Tag Archives: education

“Telling Your Story with a Purpose”

It has been awhile since I wrote. I am a single mom working three jobs and home schooling my two children at the same time.  I have just been a wee bit busy lately.  Now that the end of school rush is over and summer break is upon us, I am down to working one job and teaching only one home school summer course. This leaves me with enough time and energy to devote to writing again.   

I started writing a blog on Tumblr back in September 2012. I was just beginning to find my “voice” back then and was encouraged by a fellow teacher and parent to start writing in a more public venue. It took a lot of encouragement by my friend, but eventually Geeky Science Mom’s Tumblr was born.  I didn’t really have a focus of the blog in the beginning. 

At that time a Tumblr blogger still needed to know the codes in order to properly format their blogs. I was learning and experimenting and reaching out to people in cyberspace to see how I could help. My Tumblr may have started as a cat, fandom, art, science, parent, and autism information page, but my blogs eventually became longer and longer.  My writing became more focused as well.

I was diagnosed in December 2011 at the age of 36 after both my children were diagnosed. Here we are five and a half years later. During that time I have completed a Master’s degree that started out with a focus in Science Education and ended with a focus in Autism Education.  We moved across the state to start a new life where my children could have access to better opportunities.  My marriage fell apart shortly after.  My ex-husband came back three years later, but it didn’t work out due to his abusive nature.  

For more information about my experience with emotional abuse and how to deal with it:

Invisible Scars – A Tale of Emotional Abuse  (June 9, 2014)

Dealing With Emotional Abuse in Families (May 5, 2016)

So many things have happened in my life in what feels like such a short time. I just turned 42 a couple of weeks ago. I never ever thought that I would be a single mom with two teenagers, homeschooling, and working three jobs just to make ends meet.  I have been a teacher for 19 years. We are on Medicaid, because I am not eligible for medical insurance through my employers due to my part-time standing. We are on food assistance.  My daughter is on SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance).  We live in a rural community.  The three of us live in a very small two bedroom apartment.  Part of the living room is partitioned off so my son can have a bedroom.  Everything we own is old.  We can’t even afford the luxury of television services, but we have a Wii player that was a Christmas gift that we play Netflix through.

The Aspie Teacher blog was created to tell the story of my family’s journey, but I tell the story through my perspective.  When I tell my story I am coming from a lot of different angles that I have personally experienced.  I don’t just share my story to complain.  Yes, I have experienced a lot of heartache in my life, but the purpose of my blog is not to just complain about the hardships I have experienced. 

I have a personal philosophy. To me, helping one person at a time is worth all the effort I put into my work.  If I can help make one person not feel alone, help one person make their life better, then it is all worth it. I believe in the idea of paying it forward.  I help one person, then that person will go help another, and so on and so forth.

I had a friend help me find my “voice” after a life time of feeling ignored, dismissed, and squashed into a box that I didn’t fit in. I have spent a life time of having to deal with things on my own, crisis after crisis and feeling abandoned and not understood when I reached out for help.

“What I remember most about emotional abuse is that it’s like being put in a box. How you end up in there is the biggest trick – I never managed to work that one out. Maybe you think it’s a treasure box at first: you’re in there because you’re special.

Soon the box starts to shrink. Every time you touch the edges there is an “argument”. So you try to make yourself fit. You curl up, become smaller, quieter, remove the excessive, offensive parts of your personality – you begin to notice lots of these. You eliminate people and interests, change your behaviour. But still the box gets smaller.

You think it’s your fault. The terrible, unforgivable too-muchness of you is to blame. You don’t realise that the box is shrinking, or who is making it smaller. You don’t yet understand that you will never, ever be tiny enough to fit, or silent enough to avoid a row.”

It’s time to make emotional abuse a crime – Lauren Laverne  (via trashysnacks)(via gularasi)

I don’t want others to have to go through what I did. I want to help them find their “voice”.  I want them to feel safe to tell their story if they want to.  I want others to feel that they are being heard and understood, but this requires that the writing have a purpose so you can grab the audience that the writing is intended for.

How does one tell their story with a purpose?

Recently I went to a training that was entitled “Telling Your Story with a Purpose”. A lot of good advice was provided and what was shared reminded how I struggled over the years with disclosing about my disability, my PTSD, and how much should I disclose about my family and personal experiences.  It took me eleven years to finally be able to share all the parts of my medical trauma publicly in one place, which you can find here –The Volcano is Awake.

When I finally was able to publicly share my medical trauma that led to my diagnosis of PTSD, it was such a release. It was finally out there.  Once it was out there I was able to make some very important decisions about my life.  Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries were absolutely necessary if I was going to be able to make any further progress in my recovery.  The story that first started The Aspie Teacher blog was to jump-start a necessary step in my recovery, but also to let others know about autistic burnout and about trauma bonds. The purpose of my story was not only about helping me. It was to help others as well.   

Telling your story doesn’t have to be in the form of a blog. It could be in poetry, or song, or dance, or in a painting or drawing.  The list goes on.  In June of 2016, my son was finishing up a unit on poetry.  The final assignment was to write two poems in the form of his choice.  He worked very hard on metaphor usage.  His poems told stories and you can find those stories here – An Awakening.

It takes a lot of time and a lot of courage to come out and tell your story. It is not an easy thing to do and it is not for everyone.  Finding your “voice” is also a challenge, but social media platforms are making it easier for people to find a way to express their “voice” and reach out to others who will hear them and connect with the story. 

I follow the three C’s – You have to make a Choice to take a Chance or nothing will ever Change. I made a choice to take a chance with telling my story and things changed for me.  I began to feel more empowered and more sure of myself and my abilities.  Finding my “voice” changed my world for the better. 

Here is a video that I thought fit with the message of this blog – One Small Voice | ASL | Educational Songs | Kids Videos | YouTube for Kids | Jack Hartmann

Here are the lyrics to “One Small Voice”

With just one small voice
Singing out a song
With just one small voice
Singing sweet and strong
One by one they’ll grow
And together sing along
And then soon all the world
Will be singing

With just one small voice
Singing out a song
With just one small voice
Singing sweet and strong
One by one they’ll grow
And together sing along
And then soon all the world
Will be singing

The following lists were put together by the Seattle Children’s Hospital – Center for Children With Special Needs and the Washington State Department of Health

Things to Think About When Telling Your Story in Public

  1. You have some distance and perspective on your experience vs. being in the midst of it or still actively working through it.
  2. The story has benefit for others. It’s not about your personal agenda, frustration, or current issue.
  3. You feel ready to share it. Trust your instincts. Share parts of the experience that you are ready for now – you don’t need to tell it all.
  4. You are relatively comfortable talking about your experience. It’s not at your expense – you don’t feel overly vulnerable, exposed or shamed.

Guidelines for Self-Disclosure When Presenting

  1. Stay with the focus of your message – less is usually more.
  2. Protect the privacy of others.

**Remember – When it is put online, it is online forever. Privacy of others must be protected.

Personal Responsibility, Self-Advocacy, Education, and Support

On November 26th I wrote about Finding Hope. That writing was part of my Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) that my Peer Support Specialist is helping me put together.  The “hope” portion was only the first part. There are four other concepts to this writing that I needed to figure out what their meaning was to me.  These remaining concepts were easier for me to write about than writing about “hope”, but my writing didn’t turn out like I thought it would.  Instead of separating these last four concepts out, I ended up combining them all in a long narrative. 

It has taken me years to write my story. A bit here and a bit there. So much struggle.  So much pain. When I was first diagnosed with PTSD, it was recommended to me to get my story out to help with my healing process, but I just couldn’t.  This is why it has been so difficult for me to conglomerate every thing that has happened to me.  I made an attempt in June of 2015 to combine everything up to that point when I wrote The Volcano is Awake. I cried writing it.  It reads choppy, but it seems every time I try to write my story that happens.  I am still trying to heal. Healing takes time and how that healing plays out is different for everyone.  My ability to write to the point at which I have is quite an achievement for me, because for so long I couldn’t even do that much. 

In this second part of putting my WRAP together, I was faced with determining what personal responsibility, self-advocacy, education, and support meant to me. As I stated before, I was not expecting my writing of these concepts to turn out like it did. I am not sure what that means, per say, but I think it demonstrates where my processing of things are, where my focus is, and where I am in my struggle to heal.

So, here it goes. Some of this writing is repetitive information from past blogs, some of it is not. This is me putting my story out explaining my ongoing journey to wellness.

I am stretched quite thin and have been for some time. My responsibility to others, particularly my family and students has led me to neglect my own self-care.  The one thing that I promised myself when I was 18 years old was that I would run as often as I could and I have kept that promise through two difficult pregnancies and countless injuries.  I have always lived an active healthy life style, even when I was a child I was active.  I have strived to keep my body strong and healthy and it has served me well. 

I was born with a congenital condition that has been slowly destroying all my connective tissues. My body cannot produce enough collagen to bind my cells together properly.  The only way to be diagnosed with this condition currently is by keeping track of years of injury, and just not any injury.  I am talking about joint injury, bleeding and bruising problems, and organ prolapse.  I have a long list of injuries and surgeries that a person my age with long history of living a healthy lifestyle wouldn’t expect to have.

During my high school years, just prior to my first surgery, I was told by my doctor that if I let myself get out of shape I would lose my ability to walk. My joints were already that lose and dislocating. At 27 years old, after the birth of my second child, I was told that the only thing holding my body together anymore were my bones and muscles.  At 38 years old, I was told that only my muscles were holding my body together anymore.  I am currently 41 years old and my bones are now essentially floating in my body. It doesn’t take much for them to move out of place and cause considerable pain.  It also doesn’t take much to injure myself.  Just doing everyday things can cause me to end up with an injury that lays me up for days or weeks. I have to be very conscious of how I move my body.  I have to keep my upper body always aligned with my lower body and that is not an easy thing to do.    

I have been in physical therapy eight times since I was 14 years old. I have been told to stop running for years, but I refuse. My physical therapist doesn’t even try to tell me to stop running anymore.  He says now that, yes, running is hurting me, but it is also keeping my body strong, which is needed to hold it together.  

Running is also good for my mental well-being. There are days when I go running in the woods and scream at the trees.  I cry. I shout. I let everything out.  By the end of my run I feel tired, but purged of all that stress in my head that was tearing me apart.

I also write. Writing has become my “voice”.  Through the encouragement of another teacher who saw an ability that I didn’t realize I had, who was also a mother of an autistic son and a blogger herself, I found my “voice” for the first time in my life. I was 36 years old at the time I received my Autism diagnosis, which was after both of my children were diagnosed.   I was never taught how to be an advocate or to even how to advocate for myself, but as a parent and a teacher, I figured it out on my own.  Finding my “voice” only empowered me further. 

I now write two blogs, I have a Twitter account, and I run three public Facebook pages plus my private Facebook page. I am also a Founding Member of ANUE (Advocates for Neurodiversity and Unique Empowerment).  ANUE has become primarily an online support and resource group, but there is an option to have face-to-face meetings.  I am in contact with people all over the world through the internet and have meant some really amazing people.  

Would it be better for me to have more contact with people face-to-face?

Yes, I do believe it would, but my situation does not allow for that, so over the last four years I have created a large social network online. It has been a life saver for me, but in times of crisis, more face-to-face support would be better.

Becoming an advocate was not something I decided one day to become. I wanted to be a teacher since I was seven years old. I struggled with the decision of becoming an Art Teacher or a Science Teacher for years, but in eleventh grade I took my first Geology class, and that was my deciding factor.  I was going to become an Earth Science Educator and I did. My dream was to teach science in a public school setting and I did accomplish that.  I have been a certified teacher for 18 years, but I have not held a certified position in four years.  Due to my declining health and responsibilities to my family, my children in particular, I am no longer able to work in a classroom on a daily basis.  I still teach, however, just in a different way than I had originally planned.  This is where becoming more of an advocate comes in.

I went back to graduate school four years ago with the goal of earning a Master’s degree in Science Education. My passion lies in Science and I wanted to continue working in the field of Science Education.  Unfortunately, as always, life happens when you are making other plans.  My marriage collapsed unexpectedly two months into my program.  It was devastating, but I had to carry on for the sake of my children and for myself. 

I managed to make it into my second year of grad school and it was at this point when I began to realize there was a problem. Due to my executive function problems, I needed accommodations to get through the certain classes. My classes were mostly online and the university was in Montana with the requirement that two lab courses had to be completed on campus.   I live in Washington State. The University felt they could not provide the accommodations that I needed to be successful.  I had to make a choice, struggle through knowing that I would eventually fail or transfer into a different University all together.  I decided to transfer to Lesley University in Cambridge, MA. 

My experience with Montana State University and my experience as a teacher, a parent of two children with a variety of disabilities, and with ANUE showed me that my focus needed to be placed where my untapped strengths were pointing me toward, I am a teacher and an advocate and I needed to focus on Autism Education. Lesley University follows Universal Designed for Learning Standards.  Basically, an accommodation that is good for one person is good for all.  The accommodations I needed were already in place and I didn’t even have to ask for them. My experience at Lesley University was amazing and I finished in two years with a Master’s in Education with an Autism Certification.

My hope with getting a Master’s degree was that it would open more doors for employment with the ultimate goal of becoming self-employed. I even have started my business online as an education consultant and tutor.  I have not been able to really focus on it, however, due to the circumstances that my family is currently living in and my own mental health.  Once things start to calm down and become more stable, I fully intend on developing my business more.

Self-employment, a livable house, a place that I can call home, these are all important goals, but I think the biggest goal I have is to be finally able to heal. I have Complex-PTSD and I am in autistic burnout.  I keep pushing and pushing myself each day just to get through.  I am tired of trying to survive. 

I WANT TO LIVE!!

It is going to be a rough ride, though, to actually reach that point of stability where I can actually reach my goals. My support team is going to be such a pivotal importance in the coming years.  

Who are these people who will be that much needed support?

I am so used to struggling on my own. It was how I was raised.  I grew up with very little to no support, particularly in the emotional support department. My emotional needs were essentially ignored. This was very difficult for an undiagnosed autistic child who struggled with debilitating anxiety mixed with depressed states who didn’t have the words to express how she felt nor did she understand those feelings.   I was often told by my parents that their job was to provide clothing, food, and shelter. That was basically it.  I had to learn to make it on my own.  My marriage was like that as well, very little to no support, even during my darkest times in my life.  That situation is improving, however, but very slowly.  

It took me a long time to get myself to a place where I would actually ask for help. I was just so used to being told “no”, that my “voice” didn’t matter, that my needs didn’t matter.  I am more disabled that I even am able to acknowledge to myself, and it is disheartening, but I know I have worth and that I matter. It has been quite a journey getting to the point where I can say that.

I HAVE WORTH!!

I MATTER!!

So, who are these wonderful people who I could turn to for help?

I created a Mind Map to sort that all out. Doctors and counselors (for both my children and I), local friends, online friends, ANUE, immediate family members, fellow teachers and advocates, my pets, there are actually a lot of people and critters listed, expect for my extended family members. My hope is with time the bubble for Other Family Members will grow, but at this time it is not possible.  My parents basically disowned me for reasons I won’t go into here and I am unable to really speak to my sister for reasons that are too painful to discuss right now.  When it comes to learning about the effects of trauma and learning how to adjust my life due to my physical and neurological disabilities, I am a knowledge junkie.  I devour knowledge.  I am forever learning and I have a skill when it comes to researching.  I can find information relatively quickly and present that information in a manner that is easy for others to understand.  I am always looking for answers and new pathways to follow whenever I hit a roadblock in my journey through life.

I am still looking for the pathway that will allow me to get to a point where I can actually live and not just survive. I hope that day will come sooner rather than later.  I am tired, so very tired.