Tag Archives: media

Politics: if you don’t care now, when will you?

The more I watch the news or see people talking about politics on Twitter the more frustrated I feel. That’s not just a reaction to Brexit, Trump etc., it’s down to the reporting, or the tone of the conversation itself. I am sure if you are from the UK you are more than aware of the actions of our government over the past eight years: austerity, cuts, changes to the benefits system, sanctions for the sick and disabled and cuts to social care. There have been studies done linking the government’s actions to tens of thousands more deaths than would be expected over any other eight year period.

https://fullfact.org/health/austerity-120000-unnecessary-deaths/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIq72awYrg3gIVGYbVCh05WgumEAAYASAAEgJHifD_BwE

And you don’t have to look far online to find stories talking about the rise in crime, and the cuts in police funding, the changes to benefits that lead to disabled people not being able to leave their homes or afford food, the rise in food banks, and the fact that more working people are having to use food banks due to delays in getting their benefits of up to 12 weeks after being put on universal credit.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/food-bank-uk-benefits-trussell-trust-cost-of-living-highest-rate-a8317001.html

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/06/universal-credit-surge-in-food-bank-use-trussell-trust

Over the past two years we have seen the UN issue a report that strongly condemns the UK governments treatment of disabled people this has lead to people saying the UK is going backwards in its treatment of disabled people.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/un-disabled-rights-uk-government-denounced-criticised-united-nations-austerity-policies-a7923006.html

There have also been reports of a humanitarian crisis in the NHS with patients being left for hours, and sometimes days on corridors without treatment.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2017/jan/06/nhs-faces-humanitarian-crisis-rising-demand-british-red-cross

Just last week UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston reported on the scale of poverty in the UK, being very clear a large part of the poverty he was seeing is a result of the governments cruel and unnecessary policies, and that if they wished to they could end those policies overnight, and improve the lives of millions.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-46236642

In short it’s pretty clear to anyone looking in from the outside, or anyone living here who wants to see it, that in the past eight years the Tories have brought in a raft of totally unnecessary polices and cuts that have brought misery, and in some cases even death, to the sick, the elderly, the disabled and the poor. We have seen the impact of cuts across the country: domestic abuse centres have closed down leaving abused women and their children with nowhere to go, the sharp rise in food banks and the use of those food banks by people in work, cuts in mental health care that leave those in need with little or no help, cuts to benefits that leave disabled people unable to leave their homes or afford the help that they need to live a decent and dignified life.

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/may/30/disabled-readers-austerity-disability-cuts

There are benefit cuts linked to suicides, and a rise in mental health issues among claimants.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/15/exclusive-new-study-links-universal-credit-to-increased-suicide-risk

https://www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk/news/greater-manchester-news/universal-credit-benefit-mum-suicide-14544736 )

Cuts to the NHS, increasing privatisation, a hostile environment for disabled people and immigrants, the Windrush scandal, the list goes on and on.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43726976

And the steep increase in homelessness since 2010.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/oct/27/universal-credit-fuels-homeless-crisis )

Every day you can see the misery this government is inflicting on its people, and you can see the lack of care, and the targeting of the most vulnerable. People who lived through the Thatcher years of the 1980s say that this is worse, and that it’s getting worse year on year. And yet even though you can see this with your own eyes it’s not always the sense you get when seeing people talk online, or watching the news. It’s not that they never speak about these things on the BBC, but there is no thread. There might be a piece one week that runs for a day about the increase in homelessness, where they will let experts say that government cuts and changes to benefits are driving the numbers up, and the next week there might be an segment on care homes that are having to close down due to lack of funding, but these things hardly ever run for more than a day, and never feel like a part of the same story. There is always someone from the government there to brush them off, and they are never linked. But in fact they are clearly part of the same story; if you are talking about cuts to policing then how can you not also link that to a story about cuts to mental health services by the same government? They clearly connect and are part of a bigger, overall story. Yet every crisis is reported on its own, as if they are all unconnected and just happen to be going on at the same time. The government is never challenged on them all at once, instead they are asked about each one on its own. The debate is broken up in to multiple debates, so the question will be asked “Can we really blame the government for X? or Y? or Z?” And not “Why has X,Y,Z and a dozen other things happened under the same government, at the same time?” This takes away from the real issue – the fact that this government has systematically made the lives of the sick, the poor, and the disabled worse with every new policy.

There is also the fact that whenever you see, or read a report on one of the issues mentioned above the government is given a chance to reply within the story. Now that’s not what I take issue with – my issue is the fact that the reply is always tacked on to the end of the story. Instead it should be looked at, checked against the facts, and talked about within the story. Let’s think about something else for a moment, say the anti-vax movement. We all know vaccines don’t cause autism, that’s just a fact. So if you run a story about that you don’t need to go and find someone who rants on Facebook about vaccines leading to autism, and give them a platform. You can find what they say and break down why it’s wrong, but you don’t need to make them sound legitimate. But if a story runs about how universal credit can lead to people having to use food banks, and you talk to people who say “I am using a food bank due to being put on universal credit.” and you talk to people who run food banks who show you the logs they have of all the people who have come to them after being put on universal credit, then just having someone from the government comment something along the lines of “That’s not true in fact we help….” is not very useful. It makes it look as if just saying “Nope” in the face of facts is a legitimate way of arguing a point. The government can say no if they want, but the point should be made that the facts are there, and they are just acting as if they are not instead of addressing the issue. Facts have to mean something. It’s fine to get the governments response to stories, but if they flat-out lie, try and tell you facts are not facts, or twist things up in a way that can be shown and proved, then it’s your duty as a journalist to show that, not just print what they say and leave it up to the public.

But talking of the public they also have a roll to play in this. Often I hear people saying things like “Things are bad, but you cant blame the government.” or “All politicians are the same.” To say things like this is both to turn your back on facts, and to absolve yourself of any responsibility. If it’s not the governments fault, and if every party is the same why do you need to vote? Why do you need to keep up to date with what’s going on? Why do you need to care if you can have no impact? Being cynical is an easy way out. To care is hard, to want to change things is hard, and to put your trust in a political party is hard. But here’s the thing, not all parties and all politicians are the same – if you ever hear anyone say that you know for a fact they don’t have a clue what they are talking about.

But even those who do have some understanding of politics and do care can frustrate me. The bottom line here is that the government we have is genuinely awful, the country is suffering, you can see the spread of misery and poverty. When I see people on Twitter saying things like “I hate the Conservatives, but I don’t think I can vote for Labour if they do/don’t do…” I just don’t know what to say. I am not someone who thinks the Labour party in any form is perfect. I can recall how angry I was over the Iraq war as a child, and there have been plenty of times I have disliked something Jeremy Corbyn has done, but at no point have I felt Labour under Corbyn would be anything you could even compare to the Tory government.

In politics in the UK you realistically get two options, then unless something dramatic happens you have to wait fives years to be given a chance to change the government you end up with. You don’t get the time to wait for the perfect party, the party that ticks all your boxes and leaves you with zero worries. No one ever gets that, you are not special so you don’t get it either.

If you can see the government we have now, see what the options are and say “Well yes this government is doing all that awful stuff, and a Labour government would not be anywhere near as bad but still….” then I think you have to take a good look at yourself. Voting is not about making yourself feel good, it’s about doing something for the good of the country as a whole. You might not love who you are voting for, but if you know they will do less harm to people than the party in power right now that’s all that should count. Right now the main focus has to be on getting the Conservatives out of power, and Labour is our best option for that. I like Corbyn, but while you might not you still have to admit that he would not proactively target the weakest and most vulnerable in society like the Tories have been doing. I have no problem with people taking issue with things Corbyn and Labour do, now or if they ever get in to power, as I say I do this myself. But what I do have an issue with is people acting as if they can in anyway be compared to the brutal, and targeted cruelty of a Tory government. Politics is not about perfection, it’s about doing the best you can for those who need it the most. This goes for politicians, but also the public; think about all the pain that comes with a Tory government, and then think about if your issue with Labour is really that big.

Over all what I am trying to say is that we need to be honest with ourselves about how things are. When you see things on the news or read about them on Twitter try and think, why are they happening? Who has the power to stop them? And what’s the common thread? The rise in food banks, homelessness, child poverty, cuts to the NHS, a crisis in mental health and social care services, cuts to the policing budget, benefit cuts resulting in suicides, ill health and homelessness, the demonization of the disabled and immigrants, schools unable to afford basic equipment, cuts to SEND services and a myriad of other cruel policies. These things might be reported out of context, as if one day they just happened and no one can tell why, but that’s not true. The truth is that they are all results of deliberate acts by the Conservative party. We live in an age that will be looked back on with sadness, and incomprehension by those lucky enough to have been born too late to live through it, in years to come. They will feel anger and sadness looking back the same way people my age look back on the Thatcher years. The truth is if you’re not angry now, if you’re not passionate now, then you never will be. If now is not the time you stand up, look at what is happening and say No, say I am better than this, I am more humane than this, then you will never do so. What is happening now is not accidental, it’s not unavoidable, and it’s not right. If you do not speak up, and speak out now then when will you?

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 help or advice abut 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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Why I have been avoiding shows about autism.

Last year I watched The A Word and did a review for each episode, but this year I have not even caught up on the first episode of series two yet. This is in part due to me being busy and having a lot of other things to watch, but it is also due to the fact that I find it quite hard and cringe-inducing to watch shows/films that seek to portray autism. That’s also why I never got around to watching Atypical, despite thinking that I should write something about it. So why have I been avoiding shows with autism in them? And should I keep doing so?

There has been a bit of patten in recent years with The A word, The Good Doctor, Atypical and the Accountant among others all being released to media praise, and a backlash from autistic people. It normally goes something like this: The show/film comes out and gets widely praised for having an autistic character, autistic people let themselves hope it will be done right, watch the show/film only to find out it`s been badly done and is mostly just stereotypes, and react badly to it. We write blogs and post online about why the film/show is getting things wrong, and urge people not to take what that program is showing them as a realistic image of what autism is, then the show`s/film`s creators respond by saying that the show/film is not meant to represent everyone with autism, and can not tell everyone’s story, and that’s the end of it until the next show/film.

Firstly to address some of those points: of course each show and film can only tell one story, and is not meant to represent everyone, but some of the stories we see in film and T.V. do not seem to represent anyone; they are just stereotypes brought to life on screen. Plus you only have to look at the Rainman effect to see what power films and T.V. have over how people see autism and autistic people. Even now, well over twenty years since its release, it is still one of the first things some people go to when they think of autism. It`s not that it`s a bad film, it`s just that lots of people don’t want to look any further in to a subject once they have seen one film or T.V. show on it. They think they understand it now and can talk about it like experts. The truth is autistic people understand that one show or one film is not going to show everything there is to know about autism, but sadly a lot of non-autistic people do not seem to understand this. Therefore those shows/films have a power that most others do not; they will help shape and create non-autistic peoples` views and perceptions of autistic people for years to come.

So when a new T.V. show comes on the air autistic people tend to have a mix of feelings; we want it to be good – why would we not after all? But we also worry that it will be bad. If it is bad then some of us will feel we have to react to it; to keep watching through the cringingly bad attempts to show how autistic people talk, think and feel, to keep watching even if it passes the point of being offensively bad. And sometimes it is worth doing that – you can`t write about something or hold it to account if you have not watched it. You can dislike an idea, but to call out a show or film you do have to sit down and watch it. You have to think about why it`s bad, write that down, edit it and post it somewhere, and that’s the thing – sometimes it just does not feel worth while doing that.

It is always worth autistic people speaking up and challenging poor portrayals of autism on T.V. If we do not do this then who will? And like I said those portrayals, if left unchallenged, will dictate how non-autistic people view autism. But still, having to watch through them can sometimes be trying. It`s hard enough to have to watch bad films and T.V. without falling asleep or drifting off to find something better to do, but when you have to watch bad TV/films that also try and fail to show autism it becomes even harder to get through. It`s hard to put the feeling in to words; it`s not always that things are offensive, although sometimes they are, it`s more that it can just be downright painful to watch sometimes. I am sure we have all seen a film or T.V. show that got stuff badly wrong when showing autism, and if you have then you will know the feeling I am talking about.

It can feel like autistic people are having to say the same things over and over again when talking about how autistic people are shown on T.V. We pick up on the same issues time and time again, and talk/write about them, and yet not much seems to change.

So is it worth watching and reviewing these shows/films?

It`s always worth talking and writing about how autism is portrayed in film or on T.V. Even, or perhaps especially, if it is a bad portrayal. Of course anyone can review anything, but the views of an autistic person must hold more weight when talking about autism on screen. That being said no one is ever obligated to review a show or film. Once you start writing about things like that it can start to feel as if you need to watch everything to keep up with what’s going on, and give your views on every new T.V. show that comes out. But you might not want to; you might be fed up of watching TV/films that frustrate you, but also you might just not have time to keep up with everything. Right now autism is a pretty big deal on T.V. There are new shows coming out about it all the time, and it would be hard for anyone to keep up.

In short yes it is important for autistic people to speak up if we see a bad, negative, or flawed image of autism on T.V. and also to say when people get stuff right, but it`s also totally understandable if we need a break from doing this from time to time. I will try and catch up on The A word, and despite my talk of bad portrayals of autism on T.V. I will keep an open mind going in to it. And while I can`t watch and talk about every show that deals with autism, I do try and read as many reviews of these shows by autistic people as I can.

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 help or advice abut 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

Autism, and why I haven`t been on social media recently …

I have been trying to do ASK-PERGERS? a bit over the last few days, and posted a blog a few days ago, but before that I had not done any work or even logged on to ASK-PERGERS? for about a week. I run ASK-PERGERS? with my Mum so you might have seen a few things being tweeted out by her in that time, but I was not on at all. And it was not a planned break; I just ended up not going on, and not working on my writing for a week. So why was this?

The whole point of ASK-PERGERS? is that I talk and write about autism; I write about the positives of it and what I enjoy about being autistic, but also the negative side and those things that I find hard. If you have a blog and you want to grow it you need to post regularly, the same if you want to improve your social media presence. I want to grow both the blog and our following on social media – and it’s not that I plan on making a lot of money by doing this, that’s not how it works – but of course I want to connect with more people, and get my writing out there as much as I can. Like I say to do that you need to be putting some work in most, if not every, day and yet by the very nature of being autistic that’s not always easy to do. When I am stressed, overloaded or struggling to be able to do anything due to lack of routine, or underlying worries it can be hard to find the energy to even log on to social media, and find things to share. Or my mind is just so overloaded that I don’t even think to do anything on ASK-PERGERS? The week I had away from my writing work recently was a mix of those things. I have been finding it hard to make and stick to a routine. I was trying one, as I put in another blog, but due to some underlying issues it’s been hard to stick to. That has been throwing me off, and meaning that for quite a while I was getting up unsure of what to do; feeling stressed and overloaded with nothing to bring me down from that. Because I did not have a routine I found myself going to bed a lot later each night. I have found if I don’t have plans for the next morning I will just stay up until I feel so tired I have to sleep. But I don’t sleep in much in the mornings so this leads to me being much more tired the next day, which in turn makes it harder to plan the day out, and stick to that plan. For a lot of the time doing ASK-PERGERS? just did not come in to my head, and when it did I was so tired and overloaded that I just did not find myself wanting to do it, and would put it off and forget about it again.

I don’t want to make a big deal out of the fact that I did not go on social media for a week; I know that it’s fine, and I can just pick up from where I left off, and that’s what I have been doing. But I just wanted to call some attention to the fact that sometimes even things that seem small, like going on to Twitter to work, can feel so overwhelming that they end up being left for days on end. And no matter how important something is to you, sometimes overload and stress make it almost impossible to do.

As I say I did not plan to take a week off; in fact most days I thought that I had better do some work on ASK-PERGERS? but it just never happened. In itself it’s not a big deal, but it is a good example of how things can slip away. Once something starts to feel stressful, or I start to feel too overloaded to do it then it can easily run in to weeks before I am able to get on with it again. It’s a strange thing that the very nature of what I am writing about can make my writing, and work on social media, hard, but that’s how it is. But then again it works the other way around too; of course now I have gone from finding it hard to write, and do work on social media to writing about finding it hard and posting that to my blog. Not doing ASK-PERGERS? for a week is just one example of how things can drift away and get left if I feel overloaded, or do not find a way to work them in to my routine. If I have a good routine or plan for the day, and know what I am doing and when and do not allow myself to get to the point of being too overloaded, then I can be quite productive day to day. But if things are not planned out well, or I am having a day where I am overloaded or overly-stressed then I can often end up doing nothing at all, not even the seemingly small, easy things that I enjoy and want to do.

PS: I wrote this blog last Monday and yet I am only just getting around to editing and posting it now. But it is still as true now as it was when I first wrote it. I ended up taking another break from social media for around six days due to a mix of the same reasons talked about above. I think the fact that it took me so long to be able to work on this blog again, or even think about it after it was written, just helps to back-up what I say in it.

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 help or advice abut 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

How the media is shaping public perceptions of autism for the worse.

I was planning to write a few more specific response blogs to some of the stories that have been doing the rounds on Twitter over the past few days, but I just don’t have the inclination to sit down and give each story so much time. If you`re not sure what I am talking about let me explain.

First of all we had the autism/radicalisation story in the Daily Mail; a story which implied that autistic people are more likely to become terrorists, and I did take the time to write a full response to this one. Then over the weekend I came across another story, this time linking autism to screen time. In this article a professor of neurology talks about two studies which he claims show a link between screen time and autism. The idea being that some children can develop a type of autism from spending lot of time on Ipads or laptops, and if parents take those away and play with the children more then the autism will go away. A ridiculous story that harks back to the days of the refrigerator Mother, and once again a story written by a professional, based on work by other professionals, that has angered and offended the autistic community.

Then there was a story by writer Kathy Lette, again in the Daily Mail, in which she talks about feeling the need to hire a sex worker for her autistic son as he felt he would never be able to get a girlfriend on his own. As a lot of people on Twitter have already said, it`s not the idea of using a sex worker that’s the problem. It`s the fact there is nothing in the article to suggest that Lette talked to her son about the idea, not even when she came close to picking a women up on the street. It reads as if her plan was just to pick the woman up, turn up and present the woman to her son. Not even going in to the fact that he might not have wanted sex then, or with that particular women, there is the issue of planning. Doing anything that is not planned for, or part of the routine can be hard for autistic people. But something like this should never be sprung on anyone, least of all some one with autism. There is also no input from her son in the piece, and not even a line to say that he is happy for her to write about him in this way. I fully understand that there is a limit on words in an article, and perhaps she did talk to her son both about her idea and about writing the article, but what’s angered a lot of autistic people on twitter is that neither of those things are in anyway clear. It reads as if the plan was hatched and nearly put in to action without him knowing at all. And while this point might have nothing to do with autism, there is also the fact that the writer seems to make no distinction between hiring an escort from an agency, and picking a women up off the streets. From what I understand women working for escort agencies are perhaps less vulnerable, and exploited than women who are forced to work the streets.

All of these articles drew a lot of reaction from the autistic community. There was anger of course, but the overriding feeling seemed to be one of frustration. How many more ridiculous stories about autism are there going to be? We live in a world where, based on one debunked lie from a disgraced former doctor, thousands of people believe that vaccines cause autism. A world where people can go on T.V. and claim to cure autism by changing children’s diets. A world in which some parents will buy and then feed their children bleach because some con-artist has sold it to them as a cure for autism. And not just a world where every school shooting is linked to autism, but now a world where professionals think it`s OK to go in a national news paper, and link terrorism with autism as well.

There are of course other issues: hate crime, so called mate-crime, benefits being slashed, lack of employment for autistic people, autistic people being locked up for years in institutions with no good cause, and there are stories in the media of parents killing their autistic children, and almost being given a free pass by the press due to the stress of `putting up with` their autistic child for so long. I could go on.

It might sound like I am being negative, but I am just stating the facts when I point out the issues that face the autistic community. It`s important to recognise what these issues are if we are ever going to do anything to deal with them, and bring about some changes. But sometimes it does feel overwhelming, and that’s where the frustration comes in. Autistic people want to do what we can to fight against the levels of ignorance in society, but when we see that ignorance floating down from the top levels of the professional world it can feel as if everything we are trying to do is being undone by those who claim they are trying to help us. And it`s not just professionals, it can be some parents too, like those who cling to the idea that vaccines cause autism.

I feel – and this may sound a bit self-serving, but I am not just talking about myself here – but I feel that reading the writings of autistic people is the best way to understand autism. I know when I read other autistic peoples` blogs or posts on twitter I lean more, and recognize more that I never realised or thought of, than I do reading any study or report. And yet it seems that for the most part it`s harder for autistic peoples` voices to break out of the autism community, and in to the mainstream than it is for parents and professionals.

What I mean by this is that autistic writers and bloggers talk a lot of sense, and yet it feels like our voices are mainly being heard by those already in the autistic community. This does not mean there are not some well-known autistic writers in the mainstream such as Temple Grandin, or that nothing autistic authors write gets picked up by the media. But I do think overall it is harder for us to get our voices heard. Where as a professional – and to a slightly lesser extent a parent – can have an idea and no matter how silly it is, or how detrimental to autistic people, it can and often will get mainstream press coverage. Leading to ideas such as autism being caused by vaccines, being cured by diet, or being linked to screen-time filling up peoples timelines, and becoming part of the casual view of autism held by those who are not autistic, and don’t know anyone who is. Whereas genuinely good, thoughtful, insightful, and helpful ways to deal with real-life issues facing autistic people are often stuck within blogs, or on message boards being viewed by only a small amount of people.

It feels as if what you have to say about autism matters more if you are someone who works with autistic people, or a parent of autistic children than if you are autistic yourself. This makes it harder to fight the other battles that need to be fought when those who are meant to be helping you hold so much more power than you do. Even more so when they use that imbalance of power to spread silly or dangerous ideas, and to add to myths and stereo-types around autism.

Often, all the responses to articles like the ones I talked about above will only be read and spoken about in the autistic community, whereas the articles themselves are out in the mainstream.

So what? You might think that as long as autistic voices are being heard by autistic people what’s the big deal?

Well it`s the mainstream that shapes the view of society as a whole, that gets read by the next generation of parents and professionals, and helps to shape their view of autism and autistic people. And I, for one, would rather have those views shaped by the writings and thoughts of autistic people themselves.

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 help or advice abut 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