Sunday, September 14, 2014

Autism and Social Media: Survival Tips

There's no doubt that the internet is today's urban jungle, filled with beauty and danger. It's especially dangerous if you have trouble with social cues and understanding context. Words on a screen are often devoid of emotion and cause us to draw our own conclusions on the intentions of the writer. Misunderstandings come fast and hard, boiling into flame wars with a single word. These lessons are learned the hard way, but with some tips, hopefully you can recognize the lesson before it has to be repeated.

We may as well admit it, we who have autism have a tendency to take ourselves too seriously. We internalize and take offense way to easily. (Disclaimer: Yes, I know it's not this way for absolutely everyone and maybe not YOU). See what I just had to do there? I guarantee you I will be attacked for this paragraph, but I will not answer those attacks. Nor will I post hostile comments. That's part of surviving the internet. So, the tips:

Reader beware: Few posts carry trigger warnings, so when you read something, you need to form a thick skin or practice knowing when to stay away. It's hard to be personally aware of what really upsets you, but it can be done. If you find yourself getting upset with something someone else posts, practice walking away. You don't have to respond. You don't have to read what everyone else says. You don't have to agree with what everyone else says. And it's okay not to.

Don't feed the trolls: It gets said over and over again doesn't it? That's because it's true. Trolls are very good at triggering people on the internet and very little is beneath them to do so. They know full well what they are saying is wrong. So why correct them? Pass up their comments as "not worth your time" and find something more meaningful to comment on. If they are on a forum that allows them to be reported, do so, but don't say a word to them. NOT ONE WORD. Let moderators deal with it, you don't need to. If you just can't stand seeing their name and there stuff triggers you, use the block option. Block them and you'll find yourself a lot more stress free. Trying to fight trolls too much will result in dealing with a stalker or cyber bully instead. Not worth it!

Don't believe everything you read: Propaganda is always either half true or an outright lie. There is always more to the information than what you see. Ads are for taking your money, there is no guarantee you will get what you are promised. Especially don't trust propaganda "meme" posters. Some posts are meant to get you upset to incite you into doing what they want you to do. Always stop and think before exploding into action. That's a tough practice, but necessary.

Practice research: Never take action on anything on the internet without doing your research. Ask questions, do google searches, find out what the real information is.

Don't click on that: Get a weird message with a link in it on Facebook? Don't click on it. It's a virus that will spam everyone on your friends list. Same goes for your email messages. Unless a link has an explanation on it of what it is, you shouldn't click on it.

Would you do this in person? Ask yourself that before you post on the internet. There's always the old saying: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all. If only more people would follow that.

Don't post your personal information: Even if it 's only viewed by people on your friends list. That includes your address and telephone number. Such things should only be sent in private message if at all. This is because;

Not everyone on your friend list IS a friend: You've never met them in real life and becoming true friends take time. It requires trust that you should not give out easily. No one should be requesting your information without a good reason, and marketing or sales are not good reasons. Most are good people and great to have contact with, but you don't want to just give yourself out to everyone who asks. Internet friends are awesome, but guard yourself.

Have tips of your own? Submit them to comments (moderated). Good luck out there!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Reader Request: Dealing with autism for the non-autistic

So you don't have autism but you are going to be working with someone who does. Or maybe you have friends with and autistic child. Perhaps you are witnessing a meltdown in a grocery store. How do you handle such situations?

Getting to know a person with autism can be understandably confusing. Hopefully these tips will help you along in the process.

First and foremost, anyone with autism does not see or feel the world around them like you do. There will be reactions that make no sense. Simple or minuscule things may cause stress reactions. This is because of sensitivities way higher than yours. The most important thing you can do in any situation with autism is to stay calm and collected. If you stress out, the person you are dealing with will go even further over the edge. If you get stern and try to force an issue, it will make it worse. Calm and collected is the way.

Eccentricities are common. It's best to just accept them. No harm is meant by them (99% of the time) and they should simply be seen as personality quirks and nothing more. Even high functioning autistics have a hard time seeing how their quirks affect people around them. It gets harder when those quirks get rejected and we are trying to work out why. The advice here is to take the eccentric with a grain of salt and just shrug it off. Don't give it any extra attention unless some violation of space is occurring. Which brings me to;

Clear communication is key. Autism is a very literal issue. Metaphors and slang can be the enemy. If you are just joking, you should say so or come up with a known way for the person to understand that you are joking. Some of us don't comprehend facial expressions. So your laughing smile means the same as an angry grimace: basically nothing. It's not completely like that for everyone, but worthwhile to keep in  mind.

Things get internalized a lot. Misconceptions and misunderstandings happen all the time. They require patience and talking it out. A lot of people with autism will be harder on themselves than you or anyone else could ever be. So if you are thinking of ripping your autistic employee a "new one" because of some mistake, be careful. Explain the problem clearly and how to avoid it in the future. Aside form popular belief, autistic people do care what others think of them and want to get things "right". Autism is a self punishing beast.

Going to extremes. People with autism are either anti-social (by appearance at least) or overly social. There isn't usually any gray area. Seeing the gray area of things is very difficult. It's either black or white. Rules are rules. Things can get very technical fast.

Delayed maturity. This is especially important to understand with children. Maturity is generally behind, often by several years. Tolerance is helpful.

Now, to wrap this up, I offer a list of things NOT to do with anyone who is autistic. This is general information and may vary by individual.

Don't touch: Especially if there's a possible meltdown situation. Your touch will only add to the sensory stress that's going on. However, you may not have a choice if self harm comes into play. If a person starts hitting him or herself in the head, firmly take hold of their wrists and speak in a low quiet voice. Be calm. Children may have to be held with the "hug" method. If you are not suitably trained in restraint, seek assistance.

Don't shout: Again it's a sensory issue and only adds to stress. Speak in a calm tone and don't try to over-shout the person you are dealing with. Once a person is calmed down, they will be easier to talk to.

Don't startle: It may seem like fun and games to some people, but startling sets off sensory issues like wildfire. It triggers over-sensitive fight or flight response that can get out of hand in a hurry. Think of  it this way; would you startle your buddy who's a war veteran? Of course not. Don't startle autistics either.

Don't ask parents what their child's special skill is: Most of them don't consider their children a sideshow act. You may mean it innocently, but it gets tiring. It happens all the time.

Don't use the word  normal: Nothing feels "normal" to an autistic person. It invalidates and diminishes that person's struggles by telling them "Oh that's normal". The term is so hated, that it's one step away from a racial slur.

Don't interfere with parents: Unless they ask for your help (and they usually won't) they just want to deal with their child's current issue and be left alone. In public, it's stressful and embarrassing enough without someone coming to lend their advice or tell them off about their child. Some DO appreciate words of encouragement like "I think you're doing a good job". You can even ask if someone is okay, but mostly they want to be left alone. Sometimes, other autism parents are welcome so long as they identify that.

So, tolerance, clear communication, and understanding are key to dealing with autism. Stay calm and cool. Don't get physical unless a life is in danger. And take your time getting to know the person or child. Situations vary. Use common sense for the rest.

Suggested reading: Understanding Autism for Dummies

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Reader Request: Coping with Autism as an Adult

Being an adult with autism is a challenging issue in today's society. This is because support systems have an annoying tendency to drop off once you are 21 or 22 years of age (varies by location). At least while developing as a teen, there were counselors and hopefully support systems. Making adult decisions isn't easy.

I was diagnosed at age 35-36 when my son was diagnosed around age 3. His diagnosis brought about memories from my childhood. So what I tell you today comes from my baptism by fire. Since no one knew I needed help, I floundered and lived at random. Now that I have a few years under my belt I believe I can offer some advice on how to live with autism as a grown up. Keep in mind, this is for high functioning persons who are striking out on their own.

1: Never forget you have autism. Not like it will ever let you forget it, but you'd be amazed at how you can forget this when misunderstandings happen. You live with a form of social blindness and will miss various adult social cues. This can cause you to butt heads with people. It's not your fault and not theirs, but remembering that your condition may have tricked you can lead you to a resolution faster than not.

2: Don't be so hard on yourself. You can't help the situation. You have to learn how to live with the fact that these things happen. They aren't the end of the world. The more you accept yourself, the more other people will accept you. So give yourself a break when a misunderstanding happens. They are really a part of life and everyone else has them too.

3: Take things slow. Don't let anyone rush you when you are trying to figure out what is going on. If a misunderstanding happens, that's the best time to take a deep breath and rethink the situation. If someone gets irate with you, tell them calmly that you are trying to understand the situation. Don't rush in earning friends either. Take everything slow. Yes, the autistic mind wants to live at 1000 miles an hour. You will have to practice at slowing down.

4: Know your limits. You've always had them. If you are still at risk of meltdowns, you need to have your living space set up with a safe place to retreat to. You must do everything you can not to have meltdowns in public. I know how hard that sounds. Sometimes, you just need to play an escape route if things get too intense for you. Meltdowns in public wind up involving police who are often less than understanding. So you must have plans of action for your own conditions. That being said;

5: Don't seal yourself away. Becoming a hermit is tempting, but you starve yourself socially. That's a good way to drop into depression and make yourself worse. You must practice dealing with the world to get better at it. Get out there and see the world. Find social places that you can deal with.

6: Don't expect acceptance from everyone. There are a lot of jerks out there and you must dismiss them from your life. This goes for jobs and dating too. If someone can't be decent to you, you don't need them. That's no matter how lonely you feel. If an employer doesn't want to hire you, let it go and go somewhere else. If some group of people can't accept you, go somewhere else.

7: Believe in yourself! You are a worthwhile person. Find those good qualities in yourself and decide that you don't absolutely need anyone but you. The rest will fall into place.

8: You are not autism. Finally, it comes to this. You have autism. It is an aspect of who you are, but not the sum of who you are. With practice, yes practice, you will triumph over life's challenges and you can live a decent life. Not because of autism, but because of all of who you are.

Take it one day at at time. Find a support group or even form one to share life's challenges. In truth, a list like this could go on forever. There is so much to learn and experience in life and so many things that can happen. You just have to take them one at a time. Remind yourself of that. One at a time.

I have many reader requests at this time, but feel free to post your own in comments. Also, do you have a tip for this list? Post it in comments and thanks!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Considering Suicide? Reasons to LIVE!

Facing suicide is just about the most serious thing you can do. You don't have to do it alone and depression is a powerful demon to face alone. So you definitely should seek help. If you found this post, you were likely looking up issues on suicide online. Please consider finding this an act of fate to intervene on ending your life. Give yourself the chance to read these reasons to live and take them to heart long enough to live another day or get help.

You are not worthless: Depression gets deep into your inner ear and tells you lies about yourself. That's what they are, lies. You are not worthless. Everyone has value even if they don't know what that is yet. You are valuable to someone else too, even if it doesn't look that way today.

Depression lies to you: As if saying above wasn't enough, it bears repeating. Understand this clearly; your depression is trying to kill you. Don't let it.

You will make a positive impact in someone's life: Sooner or later and more than once. You will matter in someone else's life. It's a simple reality. You just need to hang on long enough and keep fighting for your life. Do you have a child? Children look up to us for guidance. By living you can still make good with your child. By dying, you seal off all possibilities forever. You also never know who that stranger will be around the corner who would have benefited somehow by meeting you.

Nobody's perfect: While your depression argues these points in your head, remember that no one is perfect. We all screw up and have to come back from it. Sometimes, we change our lives forever, sometimes, we bounce right back. That's life, my friend. It's still livable.

Someone will have to clean that up: Basic logic says that someone is going to find your body. Someone is going to have to clean up the mess you leave behind. Even if you just take pills, your bowels and bladder will let go and leave a mess. Don't make this happen any sooner than it needs too. People die enough already without helping the issue. And if you have young children, why would you want your lifeless body too mar their young memories and nightmares forever?

You're creating expenses bigger than what you are already dealing with: Look up the cost of a funeral. It's not a fun prospect and you'll be putting that on someone else's shoulders. If you think your family's finances are bad now, why would you want to add this to the problem? Insurance? Nope.

Insurance companies deny claims over suicide: Even if you have a suicide clause of some kind, it's going to screw up your life insurance seriously. At the minimum it will delay payment to your family for months (even  years) and cause even more expensive legal issues while fighting their decisions. Suicide is not a one and done deal. You may be gone, but the effects of what you do will linger forever.

You have potential you haven't found yet: No matter what, you have potential for something good somewhere or somehow. You just haven't found it yet. Denying this just proves the point even more. You won't know it until you see it. If you die, you'll never get to find out. Don't let depression rob you of life's possibilities.

The pain won't end: It continues with those you left behind. Think you have no family? What about that nice neighbor you talk to or that guy at that little store where you get your coffee every morning. You might be someone else's ray of sunshine in the morning and not even know it. You will affect someone. And if you are religious, suicide is a sin. So whether we are talking about those left behind or the philosophical, the pain won't end. Which makes another excellent point;

It's not a good way to prove your religious beliefs: Not only will you not be able to tell anyone about what you discover, you may discover possibilities you hadn't considered. You'll have a hard time finding a religion (taken seriously) that tells you it's okay to kill yourself. If you're an atheist, it's still a terrible way to prove there's no God. Who would you prove it to exactly?

You may have to live it all over again: If you've ever believed in reincarnation (to follow up on the religious argument) you have to consider this. What if you have to come back and do it all over again because you decided to flip the off switch yourself? If you aren't enjoying things this time around, what makes you think a do over will be better? Maybe this is your test in life? Overcome it instead. If you believe in the Bible at all, you will know that God says you are rewarded for your suffering, not for ending it all. I wouldn't want to roll the dice on this possibility.

It will get better: If there's one thing human beings are famous for, it's the power to adapt. And logic dictates that things can't stay bad forever. If you are being bullied, life will get better. It will! Hard times will pass and new times bring new possibilities. If it didn't kill you when it happened, it wasn't meant to.

The world will not be better off: Nor will anyone else. Your death will not make an impact on the global state of the world. It will be a sad footnote and a local tragedy. Death does not make anyone better off. Statistics for crime, war, and domestic violence prove it. Suicide is a dark shadow, a smear on the world. It's not worth it.

It won't "teach" anyone anything: Except for how depressed you were. It's also a terrible idea for revenge. You aren't going to get anyone back for anything. All you'll do is what's already been mentioned above. No one is going to hear about your death and say, "Boy, that guy sure taught me a lesson!" No. They're going to shake their heads and wonder at what was wrong with you. Death removes you from debate. If you want to teach someone something, find a better way to do it. Find new success in your life and live in spite of your haters.

If you are considering suicide for any reason, please get help. Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.   This post dedicated to the influx of calls to suicide hotlines after the death of Robin Williams.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Researched: Autism and Puberty for Girls

Once in a while I get questions and I don't always have the answers. What that happens, I do research. When I do research, I bring you what I found.

In this case, I was asked about autism and puberty, specifically for girls. While I have three daughters, none of them live with me and I wasn't with them for this part of their lives. Hey, I live 14 hours away from the closest of them, okay? And I'm a DAD, not a Mom, so that really sets me aside on the matter. But I take it seriously when someone is looking for information, so this is what I found. From just these three links, I think you'll have the basics well in hand, plus some good tips.

How to help girls with autism through puberty is a blog post at by Jessica (last name unknown). Yes, that's a link up there^. It's a great starting point for no nonsense advice. It doesn't hit on the attitude dangers, but it's a pretty important starting point all the same READ IT.

THIS POST from is "What else autistic girls need to know about puberty". I found the section on hormones very informative. Heck, it's all informative. So read it next.

Finally, I bring you to with THIS. It's not as personable as the blog writers above but it's clinical advice seems applicable.

Still looking for info? If you are on Facebook and have lots of friends, there are several popular ladies with autism online and I'm sure any of them would be glad to lend advice on what they did or do to deal with puberty and it's pitfalls.

Hey, puberty at its base scale is enough to make you want a six month vacation on the moon. Just remember that this is no picnic for your kid either. I can only imagine what a nightmare it must be for girls. Cramps, bleeding, using pads; all lead to so much more than what boys have to handle. Just hope that your child has the easy going kind (if there is such a thing) and go from there.

What I get from all that I saw is this: EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE. Teach your child early and often. Remind and reapply over and over again. Do your best to be patient and non-accusatory.

Finally, remember love and caring. Let them know that it will get better and they will eventually get used to dealing with this annoying aspect of life.

Good luck, parents!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

When all else fails between school and parents

They're just not listening to you. You've begged, pleaded, and tried to explain your child's situation and the cooperation just isn't there. With your child's IEP there is supposed to be a sheet sent home every day to tell you about behavior (for the doctors and therapists) and homework (so you can be an assisting parent with it and make sure it gets somewhat done). But, even if they say they will, it just doesn't happen.

The excuses are mountain high and they may say things that are pretty disturbing for a parents ears. They'll even blame each other.

"I gave it to Mrs. X and I don't know why she didn't do it."
"I can't get any of the teachers on board. I don't know why." (from a special ed teacher)

Or they'll blame the child (who has a IEP). "Joey is very manipulative and only acting out to avoid doing any school work."

Now, past the disappointing comments there are reasons that schools struggle with IEPs. Overcrowded classrooms come to mind. The implementation of Common Core doesn't make anything easier. Don't even get me started on what Common Core does for our special needs students. Just don't.

So what do you do when it gets to the point that they have made up their mind about your child and just WON'T cooperate with you? There are several steps you should take.

1: Seek out an advocate and get their input. Are you really being that unreasonable in what you seek for your child? It's possible to get help to talk to the local school system. There are advocates who may be willing to come and sit in on an IEP meeting to hash out the details of what's needed for your child. Be sure to have a working list of your concerns all written down before you go in. Have a solid game plan and be courteous.

If you have a knack for screaming at teachers, your problems will worsen. They will block you out mentally and disengage. It will hurt your child's chances of a fair education. It should always be from the ground point that you are trying to be helpful and active in your child's education.

How do you find an advocate? Well, when it comes to autism, you can contact your state Autism Society and ask about leads to people who can help you. Your Health and Human Services office may know someone too. I also suggest the website for Parents Helping Parents where they have a database of advocates and attorneys who may help you. You can also look up your local "community support team" for mental health and ask them. Sometimes, they will come to an IEP meeting after assessing your child. Seek out parent support groups in your area and ask them.

But, you've done that and STILL no dice. For that matter they won't listen to the professional who sits right next to you and tries to teach them about your child just like you tried to do. They believe what they believe and they are doing to do what they are going to do and that's that. Only now they are more dismissive than ever. It's time to file for Due Process. Hopefully, up to this point, you've been keeping copies of everything and anything that proves what you have to say. Unprofessional emails, blank behavior forms, report cards, and reports from Dr.s and therapists, because you will need evidence.

TIP: When collecting evidence on anything you may require for court, DO NOT TELL THE PERSONS YOU ARE COLLECTING AGAINST. You will send them into "cover ass mode" and things will get worse. You will lose evidence while things stay pretty much the same.

But also know this.... filing Due Process will make enemies for sure. It's not supposed to, but it does. Animosity will happen. So, just know that once this process is done, it may be harder to negotiate on the next year than before.

So, you contact your State Department of Education and let them know you wish to file for Due Process. This should not cost you anything, unless of course you've retained an attorney. Advocates are usually willing to assist with this process and walk you through it. This will trigger a series of events. The school will be requires to offer a meeting to work out the issues and settle them prior to a hearing. Go to the hearing and have someone with you (IE: advocate). This is where you and the advocate get into the dirt details of what you expect to correct the situation. Most cases are generally solved at this meeting, but not all. If you and the school cannot come to an agreement that will take you to the Due Process hearing and you may have to do some traveling for that. In my state, I would have to go to Baton Rouge.

TIP: Retaliation is illegal in any form and may be reported to the State Department before or even after the hearing. They're already mad at you, don't be afraid to report unfair or discriminatory behavior.

Alas, you get some things worked out, but they still act nasty towards you and it's still a migraine headache to get through the year. This is where harsh reality really comes into play. You still have options, and none of them are fun.

1: Tough it out. Just do the best you can and forego talking to the teachers. If you are on your last year with a given school, this may be the best play you have. Hopefully new faces and a new start will help you. Just be as nice as you can with those new people to abolish negative news they may already have about you.

2: Move to another school district. This is more common than you might like to believe. People have been known to move across state lines for autism assistance in any form because their state just didn't have it. Same goes for schools. Yes, you might have to give up a job or get a transfer if possible. You may give up close by family support. It will hurt. It definitely did for me when I left my hometown for better support for my son. But it's possible that you may have to uproot and move.

3: Start a movement to make changes in your school system. If there are enough parents who agree with you and are having the same trend of problems, this could be an answer. It will take tons of work and you are trying to teach people who may believe they have nothing to learn from you. You will have to be stronger than you ever thought possible. But it has been done! With parents, advocates, and an attorney or two, you could really make some waves in how things are done in your district.

4: File another Due Process. New violations of your child's IEP or new failings of it qualify for a new complaint! But boy will they HATE you. It's a simple reality. No one likes complaints made about them. You wouldn't either (even though you are within your rights, just be ready for the fact).

5: Go to a private school. It may even be possible to get it paid for by the school system (but that WILL require a filing and court orders to make that happen). It may also put your proposed school on the stand to be inspected and cross examined. They aren't going to pay for a school just because YOU approve of it. THEY have to. Your new school may not appreciate that. You will likely have to foot the bill and it won't be cheap. But if you can afford it, do it. Many do and they actually can't afford it.

Also know that you are not alone. School systems are hurting everywhere with the implementation of common core and you can google to get thousands of complaints. There are also plenty of schools that are just NOT equipped for what your child needs. So it's not that they WON'T do it, rather they CAN'T. On top of that, they don't have the money for your child's private school any more than you do.

And that's basically the jist of what you can do about a bad school situation on IEPs. With the school year about to kick in, what do you want to know about?

Monday, August 11, 2014

Things you should understand about the education system.

 Every state and more so every city has their own way of running education and handling IEPs. What you could do for your child in support and educational experience is literally a great spectrum of its own. It's important to know that, if you have a problem, you can't just bring federal law down on their heads. You have to go through proper channels and that means the State level. How that state handles or enforces federal law is entirely up to them and yes, that's mostly considered legal and accepted by the "higher authorities". So if you are in Florida and have an IEP complaint to make, you have to make it to the State of Florida Department of Education. You don't get to just jump to the White House. Some places may cave to the threat of a complaint, but that will be the exception rather than rule. Because of the process you will have to go through,, many of them will be pretty calm about the issue.

Florida is a state of nightmare tales of abuse against children in autism (or other disabilities) and you can find tons of news media all over the internet. States like, Wisconsin are generally more successful. If you want to have some fun take a trip to and see how schools in your burg measure up to others around the country. Check anywhere you want. You'll be amazed. For even more comparison, compare that to the 2009 NAMI grading of the states. You can pretty much see how things will be for your child in school on the comparisons. But influences go deeper than that. What kind of things go into affecting how your state and city run their system?

Politics: Where do you think common core came from? Politicians. It's all done with Ordinances, Acts, and other nonsensical business you may not even get to vote on.

City Size: Are you in a major city or small town? Small and isolated towns can be the most differential in school from the rest of the state. Even that may be small differences, but I'm sure I have readers with stories.

Local Beliefs/Traditions: What are of the country are you in? Are you in the Bible belt? Maybe you live in Tornado alley or way up north? Beliefs and traditions of the place you live in will have a direct impact on education and how it's run. It's not supposed to, but it does. In Utah, the Mormon Religion is majority of the population. That means most of the teachers are Mormon too. Their distinct beliefs carry over into the class room. I know this because I lived in Utah for my 9th grade year after being in Nebraska. Totally different worlds.

What they personally think of YOU as a parent: I've had one school commend me, one judge me as a parent (and they all do but I mean harshly) and one label be as a difficult parent, all for doing the exact same thing. It's common knowledge that you can't get along with everyone. But we are supposed to be professional too, right? Well. Definitions vary. One thing that is for sure, if the teacher really doesn't like you, it will affect his or her point of view toward your child. The common thought on parents of  special needs students is that we are a colossal pain in the ass. That stigma (and not all teachers are like this) can make it hard to establish a good parent/teacher rapport.

And all of that is just in Elementary school.

The reason I post this is because, as I look over stories on the internet; I see people lending advice about federal IEP Law as if it's exactly the same in ever state, county, and city. Yes, I know it's written the same, but getting it enforced is a totally different universe. And situations vary so that the law may not be broken by some technicality. It's always best advice to consult a local attorney. Consultations are usually free.

If you are a parent of a special needs student with an IEP, you owe it to yourself to find out exactly what your state's procedures are in handling complaints and education in general. How do they enforce their policies? Too often we wind up surprised and that's never a good thing to be.  But what do you do if you are in a bad situation? In my next installment, I'll tell you.