Friday, September 24, 2010

The lovers, the dreamers, and me

I keep forgetting to post about my rainbow cupcakes. But now I've remembered. I made these beauties about two weeks ago. I took a basic vanilla recipe and once the batter was made I divided it into six bowls and added a different food coloring to each. Then I took the red batter and dropped two teaspoons into a cupcake liner. Then I followed with the orange batter right next to the red. Then I dropped the yellow into the liner next to the orange. I followed this pattern with green, then blue, and finally purple. Repeat for each cupcake.
Yes, it was a tedious job, but just look at the results:

Did I mention, I love rainbows? And so yummy too!! I frosted them with a vanilla buttercream added some sprinkles and a sugar rainbow, all edible, and called it a day.

You could also layer the different colored batter one on top on another but I like the tie dyed effect.

And making rainbow cupcakes made me think of autism.
This past year a group in Australia started Autism Rainbow Day during Autism Awareness Month. And you can be a part of their next one. From their Facebook page:

The 2nd International Autism Rainbow Day will be held on Friday, April 29th 2011. It is so easy to get involved... all you need to do is wear a bright colored shirt to represent a color of the rainbow and the autism spectrum or a piece of clothing that has rainbow colors.Spread awareness throughout the community by asking your school, place of business or community group to get involved.
The awareness campaign focuses on two important areas, community acceptance and respect, and community support and understanding for families living with autism.

I have worked with many children who have autism and their families, first as a behavioral therapist within many home ABA programs, then as a case manager for a California regional center with the bulk of my ever growing case load being children with autism. I spent many hours talking to families about how autism impacts their everyday lives and families. Some suggested advocating for better detection, earlier and more intense intervention, and more research into why we are seeing autism on the rise on an international level. But something that every family mentioned to me on a weekly if not daily basis is the perception of autism from people not affected by it. There is no way to tell who does or doesn't have autism. When you look at a child throwing a tantrum there is no way to know if that child has autism and is on sensory overload or if that child is just a typical kid who is not getting his way. Many people will assume the latter. But some people also assume that children should be perfect little puppets, only speaking when spoken to and behaving always. Of course that is just not reality. Parents of neurotypical kids face this occasionally, but parents of children with autism face this in spades. I think their daily struggle is tough enough. We need to do better for these families.

 These are the facts about autism from the AutismSpeaks website:

  • Autism now affects 1 in 110 children and 1 in 70 boys
  • Autism prevalence figures are growing
  • More children will be diagnosed with autism this year than with AIDS, diabetes & cancer combined
  • Autism is the fastest-growing serious developmental disability in the U.S.
  • Autism costs the nation over $35 billion per year, a figure expected to significantly increase in the next decade
  • Autism receives less than 5% of the research funding of many less prevalent childhood diseases
  • Boys are four times more likely than girls to have autism
  • There is no medical detection or cure for autism
So do your part next April to raise awareness. And next time you see a child throwing a tantrum somewhere instead of ignoring them or being rude, give that mom or dad a smile. Whether their child is autistic or not, believe me, they could use it.

And now for your listening pleasure:

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An open apology to trees everywhere

Paper towels.
I cannot live without them. In fact, I go through a minimum of one roll per day, sometimes more.
I know.
It's not politically correct to use them.
Perhaps I could find some reusable hemp version of a paper towel to use but then I would have to do more laundry.
Which brings me back to why I use so many paper towels. You see, I have ADHD. And because of that I get easily overwhelmed by any kind of mess. I need to control the chaos in my daily life since I can't control the chaos in my brain. So every time I see the slightest spill or coffee stain or crumbs, I grab my paper towel and surface spray and clean. I also go through a lot of surface cleaner!
It might not seem like a big deal but once there are a few little spills here or there it gets out of control fast and if it gets out of control I feel overwhelmed and am basically at a loss for where to begin cleaning and then the house gets messier and messier until it is beyond my capabilities to clean.
Then my wonderfully patient and hard working husband has to step in and help me reign in the mess.
If you visit my house unannounced you have as much of a chance of finding it absolutely spotless as you do finding it a disaster area worthy of cones and caution tape. Really.

I can hear the nay sayers already, is ADHD really a real thing? Didn't the drug companies invent it? Doesn't that mean that you are just lazy or disorganized? Aren't we all just a little ADHD?

Yes, no, sometimes, and yes. But if everyone else is just a little ADHD then I am a super duper trazillion times more ADHD than everyone.

I see all these articles about how ADHD is not a disease, or how it is just manufactured for drug company profit. I have even heard people admit that it does exist, but that it is extremely over diagnosed. The problem I have with the people writing these articles is that they don't have ADHD so how can they say whether it is real or not?
If you have ADHD, then you know it is not a pretend thing. And 40% of us who have it do not outgrow it as  adults. I actually don't believe and more medical professionals agree, that no one outgrows ADHD. The hyperactivity that some have might lessen or become more internal like those of us with inattentive ADHD and they might develop better coping skills. But ADHD does not just go away. It is a reality 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. It doesn't come and go like having winter colds or occasional allergies. It doesn't feel like you are just being lazy. In fact, it has been shown that the harder we try, often, the worse things get. I know it all sounds so far fetched. Can you imagine how those of us with the disorder feel?

Here we are, trying our hardest to make sense of something that messes with every second of every day. Every attempt to wash those dishes, pay those bills or get those clothes put away is affected by it. But it isn't just the mundane that is affected. We lose jobs. Jobs we absolutely love because we cannot not be late, no matter how early we arise. We lose relationships with friends and loved ones because we forget important dates, argue to settle the crazy energy that races through our body, and seem to not care about others and their feelings. We lose out on opportunities because even though we often surpass most in creative ideas we cannot seem to get them from our head to a piece of paper or if we are lucky enough to manage that, the ideas die there because we cannot begin to get started implementing them in our lives. I get it. It sounds crazy. That's why we often feel crazy ourselves.

We spend half of our lives feeling like outcasts for being so odd, weird, and not like all the other kids. Then we spend the other half surrounded by people who love that we are odd, weird, and not like the other kids, but the general public finds the desire to condemn us for trying to help ourselves. I am not on medication. That's probably why I am able to write but still have to proofread what I write many times over and over so that what I am saying makes sense to most people. And that's also why I currently go through so many paper towels!

But I have been on medication. I took medication from my diagnosis at 24 until the year before my daughter was born at 36. Twelve years. Twelve years of pharmacists giving me the once over every time I picked up a bottle of my precious controlled substance. The drug that made things right in my head for a few hours before needing to take more. I took it because no matter how motivated I was, no matter how much I planned and preplanned my planning, I still constantly missed the mark in every area of my life.
That is ADHD.
Some people with it have hyperactivity. That's the most common type you hear about when someone is complaining about it being overdiagnosed.
It may very well be overdiagnosed for some kids who just have a whole lot of energy.
But it is also underdiagnosed, especially for girls and women who have it without the hyperactivity.

And believe me, there are a lot of us!

What ADHD isn't, is occasionally or even often forgetting to load the dishwasher, misplacing your cell phone, or forgetting to stop by the bank. Those might be a few of the ways in which it manifests itself.
But that is just the tip of the iceberg.

ADHD is a painfully debilitating disorder that figuratively paralyzes every decision and motivation in your life. It keeps you from being able to keep your mouth shut when necessary, wait your turn in a conversation, or even read body language. It is often accompanied by an inability to screen out unnecessary stimuli. I'm sure you've heard the ADHD joke, they say I have a hard time paying attention but really I'm...oh look a bird!
It's funny but it's also not funny. Trying taking an exam and not only do you hear random thoughts in your head but you also hear the lights buzzing, the person behind you chewing the end of the pencil, the A/C humming, the janitor down the hall dragging his feet, and the non stop chirping of at least 4 different kinds of birds. Then of course you keep seeing things out of the corner of your eye and have to constantly refocus on the sentence you just read. It's exhausting, to say the least.

I often say I wish people could spend one day inside my head. Not only would they be screaming to get out, but they would walk away with a better understanding of just how deafening the bombardment of stimuli can be for those of us with the disorder.

Can you have ADHD and not take medication? Well of course. But if you have children, or a significant other, or a job, things go a lot smoother with medication. Of course diet, exercise, supplements, and a personal organizer (or husband) helps. Just like it helps all of us do life better.

But most of us with ADHD still need medication to essentially turn that part of our brain on. It isn't something we want to do. In fact, a lot of us resist the idea. And even more of us miss doses. Someone even created a watch just for us to beep a reminder when it's time for a dose. Clever.

Some among us see it as a gift. I wonder about those people. I see a gift as something that is unexpected but joyfully accepted. For me, that is not ADHD. It has been a burden to carry, a thorn in my side, a reason to not attempt things that I believe I cannot do.
No, ADHD is no gift.
And medication isn't either. But it is a blessing.
Because when it does help it can help in a huge way. It is the difference between the person who cannot make an interview on time and the CEO of that company.
So when I read articles written by lay people and foolishly read the comments section I get very angry. Like I said, it's painful enough to have to live with the disorder to then see and hear so many amateur doctors telling you and your fellow sufferers that what you have isn't real. It's a made up disorder.

I wonder if they feel the same way about all the other disorders in the DSM that are totally diagnosed through patient history and symptoms. Funny how no one questions whether a schizophrenic really sees pretend people. I mean, THAT sounds crazy! But because ADHD is a problem of attention instead of good ole' wackiness, its very existence begs to be questioned.

If you do not have ADHD, consider yourself lucky.
Say a huge thank you to God or Allah or whoever you believe in, and leave those of us with it alone.
And if you have it, my advice is to be true to who you are. Always speak your mind even if you are scared of what others might think of you. Who cares! Chances are, they already think you are weird anyway.

Keep your chin up and let me know when you see paper towels on sale.
Pick up some for yourself and grab a pack for me too!
And to the trees I say thank you.
Thank you for making my incredibly chaotic life just a little less messy.

*(If you want to know more about ADHD you can find more information by reading this informative article, or by visiting the CHADD website. If you are an adult with ADHD or if you are an adult who wonders if you might have this disorder, then I suggest checking out ADDA, an ADHD website dedicated entirely to adults with ADHD and the unique challenges we face.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More Cupcakes and Kids

Cupcakes and kids.That seems to fill up a lot of my time lately. I'm good with that. Last week my 1st grader made it through his first week of homework ever so we decided to celebrate with cupcakes based on his favorite ice cream, mint chocolate chip. I did a basic chocolate cake with peppermint extract and then added mini chocolate chips to the batter. I also did a mint buttercream frosting. They came out tasting exactly like the ice cream. Success!
I have even gotten a little better at frosting them!
The baby girl is either telling me I am the #1 baker or she is asking for one more. It's not really clear.
The little man said nothing. He just ate.
And then he gave his opinion.
For something to have made my son speechless, it had to have been good.

Two days later I was back to baking again. Cupcakes don't seem to last long in this house. I am really trying to make simpler cupcakes with outstanding flavor, so I tried tweaking my chocolate cupcake recipe. In the process I found a secret, THE secret, to making the moistest yummiest cupcakes. I could tell you, but then I'd have to..well, you know the rest.
 So on  Sunday I came up with my black and white cupcake.  It's a super moist chocolate cupcake. Inside is a marshmallow creme filling, and it's topped with a vanilla buttercream frosting. This is my favorite cupcake so far.
I should call it the heavenly cupcake because it was like a little bit of heaven on Earth.
Or rather, four little bits of heaven on Sunday, two on Monday, and one yesterday.
I can't really explain the flavor expect to say this is what I believe a Hostess cupcake would taste like if it were made while you waited.  And you lived in Heaven. Can you tell I really, really like it?
I see many of these in my future.