Autism… not just for Children.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Autism was something that was purely a child’s “condition”.

This is mostly because we are all now hyper aware of  Autism, because of the research that has gone into it and the controversy around Vaccines (no, they DO NOT cause Autism) that hit the headlines and has been in and out of the media ever since.

You’d also be forgiven for thinking that it only appears in boys.

I know I’ve blogged about Autism before. However, that was more to do with the investigation into my own children’s cases of Aspergers / High Functioning Autism. Then my partner was “diagnosed” with it as well. I began to suspect that I too had it. Especially when the genetic links began to appear in my extended family.

I’ve researched and thought and mused. I’ve talked about it with professionals and read anything and everything I could get my hands on.

Anytime I mentioned Autism in connection with myself though, people would say things like:

“You’re imagining it.” 
“Not everyone has Autism. You’re normal.”
“Stop trying to label yourself. You don’t need it.”
“All Humans have the same traits; it’s not special.”
“You’re just an Introvert.”
“Only boys have Autism.”
“It’s something Children have. They grow out of it.”

Then I saw this:

Professor Tony Attwood – Autism in Females from Healthed on Vimeo.

As he talked I ran through the things he was talking about in my head. I saw my HFA Partner, both of my HFA  children and I saw myself.

And I realised that it wasn’t a bad thing that I identified myself in the Professor’s words. I’m not “imagining it”

I’m 41 this year. And yes, I am Autistic. I am Aspergers / High Functioning Autistic and I don’t need to hide it or excuse it anymore. But I do need to label myself with it, because I am not normal” ,  or at least not as far as the mainstream “Neurotypical” society is concerned.

Mainstream society is unforgiving, nasty, uncaring. Mainstream society looks down on anyone “different”, anyone who disrupts the smooth running of their world. But they’re very quick to take advantage of the successes of Autistics, of the different mindset and creative vision, as the brief list below shows:

Famous People with Aspergers

Craig Nicholls, frontman of the Australian garage rock band, The Vines
Gary Numan, British singer and songwriter
Jerry Newport, American author and mathematical savant, basis of the film Mozart and the Whale
Richard Borcherds, mathematician specializing in group theory and Lie algebras
Satoshi Tajiri, creator and designer of Pokemon
Tim Page, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic and author
Vernon L. Smith, Nobel Laureate in Economics

Famous People who MAY have had Aspergers

Alan Turing, 1912-1954, English mathematician, computer scientist and cryptographer
Albert Einstein, 1879-1955, German/American theoretical physicist
Alexander Graham Bell, 1847-1922, Scottish/Canadian/American inventor of the telephone
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, 1868-1928, Scottish architect and designer
Emily Dickinson, 1830-1886, US poet
Isaac Newton, 1642-1727, English mathematician and physicist
Nikola Tesla, 1856-1943, Serbian/American scientist, engineer, inventor of electric motors

There are many more; check out the article – http://www.disabled-world.com/artman/publish/article_2086.shtml

By “labelling” myself, I put  Society at ease – I give them a reason that they can understand for my behaviour. And Humans in general love labels – when we (as a species) can put people into neat little boxes, we can forget about the things that made us think bad things about the person and focus on the good things again.

Girls do get Autism – it’s genetic so of course girls are going to get it. It’s just that boys aren’t as sneaky as girls. They’re more immediate and action orientated… go watch the video again – Professor Attwood explains it very neatly.

And Autism is not just for children”. You know why?

Because Autism is a physical difference in the way the brain works, like Dyslexia or being Left Handed. It isn’t something that can be cured – you just learn how to deal with it, to get around the things that cause you problems as you get older.

Autistic Children grow up into Autistic Adults. 

You “don’t grow out of it”. If it is identified early enough, they can learn how they are different from “Neurotypical” children and learn how to fit in with the society that “Neurotypical” people have created. They can also learn how to celebrate and use the traits that make “Neurotypical” people think they are strange or weird to be successful in the “Neurotypical” world.

So Autism is a lot more common than society seems to think. My pet theory is that it’s possibly an evolutionary  thing – something that Mother Nature tried out on the human race. I have no idea if it’s a recent thing or not; that’s for a scientist to work out, not a writer.

I have accepted that I am who I am. It’s taken 41 years to do it, and now I know why I am the way I am. I can use my autistic traits to make myself successful and I know how to ameliorate the things that Society doesn’t like about me for when I am in the company of people who don’t understand Autism.

Maybe one day Mainstream Society will accept us Autistics for who we are and not try to make us act like them. Maybe one day Autistic Children will be able to show everything that they are without needing to conform and be accepted.

One Day.

****

For more information on Autism:

http://www.autism.org.uk/

http://www.usautism.org/

Forget What you know…

My son has Aspergers. It makes him highly intelligent, socially awkward and seriously obsessed with various things – mostly Money, Pokemon, Doctor Who and Card collecting…

Aspergers is what they call an Autistic Spectrum Condition. Autism is –

a lifelong developmental disability that affects how a person communicates with, and relates to, other people. It also affects how they make sense of the world around them

Everyone has a few autistic traits, it’s just when there is a whole slew of them that the condition is diagnosed. Aspergers / High Functioning Autism are two separate conditions, but are so similar that they get mistaken for each other.

Why am I talking about this?

Well, I came across this video in my internet ramblings earlier today and was immediately struck by something… Go watch the video and come back – I’ll hang on until you do…

http://autismawarenesspage.com/jacob-barnett-forget-what-you-know/?utm_source=social&utm_medium=autaware&utm_term=20130820&utm_campaign=jacob-barnett-forget-what-you-know

…interesting one isn’t it?

Okay, what struck me about this video is that it took a teenager with Aspergers to notice something significant about the way the human mind works.

We shove our kids into school at an early age and push them to “Learn Something”. We insist that it is the best way for them to grow up; they have to be tested and constantly have information shoved into their delicate brains and memorised before they can be allowed out to play .
Yet Jacob Barnett noticed that it was only when Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein were stopped from Learning (one by the plague, the other by racialism) that they made their biggest and best discoveries.

This is why his Tedtalk was called “Forget What you Know.”

In order to be truly creative in our thinking, we have to free ourselves from that crammed in mass of knowledge that the education systems of the world force us to memorise.

It doesn’t matter what subject you are working in or learning – forget about the book learning we are all piled high with and allow your creative mind to wander through the daisies.

Believe it or not, this actually works!

My best stories have come from times when I have ignored conventional forms and styles of writing and allowed my mind to run free with an idea. My favourite short story was created for a charity anthology called “Words to Music”.

The story isn’t remarkable because of that though. It’s different because of the way I wrote it. I originally wrote a story called “Statues of Justice” for the anthology.

I’d been assigned a song I’d never heard of and I had to look it up in order to write my contribution. The story that I created was just a little pedestrian and predictable (it’s changed substantially since it became “Tales of Cassius: Statues of Justice”) and wasn’t really my best work; mostly because I had tried to write the story that the lyrics told.

So when it was rejected, I lay back, listened to the song for about the fiftieth time, and let my mind wander.

It came back with the idea of rebelling against a higher authority. And while Statues is definitely about rebelling, it isn’t pure enough. The story for the anthology needed to be more idealistic and the second story  I came up with was perfect – it’s called “I, Dragon”…

The idea was simple – a lightning strike on a computer creates an AI mind which travels the interconnected worlds of the electricity system and the Internet to find a way of becoming a physical reality.

I managed to combine SF and Fantasy into one story without being too clichéd – and this time it was accepted.

So forgetting what you know and allowing your creative mind freedom does work… and it’s much more fun!

 

Wool, Grapefruit and the World…

You do strange things when you’re pregnant.

I just spent three quarters of an hour trying to section a red grapefruit because I was fed up of having to dig the sections out and leaving so much fruit behind… I guess I thought that sectioning it would be easier; peel the fruit, cut out the sections and eat.

Hah!

Anyway, it occurred to me while I was sat eating my hard won grapefruit segments that the actual fruit is made up of all this little bubbles of juice that burst when you bite through them. They’re sweet with a sour after-taste and oddly compelling.

 

Writing is like that. Well actually, Reading is like that, not writing exactly.

I read “Wool” by Hugh Howey yesterday and it is the first SF book that I’ve read that has made me think in terms of the words I was reading. Each word was like a bubble of grapefruit juice, soft and elongated on my tongue and each time I read and understood what he was saying, the taste of grapefruit juice built up; sweet, sour and oddly compelling.

I had “Wait” by Take That playing while I was eating and the song seemed to fit with both what I had observed in the grapefruit and through reading “Wool”.

The lyrics that really stuck were:

 

Free your soul to me,

Words can set us free.

 

It’s true. Words can set us free; we just have to have the courage to say the right ones. They are the ones that hurt, the ones that highlight the problems in our world in such a way that we have to deal with them.

 

Reading “Wool” was a sweet / sour experience. On one hand the story was incredibly compelling and interesting. You wanted to see what happened to the characters next and it was difficult to think about mundane things (like washing up) while you read each chapter.

But about half way through the book something happened. I realise that whether he had intended it or not, Hugh Howey was commenting on what was happening in the world now. And that his vision of what the future could hold was a real possibility.

That’s scary.

Why?

Well think of it this way. It’s 2013. I’ve got two children (one 12, the other 8) and a third one on the way. If I think about what is happening in the world now, there is a very real possibility that their future, the one that I may never see, will be an ugly, regimented world where food and energy are rationed down to what you can afford to buy.
There will be a need to limit the population; whether that’s because of the food shortage, space shortage or whatever, so the joy of being a parent will be limited to those who either can win / buy the right or those who are considered so essential to the running of the world that they have to continue their line.

It will be a world of sacrifices with most people just trying to live in it the best they can with the hope that their children (if they have them) will have a better world in the future.

And that scares me.

It doesn’t matter what the energy companies say, fossil fuels (even shale gas) are finite. They will run out. The population of the world is expanding and instead of helping the Africans to improve their land and grow crops to feed themselves and maybe others, we are helping them to fight each other through the Arms Business.

It’s all so backwards.

 

I don’t care about money. Actually, that’s not quite true… I do care about it, but not in a materialistic way.

I’m forced through circumstance (lack of full time teaching jobs in my area, being unable to drive and a son who needs more than usual maternal attention due to being Aspergers) to remain a stay at home mum. So I write books, publish them myself (as best I can) and volunteer in the community as a Guider.

My partner, having been thrown out of one industry for being Dyslexic and undiagnosed Aspergers, is changing career to one that suits him as a person and looking for work. Unfortunately, it’s one of those careers that (like writing) is very difficult to get into without a lot of experience. Which he doesn’t have, despite being talented at his chosen career.

I care about money because we need it to live; you can’t buy food or energy without it and the prices are getting higher every week as the more materialistic of the human race try to pull as much of the world’s money into their personal accounts.

My writing makes a little bit of money. The rest (because of the aforementioned circumstances) we have to get through the benefits system. Which people higher up the money chain are trying to pull out from under us because they think that we don’t deserve it or that we are taking too much from the country and not giving back at all.

It’s a grapefruit juice bubble existence.

Sooner or later (the latter please!) it is going to be bitten into and who knows what comes next?

 

I’m not sure that I am making any sense at the moment – blame it on Sprog, he/she seems to enjoy making me write oddly – so I will leave you with this:

 

Read “Wool” by Hugh Howey.

Enjoy the words as they burst on your mind, revel in the wonderful story, then think about what he is telling us about our world.

 

And when the next chance comes for you to vote in an election of some sort, consider what the party you are going to vote for would do with the country you live in.

Would they make it better for everyone or just for themselves?