Commentary #77: “There’s a severe shortage of mental health professionals in rural areas. Here’s why that’s a serious problem.”

Mental Health - Quotefancy

Image Credit: Quotefancy

I recently read another CNN article that I felt was worthy of sharing. It was published on June 20, 2018.

Here’s the link to the article:


For years, I’ve been fascinated with the Appalachian region of the United States. Part of it is because my grandmother (Mom’s mom) was raised in West Virginia, and other extended family members have lived in West Virginia and Kentucky, to name a few states.

The mountains are beautiful. Grandma Grace was raised during The Great Depression, and they survived. I have vague memories of visiting Great-Grandma Laura Bethany (whom I’m named after) on her farm in Ripley, and seeing Mom’s aunt’s and cousins in Beckley. These two areas aren’t deep in the mountains, but you can definitely see and feel the hills and valleys.

With all that said, Ripley and Beckley are small, but mighty. Other areas of West Virginia, and other states in the Appalachian region, have certainly struggled with the volatility of the coal mining industry, among other issues. The limited amount of research I’ve done shows years of struggles with poverty, unemployment, access to health care, and more. However, the Appalachian people are steadfast. I don’t want to be prejudicial, but research-based.

Along with difficulties accessing quality health care, and affording that care, mental health care is somewhat tied to that. It’s fascinating, as well as immensely frightening.

When I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in the summer of 2015, I started taking a bigger interest in mental health, including news articles about the topic. I’m grateful that I have a stable job, with good health insurance, and access to good mental health resources and services.

I’ve seen several counselors since I was in college, for a variety of reasons, but the counselor who diagnosed me with GAD was a watershed moment for me. She helped me unpack a variety of issues that were causing significant stress, and in turn, contributing to my anxiety. I’ve been able to better understand GAD, and to work to figure out the best ways to limit and control my anxiety. It’s a daily exercise, but I’m proud to say that I’m not taking any medication, and I’m able to live a fairly productive life thanks to a powerful and helpful support system. I realize that my situation is very unique, and I’m grateful for everything!


The article is packed with statistics. I won’t go through all of them, but the main point is a majority of non-metropolitan counties do not have a psychiatrist, and nearly half do not have a psychologist. The best definition of a non-metropolitan county that I could find is one that does not have a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) and has a population of 10,000 or less (Health Resources & Services Administration).

One of the interviewees, a clinical psychologist, pointed out that many rural areas only have generalists, i.e., primary care providers (PCPs), and there’s little to no specialized care. People are left on their own due to a lack of community mental health care, and nearby relevant hospital services.

The services that are available are focused on crisis intervention, not prevention. These services attempt to address the crisis as it’s happening, but nothing is available to prevent the crisis.

In addition to the lack of services and resources, health care funding cuts are exacerbating this problem. Roughly 80 rural hospitals closed between 2010 and 2017. Hundreds more are at risk.

Another problem the rural population faces is isolation. Isolation can spark downward spirals, which can lead to drug addiction, overdoses, depression, and suicide. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), rural areas have a higher suicide rate than non-rural areas, which has been widening since 2001.

This is a significantly complex and challenging problem that can’t be addressed with a single solution. However, there’s one bright spot that is starting to emerge – Telebehavioral health. The article provided the example of a patient in Wyoming “seeing” a psychologist in Pennsylvania via virtual sessions and online portals.

As promising as telebehavioral health appears, the article points out a host of other issues that rural residents face. Access to the Internet is one, being proficient with computers / technology another, and having the financial resources to access these mental health professionals.

To me, there needs to be a series of steps to tackle these issues. I don’t have all the answers, and I try to be as objective as possible.

There needs to be consistent investment in mental health services across the U.S. Every rural area that does not have a psychiatrist or psychologist should probably have at least one of each. The currently practicing doctors should be linked up to the existing mental health services, as well as be / become advocates for improving those services. Continued work to reduce the stigma of mental illness, addiction, and other mental health issues will also be beneficial.

Those support systems that people turn to in the event of a crisis – Family, friends, ministers, chaplains, and even first responders – should also have connections to mental health services. More mental health training for these support systems, specialized if possible, is also a good idea.

Throughout the network of ideas and potential solutions, the idea of making and sustaining connections and cooperation appears to be a common theme. In order to help the neediest residents, everyone involved with helping them should be educated, connected, and cooperative.

Example: Someone in a rural area is struggling with isolation and drug addiction, and overdoses. When the family member calls for an ambulance, the first responders take the resident to the local or nearest hospital. While recovering in the hospital, a series of people work behind the scenes to quickly identify others that can help – Family members, the hospital chaplain, the resident’s pastor, the resident’s primary care physician, and anyone else. Together, this network of resources work together to locate the nearest psychiatrist or psychologist, or even the nearest behavioral health center. The idea is to build a strong support system to get the resident the best mental health services possible.

This is strictly an example, but ideally, there needs to multiple levels of support and accountability for this to work. Every situation is different – Sometimes there’s no family, no primary care physician, difficulty accessing a behavioral health center, among other things. Regardless, if we invest in building these networks and support systems, maybe there can be a shift in crisis prevention, and less crisis intervention.


For more information, check out these resources. Several of these were also cited in the article.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #75: “The war on drugs failed. It’s time for a war on abuse.”

Honor Blackman

Image Credit: AZ Quotes

The headline grabbed me instantly. It spoke to me.

Here’s the link to the opinion that CNN published on their website on Friday, June 15, 2018:


Full disclosure: This was published under CNN’s Opinion section.

CNN also published this Editor’s Note at the top of the page: Natalie Schreyer is a reporter at the Fuller Project for International Reporting, a nonprofit news organization that covers issues impacting women and girls globally. She is working on “Abused in America,” a Fuller Project initiative to cover domestic violence in the United States. Jessica Klein is a journalist and co-author of the book “Abetting Batterers: What Police, Prosecutors, and Courts Aren’t Doing to Protect America’s Women.” The views expressed here are solely those of the authors.


I read this opinion. And then I re-read it. It stuck with me all weekend long. It’s still with me as I finish writing this post.

The comparisons that Schreyer and Klein make are staggering. After reading it several times, it makes complete sense to me.

Sure, I’m definitely biased here. I am a domestic violence survivor. I am an abuse survivor. Neither of these are ever okay. I’ve read several powerful memoirs and accounts of survivors (Tornado Warning), and stories of those who tragically lost their lives (If I Am Missing Or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation) over the years. I don’t want to read new ones, if I’m being perfectly honest.

There must be harsher punishments for habitual offenders. The opening story for this opinion both broke my heart and made my blood boil – An alleged abuser has never been convicted of a crime, despite 160 encounters with police in 15 years. Quick math – That’s an average of 11 encounters per year. That’s too many.

One encounter is too many.

It took way too long for the current stalking laws to be enacted, and even now, those laws aren’t necessarily the same in every one of the 50 states (although it absolutely should be). The problem here is there’s a lack of consistency. The power is usually left up to the states, and that’s where many problems lie. Where you live is a huge factor, and it absolutely shouldn’t be that way!

But, what about all these non-violent offenders, in prison for decades on drug charges?

I could write a proverbial book. What the Nixon administration started in 1971 was a so-called “war” that will never be won. Presidents Reagan and H.W. Bush kept fueling the fire. I myself was in the D.A.R.E. program in fifth grade. I vowed to never smoke cigarettes after watching my grandmother, my dad’s mom. She lived with emphysema for more than 20 years. She also had COPD, and was on oxygen since I was a child.

Now, in 2018, our country has been facing the “opioid crisis” for several years. Like the authors argue, “addicts who need medical treatment more than criminal punishment,” is so true. And, sadly, not likely to happen. There is a lack of investment in mental health treatment and addiction treatment. Addicts need resources such as medical intervention, quality treatment facilities, quality therapy and/or counseling, and continued support for as long as necessary to keep them sober, stable, and functional.

Why? We have more people in prison for drug possession than mental health treatment facilities. These men and women (not all, mind you), unfortunately, re-offend and get sent back to prison because they can’t get a good, steady job after being released. Struggling to support themselves and their families, they turn to what they’ve known as their source of income. And they’re stuck in this vicious cycle that doesn’t seem to end.

When I think of an “addict,” I think of someone involved with drugs such as heroin, methamphetamine, or crack. The harder, more dangerous drugs.

To think of how many people (many are people of color, too) are in jail or prison for non-violent marijuana offenses makes me incredibly angry. I’ve been supportive of the interest to legalize / de-criminalize marijuana. But, that’s another story altogether.

There needs to be far more accountability on the domestic violence and abuser side, however. The authors pointed to a fascinating report from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, which focused on High Point, North Carolina. When the focus was shifted toward cracking down on intimate partner violence, the number of intimate partner murders dropped from 17 (between 2004-2011) to just one (between 2012-2014).

Numbers are powerful. Seventeen murders dropped to one? Wow.

As I mentioned earlier, the current stalking laws took way too long to pass. Now, there really should be domestic violence courts in every state. The script should be flipped – Turn the thousands of drug courts (3,100 quoted in the opinion) into domestic violence courts. Problem solved? Maybe.

I’m not saying to get rid of drug courts altogether. What I’m saying is to shift the balance. Shift the balance of the number of courts, and maybe that will also shift the balance of power.

I certainly don’t have all the answers. I just feel strongly about the issues presented in this opinion. I hope more is done for all victims of domestic violence and abuse. No one deserves to go through the horror, shame, and terror. And this includes women, men, and children. There’s a lot of focus on women, but men and children are abused and violated every single day.


For more information, check out these resources. Many of these were also cited in the opinion.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #63: “Awareness vs. Understanding”

Image Credit: TOBYMAC

I started following Caralyn’s awesome blog, Beauty Beyond Bones, a while back. She is an awesome, amazing woman. I love all of her posts!

She always shares something profound, or thought-provoking, every week. This past week was no exception.

Here’s the link to her post, published on February 22nd:


Caralyn’s focus is her journey after her eating disorder (ED). She’s a beautiful woman, who is an activist for so many causes. She posts recipes, too!

This particular post shined a spotlight on Weight Watchers being in the news last week, and not for a good reason.

They announced they would be offering free memberships to teens, ages 13-17.

Naturally, this caused almost immediate backlash.

I’m with Caralyn. I don’t agree with Weight Watchers offering these free memberships. Teens, ages 13-17, have enough to deal with in their lives. Yes, obesity remains a significant issue. Caralyn cited several statistics, including some from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). But, for Weight Watchers to offer these free memberships to this very vulnerable age group is not the answer.

She tied the Weight Watchers news in with National Eating Disorder Awareness Week (NEDA), which starts today, February 26th, and runs through March 3rd.

I see her point about viewing NEDA with somehow glorifying the disease, and so on. But, then she realized that the news about Weight Watchers is one reason why conversations need to be had.

And then, she hit on the Awareness vs. Understanding point, which I think is so important.

There is a difference.

Awareness is certainly important, and a good thing – Share stories, come together as a community, and so on.

However, understanding is even more paramount. With something like eating disorders, moving beyond awareness into understanding is critical.

With that said, I cannot say that I empathize with Caralyn, or say that blanket statement of “I understand” at all. I have never had an eating disorder. I know what they are, how they start, the basics. You could say that Laura Beth is aware of eating disorders.

Caralyn, however, truly understands eating disorders. She is a survivor. She is an advocate. She works hard to discuss ED, her own journey, and help others, which I find incredibly admirable. In her post, she writes that “an eating disorder is a mental illness.”

She closed her post with wanting to “foster understanding on this anorexia recovery blog” and “answering any and all questions about eating disorders, recovery, treatment, how to support. Nothing is off limits.”

I think this is wonderful! She, of all people, knows what she’s talking about. She writes beautifully and humbly, too.

So, if you’re interested in asking questions or learning more, check out her blog!


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Image Credit: BeautyBeyondBones

To me, Caralyn is a source of inspiration. Thank you for being amazing!!


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #61: “How To De-Objectify Women in Comics: A Guide”

De-Objectify

Image Credit: Renae De Liz

My good friend Michaela Leigh shared this with me several months ago!

Here’s the link to the original article:


This was a really interesting perspective on a common problem – Women and girls are objectified way too often.

Case in point: Consider the controversial dress codes that schools across the country have implemented or attempted to implement with tank tops, shorts, leggings, homecoming dresses, and prom dresses, among other things. That’s a whole other blog post to discuss, but I wanted to make that reference.

Here’s the breakdown of the above illustration, taken directly from the article:

  1. (Left) A common expression in comics. Eyes are lidded, mouth is pouty. It’s look to promote a sense of sexiness & lessens personality.
    (Right) Personality and uniqueness first. Think of distinct facial features outside the usual. Promote thought in eyes. What’s she thinking of?
  2. (Left) Commonly taught way to draw breasts (OR fully separated/circles/sticking out). The intent is to highlight sex appeal. It’s not realistic for a hero.
    (Right) What’s REALISTIC for your hero? Athletes need major support (i.e sports bra) which have a different look. Consider not ALL heroes have DD’s.
  3. Arms are closer to supermodel size on the left. What best fits your hero? If she’s strong, she’ll likely very built. Give her muscles!
  4. Hands on left are set in a way to promote the sense of softness, it lessens her power. Be sure hands are set in a way to promote strength
  5. (Left) It’s common to see “the arch n’ twist” in comics. A female arched and twisted to show both cheeks AND both boobs.
    (Right) Twists in the body are a powerful art tool but stick to what can realistically be done, and use arches w/o intent for “boob/butt perk.”
  6. One on left feels like she’s posing. The right feels like she’s standing heroically. Make her overall pose functional vs. sexually appealing.
  7. Heels! Modern heels are generally used to amplify stance & increase visual appeal. I like them, but if I were a hero, not too realistic.  Most important is what would your character choose? It’s very difficult to hero around in stilettos. Perhaps consider low/no heels.

I don’t consider myself a good artist, especially when it comes to faces and characters. I struggle with proportions, and I’m a crazy perfectionist! I get so frustrated. So, I’m far better with landscapes!

Anyway, reading this article was eye-opening to me. I’m not trying to give comic book artists a bad rap at all – Many of them are very talented, and those who draw the famous characters typically put their own spin on the character’s original likeness.

With that said, I found myself nodding my head with most of her points. Female superheroes should be showcased for their talents and abilities, not because they are female. But, at the same time, I can see how sex appeal has been ingrained for years. I’m sure the artists (and the publishers) want / wanted to maintain a certain audience with comic books and other media, so certain standards / techniques were established in terms of female superheroes.

However, there’s also a delicate balance. Sure, you want to keep the guys interested in the comic books, but you want to appeal to the girls, too. I think objectification has been a years-long issue, and comic books and female superheroes are just one part of the complicated jumble. There’s no simple solution, unfortunately.

The author brought up some interesting points. Here’s my thoughts.

If I were a superheroine, I would want the best sports bra or support available, because I certainly wouldn’t want my boobs to get in the way of saving someone’s life, fighting a monster, or saving the Earth from a gigantic threat.

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be portrayed as someone who is strong, courageous, determined, and brave. For me, I wouldn’t want a face full of makeup while on superheroine duty. I want to look put together, but not look like a clown. I want to look strong and active – Not necessarily super buff, but enough to be convincing. A six-pack would be nice! My hair should be up and out of my face, not in the way!

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be functional in my costume / outfit. I mean, I’m trying to save people’s lives, much less the entire Earth, among other things! I don’t think I would be comfortable in something leather, skin-tight, and anything with heels! I struggle in heels in my everyday life – Give me comfortable / functional boots!

If I were a superheroine, I would want to be recognized as a female, but lauded for my accomplishments instead of my looks! Sex appeal is great for photography, romantic movies, and a few other things, but not superheroines!


I admire several superheroines.

Jessica Jones

Jessica_Jones_by_Mike_Mayhew

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I was first introduced to Jessica Jones with the Netflix series Marvel’s Jessica Jones. She’s a private investigator in Hell’s Kitchen, but she’s also a bad-ass. Plus, Krysten Ritter was an awesome casting choice.

Stargirl (Courtney Whitmore)

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Image Credit: Wikipedia

I didn’t know much about Stargirl until Tidewater Comicon in 2015. Granted, I first saw a “bombshell” figurine rendition of her, but I actually prefer her original costume. I love how her personality was based on one of the creator’s sisters, also named Courtney, who died in the TWA Flight 800 explosion in 1996. She’s young and strong!

Wonder Woman

Wonder_Woman

Image Credit: Wikipedia

I’ve always admired Wonder Woman. Now, I have a renewed interest and fascination since Gal Gadot debuted in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. She’s strong, courageous, and her outfit (at least in the most recent movies) is somewhat modest. She fights in boots, not heels!

I’m excited to see how she is portrayed in the upcoming Justice League movie, as well as the planned sequel to the box office smash Wonder Woman. Until then, I’ve greatly enjoyed researching how Lynda Carter portrayed her on TV, and others.


What about you? Do you have any favorite superheroines?

What are your thoughts on objectifying women, girls, and superheroines?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #60: “This American Town Was Left to Die, and Suddenly Economists Care”

South Boston

South Boston Historic Downtown – South Boston, Virginia. Image Credit: Virginia Is For Lovers

Back in August, one of my friends shared this article on Facebook. Immediately intrigued, I clicked on it, curious about what context the headline gave.

Within seconds, I couldn’t believe which town they were referencing.

South Boston, Virginia, is just a few miles away from where my in-laws have their farm. It’s a beautiful town, formerly Boyd’s Ferry, first established in 1796. There are multiple places in the town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Here’s the link to the original article:


I’m definitely not an expert in economics, although I did take ECON 111 at Longwood and got quite an education during that semester. However, I’ve always admired small-town America, and I find myself researching different towns, counties, and rural areas, particularly in Virginia. I wrote several research papers on Appalachia between high school and college, and have always been fascinated with the tragedies and triumphs of the vast region.

South Boston is one of the towns in Halifax County. Like many small towns, there’s been what referred to as a rolling recession in the town since the 1990s. The town has about 8,000 residents, and the workforce has decreased by about 25 percent in the last two decades. This particular article discussed the effects of free trade on the U.S.

Two particular movements devastated Halifax County and its workforce: The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, and then when China entered the World Trade Organization (WTO). While the unemployment rate in the U.S. was trending toward historic lows, the unemployment rate in Halifax County surged. The highest rate recorded in the county was 13.9 percent.

Many towns like South Boston experience a domino effect. Once manufacturing jobs dry up or leave, other businesses, seemingly unrelated or connected, also start to fade away. The dominoes keep falling, until something happens to make them stop. In South Boston, there are shells of car dealerships, empty downtown storefronts, and other evidence.

Fortunately, in South Boston, conditions have improved. The unemployment rate has held steady around five percent, far better than nearly 14 percent. A few manufacturers call South Boston home, not textiles or tobacco, but sports cars, robotics, power, and heavy electrical equipment.

Sprawling brick buildings that were once tobacco warehouses are now apartments. Two of them are now the home of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, where students can become certified in a number of disciplines, thanks to schools such as Longwood University, Old Dominion University, Danville Community College, and Southside Virginia Community College.

IT certificate holders have been hired at Microsoft’s data center in a neighboring county. Other certifications include nursing and welding. The massive investment is paying off.

I’m glad that South Boston is becoming a success story. However, I think of many areas of Appalachia where coal mining jobs, among others, have been automated, and there aren’t enough jobs in the area to make up the difference.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Hot Topic #23: Thoughts on Puerto Rico, Las Vegas, and Our President

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Image Credit: ThoughtCo

The last few weeks have felt like forever.

It’s been a laundry list of natural disasters, yet another horrific massacre on U.S. soil, and I’ve felt helpless.

  • August 17-September 1 — Duration of Hurricane Harvey
  • August 30-September 12 — Duration of Hurricane Irma
  • September 16-30 — Duration of Hurricane Maria
  • September 19 — Central Mexico earthquake
  • October 1 — Mass shooting at Route 91 Harvest Festival, Las Vegas, Nevada

All the while, President Trump has continued tweeting, criticizing, and not being very presidential. But, that’s just me.


Texas & Florida

My family is incredibly fortunate. My dad drove down to Seminole, Florida, to be with his dad, my 91-year-old Grandpa, prior to Hurricane Irma’s arrival. They lost power, but Dad brought a generator and plenty of supplies. Grandpa’s main power was restored within 24 hours. Cable, Internet, and the landline phone followed soon after. The Publix grocery store down the street was open the day after the storm. Dad came home safely just days after the storm passed, not two weeks like everyone was thinking / fearing.

My Uncle Richard (Mom’s brother) waited out the storm in Miami. He lost power, and endured four hours of 100-mph+ winds, but no significant damage.

A few friends and acquaintances suffered devastating floods in Texas, but most remained high and dry. John and Jackie, days away from their first child’s expected arrival, were pleased to report that their son smartly decided to “shelter in place” during the storm.

I’m still in awe at the heroes and heroines during Harvey and Irma. The first responders and the military presence were outstanding. If you haven’t seen the stories about the “Cajun Navy,” look them up online. These men and women, with their boats, are real heroes!

I know certain areas of these states still face months, possibly years, of recovery, but many have amazing survival stories to tell the future generations.

Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and others, have not been so fortunate. Hurricane Maria literally swallowed the entire island of Puerto Rico. It’s been absolutely decimated. At last check of various news sources, roughly five percent of the island has power now, and roughly 11 percent of the cell service has been restored.

The death toll stands at 34, for now. I fear that this number will rise.

The island was already struggling, with a crumbling infrastructure, debt-laden, declaring bankruptcy, and other issues. Add a massive hurricane to the mix? It’s a disaster zone.

It’s deplorable that the governor and many mayors have gone on national TV, live, begging for help. Everyone on the island is an American citizen, for heaven’s sake.

Ugh. I’m getting madder and madder with every word I type.

Las Vegas

Along with the rest of the world, I was horrified to learn of the mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Festival on Monday morning. I almost fell off the treadmill at the gym, in disbelief.

My first thought: “Oh, no. Not again.”

But, it happened. Nearly sixty innocent people lost their lives. Over 500 were injured.

However, in spite of the tragedy, there were so many heroes and heroines. My spirits have been lifted, gradually, throughout this week, as I read stories of courage, bravery, and sacrifice. Countless people literally took bullets to save others. Complete strangers protected each other. The outpouring of support has been overwhelming.

A GoFundMe page that was started by the Clark County Commission Chair earlier this week has set and re-set its goal several times. As of this writing, 77,232 people have raised an impressive $9.52 million dollars for the victims and their families. That’s awesome!

On Tuesday morning, I wrote the following on Facebook:

As a blood recipient, blood drive co-coordinator, and regular blood donor, I’m so happy to see the reports of people waiting 6-8+ hours to give blood in the wake of the tragedy in Las Vegas.

In Chesapeake, New Creation UMC is hosting their next blood drive this coming Saturday, October 7th. If you’re able and willing, your blood is very much appreciated. Every two seconds, someone needs blood. One whole blood donation can save up to three lives.

Give the Gift of Life. Give Blood.

I hope I can give blood on Saturday, and I hope we will have a good turnout. The need is constant.

Our President

I have so many thoughts about our President right now. It makes me want to scream.

The only thing I’ve been impressed with, so far, was his speech about the tragedy in Las Vegas. For once, he actually showed sympathy and compassion.

I don’t know who wrote it, but it was a good one.

With that said, it’s been tough to swallow his response to the hurricane relief efforts, especially in Puerto Rico. In addition to those issues, he’s angling for nuclear war with North Korea. Antagonizing someone like Kim Jon Un is not a good idea.

I wish Secretary Tillerson would admit that he called our President a moron. I wish people would stop trying to cover for our President, and admit the truth.

But, the truth is, I think most people in and around the White House are walking on eggshells every minute of every day, hoping and praying they don’t say or do something to piss him off.

For once in my life, I’m actually looking forward to voting in November’s elections. I’m so sick and tired of the attack ads for Governor, Attorney General, and the list goes on. There are so many things I wish I could change, but I know my vote can make a difference.

I’m also beyond ready to fast-forward to the 2020 presidential election.

For now, I will continue to educate myself with a variety of news sources, try to stay positive, donate blood, and sharing my thoughts with all of you wonderful readers on my blog. Thank you for being so supportive of my posts – I appreciate each and every one of you.


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂

Commentary #58: “The women who don’t know they’re autistic”

Autism Speaks

Image Credit: Autism Speaks

I stumbled upon this article via Facebook back in July. I thought it was fascinating, and it prompted me to learn more about autism.

Here’s the link to the original post:


The article primarily focuses on what’s known as “high-functioning” autism in women. This means autism without intellectual disability.

According to the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities:

Intellectual disability is a disability characterized by significant limitations in both intellectual functioning and in adaptive behavior, which covers many everyday social and practical skills. This disability originates before the age of 18.


For years, it’s been studied, and widely publicized, that more boys than girls are diagnosed with autism.

Autism is defined as the following:

a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships with other people and in using language and abstract concepts.

It’s estimated that 1 out of 68 children in the United States are on the autism spectrum. For boys, it’s around 1 in 42.  For girls, it’s around 1 in 189.

Some of autism’s signs can now be recognized as early as 18 months of age, but are usually identified and diagnosed between the ages of two and three.

Parents are encouraged to seek evaluation of their child without delay. Early intervention can improve outcomes.

In 2013, all autism disorders were merged under one umbrella diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Previously, they were distinct sub-types,  including autistic disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, pervasive developmental disorder-not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS), and Asperger Syndrome.


Despite more childhood diagnoses, it’s becoming more common for people to be diagnosed as adults.

According to the Madison House Autism Foundation:

  • Those with autism may have exponentially acute senses. Bright or fluorescent lighting can be overwhelming. Loud sounds and crowds of people may be as well.
  • The ability to concentrate for long periods of time on one thing, and their attention to detail is something those without autism find enviable.
  • They are often highly visual people, and many have found ways to communicate through multiple mediums besides with words.
  • Those with autism may avoid eye contact with other people and, because they often take language literally, may have difficulty with metaphors, humor, and sarcasm. Interpreting what others are thinking or feeling is challenging because they have difficulty understanding social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions.
  • It is a myth that those with autism are unable to feel empathy.
  • Those with autism think, process, and behave differently than neurotypical individuals.

As renowned animal rights activist and professor Temple Grandin says, they are “Different, but not less.” They can, with support and slight modifications, become assets to every community and the workforce.

The main point I’m trying to get at – Individuals with autism are individuals. They are amazing. They may think and behave a little differently than others, but it’s important to recognize them and appreciate them.


The original article provided and cited a variety of sources:


This article shone a spotlight on women and how we can recognize smaller, less noticeable signs of ASD.

  • Compensating for communication impediments they may not be consciously aware of.
  • Not being good at guessing what people are thinking.
  • Hypersensitivities – Smells, sounds, bright lights, etc.
  • Reduced sensitivity to pain.
  • Misdiagnosed psychological disorders.
  • Taste for solitude.
  • Intensity of passions.
  • Talking about one subject / topic for extended periods of time, longer than normal (i.e., spending hours focusing on one thing in particular and not deviating).
  • Not wearing jewelry because of the way metal feels on the skin.
  • Not wearing certain clothing because of sensitivity to fabrics, tags, buttons, zippers, etc.

Given some of these signs and symptoms, it’s fairly easy to interpret or assume that a woman may be an introvert, be shy, have an undiagnosed anxiety disorder or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a speech impediment, or some form of a developmental or intellectual disability.

As the article indicates, ideally, a lot of women being diagnosed with autism as adults could have / should have been diagnosed as children. Luckily, these childhood diagnoses are improving every day. Leaps and bounds have been made in the last 20-30 years, and research is ongoing. However, doctors and psychologists alike need to remain vigilant, and keep a close eye on young girls exhibiting similar signs and symptoms, especially since autism symptoms in girls have appeared to be less obtrusive than those in boys.


For more information, here are some more links and resources. Education is so important. Continual learning and studying will help all of us better understand ASD, and start to take away the stigma!

I have immense respect for those who work in special education, work with individuals with ASD, and parents that have children with ASD. My hat goes off to all of you!

 


April is National Autism Awareness Month. The Autism Society encourages everyone to join them in promoting awareness, action, inclusion, acceptance, and appreciation.

World Autism Awareness Day is April 2nd of every year. It’s one of only four official health-specific United Nations (UN) days.

Several movies have been released, featuring prominent characters with autism or ASD behaviors. Children of the Stars is an award-winning documentary about children with autism in China.


What do you think? Do you know someone that is autistic?

Do you have any ideas about how to help those with ASD?


Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂