It’s not all roses being a mentally disabled homeowner (Update 3)

It’s a week of Updates.

On Monday we talked literacy and the youngest boy.

Tuesday I mentioned an obsession that’s kept me busy of late.

Now its Wednesday, and I want to share a few things.

One is, a new website to share my stuff, and to hopefully become better organized.

I’ll still be blogging here and primarily using that site to link up to other things.

Previous updates have been fairly happy ones.

Today is going to be mostly sucky so if you’re the sort who finds bad news awkward, slink away now. I won’t think anything less (or ever expect more) of you.

In April, I turned 40, a milestone many dread. Thing is, I was looking forward to it. I really was, until late March came and things fell apart.

One significant problem I have is anxiety, and a feeling overwhelm that occurs when major decisions, or problems arise. I often feel stuck.  I don’t know what to do.My porch roof had been leaking for some time. It took me a very long time to get money together to fix it, then after I had, a problem arose.

Who do I trust to help fix my porch?  The list of names was so overwhelming. Every possible nightmare scenario filled my mind, leaving me STUCK. Two months passed. Someone tried breaking into my house, and a very nice neighbor gave me a lead pipe should I need to defend myself. (like clue, it was Amanda, in the drawing room, with a lead pipe) I asked her about a contractor who could possibly help me.  I called and a week later he called back. A week after that he came over and talked about the repairs. He said he could do it around February once the weather improved. February came and went with no return of my calls and once again I was stuck.

March came and was on its way out when the city served me with a housing violation and a threat of one grand a day fines and jail if I couldn’t pay, plus auctioning my house. Our only home. Over a porch. They gave me three weeks to fix it, though actually four, the notice was a week old when I received it. So I started calling random numbers and the guy who answered/bothered to come out, and make an offer, got the work. Running around and around with the city of Baltimore I finally got everything done and inspected, only to not hear any news on whether it was adequate. The work came to five grand. I had to dip into money designated for the youngest sons medical expenses. (its very tricky meeting income/asset requirements for the boys’ assistance, I’m only allowed to have so much, I still wondering whether I’ll be penalized for doing so)

Meanwhile, a second city agency sent me a notice of lien on my property to be auctioned in early May, because I hadn’t been paying my rental registration fees for several years. This home is not a rental, it is a single family property. The previous owner (now dead) had been renting it out. The fee charges for renewal had been mailed to him for years and though I had no idea of it, I was responsible to somehow know to change it. Once the state contacted that city agency to update my residency status, they took off the fees for this year, but said they couldn’t take any off retroactively, so once again I had to pay if I didn’t want to lose my home.

I had to borrow money to do that, because with the porch repairs my savings had gone (and i’d even had to put off utility bills/go a few days on rice while the children visited their father…)

Then in June my homeowners insurance company decided that even though I’d been with them 20 years, the bad porch made me a liability, and so cancelled my homeowners (no prior notice) It took me a few weeks of phone calls and pictures and inspections to get it back on again.

All of this is because I felt too damn anxious to deal with it earlier. Trust me the city doesn’t give a rats ass if I’m mentally disabled. I’m either supposed to get over it, or not be home owner. It’s assumed if  can manage some aspects of my life, I should have no problems in others. I realize I’m very lucky in many respects, btw.

Lately, my roof has been leaking, and the porch roof has begun again, and I feel very overwhelmed with that. When it rains I go outside and sweep the puddles off.  I stick towels under the dripping ceiling. I wait for the next problem.

Things are looking up in terms of steady work, and life seems to be improving, but things are far from ok.

It makes me NOT a very motivated blogger.

Some people have been really supportive, others, well, sometimes I overestimate/ value people I call friends.

Yet, I’m trying.

There is no giving up.




This Autistic Adult’s “Special” interest (update 2)

Afternoon twitter minions, followers, and random people wandering in!

It’s a week of updates.

Yesterday I talked about the awesomeness of literacy.

Today lets talk about autistic “special” interests, also sometimes called obsessions and described in the DSM 5 as being “Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus.”

Personally, I don’t think we should be too  quick to pathologize a person’s interests, nevermind  their diagnosis.  It seems to me that whether or not society finds them acceptable determines whether or not they are considered restricted or abnormal. As society changes and as some fairly intensive obsessions become more mainstream, it makes the designation even more subjective.


 (screen cap of news  of two people on an escalator dressed in full-body my little pony costumes, text reads “Bronycon in Baltimore this Weekend, Largest convention for my little pony fans”)

Never the less, I do have some fairly intense interests.

One of my interests, designated restrictive and intensive by my evaluator, is Sherlock Holmes.

(original stories, film and television adaptations, pastiche, and fan fiction… all of it and yes I’ve read the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night time))

adjusting deerstalker

(Basil of Baker Street Adjusts His Deer Stalker)

Sherlock has been keeping me busy.

I am close to being welcomed as a member of the scion society in Annapolis, which meets on one Sunday every other month.

On May 13th I had the opportunity to present at an annual symposium of Baker Street Irregular Scion societies held here in Maryland.

My talk was called “Diagnosing Sherlock: Media, Culture, and Mental Health” and touched on the current desire to label Sherlock Holmes with a mental disorder, ableism, stereotype/trope in recent adaptations, and also whether anything was ever intended. The talk was based on a 13 page paper I wrote, and still have yet to clean up a bit before I submit it for publication.

I think it went well, even though I was terrified.

This tweet made me feel pretty good.


tweet reads ‘Fantastic, funny, and astute talk by Amanda Mills on “Diagnosing Sherlock”

Eventually I’ll get around of making an online version of the talk for those interested.

I am possibly also going to be talking on a panel at a upcoming convention, its a bit unclear at this point.

Preparing, stressing, and obsessing over all of that has taken up time.  Going to the symposium left me happy but pretty drained.

One thing that happened there was that people kept asking for contact info and I had nothing to give, nor any website that would give one a clear idea on what it is I do exactly.  I love this little blog here, but it can get rather random, and finding my better stuff isn’t easy.

My plan to fix that, will be the subject of my update tomorrow.





Cracking the Code – Autism and Literacy (update one)


I’m a bad, bad blogger of late.

I’m not going to apologize.


I’ve just been extra busy and its cutting into my blogging time.


Shakespeare and a computer, to blog or not to blog

What I am going to do, is explain a bit why, via updates I’ve been promising for who knows how long now.

Let’s do an update, one day at a time this week.

There really is that much to fill you in on.

For starters, my youngest son (premature, learning disability, pdd-nos diagnosis) has reached a milestone that has me doing backflips.

Well, not really.

I am not and have never been capable of backflips.

Inwardly though, you bet I am.

Mental happy backflips, whooping and dances have been occurring.


snoopy dance

The youngest boy will be nine in September. He began special ed on his third birthday and was in school from then until seven and a half years old. Every year they covered literacy skills, and yet when I pulled him he couldn’t remember the names of the letters with any consistency nor any sounds. He memorized sight words long enough to test and then quickly forgot them. We spent then until recently learning the names and more importantly sounds of the letters.

He traced sandpaper letters.

He wrote in sand.

He practiced with the moveable alphabet.

He used Montessori “pink series” activities.

The little dude has been working very hard, and feeling frustrated.

He often forgot the sounds and had extreme difficulty blending the sounds to form the words.

This past month,

THE boy has cracked the code.


We’ve been busy with lessons Monday-Thursday. In the last month he has begun to read and is advancing rather quickly in skills.

So yes, inward happy backflips are happening.

This goes beyond the  obvious wonderfulness of literacy.

There is nothing


more important that means to express oneself.

Learning a mode of communication beyond speech is ESSENTIAL.

It’s more important than how one gets along with peers.

It’s MORE important than social skills.

It’s EVEN MORE important than speech in my opinion.

It ticks me off when so called professionals make speech such a priority that alternative methods are not taught. It makes me livid to see it NOT a priority with non or low verbal students.

Yet even with talking kids,

No matter how hard you work on it,

even if language skills are strong,

chances are there a times when the words just leave

and a BACKUP way to express wants and needs is NECESSARY.

The written word is the most expressive of visual methods of communication.

And my guy…

is finally getting it.




The Chameleons: women with autism (video share)


I love this video. I take exception however in the description of a “shallow” imagination. In my experience, we have very rich imaginations, and engage in imaginary play.  The difference is that is not as shared/social. I have also observed that imaginary play is delayed, and then continues past ages where that type of play is dropped.


I mean he seemed so…”normal.”


Reblogging this old post…
I say this…so much.
People are attempting to paint the Charleston Shooter as mentally ill. Perhaps it is to avoid admitting it is terrorism. Perhaps to avoid discussion about racism. It is certainly about othering . We must find a way to say he isn’t “one of us.” People counter by saying, “well what if he is mentally ill?” Well, he could possibly have a disorder, after all one on four Americans do. It doesn’t make it the reason behind the act., or make speculating on it as a reason or excuse any more productive. The prime motive is to still…’other.” We need to consider how stigmatizing this mindset is.

Originally posted on Nature in the City:


It’s cold.

This morning it was 8 (F) with  a windchill of -7.  Its a balmy twelve degrees now.

A couple years ago this spring I had a conversation  with someone who insisted that “obviously” a man who killed his daughters and grandchildren did it because he was “suffering” from PTSD, because he was an Vietnam war vet. That was it. PTSD from a war decades ago could be the only explanation.  Oh and I was creepy for thinking murder is normal behavior.

News agencies speculate as to whether or not  the man who killed a young Muslim family  had mental issues, because parking.

“Top professionals” decided Putin must be autistic because he’s an ass in social situations (any situation?)

All of these suppositions come from an underlying belief  that the mentally well are good law abiding people and that it takes a mental disorder to disregard others. It doesn’t matter whether or not…

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You are nobody, and you make a difference.

This morning I was having a conversation with a friend,

He said that he hoped he “never grew up,” that he hoped he never stopped wanting to fix the world.

I responded that wanting to fix the world is a human endeavor. We both agreed that many people seem to give up,  become resigned to thinking that they don’t matter.

They think that change must be affected by the “somebody’s” of this world.

Well, they’re wrong.

Even “little” people,

even those considered “nobody,”

even those who decide that they don’t matter, and so settle into apathy,

affect the world.

Some people believe that we are all created/unique/destined to a life’s work by a personal god.

Some people believe we are indeed all special snowflakes.

I believe we are in a way, because no one else shares our experiences, perceptions, or  exact place within the universe.

We are beautifully unique while remaining mostly unknown.

Yet my belief about my contribution isn’t reliant on how special I am, or whether a god made me so.

I like to think of human society and more broadly  life in its entirety, like a massive spider web. We’re all points on crisscrossing strands.

Our individual choices, message, actions and even inaction send vibrations, like ripples on a pond, across the entirety of the web.

This can be good.

This can be very bad.

It’s our choice.

If a “nobody” can, with a single action spread terror and anguish,

then “nobody’s” can also spread love, caring, and acceptance.

Whether or not we get on the news for it is immaterial.

I’m nobody.

Are you nobody too????

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Don’t tell! they’d banish us – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”

-Emily Dickenson

Loss and a waterfall (Wednesday picture diary)

Hey guys, I have updates and news to share. Soon… This morning, I was very saddened to hear one of my Quora friends, Murat Morrison died in an truck accident yesterday. He helped us tremendously with our van problem, and was always a source of encouragement both on and off Quora. And…I have nothing else to say. Here, have some pictures from today.  This spot is a 20 minute drive from our house. DSCN0012 DSCN0023 DSCN0029 DSCN9989 DSCN9992 DSCN9998



words worth working on – not saying. I find stupid, dumb, and crazy to be difficult to drop, but not impossible,. I just try to remember, what I really mean is “ignorant”

Originally posted on Alex and Ania Splain You a Thing:

CN: For Ableist slurs.

I have a challenge for all of my blogger friends. I want you to try and go one month without using the list of words below. For one month, in your blog posts and public opinions, I want you to not use these words. I will explain why. I will give you a reason, and regardless of whether you agree with me or not, I want you to try. For me.

Why does this matter?

The truth is that the concerns of the disabled community are often pushed to the side or seen as less important. Just a year ago there was almost a network wide outrage over being called on the use of ableist sentiments and words.  It ended with one of the more dedicated and active disability and neurodiversity activists, who has actually created a lot of the accepted vocabulary of the neurodivergent movements…

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Bacteria, Schedules, and Spelling App demonstration (Wednesday picture diary)


My throat is sore, and I’m feeling blah. It’s completely unacceptable, I have too much to do, and too much (including a presentation this Saturday) coming up.

I need my voice.

Pictures from week two of our summer schedule:

Monday we checked on the bacteria cultures we started last week. These are merely from agar being exposed to the air outside.


Tomorrow we’ll add test squares of antibacterial agents to one dish to observe how they inhibit growth. We’ll also start cultures of swabs of household surfaces.

Pete and I went on our weekly shopping trip. He wrote most of this list, selected most items, checked off all items, and scanned the groceries himself.


My brother made this clipboard 30 years ago. :-)

Here’s a look at our summer schedule for the littles:


It’s the first year I’ve done a wipe off checklist for the littles.  Granted its only week 2, but they seem to be enjoying it.

Aidan’s rhetoric assignments for the month:


This is posted on the wall next to his weekly assignments. He reads this, and the rest of the schedule, and plans his work time accordingly along with his chores. He’s pretty good at time management. I only check with him now and then to see how its going.

Lily looks at her weekly schedule and creates a checklist for herself before beginning in the morning:



Finally here’s another video app example, demonstrating how Pete uses the “Word Wizard” app from Escapadou to practice spelling words:



The “Help! This autistic kid is aggressive!” Text Version



WordPress tells me that I’ve been blogging here a year. :-)

My post including flow chart titled “”Help! This autistic kid is aggressive” is my most popular post.

That is awesome.

However, it has a major problem.  It is inaccessible to people who have difficulties viewing images. The site hosting the flow chart does not have screen reader /alt text capability.  After requests for a more accessible version, I’ve decided to create a companion post that lays out the same questions  in text.

So here we go.

When I’m contacted for advice concerning an aggressive autistic child, I tend to ask this series of questions.Has this child been grabbed, physically forced to comply or in any way had physical boundaries violated? OR are you a disparaging jerk to the kid?

1.  Has this child been grabbed, physically forced to comply or in any way had physical boundaries violated? OR are you a disparaging jerk to the kid?

If Yes, it needs to stop, immediately. Honestly, people who violate boundaries shouldn’t be too surprised kids feel threatened/fight back , I know I did. If this happens at school there needs to be a change in personnel, and clear guidelines on what is and isn’t acceptable  If its at home, counseling is in  order. If its you and you feel angry, make sure the child is safe and  remove yourself from the situation. Walk away, calm down, seek help.

If not ,

2. Does the child have or realize they have the ability to walk away from, elect to avoid, or engage in calming stims to deal with stress?

If Yes, excellent. If not, CREATE THE ABILITY and teach the options. If this isn’t an issue, or problems remain, then,

3.  Is there a sensory friendly place within the environment where child can go to decompress?


Send them there yourself if you recognize building stress. Try to help them recognize it themselves.  If that isn’t an issue, or doesn’t help then,

4. Does the child have significant down time in the day to do whatever they want even if it looks like “nothing”?

If they do not, make the time. This is important.  IF structured activities or therapy deny  a child this time, its necessary to re-evaluate your schedule.  If that isn’t an issue, or doesn’t help then,

5. Does the child have choices /options concerning food, dress, leisure, schedule?

If not, provide some. Be flexible.   If that isn’t an issue, or doesn’t help then,

6. Are you working on independence? Is the child given work that challenges but is achievable?

CONSIDER THIS. Frustration from either not being able to succeed, never having anything challenging, or lack of autonomy causes stress for any human being. EVERY person can work on skills towards greater independence, regardless of their impairments.

If that isn’t an issue, or doesn’t help then,

7. Are they hungry or overly tired?

Reader ischemgeek added that hunger plays a role in mood, and sometimes hunger signals are poorly read/go un-noticed.  Getting more to eat, adding a snack time, or rest, may be in order.

If that isn’t an issue, or doesn’t help then,

8. Are they feeling well?

It’s important  to have a professional assess the child’s health/nutrition. How we feel physically affects our mood. A full medical workup and dental care should come before psychiatric medications. (thank you to reader “Ekie” for this suggestion)

If that isn’t an issue, or doesn’t help then,

9. Record Carefully what is occurring before, during, and after incidents of aggression. Look for patterns, and possible triggers. Think about what could be avoidable, or approached differently and change accordingly.

This isn’t just the child, but everything in the environment: other people, location, lighting, sound, smell, room layout, what happened before, what happened after…the time of day…etc. If this only occurs with specific persons, or locations, that is telling. Beware of caregivers/professionals who want to lay blame on autism/child without  working through this list. Also, give changes time before saying it didn’t help.

Finally, if none of that helps,

10. Now may be a time to consider adding or adjusting medication.

I’m going to add this entire line of questions assumes that you have already tried communicating with the child as to what the problem is and either communication issues have prevented you from understanding or doing so just hasn’t helped.