Tag Archives: Awareness

The A Word – Episode 5

Once again I am late with my A word blog, but I caught up on episode five today. Below are some of my thoughts on the penultimate episode of the show.

Joe out walking, again!: Yes this is something I say every week, but the more times I see it the more times I feel it is worthy of comment!  A five year old boy should not be walking down a road on his own.  But more importantly than that I feel it’s just bad writing.  Joe`s Mum and Dad are set up to be worried about him. They fear for his safety. They don’t let him take risks. At least for fifty eight minutes of each episode they don’t.  The opening shots just undermine all the writing that was done building them up as characters. They just wake up, and don’t worry about where their five year old son is, and just wait for someone to bring him back. Now no five year old should be allowed to do this, but it is true some vulnerable autistic people do get out of the house and walk off.  And it’s a big issue. People die from doing this; in some cases young autistic people walk off, and are never heard from again. Nothing else Joe does is that bad; it’s as if his parents want to change the things that impact how people might view him, but not the things that might impact on his life. That might be OK, and the show might be set up to be a tragedy where they spend so long trying to change the things that make Joe who he is, and ignoring the huge life-threatening issue that he ends up being hit by a car. But again that’s just bad writing; someone would say something about a five year old walking down the road by themselves – if not anyone else at least the police officer who picked him up.

Maya getting deported: Maya getting deported does two things in the show:  One, it opens up a whole new argument about how to deal with that situation, and what the best thing for Joe is.  And two, it looks like it sets up Joe going missing in the final episode, with no one to find him when he walks off.  It’s clear that Joe likes Maya, and she seems to communicate with him in a way that he understands, through music. She does not try and make him do the things he can’t do, but instead she works with him on the things he can do.  Also introducing your kids, autistic or not, to Motorhead at a young age is just good parenting.

Alison needs to be in control of everything, and can’t be told no: Just look at how episode 5 starts. Her son is brought back to her in a police car.  Her reaction? To have a go at the police officer who brought her son back. She then pushes Joe on to her sister-in-law despite the sister- in-law needing to get to work.  And then later on she tries to bribe a police offer to let Maya stay, and seems genuinely offended when he tells her no. For me this is not good parenting. Good parenting is finding out what your autistic child wants, and doing what you can to help them get it. But not to the point of breaking the law, or manipulating and bullying other members of your family.  Most of what she does seems to be more about her wanting to get her own way.  Just think about the photos. It’s not that Joe at any point seems like he wants to look at them, but cant.  It’s just that she thinks he should be doing it. She is, as has been hinted at in the show, a bully. She seems to be using Joe as a smoke screen to control those around her, and get her own way.  In truth I am not even sure that she realises that’s what she is doing. When the police officer brings her son back – a son who was walking down a road on his own, and was then found by the officer in a car with two men who were not related to him – he also brings her bad news. So instead of thanking him for doing her job, and keeping her son safe, she puts him down and bullies him, making out he is somehow in the wrong.  Then again when she fails to bribe the other officer, she does the same. She is too embarrassed to admit Joe is autistic, and yet she tries to make out as if the police offer is the one in the wrong for not taking a bribe.  Over all it`s not that I think she is badly written, I just think she is written not to be the hero of the story, but to be in a way the villain of the piece.  She is not nice to the rest of her family.  She does not take Joes needs in to account, but instead looks at her own needs, and how to change him to suit them.  She bullies, lies, and manipulates those around her, and hides behind her son`s autism to get away with it.  Good character, bad person.

Overload: It`s clear Joe is overloaded by everything that’s going on.  I think this was dealt with OK in parts, but he seemed to get over his overload quite fast.  Holding his hands over his ears in the school was well acted, and not a wholly untrue representation of what an overload is like.  I have to say that as things like emotional and sensory overload affect everyone in different ways there was nothing hugely wrong about the parts where Joe was overloaded, but I don’t think anyone comes down from an overload that fast.  What do you think?  Did it ring true for you, or not?

They need to talk about change in the right way: So Maya is leaving, and Joe`s Mum wants him to say he understands, and talk about his feelings while looking her in the eyes, and his Dad wants to pretend it’s not happening. Neither of those are good ideas.  It needs to be talked about a lot. Perhaps things need to be written down for Joe; things such as how life around the home will change when Maya leaves. There is no need for him to look in his Mum`s eyes as she does this. It’s OK if he does not talk a lot, or even at all as it`s clear that he is able to understand most of what is said to him. Now if this had happened in the first episode I could understand neither of the parents having a clue how to deal with it, but look at all the reading the Mum has been doing about autism. I am sure some of that would have talked about how big changes can impact on someone with autism, and how they need to be dealt with.  And also about how it’s not OK to force your kids to make eye contact with you!

A normal baby: One part of the show that some people might take issue with is when the Dad says that he wants to have a normal child. Now this is clearly not a nice thing to say, but I can understand why it might be in the show. I am sure there have been a few parents over the years who have said something like that, and later regretted it. Like I say, I have no sympathy for people who feel that way, but I can understand why it is something that would be written in to a show.

Joe missing? So it looks like in the final episode Joe will go off walking by himself, and get lost. What a shock.  Let’s see what happens, but to tell the truth so far it feels like a very lazy, badly written set up.  Which is a shame because I had high hopes for the show at the start.

So over all what do I think?  Well the truth is I don’t know.  I don’t mind the fact that the show is about people who in my view are poor parents, who don’t get autism, as long as it leads to something. People make mistakes, and I understand this, but I feel it is more than that.  I would like the series to end by showing how misguided, and wrong the parent’s view of Joe’s autism is.  Some of the writing has been poor, but overall I don’t think the show is bad. It would be fairer to say it’s getting more and more frustrating each week. What do you think?

What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

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The A Word – Part 3

I`ve finally caught up on The A word so I thought I would share some of my thoughts on episode three. Even though I found some of the things in this episode to be less realistic than in the first two, I am still enjoying the show overall. Below are some of my thoughts, starting off with something everyone on twitter seems to have picked up on.

The speech therapist: I think it’s fair to say that no real life speech therapist would go in to a family`s home and berate the whole family for the way they talk to each other. It is true that the family’s communication is poor, and that might be something a therapist would address in a tactful way at a later date. But no one would sit around a table, and do this in such a confrontational way. And if they did I imagine they would be asked to leave before they got any chance to work one on one with the child. I do understand that it is a drama, and the therapist in the story had her own reasons for being that way with the family. But by doing so she was risking them throwing her out, and therefore depriving the little boy, Joe, of any help she might be able to give him.

Music is a form of communication: Sticking with the theme of the therapist, I was struck by how quickly she dismissed Joe’s music, and how his Dad uses it to communicate with him. It seems to me that Joe talks to his Dad more than anyone else. His Dad knows how to talk to him, and in my view the fact that he uses something Joe loves to do so is no bad thing. It might be a matter of opinion, but for me what a therapist should do is to make the family more able to communicate with the autistic person on their terms – to make sure they are included and give them the chance, and the tools to join in in the best way they can. The Dad seemed to be doing that quite well by using the music as a way of interacting with his autistic son.

Joe being asked questions: With this point I know how I feel, but at the same time I don’t know if that’s just because of my experiences, or if anyone else felt the same way. The way that the speech therapist tried to engage Joe, and get him talking was to make him more of a part of things. By asking him direct questions, and getting him to do things rather than be passive. I know that for me this would not have worked as it would have put me on the spot, and made me even more overloaded and worried. But what about you? As I say, everyone with autism is different, so just because this would not have worked for me does not mean it would not work for anyone. Let me know, does being drawn more in to things, and asked to do something help you? Or like me would you find this overwhelming?

The issues seem to be with the family rather than Joe: Joe seems to be quite happy. He is not having a lot of outbursts, and meltdowns, and overall seems to have a good life. Now that does not mean they should not try and help him so that he is more included in family life, and has some of the tools to deal with life as he gets older. But the rushing around and panicking about Joe`s autism, tossing money at it, and acting like there is a time limit on when they can help Joe is all down to the parents. The situation is not urgent, or even bad, but the Mum at least seems to feel that it is. Again I don’t have an issue with this even though it’s the wrong way for her to think, as it’s the way a lot of parents do think before they know better.

The Mother, Alison, seems to think they can make Joe not autistic: Carrying on from my last point it feels as if Joe’s Mum thinks that Joe can be made to be un-autistic. That one day he will be talking all the time, and running round playing with other kids. The thing is even if he does make friends, and start to talk more he will still be just as autistic. A lot of parents of newly diagnosed children seem to see it this way; as if the autism is something their kid caught, and not a natural part of them. One thing that my Mum says comes to mind – she does, and has always, had a great understanding about autism being a part of who I am, and not something that can, or should, be cured. And when she would devise tips and tricks to help me cope with the negative aspects of my autism she would say “It’s not about making you less autistic, it’s about giving you the skills to cope in a world not set up for autistic people.” Most parents catch on to this at some point, but as, the programme shows it can take them a while!

Joe’s sister treats him with a lot of respect: When the family were sitting around the table Joe`s mum asked him if he wanted to try some acting. He thought about it, and said no. But his Mum told his sister to sign him up for it anyway – not paying any attention to the fact that he had said he did not want to do it. It was clear from his sister`s face that this made her uncomfortable, and she said that she would not do it. Again this felt quite true to life.

Alison has a need to be in control of everything: Going back to Joe’s Mum, she seems to have a need to be in control of everything, and everyone around her. She does not take no for an answer, and often does not think about how what she wants will impact on those around her. It does seem that as long as her ideas are followed, and adhered to then she is happy, even if no one else is. But that being said she does not seem like a bad person, just someone who finds it hard to hand over control, or follow a path set by someone else, even her autistic son.

Joe is still walking out alone: So even though they thought they lost him last time out, they are still cool with him walking around on his own. This is the only bit of the show I can’t quite understand; autistic or not, it’s odd that a family would just let their five year old son put on headphones, so he can’t hear any traffic, and walk off down a road, on the off chance someone he knows will grab him, and bring him back.

So those were some of my thoughts. But what did you think? Let me know in the comments.

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Light it up Blue – but for who?

Why are we asked to Light it up Blue on Autism Awareness day?  It’s something not a lot of people take the time to think about. All around the world buildings are lit up blue, but many people don’t know what the point is. They know it has something to do with making people aware of autism so they assume it’s a good thing, and think no more about it. So why are we asked to Light it up Blue during Autism Awareness month?  And is it a good thing?

The idea behind Light it up Blue comes from the organisation Autism Speaks, and that’s something I will address below. First of all why blue? Well according to the co-founder of Autism Speaks, Suzanne Wright, it’s because four times as many boys as girls are autistic. Now putting aside any feelings I might have about Autism Speaks for a moment, let’s say that they created Light it up Blue with the best of intentions.  Even if they did we have moved on from the idea that autism is something that only, or even mostly impacts on males. I get angry now when I hear people talking about how few girls have autism.  What I say is that only a small amount of women who are autistic have been diagnosed.  It’s not about male or female autism.  It’s about how that autism is shown, or how well it`s hidden i.e. coping strategies.  My view, and the view of an increasing number of autism experts is that it is likely just as many females have autism as males. There is nothing wrong with women using the colour blue, it’s just a colour after all, but if the idea of the movement comes from something we now know not to be true, then whatever you think about Autism Speaks you might feel the idea is a bit outdated.

But what about Autism Speaks themselves? Well as I am sure many of you know there is not a lot of love for them among most autistic people. The feeling is that while they do raise awareness of autism, they do so in a negative way. They spread a feeling of fear, and the idea that autism is an epidemic, and something that needs to be fixed. When you watch their videos they only serve to reinforce this sense of autism being deeply negative. It is talked about in the same breath as cancer or AIDS. I feel the same way as a lot of other autistic people; awareness is a good thing as long as it is making people aware of the truth. Yes autism can be hard, and it makes my life harder than it might otherwise be, every day of my life.  But it is not a wholly bad thing, nor are autistic people broken, or in any way less than anyone else. It`s fine to tell the truth about the parts of autism you find hard, but to say that autism itself is bad, and that everyone who is autistic is suffering, and needs a cure is not OK.  I don’t want to turn this in to a blog about Autism Speaks, but it’s worth taking the time to look in to why a lot of autistic people don’t feel Autism Speaks is speaking for them.

The issue for me is this, that most people who Light it up Blue don’t think about any of the things I have just talked about.  All they want is to do something good, something that will help someone in their family, or other autistic people. So I don’t want anyone to think I am having a go at them, or that I will look down on them if they do Light it up Blue! The point of this blog is this – try and think a bit more about why something is being done. What the meaning behind it is, and if that is the best way to help autistic people. I am not saying I have all the answers, but if a lot of autistic people themselves have an issue with something that is meant to benefit them, then it might be worth thinking of something new. Without all the facts and figures I can’t comment on how much an awareness day/month, or any one campaign helps the day to day lives of autistic people. But what do you think? Is it good that the most prominent thing on autism awareness day is run by a charity that a huge number of autistic people don’t like at all?

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The A word.

(Note: This blog was written a few days ago but I have only been able to post it now.)

I am sure most of you know of the new drama about autism on the BBC. A lot of you have watched it, and have fairly strong views one way or the other. Now it’s always a risk coming out and making a statement about a show after one episode, but I am going to take that risk, and say that I enjoyed the show.  I also had no issue with the way it handled autism. But I hear the complaints so I thought I would write a blog on my thoughts around them.  Keep in mind I don’t know how the show is going to pan-out, and it might all be downhill from here, but so far, after one episode this is what I think of the complaints being levelled at it.

Not true to life for autistic people: This is a pretty big one. I have heard it said by a few people that the show is unrealistic and shows a lightweight version of autism. But as anyone who knows about autism can and will tell you, it presents in many different ways.  Autistic people are not carbon copies of each other.  In fact we are a mix from a wide pool of traits that make up the spectrum.  I might not have been able to see huge amounts of myself in Joe the five year old boy diagnosed with autism in the show, at first, but the more I watched the more I did see my Mum in him.  Lots of people miss out on a diagnosis of autism in their youth as they don’t tick the classic boxes.  People who don’t meltdown much, and turn most of their feelings inwards can end up almost drifting through life unnoticed, as their silence is often taken for compliance, and not distress. There is an idea that this is somehow `Female autism`.  That of course is not true, and males I am sure are just as likely to present this way as females. I liked the fact that the show did not go down the classic young autistic boy route.

Very quick diagnosis: It’s true that no one gets diagnosed as autistic that quickly. The waiting list alone can leave people hanging on for years. But this is where you just have to understand it’s a TV show.  To film a two year wait for an appointment and then a six month wait for the results would hardly make gripping TV.  Plus what it would mean in terms of practicalities for drama and the cast. Call it artistic license.  But saying that the show starts part way through the assessment, and for all we know he might have been on a waiting list for months or years before the start of the show.

Attitudes: The fact that there are negative or fearful attitudes to autism in the show is not in any way a bad thing.  Are some of the family members in the dark about autism?  Yes.  Do they use poor and negative language about it? Yes.  And are they upset and fearful when they find out their son is autistic?  Again yes. But that’s not a bad thing. It’s a true reflection of the way a lot of real life families feel, talk and act.  Yes it is a shame that in 2016 it’s still a realistic reflection of how real people can view autism, but showing us what we know to be true does not make a show bad.  Plus you need to keep in mind that this is not just a show for us. By us I mean autistic people. Lots of the people watching this will not be autistic, and might not know anyone who is. Therefore their views might match the views in the show.  To turn around half an hour in, and ask people to change views they might have held for years just won’t work. If the show goes the way I think it will then the views of the people in the show will change.  Think of it as a helping hand for people who are set in their views about autism, or have little to no understanding of it.

So was there anything bad about it?

So far there is nothing about the show itself that I did not like. But again keep in mind we are only one episode in and my views might have completely changed by this time next week. The one issue I did have was when the doctor said she would never call anyone on the spectrum autistic. I did not get this bit at all as if you are someone with autism, then you are autistic.  I guess some people might like that, but for me it seemed a bit odd. However, many professionals do prefer to use person-first language when describing autistic people as in `person with autism. So it must have been trying to show this. Even though it’s not something I would do, I don’t have any issue with it in the show as it fitted what the professional would have said in real life.

Over all I enjoyed the show and I am keen to see how it progresses. I would like to know what you think though.  Did you enjoy the show, or hate it?  How do you think it handled the subject of autism?  Let me know. I might blog about this again next week to see if I still feel the same, or if my views have changed.

Autism and gaining weight.

This might be a sensitive subject for some, but I read an article the other day that was saying autistic people have a tendency to gain weight, and that most of us are overweight. It got me thinking why might this be? And is it an issue or not? I believe that if is this true then a lot of it will be down to routine and eating habits. Nothing ground-breaking there – that’s what most weight gain is down to – but how might being autistic impact on this? Below are a few of the reasons I think autistic people might gain weight, or find it hard to lose the weight they have gained.

(1) Not caring about appearance: The first thing that needs to be said is that none of these points will apply to all autistic people. There are some autistic people who care greatly about the way they look. But there are also a large number of people who could not care less about how they look, or what people will think about them. There are two main reasons people like to be slim, and in shape. One is for their health, and the other is for their looks. Being motivated by looking good is not a bad thing; it can push people to eat right and work-out. But if you are happy to go through life without caring about how you look, or what others think of you, then gaining weight is easy to do.

(2) Only eating certain foods: There are some autistic people who feel unable to eat lots of different foods. They have a few things that they are able and happy to eat, and they have these same foods day-in, day-out for years. If these things consist of pizza, ice cream and chips then it makes sense that they would gain weight. The thing is, it’s not a case of someone being a fussy eater – there is a lot more to it than that – so even if someone wishes to lose weight, changing what they eat might be extra hard for them to do.

(3) Fitting in the time to work-out: If you are autistic and have a carefully constructed routine that helps you get through your days, then it’s hard to change that, and work something else in to it. You have to decide how much you want to work-out, and when you want to do it. And you then have to change your routine, and fit it in.

(4) Where to work out: Talking of working-out, what about gyms? They are noisy, busy and packed full of people who wish to talk to you about their workouts. It might not even be that the autistic person does not enjoy the gym; they might just not feel able to go all that often due to sensory overload. It could be that they plan to go, but have a stressful day and cannot. So what about running? Well again you have to go out and about, and if someone suffers from anxiety, or they are worried about bumping in to people they may be expected to talk to then this might be hard for them too. A lot of autistic people, including myself, do the bulk of their work-outs at home.

(5) Stress eating: It is well known that many people eat when they are stressed out – not just autistic people, but most people. I am sure there are all kinds of psychological explanations for this, but I don’t know them. If you have had a bad day then sitting down to a nice meal, and something sweet afterwards is a great way to end your day. But eating to help with stress or anxiety is not a good thing, and if you’re autistic and likely spend a large part of your time stressed or anxious, it is a recipe for disaster. If you feel anxious and stressed on an off all day, and every time you do you eat something, no matter what it is you’re going to gain weight. But if that something is crisps or chocolate then you’re going to gain a lot of weight.

(6) Finding it hard to break from routine: I talked about how it might be hard to find the time to fit something new in to your routine, but what about cutting out old stuff? Well if someone is in the habit of getting a takeaway once a week it might be hard to get out of that habit. But if that person is autistic then changing an established routine is going to be even harder. Making changes to diet and where and when you eat is not easy, and everyone finds it hard, but if that routine is a key part of how you get through each day then it’s going to be even harder. It might be best if you are autistic and looking to lose weight, to change things bit by bit. Think about, and plan the changes out well before hand, and don’t just rush in to them.

As I said at the start, not all of these points will apply for all autistic people. Everyone is different, and not every autistic person will struggle with their weight. Also it is important to say that being overweight does not have to be a bad thing. If you are happy with the way you are then I would say don’t worry, just relax. That being said even if you are happy with the way you look you might want to think about losing weight for the sake of your health. If you do want to change your weight then think about some of the points above, and work out if any of these issues are what is stopping you from losing weight, or making you gain weight to begin with.

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?

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Work vs Rest.

One of the things that is talked about a lot when it comes to dealing with stress, and overloads in autistic people is rest days; basically just taking a day to relax, and not having to worry about doing anything.  It might be a set day each week, or it might just be decided depending on how the individual feels day to day.  I myself talk about them, and advise autistic people to take them, and not to feel guilty for not doing much on those days.  But as much as I talk about them, and know them to be a good thing I still find it hard to take my own advice, and let myself have days off.  I find that I have a lot to fit in; I write both books and articles, I edit my work, I like to read, work out, and watch films most days. There are also the things I might not want to do that need to be fitted in: jobs around the house, or going out somewhere. Well if I take a whole day off doing things like that, or even if I just relax and only do a small amount I start to feel guilty, as if I should be doing something. I know in my own head that the quality of my work will be poor if I work on days when I feel overwhelmed, or even on the point of a shut down.  And yet I still find it hard to allow myself to have a day of resting.

I like to work and I like to end the day knowing I have done a lot of work.  But it is about time I started taking my own advice.  There is no point pushing yourself past the point where you work starts to slump.  Working hard is great if you also work well, but you can work as hard and as long as you like only for it to be pointless if you don’t work well.

I find that something as simple as having a rest day means that I am able to come back and do better work both in my job, and just around the house, and in life in general.

The issue is trying to stop feeling guilty, or lazy for saying you are having a day off.  In fact relaxing, and resting is a key part of working well.  Pushing yourself to your limits is fine, but its also OK to set up a good work and rest balance, and stick to this.  Different things work for different people, but my advice would be – if you feel you need rest days, then take them. Don’t worry about feeling lazy, just take the day off, and get back to things the next day.  It is a part of autism – at least for some people it is.  It might mean you clash with the way you like to do things, but finding a way of being at ease with the idea of resting is important if you wish to get the best from yourself work-wise.

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Autism and Sameness.

Everyone knows change, however small, can be hard for autistic people.  But what a lot of people don’t think about when contemplating change is the changes that can take place in one room. This can be something as small as an item not being put back quite right after cleaning. Things that might not even be noticed by someone without autism, but they can have a real impact on autistic people.  I found things such as a lamp being moved from one place to another very hard to deal with when I was younger.

Furniture being rearranged might not sound like a big deal, but to someone with autism it can be. If they are used to the room being a certain way then seeing it all changed around can throw them.  For me I know where my chair is, and what view of the TV I get from it, how easy it is to use my shelves, and things like that.  So just that one small change gives me a whole lot of new things to get used to.

A new piece of furniture being added can have the same impact.  Add to this the fact that it might mean an old piece is thrown out, then you can see why it’s so much for someone with autism to get used to.  It’s not to say they won’t like the new furniture, but it changes the look of the room, and is therefore something they need time to adjust to.

For me – and I am sure a lot of other autistic people – the big one is having my own things moved, and then put back in the wrong place.  But for me the wrong place could just be a few inches to one side. It’s something other people might not even notice, but to me it is a huge thing.  When I was younger I would have meltdowns if my Mum put something of mine back in a slightly different place after cleaning.  Even now I have to admit I would not be too happy about it!

I am older now, and I do find some change easier to deal with, for example changing a room around.  In fact I am always changing things around in my own room.  But I still find it hard to have my belongings touched or moved.  I like to put DVD’S and books on the arm of my chair, and I find it hard when someone else moves them even if it is just to clean. I won’t have a meltdown, but I will get annoyed and tell them not to do it again.

I think most of this stems from having a good eye for detail. I and many other autistic people can pick up on where a book was on the shelf, and the fact that it has now changed places.  We know if our view of the TV is off as someone has not quite put it back right after cleaning behind it.  And being able to notice this can make things hard. There is also the need to control our environment that a lot of autistic people have.  We experience this as we often find ourselves at a loss with the world, and being able to control some part of it – even if it is just a room, or our own belongings in that room – can help. When we see that changed we feel a loss of control.

Change of this kind cannot be avoided; there is no way around that. But there are ways to help.  One is a level of respect from family.  Moving the belongings of someone who is autistic can have a very real impact on them; there are genuine reasons why they have those items where they are, and why they would be upset if someone moved them.  Try talking to the autistic person, or at least give fair warning before you move stuff.  And as always with autism, planning can be key; talking about what is going to change in a room, how and when.  This won’t solve all the issue but it will help.

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?

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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

Why I haven`t blogged for a while ….

Over the last few months I have not been blogging much, as you might have noticed.  There are two main reasons for this: one is that I have just been too busy with life to have any time to work on a blog, and the other is that when I did have time to write I had to spend that time working on articles, and books.  Without going too much in to my family`s business there has been a lot going on this year:  Death, near death, illness, and surgery.  It has been quite a hard year, but this is not a blog for moaning about things like that.  All you need to know is that what has been going on has taken up almost all of my time and energy.   Added to this is the fact that I had the second half of my first year of university to get out of the way, and it meant I didn`t have a whole lot of time left over to write.  But the time I did have I ended up spending working on books, and article.  This means that I have somehow managed to get a deal to have a new book on autism published, finished off writing my horror novel, and had quite a lot of articles on autism published.

But I enjoy blogging, and I want to get back to posting something at least once a week if I can.  So this is just a small post to say that I will try and get back to blogging soon, and to ask if there is anything you want to see me talk about on here?  It can be a general autism issue, or something about my life or ASK-PERGERS itself.

Paddy-Joe.

Awareness versus Acceptance ( re-post)

As I have been too ill to prepare anything for World Autism Day I am reposting this.

Awareness versus Acceptance

Many people argue about whether awareness or acceptance are what people with autism want from society.  Lots of people will say that an awareness of autism is fine, but people can be aware and still not accepting.  Virtually everybody thinks they know what autism is, but that doesn’t stop people being offensive.  And some people argue that acceptance suggests that it is up to the neuro- typical people to say `Oh, we accept people with autism` as if NTs can decide what types of people are acceptable, as if autistic people have put forward a fairly good case and they`ve been accepted in to the day to day order of things.  My view is somewhere in between:

Awareness

  • Awareness means everybody being aware of what autism is, and having at least a basic knowledge of it.
  • Awareness is a positive thing because it will hopefully lead to greater understanding, easier access to services, and make life easier for autistic people.
  • The vast majority of people are already aware of the existence of autism, even if they don’t fully understand it.
  • Awareness can help improve the lives of people with autism.
  • Awareness can’t solve all of the problems.

Acceptance

  • Acceptance means people who aren’t autistic accepting autistic people and their ways.
  • Acceptance can be very positive as it might make things easier in the work-place or learning environment.
  • The word acceptance does have a tendency to give a lot of power to the people without autism, as it suggests that it is up to them to decide if they want to accept autistic people or not.
  • A lot of people don’t like the phrase `acceptance` for that very reason.
  • Does this mean that acceptance is a bad thing?  No, it doesn’t. But it does mean that it is something that you have to be careful about when approaching.

Taking the positives and negatives from the concepts of awareness and acceptance, I think that there is a good ground to be reached somewhere in the middle.  Most people are aware of autism to some degree – even if it is just through Rainman. Some people are accepting of it without really knowing what it is.  For me the real key is understanding; you can be aware of autism, but not really know what it is.  Often this will lead to pity, people being patronising, or a belief that people with autism are either dangerous, or completely pointless trying to communicate with.  A lot of negative stereo-types pervade the public’s perception of autism; they are accepting yes, but quite often they are not accepting of real autistic people.  They might be aware, but in reality they are not aware of real autism, they are aware of the Medias` portrayal of autism.  That is why understanding is so important: you are aware of autism – good.  You are accepting of autism – good.  But do you understand autism?

For more information and advice on Autism/Asperger`s see our free on-line service

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To read some of my autism articles check out my author page http://www.autismdailynewscast.com/author/paddy-joe/

I have co-authored two autism books. Check them out J

http://www.jkp.com/uk/helping-children-with-autism-spectrum-conditions-through-everyday-transitions.html

http://www.jkp.com/uk/create-a-reward-plan-for-your-child-with-asperger-syndrome.html

Paddy-Joe Moran

Inclusion in Mainstream Schools Vs Special Needs Schools

 

Often parents of disabled children will have to make the choice about whether they want their child to go in to, or continue, in mainstream education, or to attend a special needs school.  Some people argue that special needs schools are the best places for children with disabilities as they give them a much better chance of having a full, and complete education.  Others argue that segregating disabled people from the rest of the community during their childhood can not only be detrimental to them, but can also be damaging to those left in mainstream education, because it fosters an image of disabled people being removed from normal society.  Below are some of the possible pros & cons to each argument.

Should children with disabilities attend Special Needs Schools?

Pros:

The most obvious positive is that these schools might be much better equipped to deal with each child’s specific disability. Because they are set up to cater for children who are disabled, or who have learning disability, the staff – by and large – should be experienced and knowledgeable.  In practise it should remove any ignorance from the teaching.  Along the same lines special needs schools may teach things that are more important for disabled students to learn, for example, an academic education is of course still important, but if somebody struggles to go out and be independent or to talk to other people, having specific lessons in this can be just as important, if not more so.

Obviously bullying can still take place in special needs schools, but it happens much less often than in regular mainstream schools.  This can help children to improve with their confidence and self-belief, as well as helping them become more tolerant due to all the people around them having different disabilities and needs.

The school will probably also be more tolerant of certain things such as having time off, or having to have a specific routine that cannot be changed.  This ties in with the first point about experience.  Having somebody who has read about a disability can be useful, but a lot of teachers at special needs schools may have disabled children themselves, or have worked with disabled children for many years. Special needs schools (in principle) provide an environment crafted specifically to meet the needs of disabled students, so how could it be a bad thing?

Cons:

The most obvious con to special needs schools is that it removes disabled children from the mainstream – but this actually has multiple smaller issues attached to it, that can be broken down.  The first of these is that a lot of parents of disabled people, and disabled people themselves, will end up spending years battling to be included in mainstream life, and many see opting out of this at such a young age – possibly before an informed decision can be made by the young person themselves – is laying the groundwork for a lot of difficulties later in life.

There is also the fact that it may deprive disabled children of a lot of experiences they may otherwise have.  Some of these experiences might not be easy, but it could be argued that it is not right to try to shelter disabled children from the realities of the real world that they will have to spend their lives living in.

There is also the issue of how society in general will perceive disabled children if they are separated.  It is hard to argue – especially to children or teenagers – that disabled people are part of the same society as them, when they see them all as being put in one building away from so-called normal society. The argument goes that in order to breed tolerance, and eventually achieve equality, people in the mainstream need to be around disabled people from a young age, so that this becomes the norm; if there is too much separation it will become something strange and unusual.

It is also argued that although special needs schools mean well, they sometimes tend to prepare children with disabilities for a life in which they will need constant care.  They say this means that instead of learning how to get by in the so-called real world, they learn how to live a good life for somebody with a disability – rather than a good life in general.  The main point of this argument is that some say special needs schools define children too much by the fact that they are disabled, and also make that a bigger deal than it would be if they were left in mainstream education.

So what about leaving children with specific, or additional needs in mainstream education?

Pros:

One of the most widely referenced positives of leaving a child with a disability or learning disability in mainstream education is that they will get a better grasp of the real world, and of how to interact with others.  They might not be able to go out and do the things their classmates can do, but they will be around a wider mix of people, and also be able to experience a less sheltered existence.

Another widely held belief is that by not segregating disabled students from their peers it can breed a much more tolerant attitude.  If people experience being around somebody with a disability day to day, then it may just become the norm; other students would be able to get to know disabled students for who they are, rather than just the fact that they are disabled.

Some parents also believe that their children become much more confident after spending time in mainstream education.  They feel that there is a stigma attached to special needs schools, and that by not attaching this to their child they are helping them to become more happy, and confident in their life.

Cons:

A lot of mainstream schools are simply not equipped to deal with people who have disabilities, or learning disabilities.  This can result in these students not receiving the education they deserve.  Also it can lead to teachers behaving irresponsibly, and sometimes even downright cruelly towards students.  There are countless cases of neglect, and unpleasantness by teachers towards their disabled students.

There is also a greater risk of bullying.  The vast majority of people with a disability or special needs who have gone through a mainstream education report being verbally, or physically bullied on more than one occasion.  Obviously special needs schools will have bullying as well, but incidences tend to be lower.

Often the children themselves find mainstream education a challenging, and sometimes tortuous experience.  This could be for a multitude of reasons.  But whatever the reasons happen to be, a large proportion of students who have a disability dread having to go to school, but often when they go to a school that specifically caters for disabled students they find the experience much easier.

Conclusion :

Looking at the arguments for, and against both inclusion in mainstream education and special needs schools, it seems that there may be two correct answers – one is an ideal situation, and one is a situation that makes the best of reality.  Ideally there would be no need to split students with disabilities and learning disabilities from their mainstream peers, so it is easy to understand the people who don’t like special needs schools.  But if you actually take the time to look at the reality of the situation, you can see that students with special needs might just not be able to keep up with the class, or might need a specialist kind of help that mainstream schools simply can’t provide due to budgets, or lack of training – for some people even a general special needs school might not be enough, and they might need to go to something like an autism-specific school.  There is also the issue that not all special needs schools will be idyllic.  Some of them will have lazy teachers, or bad practise.  But that is not a criticism against the institution as a whole.  It would seem that mainstream schools need to do much more to be able to support disabled, and special needs students.  Whether that means more awareness among teachers and students, to more money being allocated on budgets.  Not in every case, but in many the school system does let disabled students down, and this is unacceptable.  But even if there are wholesale changes and improvements in mainstream education, special needs schools will still have a large role to play in catering for the specific needs of disabled students.  The concept may sound like segregation, but in reality it is a segregation that the student themselves will be able to opt in to or out of, and the student can still interact with non-disabled people when they wish to.  So yes, even though it would be different for everybody, it would seem that special needs schools are largely a positive thing, and that they can be incredibly beneficial to disabled students.

My new book can be found here: http://www.jkp.com/uk/communicating-better-with-people-on-the-autism-spectrum-34251.html

For more information and advice on Autism/Asperger`s see our free on-line service

ASK-PERGERS?

Facebook https://www.facebook.com/ASKPERGERS

Twitter https://twitter.com/ASKPERGERS

I have co-authored two autism books. Check them out

http://www.jkp.com/uk/helping-children-with-autism-spectrum-conditions-through-everyday-transitions.html

http://www.jkp.com/uk/create-a-reward-plan-for-your-child-with-asperger-syndrome.html

Paddy-Joe Moran

 

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