Aussies Love their Nicknames

This is a repost (just because) ;)

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Andy the Great and the Incident of the Storm and the Chainsaw

Australian’s love their nicknames and it is rare to stumble upon a person without one – Shorty, Crazy, Twig, Choko, Gazza, Chuck Chunder, Chucky, Wayney Poo, Crooky Monster (that would be me) are a few of my friends.

My better half has a few nicknames and one that we joke around with is Andy the Great. His other nickname is Shirl, and in fact that is what I call him all the time. I didn’t know his name was Andrew until about 10 years after I first met him. I didn’t have a clue what his last name was – he was just Shirl, Shirl the Curl or Shirl the Dirl or Twirley.

He refuses to explain with any degree of clarity where the nickname came from. We have our suspicions that it had something to do with his Alice Cooper hair or that he once worked as a check-out ‘chick’ in Woolworths.

The nickname Andy the Great is easier to explain and involves Andy’s love of power tools and his ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound, fix anything that needs fixing and help anyone that needs helping.

Years ago before we were married we were driving through Kenmore in Brisbane (where I lived) after a huge storm. Streets were covered with debris and trees were stripped of branches and leaves. Drains resembled playgrounds for white water rafting devotees.

Andy the Great was driving his white Holden work van (he worked as a beer plumber) which he got to use 24/7 and I was the passenger. Suddenly we came upon a huge uprooted tree that had fallen from someone’s yard. It lay across the footpath and part of the road. Before I could say ‘holey dooly, what the #%$#$##, Andy the Great screeched to a halt, jumping out of the Holden and opened the rear van door. He stretched past his reticulation python and grabbed his beloved chainsaw, grunting in delight (well, that’s what I thought I heard).

Next minute he powered his diesel-guzzling friend into glorious vvvroooooomming (where’s a beat boxer when you need one 😁) and proceeded to chainsaw large sections of horizontal tree into chunks of manageable lifting-sized bits. This continued until the whole tree had been neatly returned to the footpath – a pile of assorted logs waiting for council removal. At this point a resident of the house (where the tree’s roots remained under soil) came out with mouth open, jaw dropped and expression perplexed.

‘That was quick,’ she gasped, ‘I only rang the council half an hour ago’!

‘No worries’, replied Andy the Great ‘we were just passing and I had my chainsaw in the boot – tell that to the Council workers when they finally arrive’.

With that he waved goodbye, jumped in the van and we drove off into the sunset.

Food Wars: The Autism Files

food wars photo

If you have children you will know that getting them to eat what the rest of the family eats is not always easy. However, there are kids who are fussy with food and then ASD kids who can be more than fussy with food. The difference is like the difference between your average person on a diet and the daily life of an anorexic.

The usual advice for the parents of children who refuse to eat what is on there plate is to let them go hungry and when they are hungry enough they will eat the food. Well, this sometimes works with ASD children but more than likely it won’t. Some ASD children will starve rather than eat a food which they find abhorrent. In fact, sometimes the only way to feed some ASD children is through a tube that is surgically placed directly into their stomach to bypass their mouths.

Imagine if someone sat you down at a table and insisted that you eat a plate of doo poo mixed with an assortment of insects and cod liver oil. Would you eat that when you got hungry enough?

I suspect not.

This is how it can be for ASD children who are faced with foods that they will not eat. There can be sensory issues behind this aversion (tactile, acute smell, taste etc.,). There can also be rules-based obsessive thought patterns behind the behaviour. There could be physiological reasons. There can be other ASD particular reasons which we neurotypicals may never decipher.

Whatever the reasons, it can drive parents of ASD children completely nutty with exasperation. I’m guessing macaroni cheese and pink milk isn’t the best selection from the five food groups for good nutrition.

My son, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three, spent many years eating vegemite or peanut butter on white bread sandwiches at every meal and occasionally ham or tinned tuna, dried apricots and salty plain potato chips (only the ones with ridges on them; he wouldn’t eat the flat ones).

When we switched to gluten free white bread, nothing changed except he would have Mighty-Mite (a vegemite equivalent) or peanut butter on gluten free bread.

He refused most meat and all vegetables (except potato) and most fruit (except oranges and dried apricots). In later years he started to eat steak and bacon, but stopped eating ham and tuna. He later refused all fruits. He also stopped eating sandwiches altogether (toast was fine), but developed a taste for ‘junk food’ like pepperoni pizza (no other types allowed), hot dogs, bacon and egg burgers, hot chips. He smothers most foods in tomato sauce (only one particular brand is acceptable).

Then he also developed a taste for garlic bread and some curries. We went to a restaurant once and he ordered the duck and absolutely loved it.

Confusing isn’t it!

The presentation of the food was also a key issue. The use of the same bowls and cutlery was important in the earlier years. I was required to cut the bread symmetrically (a perfect centre cut). Placement of hated food items (eg. a pea) on his plate was a huge mistake. Putting different foods very close together on a plate was not a good idea (that’s probably why sandwiches never work and have to be dismantled by him into component parts before any part is eaten).

Hiding ‘prohibited’ foods is not a good idea for my son (hiding vegetables in the stew doesn’t work when your kid has an exceptional sense of smell and can identify onion from 100 metres away). Failure to adhere to the ‘rules’ of food would often lead to hysterics and running away from the table (sometimes he would run around the house several times until he had calmed down).

Over the years I’ve learnt not to force my son to eat what he refuses to eat. I won’t place unwanted food items on his plate in case he miraculously changes his mind.

I’ve occasionally negotiated with him to taste a new food (on the condition that he can spit it out if he chooses) for a reward. This has generally not achieved anything except annoying both child and mother.

I have discussed food and nutrition with him and tried to get him self-motivated to try some healthy options. He now understands that a diet of foods high in fat, sugar and salt (and low in vitamins, minerals and fibre) can have negative health effects in the long run (e.g. diabetes) but he still won’t eat fruit and vegetables. He says that he is considering eating them in the future and he really wants to be healthy but it is very difficult for him. I believe him.

As with most things in the ASD world, nothing happens easily or overnight. His diet is gradually getting more varied and he is motivated to keep trying.

If you are a parent or caregiver of a fussy eater on the autism spectrum, please remember:

Keep trying

Don’t feel guilty

Tomato sauce is packed full of vitamin C ;)

and there is always hope.

Resource:

A good book on the subject:

Brenda Legge (2001). Can’t eat, Won’t eat: Dietary Difficulties and Autistic Spectrum Disorders. Jessica Kingsley Publishers, London and Philadephia.

Captain Chaos (The Gabe Files)

Captain Chaos

Are you the sort of person who gets lost easily? Well I am one of those people, without a doubt. My life is littered with lostness (that ain’t a word) episodes.

There was the time when I was meant to be attending an alcohol and drugs conference in Melbourne and ended up at a Chaos Theory conference (wrong University – doh!). Deep down I think I was meant to be partying on with all those physicists.

There was the time when I was supposed to be going to a psychiatric clinic in South Brisbane to collect data forms for a research study on anxiety and (yes you guessed it) ended up at the wrong hospital.

I asked
“What floor is the psychiatric department on?”
and got
“We don’t have a psychiatric department! Who referred you?”
I suppose I looked a bit like a psychiatric patient in my scruffy jeans, Garfield t-shirt, and dirty sandshoes and the ‘I need some sleep’ look under my dark eyes.

There was the time I went to IKEA and ended up in a holding pattern trying to find the exit (and I asked for directions twice – arghhh). I will never enter another IKEA store, ever!

There was the time that I had bought myself a secondhand car (red holden HT with rust for $400, if I can remember correctly) and drove to work at West End in Brisbane. I was a lab assistant at a blood laboratory (I loved that white lab coat) in my gap year, before I went to Uni. I thought I would go for a drive in my ‘new’ car at lunch-time and got so lost I ended up on my way to Ipswich (another city).

Yes, there could be something wrong in the spatial/relations part of my brain ;)

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Note: thanks bluebee for the title (it all started with her wonderful poem on string theory :))