Apr 15

Shortest. Spring. Ever.

The weather here the past few days has been amazing.  The long overdue warm temperatures have finally arrived!  We were wearing shorts and t-shirts on the weekend and the kids were back to playing outside.  BBQ’s were clearly back in use as the stores were having a hard time keeping anything on the shelves that had anything to do with BBQ season!  We even set up the patio furniture and enjoyed a cold beer on the deck… just enjoying life.  Spring had sprung… FINALLY!  The snow was gone, after what had been recorded as one of the hardest winters we have seen in 30+ years!

And then…..this?!?!

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This is what we woke up to this morning, April 15, 2014.  Seriously?!?!  Mother Nature, you have GOT to be kidding!  I guess the months of shovelling… and then just when you were done…. shovelling again, wasn’t enough!?!  Getting stuck in the snow in -40C wind chills.  Clearly, that wasn’t enough either??!   CC, who actually loves the snow, gives credit to this little ‘storm’ to the Pokemon Articuno, who according to him is the reason we get snow.  I knew there was a reason I cringed when I heard CC yell this morning, ‘Yay! Articuno is back!!!‘  Well, let me be nice here Articuno… go home!!!  *sigh*

Only in Canada can we get sunburn and then frostbite in the same week!!

Shortest.  Spring.  Ever!!!

Time to shovel… again!

Mar 28

Autism Rates On The Rise: 1 in 68 Children

Well, the news is out… the CDC has announced that 1 in 68 children are now diagnosed on the autism spectrum.  I expected the numbers to increase but this is quite a jump from the statistics two year ago of 1 in 88… or going back to the 1970′s where autism affected 1 in every 10,000 children.  See the numbers for yourself… are you scared yet?  Now, don’t get me wrong when I say that.  The point is, a 30% increase over two years?!?!  Where are we going to be in 10 years if nothing changes? That is what I find scary!!

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In our family, despite a few challenges that CC has, he is a funny, smart, loving young man, that has the determination that pretty much matches mine.  CC loves Lego, video games, Pokemon, animals, superheroes… oh, and in honour of his buddy Peter, I can’t forget snakes – as I know he would love to be sitting in a pit of non-venomous snakes right now.  He loves to talk!  I swear, he came out talking… and hasn’t stopped!  His mind never stops and when he allows himself to be creative, he amazes me continuously.  At the age of 9, one of his favourite activities is writing stories.  I couldn’t be more proud!  Yes, my son has autism… but the spectrum is incredibly broad and every individual on the spectrum is affected differently.  Some people will think very differently than I do when I say that CC’s autism is a big part of who he is today. We encourage him to embrace his unique traits and celebrate them (as all individuals should)… rather than be discouraged by them.  Not everyone will feel the same way, and that is OK!

But setting all that aside, I have found myself thinking about the latest statistics a great deal over the past day… 1 in 68 children!!  Are we getting better at diagnosing autism?  Is this the reason that the numbers keep increasing?  I don’t think so!  I don’t think I ever believed that theory. The numbers are on the rise and we seem no further ahead as to figuring out why?

Resources for families that need them are difficult to access and expensive.  Education is failing so many of our children on a daily basis.  I have many friends that have had to switch to homeschooling out of necessity… as we did three years ago.  I think about adults that are on the spectrum and the challenges that many can face finding jobs or even housing.

images (3)April is Autism Awareness Month… or as many like to call it, Autism Acceptance Month.  Awareness is the first step, in my opinion, to gaining acceptance, so whichever you choose, I’m right there with you!  I just hope that with these latest statistics, that everyone starts looking at this with the reality of what it is… an epidemic!   Six years ago now, I accepted the reality that I would be in this fight… the fight for acceptance… until I can’t fight anymore.  I look forward to the day that CC will be standing along beside me, advocating and educating for himself.

Frustrated and a little tired, thinking that even with the incredibly high statistics that we still have to fight as hard as we do for what our children and loved ones deserve… respect, dignity and understanding… but I am not giving up.  I welcome Autism Awareness Month and look forward to World Autism Awareness Day as we will be raising awareness and participating in events wherever we are on April 2nd… but the reality is we do these things as part of every day life.

Here are a few Autism facts from the National Autism Association:

What is Autism?

Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before the age of 3.

Autism impacts the normal development of the brain in the areas of social interaction, communication skills, and cognitive function. Individuals with autism typically have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions, and leisure or play activities.

Individuals with autism often suffer from numerous co-morbid medical conditions which may include: allergies, asthma, epilepsy, digestive disorders, persistent viral infections, feeding disorders, sensory integration dysfunction, sleeping disorders, and more.

Autism is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. Its prevalence is not affected by race, region, or socio-economic status. Since autism was first diagnosed in the U.S. the incidence has climbed to an alarming one in 88 children in the U.S.

Autism itself does not affect life expectancy, however research has shown that the mortality risk among individuals with autism is twice as high as the general population, in large part due to drowning and other accidents.

Currently there is no cure for autism, though with early intervention and treatment, the diverse symptoms related to autism can be greatly improved and in some cases completely overcome.

1 in 68 children have autism… my son is one of them… and I couldn’t be more proud of who he is!

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Until next time…

Mar 25

Move Over Flary… Ollie The Service Dog Is Back!

321491_10151385324210877_1987317681_nWe had a bit of a mini-life changing moment in our house yesterday in the middle of a rather challenging math lesson on fractions.  By the way, have I ever mentioned that I hate math!! LOL  So, I’m not sure who the lesson was becoming more stressful for, my son, or me!  Once emotions calmed down a little bit… and after we completed the nightmare of fractions that laid in front of my son… he (who from here on out would like me to be referring to him as ‘CC’) looked at me… growled with a sideways grin, as he does when he is frustrated, and says… ‘I want to start using Ollie again and then maybe I would stop carrying Flary with me everywhere!

If you had seen me at that moment… I just about fell off the couch!!  Let me explain why.  You see, Ollie, who is his autism service dog, has pretty much taken up the role of more of a therapy dog or companion dog over the past year and a half.  Once we removed CC from the school system, Ollie’s role changed.  It wasn’t one that we planned… or expected… it just kind of happened.  Ollie is a great dog and does an amazing ‘job’ helping Connor at home, but that’s pretty much where it stayed… until now.  But if it means that CC will stop taking Flary everywhere… Ollie, your days of lazily lounging around the house are gone!  I must say, Ollie loves to work. He prefers to be with us rather than not.  So I know he will jump right back into his role without too many challenges at all.

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Now, have I told you about Flary? Oh dear… where do I start? Flary is CC’s favourite thing in the world outside of Ollie. I might just squeak in above Flary here and there, but those are on rare occasions! Flary is CC’s stuffed Pokemon and ‘she‘ (please note the importance of this fact… Flary is a SHE!  If you forget this fact, CC will be sure to remind you!!) means the same to CC, as he means to me. Yes, this is how he explains their relationship to me!  Flary has… well… become a fixture in our lives and what started as something small has grown considerably. Traditionally Flary is attached to CC 24/7.  I dont generally mind too much, except for the fact I have added having to ‘bath’ her more often than I bath the dogs!  Seriously though, I have tried to have conversations with CC regarding Flary… leaving her home once in a while… cause ‘boy she must be tired!!‘… but its a tough road.  The dependency is huge as Flary has, clearly, taken the place of Ollie when he isn’t with us.  Ollie and Flary help CC through his anxiety… which at times can be extreme.  However, sometimes Flary can interfere with our everyday lives.  I remember last year when we were planning a trip, I took him to the airport to give him some idea of what would happen at the airport, including with security.  That was interesting, as he just about went through the roof when he found out that he was going to have to allow Flary to go through security at the airport without him!!!  He basically told the airport security they were nuts if they thought he was going to allow that to happen!!  Since they really don’t seem too have much of a sense of humour, as they flat out told him that he wouldn’t be able to get on the plane without doing that (yikes!), I quickly ended the conversation before it got out of control!

So, as CC tells me that he is thinking about utilizing Ollie again… and relying less on Flary… I was thrilled… and shocked!!

Now, Ollie… your days will no longer consist of laying in the sun, snuggled up with your sister Jorga and apparently our other dogs, Carolina and Snowball – now that’s a story for another day!  Time to dust of the ‘service dog’ vest and get you back to work my furry friend.  It’s funny, these dogs are amazing.  To be able to go in and out of the service dog/companion dog role at the drop of a hat… I am thankful that we have Ollie in our lives.  He loves to work, but, when the vest comes off at home, he loves to play… and there is no one that he loves to play with more, than his boy… CC!

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Feb 03

The Locust Effect: Book Review… Taking A Stand Against Violence

NOTE: This post may contain some content that isn’t necessarily appropriate for little eyes.

Imagine living in a world where your daily reality includes being at risk of extreme forms of violence and you and your family really have no protection from this violence. In fact, making matters worse, those that should be protecting you from violence were actually a very big part of the problem.  I don’t know about you, but this is a world that I wouldn’t want to live in.  A world that I wish I could say didn’t exist… but the reality is, it does.  For millions of people around the world, this is not something they need to ‘imagine’, because this is their ‘reality’!

bookAngle-GalleryPageLet me introduce you to the book The Locust Effect

The Locust Effect is a challenging read for the fact that it discusses ‘life’ in a way that many, including myself, can’t even begin to imagine. However, with that being said, it is a book that everyone should read, as its focus – global violence against the poor – is a very real part of our world.  The poor that live in developing countries, like all other human beings, deserve the right to feel safe… they deserve the right to be protected from violence in all forms.

The authors, Gary Haugen and Victor Boutros, share their insights as to the reason why there are 2.5 billion people in this world that, according to a report from the United Nations, “do not live under the shelter of the law, but far from the law’s protection“.  Haugen and Boutros share that the reason this is happening is due to the lack of a working public justice system.  Without a working justice system, there are no deterrents; there is no protection against things like sexual assault, human trafficking, abusive police, theft, property grabbing and illegal imprisonment.  Humanitarian efforts to assist developing countries in areas such as providing food, shelter and clean water, supplying an education along with medical aid, as well as other efforts are important to note, but none of this assistance has helped with what the real problem is, and that is violence.

Sexual violence in the developing world is an epidemic.  The cruel reality is that it not only affects those in developing countries, but it is one of the most common forms of violence facing the poor.  As hard as it is to acknowledge, we live in a world where rape and sexual molestation is big business.  It’s a business where, for those that are traffickers, there is a lot of money to be made at the expense of women and children, most commonly girls, but boys are affected as well.  According to Haugen and Boutros, “There are between 4.2 million and 11.6 million people held in forced commercial sexual exploitation – people who are compelled by force and coercion to endure sexual acts that customers pay for“.

And yet we see more horrendous acts of violence against the poor, through forced labour.  Forced labour, yet another form of human trafficking, is completely driven by greed and money.  Labourers are controlled through threats, and more often extreme violence, at the hands of traffickers and sometimes even those that are supposed to be protecting people in society… such as law enforcement.  As I read The Locust Effect and learned about how a failed justice system doesn’t help the poor in developing countries, it certainly became very clear that the flipside to that is that the failing justice system benefits those with money that are involved in what would be considered, to you and I, illegal activities.  If the justice system was ‘working’ and requiring accountability, we would start to see the consequences providing deterrents with then a hopeful decline in these atrocities… or better yet, the ability to stop them all together.  But sadly, this is not the way that things are in the developing countries.  With that being said, and this is important, in order to bring about change we must start somewhere and this is why I believe that Haugen and Boutros are sharing this information that we all need to hear.  This information that is shared in The Locust Effect needs to reach government levels as well as be understood by those of us that make up every day society.  We all need to be aware of what we can do to create change.  This is how it starts.

We can look at another area where the justice system fails miserably for those that live among the global poor… illegal imprisonment.  As an example, imagine walking to work one day and being stopped by the police, arrested (without cause), and then detained as part of ‘pre-trial detention’.  The poor are at serious risk of being arrested under false accusations and then being held without cause for months or even years in detention centres while awaiting a hearing.  If you or I were arrested today, and there were no grounds or just cause, we would be released in a matter of hours… but this is just not the case in developing countries.  “In any given year there are about 10 million people held in pre-trial detention in the world’s prisons and jails.  In many of the poorest countries, over three quarters of the prisoners are in pre-trial detention.”  The detention centres are a place of disease, filth and violence. Haugen shares:

My IJM colleagues and I have been in many pre-trial detention facilities where detainees were so overcrowded that they had nowhere to lay down, had to sit in each other’s laps ‘egg-carton’ style, and had to take turns sleeping to allow some to lay down.  In many circumstances, the food and water you get depends on what your family or friends can deliver and what your fellow detainees will allow you to keep or share.

Rather than law enforcement and the justice system actually helping to end violence by providing a solution, the hard truth is that they are actually adding to the problem… and this is “precisely what the poor have been trying to tell the world about law enforcement in their communities:  It is making things worse.

Given that there are at least 2.5 billion very poor people in the world, any condition that affects ‘most poor people’ affects a lot of people. And if the condition affecting most of those 2.5 billion people is that they are outside the protection of law, then a lot of people are in big trouble… and a depth of trouble that the rest of us can scarcely imagine.  To put it simply: They are not safe.  They are – by the hundreds of millions – threatened every day with being enslaved, imprisoned, beaten, raped and robbed.

We can no longer close our eyes to the problem and pretend that these things are not happening, because they are!

What can YOU do to help?

1. Raising Awareness – As with any kind of an outreach efforts, awareness is the key.  The more others are aware of the issues, the more understanding there is and this leads to change.  So, in essence, you can encourage others to learn about the issues by buying/reading The Locust Effect and visiting the website.  During launch week (February 3rd – 8th), a generous friend of International Justice Mission will donate $20 for every copy of The Locust Effect sold, up to $40,000 or 2,000 copies. This would fund 8 rescue operations and rescue hundreds!

2. Spread the word – As part of any awareness program, we need to spread the word.  Tell your family, your friends, share on social media sites… tell everyone!  The global conversation about violence needs your voice.

3. Tell world leaders – Ask the world’s leaders to make this issue of global violence a priority. You can start by signing the petition to the UN.

4. Donate – If you should so chose, you can contribute to help stop violence by donating to IJM’s life changing work.

I think it is also important to note that all author royalties from the sales of The Locust Effect will be going directly toward the fight against violence… so buy your copy today!

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On a final note, have you ever wondered whether or not a video can change lives?  In this case, for the billions of people that live in extreme poverty?  Take three short minutes out of your day and watch this amazing video, titled, ‘EVERYDAY’… it’s certainly going to be the start of making a difference!

 

 

How would I rate The Locust Effect?  That’s simple… clearly FIVE STARS from me!

Become a part of the global conversation about poverty… it’s time!

To learn more about the International Justice Mission and their incredible work, please visit their official website or follow them on Twitter.

Until next time…

Disclosure: We received one or more product(s) at no charge in an exchange for a review.  However, receipt of the product is solely for the purpose of the review and does not influence our opinions.  All thoughts, opinions and beliefs are those of the author and are not influenced by receipt of the product. 

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