Product Review: Wedgehog Wedge Pillow

I’ve been suffering from terrible pain from reflux recently. One thing that was recommended to me was sleeping in a more upright position. So when I came across the Wedgehog Wedge Pillow, I thought I’d found an ideal solution. It is designed especially for reflux and is used by the NHS. The reviews for it were excellent, and although some people found it a bit hard, they solved this by putting a normal pillow over it. It has a washable cover and you can order spares. Very handy! So I ordered one.

What can I say? My husband found it great for sitting propped up in bed to read, so ordered one for himself. He finds it very comfortable with a pillow on top. My kids find it very comfy too. I, however, do not. I can feel the hardness through the pillows. I wake up several times a night in pain, mostly in my head, neck and shoulders, wherever they touch the pillow. It is like sleeping on a rock. I keep hoping I’ll get used to it, but it doesn’t seem to be happening. I don’t know how much longer to give it.

My mom used to say I was like the Princess in the fairytale “The Princess and the Pea”. Just too sensitive. And the issue I’m having with the Wedgehog seems to be effecting me much worse than others. Just my luck!

As for the reflux, it actually works brilliantly for that. Which makes the situation so much worse as this pillow would have been the ideal solution if it weren’t so uncomfortable for me.

So, in summary, this is a brilliant product for the vast majority of people. But not for me.

[photo shows two Wedgehog pillows side by side on a double bed. One has the surface covered with two regular pillows. The other has the extra pillows removed, for demonstration purposes.]

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Autistic Pride Day 2018

Today is Autistic Pride Day 2018. I already wrote about Autistic Pride Day back in 2016. And though there is still a lot of infiltration by non-autistics and a lot of puzzle pieces and other crap, it seems the number of autistic-run events is growing. There was an Autistic Pride Picnic in Hyde Park in London last Saturday for example. Because APD falls on a Monday this year, it makes sense that lots of events took place last weekend to facilitate those working today.

While there aren’t as many events occurring here in Ireland, a bunch of Irish Autistics are meeting up at the end of the month for a picnic. And I know a few of them attended some of the UK events. Although it’s still only a fledgling movement, I’m really glad Autistics are finally taking ownership of how Autism is represented today, and Autistic Pride Day seems to be growing from strength to strength.

Who knows, maybe in 2019 I may actually celebrate the day in style, without encountering any pesky puzzle pieces. 😁

Introducing…. Katherine May

I read and reviewed Katherine’s book The Electricity of Every Living Thing back in April. And I’m delighted that she has agreed to be interviewed as part of my “Introducing….” series. So, without further ado, I present to you one of my favourite autistic authors, Katherine May.

How would you describe yourself?

I’m not sure! I suppose the thing that I always say first is that I’m a writer. That’s the overriding part of my personality, that has been there ever since I could pick up a pen. I can’t survive without putting together stories and formulating sentences. My writer-ness is almost certainly linked to my autism – there’s a compulsive, elemental quality to it – but it also links me to other creative people too.

Before I knew I was autistic, I used to find it hard to say ‘I’m a woman’ – I didn’t seem to be anything like other women. But I now feel at home saying I’m an autistic woman. We’re a slightly different category, I think.

When did you first realise you were autistic?

I was 38, and driving in my car one night, when an interview came on the radio with an autistic woman talking about her experiences. I’d known forever that I was different to everyone else – and that I seemed to be invisible to the mental health profession – but I suddenly experienced a burst of utter certainty that this was what I was, too. Until that moment, I would never have even considered it. After that, I did some research, and then spoke to my GP. Eventually I went to see a psychiatrist, too, but I felt uncomfortable with the diagnostic process, because it seemed to want me to say I was unloveable and hopeless. The psychiatrist also told me that he found my creativity surprising, given that I was clearly autistic in other ways. At that point, I realised that I knew more than he did, and decided that I’d just get on with it all by myself!

How do you think being autistic has impacted your writing?

Well, first of all, I’m hyperlexic, and so I constantly overflow with words, needing to read and write them. Even if no-one published my books, I couldn’t ever stop writing; it’s fundamental to me. I think that means that I have a really intense focus on my writing, and an obsession with the detail of it. I also develop little fixations on the facts that go into my books; I’m currently really into tunnels because I’m sketching a character who shares that interest. That’s the fun part, without a doubt. I sometimes say I’m a method writer, because I have to live what my characters live, and I tend to go to the nth degree in researching my non-ficiton too. I can’t separate the personal from my creative life; it’s all rolled into one. Overall, I think it gives me a kind of resilience – I can’t stop writing, so I have to endure the tough times because it’s not a choice.

What advice would you give other autistics who want to develop their creative side?

Just give into it! If you feel that calling, then don’t fight it, or tell yourself you can’t, or try to funnel it into what you think you ought to be doing. Follow your instincts, and let that be as weird and wild as it comes. I also think that creativity comes out in lots of different ways, so that you can alway nurture it, even when you’re not working on your usual creative practice. For me, it’s all about dropping into that state of deep focus and flow whenever I can, and allowing myself to be drawn to the details of life – and then using those experiences to populate my writing.

Lives in the Balance

A few years ago, I came across Dr. Ross Greene’s book The Explosive Child. It’s no exaggeration to say it changed my life, as it gave me a different way to look at my children’s challenging behaviour and find more effective ways of parenting them. It’s a book I highly recommend to all parents, and especially to those parents whose children have a hard time behaving “well”. One “motto” from the book that stuck with me is “kids do well if they can”. It’s up to us to teach our children the skills that they are missing that are the key to them doing better. He also has other books aimed at parents, as well as ones for teachers, who want to implement his ideas in schools. He has over twenty years of experiencing helping parents, teachers and mental health professionals working with children who have “challenging” behaviours.

Lives In The Balance is the name of his website, which is an excellent resource for those who want to implement his approach. I would especially recommend the Walking Tour for Parents (there is a separate one for teachers) for anyone who doesn’t want to, or doesn’t have time to, read his books. Or for those, like me, who need a bit of a refresher course. I will say that his methods can be a bit of a paradigm change, especially if you’re more used to “old-fashioned” parenting. And implementing them is not easy, you need patience and dedication. I have been struggling a little lately with some of my children’s behaviours, so it’s “back to school” for me, and back to the basics as explained in the website. While the “Walking Tour” is excellent, I do wish the videos (which are really good) had captions as I do better with written information than spoken information. But that’s the only niggle I have with the website.

Dr. Greene’s method is called “Collaborative and Proactive Solutions” and that’s exactly what it is. And as I’ve been reminding myself of what it entails, I’ve realised that it’s a wonderful method not just for helping children, but for everyone. It leads to people working together, to find solutions that work for all parties. A truly win-win situation. Something I think we can all do with more of in our lives.

Dulcolax Danger

A few days ago, while I was feeling a bit more constipated than usual, I was sorting out the medication drawer and came across some Dulcolax tablets. I kinda remembered that I had been meaning to get rid of them, but almost on a whim I swallowed one. And thought no more of it.

Eighteen hours later, as I was going to bed the next day, I started to get sudden and intense abdominal cramps. That lasted the entire night and caused me to almost black out on a number of occasions. It was the effects of the dreaded Dulcolax.

I later learnt that I’m not alone in this reaction. This “gentle” laxative, available over the counter, is anything but gentle for a fair few people, including a lot of those who have EDS. I have even heard it causing internal bleeding for some.

And so, I now remember why I had intended to dispose of my remaining pills. I must bring them to my pharmacist next time I’m there. Those teeny tiny little pills have brought me nothing but misery. I’m never repeating that mistake!

Puzzledom

I often use games on my phone to distract me from my pain. They work better than watching tv or reading books as they seem to engage more proactive areas of my brain, and use up brain power that would otherwise go into processing pain signals.

My latest addiction is Puzzledom. It’s got a large variety of different puzzles. Some of which, I’m already at Expert level, others I’m stuck being a Novice. It’s interesting to me which puzzles I just “get” and which I just can’t seem to manage. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern to it, but I’m sure there is.

The only downside to this app is the amount of ads. There doesn’t seem to be a way to “buy” your way out of seeing them. Luckily most are only 5 seconds long.

So, if your looking for one app that contains a wide variety of puzzles, I’d really recommend Puzzledom.

Transphobia in the Autistic Community

There seems to be a lot of trans people in the autistic community. In this study autistics were 7.59 times more likely to exhibit gender dysphoria than non-autistics. And this literature review states that up to 20% of those who present at gender dysphoria clinics show autistic traits.

As such, it is important for the autistic community to be trans-inclusive. And, sadly, this is not always the case. Time and again I have come across autistic individuals who are transphobic. They may insist that they aren’t, but it’s not the really up to them to decide that.

Now, I’m not talking about autistic people who try hard to wrap their heads around trans issues such as pronouns, and who mess up or get confused despite their best efforts. I’m talking about those that know better but don’t care. It’s easy to tell the difference by their reactions to being called out.

Yesterday, I read a post by an autistic person, extolling the virtues of Jordan Peterson. For those who don’t know who he is, Mr Peterson has gotten into trouble for refusing to use gender-neutral pronouns (singular they) when referring to non-binary students. This is not a case of him making a mistake or forgetting. Rather, he has made a “cause” in the name of “free speech” out of deliberately misgendering transgender people.

So, of course, I wrote a comment along the lines of “you mean the transphobe?”. And the comments I got back left me speechless. Literally. I was sitting there, frozen in shock, unable to formulate a response. So, the following is what I had wished I had written at the time:

You say that Jordan Peterson is not a transphobe. That he has stated as much in a video. To that, I say, I’m sorry but neither you nor he get to define whether or not he is a transphobe. In the same way that men cannot define what is or isn’t sexist, or white people do not get to define racism, cisgender people do not get to define transphobia. The fact that you state that he isn’t shows that you are fully aware of his comments on the matter, and the fact that you defend him tells me that you are influenced by them.

And just in case there was any doubt in my mind on the matter, the comments you then added sealed the deal. You claimed that transgender people “inflict” transgenderism on young people. As an autistic person, I’d like you to imagine a scenario. If a young person came up to you and asked you “I think I might be autistic, how do I know for sure?” And you shared with them your own experiences, told them where to get assessed and maybe diagnosed, supported them as best you could, could I accuse you of “inflicting” autism on them? You later, after others had questioned your use of word “inflicting” , changed it to “misinforming”. Really? Transgender people misinform others of what it is to be transgender? I’m afraid the only person who is misinformed is you.

Alas, I will never make that comment as I wish to have nothing to do with that person. They are not the first autistic Jordan Peterson fan I’ve come across. I cannot be sure about them, but the others I’ve encountered have all turned out to be racist, islamophobic, etc and basically not people I feel safe around.

And seeing as there are so many transgender people in the autistic community, I believe it is important that the community is a place where they feel safe. And I want to thank all the autistic people who try their very best to make sure it is. Sure, people slip up, use the wrong words, forget that not everybody is cisgender. These are things that we can all work on. But deliberate transphobia must never be tolerated. Let’s extend our hands to our transgender neurosiblings and help them feel welcome in all autistic spaces.