Bob Dylan – The Gabe Files

Bob Dylan – The Gabe Files

In honour of Bob being recently awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature, I am reposting this blog post, written in 2009 😍

Did you know that Bob Dylan's last name was Zimmerman?
Did you know that Bob Dylan’s last name was Zimmerman?

I sometimes say that I am the opposite of autistic. I would describe myself as empathetic, intuitive, good communicator, sociable, flexible, and completely lacking in spatial awareness (I get lost all the time). But there is one characteristic I share with my ASD son – obsessions or special interests. My current obsession is Bob Dylan and I have been obsessed with the world’s greatest singer-songwriter for the past couple of years.

Don’t get me wrong. I have always liked the man, but I was not previously obsessed with him. In fact, I recall borrowing a tape (yes, you heard me right – a tape) of Bob Dylan songs from the local library when I was in my early teens. I shared a room with my older sister and let me tell you, she was none to impressed with me playing that tape. She is a bit sensitive to sound and there was something in the quality of his nasal breathing that disturbed her greatly. I can’t for the life of me understand the problem.

Anyway, my obsession began after inadvertently watching on TV the Martin Scorsese directed  ‘No Direction Home: Bob Dylan.” If you haven’t seen it – JUST DO IT! It is brilliant and has some of the best interviews with the man himself, that I’ve seen. As you will be aware he doesn’t like being interviewed. Maybe he really likes Martin Scorsese.

After watching the best documentary ever, I began collecting every Bob Dylan album ever made. Then I began to play every Bob Dylan album ever made; and I didn’t stop for a year. I had my 6 stacker CD player in the car full of Bob Dylan albums. I had, and still do have, Bob Dylan albums piled up and spilling all over the place in the living room. I drove my little 6 year old daughter crazy. Our son, on the other hand, just loves Bob Dylan (isn’t he a champion and great taste in music) and never complained. After a year of endlessly playing Bob Dylan albums, and reading biographies and anything else I could get my hands on, I started to calm down a bit. I regained composure and now play Bob intermittently, as is the way of a well-balanced person.

A collective sigh of relief was heard emanating from the Bryden clan (minus our son, bless his heart).

Earlier this year, however, on a long trip home from Brisbane to Woodgate after visiting my mother, I had the urge to put on ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan’. I had put off playing Bob Dylan because I didn’t want to annoy the sound-sensitive little girl. All was quiet in the back seat and I thought our daughter might even be asleep; beaudy, at last I can play Bob Dylan. I started playing the album and after a couple of songs a little girl’s voice chirped from the rear “Mummy, I’ve got an earache.”

“Oh no, that’s no good. How long have you had it darling?” I asked in a concerned voice.

“Since you put Bob Dylan on!”

There’s no accounting for tastes, is there!




Book Review: ‘Cracked’ by Clare Strahan

Book Review: ‘Cracked’ by Clare Strahan


Do you remember Clare Strahan from Literary Rats infamy? Well this wonderful lady has published a damned fine YA novel called Cracked and yes, it is everything it’s cracked up to be 😉 and I am nowhere near the age of the target audience #sigh

Cracked is a coming of age novel about a girl called Clover (the name says it all) traversing those treacherous roads from ages 15 to 17. Clover considers herself a bit of a ‘freak’ (and so do her friends) because of her unusual upbringing. She has been raised by her single mother (result of a one night stand with a man who then quickly disappeared) with some unconventional ideas. They live in a household with no computers (and no facebook!) and as Clover says: ‘I was a Steiner-freak who ate home-baked bread and brown rice and didn’t have a television’.

Read more

Guest post by Helen Ross (A Very Close Shave)

Guest post by Helen Ross (A Very Close Shave)

The lovely Helen Ross (poet, author, blogger) has contributed a very personal tale of a close shave.


A Very Close Shave by Helen Ross

In May 2005 my husband and I embarked on a round-the-world trip with another couple. There were a few legs to the journey (Brisbane-Singapore; Singapore-Paris; Paris-England; England-Canada; Canada-Alaskan passageway cruise; return Vancouver, Canada; then home to Brisbane via LAX airport). We never made it past England but we eventually got back to Brisbane.

On the morning that we were due to leave for Canada I spent the last of my UK pennies and pounds at Heathrow airport. ‘Yay! I need room for US money.’ Michael, my husband, scoffed a bread roll for breakfast and, a little while after, complained of heart burn. His cheeks were rather ruddy. As we had arrived early, he was happy to sit for a while.

Though the food hall was a distance from our departure gate, the other couple wanted to walk there. As my husband is more of a stroller than an Olympic walker our friends went on ahead. We had seen many golf buggies buzzing around the airport so figured we could hop on one if Michael got a wee tired. He reached for his cabin baggage (which wasn’t very heavy) and struggled picking it up, complaining that it felt like a ten ton weight. Michael looked a little peaky. I endeavoured to get a wheelchair to wheel him to the departure lounge but was curtly informed that it had to be booked and none were available. Thankfully a cart was whirring by.

Settled at the departure lounge Michael looked grey and clammy. “You’re not having a heart attack?” was my reply to his ‘you look like death warmed up’ complexion.

“No. It’s just indigestion” was his feeble reply. Hmmm, I thought.

On board Air Canada, Michael strapped himself in, took a few breaths, and then suddenly declared that he had to go out for fresh air. Whilst passengers were still boarding, I informed a flight attendant that we had to go outside the cabin doors as Michael was suffering from indigestion. After feeling better, we again boarded. I even arranged for the Flight crew manager to see if we could upgrade to a business seat to improve Michael’s flight comfort.

After sitting for a few minutes, Michael again felt unwell, extremely weak and struggled breathing. Again we parked ourselves outside the cabin doors with flight crew intermittently checking on Michael’s welfare. Finally, Michael requested medical assistance. We hadn’t realised that mica ambulances (mobile intensive care) are based throughout Heathrow, so paramedics arrived within two minutes.

After a routine check-up the friendly (yet professional) paramedics thought it best to take Michael to a hospital for further tests. I went back into the aircraft to collect our cabin baggage, and informed our friends that we would catch a later flight and would meet them later in Canada. They sat, shocked. Though I had previously asked Michael if he was having a heart attack, I had resigned to thinking he was suffering from indigestion.

So off we went for an unexpected ride through the streets of London. We arrived at a nearby hospital, but after a few tests Michael was wheeled back into the ambulance bound for Royal Brompton Hospital (later we found out that Royal Brompton is the largest specialist heart and lung centre in the UK). A cardiac sister from the hospital hopped aboard. The sister didn’t divulge too much, but thought there was likely to be an artery blockage. I was still expecting to arrive in Canada that night.

Michael sucked happily on a green ‘morphine’ stick, declaring “green sticks are on me” as the streets of London flashed by. But I wasn’t in a sightseeing mood. On arrival, Michael was transported to theatre whilst a paramedic assisted me with our cabin bags. Deposited in the deserted waiting room, I sat dumb struck, tears falling down my face.

After approximately 2½ hours doctors came to tell me that Michael was okay, and that they had put in a number of stents. The head doctor informed me that if Michael had got on the flight he would have been carried out at the other end in a wooden box. The next day I found out that Michael had died twice on the surgery table, being brought back to life with the paddles (defibrillator).

Back home in Australia, one woman told me that if it was her husband complaining of heart burn, she would have told him not to be a baby and get on the plane.

Yes, a close shave indeed.


Thanks Helen 😀

I am so glad your tale has a ‘happy’ ending #phew

Note: My internet connection is shocking at the moment and won’t be back to normal until the 19th of July – so my apologies for any delays in responding to emails and blog comments.

Writing Process Blog Tour

Writing Process Blog Tour



Poet and writer Stuart Barnes (fellow Queenslander) has tagged me in a Writing Process Blog Tour. He doesn’t have a blog but he does have a tumblr thingy. I thought it sounded like a good idea so I could find out what I’m doing 😉 Thanks Stuart – you’re a champion 😇

Basically the Writing Process Blog Tour involves me answering some questions and tagging some other writing bloggers to continue the tour.

What am I working on?

I’m a bit scatter brained at the moment – things distracting me left, right and centre – but if I search long enough there may be some structure to my writing life. Part of the problem is that I am torn between fiction and non-fiction so both are getting a look in. Read more

Acrostic for Sufferers of Bovinephobia 😉

Acrostic for Sufferers of Bovinephobia 😉

Run (by Michael Bryden)
Run (by Michael Bryden)


Acrostic for Sufferers of Bovineophobia

Beware the beasts
Out to get you.
Vibrations of rage, running deep
Into the heart of the ground.
Nimble thy feet will be to avoid the
Excruciating crush of the bovine burden.
Oppressed you will feel, it is only fair.
Pray for divine assistance –
Holy cow!
Oh Lordy, get me outta here.
Bovine phobia, yes
It’s a thing.
And the cattle cry – Alleluia.


Note: for bluebee who is a sufferer 😀


Nuddernote: fear of cattle is justified 😉 they are huge beasties and can squish you without even meaning too!

‘The Panicosaurus’ – A Book Review

‘The Panicosaurus’ – A Book Review

‘The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome’

by K.I. Al-Ghani (and illustrations by Haitham Al-Ghani)


Anxiety is a common issue among young children, but almost guaranteed to be an issue for children who have Asperger Syndrome or who lie further along the spectrum of autism conditions.

It is very important to get a handle on anxiety and to develop strategies to lessen feelings of anxiety at an early stage, or the anxiety can build into a chronic condition that is very difficult to treat.

Enter stage right The Panicosaurus: Managing Anxiety in Children Including Those with Asperger Syndrome by K.I. Al-Ghani. This is a terrific children’s picture book (published in 2013 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers) that will help children who experience high levels of anxiety. The book can be read by the child or by a teacher or parent to one or more children (it would benefit the whole classroom).

There is an introduction that explains anxiety in children and which lists techniques that have been found to be helpful for reducing anxiety. There are also further strategies outlined at the end of the book. The picture story about a girl called Mabel and her struggle with anxiety is the main section of the book.

The story starts when we are told about a little dinosaur called the Panicosaurus who lives in a part of our brain called the amygdala. This little dinosaur was very useful in the very olden days when cavemen were out and about fighting sabre tooth tigers and the like. The Panicosaurus would help the cavemen to prepare their bodies for fighting or escaping from predators. This would involve the heart beating faster and pumping extra oxygen to our muscles.

These days, the story continues, the Panicosaurus is quite bored and there are not many dangerous creatures around. But in some people, particularly children, the Panicosaurus is quite naughty and makes them believe there are dangerous things all around them.

Mabel’s Panicosaurus is one of the naughty ones and is constantly trying to trick Mabel into panicking about things like a dog off a lead or a change in school schedule. Luckily Mabel gets some help from Smartosaurus (another little dinosaur who lives in the neocortex) and she manages to defeat the dreaded Panicosaurus with the help of her mother and friends.

This story is easy-to-read and full of great advice for children who are struggling with anxiety. The story is particularly relevant for those with Asperger Syndrome as Mabel is exhibiting some classic Asperger traits such as an aversion to changes in routine and a very strong special interest (jigsaw puzzles).

I found this book enjoyable to read and very useful. I was quite moved by Mabel’s situation and really loved the way the classroom was set up to help her in every way. The book is describing an ideal setting and strategies to implement in a classroom which has one or more children with Autism Spectrum Conditions. The depiction of anxiety in a child with Asperger’s in this book is very convincing.

I would recommend this book to any parent or carer with a child experiencing anxiety. In fact it would useful for all children (and quite a few adults). Everyone experiences anxiety throughout their life at some time and a thorough understanding of the underlying mechanisms such as the flight and fight phenomenon is essential.

I asked my son who has Asperger’s to read and rate this book and he gave it a 5/5. I agree with his assessment 😀



The Autism Files: Not all programs are equal

The Autism Files: Not all programs are equal

early warning signs (742x470)

Remember the paediatrician who said that the teaching hospital where Michael was diagnosed had an autism program? Well during the year that our son was attending the SEDU (age 3) we decided to enrol Michael in this hospital program. We filled out all the paperwork required and eventually got a letter saying we could start on so and so date with a group of ASD children about the same age as Michael.

On the day of the program I was filled with optimism but I was also nervous because I didn’t know what to expect and how Michael would react. I wasn’t happy that it was taking place in a hospital. First, it was always hard to get a car park in this particular hospital because of the sheer size of the place and numbers of people going there every day. Second, it was stressful for Michael because it was a crowded, noisy place with a great potential for sensory overload. This was the place he had come on several occasions to be assessed and diagnosed and it was likely he associated the hospital with mostly negative experiences – I know I did.

Well, I finally found a place to park in a multi-story building across the road from the hospital. I got Michael out of the car and holding his hand walked across to the hospital via a pedestrian bridge. It took about 15 minutes to find the correct floor and the exact room. We were asked to sit in the waiting room until everyone had arrived. Michael looked at the floor most of the time, avoiding the visual stimuli of a busy hospital, and held his body in the twisted position of someone who didn’t want to be there, flapped his hands and repeated words in distress.

When the program started all the children were asked to come into another room, where there was a whiteboard, some rugs on the ground to sit on, and a large working space. There was a sink near the door with a hospital tap, the ones that you can turn on with your elbow. The children that were in the room with Michael were relatively well behaved. Michael seemed to be the only one that was super stressed.

The female program leader stood near the whiteboard, asked all the children to come and sit on the rugs and proceeded to talk about something. All I knew was that this did not seem to be the way to go with ASD children. Where was the fun stuff to play with and the nice things to look at? Michael had great difficulty in processing verbal language, as did most ASD children. He wasn’t listening to the lady at all. He kept getting up and wandering around the room and I would hustle him back to his place on the floor.

When he spotted the sink and tap his eyes lit up and he toddled over to this watery delight; remember his obsession with water. He turned the tap on and he turned the tap off, he turned the tap on and he turned the tap off, until Mummy stopped him. This happened repeatedly for much of the session. The other children, to my amazement, sat in their spots and listened to the lady at the front. I didn’t understand – didn’t these kids have autism? Suddenly my high functioning ASD boy was the lowest functioning in the room and he was having a field day.

After the verbal introduction the children received 10-15 minutes of a type of speech therapy activity, which again involved lots of listening. Michael didn’t respond at all and ran over to the door, opened the door and ran down the corridor, closely followed by Mummy. I caught up with him and brought him back to the teaching room. Five minutes later he ran off again and I ran after him and brought him back.

Everyone was staring at us and looking concerned; we were disrupting the program. I was getting decidedly pissed off. Why didn’t the program have any ASD friendly activities? Why hadn’t they started the session with some play-based activities to engage the children? Why was my son the only one acting like he had autism? Michael decided to make a third attempt at escaping down the corridor so I grabbed him by the arms for dear life and told the coordinators that we had had enough and that we would have to leave.

I left that hospital with the feeling that I had been hit in back of my neck with a blunt object. I managed to get Michael safely in the back seat of the car, payed the exorbitant car parking fee and drove home with tears streaming down my face, apologising to Michael. We never went back.


Aussies Love their Nicknames

Aussies Love their Nicknames

This is a repost (just because) 😉


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: 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.


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.