The Uncertainties Ahead

Unless you live under a rock, or are on tribal lands, the media is laden with constant breaking news of the COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Outbreak. The outbreak started in the Wuhan Provence of China and has spread around the globe attacking most of the continents. For the past week, the states has been in fear with federal, state, tribal and local jurisdictions having citizens testing positive or presumptive positive for the virus.

There is no cure nor vaccine, only treatment that requires one to have limited contact and requiring self-isolation from others, something that hasn’t been commenced since WWII. In the past few days, while trying to not get too immersed in overload, as it is not healthy and trying to remain calm. It is increasingly difficult to do so as cases of the virus got closer and closer to the area. We are now seeing airplanes being screened, cruise ships with cases, among others.

This week has been a difficult week with the start of Daylight Savings Time, a week where the full moon is abound and closing the workweek with Friday the 13th. With that as surrounding states in addition to Pennsylvania made gradual closures, the ultimate decision was made to close all schools and libraries, among other commonwealth sites. My mother works at the local state transportation department and was directed by her superiors to use social distancing upon return.

My employer is supported by the county government and the governing body set a declaration Friday. I received a phone call from my supervisor to not return to work until further notice as I am classified non-essential and have no workload requiring deadlines. However, my job support program is open as of now, although they have cancelled all outside and public events until further notice, although I have a feeling before long we as will be my mom will be sent home.

As an individual on the spectrum, I have experienced burnout the last few days from the local stores I visited. I have seen bare shelves and checkout lines extended in each aisle from the front of the back of a grocery store with only two cashiers (and one elected to work past his shift.) My mother and I stood in that line in that store for 35 minutes and the local super center had more checkouts open than the holidays. If you or your child has struggles being in crowds, I would suggest if possible an online service. Wal-Mart Stores are closed at night in order to restock and sanitize, although we got a up front parking space. I did snap photographs of the shelves of where the bread and potatoes are to be. The only breads were Gluten Free (My Dad is a Celiac, woo hoo!) organic and flavored. I have never seen so many TP references or Beavis and Butt-Head clips this weekend than I did in 25 years.

Bread Aisle
Potato Bins

Social isolation and distancing is a difficult situation for those of the special needs community. Today, I came across an article in USA Today where an aide in a public school for special needs in Chicago contracted the virus, therefore requiring the 200 students and staff of the school to self-quarantine. A local legislator is delivering supplies to those households. Nonetheless, this is very strenuous on the caregivers, as some individuals have compromising health issues, not to mention the behavioral challenges they face. The article noted that an individual was becoming physically aggressive as a result of being contained in their home. One parent stated “You can’t Neflix all day.” Special needs students face a challenge of being educated remotely as well

Tonight I am thankful as I am writing this blog post that I have the ability to regulate my emotions. Last week, at my job support program, as I was reading the daily announcements and staff announced certain events would be cancelled, another individual slammed his hands down and screamed at me to “shut up.” Thankfuilly, staff redirected quickly without incident but It did shake me up bit because I was looking at a less mature version of me. Over the last month and a half I have had several changes including my work and living situation that have been rather difficult on not only myself, but my parents as well, since I am residing with them.

Today, when I received that phone call to not report to work, I was frustrated. However, when I reached out to one of my supports, they reminded me of how these events were God’s plan and that they felt that this was a way of God telling me that I needed more time off. There is a possibility that I will be paid for missed work, but as this national pandemic is evolving, I am uncertain as of yet if that will occur.

Yes, autistics thrive off of routines, and I know several that do. But growing up I have been continually been taught that the need for flexibility needs to be brought in as necessary. Autists have issues with this and the times ahead are uncertain, however these are a few tips from several sources, this one I adapted from today’s post on Autism Apples Kool Aid

  1. Always tell the truth! You aren’t protecting your child by lying – especially when they are hearing things from other people. You don’t need to share a lot of details – just say that you are staying home for a while to keep from getting sick. Use social stories if you need to.
  2. Be ready for questions and answer them simply. Tell them it’s like a bad cold and that you will be right there with them if they happen to get sick.
  3. Make the change in routine seem exciting! More time for favorite movies! Time to make crafts and read books. Time to play outside. More time for iPads, Legos and model trains. More time for Sesame Street and color by numbers. I know the change in routine will be tough if you need to quarantine – just take a deep breath and know everyone else is in the same boat.
  4. Explain why they have to wash their hands so often – and make a game out of washing them. Let them make bubbles and squish them. Sing goofy songs to make sure they are washing their hands long enough. (I made Casey and Rob use hand sanitizer after we left stores yesterday and to wash their hands as soon as they got home. They thought I was nuts.  )
  5. Assure them that you have taken precautions and have enough food. (I’ve heard some crazy stories – I’m sure my kids have, too.) Lay those fears to rest. Share everything you have done to keep them safe. Again, even if your child can’t talk, they are hearing and they may be scared. Talk to them!
  6. Don’t let your kids see your stress. Easier said than done, I know, but if they see you are scared, it will scare them more.

In closing, take time to enjoy each other. You may struggle, but thank goodness for technological advancements! Embrace this time to show love for one another and count your blessings!

We will overcome!

The Grocery Store, Part II

A few weeks ago, I wrote about our local grocer closing their large store, and dividing that load between two smaller stores. It has been over a month since then, yet I cannot get to the moment of what is normal and adapt to the new digs.

After the store closed, the store moved its consumer operations to a smaller neighborhood market that has been in existence in my neighborhood for over a decade. I as well as observant community members knew this was happening, as their management decided to close their larger store while witholding notice and only posting on social media downright truths in a roundabout way what those truths were, but encouraging evolving business.

In those six weeks since that post, I have given grace to the store for accepting the growing pains of a move, but I have realized that it’s difficult to do something that has become normal for a decade and a half in what one of my parents call a small claustrophobic environment. Yes there has been changes, but I miss the wide aisles, the signs above and the variety of what was available. I do appreciate their prices as I have for all my life, but at what cost of my mental health and neurological conditions must I endure to save money.

For example, last night, our family had ordered pizza, and I wanted to get some milk and other things on the way to pick up the pizza. I had stopped at the store to grab a few things to discover there was only one checkout open and the cashier who is overly friendly had a customer with a cart full of groceries and was not very fast, sometimes stopping to converse with the customer, before proceeding with the order. I as well as another gentleman in the store attempted to be patient. However, I could tell it was going to be one of those things that would make me really angry. Therefore I put my purchases back, mumbling a few swear words and exiting the store without purchasing anything. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see the gentleman with the soda doing the same thing.

The next day a spouted out at one of my parents about my dislikes of the store and who they chose to retain and who was furloughed as part of this process. They shared my frustration but reminded me to be accommodating, because we had the assumption that they were legally protected employees. Additionally, she reminded me that another store was close by should I want to go there and she would also assist me in my grocery shopping needs.

I do like their online ordering service, and the delivery folks both on site and in person are super friendly. I had seen in a local paper I read that delivery is free with a $100 order, so I will be taking advantage of that more often and going to the other stores for in between things, just for a large order it is difficult because there is no order rhyme or reason of where things in the store are, and others in my family feel that way as I do. Today, we went together and couldn’t even shop there because we felt so anxious, we walked out, being so disgusted and sad.

We do support the business in other ways, however because of the confined environment, it is increasingly difficult to shop in a comfortable manner.

The Changing of the Clock

As a child, I never struggled with Daylight Savings time, because I either prepared for it by my family, or I just never noticed it. Nonetheless, in recent years, it has been harder and harder to overcome the change, yet I look forward to the time change in the spring, as it brings forward a sense of the mood eventually getting better.

For years growing up the Daylight Savings time began on the First Weekend in April and ended the last weekend in April. This occured during my youth, and it occuring on the weekend, hardly had any issue that I can easily recall, other than being up late.

By the Energy Policy Act of 2005, daylight saving time (DST) was extended in the United States beginning in 2007. As from that year, DST begins on the second Sunday of March and ends on the first Sunday of November. In years when April 1 falls on Monday through Wednesday, these changes result in a DST period that is five weeks longer; in all other years the DST period is instead four weeks longer.

This has been a struggle, as has been many in the autism community. Growing up, I have had the pleasure of visiting the Amish community in the adjoining county, and they elect not to observe daylight savings time, this confused me, but being mostly in our own car, and this was a house-by-house basis, it didnt seem as hard. One trip I made with my dad and his friend to a horse sale during Hurricane Ivan in 2004 did confuse me as it was in the State of Indiana, and at that time not all counties did not observe daylight savings time, and the county we were in did not because of the Amish population. I did not sleep well, and it was a misreable trip as a result. The following year the Indiana legisalture absolved this practice, and now the States of Hawaii and some parts of Arizona are the remaining two that follow this practice.

I have heard of legislation of Pennsylvania and other adjoining states such as Ohio and others attempting to abolish this practice. I would be happy if this were to occur. I personally feel that I suffer greatly from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) due to the simple fact that I struggle emotionally during the standard months of missing daylight and the time changes. In the past few weeks I have been elated to be heading out to work in the daylight to not only have the clocks changed and yet again starting my day in darkness.

As I do look forward to the time changes as our local library has a book sale and a soup/chili walk. I do struggle after the change as I lack sleep in the fall and get too much in the spring. In the course of the past 24 hours, I have slept 13 of them, and now I do not feel like sleeping but I will do give it a college try. The thought processes running through my head make it difficult, but with medication, I am able to catch some sleep but oftentimes not enough.

All in all, I appreciate that extra hour in the fall, but the SAD symptoms do kill me so because I cant get out as much as I like during the week. By the time I get home from work I often in the colder months have less than a few hours to do something out of doors, or go somewhere on my own. The weather in winter, while better isnt all that warm although the weather is looking to be better with the appearance of birds this week.

I do like the spring change because of the things restarting, the ability to go walking, longer days, the tourist season of the mountains, and so forth. I just don’t like missing out by continious sleeping for hours on end to catch up.

The Caffeine Detox

I attempted to forego sodas several times in the past few years, I wrote a post on this a while back. But this most recent one is seeming to stick because I am thinking about it differently.

Growing up as a child due to the onset of my autism and ADHD, I was always told to avoid caffeine. I always did so growing up through my adolescent years until I left for my first stay away from home at the Hiram G. Andrews Center in Johnstown. There, I was given ample access to not only vending machines, but an onsite canteen where there was a plethora of caffeinated beverages. This was the beginning of my “I didn’t give a care” phase.

After graduation, when I moved home with my parents until I moved out in 2018, I continued to battle with my parents over my soda consumption. When I moved out on my own in August 2018, I consumed sometimes to the equivalent of four liters of soda a day, without thinking. Throughout consumption, I became increasingly agitated and the addiction grew. I remember one night with my parents I screamed very loud for a trip to the store, just like a little brat.

Since moving on my own, I made several attempts to break the habit. One I distinctly remember was when I went cold turkey, I laid in my bed for several days and had a migraine. So, I was off the wagon.  In February 2020, I decided to give it up no matter what it took. I spent numerous hours on research and found a gradual detox was the best method. For several years before I started, I would never put ice in a cup. So, I started with one large fountain drink a day and filled it ¾ full of ice and the remainder with a caffeinated soda. The remainder of the day I would refill with water until the Ice dissolved. If I craved a soda, it would be caffeinated, however I would attempt to refrain from diet product as it has addictive sweeteners in it. Now I can’t stand the taste of many diet sodas. I will expend the calories if I can have a caffeinated soda, but only I have them to expend in my food plan.

Mentally, I am doing much better than I previously was. My mood has improved, and I am losing weight gradually, which is the preferred method for my weight loss journey. The cup size has decreased each week, and the caffeinated beverages I rarely crave, if at all. I have replaced most of the soda drinking with either ice or carbonated water. I just want to close with the simple fact is that I never thought I would start doing this or lasting this long which truthfully, I don’t know why I didn’t start this sooner. I am feeling much better than I did in the past, although the cravings come occasionally, I dwell them out the best way that I can.

Everything Changes

In my Johnstown days I was introduced to a wide array of music by my roommates, one of those bands would be Staind. While I was enorlled there, their Chapter V would be released. My roommate and I made the two-bus trip across the Greater Johnstown Area to Circuit City to supply our music. Anyway, there is a song on that album that stuck with me for several years after “Everything Changes.”

Those two words are now a common metefore. This months for one reason or another have become a wide array of series of changes that have occured beyond my control. In two weeks time my demeanor has changed about the events immensely. I have also had an epiphany of sorts seeing why I act differently to those close to me, so in a way that has helped too.

Several things have happened within the last two days. Yesterday, I go to the local hospital to get weighed and to workout. Because of the cold weather and Daylight Standard Time, I have been having someone transporting me as I have to be there before sunrise. Another change was that I had my workout clothes on as it was my day off. Nonetheless, my mother dropped me off and I entered the building. As I went to the chapel as I do on a weekly basis to have daily devotion and prayer, of which my cell phone is an important tool in this, I could not locate it. I searched twice and I did not panic, I took a deep breath and proceeded to head to my destination where I know a “house” phone is available to make local calls. I having my prodigy of a memory, call my mother on her cell phone who verifies that she has it and will return it to me after work. I said I would be fine until the lunch meeting with my father in a little over five hours as their was a world before cell phones. (Really?) She said she would let my dad know and we hang up.

If this happened to me five years ago, this could have been a totally different situation. One instance I remember that we were out together, and I lived with them then. When I realized my phone was missing when I was getting out with her at the grocery store, she called my phone for the slight chance that it might be in the car. When the voicemail came on, I screamed “Whoever has this phone, I hope you do the right (Expletive) thing.” I said this not realizing that message could only be heard by me as I was the only one who could (at the time) have access to to the voice mail. What I didn’t also realize was that the one who cared the most was right beside me. Reality sunk in when my we returned home and my mother made me play that message to see how idiotic it made me sound and how I acted. It makes me embarassed for me to hear myself.

Fast forward to the present time, I got weighed, worked out and had breakfast at the hospital. Following that I ran errands then stopped by the library to use texting app on the cell phone carrier website to make sure anything wasn’t wrong, then my weekly appointment, of which I resumed my normal routine with my father until I saw my phone again, yes some friends were checking on me, but I let them know I was fine.

Today, I was notified that there would be slight change in my transportation from work when I return. At first brewed upon it for some time (another blog post for another time) then realized that it hardly didn’t affect me other than one small thing.

In a world where “stuff happens” Autists must accept change and garner the skills necessary to regulate their emotions gracefully. It has been a great process since first diagnosed when change has occurred in my life, however with the proper skills and technique, you can control these symptoms.

We’re not closing, we’re evolving – a tribute to employment and change

Tonight, I saw a post about a young woman with down syndrome working as a cart attendant at a Kroger and how some customers treated her, but she kept her composure and did her job anyway.

Likewise, this was my first job 17 years ago. My job also included cleaning, trash removal and bagging groceries. It wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows but at 18 and then making $5.15 an hour for 20 hours a week, I just did it as something to do. I only had the job for four months through a job shadowing program where the supporting agency paid the wages, something I later knew and now have a distaste for. Nonetheless it was work and when I was done I was glad.

Staying with that same organization for almost 17 years now, 16 at the same employment support program, and nearly ten years at my present employment position, I have garnered the skills necessary to work and am in what is now defined as a supported position and can have the position as long as I shall choose, and plan to do so.

Nonetheless, today is a monumental day as that store I first worked in 17 years ago hasn’t been under the same brand or management for 15 of those years, yet this day is bittersweet. The store is now a locally based store that has been around since 1947 in the hills of Appalachia started in humble beginnings in the founder’s home providing low frills and low cost food to those in need. Later that site would evolve in what we would know as a strip mall, but instead was the localized version of wooden building and roofed with tarpaper with haphazard construction. Nonetheless, it generated millions in nearly 50 years and as building code could no longer support it, the store I worked for would move to the county seat and become the flagship store of that owners set of stores under its brand.

However as the years would draw, I would continue to shop there, and memories would always remind me of where I stated my employment journey. That local business would open a mini store in the neighborhood some years before I moved here last year, and at that time when I first moved here you could sense a change as the building, a retrofitted office building terminated the leases of other tenants in the complex, before having constant construction over the past year.

Last summer an announcement was made that a bakery and cafe (like a Panera or Starbucks) would open adjacent to this store and it did with some fanfare a few months ago and I do like it as it is a nice addition to this neighborhood. However, in the mini-store and old supermarket, you could sense little by little change was happening.

Now I am not a liker of change, and this business as my local grocery supplier made this difficult. Things I ordered through the online grocery service were oftentimes unavailable. Things were moved in both, stores – often, I knew it was the beginning of the end

Then two weeks ago – the news came on Facebook

The store I started my employment in would be closed and operations would evolve between their first site as they constructed pole-type buildings there and the new bakery and the store in my neighborhood, which they claim would triple in size. Yet, everyday I visit the market to grab something and yet something is different, not to mention their old mentality of plastic and buckets on the floor to overstimulate the senses, let’s hope its a transition.

Nonetheless that supermarket that I worked in 17 years ago is closed for now, but as many things in our lives, we must put a close to the past and learn and grow from it – along with a evolving business that I grew up on, we must adapt and move on.

Farm Show introducing stimulation shelters for sensory-sensitive attendees — ABC27

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Certain certainties come with the farm show — the smell of hay, the sounds of animals being born and crowds. The stimulants can be stressful for anybody, but especially children with autism who have sensory sensitivities. To make things easier, the Farm Show now has a low-stimulation shed stationed in every […]

Farm Show introducing stimulation shelters for sensory-sensitive attendees — ABC27