Home business, home education and health challenges: what makes us tic?

Archive for the ‘Autism Spectrum’ Category

Making Peace with Misfitness

A friend of mine has been going through a rough time.

To those of us who know what life on the spectrum looks like, and who know her and her family, it’s been no great surprise to find that her youngest son is autistic, and she and her oldest daughter, at the very least, have Asperger’s Syndrome, if not high functioning autism*.

To them, however, the news has ben devastating.

I’ve mentioned before how very empowering and useful our diagnosis has been to us. I hope it will turn out to be the same for her, as well, and I wrote the message below for her, with that end in mind.

I don’t mean to diminish this situation in any way. I know that, in every possible way, we are enormously blessed – far beyond what we could ever hope to deserve. I know that many who walk this road have had a much tougher time than us. I know I cannot hope to understand, intimately, what that must be like.

And I don’t pretend to.

I know that I have days where I want to sit in the corner and sob because I just can’t bear another blank look of incomprehension, another unnecessary argument borne in misunderstanding, another three-hour melt down in which I can never allow anything else to be more important than the crisis facing the sobbing child before me. And

I know that these small hurdles that are the end of me, some days, are less than the smallest blip on the radar for some families. And that includes my friend’s family.

But I also know that the world needs minds like these. And – more than that – it needs acceptance* of these beautiful minds, and support. Not resistance.


My dear friend,

I almost want to congratulate you on having Asperger’s Syndrome. I came to the same conclusion about myself when I started this journey.

I was lucky to have two parents on the spectrum: a zany and extremely extroverted artist mom and a classic Aspie engineer dad. They don’t see how alike they are through their very different personalities. But all my personal study has shown me that common traits like depression, bipolar disorder, ADD, creativity, extremes of extroversion or introversion, attention to detail/OCD, engineering and social skills that don’t come naturally all point to the same thing: the autism spectrum.

My parents actively discouraged "being normal" in favour of "being interesting"

My parents actively discouraged “being normal” in favour of “being interesting”

Because my parents always felt like outsiders, and because both have formidable intelligence, they felt that our independence and uniqueness were much more important than trying to conform to society. If anything, they actively discouraged “being normal” in favour of “being interesting”. So understanding and accepting our Asperger’s has been less difficult for us than it is for many people. We see it as a blessing: a special and unique way to see the world. A way the world NEEDS to be seen in order for us to progress.

I really believe that once we can accept ourselves we can be so much happier with who we are, and also make a significant contribution. I hope this journey turns out to be a good one for you. As you say, the label doesn’t change what is. But it does make it so much easier to accept it.

And when you have a melt down, which we all do, it makes it a lot easier to understand and work through if you give yourself the grace to just feel what you feel in that moment. Melt downs – and all the challenges we face on the spectrum – are the ways our mind uses to tell us it needs to be taken care of. Whether that means taking a break, or establishing some boundaries, or even letting go of the things that weigh you down, you have the right to make those changes so that you can be as whole and healthy as you need to be – both for yourself and your family.



*I know these terms are clunky and insufficient. “High-functioning” implies so may things that just aren’t appropriate to the people with the label – and their lack doesn’t apply to people who don’t qualify for the label. “Acceptance” implies a coming to terms rather than an appreciation. It’s simply not adequate. But it’s the language I have available right now. Please don’t let offense at my hurried laziness rob you of any happiness.

Read more on Asperger’s in women, and adult diagnosis.



When you feel everything

People assume that people with high levels of empathy have a deep insight into how others’ are feeling, and can thus moderate both their own behaviour – and that of others – to give everyone the highest comfort levels possible.

But this isn’t always the case. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that, sometimes, empathy can actually cause the opposite result. People with high levels of empathy can become baffled by human behaviour, and unable to moderate their behaviour at all.

The way I see it, there are two kinds of empathy. There’s biological empathy, and social empathy.

Social empathy is the empathy we read about in magazines. It’s compassionate side of individuals that allows them to see the world from someone else’s perspective. Social empathy is usually an acquired skill. It needs to be developed over time, and it requires three keys things:

  • Emotional Intelligence on the part of the person exercising the empathy (or hoping to do so);
  • Compassion and a willingness to set aside judgements, prejudices and preconceptions;
  • And keen observational skills.

These can be developed over time. Research into the field, as well as personal observation and anecdotal evidence all contribute to social empathy. It’s the kind of thing that become your life’s work, and if we all invested more time in developing our own social empathy, the world would be a safer and more peaceful place.

But there’s another kind of empathy. Biological empathy is sometimes mistaken for ESP or something out of the ordinary and, frankly, a little strange. A person with high levels of biological empathy feels the emotions of those around them. It doesn’t matter where they are or who they’re with – even complete strangers can give off very strong emotions. And those with high levels of biological empathy have no choice but to feel those emotions as if they were their own.

(And – notice: I didn’t say highly developed biological empathy, but rather, high levels of empathy. This kind of empathy seems to be something you’re born with. Any personal development in this area needs to focus on managing and understanding it, more than expanding it.)

There’s a lot to be said for biological empathy. if you can learn to separate your emotions from those around you, and teach yourself to read the cues that suggest whose feelings you might be feeling, you can develop your social empathy remarkably. It becomes possible to understand – deeply – what another person feels, whether their motivations for feeling a certain emotion seem logical or valid to you or not.

It certainly short cuts a lot of the explaining work that usually needs to form part of social empathy development. Over time, because you can feel what a person is feeling, you can begin to develop an understanding of why they feel it, too.

But biological empathy is not without its share of problems. For one thing, it’s exhausting. The people I know with high levels of biological empathy are usually pretty sensitive people themselves. That doesn’t mean they’re easily offended or they cry a lot. It just means that they come with a lot of feelings of their own. Strong feelings. And managing those can be hard enough without the burden of feeling everyone else’s feelings, too. without guidance – especially at first – it can be very difficult to figure out which feelings belong to you, and which belong to those around you. That makes every day an emotional roller coaster.

But it goes further than that. People lie. They lie to those around them, and they lie to themselves. They especially lie to children. So when a child has a high level of biological empathy, they may feel the emotions of the adults around them. But when they ask those adults if they’re okay, the adult will blithely assure them that all is well. Often, that adult hasn’t even admitted to themselves what they’re feeling. They may well believe themselves when they say everything’s okay, because they’ve spent so long denying their own emotions.

But the child (or biological empath) is not necessarily asking because they want to help, or because they’re nosy.

They’re asking because they need to figure out if the sudden welling up of anger or heart ache or frustration they just felt is theirs – and where it could have come from – or not.

When the person feeling the emotion doesn’t take ownership of that emotion, the person feeling it with them has no way of dealing with it. It becomes difficult to separate where his or her own self ends, and another person begins.

If we could all learn to be more honestAnd it becomes very difficult to develop social empathy. You learn not to trust your emotions or instincts. Because you know what you’re feeling, but not why, and because the person you believe is actually feeling this sudden welling up of emotion refuses to clarify it for you (probably innocently), it becomes very hard to read people at all. Knowing how to behave around other people becomes an opaque minefield of confusion and overwhelm.

When you behave based on what someone says, rather than what their actions reveal, it’s possible to come across as callous and thoughtless. But when the words a person says are baffling to the biological empath, they may not have any other options.

Eventually, these gifted people, who could offer so much to the world, retreat into their own worlds to protect themselves. It’s a great loss to society.

We could benefit so much by being more honest and real – with each other and ourselves. And, since we can’t identify the biological empath by sight, if we all took steps to be more honest, they would naturally benefit as a happy side effect of the whole world becoming a better, safer space to be in.

Elexoma Update: concentration: 1 – tics: 0

Elexoma: Brain Stimulation for Novices

Elexoma: brain Stimulation for Novices

We’ve been using the Elexoma device since Thursday. And by “we”, I mean mostly me. I’ve been making Goldilocks do it too, when time permits.

She was reluctant at first, but soon came to see the value.

Yesterday I couldn’t find it, so I didn’t use it. Goldilocks was in a bad mood and retreated to her room, and when I went to check on her I found her using the Elexoma all by herself. And it helped a lot, she said – even though she only managed to squeeze in about nine minutes.

I must say that I am feeling more relaxed and better able to cope generally. My sleep has also improved enormously. And, interestingly enough, my tics seem to be better now, too. So that’s a very good thing.

In fact, I’m using it now, as I type.

In the first post, I mentioned that my cysts were taking strain: they were noticeably bigger, and felt as though they were about to burst. Now, however, they’re a lot smaller. And they barely hurt at all. In fact, I’m no longer even aware of the ones on my head, and it’s been a very long time since I could say that. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’ve cut out chocolate and crisps, or if it’s the Elexoma doing it’s thang.

Maybe it’s both.

My particular interest is to note that it’s helping Goldilocks. Like – a lot. She is calmer, more confident, and less prone to tics. Her concentration seems to have improved, as well. That’s not to say that we don’t still have melt downs to deal with. Because we do. But they’re less intense and easier to resolve.

So far, so good.

Read more here: www.BoostMyBrain.co.za

Self-experimentation: Elexoma, Intermittent Fasting and GAPS

Starting today, we’re using ourselves as guinea pigs. We’ve gotten our hands on a second hand Elexoma device (thanks, Doc Frank!). We’re using it to help us with

  • Anxiety
  • Migraines
  • Concentration
  • Exhaustion
  • Insomnia
  • Tics
  • And anything else it can take care of.
Elexoma - close up

Elexoma – close up

Here’s what the Elexoma site has to say on the site:

How can a little device make people happy?

Well, no one knows exactly how it works, but it has been clearly proven that the Elexoma Medic increases the energy inside the neurons by 500 to 800%. The brain uses this extra energy to improve performance. Furthermore, tests have shown that the emotional (irrational) part of the brain is subdued by treatment, while the rational part is stimulated (more about this later). In other words, the Elexoma Medic gives the brain the energy it needs to perform better, and creates an environment fit for best rational and creative performance.

Here is what one study found:

A 386% increase in attention span test results after just 20 minutes of a single CES treatment in healthy volunteers
– Southworth S, A Study of the Effects of Cranial Electrical Stimulation on Attention and Concentration, Integrative Physiological and Behavioral Science, 1999, Vol 34:1, 43-53.

Papa Bear, Goldilocks and I have all used it today. So far, we’re more relaxed and concentrating better. And we’re happier generally. The various cysts on my body are throbbing and painful – they feel as though they want to burst.  My tics feel more marked, and I have a one: a strange hand twisting thing that vaguely resembles a very strange and pedantic sign language. I haven’t heard, yet, what Goldilocks’ experience is, but Papa Bear said he’s feeling happy and chilled out.

Intermittent Fasting

Doc Frank has also given us an interesting, and very unusual fast. We do get to eat – but only once a day. (Breakfast, as you can imagine.) You get one meal, comprising as many eggs as you’d like, bacon, and thick organic plain greek yoghurt. No coffee. No alcohol. No sugar of any kind – even fruit or honey.

(The girls aren’t doing this, of course. They’re going gluten free, but that’s the extent of it. )

(Well, they were … until Papa Bear bought them each a Steers Burger.)

So, this morning around 7AM we treated ourselves to bacon and eggs and delicious yoghurt. It was awesome. We didn’t feel hungry until around 3PM … and in fairness, we didn’t feel hungry then, either – we were ravenous. So (I confess) we snuck a few sneaky strips of bacon. I hope it’s not too big a cheat. We shall see.

We’re on the fast for three days, and then we launch GAPS. I’d love to tell you aboutit … but frankly, I’m a little woozy from the fast.

(It really makes me think hard about those folk who have so little to eat, and have to get a day’s work done. Yikes.)


Giving a Voice to the Differently Abled

Tegan is a brave young woman living in England, who found a way to communicate her uniqueness with her peers. She says the results have been amazing: suddenly people are beginning to understand her life a bit better, and she feels less judged.

The full inspiring story is here: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33348315

The animation that changed it all for Tegan is here:

This is a really clever and effective way to share our children’s stories (with their permission, of course).

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink

[Blink. Blink. Puff. Swallow.] Did she notice?

“My daughter has Tourette’s,” I explain. “So she might sometimes tic during lessons, or even during free time. [Blink.] Sometimes it’s worse during free time, actually. [Puff.] Because she’s so relaxed.”

Should I mention that I have it too? Is it obvious? Can she tell?

“What sort of tics?” the new teacher I’m interviewing asks, oozing buckets of compassion and a very clear no-problem-I’ve-seen-it-all-before attitude that blankets me in calm reassurance.

[Frown. Blink. Don’t twitch!]

“Mostly, she blinks,” I say. “It’s not very noticeable. When she’s stressed or angry or confused or concentrating hard or very relaxed or tired – or if she’s had too much wheat or sugar – she has vocal tics, too.”

[Swallow. Blink.] Thank God for sunglasses and people who like to sit outdoors. Even if the wind is unwinding my plait. And is that what’s making her hair so fuzzy? Does my hair look as fuzzy as that? Should I consider a different shampoo? I wonder what would work? Hmm … will it be expensive … ?

“Can you give me an idea of the kinds of tic sounds she makes, so that I can recognise them when they happen?” Her question interrupts my distracted thoughts, making me frown and twitch as I try to reign my brain in and focus on what actually matters. This is about Goldilocks.

“Tsp-tsp-tsp. There’s one like that. A kind of blowing one: plp-plp-plp. She swallows sometimes [does she? why did I say that? I can’t recall if it’s true or not! What kind of parent am I if I can’t even keep track of my daughter’s tics? Mind you, I can’t even keep track of my own! Oh dear – am I ticcing now? FOCUS!] She sometimes repeats the end of what someone else has said, and she’s got mild echolalia. It’s especially strong with the word ‘thanks’: nks-nks-nks’ … she doesn’t know she’s doing it, most of the time. Drawing attention to it makes it worse.”

tourettes can't be "turned off"

The fact is, she can’t control it. Well, she can – but only at great personal cost. We don’t tell people that it can be controlled, because then they’ll expect her to control it. They don’t know what they’re asking … but we do. So we don’t tell.

Some secrets are okay. If they help people.

Trying to keep the innocent falsehood from leaking all over my face is ramping up my tics. My mouth really wants to contort and I just know I’m going to have to get away for a private tic bomb pretty soon … hee hee … tic bomb .. ticka bomb … Trevor Noah and the Mad Indian Scientist skit … ha ha ha … I’m laughing on the inside and my brain is running away like a locomotive on acid.

Is it necessary to mention that she got Tourette’s from me? Is it as obvious as it feels? Does it help … or does it seem like a self-absorbed self-diagnosis? Does it matter if she knows or not? Is it relevant? Is it useful? Wait – what did she just say?

“One of new students is high-functioning autistic (I hate that term … but I love that she has some feeling for this space). And I’m sure my son would be somewhere on the spectrum … IF I ever had him tested. I’m not really all about the labels.”

Ah … relief floods my senses as I realise I’m not alone: she really does get it. Wait – labels? Is that judgement I sense? Is she judging me for labelling my kids? Have I labelled them? And is it wrong to have done so? Doesn’t it help me to give them the care they need?

“Don’t worry,” she reassures me, in that self-assured way that only seasoned educators can really nail. “This is a safe zone. No bullying of any kind will be tolerated. The truth is, these kids are here because they don’t fit the conventional education mould. And that’s how I work with them: at their pace, focused on what they’re interested in. You said she’s teaching herself to code? Can she bring her laptop so that she can do that here – maybe show some of the other kids who are interested?”

Do you ever stand outside of yourself, and just kinda watch? Do you look at what you’re thinking, and wonder why? And when you do, does it make you twitchy? Or is that just me? ‘Cause this was fairly normal, as my meetings go.

The week after next, Goldilocks is joining a homeschool collective. The teacher is very experienced in conventional teaching. But she’s also very experienced in life. With kids of all kinds and a good deal of close range exposure to life on the spectrum, she has enormous respect for allowing learning to unfold.

She’s very supportive of unschooling, and she understands our need to give Goldilocks a little more stimulation than just 12 hours of Sims every day. Armed with a laptop and surrounded by like-minded young people between the ages of 11 and 23 – not to mention all the animals our Fauna Fairy needs – I think this is the right thing for Goldilocks at the moment.

I hate to devolve my responsibility to someone else, but the plain truth is that I spend all day glued to my screen, and my darling daughter needs more than that. So let’s see how this works out.

Supplementing for healing

I’m in a very “heal-y” place at the moment. It started when I read the package insert for Goldilocks’ tic medication.


For a while, when we first switched to SCD and Paelo, I used to hate medication of any kind. I wouldn’t take any or give any to my kids. We were the hippy, holistic family who home-schooled their alternative kids. I’m not that way any more. Much.

In fact, Goldilocks has been on these meds for three months already. What’s more, I’d already looked up Clonidine on the web and it seemed okay. Also, so far we’d seen no side effects.

But when I read that insert, I realised there was no way I was giving any more of that to my baby girl. For starters, the insert says, “strictly not to be given to children or adolescents.” Um. Yeah.

So I did what I do when I need to fix stuff: research.

I looked up the main things we struggle with, and what dietary shortages they’re symptomatic of. (Sorry about the conjunction at the end of that sentence but … yeah. Not sorry.)

Then I looked up the foods with the highest concentrations of those nutrients.

Then I made a table of the two. As you do. Here it is. (You’re welcome ;))

(Basically: eat lots of oily fish, spinach, and lentils. Oh, and chocolate. Lots of chocolate).

Vitamins for tics, concentration and skin

Download the .pdf

Food Vit. A Vit. B1 Vit. B2 Vit. B3 Vit. B5 Vit. B6 Vit. B7 (Biotin) Vit. B9 (Folate) Vit. B12 Vit. C Vit. D Vit. E Magnesium Omega 3 Potassium Zinc TOTALS
Oily Fish 2 10 7 10 8 8 3 8 9 4 8 9 4 90
Mackerel/tuna/salmon 2 10 6 10 8 8 1 8 9 4 8 9 4 87
Kale/Spinach 8 1 1 1 10 8 8 9 10 1 9 7 73
Seeds 7 2 2 2 10 7 9 1 6 46
Pork 9 4 8 5 6 1 3 3 39
Beans,lentils,chickpeas 1 1 1 1 1 10 7 10 2 34
Red meat 8 5 4 4 4 9 34
Legumes 5 1 3 1 9 2 10 2 33
Avos 1 7 2 1 5 6 5 3 30
Mushrooms 3 4 10 8 2 1 28
Chicken 1 9 3 7 1 3 24
Eggs 1 5 6 1 7 2 2 24
Cod Liver Oil 10 9 19
Dried fruit 5 5 2 7 19
Dried Prunes 5 5 1 7 18
Carrots 9 9 18
Liver 7 1 1 9 18
Squash 7 4 1 6 18
Dried Apricots 5 4 1 7 17
Cheese 5 4 3 2 14
Brocolli 1 4 6 2 1 14
Sweet peppers 3 10 1 14
Pure yoghurt 1 1 3 2 2 2 2 13
Dried Raisins 3 1 7 11
Sweet potatoes 10 1 11
Berries 5 5 10
Flaxseed oil 10 10
Guava 9 9
Potatoes 1 8 9
Bananas 3 3 1 7
Oranges 2 4 6
Dark chocolate 1 4 5
Cantaloupe melon 4 4
Mango 1 3 4
Olive oil 3 3
Tomatoes 3 3
– Dates 2 2
– Figs 2 2
Butter 1 1
Califlower 1 1
Fruit 1 1
Ham 1 1
Onions 1 1
Orange juice 1 1
Papaya 1 1
61 50 44 60 62 69 44 44 36 48 44 36 62 43 87 37
If you crave bread or wheat products, you probably need more: If you crave chocolate, you probably need more:
– fibre – magnesium
– protein – zinc
– omega 3
– carbs
– vitamin B
– manganese
– selenium
– omegas

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