Monthly Archives: November 2013

OCALI in Review

So here I sit writing this while in Kentucky after heading out from the OCALI conference yesterday.

I’d never been to an OCALI conference, but it was an amazing experience. It is always refreshing to see my peers more than once a year and catch up with old friends. Some of the people I saw I had not seen in almost ten years!

One of the biggest thing this conference did was reaffirm the choices I’ve made regarding my career choices. It has not been an easy transition and soon I’ll be leaving my apartment for another living situation which will better suite my needs. My “where has the year gone” post will be coming up soon, but this is not that one. But for right now, I’m just looking at where I’m standing at this exact second.

One of the greatest moments for me at the conference was really connecting with people I had met back in July at the Autism Society of America conference. That was the point in time where I reevaluated my life and decided to make a LOT of big changes to my life. It was very touching to hear some people follow my blog and are aware of things going on in my life. Other people recognized me walking around donned in my corset and asked how things were going.
“Amazing. Greater than I could have ever imagined” was my answer. Of course elaboration was required.

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I sit back and reflect on the types of people who go to these conferences. Educators, parents, professionals, family members, and most importantly individuals on the spectrum. These people are all gathered in one place for the common goal of sharing information and sharing hopes.

As family members, we come to hope our loved ones will have all the opportunities in the world available to them with no limits placed on who they can be or what they can do.

As educators, we hope to learn how to best teach material in the classrooms that will stay with students long after they leave the walls they come to know so well.

As professionals, we hope to gather information on how to best support the clients we work with so they can reach their fullest potential.

As an Autistic person, we share the hope of what it looks like to be happy in our own skin.
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So here I sit, plotting out my vacation week in Chicago. Chicago will always be home for me and luckily I’m in a position right now to travel while working from my computer. Things are great for me right now.
Yes, I’m still going to be recovering from talking to hundreds of people in such a short amount of time.
Yes, I miss my friends back in Maine and think about them often; wishing to have a way to bring them all with me cross country.
Yes, I’m feeling extremely blessed with my life right now and the amazing people I meet along my journey.

Less time and more money

6:00am- Wake up.
6:15am- Okay, Really wake up this time.
6:20am- Grab banana for breakfast. Nothing else to eat because I worked 13 hour days the past two days and the grocery store was closed after work.
6:45am- Head to work.
7am- Try to wake up a client while completely sympathizing the desire to not be awake right now.
8am- Help client clean up room and dishes while remembering the pile of unfolded clothes from several days ago at the foot of my bed.
9am- Drop of one client for the day while heading to work with a different client.
10am- Arrive at second client’s house and try to get him up.
11:30am- Stress about paper assignment that’s due in a few days and wondering when I’ll work on it.
12:30pm- Go have lunch of pb&j and apple thinking about when I’ll have the time to go grocery shopping.
2pm- Help a client clean their room realizing their “messy room” is cleaner than my room right after I clean it.
4pm- Continue working on paperwork, organizing schedules for my clients, and helping to plan their lives.
5pm- Leave second client and head to work with third client.
5:30pm- Arrive at third client and stress the importance of a well balanced dinner as I grab my Tupperware container of pesto pasta from my lunchbox.
7pm- Help a client pay their bills only then realizing my phone bill was due last week.
8pm- Leave last client and head to gym home grocery store.
9:00pm- I some how end up only with a bag of chips, box of spongebob macaroni and cheese, a load of bread, chocolate, and bananas because I can’t think of what I really need to buy for the week. I’ve also been wandering up and down every aisle hoping to job my memory of what I need.
9:20pm- Make dinner while ignoring the dirty dish mountain in the sink. I’ve spent too much time helping everyone else clean today, I need a break.
10pm- Totally plan to be productive and work on things related to my life.
10:05pm- I’m going to take a nap because I can barely keep my eyes open and have no energy to even answer emails.
11:45pm- I’m just going to take care of myself tomorrow as I pass out in my bed with my shoes still on.

This was my life this past year. People wonder what happened to me when I poofed away and here’s the answer outlined almost hour by hour.  My days off were spend playing catchup on my life. I can do more in just a few hours than some people get done all day and that is how I survived. It wasn’t living; it was surviving.

Now I do love my job as an inhome support worker. I really do. The reason I got into the field was to make a difference in the life of someone in the disability community. I did make a difference and that was why I stayed with these crazy shifts for so many months. If I didn’t do it, no one else would have. New staff can be very hard to find and my *cough* skill set is very unique as not just a person with a psychology degree, but also as a person with disabilities. Needless to say, promoting self-advocacy is my biggest strength working with my clients.

So it is with so my happiness I heard this week that minimum wage and overtime protection will be given to the over 2 million workers who work with the disability community and the elderly community in 2015. I say, it’s about time! I’ve seen too many problems come from staff leaving for other jobs so they can afford the price of living and other staff members who are not qualified but quickly hired to fill in for the other workers.

Why does this matter?
I’ll make it really easy.

As a worker, I’ve been brought into homes where clients have never been able to trust anyone. People leave them and see them as a burden or as something to ‘fix’. This creates a warped sense of self when a person does not feel they deserve to have friends or relationships. These people deserve to have a support network of people who care about them and want them to succeed. What do we tell them when a staff member needs to get a second or third job to support themselves? We cite it as a ‘scheduling conflict’ and try to find someone else to fill in for the former staff member.

These staff members who leave need to leave because they cannot support themselves on some of the salaries we are paid. I have a college degree, active experience in the disability field, and was once paid less than my high school brother who got his first job as a janitor. We are responsible for the health and safety of our clients, but are not compensated for our time or energy. It’s not the fault of the companies I have worked for, they are in the exact same overworked and underpaid position I am in. The problem comes from the community not recognizing the value of our work.

In America, we do not support our caretakers. We overwork them and undervalue them which directly negatively impacts the people who need the support in the first place. No one ever goes into the field to become rich, but instead people who entertain us by their athletic prowess have riches beyond our wildest imagination. We celebrate a boxer who wins all the titles, but what about if he develops a disability due to head injuries received while preforming? Wouldn’t the person who takes care of them be just as much of a champion?

These workers are the people we entrust to protect and support the ones we love. Isn’t it about time we help support and protect them?

Where will she be next?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Brigid time to let you know where I’ll be going next.

If you are in the Ohio area and plan to attend the OCALI conference next week, you can find me at the Autism Global Initiative/ Autism Research Institute booth located at space 408 in the exhibition hall or you can find me just wandering around. 

*Hint when looking for me: Look for the tall redhead wearing a corset. *



For more information on the conference please check out the OCALI Conference website at http://conference.ocali.org/.

For more information on AGI/ARI please check out their website at http://www.autism.com/.

To see some of the courses I’ll be promoting check out the Houlton Institute programs at http://www.houltoninstitute.com/programs/.
I hear the Teaching Assistant is really wonderful for the programs.
*Hint: It’s me!*

Brotherly Love

I’ve finally recovered from my short trip to Canada and the recovery process was rough. I’m a very good traveler, but I’m more comfortable being a solo traveler. The reason for this is because some people like to sleep in late during vacations and when I’m on an adventure I want to use every second.

The roughest part of the recovery process was due to the nature of the trip: bringing my brother up to visit a college.

It was not long ago I did my college search. There was only one requirement for my college: it could not be located in Maine. So my college choices ranged from Australia to England to Iowa. Spoiler: I went to Iowa and it was one of the greatest decisions of my life. The friends, memories made at the school, and things learned will stay with me for a long time to come.

However, it is with great sadness my baby brother is going to be leaving the nest. As the older sister who protected him from the dangers of the world, it’s been very difficult to say goodbye and watch as he goes off on his own. 4 years I spent away at college and couldn’t give him all the big life lessons an older sibling is supposed to impart on their younger counterpart. He will always be the little kid leaving legos strategically placed around the house in an ankle breaking obstetrical course to the fridge.

A friend reminded me the movie 300 when the mothers had their sons taken from their homes to become men. Those women were not sad, but proud of their child was moving onto the next stage of their life. Those boys were no longer children and were going off to honor their family. My brother is now entering his next stage of adulthood and is going off to honor our family. *Cue cheesy music*

My brother will be fine and never far away.
I carry him in my heart always, even when he is being a total brat.
He’s my little brother and I’m his big sister.
I’d say if anyone had a problem with him they have a problem with me, but there are some very good reasons to have problems with someone who trolls the world on a professional level.

So I can’t protect him from the world anymore. I know this.

The Night of Ghouls and the Dead

Halloween has always been one of my favorite time of the year. The reason for this is for a few different interconnected things.

Autumn has always been one of my favorite times of year. It’s a time of boots, scarves, and changing leaves. It’s a time when people begin to bundle up in preparation of cold winter nights.

Halloween also connected to my favorite Holiday of the Year: Day of the Dead.

Growing up outside Chicago meant we would always venture into the city on November 1st. The colorful sugar skulls and beautiful works of art beckoned to me. They were a celebration of death and proper representations of the festive spirit of the holiday.

Some people believe this is the day when we can most easily connect with people who have passed on. Extra place settings are set for our dearly departed and we look back on fond memories. It’s a time of celebration, but not sadness.

I’ll admit to not having lost too many people in my life so far, but losing my Grandfather always strikes a chord with me this time of year.

So I talk to him.

I talk to my pictures on the wall and think of his memory. I remember the good times we had and let him know how things are going for me. I talk because it feels good and if he can, he’s watching over me.

When people leave our lives they are not gone forever. They still live in our memories and in our hearts. Even though we cannot hug them, we can still be comforted by knowing they left a positive impact on us.