Guest post: Premature Births, Blindness and Autism by Astrid van Woerkom

Good morning lovelies!  As you will know by the sheer volume of posts about it, I am now in sunny Spain!  If any of you would like to keep up with our goings on in Tossa De Mar, please do feel free to add me on Instagram.  I will have access to WiFi and I will have my computer and phone – I know, typical blogger!
My first guest post is from my lovely friend Astrid.  She has blogged her heart out for this guest post, to please do take the time to read and also visit her blog here.  And now, over to Astrid!
Hi and thanks to Vicky for allowing me to guest post here. I am quite nervous, as it’s been a very long while since I ever guest posted, and also this is quite a personal post, but I’m going to give it a go anyway. When E-mailing Vicky about what she wanted from me, she asked me to write about my disability, how it affects my life and where I find joy anyway.
Now I have in fact multiple disabilities. Let me explain. I was born three months premature in 1986. Back in the day, an eye condition called retinopathy of prematurity was still relatively common in those born prematurely. It is sometimes thought that this is because of the baby getting too much oxygen. I got this eye condition and lost most of my sight to it. I still had some vision growing up, but lost it over the years, and have been totally blind since around age eighteen.
Necklace created by Astrid
Shortly after birth, I also suffered a brain bleed. Either this or my genetic wiring caused me to be autistic. I wasn’t diagnosed with this till I was 21 however, because my parents thought that I was just a little odd and above all very intelligent.
Despite my intelligence, I’m not all that “high-functioning”. I need help with everyday tasks such as cutting up my food, folding my clothes, etc., as well as reminders to do my self-care. I also can have quite severe outbursts or meltdowns. These were the reason I ended up in a psychiatric institution in late 2007. I also got diagnoses of mental health problems while there. I hope to get out and move into supported housing either next year or in 2016, but it has so far been hard to find community-based support that’s still intensive enough to accommodate my various disabilities.
In the institution, I do day activities for a few hours each day. At first, I didn’t participate in day activities because they were too overwhelming for me and I didn’t know anything I could do there that would be accessible.
A few years ago, I started experimenting with crafts. I started out with card making. Not the ideal craft for a blind person, but I didn’t realise this. My original attempts were far from a success, but a few years into it, I can say my skill has improved.
I also make jewelry. I get help with the intricate parts, but do the stringing and some of the other work myself. Lastly, I work with polymer clay. Polymer clay can, by the way, be made into jewelry quite nicely, which is what I love most. I have made a few attempts at sculpting, but these are not too great. Of course, I’m posting my successes here. 🙂
Polymer play turtle made by Astrid
Then there is writing. I’ve been an avid writer from as early as I can remember on. At first, I wrote fiction, but, when I got Internet access in my teens, I soon discovered the online diary and later the blog. I kept a regular blog between 2007 and 2011. We don’t have Wifi at the institution sadly, but I bought my own mobile Internet modem. I’m not tech savvy but it seems to be similar to an Internet-accessing cellphone only you can’t use it to actually phone people. I got to use the modem at a reasonable  price because I’m a student, studying psychology through Open University of the Netherlands. Not that I’m a successful student, but I enjoy the experience.
Dove of Peace made by Astrid
I quit blogging in 2011. Honestly, I don’t know why I did, but maybe I lost interest. The important thing is that I started blogging back up in the summer of 2013 and am very much enjoying it. I also tried to spread my wings in the blogosphere, trying to reach a wider audience than I’d previously interacted with. I thankfully can use Facebook now, which wasn’t too accessible to screen reader users a few years ago (and still, the regular site isn’t, but well, there’s mobile). It is through FB that I met Vicky and many other bloggers I wouldn’t have reached without social networking. I blog mostly about my life as a disabled person and an institution patient, but also blog advice for parents of special needs children, inspirational posts, etc. I really find joy in the blogging process and therefore it’s been a pleasure to write for Vicky. Thanks for reading up to here.
Vicky again.  I am so pleased Astrid has been able to share all this with us.  I think she’s a great inspiration and proof that life is what you make it, whatever you problems.  Alot of good comes from social media.  As Astrid has said here it has enabled her to interact with others she would otherwise be completely cut off from.  I am very pleased to call her my friend and very proud to share her story in my blog.

Do you have friends or family that carry on smiling despite not being given the best start in life?  Do you get vital human interaction from social media when you are unable to get out and about?  Do you have any words of inspiration for Astrid?  Please do comment below as I’m really looking forward to reading when I’m back in the saddle.  

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