Monthly Archives: May 2014

#Autismisnotacrime Flash Blog

#Autismisnotacrime It is *so* important to realize that the media has grabbed hold of a term and are creating unfounded fear. People with Autism are no more likely to be violent than “Neuro-typical” people. (In fact I’ve read some reports that suggest the crime rates may actually be lower). To the Media: Please stop demonizing our loved ones!

Musings of an Aspie

Today Gretchen Leary is hosting a flash blog with the theme #Autismisnotacrime in response to the recent (and not so recent too) stigmatizing media portrayals of autism and autistic people.

I’m low on words but after reading some of the ongoing coverage of the UCSB shootings, I made a couple of graphics:

aut-fb

 Image description: Green text on white background that reads “Autism is:” followed by four choices that read “Not having friends, Being withdrawn, A lack of empathy and A neurological difference.” The first three phrases are struck out and the last phrase has a check mark next to it. Below the choices is the text “#autismisnotacrime”. 

as-fb

 Image description: Green text on white background that reads “Aspergers is:” followed by four choices that read “Not having friends, Being withdrawn, A lack of empathy and A neurological difference.” The first three phrases are struck out and the last phrase has a check…

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Just How Hard is it to be Inclusive?

bully meme

Many years ago, when I was in College I had a classmate whom I admired very much. And not in a romantic way at all. He was the first person I had met who was so comfortable in his own skin and identity. On our first day of class, fresh out of high school for him (I of course was *so* mature having been in university prior to this), he showed up with purple hair, beaded necklaces and a shirt that loudly spelled it out for anyone who didn’t get it: “FAG”.

This was in the mid-90’s and up to that point I had not seen much acceptance at the high school level. He clearly had had lots of it, and wasn’t going to back down for anyone.

Why do I bring this up now? Because not everyone accepted him for his differences. In fact we were in the same building as the Law and Security Program which unfortunately lived up to it’s stereotype with a lot of bullying jocks in it. They used to make comments to him and push him around in the halls. One day, he’d had enough and he followed them into their class, stood at the front until he had their attention and then dared them to beat him up right there in the classroom in front of their peers. Of course no one took him up on it. But they also left him alone after that.

I’ve always admired that about him. I only wish I’d been there that day to see what he did and to support him while he did it.

Recently, a video has gone viral of another boy attempting to do the same thing.

I don’t know what’s more sad about this video a) that the kids were laughing at him or b) that he even had to do this in the first place.

Why in 2014 are we still encountering this kind of despicable behaviour? Children are only bullied on a continual basis if the bully’s behaviour is tolerated or encouraged by the adults in their life. When teachers and parents create an environment where ostracizing another student is not acceptable behaviour, then it simply won’t happen. When a blind eye is turned to it we run into situations where children are committing suicide rather than be bullied for another day.

Growing up, we had developmentally challenged children integrated into our gym, art and music classes and they often accompanied us on field trips as well. It was a part of the school experience and we were expected to participate. There was no other option. Never were these children treated as lesser than. I remember bumping into one girl several years later in high school and sitting with her at lunch chatting about her favorite boy band. I often wonder where she is now.

That was in the 70’s and 80’s, so why is it still so hard?

Yet inclusion does happen. While searching links for this post I found this lovely article out of Alberta and in talking to a couple of moms with children with special needs, I heard of a similar story where a way was found to include a wheelchair-bound student.

I wonder then, has inclusion become automatic for physical challenges such as wheelchairs, while neurological differences such as Autism are still in the dark ages for systemic inclusion?

I know it is in our school. Our son has missed out on every field trip this year. Once we chose not to let him go on an out-of-province trip when the promised support (the principal who was to be his “buddy”) backed out a few days before the trip and we knew that the teachers going simply don’t have his best interest at heart, but other times because there was no staff member going who cared to put the effort in to making sure that he was able to successfully participate. Yes this is odd, even for our school, where he has gone on every other field trip ever. But it is also representative of our experience this year. And I know that if we are dealing with it, so are other families. (as I keep hearing when I bump into them at the grocery store and the school yard and out on the street)

Why do we not yet have a system in place that demands inclusion for all children, one that does not tolerate exclusionary or ostracizing behaviour from students, teachers, and other parents? It wouldn’t have to be an iron-clad set of rules, but rather needs to be a culture and environment carefully nurtured and developed by those in charge.

The Hunk in My Front Hall

photo

The above installation in my front hallway is a modernist reflection upon the slavery of the contemporary suburban family to the corporate machination of planned obsolescence in the early 21st century.

If you believe that, then please support my application for an artist grant and installation into the Smithsonian. Also, I have a great piece of land on the moon to sell you.

Remember when I posted about the fridge in my front hall and I said that the circus wasn’t done yet?

Well I was right.

It’s now May and the snow is long gone (even if the cold air isn’t), and still the fridge is in my hall. I’ve asked a few times about when it’s going to get moved. My brother-in-law lent his handy dandy appliance dolly out to some friends and now he can’t get hold of them to get it back. And the guys are all busy. Or something.

Ok so now I’m in the habit of opening the baby gate, going down the stairs and loading up before I head up again to cook. Which I guess is really not that bad (I mean you can get used to anything right?). And unloading groceries is super easy when you enter the front door, drop the bags on the floor and you’re there.

But I am tired of explaining to the plumber, and guests and even the newspaper kid why there is a kitchen fridge in my hall. I mean it would be cool if it was a wine cooler wouldn’t it? Well maybe even that would be a bit trashy…

Well… on Tuesday evening I pulled something out of the freezer and was puzzled to find it soft. When we investigated, both fridge and freezer sides were not as cold as they should be. At first we thought the door hadn’t been shut, but realized it would have beeped annoyingly at us. Nope. It’s broken. So we scrambled to save what we could and stuff the garage fridge (the one that no longer smells of smoke but now has a permanent home in our garage).

The next morning a call to our reliable repair place found that fixing it would likely be in the $700 range. For a used fridge. That’s ten-ish years old. So not happening.

Now, we are on the hunt to find a new, new fridge that will fit the weirdly sized space in our kitchen (and actually be placed there by guys paid to break their backs lifting heavy crap).

And I have to either live with a hunk of dead appliance in my front hall (rednecking it in the burbs anyone?) or find a way to get it out and to the curb.

The funny part? The guy who sold it to us walked into my hubby’s store the day after and asked how we liked the fridge! LOL. Poor man was horrified, but honestly, there’s nothing that can be done. We’ve had it for a few months now, so it’s just one of those things.

The circus may yet have a part three… stay tuned.

As our kids pointed out: Good thing it died before we hauled it into the kitchen 🙂

Chance Encounters

Last week when I was driving our daughter to dance we saw this license plate:

Chance Encounters-spreading positivity to strangers. (Disclaimer-I did not take this photo while driving, my passenger took it)

Chance Encounters-spreading positivity to strangers. (Disclaimer-I did not take this photo while driving, my passenger took it)

And it prompted us to talk about the fact that vanity plates are often about being vain, yet this person chose to spread positivity to complete strangers wherever they drive.

And then it got me talking about Chance Encounters which I learned about 11 or 12 years ago when I attended a conference hosted by Toastmasters. Each session was with a person embarking upon a career as a motivational speaker.

The session I remember most vividly (actually the only session I remember) was about Chance Encounters.

The speaker (If you know who he is please contact me as I would like to give credit where it is due) spoke of the concept that every choice we make in life affects someone one else. And he called these choices Chance Encounters.

For example, a driver cuts you off in traffic and you respond with a hand signal and some choice words. You then go on about your day. But this driver knew he made a mistake and tried to say sorry to you. He just got fired today and yesterday his wife left him. No one, not even random strangers (you) can’t stand him. What’s the point in living when no one thinks anything of you? When he’s driving over the bridge, he takes a sharp right and drives into the river.

Take the same circumstance, the same driver with the same crappy day. He cuts you off. And he tries to mouth “sorry” to you. You nod your head, acknowledging that everyone makes mistakes. You continue on your way not realizing that you just showed him that strangers can be kind and that life is worth living.

It’s a pretty dramatic example and of course not every situation will lead to such an awful outcome. The point though is that everything we choose to do from hitting our snooze button to letting a driver in to going to bed early has the potential to have an impact on other people. And most often we will never know the implications of that impact.

Every Chance Encounter/choice we make is an opportunity. We can choose to be positive and forgiving or we can choose to be negative and spread misery.

And this driver ahead of us chose to make our day a little brighter 🙂

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