Monthly Archives: September 2015

Living with Autism

Imagine living with someone you love dearly that makes you question daily why you have been cursed. Imagine serene family picnics suddenly turned to embarrassing screaming fits of rage for no apparent reason.

Welcome to the world of living with a child with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. For years the high functioning child may go without the diagnosis and the support they need and may fall behind at school. Up until a certain age they look and act like a normal child with albeit quirky cute behaviour but some things just aren’t right.

The diagnosis isn’t with a blood test nor simple observation. It requires painstaking analysis of their history from multiple sources across a variety of disciplines including paediatricians, psychologists, psychiatrists, teachers, parents and other child specialists.

The other less known effects are the impacts of reduced quality social interactions. For example, little or no friends, missing out of birthdays, reduced social development and quality group play.

Whether because of the increased reporting, diagnosis or “something in the water” autism rates are on the rise. Detection rate now puts ASD at over 2%.

The longer terms effects of ASD are; reduced education opportunities (despite academic brilliance being the norm in many ASD cases), the ASD sufferer is often socially immature or may lack friends or miss many social queues, anxiety, drug dependence, depression and high rates of suicide or thoughts of suicide.

A missed diagnosis early in life can result in a life of missed opportunities for the ASD sufferer. Often they seek out attention and friendship from the wrong crowd and can go on to a life of crime, homelessness or despair. Given the right opportunities however high functioning children can lead a brilliant academic life.  Due to the obsessive nature of their minds they can go on to have particularly creative or technical careers. People such as Einstein, Mozart, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates are all suspected of being ASD.

Another aspect that needs to be considered is the way we talk about them. Maybe referring to them as sufferers and comparing them to a “normal” person is unfair, thus making anyone who is outside this norm as having a “condition”. This is an incredibly painful notion for anyone with any disability (another word I am reticent to use) either physical, or mental. Thus making the term “ASD sufferer” somewhat prejudgemental. While for the person sitting in the Autism Spectrum, they want be seen as anything other than as suffering from something, the right diagnosis can help their learning. From counselling, to modifying teaching practises, and training the parent in raising them, can greatly improve quality of life.

The stigma attached to ASD and other behaviours over flow onto the parent. A raging child is often labelled as spoilt or naughty and the parent inconsistent, bad or not being able to control their child. Parenting a child with ASD can be tough due to the small triggers that can send the child into a rage. For example the wrong plate or clothing colour, something happening in the wrong order or some request being unfulfilled. Often the unknowing parent raises their own anxiety and intensity levels to match the child, often making the situation worse. A non ASD child learns through both positive and negative reinforcement about appropriate behaviour, but the ASD child won’t make these connections easily, if at all, unless taught a different way. The same can be said about every aspect of their learning.

Specialist skills can be taught in isolation to prepare them for life; for example resilience, self regulation, communication norms, and safety. As teens they can be taught more transitional skills such as independence, personal care and food preparation.

As a society we must be more tolerant, less judgmental and display more understanding to families with ASD children. This helps to reduce the stigma, lessens the harmful effects of bullying, and allows them to feel more normal, thereby reducing its impact on the individual.


I have written this to raise awareness on the plight of raising children with a ASD. Often its an invisible thankless task with zero support. Don’t be the one out in the public who misjudges a situation and makes parents feel worse.

For people with children who have or they suspect of having ASD, here are some useful support links:

10 daily tips to improve your health

Its not hard to stay healthy. All we need to do is respect our selves and do what most good parents told us to do as children. Reducing the list to only 10 was hard but I think these are the most important.

  1. Establish a sleep routine that suits your natural biorhythms and improves healthy body functions Sleep.
  2. Drink two to three litres of water each day.
  3. Healthy eating. Eat less processed food and more “fresh” fruit and vege’s by “colour”. (Vary what you eat by colour; red, yellow, green orange etc, it will ensure you are getting a variety of minerals and vitamins)
  4. Exercise. Exceed the minimum of 30 minutes 3 times a week. Aim for 30 minutes every day of moderate workload.
  5. Take some down time to be by yourself to calm your mind.
  6. Once you have made the decision to be more health conscious surround yourself with like minded people
  7. Exercise your brain, do puzzles, learn a language, music or new skill.
  8. Stay clean. Brush your teeth properly,  wash yourself, clothes and bedding regularly. They are all a hot bed of bacteria.
  9. Remember to breath. Breathing for life will help relief stress and improve circulation.
  10. Use positive affirmations to balance the negative we constantly hear.

Elite Special Forces Training

The Elite Special Forces are the most specially trained, fearsome unit a country can command. Within these units are fearless, bad-ass soldiers, who’s death defying feats while becoming legendary, are still being shrouded in secrecy. These forces do covert actions such as end hostage situations, to effecting government change, all while living lives as unsung heroes.

Parents are something of special forces unit due to the attributes they require to be successful.

The personal attributes for the individuals read like a shopping list but mainly include being a cool, calm headed team player, resourceful during the gruelling jungle training and unarmed combat skills, a problem solver and good communicator who is physical fit and strong, with loads of heart.

In the Navy SEALs, only 10% of the people who try out make the cut. The entry requires a minimum standard of 42 pushups, 50 situps and a 2.4k jog all under 15 minutes before trying out.

Here are 5 things you can do to improve your own Elite skills and become a badass parent:

Calm problem solver

Staying calm under pressure can be tough. Our natural reactions is to stress and make rash decision, say things we may not mean or are wrong, or completely freak out and become more of a problem for others to deal with. But staying calm under pressure can be trained. First check out your current anxiety levels. Are you currently experiencing any issues that can be dealt with whether it be medically, professionally or socially? Sort you head space out now and start on a level playing field.

Practice patience. People (children) rarely actually deserve or need to be yelled at. So the need to allow your blood to boil and shoot your mouth off correspondingly is often grossly out of proportion with community standards. Practise the skills we teach as parents. When you feel anger rising, count to 10 before speaking, start deep breathing to maintain normal oxygen levels, leave the situation, ask questions and develop an appropriate response before speaking about the incident. Where possible ask you self “is what I’m about to say based on rationale or emotion?

If you identify that you have issues with confrontation, take some conflict resolution training. It’s important for healthy relationships, parenting and a successful career.


Now that you’ve begun to develop the cooler calmer you, let’s focus on becoming an expert problem solver.

In order to solve a problem you must be able to comprehend it. Ask questions of those close to the problem. Often the problem lies masked by its symptoms. Keep asking WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHERE, WHY and HOW.

Evaluate the pieces of the puzzle and don’t be afraid to seek expert advice. Be creative to allow ideas to flow and see which can best fit the solution. Maybe accept a solution that is an 80% fit and then manage the gap another way.

Identify the resources needed to solve the problem, whether it be physical, time, money, human resources etc.

Devise a plan, communicate it so everyone knows their place.

Execute the plan as discussed making allowances for variation on the fly.

Follow up and examine the solution to see if was the right fit; could have been done better, quicker or cheaper? Learn from, discuss and communicate the outcome of the experience.

You can gain experience in problem solving by volunteering in the community. Also it will help with confidence and volunteering makes you feel good about yourself.


Become Physically fit

While you don’t have to sit the entrance of a Navy Seal physical exam, best the best you can be! Can you outrun your children? If your child was in danger could you move quickly to save them? Could you scale a tree to save a kitten? Could you swim against a current to save family or a friend?

Take a critical look at yourself and ask if you would pass a medical examination as a police officer or to take the bronze medallion? While the fitness standard is much lower than a navy seal, it’s there to weed out those that may pose a risk to themselves or others in a dangerous situation. Could you chase and catch a crook? Can you scale a fence? Can you swim 200 metres dragging a child?

If you are smiling and shaking your head no, then now is the time to take action. First get off to the doctor and check if there is a medical reason why you are unfit. If you just eat too much and don’t exercise enough then you are in luck. A personal trainer can help you with that. They will work with you to determine specific goals, devise a sustainable strategy, keep you motivated when the going gets tough and high five you when you have met your goals. Your kids will be stoked with you. That person that hasn’t seen you for 2 months will suddenly have a second look at you and all your friends will be asking about the secret to why you look so good.

Learn to love exercise and take the next step to becoming a badass elite mum or dad.


Combat skill

Could you fight off an attacker or loved one if something bad happened?  Wing Chun Kung Fu is a devastating, no fuss martial art that can quickly dispose of any would be attacker. It’s designed to be simple and practical so anyone can learn and use,  regardless of age, size or gender.

It’s a system that teaches you to be direct and economical to get you out of danger as quickly as it starts. Getting fit and learning self defence are two of the most important things to do as leader of your unit. For me personally I would never forgive myself if I was unable or unwilling to defend someone I loved. Just shoot me now!


Bush craft

Becoming out-doorsy is as important for adults as it is for kids. Never lose touch with you creativity and curiosity as you grow up. Go camping, bush walking or learn bush craft. Ask you self if I was lost even for 24 hours how would I survive. Would I be able to provide, water, shelter, warmth even for that amount of time? Jungle skills is about being able to survive for weeks or month with little or no supplies and living off the land.

There are a few essentials to bush craft. In a short term situation, fire craft, shelter building and finding water are important, longer term skills like hunting and trapping, tracking, foraging and rope craft will make you more useful and your life easier.


Having heart

No doubt you will have seen The Wizard of Oz. Tin man desperately wanted a heart yet was the most emotionally available of all the characters.  He only believed he had a heart when accepting the silk heart allowed him to truly trust his emotional identity. You don’t need to be a Navy seal to have heart. In fact heart in this attribute isn’t based on emotion. It is you “already existing ability” to show determination. It is your resolve to see a problem through to completion. It is your will power to sit through an uncomfortable situation. It is the grit you show when you help a friend move house when you neither have the time nor the energy to do so. It is the purpose you display when you assist a friend navigate a difficult life situation. Having heart means showing strength of character we only see when we test ourselves. Shielding yourself from these tests means you never get to display them for others and most importantly yourself to see.


These things 5 elements to becoming a kick ass elite parent won’t happen over night, but working incrementally to improve yourself is important. When you have little eyes looking up to you to learn how to act, self improvement becomes very important. In fact there is noting more important than teaching a child how to be the best they can be. So; “Be that best you can be!”



World Suicide Prevention Day

Are you okay? This is a question you should ask your friends and family (and even your self) regularly.

September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. Its a day we are asked to create awareness for and support people who are doing it tough. By raising awareness and reducing the stigma attached to suicide its hoped people will be more open about their mental illness and depression they are suffering and may “talk it out” instead of resorting to suicide in desperation.

Activities are organised throughout the year in support of this. Those activities may call attention to the global burden of suicidal behaviour, and discuss local, regional and national strategies for suicide prevention, highlighting cultural initiatives and emphasizing how specific prevention initiatives are shaped to address local cultural conditions.

Initiatives which actively educate and involve people are likely to be most effective in helping people learn new information about suicide and suicide prevention. Examples of activities which can support World Suicide Prevention Day include:

  • Launching new initiatives, policies and strategies on World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th.
  • Learning about Reaching out and Saving Lives, suicide prevention and mental health from materials found in IASP’s Web resource directory
  • Using the WSPD Press Preparation Package that offers media guides in the planning of an event or activity.
  • Holding conferences, open days, educational seminars or public lectures and panels
  • Writing articles for national, regional and community newspapers, blogs and magazines
  • Holding press conferences
  • Placing information on your website and using the IASP World Suicide Prevention Day Web banner, promoting suicide prevention in one’s native tongue.
  • Securing interviews and speaking spots on radio and television
  • Organizing memorial services, events, candlelight ceremonies or walks to remember those who have died by suicide
  • Asking national politicians with responsibility for health, public health, mental health or suicide prevention to make relevant announcements, release policies or make supportive statements or press releases on WSPD
  • Holding depression awareness events in public places and offering screening for depression
  • Organizing cultural or spiritual events, fairs or exhibitions
  • Organizing walks to political or public places to highlight suicide prevention
  • Holding book launches, or launches for new booklets, guides or pamphlets
  • Distributing leaflets, posters and other written information
  • Organizing concerts, BBQs, breakfasts, luncheons, contests, fairs in public places
  • Writing editorials for scientific, medical, education, nursing, law and other relevant journals
  • Disseminating research findings
  • Producing press releases for new research papers
  • Holding training courses in suicide and depression awareness
  • Joining us on the official World Suicide Prevention Day Facebook Event Page″
  • Supporting suicide prevention 365 days a year by becoming a Facebook Fan of the IASP
  • Following the IASP on Twitter (, tweeting #WSPD or #suicide or #suicideprevention
  • Creating a video about suicide prevention
  • Lighting a candle a candle, near a window at 8 PM in support of: World Suicide Prevention Day, suicide prevention and awareness, survivors of suicide and for the memory of loved lost ones. Find “Light a Candle Near a Window at 8 PM” postcards in various languages at:
  • Participating in the World Suicide Prevention Day – Cycle Around the Globe

Thanks to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) for the information contained in this article.

Island of a Million Tears

Island of a Million Tears - history of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum 1866 – 1946
Island of a Million Tears – History of the Dunwich Benevolent Asylum 1866 – 1946

Last week, I attended the launch of respected Redland’s City citizen , Arthur Rentoul’s book “Island of a Million Tears” – History of Dunwich Benevolent Asylum 1866-1946.  Arty is my father-in-law and I have observed for the last 10+ years as he painstakingly collected records from the Queensland State Archives, spending hundreds if not thousands of hours pouring over the largely hand written records to develop a confronting version of the day to day happenings of the Benevolent Asylum. I have been honoured to sit with him while he has shared fascinating stories on its  development over time. The story of the Asylum is essentially the story of its occupants.


Arty is a Builder and developed an interest in the Island’s history while restoring the Dunwich Hall some 15 years ago. He has had exclusive access to people close to the Asylum in Stradbroke Island elders. He has chronicled some of the more “interesting” characters, some of whom were returned veterans from various military campaign who ultimately fell on hard times.


“Island of a Million Tears” is a must have book for anyone interested in North Stradbroke Island, Moreton Bay or Queensland history. The reasonably priced book is available from the Redlands Museum, the North Stradbroke Island History or  myself on 0466 975 988.