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Autism Acceptance Digest
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Autism Pride, Autism Acceptance, services for ALL Autistics regardless of diagnosis, etc.
Autism Pride, Autism Acceptance, services for ALL Autistics regardless of diagnosis, etc.

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In praise of disability activism.
by Autistic self-advocate and owner of the Autism Acceptance Digest blog -
Samantha Bodwell


Many of us in the disability community take part in some sort of activism whether it be solely online or in-person or a combination of the two. I applaud all of our efforts. It really comes down to our level of comfort dealing with people en masse, a.k.a. the number of spoons we have available to us on any given day. Many of us have comorbidities that impact our choices for activism, but that does not mean that the choice we make to take part and express ourselves should be deemed any less important than others are. I for one feel more at home online and have been known to take part in many different protests via twitter and blog posts over the years. Online activists/protesters do not have to hear verbal shouts of derision or face any form of physical violence in-person, that is not to say that one does not encounter violence of another sort where people feel more free to show disdain and spout vile hateful ableist rhetoric online, whatever comes into their minds all the while cowardly hiding behind the safety of their computer screens. Cyber-bullying is just as invasive and in many cases even more so than in-person bullying because when one is home and alone one can still be targeted and harassed no matter the distance away the “attacker” is in the physical world. Such attacks cause just as much PTSD as their in-person physical ones, but in many cases the pain and harm they cause is even deeper. I do not like to invite such attacks so do not engage with individuals one on one online as others in my community to do on a regular basis, I could not take the self-hate and internalized ableism that would be a result of such attacks from awful people trolling the net for the sole purpose of creating havoc and leaving harm in their wake. Face it people many of these perpetrators spew their vitriol for their sheer entertainment and when we take the bait we are playing right into their hands.


I in turn use general political, etc. hashtags and take part in #cripthevote or just speak my mind in my own personal twitter and also sign online petitions. Those who do not engage others in-person but find it makes it easier to express themselves online does not diminish the value of their activism; we too are fighting to make the world a better place for disabled people. I applaud Autistics who do engage one on one on a regular basis you are brave beyond any measure I can express because time and time you go to battle with these trolls, lick your virtual wounds and there you are again back in the fray fighting another day. Many of those who do go toe to toe with such hateful trolls find strength in the community and the fact that we do support their efforts knowing full well our own limitations and lack of spoons to do it ourselves, but as they say some one has too. I applaud the TRUE Autistic warriors taking on non-Autistic trolls online who only like to bait and taunt us for their own enjoyment and care nothing of learning the truth about what life is like for #ActuallyAutistic people. I thank you for your fighting. Stand strong against adversity, with every demon vanquished another arrives in your path, let them not get you down, keep fighting, but also remember to look out for number 1 as they say, safe-care and knowing ones limits is paramount. Also do not forget to ask for help and advice when you need it, others may be able to shoulder some of the burden when you are out of spoons. Don’t let anyone diminish your efforts with hate-speech. Fight the good fight.


In solidarity. 

President Trump, you need a lesson in Autism – here it is
February 16, 2017, by Luke Beardon, The Conversation

“So what’s going on with Autism?” wondered US President, Donald Trump, in a recent discussion with educators at the White House. “When you look at the tremendous increase, it’s really – it’s such an incredible – it’s really a horrible thing to watch, the tremendous amount of increase.” Is President Trump right? Is there a tremendous increase in the prevalence of Autism?

Knowing the true number of people with Autism is so fraught with difficulty that any bold statements about prevalence should be treated with caution. The fact that every time a diagnostic manual has a new edition the criteria for Autism change is evidence of just how difficult it is for diagnosticians to identify Autism when the very definition of the term is in constant flux.

There is a clear difference between the numbers of Autistic people in existence and the number who are diagnosed with Autism. Anyone in the Autism community will tell you that Autism is underdiagnosed. So how do we know how representative actual figures of identified (diagnosed) children and adults are? The answer is, until we have accurate epidemiological data, we don’t.

A further consideration – say we take the least conservative UK figures which claims a rate of more than one in 100. If the same criteria were applied with the same number of clinicians diagnosing, the same referral rates, and the same levels of Autism understanding back in the 1940s when Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger were first writing about Autism, how do we know what the rate would have been then? We don’t know, but I bet my mortgage it would be a lot higher than the figures those clinicians were talking about. So the actual rate of increase (or otherwise) is open to question.

We know that more children and adults are being diagnosed today, but we do not know why this might be the case. Is it as a result of a change in criteria? Is it a better understanding from doctors? Is it better recognition that adults have a right to a diagnosis? Is it the growing understanding that women can also be Autistic?

Take the latter. There has been an increase in the number of adult women referred for a diagnosis over recent years, and yet presumably few would suggest that this is because more women are being born Autistic. It is far more likely that people are beginning to be more aware of how Autism might present in women, and a debunking of the myth that Autism is a male-only (or exceedingly male-dominated) existence. So we simply don’t know whether or not there has been a “tremendous increase” despite what statistics tell us.

So what if there’s an increase?
And even if there has been a big increase, so what? I don’t mean that in a trite, condescending, dismissive way, more in a “why would anyone refer to increases in Autism in a global sense as horrible?” Both the US and the UK spend vast amounts of money trying to figure out what causes Autism, but with what goal if it’s discovered? There is a growing concern in the Autism community that if a cause is found it could be used to stop children with Autism being born. This is not only scary, it is wrong in so many ways. I am not for one second dismissing the extreme difficulties that some people have with Autism, but my experience tells me that most of the issues that Autistic people face are not because of their Autism, but as a direct result of the lack of understanding and support from the rest of the world.

We know for a fact that there are plenty of successful and productive members of society who are Autistic – some famous, others just happily living their lives. Again, we don’t know how many there are which causes its own problems, but we do know they exist.

Should we be seeking to put a stop to these people, some of whom are leaders in their own right in their chosen fields? Or should we be investing more research money into developing a better understanding of Autism to decrease the problems people face, to reduce the difficulties in accessing education, to get more successful students into university and employment, to better support families, to better understand that Autism is not “horrible” for all people? After all, that’s what Autistic people are asking for.

Mr President, if you want to understand Autism, try talking with the Autism community – you may well get a very different perspective.



Inclusion and Acceptance are the Most Effective Autism “Therapies”
December 29, 2016, by Nina Fiore, medium.com

The constant need to label and pathologize everything Autistics do is part of what makes people see them and treat them as less than human, and this is a dangerous precedent to set.

I remember when my son was first diagnosed, and a old friend came to visit. I had snacks laid out for my son as I usually did, and he took a cracker, pepper slice, or carrot stick here and there. She said “he eats really well”. I said “Yes, his therapists say he likes to ‘graze’”. She looked at me and said, “Graze? Wow, they really like to give a crazy word to everything he does, don’t they? My niece does the same and no one has ever thought to compare her to a cow!”

That comment really kicked me in the head — gratefully — and woke me up from the therapist spell I’d been under for a few months. In trying to do my best to care for my son, I’d listened to these so-called “experts” over my own intuition and intelligence. And let them define him and his actions in these gross, bizarre, animalistic terms. In psychology, it’s called “pathologizing” — when you make everything a person with a specific diagnosis does seem like a dysfunctional act that is a symptom of their diagnosis, even if it is something that many people of the same age are doing.

The majority of my experience with therapists and special education teachers regarding my son from age 2–6 was them saying, “See! He is Autistic. This is what Autistics do; They “insert pathologized word here (graze, stim, etc.)” Most children “eat”, my child “grazed”. Most children “act silly”, my child “stimmed”. Most children “get upset”, my child “had a meltdown”. Most children “misbehave”, my child “has behavioral disabilities”. It was a constant effort, on their part, to show me how “different” and “damaged” my child was; to make sure I was fully aware of his “otherness”. To make sure I bought into their version of his Autism enough to then buy into their (very expensive) services to treat it.

The Autism industry is making tons of money convincing parents their children are hopeless in order to warrant as much therapy as the parents or their insurance companies can afford. We lived in Montreal, Boston and then NYC with my son when he was first diagnosed. In all 3 places, speech and occupational therapists charge an average of $300/hour, won’t work with you if you don’t sign up for at least 2 hours per week, and still have 2 month to 2 year wait lists. Most “Autism Research” agencies take millions in donations to either pay their staff or research “cures” for what they’ve labeled a “nightmare” condition.

If even a quarter of the money collected for Autism Research and/or paid by parents into Autism “Therapies” were instead put into educating the public that Autistics are just humans with some differences, or into creating inclusion programs in schools, workplaces, and society as a whole, Autistics and their families would benefit a great deal more.

We were told (as are most parents of Autistics these days) when my son was 3 that at least 40 hours of ABA therapy a week (at $150/hour plus a $1000 oversight fee per month) was the only way to help him. So we looked into it, received a few references from a variety of sources, and interviewed 4 companies, none of whom were very impressive. However, one ABA therapist who was very highly recommended, was especially awful. I would later come to realize she was not unique in her awfulness — most therapists and teachers that came after her were quite similar.

The therapist’s sitter was sick, so she brought along her 3yr old son. Her son wasn’t very happy to go into a stranger’s apartment (understandable, but, had it been us, my son would have “had trouble with transitions”). Her son threw a bit of a tantrum at the door which lasted about 10 minutes. I tried to help with toys and pleasant words. When she finally wrangled him into the apartment, he was running around our living room, jumping on and off furniture. She turned her attention to my son, who was sitting quietly, playing with his toys, wondering why these people were in our home. Without even introducing herself or acknowledging him, she sat my son in a chair, facing her, and held an apple in front of his nose. “What is this?” she yelled at him. My son wasn’t speaking at all yet, so he didn’t answer but squirmed a bit in the chair and complained with a whine to the invasion of his privacy. She forcefully pushed his arms down and held them there, causing him to squirm and protest more, while repeating “What is this?” regarding the apple she had now put on the table.

She did this with a few more items, and I finally said “He’s having trouble with anxiety around speaking, so how is this supposed to be helping him?” She said something about how he had to learn how to behave if we expected to get him into a decent preschool, and how I needed to be stricter with him to get him there, etc. I said “Well, what about your son? He’s obviously having trouble with his behavior. Isn’t that just normal 3-year old behavior?” She shot back, “My son doesn’t have an Autism diagnosis, so he doesn’t need to behave himself.”

I thought of many things I should have said at that moment, but instead, I walked to the front door of my apartment, opened it up, and said “Thanks very much for coming. Goodbye now.” I had to repeat it several times as she was obviously not used to being asked to leave. She kept arguing as she gathered her things and her son about how I was going to destroy my son’s chances at a proper life.

I just kept repeating “Thanks very much for coming. Goodbye now” because I knew if I allowed myself to speak just one other word, it would unleash an uncontrollable torrent of obscenities. But this was not the first time that an agency which claimed to “help” Autistics had told me I was going to “cause irreparable harm” to my child by not paying them ridiculous amounts of money to work with him. So I gratefully started to recognize that behavior as a frequently-used sales technique.

We didn’t end up hiring any private ABA therapists, but when we started getting services at home from the Department of Education, they sent us either ABA therapists or special education teachers who had some experience with (but were not certified in) ABA, since this is what most agencies/schools/insurance policies think is the only “treatment” for Autism. The 2 people they sent were slightly kinder than the private therapist we’d interviewed, so we gave it a go. He liked them initially but would eventually cry uncontrollably during the sessions, where they insisted he sit up straight, be still, look them in the eye, etc. A few months later, we asked again for new therapists/teachers and were given yet another 2 ABA therapists. They would repeat each question 10 times per session, resulting in extreme frustration for my son, and even if he answered a question correctly but was not sitting still and making eye contact while he did it, he was marked “wrong”. Or, if they asked “What’s your favorite food?” and he said “sushi” instead of “pizza” (which was the answer they’d taught him months earlier), he was marked wrong for saying a legitimate answer that wasn’t their taught answers.

I kept asking how this was an effective method of instruction for a child whose main issues were anxiety and difficulty with regulation (which are the basis of most Autistic problems). Also, we had enrolled him in a lovely nearby Family Preschool that had a wonderful, flexible, kind director, and he was doing really well there. So I kept asking, “Why is this necessary? Is it helping?” In every instance, with all of the many teachers we went through, any questions of the method made them only try harder to point out to me how everything he did was “Autistic” and therefore “bad”. And of course they also emphasized how, as his mother, nothing I observed was valid.

They would write reports using adjectives the industry uses on Autistics (cold, indifferent, unfriendly), not because it was true, but because it’s how they described all Autistics. I would say “He’s very friendly; it’s just hard to make friends when you have trouble speaking and need to keep moving in order to regulate”. And they would correct me, “He’s not friendly if he can’t speak”. So I’d say “What about deaf people who can’t speak? Are they unfriendly? If I visit a foreign country where I don’t speak the language — does that make me unfriendly? He walks up to children. Smiles at them. Tries to get them to play with balls or to chase him. No, he’s not talking, but how is that unfriendly?” No answers, just more smug “delusional mother” comments. One actually said to me “You feed him so of course he is friendly towards you!”, as if my son was some type of wild animal that only responded to the carer who gave him food.

I would take videos of my son, interacting with children in the park/playgrounds/at preschool, and even then, teachers would barely believe the videos. “I haven’t seen it for myself” one teacher said after I complained yet again that she’d put on her report that he “wasn’t very social” when her schedule had prohibited her from accompanying him to preschool or swim class or the playground, where she would have observed his interactions for herself. She decided it was ok to judge him by his reaction to her sessions. If he didn’t like being told to sit still and make eye contact for two hours at a time, then he must be “anti-social”.

A year later, the teachers still had him identifying the same 50 objects they’d be working on a year earlier,with the majority of their time focused on keeping him quiet, still and making eye contact. With me, I let him jump on a trampoline as we worked, didn’t care if he hummed and looked away, as long as he answered me. In that setting, he was reading beginner books out loud and answering basic questions like “Who is the main character?”, putting sentences together with word magnets, spelling words with letter magnets, and doing basic math.

My son became more and more frustrated with the teachers’ repetition (a key component of ABA) and started to get upset in sessions more often. I would tell the teachers what I was working on with him and they either told me I was “seeing what I wanted to see” or they would tell me that I was “hurting” him by expecting too much of him.

I asked the agency to send me different teachers. I would ask many question in the interviews about whether they thought academics would “hurt him”. A small few would agree he shouldn’t be underestimated, but then they would go ahead and blow bubbles and/or identify colors with him endlessly for the next few weeks. We went through about 20 teachers that year, trying desperately to find some that believed he could do basic, age-appropriate academics.

Luckily, one of the teachers was honest enough to say to me “I’m happy to do whatever curriculum you want me to do but there’s no way I’m spending any extra time putting together lessons other than the ABA ones the agency has given us”. So, I began to put together a curriculum for the teachers to follow and finally found 2 teachers who agreed to follow my lesson plans and believed in his abilities (to be fair, one of these 2 teachers is an ABA therapist but is first and foremost a decent human being who wants to do what works best for our son, so we don’t do ABA therapy, and she is ok with that.)

I still lay out his lessons every week, and his progress has been wonderful. He still has anxiety and he still struggles to get words out. But he reads, he’s learning to type, and to speak using an AAC app, he swims, likes to run track, takes art and science classes with other homeschoolers, loves his teachers, and has 2 friends. He is currently learning how to play soccer and is a pro at shooting baskets. He is a happy, smart 8 year old boy who has some issues. Not a “nightmare”. Not a diagnosis. Not a pathology. Just an 8 year old boy.

People say “Maybe your child is different than most”. No. I have also worked to build inclusion classes in public schools, I have taught yoga in public schools with inclusion classrooms, and I have worked with other families with nonverbal Autistics. I have seen very similar trends there as well. The children have much more ability than they are credited with by therapists and teachers. Parents’s input is denied and often mocked, if they dare to speak up at all.

I have also spoken with formerly-nonverbal or still-nonverbal Autistic adults (online). They confirm a lot of what I have been observing, saying they also had their basic intelligence and their basic humanity denied for years before they finally learned to read, spell and type. And often people will even claim they are not typing, reading and writing — as they are doing it — because people often want to be right more than they want to be inclusive.

I’ve been on boards at museums and theaters where they are setting up separate programs for Autistics. I‘ve seen community groups and churches put together separate events and church services for Autistics and their families. The intentions are good in most of these ventures, but the end outcome is segregation and isolation of Autistics which usually leads to lowered expectations and exclusion from a future in the community.

For example — My son took swimming lessons at a very expensive community center in Manhattan for 2 years. Since they had an “extensive special needs program”, they wouldn’t even think of letting him take a typical class. In the “special needs swim” class, there was a different instructor every week, and they didn’t really push him to learn to swim. He never went underwater and didn’t swim on his own. We were told he “couldn’t”. He started to cry when we’d get his swim bag out of the closet. We were told we were “pushing him too hard”. We moved to Queens 4 months ago and enrolled him in a nearby swim class. The center is small and they have no “special needs swim”, so he is in a typical class. In less than 3 months, he was swimming underwater and swimming without floaties. He and his coach (the same coach each week) have a great relationship, and he loves to go swimming again.

I always push for inclusion. The main accommodation that needs to be made is an adjustment in people’s attitudes, and that won’t happen if they’re never exposed to anyone with differences. Let Autistics be a part of society. Otherwise their skills are denied and their existence diminished. If a church/community leader can’t say, “We need to accept these people, even if that means they aren’t sitting perfectly still all the time or always quiet”, they shouldn’t be church or community leaders. Segregation of Autistics is not a solution. It‘s very harmful. But I’m often told, “This is what the parents want because they’re sick of dealing with judgmental people”.

As parents of Autistics we need to stop people from pathologizing them. We need to insist they be included in the world. We need to insist their differences are different. And nothing else. Not harmful, not horrible. Just different. If we don’t do this, then no one will. And we will leave our children vulnerable to people looking to make money “converting” them to “normal” and we will say to society that it is ok to ostracize our kids for being themselves.

The de-humanization of Autistics is what leads to them being permanently segregated from the rest of society, leads them to having their educations ignored, leads to their low self-esteem, leads to them being bullied, mistreated, and abused for their differences, and even leads juries to think it is ok if a parent kills them because they are “such a burden”.

With so much focus on how they are NOT like other children, then “of course” you can argue that no teacher should be expected to be slightly flexible and compassionate enough to include them in classes. “Of course” you can then argue that their parents are so “very burdened” they needed to kill them.

Despite media portrayal, Autistics are NOT missing puzzle pieces; they are NOT “anti-social loners that lack empathy”. They’re just human beings who are left out of every aspect of society and then pathologized and labeled by society, in order to justify society’s horrible behavior towards them. This needs to end.



Autism Is Not a Shell Surrounding a “Normal” Child
January 12, 2017, by Autistic self-advocate Sparrow R. Jones blogging at unstrangemind.com

It’s the gleaming longshot hope that refuses to die: the idea that Autism is just a shell surrounding a “normal” child who can be coaxed out with therapy, or even simply outgrow the shell and step out of Autism on their own.


It gleams and glistens and tempts parents who still don’t really understand Autism yet.


And it damages your relationship with your children.


Yes, I know that’s a bold statement. And I know it may upset you that I said that.


But I also know that you love your children dearly, fiercely, desperately. I know that you would give anything for your children. I know that you are trying to secure the best for your children, and while your hoping beyond hope for a cure for your Autistic children is wrong and damaging, it comes from that deep, deep love for your children that pushes you forward into every uncertain day, hoping and praying that you will find that magical thing or mystically perfect combination of things that will make your child stop being Autistic.


It’s time to stop doing that now.


I’m going to take you on a little journey through Autism, to try to help you understand why hoping for your child to recover, or go into remission, or be cured is both a waste of the precious time you could spend learning how to better understand your Autistic child, and also harmful to your child-parent relationship -- not to mention damaging to your child’s self-esteem and mental health.


I’m not here to judge you. I know you love your child, and are striving to be the best parent you can be. I wouldn’t bother talking to you at all if I didn’t already know those things. But if you’re still beating the bushes for a cure for Autism, I hope you will listen to me, and think carefully about what you are doing and why you are doing it.

Research and articles regularly come out that stir up this hope and longing in parents. The figure changes from article to article -- sometimes it is seven percent, sometimes nine percent -- but there you are, reading your favorite magazine or online forum, and the article pops up like a fist to your gut: some children outgrow Autism, it says. Or maybe it says that 40 hours per week of a therapy cures some Autistic children. Maybe it’s a diet that helps some percentage of children start speaking and smiling, after everyone had given up hope. You don’t even have to go looking for these articles, right? These words of hope come to you like iron filings attracted to a magnet, or like heat-seeking missiles. It’s really hard to ignore, am I right?


Here’s the latest article going around: Compulsions, Anxiety Replace Autism in Some Children, at Spectrum News. The headline pulls you in, and right away you read that “an estimated nine percent of children with Autism achieve a so-called ‘optimal outcome.’” Before you even get to the next sentence that explains that almost every one of those children go on to develop mental health conditions later in life, you’re off, down the rabbit hole, eyes bright with hope, and eager for clues about how your child can be one of those lucky nine percent.


Remember, I’m not judging you. Actually, my heart goes out to you. You want your child to have the best chances in life and you still feel that your child will have a better, easier, happier, more successful life if your child is not Autistic. Snake oil salesmen who capitalize on your love and fears will take advantage of articles like this, to keep you distracted and chasing the cures they happen to sell, instead of fully embracing your Autistic child for exactly who they are, exactly how they are, right now in front of you, not broken, not needing to be fixed, but needing support and every ounce of love your heart can pour over their head in an anointing of acceptance.


Because there are a few things that are not immediately obvious about that rabbit hole.


Autism is, typically, a genetically-determined and life-long non-mainstream “wiring” of the nervous system.


Autism is in your child’s DNA, brain, sensory organs. It is characterized as pervasive, because it is in every cell of your child’s body. Autism is so much a part of who your child is that many of us Autistic adults who are able to communicate, and who choose to talk about being Autistic, will tell you that it hurts us to hear or read phrases like “fight Autism,” because it feels like people want to fight us.


Being Autistic makes me see things differently from how most people see them, and interpret what I have seen differently from them, too. I hear things differently from how non-Autistic people hear them, and interpret those sounds differently. Sensations against my skin that others may love are painful to me, while other skin sensations that I seek out are unpleasant for most people.


To “remove” Autism would require completely re-structuring and re-wiring our brains, nerves, sensory organs. Think about what it takes to change sensory organs: surgery for near-sightedness, surgery for cochlear implants. How would you change someone’s taste buds? There is no surgery for changing how things feel against the skin. And these are just sensory organs -- what of the nerves that connect those organs to the brain? What of the brain itself? This is a rabbit hole you want to avoid stepping into.


“Removing” anything interconnected with a person's entire nervous system is a challenging and risky proposition. You cannot cut Autism out, and I shudder at the thought that anyone might even try.


Trying to remove it with behaviorism treatments is not the answer, either. Besides, if behaviorism were powerful enough to “cure” Autism, why haven’t you been able to use it to quit smoking, jog five miles every day, and stop getting into pointless little arguments that chip away at your relationships with people you care about? Okay, maybe those aren’t your habits. Maybe you want to stop drinking three bottles of wine every week, or get up twenty minutes earlier every day. Whatever changes you’d like to make in your life, think about how much you have struggled with them, and now try to imagine using willpower and behaviorism to change pretty much every single thing about who you are and what you do. Everything, from how you communicate to how you eat, walk, interact with others, jog your memory, spend your leisure time ... everything.


Just the thought is exhausting, right?


So why would you want to do that to your child? Do you think your child is going to succeed where you have failed because they are younger and more malleable? Do you think they will succeed because ABA is so powerful? If that’s the case, why not sign up for some ABA yourself, to help you get those reports in to your boss on time, or improve your parallel parking?


You don’t need to actually answer that question; it was rhetorical. But I want you to think about it, because many of the therapies promoted as “curing” Autism are dehumanizing, and damaging. If you would not let someone do it to you to help you drop your bad habits, or pick up new good habits, don’t let someone do it to your child. If you wouldn’t let someone do it to your child who is not Autistic, don’t let them do it to your child who is Autistic. I have actually seen professionals debating among themselves about whether children with Autism are capable of feeling pain or not. These are not the sorts of people you want meddling with your child’s brain, or body, or emotions.


Not all therapies are bad. I have seen some great music therapy, drumming therapy, surfing therapy, horseback riding therapy, swimming therapy. I also marvel at the terms used: When your child who is not Autistic takes horseback riding lessons, they are taking horseback riding lessons. When your Autistic child takes horseback riding lessons, it’s animal-assisted therapy. (That said, if your insurance will pay for your child to have surfing lessons that your child is really enjoying, but only so long as you call it therapy? Call it therapy and let your kid go surfing.)


But traumatizing therapies are only part of why the Spectrum article found that of the twenty-six children in the cited study who lost their Autism diagnosis, twenty-four of them had been treated for a psychiatric condition, and twenty-one of them were diagnosed or diagnosable with a mental health condition. The article also speculated that the study results indicate “children who lose their Autism diagnosis would benefit from continued care.” There doesn’t seem to be a connection made between the way the diagnosis was lost, and the emotional condition of the children afterwards.


If you spend hours every day engaged in frustrating therapies that lower your sense of self, your self-esteem, and your autonomy, and you will end up with mental health problems as a result. In some of those cases, I can guarantee you that the same behaviorist training that taught those children how to mimic non-Autistic people also taught those children that they are wrong and flawed and damaged, and will never be fully accepted or get the basic things they need, until they learn how to pretend to be someone they are not.


And the strain of that pretense is damaging, too. Years of pretending to be not-Autistic leads to Autistic burnout -- a mental health breakdown that can even include a loss of daily living skills that had previously been mastered.


I have experienced Autistic burnout myself, and I have watched it in others. It can be mild, or it can be devastating and crushing. The harder an Autistic child, teen, or young adult tries to crush themselves into a fake non-Autistic person, the harder they crash and burn when they hit later adulthood or middle age.


Parents, any wish for an Autism cure is incompatible with the hard crash of Autistic burnout. Do not trade your child’s future life for an apparent cure in the present. You cannot “un-Autistic” a brain and nervous system, and attempts to squeeze your child into someone else’s mold are going to have to be paid for eventually -- and that price will be wrought in tears and blood and lost jobs and broken marriages and worse.


Those “optimal outcomes” the Spectrum article mentioned? You might want to read what Steven Kapp and Ari Ne’eman had to say about how optimal they actually weren’t. And those outcomes are just the beginning: I want these researchers to do the ethical thing, and check back in with their “optimal outcome” patients in another 10, 20, or 30 years. In the meantime, take my word for it. I’ve watched a lot of “outcomes” in my friends of all ages, and Autistic burnout is not something you want to set your child up for.


Chavisory, writing about this same article on trading Autism for anxiety, puts it so well:
“There’s something incredibly ironic and cruel about considering an “optimal outcome” for Autistic children a future in which we suffer from anxiety, depression, and a host of other psychiatric illnesses “instead” of being allowed to grow up to be healthy, happy Autistic people.”

And happinesss, dear parents, is what is really at the core of your hope for a cure, right? You want your children to grow up to be healthy, happy people, but you cannot see how that could possibly be compatible with being Autistic.


Take a leap of faith, and believe me when I tell you that it is possible to be healthy, happy, and Autistic. Make this the goal for your child. Not a cure for Autism, but a healthy, happy child. If your child has seizures, work on getting them under control. If your child has digestive difficulties, work on finding a diet that doesn’t upset their stomach, and find a reputable gastroenterologist (not someone who tells you that “healing the gut cures Autism” because it doesn’t and you’re risking your child’s health when you patronize those sorts of doctors) to help you figure out if there are other medical issues going on. If your child has trouble with sleep issues, find a doctor who can work with your child’s sensory needs to conduct a sleep study, and devise a treatment program that your child can adhere to without pain.


Stop trying to remove your child’s Autism, and focus instead on helping your child be healthy and happy in the ways that make the most sense to your child while honoring your child’s life. Trying to mold your child into a child they are not, as if they were wet clay, is a sure path away from a healthy and happy child. Accepting Autism, and loving and helping the child you have, as they are, for who they are, without shame or regret, is the first step on the path to helping your child blossom into a healthy, happy Autistic adult.


Now, go and show your beautiful Autistic children all your love! They do not need to be cured. But they do need to be loved and accepted and supported and mentored. Help them overcome life’s obstacles as themselves. Keep the children you love. Do not damage them, or risk your relationship with them, by trying to turn them into anxious strangers.


Wine shop leaves up holiday train garden for boy with Autism
January 5, 2017, by Jennifer Franciotti, NBC affiliate WBAL
  
BALTIMORE —
Chances are most people have either already taken down their holiday decorations or are about to.
 
But there's one holiday favorite that is staying up all year at a local liquor store, all to make a young boy happy.
 
The decorations are about to come down outside the Pinehurst Wine Shoppe in Baltimore, but inside a holiday favorite will stay on display up all year.
 
“A lot of work, but it's here to stay,” Gordon McNamara, with the Pinehurst Wine Shoppe, said.
 
The G-scale train is called the Burke Express in honor of 11-year-old store regular, Burke Manual.
 
Burke, who has Autism, has been coming to the store for years with his family, and would get sad when it came time to take down the annual train garden.
 
Burke would get so upset that the wine shop would sometimes keep it up until spring.
 
“It was a hard day for all of us because we knew that not only was the fun season over, but also the excitement of Burke coming in and doing what he does,” McNamara said.
 
Lisa Manuel, Burke’s mother, said it was always tough when the train garden was taken down each year.
 
“Our anxiety would kick in waiting for the day it would come down because we knew it would be hard for Burke,” Manuel said.
 
But the shop owners did not want it to be hard, so in October they installed the suspended track and a switch where Burke could turn it on and off. Now they are also selling train cars, with 100 percent of the proceeds going to Pathfinders for Autism.
 
“Take them home, paint them, put pictures and messages of kindness on them,” McNamara said. “Do whatever you want. Put them on the track and it will get pulled around all year long.”
 
Jason Manuel, Burke’s father, said his son could not be happier.
 
“He just loves these guys," Jason Manuel said. “He loves the trains. He's just so excited before and after.”
 
Chloe Manuel, Burke’s sister, agrees.
 
“I think that he might look hypnotized, because that's all he really looks at, “Chloe said. “I think it makes him feel like excited.”
 

7 things the Autistic person in your workplace needs from you
2 January 2017, by Autistic self-advocate Ashlea McKay, Medium.com
 
As we start to head back to work after what was hopefully a wonderful and restful break, there are a few things I would like you to consider in regards to the Autistic person/s in your workplace.
 
I was diagnosed with an Autism Spectrum Disorder in April last year at the age of 29. While I am still the exact same person I was before my diagnosis, finding out why I think the way I do has opened up a whole world of possibilities for me. Finding that missing piece of my identity has allowed me to maximise my strengths and deal with my challenges more effectively.
 
My workplace is aware of my neurodiversity and they have been fantastic! The UX (User Experience) community as a whole has also been wonderfully accepting and supportive. I feel incredibly grateful to belong to such an inclusive workplace and be part of a professional industry that simply sees me a human being with just as much to give as everyone else. But it’s important to recognise not everyone has this and that has to change. The Autistic person in your workplace has a lot to offer and with some very small adjustments, you will gain enormous value. This is for everyone- managers, directors, juniors and middle of the road people such as myself. We are all responsible for inclusion. Here are 7 things the Autistic person in your workplace needs you to do:
 
1. Accept and understand that no two Autistic people are the same
It’s called a Spectrum for a reason. The Autism Spectrum isn’t a straight line of severity of symptoms. Instead, think of it as a highly detailed colour wheel as shown in my very high level diagram below.
 
Every small curved rectangular segment of each colour slice of the wheel represents an Autistic trait. The black dots show how an individual’s personal configuration of Autistic traits might look. There’s a whole Spectrum of building blocks that make us who we are. No two Autistic people have the exact same set of blocks, but we have our similarities because all of our blocks came from the same place. Always remember, if you’ve met one Autistic person- you’ve met ONE Autistic person.
 
2. Ditch the assumptions and the stereotypes
Don’t think because I’m a successful adult female that communicates verbally that my existence is ‘mild’ or that I ‘don’t seem that Autistic’ to you. That is insulting to both me and every other Autistic person on the planet. I know you’re just trying to understand and have probably heard a number of things about Autism over the years, but instead of assuming what it means to be Autistic, just ask. If in doubt- see dot point number 1.
 
3. Ask how we would like to be referred to
I’ve deliberately been using the term ‘Autistic’ in this piece because I prefer to use identity first language. This means I say “I am Autistic” instead of “I have Autism”. Being Autistic means my brain is different and I was born with that brain. Autism is an integral piece of who I am — it’s not something I carry around in my purse with me and it’s certainly not something I’m afflicted with. For me, it is a state of being rather than a state of having. I also identify with the terms ‘Asperger’s’ and the more informal ‘Aspie’ because that is what they used to call Autism Spectrum Disorder Level 1 up until March 2013 and I don’t agree with the change (story for another day). That’s how I would like to be referred to, but everyone is different so it’s important to ask.
 
4. Be open to having a conversation to discuss our needs
Many people ask me for advice on how to best support and help an Autistic person in their workplace. My answer is always the same- just be open to having the conversation. Our needs are a very individual thing. It depends on a number of factors including but not limited to our work environment and our personal history and circumstances. Be prepared for the possibility that we don’t need anything but also be open to revisiting the conversation in the future should our needs change. The key is to be open and willing to listen.
 
5. Give us the flexibility to customise our working environment
Sensory overload is an ugly thing that messes with our overall wellbeing, breaks our focus and kills our ability to be even remotely productive. Part of being Autistic means that we have sensory differences — we feel things either significantly more intensely or significantly less intensely. Sensory overload occurs when one (or more!) of those sensory differences is overwhelmed and it becomes impossible to think or focus. It actually hurts us. In my case, I am very sensitive to heat, light, sound and some textures (raw meat, cotton wool buds and dishwater). On the flip side, I have a very high threshold for physical pain and abstract art, bright clashing prints and most textures have a calming effect on me.
 
In the workplace this means the noise from an open plan office can be overwhelming but I can’t exactly hide away in an office somewhere because I need to interact with my colleagues to do my job. I wear noise cancelling over ear headphones that block out the sound when I need to concentrate and they also communicate to my colleagues that I am deeply focussed on something and they give me the space I need. Activity Based Working (ABW) environments are also quite challenging for Autistic people due to the constant change, so I have a fixed desk. I still pack it up every day like every other person in the office but I get to return to the same spot each day when I’m working from the office. That desk is in a very carefully chosen location: no morning sun, purple walls, no direct overhead light and it’s next to a window. I am currently working in the consulting space but working from a client site is actually ok for me. Even though it’s a new location, it’s like travelling- transient by nature. Home base is what needs to be stable and getting that fixed desk made a drastic improvement to my productivity. It used to take me about an hour to settle each morning which meant staying back an hour later to get my work done. Now I am settled in under 5 minutes which is better for everyone. Talk to the Autistic person in your workplace to find out if small changes to their working environment will help them.
 
6. Help us to maximise our strengths and don’t place limitations on us
I have two major skills: the ability build other skills and a sharp analytical mind that pieces together seemingly random scraps of information to quickly form accurate conclusions. I also have an IQ of 143 which is awesome but I: need detailed instructions, take things literally, work best with routine, occasionally melt down and cause offence through my directness. This can be perceived as me being someone who: cannot work independently, cannot handle change, lacks the dreaded R word (resilience) and has poor interpersonal skills. None of that is true but I can see how it might look that way. The solution? Talk to us and be open to listening to what it actually means and what we need. It’s really just a matter of simple ROI. Our needs are quite insignificant when you look at what you will get back if you give us the support we need to be the best we can be. There are many Autistic people out there who are a hell of a lot smarter than me and they are going to change the world. Think about it.
 
7. Provide us with opportunities to progress in our careers
When it comes to career growth and progression we are just like our neurotypical counterparts- some of us are happy where we are and some of us would like to progress. It’s not enough to simply hire us and then tick you’re done. There needs to be a career pathway in place that we can develop into. We value routine and stability and many of us just want to find a company that we can stay and grow in. It’s also important to recognise that something as simple as a single misinterpreted conversation with a colleague or manager can see us unfairly labelled as ‘difficult’ which can be quite damaging to our career prospects. Consider all aspects of our story and give us a decent chance to progress and you will reap the benefits of our value for years to come.
 
Key themes of the story: ask, listen and be open. It’s easy — just be a human being. Before I leave you I want to be clear that the advice I’ve given you is entirely from my perspective. I do not speak for the Autistic community. We are a diverse group with many voices and mine is just one.
 
Thank you and let’s make 2017 AMAZING!

Autism: 'hidden pool' of undiagnosed mothers with condition emerging
Experts report growing phenomenon of women recognising themselves as they research their children’s Disorders
25 December 2016, by Amelia Hill, The Guardian
 
A “hidden pool” of women who have grown up with undiagnosed Autism is coming to light as mothers researching their children’s Spectrum Disorders recognise themselves in their findings.
 
“There are far more undiagnosed mothers out there than we have ever thought,” said Dr Judith Gould, lead consultant and former director of the Lorna Wing Centre for Autism who developed the first and only female-specific diagnostic tests, and who trains doctors in how to recognise late adult female diagnosis.
 
“These women are coming to prominence now because there’s more information on Autism in girls and women on the internet, so they can research their children and in doing so, diagnose themselves,” said Gould.
 
Professor Simon Baron-Cohen, founder of the Autism Research Centre at Cambridge University and the Class clinic, dedicated to diagnosing adults with Autism, agreed: “[Undiagnosed mothers are] definitely a growing phenomenon. Putting a number on it is impossible but I’m sure it’s a big number because women seeking diagnoses of Autism were likely to be dismissed until just a few years ago, because Autism in females was thought to be very rare.”
 
My condition enables me to help my children develop a joyful version of Autism

Rachel Cotton
The National Autistic Society estimates that there are currently about 700,000 people living with Autism in the UK – more than one in every 100 of the population. About 20% of Autistic people are thought to have been diagnosed as adults, although no national figures for adult diagnosis are available. Anecdotal evidence, however, suggests numbers are rising: Baron-Cohen says that four years ago, 100 cases in Cambridgeshire were referred to his clinic. In the first four months of 2016 alone, it received 400 referrals.
 
Autism among women and girls has only started to be widely acknowledged in the past two to three years. The men to women ratio is now recognised as being between 3:1 to 2:1, although some experts believe there are just as many females with Autism as there are males.
 
Autistic women are, however, still likely to remain undiagnosed. A survey by the National Autistic Society found that 42% of females have been misdiagnosed, compared with 30% of males, while twice as many women were undiagnosed compared with men (10% compared with 5%).
 
But experts are warning that these mothers risk having their children forcibly adopted in the fight to get them diagnosed and supported, as social workers misinterpret the parent’s Autistic traits as indicating potential harm to the child.
 
“Their own Autism, often undiagnosed, means they put professionals’ backs up and can be accused of causing or fabricating their children’s condition,” said Gould.
 
Melanie Mahjenta was accused of a rare form of child abuse, fabrication or induced illness (FII), by social services during her fight to get her three-year-old daughter diagnosed with Autism.
 
“Rosie was made a “child in need” because for three and a half years, I kept challenging the doctors who refused to diagnose her,” said Mahjenta. “Looking back, I probably did put people’s backs up because I’m Autistic. But I knew how hard life would be for Rosie if I didn’t get her the right support.
 
“I understand that my Autism makes me a difficult person to deal with: I don’t know when to back off when I know I’m right. I can’t look people in the eye, so I come over as being shifty. Autistic people get hyper-focused but they mistook my obsession as a sign I was unstable.
 
“But although those traits are hard for people to deal with, my Autism was ultimately a good thing,” she added. “Perhaps a neurotypical person would have thought the doctor knew best and backed off. Or they would have stopped fighting because they feared losing their child. But I fought on and because of that, Rosie has finally been diagnosed with Autism.”
 
New research written by Baron-Cohen, Alexa Pohl of the Autism Research Centre and Monique Blakemore of Autism Women Matter has found that one in five mothers of an Autistic child, regardless of whether the mother had a diagnosis herself, has been assessed by social services. One in six of those mothers reported that their children had been forcibly placed for adoption through a court order.
 
 “These are very worrying statistics,” said Baron-Cohen. “Whether these mothers have a formal diagnosis or not, if a lot of these mothers who have Autistic children have undiagnosed Autism themselves, they might struggle with communication with professionals and appear confrontational rather than diplomatic. The risk is that social services see this as a difficult mother rather than recognising her communication issues are a part of her own disability.”
 
Dr Catriona Stewart, founder of the Scottish Women’s Autism Network, who has studied Autism for over 10 years, described “a hidden pool of women who have grown up with undiagnosed Autism”.
 
She said: “These women can finally recognise the condition in themselves because they can use the internet to research their children’s condition, then seek a diagnosis for themselves from a world that’s finally ready to acknowledge them.”
 
Stewart only realised she was Autistic when investigating her daughter’s Autistic symptoms. When she was considering getting her daughter assessed for Autism, she was advised by “a friend who is both a very experienced clinical psychologist within the Child And Adolescent Mental Health Services system and the mother of an Asperger’s boy” that Stewart herself should get a private diagnosis.
 
“She said to not go through the NHS if I could avoid it and that I needed to be warned: because I was the only other adult in my daughter’s life who recognised she had issues, people would see me as being the problem,” said Stewart.
 
 “Some of us working in this field are becoming increasingly aware and increasingly concerned about the numbers of Autistic women whose attempts to get help for their children and themselves are greeted with hostility, combativeness and ultimately in some cases, the removal of their children,” she added.
 
“The assumption is that being Autistic for a mother instantly raises concerns as to the welfare of the child,” she said. “But there is no evidence to support that idea. They express the ability to demonstrate empathy, affection, responsibility, love for their children as you would expect any other mother to do. To me, this is a human rights issue.”
 
Rachel Cotton, 45, only discovered she had Autism when researching her daughter’s symptoms five years ago. She believes her condition makes her a better mother.
 
“My condition enables me to help my children develop a joyful version of Autism rather than the negative one that leads to adult depression and alcoholism,” she said. “Because I have Autism, my children know it’s natural to feel what they feel. My children can ask me if my brain does this and that, and I can explain my brain does but other people’s don’t.”
 
A spokesperson from Cafcass, the body which represents children in family court cases, said the decision to take a child into care, including adoption, requires a local authority to prove to the court that a child is suffering, or is at risk of suffering, significant harm.
 
“Such decisions are not made lightly,” she said. “They are informed by assessments carried out by local authority children’s services and Cafcass, drawing on work with the child, parents and any professionals involved with the child. This helps determine how the child can be kept safe and what is in their best interests.”
 
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Children are referred to social services only where there is concern for their welfare and there are clear guidelines in place to help professionals identify families who may be in need of support.
 
“Assessment should build upon the history of every individual case, responding to the impact of any previous services and analysing what further action might be needed,” she added.

How To Make The Holidays Comfortable For Kids (and Adults!!!!) With Autism
December 12, 2016, by Nina Moini, CBS affiliate - WCCO 4
 
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Holiday staples like parties, presents and decorations can be overwhelming for some children with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
 
The Centers for Disease Control estimates one in 68 children has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.
 
The Hinz family from Farmington showed WCCO how it makes the holidays the most enjoyable for their 4-year-old daughter, Lily.
 
“Lily works on what I think we take for granted every day,” Lily’s mother, Megan Hinz, said.
 
Lily’s parents, Megan and Trevor Hinz, said they discovered something was different with Lily almost two years ago and brought her to Fraser, a Minnesota non-profit that helps children and adults with special needs. 
 
There, Lily Hinz has been able to get therapy for communication and everyday experiences.

Fraser’s Anne Fleming works with Lily on her therapy at the organization’s Eagan center.
 
“For many children with Autism, the information they’re taking in through their sight, sound, touch, is sending a different message to their brain,” Fleming said.
 
“We really thought we could get her excited about presents and seeing Santa and all those things her older brother loves,” Megan Hinz said. “But with Lily it is different.”
 
While the experiences are unique for every child and family living with Autism, Fleming said they can and do work toward enjoyable holiday seasons.
 
“It makes slow down and not get caught up in the hustle and the bustle,” Megan Hinz said.
 
The Hinz family said through Lily’s experiences, they’ve been able to enjoy the most important parts of the holidays, like spending time with family and listening to Christmas music.
 
Fleming said the best thing to do if you are hosting any loved ones with Autism this holiday season is to ask them what you can do to make it more comfortable and make sure there is a quiet space in the house to go if they need it.

How to survive Christmas with an Autistic child
9 December 2016, by Autistic self-advocate and mother Violet Fenn, Metro
 
Christmas might not be quite what you imagined but it could get pretty close.
When I asked fellow parents of Autistic children for their tips on how to get through Christmas with their sanity intact, a large proportion said, ‘drink a lot.’
Helpful as this suggestion might be for those who like a tipple, there are plenty of other ways to help make sure you all have a good festive season – even if the strongest thing you touch is orange juice.
 
These suggestions don’t just apply to those with Autistic children.
 
I’m Autistic myself (I have Asperger’s Syndrome) and have learned to simplify things for my own sake.
 
Here are some ideas for making the festive season a tiny bit easier.
 
Do not buy any of those ‘how to do Christmas’ magazines
Your Christmas is never going to look like that spread in the middle of ‘House Beautiful’.
 
Accept this now and move on.
 
Only invite guests if you are absolutely sure they can cope
You shouldn’t have to worry about whether your child will have a full-on meltdown in front of dinner guests
.
Only ever invite people with whom you and your kids are completely comfortable and who won’t mind if dinner is three hours late.
 
Simplify everything
We haven’t had turkey for years.
 
My son will just about eat chicken and the rest of us like it well enough so we go with that.
 
I also gave up on making starters and posh puddings a very long time ago.
 
These days, it’s main course followed by Christmas pud, reheated in the microwave and served with packet custard.
 
As yet, no one has died of disappointment.
 
Pizza is a perfectly acceptable Christmas dinner
 
Last year, my son was going through a ‘will not sit at the table for any money’ phase.
 
We had guests for Christmas day and my initial idea was to do a buffet lunch.
 
Then my friend admitted that her daughter had always eaten pizza on Christmas day ‘because why shouldn’t she have what she likes on a special day of the year’.
 
Pizza it was and that made everything so much easier.
 
Lynette:
My son doesn’t like roast dinners, or cooked lunches.
But he can handle a buffet style dinner because it means he can pile his plate with just the bits he likes – and I make sure there is at least one thing he definitely likes.
 
Forget surprises
Some Autistic children are unnerved by surprises of any kind, and that includes presents.
 
If you know that yours is likely to spend the build up to Christmas worrying about whether they will or won’t get what they really want, then it’s worth doing their shopping well in advance and just letting them know it’s fine.
 
And if you can’t get what they want, it gives you time to persuade them that an alternative is acceptable.
 
But be prepared for your carefully chosen gifts to go down like a lead balloon
Kath:
Don’t be too disappointed if the presents that you’ve spent hours agonising over are received with lukewarm appreciation or even downright disappointment because it isn’t exactly what they wanted.
It’s hard to get it right all the time.
On the flip side, when you do get it right, boy will they be happy.
 
Lynne:
Don’t take it personally.
My son loves to open presents but isn’t generally interested in what’s in them till much later – it took him a year to use his birthday bike.
 
They might prefer to know the truth
My son was suspicious about the idea of a mythical man coming into the house in the middle of the night for years, but grudgingly accepted it for the sake of getting presents.
 
When he eventually asked me outright and I confessed that no, Santa wasn’t real, he was furious.
 
In his world of black and white morals, he simply couldn’t get his head around the fact that I had ‘lied to him’ (his words).
 
He lectured me for days on how wrong it was to to deceive children – and some experts agree with him.
 
Liz:
Telling Thomas that Santa wasn’t real made his year.
The idea of a strange man coming down the chimney and wandering about the house in the dead of night while he slept really troubled him.
I’ve never seen a child so happy to realise Santa didn’t exist.
Getting him not to spill the beans to the younger two was interesting though.



Don’t make specific plans

Because you and I both know that if you plan to get to Great Aunt Margaret’s for noon on Boxing Day and you have exactly two hours there before heading over to the in-laws for tea, your little darling will still be sitting on the kitchen floor at 1pm, determined to play with the inside of a cracker and refusing to move.
 
Don’t plan too far ahead – or if you do, don’t tell anyone
If your child is anything like mine, they don’t actually care what happens tomorrow, or any time after that, because it’s not today.
 
There’s no point saying, ‘We’ll visit grandma the day after Boxing Day,’ because they’ll either look at you blankly or demand to go right this minute because you mentioned grandma and now they want to see her.

And it’s pretty much guaranteed that if they do know the plan, they’ll come down with a terminal case of ‘won’t’ on the day itself.
 
It’s much better to get up on the 27th, check that everyone’s okay and then say ‘Hey, let’s go to grandma’s today!’
 
Ensure your child has a quiet ‘safe space’
If you’re at home, this can be as simple as a different room.
 
But if you’re visiting relatives, things can be more awkward.
 
Take headphones or ear defenders, so that they can block out the world a tiny bit.
 
Or be creative – turn a chair towards the wall so that they have a private corner, or let them hide out in an empty cardboard box.
 
Christmas? It’s just another day
It really doesn’t matter if your child gets up too early, opens all their presents, eats all the chocolate and then refuses to come out of their bedroom for the rest of the day.
 
Lynne:
Be led by them.
Remember it is probably your need to have an inclusive family Christmas, not theirs.
To sum up – get organised, don’t expect perfection from yourself or anyone else, and remember to have fun!
 

Autistic band releases Christmas single
12th December 2016, Learning Disability Today
 
The Beathovens – the only band in the UK whose members are all on the Autism Spectrum and living in full-time care – have released its first single in time for Christmas. 
 
Nearly 20 years after their formation, The Beathovens have released Warm Hearts and Wine, which is available now on iTunes. Also available are two further singles, Growing up in the Seventies and My Life.
 
The Beathovens write their own songs – described as a twist on rap-rock – and regularly play live. Over the years, they have played with Jools Holland twice – at Cambridge University in 2006 and the Savoy Theatre in 2008 – and appeared at a Welsh music festival with Bob Geldof in 2003. In 2007, they won a regional battle of the bands contest. They've even played at Glastonbury.
 
The 7-strong band meets weekly to practice at a church in Bromborough, Wirral, under the guidance of performing arts specialists from charity Autism Together, which supports around 500 people on the Autism Spectrum across the Northwest.  
 
Warm Hearts and Wine was written by the band following a conversation about Christmas and the winter months. Once the lyrics were on paper, band member Paul Earl wrote the melody very quickly.
 
Growing up in the Seventies was originally penned as a poem by band member Amanda Jenkins and recalls with humour and clarity the era of glam rock, strikes and chopper bikes. 
 
The band was originally formed as the Rolling Beathovens with the aim of allowing anyone with an Autistic Spectrum condition to communicate and interact through the shared experience of music. As bass player and founding member Earl said: "The thing about playing songs is expressing our feelings." 
 
Lead singer AJ (Alan Jolliffe) added: "Having Autism means I find it difficult to communicate with anyone. When we are on stage we communicate with everyone. Music lets me be who I want to be. Having Autism makes you not be able to do some things, but in The Beathovens we are saying we are here, this is who we are."
 
Autism Together activity manager, Dean Ravera, who manages the band, said: "Getting iTunes distribution is a huge step forward for us. This is a group of people who've come together through a love of music and created their own, unique, art form - and it's genuinely carrying a message about what's achievable by people with Autism."
 
The singles can be purchased on iTunes for 99p each or £2.97 for all three tracks. A limited edition CD can be purchased for £7 from Bromborough Pool Garden Centre (3 & 4 The Green, Bromborough Pool Village, Wirral).  The CD features Warm Hearts and Wine, My Life and two other tracks.
 
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