that's a very long story) but in the sisterhood of gals and women on the autism spectrum, perhaps it is time we have our own club... our own Autistic Sisterhood, a place where we can go and be ourselves and let our lights shine.



I co-founded a non-profit last year and if you've spent any time at my blog, you know it's my special interest. We are a 501(c)(3) public charity named Autism Empowerment and you can find us at www.autismempowerment.org.

We also invite you to check out our radio station at:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autismempowerment
or search for us in iTunes.

All our shows are FREE and we have some great interviews in archive. Just search for "Autism Empowerment" and you can hear interview with Dr. Liane Holliday Willey, Jennifer Cook O'Toole and other powerful advocates.

Autism Empowerment wants to a positive Accept, Enriching, Inspiring, Empowering source of sisterhood and we will be developing programs and resources for our non-profit to do just that.

If you like the idea, let us know and if you can afford to chip in, that would be great! We can use the help, the financial resources, the fund-raising, the promotion, the creativity and the brainpower. Please support our mission! We need to be here for our sisters.  If not us, then who?

In my next blog, I'm going to include a list of resources for our sisterhood to reach out to but ladies, always know you can reach out to me.  You are welcome to post on this blog as well.  I'll be writing again very soon!

Love you!
Karen

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Autism Empowerment & Autism and Scouting Radio now on iTunes

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I am absolutely thrilled to share that broadcasts from both Autism Empowerment Radio & Autism and Scouting Radio are now available to listen to free through iTunes.



We launched our radio stations in June. I am hosting the Autism Empowerment Radio station and my husband John hosts Autism and Scouting Radio.  This is SO exciting for us.

Subscribe / download our podcasts here (and please rate us positively if you like us!)


iTunes - Autism Empowerment Radio
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/autism-empowerment-radio-blog/id550043011?mt=2

iTunes - Autism and Scouting Radio
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/autism-scouting-radio-blog/id550043079?mt=2

As you may see, I haven't been blogging much lately, something which I will make the time for again soon because I love to write and have so much content I want to share with you. Right now it's a matter of priority alignment and hat juggling.

I've been very busy at both Autism Empowerment (my calling) and trying to take care of life stuff (like those pesky bills that keep popping up each month) through Count Your Beans. I've been actively volunteering as much as I can make time for and I'm doing my very best to spend lots of quality time with the kiddos.

I have found that I tend to be a bit anal with my writing. I will write and then rewrite and then rewrite some more, editing until I finally realize (yet again each time) that my writing, like myself will never be perfect. I don't know how many blogs I've started and have left in draft mode but this is not one of them.  I'm making positive changes for the better.  I'm developing a stronger personal relationship with God each day.

And... I finally got off my derriere and launched Autism Empowerment Radio.

I Love It.
What a great way to connect and get important content out there.

What an easy way to connect parents, doctors, teachers, caregivers and individuals with resources they can plug into today and start implementing immediately.

What a super way to reach individuals and families impacted by Autism and Asperger's worldwide.

It's fun, it's making a difference and compared to a lot of the other programs in my notebooks that I eventually plan to launch once funding is possible, Autism Empowerment Radio is relatively inexpensive.

Which for right now is good because the one thing I continually need to be working on (and yet find so many other areas calling my time) is fundraising for our organization.

Can I just admit I'd much rather work on programs, ideas, support and strategies that help change lives for the better?  Can I just admit that when it comes to asking other people for money, I need some mentorship?

Today I was woken up at 4:30 a.m. inspired and driven to write a letter to someone I greatly respect and feel connected to. There was no way I was going back to sleep and four hours later (yeah, I have a good idea what you might be thinking), I strongly believe that if the person I wrote to takes time from his amazingly busy schedule to read what I wrote, he will get my effort, my vision, my passion and my calling. I strongly believe he'll get it on many levels.  This is a well-respected individual who has the financial means, charisma and intellectual know-how to help us take Autism Empowerment from small but shining to large and exceptional.

I've never sent such a letter... but I was compelled to do so.

You see, I KNOW that Autism Empowerment is meant to do GREAT things. This isn't ego, this is a calling, an absolutely certainty that is backed up by Aspie logic and hyperfocused attention. Admittedly, I'm not always the best at reading maps, so I'm needing my GPS (God Positioning System) to help keep me aligned and not go off track.  Even with that, I'm fallible and still veer off course.  My desire to want to change the world and help everyone often takes me away from relaxing, taking things one step at a time and moving slowly.

Time... we all have 24 hours in the day.  I want to make the most of mine.

Autism Empowerment Radio & Autism and Scouting Radio -- our guests thus far have been amazing, each following their effort and doing something special with their lives.

Check us out on iTunes by searching for "Autism Empowerment".  Check us out online at the following links:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autismempowerment - Autism Empowerment Radio
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/autismandscoutingradio - Autism and Scouting Radio

If using an Apple product (like an iPhone or iPad) or something that won't accept a 30 second flash ad in advance of the show, please subscribe to our podcasts at iTunes.

iTunes - Autism Empowerment Radio
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/autism-empowerment-radio-blog/id550043011?mt=2

iTunes - Autism and Scouting Radio
http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/autism-scouting-radio-blog/id550043079?mt=2


Listen to internet radio with Autism Empowerment Radio on Blog Talk Radio


Listen to internet radio with Autism and Scouting Radio on Blog Talk Radio

And I would be remiss if I didn't ask you to consider a donation to Autism Empowerment of any size. We need you and your support to continue our work, to allow us to follow our effort, to implement programs, to share resources, to promote Acceptance, Enrichment, Inspiration and Empowerment within the Autism and Asperger communities.



http://www.autismempowerment.org (you can donate online)

If you prefer snail mail:

Autism Empowerment
P.O. Box 871676
Vancouver, WA 98687

We are a 501(c)(3) non-profit and tax-exempt. Our EIN # is 45-2455219. The programs and services we have offered thus far have all been free and we hope to continue it that was as much as possible.

So while you have a moment, we hope you'll check out Autism Empowerment Radio.  We hope (especially if the person I wrote to makes the choice to be on-board) to eventually have Autism Empowerment TV as well.  Yes, I wrote that. No one will ever accuse me of not letting my light shine while shooting for the stars!

Thank you!
Karen

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Catching Up with Aspierations Friends

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I've been thinking about you lately. I've had so much I've wanted to share over the past couple of months and yet each time I decided to sit down and blog, something else took precedence or grabbed my attention.

Of course, now that I have my buns in the chair and am eagerly starting to blog again, I just remembered that Blogger recently changed their formatting.  Ugh!  The Aspie part of me (the part that moaned about this in my last post) that would really prefer it had stayed the same is feeling a bit discombobulated.  This is the same part of me that has not appreciated some of the recent changes at Facebook but has finally conceded that the timeline thing they have can be kind of cool once you get used to it. Overall though, I'm still feeling positive. Any time I can sneak discombobulated in a sentence brings about a bizarre sort of amusement.

I'm quirky that way.

A lot has recently happened and I'm thinking I should break it down into multiple blogs. Here is a quick summary:

1) John and I had an amazing time in New York City where I attended the 2012 GRASP (Global and Regional Asperger Syndrome Partnership) Awards and was a Distinguished Spectrumite Medal honoree. The trip to NYC is definitely worth a blog entry so watch for that very soon. The GRASP folks were absolutely amazing and it was a real delight meeting Michael John Carley and a number of the other honorees and guests.


(This was during my acceptance speech. I never realized how much I "talked" with my hands until I saw the group of photos that the photographer and my husband took of the event!)


2) Local Vancouver Science Fiction / Fantasy author and musician, Brian Tashima is donating to Autism Empowerment a portion of the proceeds from The Secret of the Songshell, the first book in the Spectraland Saga series. Brian's writing is amazing and we are so humbled by his wonderful offer. Brian is releasing his book in July and we will be blogging about his launch parties very soon! Brian's main goal with his book series is to provide youth on the autism spectrum with a fictional hero they can call their own - a character that saves the day WITH his special qualities, not despite them!



3) The non-profit that John and I co-founded last year, Autism Empowerment recently passed our one year anniversary!  HOORAY!  We've accomplished a lot in our first year and will be blogging about that soon.  We look forward to the day when we will work for Autism Empowerment full-time. To support our programs, events and services, Autism Empowerment is looking for financial support and in-kind donations and appreciate any support you wish to give.



4) In family news, Ryan is finishing Kindergarten and has just joined Cub Scouts as a Tiger in Sensory Friendly Cub Scout Pack 2. John will be the Den Leader.  I will be in the meetings with Ryan. Justin who is currently a Star Scout in Boy Scouts is serving in a volunteer role as Den Chief for the Webelos II group.  Next week will be the first "official" week that all four of us will have some sort of role within Cub Scout Pack 2. I am incredibly proud of my family for their service!



5) While John and I were in New York, John's sister, Sara and our niece Kiersten came down from Alaska and up from Arizona to watch the boys. It was great bonding time for everyone!



5 1/2) We're looking forward to a summer trip to California to visit my parents. I really miss my Mom & Dad and the boys really miss their grandparents. I wish we had the opportunity to see my parents more often. I am going to work hard this year to make sure that happens.



6) In late summer, John and I will celebrate our 20th anniversary by taking a family cruise through Autism on the Seas from Seattle to Alaska and Canada.  We have been saving a little bit each month for YEARS for this trip and are SO looking forward to it!


7) I had a wonderful experience attending "Going Beyond" with Priscilla Shirer in Portland, OR last weekend. My personal relationship with God has grown so much stronger in the past year. I feel I have moved forward in leaps and bounds from where I was last fall and the strength I have gained in my faith and understanding, I am using to build Autism Empowerment. I have said before that I truly believe Autism Empowerment is my calling. I am a continual work in progress but am wholeheartedly dedicating my life toward God, my family and helping provide acceptance, enrichment, inspiration and empowerment to those impacted by autism / Asperger's.



Life is good!  Yes, it is still filled with challenges, twists and turns.  Admittedly, I sometimes look at things ideally instead of realistically. I'm a dreamer, a big idea person and I have a goal to help change the world for the better one connection at a time.

I'm really excited about the launch of Autism Empowerment Radio.  It is going to be awesome! Truth be known, I wanted to launch this station well before now but other life issues took precedence and I wanted to wait until the timing was right. My time and God's time don't always feel like they're in the same time zone so I am learning to be more patient and realize that I can't implement everything I'd like to do at once. It doesn't mean I won't stop dreaming about it and it doesn't mean I won't be proactive to make it happen.  It does mean that I am learning to cut myself a little slack.  That has been a long time coming...

It sure does feel good to be blogging again.  The month of May has been a bit funky for me the past few years and that goes back to something bad which happened to me in May over 20 years ago which I still have challenges with from time to time.  I am happy to say that I am now at a place in my spiritual and personal life where I believe I am healing and moving forward.

This year I created some new memories in May during my whirlwind trip to New York City with John. I was so excited to see my first Broadway show.  The whole trip was quite an adventure... Yes, I experienced sensory overload in Times Square... and admittedly I did freak out a bit during my first cab ride but the experience was totally worth it!  I look forward to blogging about the GRASP event and NYC trip very soon.

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen


Monday, April 30, 2012

The End of Autism Awareness Month is not The End of Acceptance

Hello Aspierations Friends,

Here we are now at the end of Autism Awareness & Acceptance Month.  Although I didn't reach my initial blogging goal of 30 blogs for the month, I did make it past halfway so that is something to feel good about. Even though it is the end of Autism Awareness Month, it is certainly not the end of promoting Autism Acceptance. That is something to work on every day of the year.



In the course of volunteering for Autism Empowerment in the month of April, my husband John and I participated in and hosted a number of activities, including our first Autism Acceptance Panel, our 1st Annual Easter Egg Hunt for individuals with Special Needs, and a fishing trip with Sensory-Friendly Cub Scout Pack 2. 

Also, this past Saturday, April 28th we exhibited at the Southwest Washington Special Education and Resource Fair and it was a TOTAL success!  John and I are already looking forward to next year.

I'm also looking forward to more blogging both here and at the Autism Empowerment website. I was thinking of transferring the Autism Empowerment website blog over to its own blogger site but need to ponder that some more.

As I logged into Blogger today to begin typing this blog, I was welcomed with "Blogger has a new look." Sigh... It seems that lately, Blogger, Facebook, Gmail, Twitter... and a LOT of places I frequent are upgrading, changing, enhancing, modifying and attempting to improve their "look".  

I realize that not always embracing change is part of my Aspie nature and over the years I actually have become fairly decent adapting but on some days like today for example, I really don't appreciate yet ANOTHER change.  I liked things at Blogger the way they were, thanks. I'm just getting used to Facebook's new timeline (which I waited until the end of last month to upgrade to) and now Blogger is insisting that I welcome its change as well. 

I guess I'm a little bit grouchy about it tonight but I'll get over it soon enough. Admittedly, I'll probably grow to like the changes. I realize that life provides a series of changes and that I am constantly in a state of transformation.  Admittedly, I generally prefer to have a proactive role in the changes that are made rather than a confused reactive role but I'll deal with it. As my youngest would say, "Use your Superflex powers, Mom!"  No Grump Grumpaniny allowed here! Gotta love the Unthinkables.

We may technically be marking the end of Autism Awareness month for 2012 but every day is Autism Awareness day in our household and we will continue to promote Accept, Enrich, Inspire and Empower, Autism Empowerment's four foundational pillars.

I'm really excited about the launch of our Autism Empowerment Radio Program. You will have the opportunity to listen live or listen later on podcast. More on this VERY SOON!



May is going to be great!  If you do not yet "Like" Autism Empowerment at Facebook, please come join us!

Thanks for stopping by!
Karen

Sunday, April 22, 2012

A Weighty Matter - Correlation & Causation & Autism - Part 1

Hello Aspierations Friends,

I am sorry to say that I did not reach my target this year of blogging every day in the month of April for Autism Awareness and Acceptance. This disappoints me and also bothered me so much that I almost didn't write again tonight out of embarrassment over my shortcoming.

Then I realized how lame and ridiculous that would be.

It sort of fits in with other patterns in my life I've had some challenges with.  For example... losing weight. Being at a healthy weight that I feel comfortable with has been a struggle since before I entered Kindergarten.  Part of the problem back then had to do with very selective...also known as VERY PICKY eating behavior.

Back when I was three, I apparently only wanted to eat peanut butter sandwiches.  No jelly. Just peanut butter. I was rather adamant about my preference and should another plate of food be placed in front of me, I would not eat it or I would retch.  As such, by the time I got into Kindergarten, I weighed 75 pounds. Fortunately I was one of the tallest in the class but still, definitely overweight and ripe for teasing.

The doctors had told my mom that I would grow out of my picky eating but the only thing I ended up growing out of was my clothes.  As such, once I tipped that 75 pound mark, my parents tried a different direction. I still remember a major meltdown I had back when I was 4.  That's for another blog...

Fortunately, I did eventually end up branching out into other food selections, some of them even healthy choices. Fortunately I was also a tomboy that loved sports so once I started eating a larger variety of food choices (i.e. 4 or 5 things instead of 1 or 2) and combined that with lots of running around and being active, I lost weight.  By 1st grade I was still one of the tallest kids in the class but my height and weight was more proportionate. The "fat kid" label had already been stamped inside my head but the body on the outside no longer matched what I thought I looked like on the inside.

I'd like to add some pictures in here so you can see what I mean but right now I can only find this one.


1st Grade - I'm the gal with braids and a red shirt, third from the left on the top row. It's one of the only times in my life I have sported what is anything close to a tan in a photo!

I need to find my individual Kindergarten photo one of these days and add it as a comparison.  

Funny thing is that I didn't start this blog off to be about my weighty issues with weight and yet here I am. Interesting... During a private bible study I was doing at home this afternoon I thought about this issue in depth  so I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it found its way into my writing. 

Did anyone see the recent article which links obesity in mothers with autism? Yes? Well it ticked me off because offshoots of the original UC Davis article (which really focused on women that were overweight that had diabetes) were often written in such a way to imply that yet again, mothers who are overweight during pregnancy are to "blame" for if their children "get autism".  A number of spin-off articles were similar and didn't even include the diabetes information even though that was a central part of the study. Basically, a number of the spin-offs, "summaries", etc just said something along the lines of "obesity in mothers while pregnant" linked to "autism".

Now before I am corrected, I know that the original article didn't literally say C-A-U-S-E or it is the pregnant mother's F-A-U-L-T but in some of those spin-offs, there was definitely some in-between the lines stuff going on and if you read the comments section under a number of those articles, they usually included some mean-spirited and self-righteous comments. I am not linking to the spin-off articles because I don't want to promote the continued negativity but if you googled, you could easily find them if you were so inclined.

I think that during a month that we should be promoting Autism ACCEPTANCE, is it really necessary to go and alienate people by writing this in such a way that the public is going to respond with almost anything but kindness? 

1) You get some women that say, "I wasn't FAT / OBESE / CHUBBY when I had my kid and he/she still has autism."  (emphasis on the word FAT or OBESE with a hint of a tone that isn't very accepting of people with weight challenges) I personally believe that if you want to be accepted or you want your child to be accepted, belittling others is not the way to go.  

2) You get some people nodding their heads in discernment at every overweight mother who has a child on the autism spectrum.  Maybe you're not a "refrigerator mom" but you spend too much time in the refrigerator! (The implication being that you may have CAUSED this through your weakness and lack of self-control.) Do we really want women who should be gaining weight during pregnancy to have extra stress-induced anxiety?

3) You get women who ARE overweight and have challenges with emotional overeating feeling guilty and hating on themselves. Instead of "shaming" people into losing weight which seems to be a sick fascination by the American culture, by hating on them, they are much more likely to internalize that hatred and be unkind to themselves.

4) You take away from the point that even if there is a link for SOME women that are overweight to have a child with autism, there is not a link with ALL women.

4a) Some women that are overweight will give birth to children with autism.
4b) Some women that are underweight will give birth to children with autism.
4c) Some women that are "a normal weight" will give birth to children with autism.

Is the "weight" issue something else that really needs to be sensationalized so that insecure people can pretend to feel better about themselves by trying to make other people feel less secure?

Incidentally, if you're wondering if I'm a bit outspoken about all of this because I am overweight, please know that my tone comes from a place of love and acceptance.  However for those curious, for the record, I weighed about 150 pounds less when I gave birth to Ryan than when I gave birth to our first son, Justin.  I did not have diabetes with either son nor do I have it now. Both are on the autism spectrum, our oldest with Asperger's and our youngest with Autism.  

I am diagnosed on the autism spectrum and although they have never been diagnosed, I am 99.9% sure that some of my birthfamily (I'm adopted) is there too.  Oddly enough, some of the family who adopted me is on the spectrum as well but that's another interesting story. (Mathematicians... what are the odds that I would be adopted in 1967 into a family where there were autism spectrum ties?)

The point of the weight thing... and the vaccine thing... and the environmental thing... and all the other "things" that people are looking for as a cause is that when you are writing or reading an article and you are critically trying to think or share an opinion with others that you remember this:

Correlation does not equal and should not imply causation!  (Scientifically and mathematically speaking... now if you're going to talk gossip rags and public opinion... you may have people positing quite a different direction.)

This is so important to keep in mind... so important.

I'll even say it again.

Correlation does not equal and should not imply causation! 

Another thing that is important is that hating on people that are overweight who have children with autism or putting fear into the lives of women who are pregnant that if they eat an extra bon bon or two and if their baby does end up having autism it was "their fault" is destructive, judgmental and selfish. It takes eyes away from acceptance and love for those on the autism spectrum and puts them straight on intolerance and ignorance and the blame game.  

But you might ask, what if there is a correlation?  I do happen to know some overweight women who have children with autism?  

Well, there are correlations with a lot of things. If there is a correlation, it is important to understand what the link might be but definitely not to jump to conclusions or imply the correlation is the ultimate cause.

For example:

I have reddish auburn hair and brown eyes. 

My husband has dark brown (salt and pepper now) hair and green eyes.

Our youngest son with autism has blonde hair and blue eyes.



What does that mean?  Does it mean that redheaded and brown eyed women who mate with dark haired, green eyed men are more likely to give birth to a child with blonde hair and blue eyes?  Of course not!

Does it mean that redheaded and brown eyed women who mate with dark haired, green eyed men are more likely to give birth to a child with autism?  

No... no it doesn't.
Regarding the blue eyes, think genetics... somewhere in our DNA... 
It was in our genetic code for Ryan to have blonde hair and blue eyes. 

What were the odds? Hmm....

Does it mean there was something in his genetic code to be on the autism spectrum? A genetic predisposition? Something that may have triggered it? 

I'll tell you one thing... it wasn't the bon bons.  I don't even like bon bons.

There is a lot more to talk about here so as we're getting close to midnight, I'm going to call this part 1 and continue part 2 a second day.

Please feel to chime in below!
Karen