Why We Sleep: Review

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Recently, I read a fascinating book, Why We Sleep. I am one of those people who really try to get 8 ½ – 9 hours of sleep a night. I simply feel so much better when I’m well rested. After I read Why We Sleep, I now know that my sleep schedule is critical to my physical and mental health. I want to share a few intriguing facts that I learned while reading the book, although I do encourage you to pick a copy up for yourself – it is a great read!

 

  • Routinely sleeping less than 6-7 hours a night demolishes your immune system
  • Insufficient sleep is a key lifestyle factor that determines whether or not you will develop Alzheimer’s
  • Every major organ within the body, or process within the brain, is optimally enhanced by sleep
  • Sleep deprivation impacts the DNA and learning-related genes in the brain
  • Individuals with autism show a 30-50% deficit in the amount of REM sleep they obtain, relative to children without autism. There is interest in discovering whether or not the REM sleep deficiency is a contributing factor to autism.
  • There is a definite link between sleep deficiency and ADHD: the symptoms of ADHD are nearly identical to those caused by lack of sleep.
  • The World Health Organization has now declared a sleep loss epidemic throughout industrialized nations.

 

Ryan has always struggled with sleep, often tossing and turning throughout the night.

 

sleepAfter reading this book, I believe that some of his lack of focus, inattentiveness, and increase in anxiety and repetitive behaviors may in fact be, in part, due to a poor night’s sleep. I recently purchased Ryan a “Queen size” bed and he seems to be sleeping better. Whether incidental or not, it does seem correlated to better focus and job performance! This book has helped me understand some of the “scientific” reasons for his behaviors. We are working on some new ways to promote better sleeping habits – I’ll keep you in the loop as we move further down that road!

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Where Does the Time Go?!

Ryan Bday Collage 2017Oh my goodness! Ryan turns 24 tomorrow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes, this is difficult for me to truly believe and accept  — 24 years have passed since he came home from the hospital!

I still remember it like it was yesterday… We were living in North East and, of course, we were in the midst of a snow storm.

I recall turning up the heat to make sure that his bedroom was warm.  My brother, Joe, who lived next door came by and said that the house felt like a steam room. I turned the heat down, needless to say!

Jeanne and Dianne came out to assist with his first bath. Dianne, the oldest in her family of 12, had lots of experience with bathing babies.  So I entreated her to help – everything was so new to me! We even did a video of “Ryan’s first bath” which I still have today.

In a blink of an eye, the next 23 years have passed. There have been peaks and valleys in this journey but I am truly proud of Ryan’s many successes. He has had a GREAT 2017!

Between working at Bello’s and BNI, exercising at LECOM, skiing at Holiday Valley in the winters and golfing at Kahkwa in the summers, I am trying to keep up with him!

As I look back over the years, I know that I have so much to be grateful for: family, friends, outstanding staff, and the Erie community that welcomes children with disabilities.

And the future???? My expectations continue to be high and who knows what the future will bring.  He has accomplished much more than even I would have dreamed!

I continue to believe that nothing is impossible and as Audrey Hepburn so simply said, “the word itself says I’m possible!”

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Thanksgiving… all year ’round!

Tgratitude2hanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays; no, not because of the turkey and stuffing! This holiday provides the opportunity to do some soul-searching and reflect upon what I’m grateful for. Moreover, this special time of year, when people go out of their way to be a little bit kinder and warmer, is a rejuvenating reminder of what we are grateful for all year long.

This year, I focused on how grateful I am for:

  • A supportive family, through the ups and downs of life
  • Ryan, who has helped me to grow in so many ways and has taught me to look at my glass as always “half full” and never “half empty”
  • Good health that allows me to keep up with my 23 year old son!
  • The creative, committed, enthusiastic, loyal staff members who work with our children, adults, and their families
  • An organization that is always striving to improve the lives of children and adults with disabilities through the latest technology, research, programming, and training
  • The children and adults themselves, who remind me every day that life is precious

Whether with a gratitude journal or in daily meditations, pausing to give thanks for even the smallest things on a regular basis can have a big impact in your mental health and overall happiness. I’ve started my gratitude journal for the year and I can’t wait to see where it takes me!

start-each-day-grateful-heart

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Happy Thanksgiving

As I looked for a quote to share today, I was overwhelmed by choices and thought: why choose only one? I hope you have a wonderful holiday!

 

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Tips for a Stress-Free Thanksgiving!

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With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I was thinking about some of the tips that I’ve learned over the years to make the holiday a pleasant one for you, your child, and your family!

 

 

  • As you plan your holiday meal, be sure to include items that you know your child enjoys. Perhaps that means even a special side just for him/her.
  • Keep appetizers either under cover or not readily available. Ryan has his favorite appetizers and, if given the opportunity, will dine on those versus waiting for dinner.
  • Keep the dinner short and sweet! Your child will likely not be able to sit at the table for an extended period of time.
  • Consider a visual schedule to encourage your child to eat slowly. This is one I always used with Ryan, and today I encourage him to put his fork down after each bite and count to ten!
  • Allow your child time to be in a quiet space prior to dinner; he or she may want to watch a movie on the iPad, play with a favorite toy, or, as Ryan says, “Do preferred activities!”
  • Catch your child being “good.” I constantly reinforce Ryan for utilizing manners, eating slowly, and engaging in conversation with guests.
  • If your child does exhibit behavioral challenges, prepare your guests. Let them know how you handle disruptions and encourage them to follow your lead.
  • Create a social story for the day. Autism Speaks has a great social story available for download here.

We have a very low key Thanksgiving: we spend the morning at LECOM, and in the afternoon we decorate for Christmas. A local restaurant provides take-out, which takes away the stress of the day and allows me to truly enjoy the holiday!

Happy Thanksgiving to all!thankful.jpg

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The Good Doctor & Autism

Since its premiere in September, I have often been asked the question: “What do you think of the TV show, ‘The Good Doctor?’”gooddoc

If you don’t watch much television, “the Good Doctor” is about a surgical resident with autism who balances medical brilliance with interpersonal challenges. More popular than the TV hits “NICS” and “This Is Us,” “the Good Doctor” has 17.5 million total viewers every episode – that’s a lot of people!

Answering the question of what I think about the show is a tricky one. As I always say, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism. That is to say, each person with autism has his or her unique strengths and challenges. As autism is a spectrum disorder, we have many individuals who struggle with intellectual limitations, social interactions, and repetitive behaviors; and yet, we have individuals, like character Dr. Shaun Murphey, who are highly skilled, even brilliant, and would be considered on the “savant” end of the spectrum.

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I’m pleased to see that a character with a disability has been accepted into mainstream television; however, my concern is that, although entertaining, the Good Doctor might lead the general public to believe that all persons with autism look and act like Dr. Murphey. And if that is the case, why should persons with autism require funding for supports and services? Dr. Murphy obviously does not require these services. However, for many persons with autism, they are essential.

Looking forward, I hope that we begin seeing characters on TV and in movies who reflect the wide range of abilities and characteristics of those with autism. Perhaps Dr. Murphey could treat a patient with moderate to severe autism; wouldn’t that be interesting?

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#WorldKindnessDay

As we anticipate World Kindness Day on Monday, November 13th, I began thinking…

kind2Initiated in 1997, this is a day set aside to focus on extending kindly acts towards others, without the expectation of anything in return. While it would be nice to say that every day should be World Kindness Day, the reality is that sometimes work, current events, and other personal challenges can get the best of us. Not to mention that as soon as we open the newspaper or turn on the television, we are confronted with everything from violence in the world to political debates that sometimes focus on the negative. We could certainly use an entire day dedicated to kindness!

Kindness Day isn’t only about volunteering in the community – it can also about the little gestures, expressions, and even thoughts of kindness, too.

Whether it is buying a coffee for a stranger in line or letting go of resentment, the mental and physical benefits of kindness, including healthier hearts, better aging, and improved relationships, should make us want to smile more and frown less. Not to mention, kindness is contagious!

Focusing on and noticing the good qualities in the world around us gives our moods a boost all by itself. And studies show that compliments amplify positivity; they not only deliver positive effects to others, but those effects bounce back on the person giving the compliment.kind

Since Ryan was a young child, I have tried to instill in him the importance of compliments and being kind to others. Sometimes, he goes overboard and will repeatedly thank you for helping him or doing something for him, but all in all I would rather he say it too many times than not enough.

I love hearing his compliment to me: “You’re the best mom ever!” Nothing brightens my day more!

If you are looking for some creative ways to be kind out in the community, Pinterest has a number of “Kindness Challenge” calendars that provide a wealth of ideas. Feel free to share any of your ideas or ways you plan to acknowledge World Kindness Day below!

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