All opinions and views stated on this site belong solely to Corina Lynn Becker, and do not represent or reflects the views and opinions of any organizations, unless otherwise specified.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Social Assistance, Poverty, and the Cost of Living

I've written about Disability and poverty before.  And now we're getting in to the election season here in Canada again, so it's a topic that's coming up.

My friend Katrina Sauvé, has written the following and given me permission to repost it here:

as someone who has lived on OW/ODSP:
housing: geared to income shared housing is the ONLY thing you're going to be able to afford on the under $500/month that these programs give you
yes, that does not work with some people's mental needs, sucks to be them (and if I had enough money to change that, I would)
Transportation: $141/month? so not happening.
if you're not working, you probably can limit your bus trips to once/week and budget accordingly. yes, if you're disabled but the government hasn't admitted it yet, you're kind of screwed 'cause you won't be able to get your laundry AND groceries AND appointments all in that day
if working, you probably want to get a discounted bus pass (yes, Kingston, and hopefully other cities do give a discounted monthly bus pass to low-income persons. I advise you/your workers look into this)
Groceries: I manage to get groceries for about $200/month (or at least I spent $200.14 on all food in the month of May 2015)
tips: things like the Good Food Box Kingston are your friend; cooking big batches and and freezing the leftovers is your friend; lentils, beans, pork and potatoes are your friends; pasta and rice are your friends; buying in bulk as much as possible is your friend; if you will eat sausages/baloney/hot dogs/liver/tongue etc, they are your friend; dairy, fresh/frozen fish, high quality cheese, chocolate/candy and soda pop are your enemies, buy as few as possible of those (though do get yourself some single serving yogurts and either sour cream/ice cream/cheap cheese so you aren't missing out on calcium etc), also avoid any beverages but water, tea/coffee, water w/ flavouring
if you are on OW, you CANNOT afford to eat out unless it is at a soup kitchen, you will NEED a soup kitchen (and yes it sucks), and you may need the food bank. If you do not take advantage of these services, YOU WILL GO INTO DEBT. You do not have enough money to AFFORD to go into debt. USE THE FRICKEN SOUP KITCHENS/FOOD BANK.
Entertainment and Dining Out:
if you are on OW: FREE THINGS. do ALL OF THE FREE THINGS. let yourself have about $10 (aka ONE film/cheap eating out) PER MONTH to keep yourself from going crazy
yes, you will go into debt that way. do it anyway
ODSP: you can eat out two or three times a month if you keep it at or under $12 per time... you are allowed to substitute a film or show for one or more of these. if you are careful, you can do ONE convention/holiday where you pool money w/ others/stay w/ friends PER YEAR. Choose wisely, set your budget ahead and save $20/month ish towards that.
Drinks: Alcolhol is not worth it on either OW or ODSP. it is far to expensive for the joy it gives you. If a friend is buying you alcolhol that is ok, don't buy it yourself.
Health and Fitness: the gym is not worth it for the money you have, especially since you can do things like walk every day, run, bicycle (buy a SECOND-HAND bike for $40 ish at a police auction), skate (Play It Again Sports is your friend for reasonably priced skates, find outdoor/free rinks in winter or even cheap skates through local rinks) or swim (yes, A half-decent swimsuit, cheap towel/bag are worth the investment, as is the cheapest swimming place in town)
if you are on OW: depending on if there is water nearby, you may be able to swim w/ friends for free, if there are no ponds/rivers/lakes, consider any funds you spend on swimming/skating as part of your ~ $10/month entertainment fund
parks often have skating rinks set up for free in the winter
Walking/running/biking are your friends
does all of this seem unreasonably hard?
If you have the energy, GET INVOLVED IN POLITICS and lobby for HIGHER tax rates for corporations, LESS of a wage gap and MORE money for those on ODSP/OW (or even a GUARANTEED MINIMUM INCOME that will let someone survive, if slightly uncomfortably).
I spend $5/year on NDP* membership, because, from what I can tell, they most support those of us who are low/no income.
Greens and Liberals aren't bad choices either.

*NDP, for those outside of Canada, is it New Democratic Party.  See, we don't just have one Liberal/Democratic party... we have at least two.... Three if you count the Green Party. 

Me? I'm looking at the article and wondering how they're making their estimates.  Cause yeah, if you go out for drinks and shit, stuff is going to cost. ($18 for an alcoholic drink????) 

But apparently, that's all we young people are doing these days, lounging around our excellent downtown apartments, cooking all the meals, taking each other out on dates, and drinking in excess.  

Right... I'm sorry, isn't there a recession going on? Isn't there something like only a 5% job growth for most parts of our country? Don't our older generation complain that we're living at home and not doing anything?  Maybe cause we don't have jobs and don't have money to do any of this shit???? 

Oh, and of course, how many of us are on ODSP/OW? You know, living below the poverty line? 

Yeah, fuck this shit, let's all get out there and vote.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

NeuroTribes Review

A couple of months back, I was sent an email asking whether I wanted a free copy of Steve Silberman's NeuroTribes.  Being something of a book hoarder, I really couldn't refuse.  I've been looking forward to reading this book since I've heard of it coming out, and offered to write a review.  So, for the sake of transparency, all I've gotten out of this is a free book and a voluntary obligation to write a review.

Cause I want to talk about this book. I really want to talk about this book.  This book deserves to be talked about.

I got my copy, oh, a week or so back, I think. Early August. (Yeah, I'm bad on time)  It took me some time to work up the nerve to open it, and then it took me longer than I expected to read it.  It is a subtly and surprisingly packed narrative written in and around various mini-biographies, following a single thread throughout history: the diagnosis of Autism as we know it.

I feel like there was a lot of material that Silberman has been working through, and chose his words with care to say the most, to show instead of tell.  It is a rich weaving of history, some of it painful and dark, and does not shy away from that.  Some of this I knew about beforehand, as part of my own experiences researching and being a part of Autism history, and some of it I could only guess.  I know that for those who are not prepared, it can be very disturbing.  Even prepared, the stories shared in NeuroTribes can be disturbing.

Silberman covers a lot in the pages, including treatments used on us, the theories prescribed about us, and how there is this fight to recognize autistic people, all autistic people, as autistic.  Complete with how such things like a diagnosis impacts individuals, and a glimpse into the beginnings of autistic culture, both before and after the advent of the Internet.

But this is our history.  And this is probably not the last book on Autism history, but is only a part of our past.  No, as I'm sure many of my community will agree with me, it is not complete.  This is a slice of where we've been, condensed into a nearly 500-page book (the epilogue ends at page 477).  That couldn't have been easy.  Especially since I know there is a lot more material that Silberman has from writing NeuroTribes, waiting to written and shared with the world.

Most importantly, there are parts that I didn't know about, new information about our history, indications and answers to that ever so annoying question "where are the autistic adults?" As Silberman shows, we have always been here, in the past, in the present, and in the future.  After all, some of those incomplete chapters, aren't we still writing those?

Let's go make the next volume of Autism history!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Hair Autonomy

Recently, I've started to cut my hair.  Doesn't sound all that impressive, does it?  Well, at first it was just trimming the back of my neck, doing my own bangs, you know, little touch ups here and there.  The bangs thing was fairly regular enough that I bought my own pair of sheers because I found that hair dressers, no matter how nice, and they make awesome efforts at this, never quite get what I'm trying to describe how I want my hair.

And repeat visits, yeah, it might try to clear up what I want, but it's expensive, both in terms of money, time, and social resources. So I took matters into my own hands.  

Some of the results were more successful than others; I'm not exactly trained at this.  But I got a bunch of good feedback from numerous sources, including people who generally I expect them not to give an opinion either way, and friends who give honest feedback.  I figure, the only way to get better at something is to practice, so I continued on.  

And then I got the idea to cut my hair not only really short, but shave it.  For a number of different reasons, ranging from comfort while I sleep with my CPAP, to cosplay dedication, to why the heck not?

I thought about it for a while, even looked up shaving techniques and shaving for cancer fundraising campaigns.  I even tried talking to my parents about it.  Their response was... mixed.  "Oh, you don't want to shave. Go to [hairdresser] and get it cut short."  It felt really uncomfortable to talk about this to them, and I walked away from it trying to figure out why.  

Why is shaving one's head such a thing?  I asked myself this and started getting the itch to cut more.  

Not self-harm cut.  Since I was a kid, when I was angry or upset, or maybe even just frustrated, I'd cut things.  My mom's lunch bag, my brother's shirt, I'd even grab chunks of my hair and cut.  When I did that to my hair, Mom would whisk me away to the hairdresser to get it "fixed". Even with limited access to safety scissors, I went to the hairdresser a lot. I think it speaks a lot about how my mom views my decisions about my hair that years later, it took a family counsellor to convince her that as an adult, I don't need her permission to dye my hair and the remarks she'd say were very inappropriate, not to mention hurtful.  

I thought about that as I started cutting my hair the shortest it's ever been.  As I cut, I also posted pictures on my Facbook to document my transition.


The pictures of my hair like this, got comments about it being art.  Which I suppose is a way of looking at it I haven't considered.  But the more I think about it, the more I like the idea of my photographs as an art.  After all, it's documenting my journey, and various learning about cutting one's own hair, towards self-expression.  

I don't really see it as any different than when I compose and post images of my medications for the day, my dermatillomania scars, my migraine updates; I see it as sharing not only who I am, but my life and what I go through, and how I share, with friends, family, and yes, the public. As long as I am willing, and I control the lens, I don't see the problem with it. 

Except that art can be political and/or a form of activism.  I live in a situation where I can express myself through art freely, not only in my country, but also in terms of my personal intersectionality. I am a white woman, most of the time seemingly abled in public, who maintains privilege from a middle-class background, including my wardrobe.  

Two things come to mind when I'm cutting my hair.  

One, I think about how a lot of the questions I get when meeting casual acquaintances is centered on "why"; they want to know why I cut my hair in such a style.  The most negative comments (from family, I might add) expresses concern that I'll be judged badly, or that I'll regret it (it's hair, it'll grow back), or that it'll be ugly. 

I usually don't care about physical appearances too much, but I can't help but think that their concerns and negative attitudes is based on a rather limited view of beauty.  And an ugly view on society too.  So far, I've yet to be treated badly for my hair.  Could it be that people see my hair as only a small apart of my appearance?  There is the possibility that people have made assumptions about my lack of hair and my health, or that my various intersections of privilege has shielded me.  But why can't this be beauty?  

Second, I think about how many possible ways in my country where someone like me not be able to cut their own hair, in the way that they want.  For self-expression of their gender, or beauty ideals, or just to style their hair their way! In a different situation, it might be difficult for someone to style their hair because they live in an environment where they have no control over those decisions, whether by relatives or care staff, coercively or outright deciding for them.  

Or they must appease the people they live with, living in at least a faintly toxic environment or situation.  Or it's just not safe for them to do so.   I think about how in activism, we push for things like body autonomy, freedom of choice, freedom of expression; how much can be taken for granted with being able to cut and style one's hair?  

With both thoughts, the act of hair cutting becomes a rebellion, a defiance.  To go against perceived notions of physical beauty, to redefine beauty, but also acting for one's own body autonomy.  The freedom of the self. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Autistics Speaking Day 2014

Originally posted on the Autistics Speaking Day blog

I know I'm late running for ASDay 2014, but I have most things in order!

For one, the submission form is now open and ready to take submissions.  And the Facebook event page is online.

And as always, I do advise people to review our FAQs and our Content Filter List.

I know it's only about a week until Nov 1st, but let's have a great day!!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Citizen Autistic

I unfortunately missed the great crowd sourcing campaign for the documentary "Citizen Autistic" (William Davenport, 2014), released this month.  However, I was just contacted by Cinema Libre Studio with their press release and a chance for an early online viewing to review.  How could I say no? 

Now, my review isn't going to be unbiased. I'm an autistic activist who works alongside and has met a good number of the people interviewed in the film. I sort of have a vested interest, even though I'm in Canada and most of the specifics take place in the United States.  However, I do believe that there is an international effect to greater disability rights, and to Autistic rights, and so this film is part of that dialogue.  

Onward to the film!

At about 60 minutes long, "Citizen Autistic" is rather brief, and of course, not going to cover in complete detail every and all issues in the Autistic rights movement.  It does cover some of the current contenders.  

It opens appropriately with the National Day of Mourning in Washington, D.C., and goes on to cover the Judge Rotenberg Center, Autism Speaks, and the discourse between parents and autistic adults in advocacy work.  

Some points are also brought up are the similarities between the autism rights movement and gay rights movement, as well as bringing our rights into the greater disability rights movement, as well as how the Autistic community could possibly look towards Deaf culture and community as a model of operations.   I liked how autistic people interviewed presented different views, various perspectives regarding the rights models, but otherwise pretty much agreeing that this is an issue of human rights. 

Points about parents and autistic adults were covered with AASCEND, which was a very interesting piece to watch, and definitely frames the question of how the so-called conflict and division as very much a question of government funding, as well as a matter of being allies without taking over the movement. 

Lastly, in some of the final comments, Ari mentions using one tenth of research funding to fund AAC devices, for communication that'll improve quality of life.  That's just one tenth from research, diverted to practical applications that affect autistic lives. 

So those are the main points that really stood out to me.  It's a short film, as I've mentioned before, but I think it does a really good job covering various perspectives in the time frame that it has.  Are there more perspectives in our community? Are there more issues that affect us?  Of course, and this shouldn't be the one documentary about autism advocacy that gets made; why not make more?

But I watch this, and I nod along, because I see my community, I see my fellows represented, I see our voices represented, and I have hope.  I have hope that this is just the start of our representation.

And I'm so going to go order a couple copies of the DVD now.

Friday, September 12, 2014

2014 ASDay and AWN PoC Anthology

[Originally posted on Autistics Speaking Day Blog Sept 12, 2014]

Hi all!

I know I have a few submissions from 2013 I need to post.  Sorry for the delay, I got delayed for too long.  But I am going to post them.  Just as soon as I finish this post.  

I'm getting ready for ASDay 2014.  It's on a Saturday this year, and I wanted to let people prepare in advance, to think about what they're going to do.  

At the same time, there is something I think that is important that may or may not appeal to participants.  But this is really important.  I know that ASDay matters to a lot of you because it gathers many voices in a large event, as well as other reasons, but I'd like to take the opportunity to address another opportunity coming up soon that people may want to concentrate working on. 

I'm going to have to disclose, of course, as I am Vice-President of the Autism Women's Network.  But AWN is working to publish an anthology on Autism and Race, and is looking for submissions, due November 14, 2014.  If you are autistic, and a person of colour, racialized, or non-white, I encourage you to look at the AWN submission guide and consider submitting something. 

This is a project lead by Lydia Brown, aka Autistic Hoya, who I don't know about you, but is one of the people I'd immediately ask "how much do you want me to write, and when do you want it?" if not go scrambling to look for something I've already written.  

But this is your choice.  I understand either way.  

What matters is you expressing yourself, your story, what you want to say about yourself as an autistic person and your life, what you want to tell other people, what you want to change about the world.  This is about you communicating and gaining power through that, about providing an outlet, a starting point.  

ASDay has been described as a blogging carnival, a festival of our "voices", our passions and dreams. It is a celebration of who we are, a memorial of our scars, a scream of our struggles, a rallying cry to continue on for our rights. Because of the most powerful words "I am not alone". 

Intersectionality is how different aspects of our identities affect our experiences, sometimes in different ways in different situations.  Like being a woman can be a privilege in one situation, or be a barrier in another, or being a person of colour, or being disabled, rich or poor, and so on. 

The anthology matters because for too long has books and Autism materials about us been dominated by parents, professionals, and white people who do not represent all experiences of autistic people.  I see it every time I walk into an Autism conference center and look at the book displays.  How can we be "Nothing About Us, Without Us" without all of us being published, without all of us being represented?

 It cannot happen. 

Not without projects like the Autism and Race anthology.  

Either way, I look forward to seeing your work!!  

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Autism and Grief

Yesterday I put to rest my childhood cat, Nibbles. Amongst many things, it has me thinking about grief, and the mourning process.

Now, one of the most hurtful things I have come across when I learned about being autistic was the concept that autistic people don't feel the same level of grief for people or pets, because we don't show the same reactions that non-autistic do.  And this is reason to believe we don't have the same feelings as other people, and all that nonsense. 

When, in reality, it's more of a difference in grieving expression and process.  Like all new rhetoric regarding autistic emotions and expressions, this includes grief and mourning.   Now, obviously, each person is going to have their own process; what works for me might not work the same way for someone else.  However, the stages of grief more or less are the same, and what is the same for everyone is that we all need time and space to process our grief, whether alone or with other people.  

What is important for family members to know, for autistic people to know, is when to offer help, when to let people be to mourn by themselves, and ask for help. 

As someone who has lived through the death of three grandparents, a baby goddaughter, and now three beloved cats, I am no stranger to grief.  It does get easier each time to go through the process, although the pain is still just as deep, just as terrible, for each one.  It is the sudden deaths that adds shock, denial, and dismay to the grieving process and makes it so much harder.  Knowing that a grandparent is old and sickly for a long time does give one time to prepare ahead of time, as for an elderly cat.  

I have found that I do two types of crying, to go along with two modes of my mourning process, my private and public modes, that I'll move back and forth during my grieving.  

I do most of my crying in private, I prefer to be alone to cry and be silent.  Emotions, especially strong emotions like grief can be overwhelming raw, and way too much to be shared.  So I prefer to be alone when expressing my deepest pain and sorrow, unless I have no choice or it's too big to be held back.  

When in public, sorrow will slip out, whether I've pulled myself together enough to talk about it, or it just slips out a bit.  I know that there are some days where I'll be crying off and on without prompting.  And then talking about it, cause I need to get it out.  I call this my public mode, cause it's grieving sort of publicly.  It helps to be with trusted people, but I've been known to just start talking to anyone to get it out.  

If I do public mode too much, I can sometimes get overwhelmed and need to retreat into private grieving.  Emotions are raw during mourning.  Things are sensitive.  I know I move more slowly, I'm unable to do some of the things I used to be able to do before, especially social things.  I do try to keep my schedule, keep to a routine, cause it helps keep myself from completely falling apart mentally.  But I forgive myself for not being able to keep up with social events, for mental health things.  And I do what I can to make sure I'm taking care of myself physically, like going on walks, eating and taking meds. 

I know that the issue of when to offer supports, and when to look for supports comes up, since when does grieving become depression.  It's a bit different for everyone, and everyone takes different amounts of time to process and go through the mourning process.  First, I would offer being there for the person in mourning, or bear in mind that there is help if you need it.  But don't push.  

Grief becomes problematic when it starts to negatively impact your life, even if it doesn't become depression.  Don't expect to overcome grief in a few days, or even a week.  It may take quite a while.  But if it is having some major impact in your life, you might think about seeking help.  Remember that while seeking help, you are in control, you are a client, a consumer.  

The best list I have found for when to seek help comes from Jim Koeneman of New Life Grief Counseling, and is the following: 
  1. Have you lost the ability to enjoy things that used to provide you personal  satisfaction?
  2. Do you find yourself not wanting to be around your family and friends because you believe you would “put a damper on the party”?
  3. Do you find yourself constantly thinking of your loved one after several months after his or her death?
  4. Are you afraid of becoming close to new people or even with existing family and friends because you fear of losing them at some point?
  5. Do you try to keep yourself constantly busy so that you won’t think about your loss?
  6. Do you feel numb to your normal emotions?
  7. Are you unable or unwilling to express your true feelings about various aspects of your life that used to be very important to you?
  8. Do you feel stuck in your grief, unable to move on, even though it has been quite some time since the death of your loved one?
The best way to find a therapist I find is to meet with them, get a good feel on whether you can easily talk to them, can work with them.

But it's never a good idea to force someone to meet with a therapist; it has to be them willing to go, them willing to talk and to take those steps for the healing to happen.  

We may express our grief privately, and we'll be, well, not exactly okay, because we've lost a loved one, but mourning is natural and normal.  It's healthy.  It's exhausting, but it's healthy.