The Authentically Autistic Health Files: The Silent Wave

The Authentically Autistic Health Files are a celebration of health and wellbeing practitioners who, like myself, are both autistic and working with clients who are autistic. As you might expect, our unique life experiences, understanding and skills give us particular insights into many of the challenges that our autistic clients may have.

Please do contact me if you would like me to send you a questionnaire so that you can be featured on this blog. You are welcome to remain anonymous and I will always get you, as the featured practitioner to approve copy before I post.

In her own words, here is The Silent Wave:

The Silent Wave (a.k.a. Laina Eartharcher.)

I specialize in Functional/Integrative Medicine. I earned my certification last year as an Institute for Functional Medicine Certified Practitioner (IFMCP), one of 13 different sources of post-doctoral training.

I’ve also studied Functional Neurology from the Carrick Institute, completing 21 of the 24 required classes before discovering and switching to Functional Medicine. Since then, I have begun to gravitate toward – and carve out a niche of–people who can’t seem to find answers and relief anywhere else.

I get the “weird stuff”, the complex and multi-dimensional cases, and I enjoy solving them.

thesilentwaveblog.wordpress.com

Basic Biography

I’m Laina E, 40, from South Texas, US. I changed university majors 8 times before discovering integrative medicine at age 25-26. Once, in very poor health at age 23, I discovered natural healing and integrative medicine, which prompted me to get into the field to help others.

My Asperger’s/autism discovery happened much, much later, at age 38.5, while perusing research articles in medical journals. My current setup is self-employment, co-ownership of an integrative medicine clinic with my partner. I work very part-time, and I’m very selective of the people I work with. I juggle work-life balance, and I currently struggle with motivation issues.

Unrelated facts: I love martial arts, cats, Texas, world philosophies/religions, nature, digital art, writing, road trips, and the desert.

Your Health Business or Specialism

My main health-related interests are: biochemistry, nutrition, multicultural health systems (Chinese, Japanese, Native American, Indian/Ayurveda, Egyptian, etc), microbiology, pathology, genetics, toxicology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hepatology/detoxification.

How Does Being Autistic Impact Your Health Practice?

There is an *absolute* impact (lol).  Being on the spectrum gives me the extra ability to delve deep into an issue and tenaciously latch on to it, without letting go until I’m satisfied. For example, I have spent a full 8 hours straight researching the biochemical metabolism of Lysine (lol).

I’m a perfectionist.  I balance the scientific with the artistic in my practice, in terms of creating graphical/visual patient education handouts and summary reports for patients.  So, Asperger’s/autism is a superpower for me.  It helps that human biochemistry and solving mysteries/puzzles are special interests for me.

But it is also a disability as well.  It is extremely difficult for me to meet with people; I cannot take walk-ins or appointments on short-short notice, nor can I see more than a handful of people in one day, nor can I start before 10am and nor can I got much past noon. And definitely not on Mondays (too anxious) or Fridays (too fatigued).  So, my Aspergian/autistic condition does limit me in that way. There’s also the social awkwardness and an incredible energy expenditure devoted to masking my natural autistic traits in order to “look ‘normal’” and gain the trust and acceptance of others.

What Considerations Do You Take into Account with Autistic Clients?

I haven’t had too many people on the spectrum yet. I give them a long leash, helping them find ways to work my recommendations into their daily routine. I make it clear that they can be themselves in my office, including stimming, lack of eye contact, expressing themselves in a way that comes natural to them, etc. We can meet in person or by phone (if they don’t want to leave their house). I’m also looking at setting up Skype and email programs, or perhaps secure 2-way online chat, but haven’t moved on that yet.

Do You Have or Have You Had Specific Health Challenges of Your Own?

Oh lord yes (lol).  I have 3 autoimmune disorders (including hearing impairment that is getting progressively worse; thyroid issues that sap my energy and motivation; and neurological degeneration that makes me clumsy and compromises brain function at times), EDS (Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome or hypermobility spectrum), and I’m entering a rough pre-peri-menopausal stage. I also have histamine excess, a herniated disc in my neck, and post-traumatic stress issues, along with sporadic depression, dental problems, Non-24 sleep disorder, and documented heavy metal poisoning.

Support – I rely heavily on my partner. Very heavily. I try to eat a clean diet (although I could do much better!).  I try to get plenty of downtime. I work in the office 3-4 days a week, usually going home at lunch. I take Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulas and nutritional/herbal supplements. I get semi-regular acupuncture and spinal decompression treatments. I text my friends and family. I blog, although not as much lately. I also keep a journal blog, which I’ve been spending more of my time on lately. I do plenty of leisure activities. I do need to get more physical activity and mediation, though 🙂  I also have two lovely kitties!!

What Are Your Own Health and Wellbeing Routines and Non-Negotiables?

I must be gluten-free 100% of the time or I crash. I must have a fruit and vegetable smoothie at night or I feel crappy. I must take care what music I listen to, or I can get depressed or hostile. I must avoid subjects that I’m hyper-empathic to. I must be on the couch, with the lights and TV on, doing things on my laptop, in order to fall asleep. I must get cuddle-time in with my kitties. I must journal on my journal blog. I must go outside (in the winter) for about 20 minutes every night to cool down my nightly hot flash.

In the summer, I must have sushi to keep me balanced. In the winter, I must have more beef and chicken to keep me balanced. I should start drinking more herbal tea; I felt my best when I was doing that.

Sensory Toolkit

Weighted blankets!! OMG these rock. Those are more of an inside thing, though. As for going outside, I rarely do. When driving, I must have my iPod hooked into the truck stereo and be able to sing along. I must have my iPhone to play with when out and about. My husband does all the talking for me if we have to interact with anyone (like at a restaurant, the grocery store, etc).

Meltdowns and Shutdowns

Too much stress, too much peopling, too low blood sugar, certain times of the month, criticism, bullying, assumptions or accusation especially if false and/or unfair, animal cruelty, dealing with complaining or otherwise obstinate patients, financial woes, etc.  Lots of triggers LOL. Excess noise or harsh lighting, etc.

What Are Your Plans?

Spirituality, meditation, different means of exercise/physical activity, etc – personal areas of health interest/research. As far as our practice, I’d love to incorporate more personal training, more massage therapy modalities (Rolfing, etc), more Ayurveda, yoga, etc.

Who Are Your Health Inspirations?

IFM and Dr Mark Hyman have been inspirational.  www.ifm.org and  www.drhyman.com

Do You Have any General Advice or Closing Words?

I wish I would’ve gone a slightly different path in terms of schooling, but that’s neither here nor there at this point 🙂  Above all, I must learn to take care of MYSELF so that I can take the best care of others that I possibly can. Set the example; cultivate what people WANT – the energy, vitality, health, radiance, etc.

It’s easy to say (and hard to do), but don’t worry about the financial aspect. Seriously, just focusing on each patient and moving from one patient to the next, focusing on each in turn, will automatically generate the income. Also, I wish I would’ve known not to sell myself short! I gave WAY too many discounts and undervalued myself way too much in the beginning, thinking I was doing people a favor. Never apologize for the need/desire to be paid sufficiently for our services. Never feel guilty for expecting others to uphold their end of the Law of Fair Exchange. People do NOT respect someone who gives their time away – I may have thought I was doing them a favor, but actually I wasn’t. It backfired every time and I dang near burned out my first and second years in practice. Sometimes I’ve got to put my foot down.  If I give an inch, some will take a mile; boundaries are important.

It’s OK to say no and/or draw a boundary. I can’t control how others will respond to that. It took me a long time to learn that I will never please everyone because some people 1) have unreasonable, unrealistic, impossible expectations that NO ONE will ever meet, and/or 2) have decided to be angry and unsatisfied no matter where they go or who they deal with (even at the grocery store) because they’re simply unhappy people. There’s no cure for that, so I had to stop beating my head against a wall (figuratively) trying. 🙂

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Overwhelm in the Classroom

Humour me for a minute. Can you remember back to being in primary school? Were you ever in the position of really not understanding something like a maths question? What did you do? Did you put your hand up and ask for help? That’s the correct thing to do right? That’s what you are supposed to do. Put your hand up, ask for help, listen to the teacher’s advice, complete the task, get on with the next activity. Easy!

Now me, my husband and daughters have all had very different experiences of being in infant school, despite attending pretty similar schools, but not one of us did the hand-putting-up-thing if we could possibly help it. We were all renowned for being good in school, and we all had above-average learning abilities. But put our hands up, speak out loud and risk being stared at? Hell no!

Instead we had our own techniques for dealing with being at our desks, staring blankly at something like a maths problem and not knowing how to solve it. We were discussing these over dinner last night. Here are the some of the various approaches we used:

  • Crying
  • Cheating
  • Doodling
  • Sleeping
  • Running away

Asking for help did not at any point feature on our preferred strategies. I’d be interested to know if it was one of yours. Would you like to know what my favoured approach was? Shall I tell you a story? It’s a forty year old story but I suspect it is still relevant today.

Despite reading fluently long before I started school and happily writing pages and pages of fiction, I just didn’t get how the rules of maths worked. I liked counting rhythmically or melodically and I’d often walk or skip round the playground counting my steps until the end-of-playtime bell rang. But multiplication? The analogue clock? Fractions? Um… Nope.

On this particular afternoon in 1978 I was in a noisy, smelly and chaotic year two class, doing basic multiplication with the aid of stacking bricks  – to work out 5 X 6 for instance, you’d make 5 stacks of 6 bricks and then add them all up. Stacking bricks for multiplication seems like a great learning method to me; great for both visual and kinaesthetic learners. So what could possibly go wrong?

Well, unfortunately, there weren’t enough bricks for my sum. And I couldn’t figure out how to resolve this seemingly easy predicament with any success. And did I mention that the classroom was noisy, smelly and chaotic? Three times I queued up to have my book marked. Three times I was distractedly told “no, do it again.” From the repeated rubbing out of my mistakes I was making a hole in the page. I got increasingly agitated. And there didn’t seem to be any way out.

What to do? My teacher didn’t register my distress because I still hadn’t learnt that facial expressions were generally necessary to communicate emotion (it was a few years yet before I figured that out and had to painstakingly teach myself the relevant faces in the mirror.) I couldn’t ask anyone else because I didn’t really have any friends. But I hated not being able to complete the task; too many people were moving around and being noisy; the air was too close, my brain felt jammed, and the sheer frustration was becoming rapidly overwhelming.

Dear reader – this six year old made the decision that that she felt most suitable. She quietly put her book in her drawer, slipped out of the classroom, collected her corduroy shoulder bag and red, hooded coat; crept out of school and (trembling all over and envisioning police cars coming to catch her) quickly walked the half-mile journey home. My instinct in stressful situations is to run away. Something as simple as not being able to do a maths problem was stressful enough to merit my running away.

I sometimes wonder how common this instinct is for kids. Schools these days are pretty difficult to escape from now that security has become such an issue. And that’s fair enough but If I’d been in the same position now, where would I have run to? I know that some schools have fantastic strategies in place for kids who become easily overwhelmed and need to retreat until they can cope again but this certainly isn’t standard. At least not yet.

 

Poppy’s First Christmas Eve

Poppy’s First Christmas Eve

On the evening of the 24th of December 2004 we were living in a rural Victorian end-terrace cottage with a 17 month old daughter, a 5 month old cat and a daughter just weeks off being born.

We had our first proper tree, bare except for tiny, twinkling lights, a kitchen that had seen me bake my first ever christmas cake and roast my first chestnuts; and Simon had artfully twisted armfuls of holly, ivy and mistletoe around the house.

The fire embers were glowing, the candles were pooling and Maya was peacefully sleeping in her new big-girl bed. In the chimney-breast alcove in our bedroom, watched by Poppy, our fierce fluffball of tuxedo kitten (who, despite our best efforts insisted on sleeping on our bed from the day we bought her home) we made a small pile of Maya’s presents, topped with her first ever stocking.

We sat back, exhausted but happy; and as I rubbed my huge, pregnant belly. Poppy briefly left the room only to return with one tiny sock of Maya’s which she solemnly placed on top of the present pile before padding back to bed.

A Twitter Giveaway!

A Twitter Giveaway!

STOP PRESS!

I am giving away three free places on Flojo’s Easy Detox four week online course for a January 2018 start!

What is Flojo’s Easy Detox?

Flojo’s Easy Detox is a quick and effective route to improve your health and wellbeing which I developed a few years ago but have revamped in the last year to make it even easier, even more delicious and to have even better results!

Each week I email you a worksheet tackling four general health tweaks to make – which could be as quick as doing my one minute breathing and visualisation exercise, as simple as reducing your reliance on caffeine or as delicious as trying out some of my super easy recipes free from sugar, gluten, dairy, soya and processed fats. Then, once you’ve let me know any questions or concerns you might have about the week ahead, I email you with advice that is unique to you in order to help you get the best out of the course.

What Do You Need to Do?

Simply tweet a link to your favourite recipe from my Health and Nutrition Coaching site florenceneville.com, say why you like it and include the hashtag #flojoseasydetox in your tweet.

How Are the Winners Picked?

On the 15th, 22nd, and 29th of December 2017 I will go through that week’s #flojoseasydetox tweets and pick one person to win a place. I will quote-tweet the winning entry so remember to check your notifications! (I will also try to DM the winners, but this will be dependant on twitter settings.)

What Will the Winners Get?

If you win you will get:

  • A detailed preparation sheet complete with a shopping list for any out-of-the-ordinary ingredients and products.
  • A questionnaire in which you get to outline your own current health conditions and concerns so that I can tailor the course for you where necessary.
  • A carefully structured worksheet each week, designed to help you both look and feel better each week, without any sense of overwhelm.
  • A weekly personal email from me, and also a follow up email at the end of the course.

Please note that you are welcome to start the course any week during January 2018.

Why Might Someone Want to do Flojo’s Easy Detox?

I will let people who have already benefitted from the course tell you that!

“Change happens when you make small shifts. I feel like a tight knot has been loosened and I am so hugely excited and grateful.”

“After just a week of starting to re-programme my body and eating habits I felt energised and had a much more positive state of mind.”

“… sleeping, bloating, skin is all better!”

“I’ve loved feeling that I have someone alongside to guide me and make it a personal experience. I’ve never felt awkward asking questions, and I’ve had some really good personalised responses to push me in the right direction.”

“I’ve felt  supported, held and not judged – which is major for me.”

“Your nutritional practice is amazing! I’m in awe of your knowledge!”

“I’m feeling more energised and more in control.”

“My skin feels softer and the dry patches on my elbows have vanished!”

“I really enjoy starting the day, more awake from a better night’s sleep, and feeling refreshed”

“I found it gave me the confidence to make lots of other subtle incremental changes and that has had a knock on effect on everything from work to relationships!”

What If I Don’t Win a Place?

Don’t worry; it’s not a course that breaks the bank! Until the end of January 2018 Flojo’s Easy Detox only costs a one-off payment of £40. Contact me here if you are interested!

 

 

My Top Five Health Books of 2017

My Top Five Health Books of 2017

While washing up the breakfast pots, cleaning the bathroom and making the bed this morning I have been humming and hah-ing over how many books I wanted to rant about for this post. You know what? I couldn’t figure it out. I read a lot of health books. Probably around fifteen a year. So I’ve set myself a challenge by typing in “My Top Five Health Books of 2017” as a heading in the hopes that I can narrow it down by the time I finish this post.

Do you get an idea of how fuzzy my head is today? I have a cold. I have been coughing, spluttering and moaning over and at anyone in my general vicinity for the last 48 hours. Possibly not the best day to write a health post. But I digress…

So here we go. The first one is easy. My most best and favouritist health book that I read this year (possibly ever) was Primal Fat Burner by Nora Gedgaudas. (I meant to review this ages ago, as I wrote here… ) It’s not, as you might think, a book about weight loss but a highly educational read on how humankind evolved on burning fat rather than carbohydrates as a primary energy source. If you want the ultimate geek-out background on the scientific, historical and contemporary evidence-based reasons to increase bone broth, bone marrow and organ meats into your diet then this is the place to start. This is no pop-paleo how-to; you won’t be encouraged to cram in steak, shop-bought salads and trendy paleo-treats. But you will learn exactly how much protein you really need (hint: far less than you think) why you want to avoid conventionally produced meat and vegetables; which oils and fats best benefit your brain and body;  and how to make the most incredible chimichurri sauce (this is not an exaggeration). Gedgaudas is a truly engaging writer too – if you buy no other health book ever, this would be the one I would recommend.

Right. What’s next? Hang on while I slurp some congestion-reducing herbal tea… Ah yes! Woman Code by Alisa Vitti. I’ve got to say, it is rather disconcerting for me that she uses the American slang for menstrual periods: Flo. So she references the monthly Flo frequently and her accompanying period tracker is called MyFLO. Almost everyone I know calls me Flo! But hey, if I can get my head around it then you should be able to too. So, Woman Code is a really useful call to recognising that a woman’s hormonal cycle reeaaalllly needs to be honoured when it comes to nutrition and lifestyle. Your energy levels, brain function and stress patterns vary a great deal throughout the four phases of your menstrual cycle (follicular, ovulatory, luteal and menstrual in case you were wondering) and trying to maintain a consistent workload and nutrient intake isn’t going to do you any favours. Ignoring these phases is like ignoring your body’s requirement to sleep at nightime and then trying to run a marathon the next day. If you are female and you ovulate then it would be worth picking this book up, or at least downloading the app.

In my current fuzzy-headed state it does seem a little ridiculous for me to be recommending a book on increasing your brain energy, but Head Strong by Dave Asprey provides a wealth of advice on how to do exactly that. With access to some of the most current research and out-of-the-box thinking Asprey has outlined practices ranging from dimming the lights at night to using pharmaceutical smart-drugs. From reducing brain inflammation (which shows up in brain fog, depression and memory loss) with his nutrition protocol; through a comprehensive guide to mitochondria-boosting meditation and to a thorough run-down of how to use supplements wisely; this book is a massive undertaking and is vital reading for anyone who feels that their brain is not functioning as well as it could. Talking of which, I need to go outside and get some sunlight. Back in a bit…

While sitting (and sneezing) in the sunshine on the front step just now it occurred to me that the next book on this list should be Move Your DNA by Katy Bowman. Now, this is a slight cheat on my 2017 book list because I originally read it in 2015 but, in my defence, I did re-read it this year. Bowman is a biomechanist; she looks at how the way we move affects us at a cellular level. In fact, I’m going to quote her explanation of mechanobiology here: “A relatively new field of science that focuses on the way physical forces and changes in cell or tissue mechanics contribute to development, physiology and disease.” The book takeaway is that it is movement rather than exercise that is key. She explains, in great but easily visualised detail, how every movement you make (or even don’t make) affect all of the tissues in your body; you will learn more about load variables than you thought possible in this book! If you want to know how to stand, walk, squat and rest with ease (and I’m telling you now that you do, even if you think you don’t!) then this is the book for you. Investing the time to read Bowman’s words and practice her exercises could save a great deal of discomfort both now and in years down the line.

My final favourite book of 2017 is, as yet, only half read because it was only released a couple of weeks ago and there are a hella lot of words! Renegade Beauty by Nadine Artemis is hard to describe but already makes it onto my list because it is a book that I have been looking forward to for months! Its focus is on beauty only inasmuch as a book’s focus is the book cover. As a book cover gives you clues as to the content, true skin radiance is only possible when the body and soul are nourished first. I have raved about her toothcare book here on this blog before and this long awaited “skincare” tome has not disappointed in the slightest. So, so much beautiful writing covering the importance of probiotics, sunlight, essential oils, holistic dental care, natural breast and “yoni” health, supporting pregnancy, natural haircare and cultivating immunity. While Renegade Beauty is no fluffy quick-fix book Artemis also provides easy, gorgeous, homemade recipes and solutions to alleviate common problematic skin conditions, which are safe for both adults and children.

There. I made it. I didn’t get to include lots of other lovely health books, but then this post is already a bit on the lengthy side. Maybe I’ll re-read the others for including in a 2018 post. Maybe I need to put away the massive pile of books covering my table. Maybe I need to go have a nap. Thanks for reading my lovelies and please let me know your health book recommendations in the comments. Atch-ooo!

Flo in Full Flow…

Flo in Full Flow…

Sorry, that is a ridiculously cheesy post title. Please forgive me…

Well, it’s nearly four weeks since I left my job and it feels good! My asthma has calmed down, my joints are aching and creaking less; my energy is gradually increasing and the brain fog is lifting. Boom! See ya evil black mould!!

The knock on effect of the brain fog lifting has been that I have been able to start doing some more concentrated work on my business florenceneville.com and producing some information sheets for clients. I had forgotten the complete bliss of losing three hours at a stretch in flow state. I have written info sheets on Autumn Health Support, Sleep Tips, An Introduction to Cortisol and also Ten Ways You Can Support Your Cortisol Cycle; and I have loved writing every one!

I also noticed today that I have forgotten to drink coffee for the last few days. Forgotten! I have instead been experimenting with blending up some gorgeous elixirs with ingredients like dandelion coffee (from Paula Grainger and Karen Sullivan’s beautiful book Infuse), butter, nut butter, raw honey, cacao and maca root powder. Can I just say, right now, that this combination beats the taste of any hot chocolate I have ever had? And that, in the interest of full disclosure, I have drunk a LOT of hot chocolate in my time? I shall try and remember to measure the amounts next time so that I can give you a recipe!

Right. Flow state is all very well and good but I have now been at the laptop for four hours and that just ain’t healthy. Time to do such mundane but vital stuff as dragging the vacuum cleaner around the house, walking the dog and making some lunch. On which note, can I just tell you my major foodie revelation for the week? Brussels Sprouts, which I normally loathe, are really, really good when roasted in plenty of pork lard and with a liberal dusting of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Peace out…. xx

 

Autism South West 2017 and A Shameful Tale

Yesterday I got to speak about “Sugar, Stress and the Spectrum” at the Autism South West conference. Specifically I was building on Dr. Luke Beardon’s excellent equation: 

Autism + Environment = Outcome

to explain how internal stressors (internal environment,) such as high or erratic cortisol levels, change the outcome for any autistic person. 

Let me explain. Now it’s pretty well known that being in a supermarket (an external environment stressor) is highly stressful for autistic people (maybe for you too, but definitely if you are autistic.) When somebody is stressed their adrenals ramp up production of the hormone cortisol which raises blood sugar levels in order to deal with threats. (If you have to run away from a lion – you need glucose in your bloodstream to fuel that race for your life.) But unfortunately your body doesn’t distinguish between real or perceived threats. It just acts without question. 

What else happens when your cortisol is raised? Here’s one of my slides:

Now, think how difficult navigating a simple supermarket shop might be when your brain is affected like that… (This is why my shopping gets done online!) Imagine living in a world where a great deal of your environment causes the outcome of reduced abilities to remember, to regulate your mood and behaviour, to organise yourself and make good judgements?

Next in my talk we discussed how consuming excess carbohydrates quickly raises blood sugar levels, causing the body to employ insulin in order to reduce potentially dangerous levels. And then, because your body likes balance, it fires up our friend cortisol again, because low blood sugar is also a threat! The low blood sugar is an internal environment stressor. 

As far as autistic anxiety is concerned: being hunted by a lion = going to the supermarket = low blood sugar!

Anyway, we covered some other useful stuff too but, in the interest of brevity, that’s probably enough for you to understand my shameful behaviour yesterday evening. Shameful because I am a nutrition and health coach. Please don’t judge…

So the conference was fab! Well organised and with brilliant key-note speeches (Sarah Hendrickx and Dean Beadle) that made me both laugh and cry. But, you know, a conference is still a difficult environment for an autistic to navigate. And so my cortisol levels were pretty high…

Now I knew I had a fridge full of delicious and nutritious organic veg and meat at home. I could have rustled something nourishing up in 30 minutes flat. But my memory and good judgement failed me and I demanded we stop off at tesco for ready made pizza (the shame.) And I looked at those huge, insipid, crappy pizzas and could not for the life of me work out how many we’d need and which types we, as a family, would like. My husband found me crying in the chilled aisle and took over. At which point I wandered off and filled the basket with packets of biscuits. I had acted out my own talk perfectly! My high cortisol response had perfectly reflected my slide’s bulletpoints! Oh the irony…

A few things:

  1. If you’d like me to come and talk about diet and autism please contact me here. (Rest assured that I will prepare my evening meal in advance for future talks.)
  2. I didn’t actually eat the biscuits. I was asleep soon after the pizza!
  3. I’m not really ashamed of my choices yesterday. I’ve learned not to blame myself in those situations and am taking care to rest my adrenals today.