My New Normal – Living With Endometriosis

It takes courage to speak openly about our personal struggles, to invite the world into our private space. But sometimes, those brave words are just what another silent warrior might need; to feel that they are not alone, their experiences are not crazy, they are not just imagining things. They too, matter.

Thank you Julie, for your candidness and willingness to share your story. I hope your New Normal will empower another woman struggling with Endometriosis, to redefine Hers. You are one strong, beautiful, remarkable woman!


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Autism Service Dogs

IMG_7012Hello everyone. I hope Fall is off to a wonderful start for you (quite frankly, I miss summer already).

We are once again delighted to feature an article, written by high school student, Kathleen Carter, a teen living with Asperger’s Syndrome. Today she writes to us about the impact of having an autism support dog on her day to day life with AS. We thank her for allowing us a glimpse into her life and sharing her insight.

A couple of years ago when I was really struggling in middle school, my parents decided to put me on the waiting list with an organization that trains autism service dogs. I was being bullied often, and as a result of the bullying, my self-esteem had plummeted. I no longer liked or wanted to go to school. It had also caused some of my Asperger’s-related symptoms to worsen. For example, when I feel overwhelmed or anxious, I wring my hands. I was wringing them so often at school that when I came home each day my hands ached. The process of getting a dog can be lengthy, but my wait is about to come to an end. I’ll be getting my service dog a couple of weeks after school starts back. While I’ve made a lot of positive changes in my life that have helped me improve my self-esteem, the timing for my dog’s arrival is actually perfect because I’ll get to work with him for a couple of years before it’s time for me to start college, which will be overwhelming, I’m sure! (Photo by Sonja Lovas)

Here are a few reasons why I’m looking forward to working with my autism service dog:

The dog will be a calming presence. As mentioned above,calmDog in a couple of years, it will be time for me to start college. It took me a long time to adjust to being in high school so I worry that being on a college campus will simply be too overwhelming for me. As this article from Canine Journal on psychiatric service dogs notes, trained service dogs can help keep you centered in difficult situations. They “provide a focal point when situations become difficult to cope with.” I think having my dog there with me in college will help me get centered when I start feeling overwhelmed.

He will help me manage repetitive motions. My hand-wringing has been a big source of embarrassment for me over the years. The truth is often I don’t even realize when I’m doing it. But back in middle school, there were a couple of bullies in my class who were always quick to point it out. Of course, that usually only made things worse. While this is a habit that I’ve gotten largely under control, I worry that it might creep back in when I start college. handsAs this article on service dog tasks notes, my dog and other service dogs are actually trained to nudge a child on the autism spectrum when they give in to repetitive behaviors. This nudging helps the child recognize what they’re doing so that they can stop.

He will keep me safe. As this article notes, one reason autism service dogs are so valuable is that they can reduce a child on the runningautism spectrum’s ability to wander. And while wandering isn’t an issue I’ve ever had to deal with, my dog will keep me safe in other ways. For example, he can be my eyes and ears in public situations that I might find overwhelming. When I do feel overwhelmed, it can be difficult for me to figure out what to do to get myself out of the situation. When I’m in reaction mode, I don’t always notice everything in the environment around me. My dog will help calm me down and help lead me through these situations.

He will be a great companion. My service dog will be able to help me in many ways, companionbut one of the most important roles he’ll play is as my companion. Who wouldn’t want to spend their time with a friend who can, as this article from Mental Health Dogs notes, boost self-esteem, improve mood, help in social situations, reduce feelings of loneliness, and so much more!

The wait to get a service dog has been long, but I think he will be well-worth it. While I’ve gotten to spend time with him while he’s been in training, I can’t wait for him to become a more permanent part of my life and a member of my family.


Kathleen Carter enjoys educating her peers and others about AS. Recently, she began writing proudly about how her experiences differ from other people her age. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to write for EducatorLabs.

How Diving In Helped Me Get Over Being Bullied

IMG_6388Hello everyone. I hope you are enjoying the beginning of summer. We have something great to share with you. High school student, Kathleen, reached out to us after taking a look through our awareness-related articles. She wrote to us from Educator Labs where she is volunteering to speak out for Asperger’s Syndrome. Along with her research there, she is also creating an outreach program to share resources to empower others to overcome their obstacles. We felt it was a worthy cause and are delighted to share her story. 


Diving

If you’ve ever been bullied, you know how humiliating it can be. Even though you’ve done nothing wrong, you end up feeling ashamed, inadequate, and isolated.

That’s how it was for me during my freshman year of high school when two factors converged to make me an easy target. First, when I entered high school I was around a lot more people who didn’t know me and who didn’t understand my Asperger’s. They saw someone who wasn’t like them and singled me out.

Second, during the summer leading up to freshman year and during freshman year, I gained several pounds. I had always been prone to a sedentary lifestyle. In fact, this is common among kids with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome and may be a factor that contributes to the high rate of obesity within the population. Because I wasn’t good at playing sports and I didn’t like exercising, I was always much more content reading a book or watching TV. Then, when middle school ended so did my required PE. It had been the only real exercise I was getting each week.

In high school, the kids who weren’t familiar with me thought I was odd. They’d pick on me because of the hand-wringing and clasping motions I often made and because of my weight.

Soon, just as I had begged my parents not to make me participate in PE when I was younger, I would now ask them if I could stay home sick from school. I even tried to convince my mom to start homeschooling me.

After a trip to the doctor revealed that I could now be classified as “overweight,” upon the recommendation of my doctor, my mom began taking me regularly to swim at the local YMCA. I had learned to swim when I was little, and while I liked being in the water, it was never something I had a deep desire to do. But it didn’t take long for all that to change. After those first trips to the YMCA, I fell in love with swimming. I began to feel better physically and mentally, and on really difficult days it gave me something to look forward to. Here are a few of the ways swimming helped me overcome being bullied:

  • It gave me something to achieve. My mom was completely on board with me losing my excess weight, but she didn’t want me to become focused on achieving a certain weight. So, instead I set different goals for my swimming. For example, I’d set a goal to for swimming a certain number of laps without stopping or to beat a previous time. Having swimming helped me focus on something that I really enjoyed instead of lingering on what certain kids at school said about me.
  • It helped reduce repetitive motions. Swimming regularly certainly helped me get back to a healthy weight. But it was another physical change that helped boost my self-esteem. With autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, repetitive motions such as hand flapping, or in my case, hand clasping are common. But as this guide on aquatic therapy explains, exercise can help reduce those motions. I think swimming and getting other exercise helped me relax a little. I was less anxious and therefore needed to comfort myself with those motions less often. And while kids continued to make fun of me for it, I knew that I had been working hard and that my motions were less noticeable. That gave me a much-needed self-esteem boost.
  • It offered me a safe haven. Swimming has many benefits, and they aren’t all physical. In fact, for me, some of the most helpful side effects of swimming more often have been mental. In an article on the many different kinds of benefits of swimming, U.S. Masters Swimming lists a few of the mental benefits.

One, in particular, stands out for me: “Offers relaxation through the repetitive nature of movement.” Once I get in my rhythm many of my worries about school and being bullied drift away. The water has become somewhat of a safe haven for me. A place where I can just be, without worrying about what someone else might say about me. It has played an important role in helping me move past the negative feelings that being bullied caused me to have.

This is my story, but it isn’t necessarily unique. Many kids with Asperger’s Syndrome are made fun of or bullied by their peers. I want them to know that they shouldn’t lose hope. For me the pool has become my refuge. Find a similar place or activity that provides you the kind of comfort I get from swimming. It will help you make huge progress in getting over being bullied.


Kathleen Carter is a teen living with Asperger’s Syndrome. She enjoys educating her peers and others about AS. Recently, she began writing proudly about how her experiences differ from other people her age. She is so grateful to have the opportunity to write for EducatorLabs.

What it means to be Canadian

In a word


Hope, richness, belonging, open. These are a few of the words some naturalized citizens from across Toronto used to describe their feelings about Canada and their citizenship.

To celebrate Canada Day the Star profiled 10 naturalized citizens, representing 10 different countries. Some were refugees; others came as immigrants. Some have been here for decades; others are newly arrived.

But they all share a common love for the freedom Canada has guaranteed them and the security their citizenship has given them. They place great value on their Canadian citizenship and it has deep meaning for them.

Click on the images to hear their answers.

From Pakistan

Aisha Daanish, 42, laughed as she recalled how she missed Canada when she went back to Karachi, Pakistan to visit family and friends only a year after she first arrived.

It was an odd and surprising reaction, she confessed. She had spent most of her life in Pakistan. Yet, here she was back in her native land and all she did was miss Canada.

She chose the word warmth to describe a country that has some of the bitterest winters on the planet. But it isn’t the temperature that she’s referring to, but rather the warmth in people’s hearts.

In Pakistan, Daanish, a kindergarten teaching assistant in a private faith-based school in Mississauga, realized it was that warmth she was missing; craving. Even the tiniest gestures of friendship, such as a neighbor advising her and her children to dress warm on a crisp fall day, made her feel she was part of the fabric of the country.

“That really touched me because that’s what Grandmas used to do in my country of origin,” she said, explaining she doesn’t feel she can call Pakistan her home anymore. “This is home now so there has to be another word other than back home.”


From Sri Lanka

Tolerance is the word Keren Stephen chose to represent her feelings about Canada.

“We are mindful,” she said of Canadians. “There is a reluctance to succeed at any cost here. And I guess the whole culture is one of tolerance and including people.

“I like Canada. I like its values. It’s amazing the amount of volunteerism that goes on here.”

The 50-year-old chartered global management accountant came to Canada in 2009 along with her brother, his wife and two nieces from Sri Lanka. They left because of the violence.

“Being in a war area there’s so much activity,” she said. “There’s so much negative. Even if you’re not personally suffering, you hear about others suffering. I was affected, but not directly. You’re living in a war. There is fear, risks.”

After travelling the world for business, she settled on Canada after ruling out the United Kingdom and Australia. “I had heard good things about Canada…One of the key things is values…Canada is a very inclusive country. I wanted to form my home base here.”

She got her Canadian citizenship in November, 2013. And it was momentous. “It was the final signing off,” she explained. “That’s it. You’re there now. You’re a citizen and have obligations. It also gave me the feeling that I can really behave like a citizen…I can call myself a Canadian.”

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Childhood Thieves – The Residential School System

Imagine!

A frightened child sits beside you, her hand clasped tightly in yours. Silent tears stream down her face, clouding her otherwise golden brown eyes with a pool of grey. She is voiceless. Despite her heartbreaking pleas, you cannot help her. She must go.

Sitting on the damp bench, you wrap your arm around her quivering body and wince as you look at her grief-stricken face – the same sweet face that treenourished your soul for the past six years. Images of her inundate your mind, cascading from one scene to another. The day she was born was your happiest ever. You planted a tree in her honour that year. Will it continue to grow in her absence? You recall how easy it was to soothe her then. You’d hold her in your arms and sing sweet lullabies, the very ones your mother once sang to you. But who will comfort her now when she’s lonely and scared? Will they care for her when she is unhappy or sick? What if she’s hurt? What if she’s hungry? You panic. You try to restrain the fear that is taking over.

You close your eyes and pray. Please take care of my baby. Oh hush, you mustn’t let her see you cry, or she will surely realize your comforting words were nothing but lies.

70b141c03a68de3794d94b7c1ce75c2fIt will not be alright when they tell her she must abandon her birth name. It will not be alright when they cut off her braids. It will not be alright when she feels homesick and is denied her brother’s embrace. It will not be alright when she wonders why you cannot be there on her birthday or why she has to miss grandpa’s 70th. Time will surely not fly. But you do and say what you must, for the choice is not yours.

The cruel rain continues. They will come for her and you must let her go. You gave birth to her but somehow you do not know what is best for her. You raised her, nourished her, taught her, but she is not yours.

A van emerges from around the hills, slowly making its way up the road. She squeezes your hand, a final plea. Ihandn just a few moments the scent of your hands will be all she has left of you.

“Please Mommy, I don’t want to go”.

A kiss, a hug and a swift smell of her hair, your heart is in pieces, yet you pry her hands out of yours. You try to sound sensible when you know nothing you say or do will ever be so.

“I will see you in the summer, my sweet rose,” agony overwhelms you as you watch her climb aboard, sobbing and confused. Why is mommy letting this happen? What did I do wrong? Doesn’t she love me anymore?

Untitled-1You are numb. You wave when all you want to do is shout at the world. That is my baby disappearing into the thick mist.

You continue to stare long after the van disappears behind the hills. Surely this must be a horrible dream, a nightmare.

You look around. All is still. You pick up the discarded doll and hold it close to your body. You weep for the child they thieved from your home.

Imagine!

Lora Rozler


It was a few months ago that my friend and colleague, Michele Parkin, enlightened me with one of her picture books, Shin-Chi’s Canoe by Nicola Campbell. I had reached out to her a few days prior when I sought an Ojibway translation for a picture book I was working on at the time. As always, she was more than happy to help and the discussion that ensued left me wanting to learn more about the Aboriginal people’s struggles. Knowing my passion for children’s literature, Michele kindly offered her book.

I brought the book home with me the same day and as I read it, a sense of rage began to build. My children happened to be playing in a nearby room and and all I remember feeling is deep sadness for those families whose children were taken away from them, stolen from their home, their culture, their life. There was something about the the way the story was told that touched me deeply. As a mother, the thought of having to endure something so horrific is beyond comprehension. 

I’d like to share an article I read online, written by Erin Hanson, a researcher at The University of British Columbia. It beautifully articulates and captures the effects of the Residential school experience on the Indigenous people. You can visit the article by clicking the image below: Continue reading