All posts by monalyssa33

The Debilitating Effects of Alzheimer’s

Last night, I had a dream about someone very dear to me.  Her name was Linda.  Linda was the school psychologist at my elementary school and when I was suffering from selective mutism, she helped me gain confidence to start talking again.  She became like a second mother to me.  I wrote letters to her when I left 5th grade all the way through college.  She came to my high school graduation and my grad party / 18th birthday party.  We would go out for lunch every once and awhile.  A few years ago at one such lunch, she told me she had Alzheimer’s.  She was 54 years old at the time.

Today, after having that dream, I decided to look her up online because I hadn’t talked to her in ages because I was afraid to see how advanced she was.  I found out she passed away in November.  I am heartbroken to say the least.  I never got to really tell her how much she meant to me.  I’ve been thinking about how if she didn’t have Alzheimer’s she would probably still be here.

I watched as Alzheimer’s slowly took her ability to remember things and she had trouble concentrating.  I last saw her a couple of years ago before she moved to Iowa to be near her parents.  She told me about how despite the Alzheimer’s, when I wrote to her, she could still hear my voice.  That brought me comfort knowing she still remembered me, because I will always remember her.

I’ve experienced first hand how the effects of Alzheimer’s hurt not only the person suffering from it, but also the people they love.  I wish there were a cure, even though the person I love is now gone.  I don’t want people to experience the loss of a loved one like I have and Linda’s family has.

You can help advance the science in finding a cure by donating to the Alzheimer’s Association.  I hope to be able to do that someday myself.

Keeping Mental Health Parity

I have three heroes in my life.  The first two are my parents.  The third is the late Senator Paul Wellstone.  Every year when October 25th comes around (the day he died), I make an effort to remember Wellstone and all that he stood for and believed in.  He is my hero because he fought for families like mine, families who were treated less than human because of mental illness.

When I was in high school, my brother was hospitalized several times for bipolar disorder.  This was from 2000-2006, before the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 that Paul Wellstone introduced.  As a result of my brother’s frequent hospitalizations and the fact that my parents’ insurance did not cover mental health issues, my parents accumulated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of medical bills.  This subsequently resulted in them applying for bankruptcy in 2006.

Before the Mental Health Parity Act of 2008, insurance companies could treat mental health coverage as unnecessary.  One of my brother’s psychiatrists said, “Insurance companies only care about what goes on below the neck.”  It’s true.  Anything mental or emotional was disregarded as unimportant.  This was a huge mistake with mental illness on the rise.  After the parity act passed in 2008, insurance companies had to cover mental illnesses just like physical illnesses.

The parity act is necessary and we need to keep in effect.  It is vital that those with mental illnesses get the treatment they need without being burdened financially for getting help.  Getting help should never cost someone their life savings.

Comcast and Time Warner

In a blog post on, Tim Worstall states that Comcast and Time Warner merging is not a big deal because they aren’t in competition with each other at the moment.  If they merge, it is a big deal.  Comcast will become a bigger entity, creating a monopoly in the cable and Internet industry.  We do not want nor need that to happen.  When a monopoly occurs, the company can charge as much as they want because they have no competition.  I know I do not want to pay more for my cable and Internet.  The 150 dollars I currently spend a month on cable is far too much as it is.

It is very frustrating to have to deal with a monopoly in your service area, especially when the service is awful.  Having experienced Comcast’s horrible practices, I know that while I want to switch companies I can’t because there aren’t any other cable providers in my area.

Our senator, Al Franken, is fighting the merger calling it “a disaster” if it is approved.  I agree with him wholeheartedly. There needs to be more press about this issue, but Franken believes major media companies are afraid to retaliate, which is understandable, but the consumers can fight this.

It’s May, you know what that means!

Attention everyone!  It’s May, the most exciting time of the year!  Earlier this month, the Social Security Administration posted 2013’s top 1000 baby names!  As an avid baby name enthusiast, I have followed the trends of names for over 15 years.  I remember the first time I heard the made up name Nevaeh (Heaven backwards) and watched in horror as it rose the ranks on the SSA list.  Over the years I have become a bit of a name snob.  I would rather we lived in a world full of classic, traditional names like Sarah, Evelyn, Thomas, or Lucas than a world with names like Trynity, Kassidi, Jaxon, or Elyjuh.  I have argued in the past that naming a child uniquely sets that child up for teasing and ultimately a life of stripper poles and pimps.  While I honestly have no evidence to back this up, I still believe it is more likely to happen with made up spellings.

Though there is no evidence of the misspelling of a name choosing the future occupation, there have been studies done to show that what you name a child affects how they do in school.  According to Time Magazine, a child with a unique name is more likely to be placed in special education, perform worse on tests, and are less likely to be thought of as gifted.  Do the names cause that though or are the perceptions from the teachers and society the real reason?  The teacher could sub-consciously be treating children with nontraditional names differently than children with traditional names.  Is the problem name snobs, like myself, judging the child for something they had no control over?  I’ll leave that up to you.

Parents want their children to be unique and different.  They don’t want their kids to be one of many, so they decide to start the child’s life out with an unusual name.  There are many names though that are traditional names and are not very popular.  For example, the name Aurelia was not in the top 1000 from 1950 to 2013, where it was number 833.  The boy name Lachlan, which has a Gaelic background, has never been in the top 1000 until it ranked in at 991 in 2013.  There are many names that are nice sounding and spelled normally that are not popular, you just have to do a little searching.

While I believe people should be able to name their children whatever they want, parents should take into consideration the effects a unique name could have on a child.  If parents have really thought the name out and decided on an unusual spelling then more power to them.

Technology and Children

About 8 months ago, I was talking with friends about that children’s singer, Raffi.  We were reminiscing about singing “Baby Beluga” as children and how we were all going to go to a Halloween party as Raffi songs.  When I got home that night, I decided to look Raffi up and see what he was up to.  I found him on Facebook and Twitter and followed him.  It became clear quickly that Raffi, still singing songs for children, has evolved into an anti-technology advocate, especially when it comes to children.

I didn’t get my first smartphone until 5 months ago.  I will openly admit that I am addicted to my laptop and when it broke this past Sunday I actually became depressed, but when it came to my phone, I was insistent on never getting a smartphone.  I didn’t want to become one of “those” people who, when out with friends, spends all their time playing on their phone.  Now that I have my smartphone, I can see the negatives and the positives.  While I am not addicted to it like I am with my laptop, I find it useful for the GPS and looking up information when a computer isn’t nearby.  I also see how smartphones can disconnect you from real life because you are no longer having conversations when you are out with people.

Back to Raffi, he has a book about the dangers of technology and children.  I haven’t read it, but I have followed him long enough on social media to know what the gist of it is.  He has said that children do not use their imaginations when they are around technology.  I find this very true in my own life.  Ever since I got my first laptop, I’ve had the hardest time being motivated and finding ideas for my creative writing.  I feel like my mind is so busy with information that I can’t filter it out to focus on what is important to me.  Because of my addiction to the Internet, especially, I get anxious about being bored and having nothing to do.  When I was a kid, I remember being bored, especially during the summer months when Dragnet Fridays came on Nick@Nite’s Summer Block Party.  (I hated Dragnet).  When I was bored, I didn’t have the Internet to entertain me, but I was very creative as a child and figured out things to do.  This fear parents seem to have about their children having nothing to do and bothering them has resulted in kids being addicted to technology at young ages when they should be using their imagination and being kids.  Kids should be out playing with friends, playing Cops and Robbers, riding their bikes, not in front of a computer.

While I know I can’t be without technology for very long, I don’t want my future children to be like me.  I want them to experience camping in the wilderness and going for family bike rides like I did when I was a kid.  I want a better world for them and an over-consumption of technology is not the answer.

Adults with Autism

There is so much awareness about autism these days because the autism rate in children has supposedly risen to 1 in 68 children being diagnosed.  I only say supposedly because many people take this statistic and assume that autism is becoming an epidemic, when really it is just being diagnosed better.  A lot of people think of children and autism, too, but there are many adults who are living and living well with autism.  I happen to be one of them.

I was diagnosed 9 months ago when I was 27 years old.  While having been diagnosed, I tried to not let it affect me because I was still the same person, I just had a reason for my weird and intense fixations and my incredible social ineptitude.  Ultimately though, I did get the feeling that I was different because of my diagnosis.  I felt like less of a person and someone who couldn’t do things without help, even though I had been living on my own for over a year and had graduated high school with honors.  This is something I have been struggling with these last 9 months and I hope to someday overcome that.

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When it comes to adults with autism, many can live on their own, some need assistance, but they can do the same things neuro-typicals (people without autism) can do.  Many adults with autism have jobs catered to their intense focus and attention to detail.  There is even a company in California that hires autistics specifically for some of their positions.

Autism is not just a childhood disorder, it is lifelong.  I will always have autism.  I can learn to handle social situations better and I can figure out ways to lessen my fixations so I can focus on important things, but I will still always have it.

– Alyssa