Whether you’re interested in autism already, know nothing about autism and want to understand it more fully, or just like reading about how a real family deals with life issues, you will enjoy Keiko Tobe’s series With the Light: Raising an Autistic Child. Volume one begins with a young woman, Sachiko Azuma, who feels very lucky: her adoring husband Masato has an excellent job, they live in a nice condo, and she just had her first child, Hikaru. Life seems perfect until Hikaru starts acting strangely. He hates being held, he cries all the time for no clear reason, and he won’t return affection. Sachiko’s husband is overworked and exhausted, and her mother-in-law blames Hikaru’s misbehavior on Sachiko for taking shortcuts in her parenting and failing to discipline. On the verge of resorting to abuse, Sachiko takes her child to a doctor who diagnoses Hikaru as autistic. She originally finds it hard to believe that her beautiful son has an incurable condition, but when Hikaru’s behavior disrupts a family funeral – it’s the last straw for Sachiko. She finally takes him to a Social Welfare Center that can offer her help, direction, and understanding.
The eight volumes of With the Light are large for a manga series, with each volume exceeding 500 pages, but they fly past. As the series continues, Hikaru ages through adolescence and Sachiko develops methods for Hikaru to control his behavior and learn along with the rest of his classmates. They face many trials – from daily prejudice to a teacher that doesn’t agree with the allowances necessary for Hikaru to stay in normal classes. It’s very realistic in its depiction of an often misunderstood neurodevelopmental disorder, even though it is a work of fiction and some liberties are taken to keep the story entertaining.
According to A Beginner’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders by Paul Taylor, autism spectrum disorders are diagnosed through impairments in three areas of behavior: social interaction, communication, and activity/interests. Hikaru shows all these impairments as his story continues, from keeping to himself and missing non-verbal cues (social interaction) to barely speaking (communication), to repetitive behavior and obsession with order (activity/interests). As educational as it is enjoyable, Hikaru’s path through school illustrates some of the ways in which autistic students can learn alongside developmentally normal students with only small changes to the classroom. Taylor’s text covers many of the principles used in With the Light to help Hikaru learn and communicate, including the creation of structure and predictability, anticipating transitions, creating self-help options like a place for Hikaru to go when he’s feeling too stressed and needs to recover, and ensuring that all those involved in the classroom understand the disorder and what can be done to help.
It’s especially interesting to see how a non-American culture deals with the complexity of autism. Tobe includes many resources and even some essays on autism and raising autistic children, many from a distinctly Japanese point of view. Among other resources, the library can offer the aforementioned Beginner’s Guide to Autism Spectrum Disorders as an introduction, while the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism is made up of essays from “autistics, parents, and professionals” that provide a more personal touch. Temple Grandin, a doctor, professor, engineer, and autism activist has written numerous books on autism, including 2013’s The Autistic Brain: Thinking Across the Spectrum and her autobiography Thinking in Pictures, which was the subject of the movie Temple Grandin starring Claire Danes.
If you’re looking for more answers to your questions concerning autism or need support, the Howard County Autism Society is a good place to start. This organization has been serving our community for over twenty years and is a wellspring of information and resources for individuals and families living with autism spectrum disorders.
Jessica Seipel is an Instructor & Research Specialist at the Savage Branch. She has worked for the Howard County Library System, in various positions, for a decade.
Your diet is an important tool in maintaining good health as well as a necessary element in promoting peak performance. Proper nutrition and hydration for runners can make or break a workout or race. The food you eat greatly affects how you feel, work, and think. A balanced diet for healthy runners should include these essentials: carbohydrates, protein, fats, vitamins, and minerals. Be sure you communicate your health goals and consult your primary care physician or a licensed nutritionist or dietitian when making changes to your diet.
Here are some basic guidelines for a nutritious, healthy balance:
Carbohydrates are the best source of energy for athletes. They provide quick and long-lasting energy. Our bodies work more efficiently with carbs than they do with proteins or fats. Whole grain pasta, steamed or boiled rice, potatoes, fruits, starchy vegetables, and whole grain breads are good carb sources.
Protein Protein is used for some energy and to repair tissue damaged during training. Protein keeps you feeling full longer. Try to concentrate on protein sources that are low in fat and cholesterol such as lean meats, fish, dairy products (lower fat), poultry, whole grains, and beans.
Fat A high fat diet can quickly pack on the pounds, so try to make sure that you stick to foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol. Foods such as nuts, oils, and cold-water fish provide essential fats called omega-3s, which are vital for good health.
Vitamins Runners don’t get energy from vitamins, but they are still an important part of their diet. Getting vitamins from whole foods is preferable to supplementation.
Calcium: A calcium-rich diet is essential for runners to prevent osteoporosis and stress fractures. Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, calcium-fortified juices, dark leafy vegetables, beans, and eggs.
Iron: You need this nutrient to deliver oxygen to your cells. If you have an iron-poor diet, you’ll feel weak and fatigued, especially when you run. Good natural sources of iron include lean meats, leafy green vegetables, nuts, shrimp, and scallops.
Sodium and other electrolytes: Small amounts of sodium and other electrolytes are lost through sweat during exercise. Usually, electrolytes are replaced if you follow a balanced diet. But if you find yourself craving salty foods, it may be your body’s way of telling you to get more sodium. Try drinking a sports drink or eating some pretzels after exercise.
Here are some excellent resources which provide a comprehensive guidelines to nutrition for athletes:
Happy trails until we meet again!
Anna Louise Downing is a Customer Service Specialist at the Miller Branch. She is an avid reading and enjoys Disney, music and her passion of running. She has been a race ambassador for several local races, is a Sweat Pink Ambassador for promoting women’s health. Follow her journey towards being physically fit with running and healthy lifestyle here on Well & Wise.
This photo comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Public Health Image Library (PHIL)
The U.S. is preparing for an outbreak of a painful, debilitating mosquito-borne virus called, Chikungunya. Pronounced chik-en-gun-ye, the name derived from Makonde language means, “that which bends up” and references the stooped and contorted posture of patients suffering from the joint pain that accompanies the virus. The virus was first described in the 1950s in what is now Tanzania. Since 2004 Chikungunya has reached epidemic proportions and is slowly making its way towards the United States, where both species of the mosquitoes known to carry the virus exist. In December, the World Health Organization reported the first transmission of the disease in the Americas when cases were reported in Saint Martin. Since that time, thousands of infections have been reported throughout the Caribbean.
Transmission of the virus and symptoms are similar to dengue fever. The acute febrile phase of the virus lasts 2-5 days and, in addition to high fevers, patients can present with a rash. The second, longer phase of the virus can last weeks or months and in some cases years. During this phase, patients report debilitating arthritic-like joint pain. Other symptoms can include headache, nausea, vomiting, conjunctivitis, sensitivity to light and fatigue. No cure is currently available, only treatment to relieve symptoms. Younger patients generally recover within 5-15 days, but older patients can take months or even years to recover. Diagnosis is usually confirmed with blood tests and takes 1-3 days for results.
Prevention of transmission is important and involves controlling mosquito populations and protection against contact with the mosquito. People travelling to areas with high transmission rates should use insect repellents containing DEET, Picaridn, OLE or IR3535 and wear garments heavy enough to offer protection from mosquito bites. For an additional layer of protection, clothing can be treated with insecticides such as permethrin, which should never be used directly on the skin. Mosquito control districts have budgeted funds for extra spraying, and individuals are encouraged to secure screens in windows and remove sources of standing water.
After first rain in months, mud is the best toy. August 28, 2006. Image by David K from Dallas, USA
Whenever my grandmother would catch me or one of my siblings, when we were a lot younger (and, later, one of her great grandchildren) doing something disgusting, say licking a windowsill for example (it wasn’t me!), she would always console the governing child minder by saying: “A pound of dirt a year. That’s what every child needs.” I never thought much about this until I had children of my own and would catch them doing something gross like eating cat food or sucking on fingers…not always their own.
Despite my kids’ profound “moments of ew,” things do seem a lot more antiseptic these days than when I was a kid. There are now “wipes” in supermarkets to clean off your cart. Hand sanitizer is available in most public places. There are loads of products on the market to help keep junior from ever having to come into contact with real-life shmutz, and antibiotics seem to be prescribed more often than I remember (hence my little c. diff dilemma a few months back).
My other friends who are parents and I have talked a lot about whether we are becoming a little too much of a rubber-glove society and what effects this may have on our children and their immune systems. For example, one book I came across in the library Why Dirt Is Good by Mary Ruebush, Ph.D. (see, you can find almost anything in the library) states: “One result of our societal trend toward germophobia, supercleanliness, and heavy antibiotic use is weakened individual immunity due to lack of dirt. …we’ve also created evolutionary selection for the production of new ‘superbugs’–pathogens that can’t be killed by the usual sanitation methods and that resist antibiotic drugs.”
I’m not suggesting that we should allow our children to actually wallow in filth (or ingest it). And I think everyone will agree that we have no wish to return to the days of the plague or 30-year life spans. Some levels of cleanliness and germ-free living are definitely beneficial to our health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says: “An essential part of preventing the spread of infection in the community and at home is proper hygiene.”
But then they add: “To date, studies have shown that there is no added health benefit for consumers (this does not include professionals in the healthcare setting) using soaps containing antibacterial ingredients compared with using plain soap….” And… “Every time a person takes antibiotics, sensitive bacteria are killed, but resistant germs may be left to grow and multiply. Repeated and improper uses of antibiotics are primary causes of the increase in drug-resistant bacteria.”
This is still a pretty controversial subject, and I’m not sure anyone has yet developed the perfect solution. As with all things, it would seem that truth lies somewhere in the middle. As for my grandma’s dirt theory, she did live a very healthy and active (as well as sage and sassy) 98 years, but I never witnessed her consuming any dirt.
Joanne Sobieck-Lingg is glad to blog about her many, disparate interests (though expert in none, except maybe parenthetical asides). In past lives, she was a writer, proofreader, editor, project manager, teacher, and even co-coordinator of a certain health blog. She has been happily ensconced among the fiction and teen books at the Central Branch of HCLS since 2003.
In the fall of 1951, a warm, vivacious African-American mother of five succumbed to a rare cervical cancer — she was only thirty-one. Known affectionately as Hennie, Henrietta Lacks could dance like nobody’s business and her heart was as big as her home when it came to feeding and caring for her many relatives, but she was no-nonsense with her kids and carried a secret pain for the impaired child she was once forced to give away.
A violent storm was all that marked her passing. There was no obituary. Not even a headstone. Hennie’s shoes and clothes were whisked away—like she never existed—and the little ones, with no memory of their mother, were parceled out to bitter, cunning relatives.
Only their mother’s bible and a lock of her hair remained tangible proof that Hennie ever lived until decades later when the four Lacks siblings learned that their mother—astoundingly—lived on through the very unique cells that originally generated her cancer.
Without their mother’s knowledge, or family consent, Johns Hopkins Hospital (one of a handful at the time willing to treat black Americans) studied Hennie’s tumor and recognized something distinguishing about it.
For the very first time, human cells proved not only that they could be grown outside the human body, but also that Hennie’s “workhorse” cells were spontaneously replicable! Scientists were ecstatic. Here at last was a cell culture vital to the research of disease, chromosomal study and much more. Scientists gave them a name: “HeLa,” short for Henrietta Lacks.
Immortal and vastly profitable HeLa cells (at $167.00 a vial) would come to mean big business for all those involved – except the marginalized and medically uninsured Lacks family.
To write this gripping nonfiction, author Rebecca Skloot invested ten years in the lives of Hennie’s children to record vividly the myriad emotions they grappled with after learning the truth. None of those emotions was more exquisite and tender than that joyful moment in which Deborah and Zakariyya Lacks “meet” their mother for the very first time.
Editor’s Note: If you’re interested in exploring African American History in Howard County please register online or by calling 410.313.7800 for a special presentation by the Howard County Center of African American Culture at the Central Branch on March 4, 2014 at 6:30 p.m. Wylene Sims Burch, Founder and Director of the Howard County Center of African American Culture, considers the rich history of African-Americans in Howard County. O.H. Laster, Howard County resident and community volunteer, reviews the creation of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and how he worked toward its adoption. This is a “History Lives” event.
Aimee Zuccarini is a research assistant and instructor at the East Columbia Branch. She facilitates several book discussions and writes the book reviews for The Maryland Women’s Journal.
It’s been a long cold lonely winter… or something like that. I know that February always bring those thoughts… but this year, even the snow lovers are weary of it all. The snow shovels don’t get put away anymore, they stand propped up against the house in an attitude of resignation.
Perhaps you brace yourself to withstand the final icy grasp of winter by looking through seed catalogs and planning gardens, by reading about new varieties of tomatoes and new methods of germinating seeds. Perhaps you even have a cold frame and will jump the season and nurture seedlings into edible lettuce plants early. Or, perhaps you’ll wait a little longer to start seedlings indoors or wait for the traditional days to plant outdoors. Did you know that planting potatoes on St. Patrick’s Day is a gardening tradition?
But what if you have never had a garden? Or don’t have a yard large enough for a garden plot? Or live in the shade? Can a novice start a growing tradition? Should they? Absolutely! There are resources for every gardening obstacle and plenty of help for the greenest of green thumb wannabes.
Is your yard too small? Too shady? Too rocky? Try a community garden. If you live in Howard County, check out Howard County community gardens and the garden at the Howard County Conservancy. Other jurisdictions offer the programs, as well. In addition to a right-sized plot, many of these gardens include deer fencing, compost heaps, water and even plantings to encourage pollinators. Equally important- they offer expert advice from fellow gardeners- just what the novice needs!
Do you need information about how to get started? Information about types of plants? Resources about pest management? Questions about fertilizers? The Howard County Library System has an extensive selection of books that can answer all of your questions about gardening. And, of course, there is always the Old Farmer’s Almanac – published continuously since 1792- it is wealth of information. If you learn better from attending classes in person, the University of Maryland Extension service offers a series of gardening classes in Howard County that will get you off on the right track.
Finally, do you need to have a reason to give gardening a go this year? Here are a few good reasons.
It’s good for the bottom line. Gardening can save you money. A $2 tomato plant can produce $60 worth of tomatoes during a single growing season. The drought in California will cause produce prices to rise, buying locally- and better yet, growing locally will save you money.
It’s good for the bottom line- the other bottom line. Growing your own vegetables is great exercise. Eating fresh veggies may keep you fit, but the physical exercise that it requires also contributes positively to your fitness level. Think of what all that weeding and hoeing will do for your glutes!
Fresh vegetables are nutritious and tasty because they have the chance to ripen on the vine. If you’ve never had the opportunity to go out just before dinner and pluck a red ripe tomato off the vine to add to your salad- you don’t know what you are missing. No supermarket tomato will ever compare.
It’s good for the environment. Locally sourcing your own vegetables reduces- the carbon resources need to transport veggies from far away.
Staying connected to the earth is good for your mental health and the extra sunshine vitamin D will give your mood- and immune system- a boost, as well.
Perhaps most importantly, though… planning a garden gives you something to look forward to in the lingering days of February. And if that isn’t encouragement enough, I leave you with a little music to get you going.