When It’s Not Fun For Everyone …

Well, we have made it to July 4th weekend. And many are planning celebrations for the holiday. If you are one of those people, it’s important to remember that the usual activities aren’t fun for everyone. I don’t mean these are boring. I mean they can result in medical emergencies. Let’s talk about that …

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Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, most large-scale fireworks displays have been cancelled. Which means that many will attempt to do their own. Fireworks effect many medical conditions. As beautiful as they are, fireworks release pollutants into the air. This in turn impacts our air quality. In fact, some of the chemicals dispersed by fireworks, such as aluminum, barium, cadium, dioxins, and rubidium, are radioactive and known carcinogens. For anyone, of any age, this can be a problem. Conditions like Asthma, Bronchitis and COPD can be worsened by breathing the particulate matter or PM in the air. Even smaller fireworks that are used at ground level (Sparklers, Firecrackers) can expose individuals to metallic fumes and create breathing difficulties. Fireworks can also have an impact on people who live with Hypertension, Heart conditions, Anxiety, Epilepsy and PTSD. They’re notoriously unsettling for pets, too.

Food can also cause problems, whether you are planning a backyard barbecue or a picnic. Look at your menu. Have you thought about your guests? Do any of them have food allergies? If the answer is “yes”, then make sure you have another option available. Diabetics will be happy to see fruit like fresh watermelon, on the table. Maybe, a crisp tossed salad? Carbs raise their blood-sugar. And nobody wants to serve food poisoning at their get-together. So, here’s a few tips to help avoid that: 

  • Avoid cross-contamination. Keep raw foods and cooked foods separate. Clean your work-surface after each use.
  • Without refrigeration or a heat source, perishables should not be left out more than two hours.
  • Always keep COLD food cold by using a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers,a cold source such as ice or frozen gel packs. Keep hot food HOT, at or above 140 °F, on the grill or in insulated containers.
  • Packing drinks in a separate cooler is strongly recommended, so the food cooler isn’t opened frequently.
  • If you plan to marinate meat and/or poultry for several hours or overnight prior to the event, make sure to marinate them in the refrigerator.
  • To ensure safety, leftovers must be put in shallow containers for quick cooling and refrigerated to 40 ⁰F or below within two hours.

Last, but certainly not least, avoid large gatherings. It just isn’t safe, during a pandemic. Keep your get-togethers small. Nowadays, less really does equate to more. Practice social distancing. Wear face masks. You might even consider giving the patriotic-print ones as party gifts/favors. Yes, this is a short-notice for that idea. But many retailers are advertising them. They are available, just like flags, balloons, paper-goods, etc. So, decorate your home … your yard … and do it with a mask on. When it’s not fun for everyone, it’s not much of a celebration. Period. Take a moment to think about all of those you’ve invited to your July 4th festivities — make a list of their names and phone numbers. As morbid as this may sound today, if someone develops COVID-19 next week … your guests will need to be notified. That list will come in handy. 2020 remains, even in our moments of celebration, unusual.

Happy Fourth, y’all! Stay well!

 

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4220320/

https://healthcare-in-europe.com/en/news/the-health-impact-of-festival-fireworks.html

https://www.epilepsy.com/article/2014/3/fireworks-flags-video-games-and-driving-seizure-risks-and-prevention

Fireworks, Triggers, PTSD, and Veterans

Wrap up your celebration with fireworks, not food poisoning

https://www.lmh.org/news/2020-news/safely-celebrate-the-fourth-of-july-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

*Photo by Stephanie McCabe on Unsplash

The Need To Be Touched

Most of us don’t put a lot of thought into this subject, but there is so much to learn from it.  We, as human beings, have a basic need to be touched. If anything, this pandemic has made us aware of just how much a handshake or hug can be missed. Have you missed doing these things? Have you felt isolated? Disconnected? I know that I have, sometimes.

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If you were raised in a family who openly showed affection, you are most likely a hugger. You hug family, friends, new acquaintances, etc. It is a social interaction that’s part of your daily life. If you were raised in a family who didn’t easily share affection (by that I mean often or at all), you may not particularly like hugging. You probably don’t even understand why some people are so open to affection. Yet, touch is a basic human interaction. An infant is soothed by it. An adult feels comfort, even joy, from it. And what they are feeling is real. It’s significant. Because we all need human touch — the decent, affectionate kind. It has the ability to relieve us of pain, fear, frustration, etc. It has the power to make us feel loved and appreciated. But how does something like a hug do all that?

According to researchers, we all have the ability to communicate many feelings through touch. It is a silent language that needs no words. A mother can cuddle her crying baby, in the night, and the message is clear. The infant knows he/she is secure and their crying ceases. A stranger can go into a natural disaster area and offer a hug to a distraught victim. Again, the message is clear — help has arrived. That compassion, even from a stranger, can be sensed. And it’s powerful. There is also a difference between a caring touch and an aggressive one. The two categories should never be confused. 

When we offer or receive a caring hug, oxytocin is released in our bodies. This is a “bonding” hormone. It has the ability to reduce stress, lower cortisol levels and increase our sense of trust/security. In fact, in a study conducted by the University of North Carolina, researchers discovered that women who received more hugs from their partners had lower heart rates and blood pressure. That’s healthy! A massage has the ability to relax the body, ease pain and melt away tension. That too is healthy! Even something as simple as eye contact and a pat on the back from a patient’s doctor may boost their survival rate, despite the complex disease they are fighting (University of California research). It may sound too good to be true, but science supports it.

Scientific research actually correlates physical touch with several things:

  • Decreased violence. Less touch as a child will lead to greater violence.
  • Greater Trust. Touch has the ability to bond individuals.
  • Decreased Disease & Stronger Immune Systems. In other words, a healthier you.
  • Greater Learning Engagement. When teachers touch students platonically, it encourages their learning. They are also more likely to speak-up in class.
  • More Non-Sexual Emotional Intimacy. Interpersonal touch has a powerful impact on our emotions.
  • Stronger Team Dynamics. We touch to initiate and sustain cooperation. Hugs and handshakes increase the chances that a person will treat you “like family”, even if you’ve just met. 
  • Economic Gain. Touch signals safety and trust, i.e. NBA teams whose players touch each other more, win more games.
  • Overall Well-being. Adults need positive human touch to thrive, i.e. hugs, handshakes, a pat on the arm or back, holding hands, cuddling, etc. It is fundamental to our physical, mental and emotional health.

Today, we are even seeing Touch Therapy being used to treat patients. First standardized in the 1970’s, scientists are not sure how this technique works. The popular theories are: a) Pain is stored in the body’s cells; b) Think quantum physics. Blood, which contains iron, flows through our bodies and creates an electromagnetic field; c) Good health requires a balanced flow of life energy. And there are many Chronic illnesses that respond to this treatment, i.e. Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Alzheimer’s, Chronic Pain, etc.

Some of us are old enough to remember the social panic that AIDs initially created. People feared that it could be spread by even the simplest forms of human contact. Patients often suffered in near isolation. Until, one day, a certain princess visited an AIDs hospital … and held the hand of patient. No gloves. No mask. Just hand-to-hand touch. Thank you, Diana. You not only helped that patient, you changed the global perception of a disease.

Today, we are seeing healthcare professionals, i.e. doctors, nurses, respiratory therapists, etc., hold the hands of COVID-19 patients to provide that needed human touch. At a time when family and friends are not allowed near these seriously ill patients, this is so important … to connect … to feel that someone is there for them … to help … to trust … to provide hope … and to heal.

One day, this pandemic will be behind us. We will hug, shake hands, etc., without giving it a second thought. Until then, it is safe to share hugs with any individual you are living/quarantined with.  We are all in need of human touch … of its power … its compassion … and its ability to literally make us feel better. Some are starved for that connection. So, stretch out your arms … reach for your partner, spouse, roommate, sibling, or pet. It’s time that we share a hug for our good health! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/201303/the-power-touch

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-mind-body-connection/201309/why-we-all-need-touch-and-be-touched

https://psychcentral.com/blog/the-surprising-psychological-value-of-human-touch/

https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/hands_on_research

https://www.in-mind.org/article/that-human-touch-that-means-so-much-exploring-the-tactile-dimension-of-social-life

https://theweek.com/articles/749384/painnumbing-power-human-touch

https://www.healthline.com/health/haphephobia#symptoms

https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/treatment/therapeutic-touch

https://www.bbc.com/news/av/magazine-39490507/how-princess-diana-changed-attitudes-to-aids

https://www.ucihealth.org/blog/2020/05/respiratory-therapists-give-covid-patients-human-touch

https://www.aarp.org/home-family/friends-family/info-2020/hugging-post-coronavirus.html

*Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

 

The Sweet Life: Watermelon

Few things, if any, can beat a slice of cold watermelon on a hot, summer day. It’s one of those things that can bring the kid out in you, no matter how old you are. But did you know that watermelon is actually good for you? Let’s talk about that …

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Everyone needs to stay hydrated. That’s a well-known fact. Well, watermelon is 90% water. Aside from satisfying your sweet tooth, it will actually aid in keeping you hydrated. A single cup of watermelon can even provide about 15% of a your daily needs of vitamin C too. It’s also a great source of fiber for digestion. And watermelon contains a variety of antioxidants. Your body can, by natural process, eliminate some molecules known as free radicals. But antioxidants help the body to do this. That’s important, because free radicals can lead to cell damage and various diseases. A study, conducted back in 2012, found that Watermelon reduced blood-pressure. In 2017, another study suggested that watermelon helped the body fight inflammation. Are you paying attention? That means watermelon has the ability to help patients manage numerous Chronic illnesses, i.e. Hypertension, Heart disease, Cancer, Dementia, Obesity, etc. And there’s so many ways to enjoy it!

Sure, you can eat it by the slice … let the juice roll down your chin … and revisit childhood. We’ve all done it and enjoy it, every time. But there are also terrific salads, entrees and desserts to explore. So, kick your shoes off … wiggle those bare toes … and get creative!

In fact, depending upon where you live, it’s still possible to plant some watermelons in your backyard or garden. The plants need 2-3 months above 70 degrees, well-drained soil and a spacing of 3-5 feet apart. That’s not a lot. A raised bed will do. Nobody is suggesting that you till the land. If you’ve got the space, go for it. Have some fun. Grow a few melons, this summer. Given the restrictions that we’ve had on so many things, this year, I’m all in for fun; aren’t you? So, come on … it’s time to explore the sweet life!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886#nutrition

4 Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/a6408/watermelon-recipes/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/watermelon

https://www.rd.com/food/recipes-cooking/10-savory-recipes-using-watermelon/

Growing Watermelons

*Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

 

Sometimes, You Have To Bake Cookies …

Many years ago, my hubby told me that he always knew when I had a bout of Writer’s block. Apparently, in my frustration, I’d leave my home office … go into the kitchen … and proceed with a cooking/baking frenzy. At the time he first made this observation, I just laughed — dispensing it as nonsense. But in the years since, I’ve come to realize that he was right. I do get some sort of cathartic relief, when I cook or bake. And it isn’t necessarily caused by Writer’s block. The kitchen has somehow become my zen place.

 

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As odd as it may sound, there is medical research behind this. Studies have actually been done. When you cook or bake, you are creating … relaxing … destressing … spreading the love. You are experiencing fulfillment and satisfaction. Your body and mind is calming itself. If done with others, you are sharing quality time that strengthens any relationship. All positive. All healthy. All good.

In fact, cooking/baking is being used by many therapists and clinics as part of treatment for patients who live with a variety of mental and behavioral conditions, i.e. depression, anxiety, eating disorders, ADHD, stress, even some addictions.

We are living in crazy, chaotic times … nothing is as simple as it was just 4 months ago. Our lives, careers, expectations and work environments have changed. Learning environments have changed. There are added demands, frustrations and stress. None of us are immune. But we can explore new ways to deal with these challenges. 

Sometimes, you have to bake cookies … knead dough … chop vegetables … make a casserole. You have to step outside of your usual comfort zone and explore new things. You might even find that you enjoy it — a lot. It may comfort you as it has me. It may help you to cope. At the least, you may discover a new hobby or hidden talent. That’s not a bad thing. It could be a means of self-growth. And that’s positive, too.

I could go on, but there’s a recipe waiting … the oven is warm … and the kitchen is calling me. Need I say more?

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/feeling-down-scientists-say-cooking-and-baking-may-help-you-feel-better-180961223/

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/17439760.2016.1257049

https://www.mindfood.com/article/why-cooking-makes-happy/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/minding-the-body/201505/kitchen-therapy-cooking-mental-well-being

https://www.calmmoment.com/mindfulness/how-mindful-baking-can-improve-your-mood-and-reduce-stress/

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2018/12/baking-anxiety-millennials/578404/

https://www.latimes.com/food/story/2020-04-13/how-to-relieve-stress-during-a-pandemic-quarantinebaking

https://www.huffpost.com/entry/baking-for-others-psychology_n_58dd0b85e4b0e6ac7092aaf8

*Photo by Madison Kaminiski on Unsplash

Asthma Breakthroughs …

Asthma is a pulmonary condition that causes the airways in your lungs to narrow and swell and produce additional mucus. As a result, your breathing becomes more difficult. It may also trigger coughing, wheezing and/or shortness of breath. For some patients, the effects are mild. For others, they are life-threatening. Asthma, like other chronic conditions, has no cure. But it can be managed. And today’s medical breakthroughs promise even greater manageability!

 

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Asthma, whether diagnosed in children or adults, is treated with a variety of options, i.e. medications, inhalers, bronchodilators, biologics, immunotherapy, intravenous corticosteroids, etc. What is used depends greatly upon the severity of the patient’s condition and how well they respond to the treatment.

Recently researchers at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, published their findings on the critical role that a protein (Caspase-11) plays in Asthma. While this research won’t offer any instant relief, it will no doubt pave the way for new medications to become available in 3-5 years. And that’s great news for Asthma sufferers.  For more information about Caspase-11, you can visit the links below. You may also want to talk to your doctor to get his or her medical opinion. The more that we can learn about any Chronic illness, the better prepared we become in treating it. With that preparedness comes more manageability and a better quality of life!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/asthma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20369660

https://www.aafa.org/asthma-treatment/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/02/200226080629.htm

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-14945-2

Asthma Therapy May Receive a Boost from New Caspase-11 Finding

*Photo by Uwe Conrad on Unsplash

Spring Into Berries …

Yesterday, I ventured over to Cooley Farms in Chesnee, SC, also known as “Strawberry Hill” to the Upstate locals. Surrounded by an endless acreage of peach trees (their main crop), the shed was bustling — even on a Thursday. There’s nothing like sweet, spring berries to bring folks out of hibernation. And nothing better for you!

 

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Yes, these farms and roadside stands conjure up fond memories from our childhood. Yes, they also make us want to bake, freeze and can. That’s not a bad thing. Our grandmothers did it. Many of our mothers did, too. If suddenly, the idea of homemade jelly on a bagel or warm biscuit sounds divine … embrace it! But if you aren’t feeling that adventurous, that’s okay too. Berries are perfect for eating, on their own. No cooking required. And they are bursting with goodness!

Fresh strawberries are high in water content and low in carbs. They’re also filled with antioxidants. This means that these bright red delights are a safe choice even for diabetics. Strawberries also boast fiber for digestion, vitamins and minerals. And the taste? OMG! Bite into one and let that sweetness roll down your chin!

Blueberries are equally appealing. A serving, or 1 cup, has just 80 calories! These little, blue darlings are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. This promotes tissue growth and wound healing. And they are so incredibly versatile. From breakfast to your evening dessert, there’s endless ways to incorporate them into your diet and meal-planning!

Raspberries offer us an abundance of antioxidants that aid in brain-power, heart health, diabetes prevention, digestion, even some forms of cancer prevention. They provide vitamin C, iron, folic acid and potassium. And their sweet-tart flavor appeals to the taste-buds!

Last, but never least, are the Blackberries! I could write a book on the cobblers that my grandmother made with them — so yummy! The homemade jam, too! But blackberries are so much more than sweet indulgences. These dark, luscious berries are downright impressive, health-wise. They offer vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and manganese. One study even found that blackberry extract has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities! 

If your Chronic illness has encouraged you to try the Paleo Diet, AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Diet, or the DASH Diet, you’ll find that fresh berries are already there. If you are just trying to eat healthier, minus a conformed diet plan, why wait? There are endless ways to enjoy these gems and recipes to explore. It’s time to spring into berries and reap the healthy rewards!

 

Reference:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries

https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/health-benefits-blueberries/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070908001613.htm

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283018

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-blackberries#health-benefits

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

*Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

 

 

A Dose Of Patience …

Have you ever heard the cliche “Patience is a virtue”? My mother, who seldom exercised patience, often said it. Perhaps, as a reminder to herself? She was a busy woman and a healthcare professional. She was driven … focused on results … and eager to see them. My grandmother never uttered the cliche, but she had an abundance of patience. She was a very prolific gardener. I’ve seen her take a sprig from a bush … put it in some water … and nurture it into a large plant. She had the ability to sit back on the porch … watch … wait. And me? I’m somewhere between the two — not as impatient as Mom or as patient as Granny. I have my limits. We all do. Life isn’t perfect. We aren’t perfect. Things can and do get crazy … overwhelming … and stressful. But that’s where patience comes in. It helps us to juggle it all.

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From the psychological standpoint, patience is actually a coping mechanism. When a person uses patience, they aren’t giving up. They are utilizing a constructive method to reach their goals. Impatience comes from an individual’s inability to withstand certain situations or emotions. Did you know that when a person becomes more confident about winning or attaining their goal, they also become more patient? Hmmm.

Biblically, we are taught that patience is a “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). It’s a wondrous thing like joy, love, peace, kindness, goodness, self-control, etc. A true gift. And embracing patience makes life more enjoyable. Imagine that.

We are living in some very stressful times. If you aren’t patient, by nature, there is still hope. Here are ways to train yourself:

  • Understand & Counteract Your Triggers.  What do you think of, or feel, just before you lose it? When you feel this building-up, you can counter it with calming exercises.
  • Increase Your Self ConfidenceImpatience is more likely to appear, when you feel let down or losing control. When you are confident, you will work with the situation as it is, instead of becoming combative.
  • Look For The Positive. Patience is a matter of perspective. Turn a negative into a positive. For example, if the elevator is out-of-order at work … you can get healthy exercise using the stairs.
  • Change Your Attitude. Most people who struggle with patience can’t answer a simple question: Why are you in a hurry? Focus on the task — not the speed that you are doing it. 
  • Release Tension & Stress In A Positive WayThis can be done through exercise, meditation, breathing exercises, etc. Give yourself some “Me Time” for a nap, a leisurely bath, or a good book. It helps tremendously.

 

Last, but not least, love yourself. Instead of being so hard on you, try compassion. Try understanding. You don’t need more stress in your life. None of us do. Chronic stress brings even more problems to the table.  But if you learn to cope, with a dose of patience — that’s the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Link:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201209/the-power-patience

https://www.2knowmyself.com/The_psychology_of_patience

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Galatians+5%3A22-23&version=NIV

How To Be More Patient: 7 Easy Tips

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323324

*Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

 

 

Have You Got A Fever?

Have you got a fever? How many times did you hear those words, when you were growing-up? Like our parents and grandparents, we became adults and say those same words to our kids. But when it’s us … we ignore the signs and keep plodding along. And that’s not the smartest thing to do. If you have a Chronic illness, a fever is even trickier to deal with. Some of these illnesses can cause fevers, i.e. Cancer, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, IBD (Inflammatory Bowel Disease), Hyperthyroidism, etc. When this happens, you are left to wonder if you have caught something, i.e. cold, virus, or if your Chronic illness is flaring up a bit. Time to narrow down the guesswork …

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Most people, including those with a Chronic illness, have an idea of what their usual body temperature is. The average for most is 98.6 F (37 C). But it isn’t unusual for an average temperature to be a bit lower or higher. Mine runs around 97.4. So, if I’m feeling a little feverish and my temperature is 99.4 … I know that my RA is most likely the culprit. I’m usually a little stiff & achy in my joints, too (additional RA symptoms). If my temperature is even higher, then I know that something else is going on. The CDC considers a “fever” to be  100.4°F (38°C) or higher. For the sake of this article and our good health, we will too.

If a baby 3 mos. of age or younger has a fever, don’t hesitate. You should contact a doctor immediately.  Whether you are dealing with children or adults, how you treat the fever depends greatly on how high it is and the discomfort involved. Drink fluids, i.e water, juice, etc. Add a light blanket, if you feel chilled. Anyone from a 6 mo. old baby to a senior, can be given acetaminophen (Tylenol, others) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others). Read the label carefully for proper dosing. And absolutely no aspirin for children or teens. If additional symptoms are present, i.e. a cough, breathing problems, headache, rash, vomiting, etc., contact your doctor. A fever is often the first sign that something is going on in your body like an infection. So, think of it as a warning — a distress signal. Never ignore it and plod on.

For some skeptics, this may sound like over-reacting. But if you have a Chronic illness, it’s part of managing your condition. When you manage it well, it doesn’t manage you. For everyone in this age of COVID-19, it’s just smart to know such things. Learn to listen to your body, if you haven’t done so before. Pay attention to what it’s trying to tell you. Many of you may even be checking your temperature on a regular basis, or it’s being checked as you enter the workplace. That’s okay, too. It’s usually wise to err on the side of caution. Knowledge and awareness are keys to good health. Never be afraid to use them. Stay well, friends. Stay well.

 

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/first-aid/fevers-causes-symptoms-treatments#2

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/fever/symptoms-causes/syc-20352759

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/symptoms.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/first-aid/first-aid-fever/basics/art-20056685

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323819#normal-body-temperature-chart

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html

*Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

April Is Autism Awareness Month

Autism, also known as Autism Spectrum Disorder, is a neurological disorder that effects a child’s development. It is characterized by a difficulty with social interaction and communication, and by restricted and/or repetitive behavior. According to the CDC, it effects approximately 1 in 54 children. That’s over 3M Americans. It’s 4 times more common among boys than girls. And it occurs in all racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic groups. Autism is also a Chronic illness.

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When I was in college, many moons ago, I had a required reading assignment that fascinated me. The book was Dibs: In Search of Self, written by clinical psychologist and author Virginia Axline. I would highly recommend it to anyone. This was possibly the first documentation that opened the door, examined and detailed what a child can accomplish despite setbacks and scorn. And while no two children, with or without Autism, are alike … the book offers an excellent insight into their lives.

The signs of Autism often appear by age two. Each child usually exhibits a unique pattern of behavior as well as a level of severity. Some autistic children have difficulty learning. Others have normal to high levels of intelligence. As they grow, it’s possible for the child to become more socially engaged. He or she may also show fewer disturbances in their behavior. And those with the least severe problems often lead normal lives.

Children and adults with Autism have much to offer the world. If we just take a moment to watch, listen and admire their abilities. They learn differently. They are socially awkward. But we are all different. We all have strengths and weaknesses. Once we as a society embrace that, we are one step closer to understanding Autism. They have the ability to be creative, smart and productive. But they need to be nurtured differently. Consider the following well-known individuals in history who lived with Autism:

  • Hans Christian Andersen – Children’s Author
  • Lewis Carroll – Author of “Alice in Wonderland”
  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist
  • Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple
  • Tim Burton – Movie Director
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Grandmaster
  • Emily Dickinson – Poet
  • Thomas Jefferson – President

Try to imagine the world without their accomplishments. I can’t. 

Autism is not a new health issue. Obviously, it has been around for a while. Yet, misconceptions still exist about the diagnosis and those who live with the condition. We can change that. April is Autism Awareness Month. If you or a loved one has Autism, read the reference links below. Learn more. Most importantly, share the information!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/autism/data.html

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/185394

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/autism-spectrum-disorder/symptoms-causes/syc-20352928

Learning Styles & Autism

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/autism-spectrum-disorders

https://www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism

National Autism Awareness Month

https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/historys-30-most-inspiring-people-on-the-autism-spectrum/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/73860.Dibs_in_Search_of_Self

*Photo by Hal Gatewood on Unsplash

A Furry Kind Of Healing …

Those of us who are pet owners know how wonderful our pets are. We brag on them, dote on them, etc.  Those of us, who are also parents, may even distinguish between our children as “those with fur” and “those without”. Our pets live with us, play with us and travel with us. They comfort — even mourn — with us. They are a member of our family and we love them. But did you know that these adorable pets … with their soulful eyes … precocious personalities … cunning wit … and slobbery kisses … actually have the ability to heal?

 

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The U.S. Dog Registry divides dogs (of any breed) into three categories:

  • Service Dogs help with a function/s for a person with a disability, i.e. Blind, Deaf, PTSD, MS, etc.
  • Emotional Support Dogs help people with emotional problems by providing support and comfort, i.e. Anxiety, Depression and Mood Disorders.
  • Therapy Dogs provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, nursing homes and assisted living centers. They are often sent, in the wake of horrific events, i.e. mass shootings, earthquakes, etc.

But what they all accomplish is that they make a positive impact on the people that they interact with. These pets improve the lives of every human that they touch.

Children with Autism were significantly more engaged, when animal therapy was incorporated into their sessions instead of using the standard approach. The children used more language. They exhibited more social interaction. All positive. All healthful.

Cancer patients have improved from pet therapy, also known as Animal-assisted Therapy or AAT. A session of animal interaction, lasting between 5-15 minutes, provides a welcomed distraction from difficult treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. It brightens their day, lifts their spirits and offers a myriad of benefits overall. In fact, AAT has proven to be so effective time and again for many illnesses that the medical community is embracing the idea more than ever before — regularly including it in patient care.

Seniors, who often live alone, also benefit from owning a pet. A pet can provide mental stimulation, erase loneliness, give them a reason to walk around the block and a companion to do it with. Pet interaction has the ability to lessen, even diminish, overall pain. 

When we are bonding with a pet, whether we have a Chronic illness or not, we are in the company of a dear friend — a confidante. As a result, our blood pressure lowers … muscles relax … stress fades. On the chemical level, a pet decreases cortisol in our blood. It can raise levels of the brain chemical dopamine that makes us feel good. We are happier and more positive. And when we reach out … touching their fur … rubbing their back … talking to them … we experience an increase of immunoglobulin A. That antibody boosts our immune system. Hormones like serotonin, oxytocin and prolactin are released, when we are rubbing that fuzzy belly or rolling a tennis ball across the floor. Our mood is lighter. We’re smiling … laughing … enjoying life.

Have you hugged your pet, today? Have you felt the nuzzle of a cold nose against your cheek? Or was it soft purring? We all should be so lucky. That furry companion, who greets us at the door, is actually good for us!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.prevention.com/health/healthy-living/healing-power-pets

https://www.curetoday.com/community/mike-verano/2015/12/cancer-and-the-healing-power-of-pets

https://www.agingcare.com/articles/benefits-of-elderly-owning-pets-113294.htm

https://www.uclahealth.org/pac/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.psychologytoday.com/therapy-types/animal-assisted-therapy

https://www.oncologynurseadvisor.com/from-cancercare/animal-assisted-therapy-enhances-cancer-care/article/372518/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/in-depth/pet-therapy/art-20046342

* Photo of Whisky Macallan … my fur-baby, friend, joy and solace.