Monthly Archives: November 2016

I, Daniel Blake: why this film is so important …

I, Daniel Blake is the new film by acclaimed director, Ken Loach. It stars Dave Johns as the title character, a joiner from the north east of England who is now unable to work following a heart attack on the job.  And Hayley Squires as a young single mother (Katie) who he befriends after he takes her side in an argument at the job centre. The film follows his attempts to help Katie and her children as they adjust to their new life after being forced to move from London, and away from everyone and everything they know, to the only house that is available for them.  At the same time he is trying to navigate his way through a benefits system that seems to be set up to push him back at every turn.

On the surface this is a simple film; an older man who never got the chance to have a family meets up with a young Mum and two kids, and does all the things with and for them that he would have for his own family. But the truth is that the film is about so much more than this.  It is, at its core, a film about people vs. state. About how faceless bureaucracy, and red-tape grind normal men and woman down to the point where they no longer have even a shred of self-respect. A film about how the systems that are meant to help people lack the common sense, or the compassion to even acknowledge when someone is in need.

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It is a deeply important film, and that fact in itself speaks volumes. Fifty years ago Ken Loach made Cathy Come Home. A film about a young woman, who along with her two young children, is forced from house to house by a system that is rigged against her.  At times moving far away from any family to the only accommodation they are willing to give her – failed by people who would pass her from one department to the next until she had no clue what was going on. She spent time in a homeless shelter, and found herself brought to her knees by a system that was meant to help, but instead acted against her, and against common sense at every turn.

The fact that fifty years on Ken Loach can make a film about people forced to move from their homes, in fact to different cities, at the whim of the councils, and about people being failed and lied to by a system meant to help them, is shocking. And it should shock you. It might be that you come out of watching this film thinking it is being heavy-handed, that it`s exaggerating.  Well let me tell you that as someone who has years’ worth of experience dealing with the benefits agency, that’s just not true. Everything about this film rang true to me. The hours spent waiting on the phone, medical assessments carried out by people who have no clue what they are talking about, and yes, even people who are being told by their Drs that going back to work would be bad for their health – or perhaps even fatal – being forced to look for a job. I am autistic and can’t speak on the phone myself but I have spent hours watching my Mum deal with the benefits agencies and seen first-hand how much stress and anxiety this causes her. That being said I am lucky, I have someone who will make the phone calls that I myself cannot make.  Lots of autistic people are not this lucky and find themselves alone. Unable to get the help they need they end up on the street, or even starving to death.

I wish that I could say the film does exaggerate, but no.  It is a true and tragic portrait of modern day England for a lot of people.

I won’t go in to the film`s ending, or people’s reaction to it, as I think it’s only fair to let you experience these for yourself.  But what I will say is that as I left the screening people were talking. Not about the normal things people might casually chat about when leaving a cinema. They were talking about their own lives, about memories and feelings the film had dragged up. There were voices raised in anger, and stories being told of past injustices, because that’s the point of this film. Yes we are watching Daniel Blake and the events of his life, but he could be anyone. A man who has worked all his life, and done no harm to anyone can fall prey to the system – so could you, and so could your friends, or neighbours.

As I watched Daniel toil against the system I could recognize all that he went through, and understand how he felt.

This is an important film. Not because it deals with a tragedy from years ago, or atrocities committed in some far off land.  No, it`s important because it deals with what is happening now – in this county, and in the very streets where we live. The sad thing is that a lot of people who might be affected by the issues in this film probably could not afford the transport costs, or admission fees to go and see it.

I would urge anyone and everyone who can to go and see it – not only because it is a very well made and moving film, but because it tells a story that means something. There is no drama for the sake of drama, or forced emotions.  The drama and emotion come from the brutal and unflinching depiction of real life.

Much like Cathy Come Home did for the 1960s I, Daniel Blake shines a light on a corrupt and hopeless system that is failing those most in need of its help. Yes it is an unashamedly political film, but why should it not be? It tells a story that needs to be told, and it does so while still remaining a moving and effective piece of cinema. One of the most important films of recent years, and one everyone should watch if they have the chance – especially politicians and those working within the benefits system.

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762

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Post Halloween – why November can be such a difficult month for autistic people.

There has been a blog on this site before which talked about how hard Halloween can be for autistic people, and gave some tips for how to cope with this.  But what I want to talk about today is the weeks following Halloween. It`s easy to think that because the event itself is over that’s the end of it, but the truth is that with autism overloads and meltdowns often don’t kick in until much later. It might be a week or two after Halloween that all the change and sensory input finally catches up to someone. By this time the people around them, and perhaps the autistic person themselves, is no longer thinking about Halloween, and does not make the connection. But it is worth keeping in mind that any overload or meltdowns can be due to the impact of something that happened weeks before.

It’s not so easy for someone with autism to just change their routine overnight, and that’s what Halloween requires a lot of the time. Everything changes for a few days as you eat different food, and people’s houses take on a different look (if they decorate them). And along with this there is all the sensory input from children knocking at the door or running around outside doing trick or treat. You can’t just wake up the next day and be over that.

It might be that you take a few days to ease back in to the normal routine of things.  But this is where it becomes a bit tricky because things don’t quite go back to normal at all. November is a strange month anyway; there is Halloween leading in to it then Bonfire Night, and after that people start the count-down to Christmas. Fireworks go off all the time, and there are a lot more people out and about on the streets. It’s a month where you are meant to just get on with your normal life, and yet the world around you is changed. Everyone starts to talk about Christmas, and it feels as if things are changing all the time. Or at least everyone is getting ready for them to change. As I say fireworks start going off sometime in October, and don’t stop until January. It might be that some people with autism enjoy fireworks, and like going out to see them, but for a lot of autistic people having them going off most nights, and even in the daytime is too much. It`s added sensory input that comes at random times, and can be extremely stressful for autistic people.

It is important to remember that while November is meant to be a normal month, it is far from it. Part of it is spent getting over the impact of Halloween, and all the change/sensory overload that can come with this, and part of it is spent anticipating the change, and stress that can come with Christmas. Even if you do work around these two things it might be worth taking the time to talk about the month of November itself with your autistic loved one, or give it some thought if you are autistic yourself. How do you get around the fact that it is basically a month spent dealing with the events of the month before, and the anticipation of events to come in the month after?

Writing about this and planning might be the key; write down what will be different about November, for example fireworks, and Christmas decorations in shops. Write about what the positives of this change might be, and also the negatives. And try to see the last three months of the year as one big time of change, and sensory stimuli. Don’t look at it as one big time of change, then a break, and then a second change.

Even if you just take one part of November – the fireworks – and think about the impact they can have on autistic people, you can see why it can be such a hard time of year.  Loud noises can be enough to send some autistic people in to melt down, and even if this is not the case the build-up of noise/lights plus the unpredictable nature of them can take its toll. It might be worth investing in some head phones either to play music, or just to block out sound. You might not want to, or be able to keep these on all the time, but if you know fireworks get worse after it goes dark then you could have them to put on at this time.

November is a hard month. Perhaps harder than October or December due to the fact that everyone around you wants you to get on with it as if it were just a normal month. But keep doing whatever works for you on Halloween, or start doing whatever helps you get through Christmas early on. Talking, writing things down, planning, talking about what change will happen, and what it means as well as just being aware that things might be hard can all help. I know myself that even though the last three months of the year can be a lot of fun, they can also be a lot of hard work. Of course everything changes again in January but that is a blog for another time!

You can find my new book here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

If you need any more help or advice about Asperger`s/Autism or simply want to talk about it check out our free help and advice service ASK-PERGERS?

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS?ref=hl

And have a look at our books (at the time published under pseudonyms, but we did write them trust us on that!)  http://www.jkp.com/catalogue/author/1762