It’s The Freakiest Show..

My big brother was into the 1970s glam-rock scene, I mean, he had the platforms and everything.. He looked a div, but then what teenage boy didn’t look a div in the 70s?

For what’s it’s worth, I also looked a div – only I didn’t have any choice in the matter.

Anyway, it’s from rooting through his records that I came across the phenomenon that was David Bowie..

Being born in 1970 rendered me too young to appreciate the glam rock scene first time around. However, I didn’t have to wait too long because it made a comeback in the 80s with the likes of Def Leppard, Poison and Kiss – only with less glitter and more hair. Oh. And the flares were replaced by skin-tight, testicle-trapping jeans which of course helped them to reach those high notes..

WHOOOOOOOOO-YEAHHHHHHHHHHHH

Of all the records of the glam rock era, Life on Mars is my favourite.

Bowie labeled Life on Mars, “a sensitive young girl’s reaction to the media” and added, “I think she finds herself disappointed with reality… that although she’s living in the doldrums of reality, she’s being told that there’s a far greater life somewhere, and she’s bitterly disappointed that she doesn’t have access to it.”

I know how she feels..

Reality sucks. You spend nine months in the womb being prepared for your big entry into the world only to reach the age of five when you start school and your world turns phenomenally crap.

Yes, I know how that girl feels..

Life on Mars was released as a single in 1973. I was three years old and still wearing plastic pants. So it’s fair to say that while I no doubt heard it on the radio (or saw it on TOTP) I wasn’t into it until a few years later..

First, I fell in love with Mick Ronson’s orchestral arrangement because, lets face it, it’s EFFING AWESOME! Then came my obsession with the lyrics (also awesome) and all these years later, it STILL does things to me insides..

When it comes to the lyrics, the song is somewhat ambiguous but I identify with Bowie’s description because, like the girl, I am also at odds with reality. I see life as one big freak show.

Sailors fighting in the dance hall
Oh man, look at those cavemen go
It’s the freakiest show

Bowie started out ordinary enough, apart from his freaky eye, but Mrs Bowie knew that his image was a bit crap so she turned him into the spiky red awesomeness that was ‘Ziggy Stardust’. He made weird, cool, and all the misfits and weirdos whooped with joy and bought all his records. He was like something out of space – which was kind of the idea. Nobody knew what the fuck he was. Was he male, female or alien?

Bowie wasn’t my dad’s cup of tea, as I imagine was the case with a lot of other parents of the time. Dad’s nervous cough would kick in when Ziggy beamed up via the gogglebox during those early years but he settled down once Dave brought out Lets Dance and ‘that one he did with Jagger’, got the Dad stamp of approval too.

Bowie has been a constant in some form or other since Ziggy. I almost had a coronary when the TV series Life on Mars was screened in 2006. Great plot. The legend what is ‘The Gene Genie’ (Gene Hunt) and a cracking 1970s soundtrack, including Life on Mars which was used a LOT. What’s not to like?

For those of you unfamiliar with Life on Mars.. the plot is is that Sam Tyler has an accident in 2006 and wakes up in 1973 wearing flares and driving a Cortina. The tagline is, Am I mad, in a coma, or back in time? Whatever’s happened, it’s like I’ve landed on a different planet.

I just hope to God I never suffer a head trauma and wake up in 1983 wearing a ra-ra skirt and legwarmers!

So, if I had to choose ONE song to listen to before I die, it would be Life On Mars. I want my life force to ebb away to this song but knowing my luck, it will be Justin Bieber and I will die with my middle finger stuck up in mid-air.

There is something satisfyingly poetic about Mick Ronson’s melodic string arrangements to Life on Mars being the last piece of music I ever hear before I depart this shit-hole planet. I am the girl with the mousey hair, or at least I used to be before I started dyeing the crap out of it, and I very much want this to be my swansong. Family, take note.

Finally, a bit o’ trivia for you..

The string arrangement for Life on Mars was written in a TOILET.

Genius.

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

Researching autism in mainstream secondary schools, I came across this comment on an online debate of whether autistic children should be taught in mainstream schools..

 “As a student taught in a mainstream school, I know the pain of autistic kids. There is an average of one autistic per classroom, and it commonly disrupts the learning environment, In recent years, I have seen many classrooms disrupted by a call for “iPad!!!” or “Hungry!!!” in the middle of an important lesson, sometimes even a test. I understand the argument for mainstreaming, but by the time that making the… Lesser… Kids feel better by putting them in normal classes infringes upon the learning environment of those who actually have opportunity (keeping autistics in the same school as normals) , that’s going too far.”

Charming, eh?

Where do I start?

“I know the pain of autistic kids”

No you don’t.

“There is an average of one autistic per classroom, and it commonly disrupts the learning environment”

“It”? I hope this person is referring to ‘it’ as the autism, not the child?

“I understand the argument for mainstreaming, but by the time that making the… Lesser… Kids”

This person considers him/herself as being more important (and intelligent) than autistic pupils.

“keeping autistics in the same school as normals) , that’s going too far.”

Are we talking feral cats here? Or human beings?

I am a literal person and I take words literally but there is no doubt in my mind that this person sees autistic pupils as inferior to himself and that they should all be buggered off elsewhere.

I’m not oblivious to how autistic pupils can be disruptive but that doesn’t mean they have no place in mainstream. When I was at school it was the opposite. It was the “normals” that disrupted my learning on a daily basis for the entire four years I was there. Personally, I’d have ripped someone’s arm off to go to a special school but many autistic people do better in mainstream as long as they have the right support – not to mention the acceptance and understanding of their peers.

There is much I could say about inclusion but that’s for another post. Today, I want to address attitudes towards autistic people.

So, lets take a look at some other “lessers”.

  • Dan Aykroyd –  Actor – Aspergers DX
  • Hans Christian Andersen – Author – Considered Autistic
  • Susan Boyle – Singer – Aspergers DX.
  • Tim Burton – Film Director – Considered Autistic
  • Henry Cavendish – Scientist – Considered Autistic
  • Charles Darwin – Naturalist, Geologist, and Biologist – Considered Autistic
  • Paul Dirac – Physicist – Considered Autistic
  • Albert Einstein –Er, Hello? Genius!– Considered Autistic
  • Bobby Fischer – Chess Whizz – Considered Autistic
  • Bill Gates – Co-founder of the Microsoft Corporation – Considered Autistic
  • Temple Grandin – Animal Scientist – Asperger DX
  • Daryl Hannah – Actress – Asperger DX
  • Steve Jobs – Former CEO of Apple – Considered Autistic
  • James Joyce – Author – Considered Autistic
  • Barbara McClintock – Scientist and Cytogeneticist – Considered Autistic
  • Michelangelo – Sculptor, Painter, Architect, Poet – Considered Autistic
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Musical Genius – Considered Autistic
  • Sir Isaac Newton – Mathematician, Astronomer, & Physicist – Considered Autistic
  • Jerry Seinfeld – Comedian – Self-DX
  • Satoshi Tajiri – Creator of Nintendo’s Pokémon – Aspergers DX
  • Nikola Tesla – Inventor – Physicist -Electrical & Mechanical Engineer- Considered Autistic
  • Gary Numan – Singer – Song Writer – Producer – Composer – Self-DX Aspergers
  • Paddy Considine – Actor – Director – Screen Writer – Musician – Aspergers DX
  • Alan Gardner – Award Winning Garden Designer and TV presenter – Aspergers DX
  • Chris Packham – Nature Photographer, TV Presenter – Author – Aspergers DX

Those who consider that autism equals low intelligence would do well to take a long hard look at this list because all the people on it have a diagnosis or are generally considered to be autistic by those who are autistic and the professionals who diagnose it. This list of talents is as diverse as the autistic spectrum itself. I wonder if our friend who wants the “lesser kids” out of his/her classroom will change the world in the way that some of these people have?

I’m guessing not.

Another problem is that the word ‘Autism’ is often used as a slur – an insult.

Ignorance causes distress. On any given day you can type the word ‘Autistic’ into the search bar of Twitter and you will come across a tweet that uses the word as an insult.

Actual Tweets.

“This lady is watching some lads just go and buy a drink, yelling autistic dribble, making funny noises and clapping her hands.”

“they usually have something worthwhile to say though…..your tweets are nothing but autistic outbursts”

“Got an image in my head of (name omitted) having an autistic shitfit trying to work the wetherspoons app hahahahahahha”

“Like how autistic do you have to be to think going to spawns on an aim map and spawn killing in DM is going to help you or beneficial.”

“autistic retard”

“my friend keeps sending me snaps of some autistic guy dancing at the bar .. lemme tell u for free , i never seen a retard dance like that.”

Plenty more where they came from but you get my drift?

If I had my way, I would have them rounded up and fired off into space on a one way ticket because there is a chance these fuckwits will spawn and spread their ignorance throughout the planet. Harsh, but effective, yes?

I haven’t made screen shots of the tweets but they are there. I haven’t made these up.

Some of these tweets will have been made on iPhones and what these idiots don’t realise is that the Co-founder, Chairman, and CEO of Apple, is Steve Jobs – a man who is generally considered to have been AUTISTIC.

Or maybe they’ve done the Pokémon thing?

The world-wide phenomenon which is Pokémon was created by a man with a Aspergers diagnosis. Get this. In 2014 Satoshi Tajiri was estimated to be worth $5.1 billion!

PIKA PIKA MOFOS!

“Lesser”? I don’t think so!

Some autistic people do have severe learning difficulties but they often excel in creative thinking.

“Lesser”? No. Different? Yes.

We all have something to offer.

The slurs are offensive – no question. However, the joke is on the ignorant wankpuffins who make such comments because the world that we know today has been shaped by autistic people.

Issac Newton wrote: “If I have seen a little further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

We see further today because we are standing on the shoulders of giants and many of those giants were autistic.

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… The ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” – Steve Jobs

 

 

 

Richard and Jaco: A Life With Autism

I watched BBC One’s Richard and Jaco: Life With Autism last night.

As a parent, I am able to identify with Welsh actor Richard Mylan’s fears for his son’s future.

As an autistic person, I understand Jaco’s world.

My son will be eight this year but does not have the ability to mask his autism as I have been able to do. Like Jaco, his autism is obvious. He wandered in while I was watching it and saw Jaco wearing his headphones. He said “Look mummy, that little boy looks like me!”

Richard impressed me with his desire to understand his son’s world even though it’s impossible for people to truly understand what they don’t experience themselves. However, Jaco is a lucky little boy to have Richard as a dad and the love he has for his son is a beautiful thing to see.

You get a view of what life can be like with an autistic child like Jaco. He reminds me so much of my own little boy, as in,visibly uncomfortable with environmental stimuli but happy in his world.

In order for him to learn more about Jaco’s future, Richard went to meet various people on the spectrum. First he met Alex Lowry who is a motivational speaker and trainer on autism. An animated man, he is obviously passionate about what he does.

Although Jaco started secondary school and was happy, Richard was interested in finding out about special schools. In one such school he met two teenagers who had been tasked with the job of showing him around. One boy told of the bullying he’d endured in mainstream school culminating in a broken arm and the other told of being ‘kicked out’ of school for being ‘naughty’. Both struggled in mainstream but both spoke highly of the special place where they are understood and most importantly, happy.

Then there was Edward who is severely autistic and in residential care. He is a young man who is happy in his own world and who has a great support network. He, like every other autistic person, does not know what ‘normal’ feels like. All we know is our normal. Ed has an amazing memory and can tell you what day your birthday was on when you were born in a matter of seconds. He is a fascinating person.

Ed’s mother by her own admission has taken a leap of faith in allowing him to live independently but said, “You have to let your kids go don’t you? You have to let them grow up and be independent”.

Bottom line is yes, we do.

The person who struck me the most was the young man who Richard visited in his workplace. This man was literally living his dream of doing admin. Yes, admin! The job that so many people loathe. Yet, he was happier than a pig in muck sorting through all the letters and stuff. What’s more, he is a valued member of the team and according to his boss, contributes to the happy and relaxed atmosphere of the office. What choked me up was when he said to Richard, “If I didn’t have autism, I wouldn’t be as special.”

Richard said “So you see it as a positive thing?”

With eyes that twinkled (and bloody good eye contact thank you very much) the young man replied, “Yes. autism is a very special thing and whoever has it should be proud of it”.

I am proud of who I am and I want my son to be proud of who he is too.

The Boy and I have the same problems but we react very differently. I am an autistic person raising an autistic child and I know how important these next few years will be for him. I can’t sit back and do nothing because he will be a teenager before I know it. I have to prepare my son for a life without me and I have to do it now. I can’t guarantee that his secondary school experience will be as positive as his primary one but I will be watching closely and if he’s unhappy, I will have NO problem in placing him in a special school, especially after seeing how happy those lads were.

My passion comes not only from being his mum but also my years of suffering in mainstream. I know, without a doubt, that I would have been happy in a special school tailored to my needs. With the confusion and crowds removed, I would have thrived instead of having just about survived. However, my time has long since gone. It’s my son’s time now..

I want him to have a relationship. To be able, not only to work, but to be appreciated for his contribution to society. Ultimately, I want him to be able to live independently of us. Don’t get me wrong, I dread the day coming when he no longer needs me but that’s also the day I’m aiming for. It’s what every parent aims for. Sadly, some people are too severely affected for total independence to be an option.

More than anything else in this world, I want him to be happy and to embrace his differences, not hide them as I have done.

We, as parents, do the best we can for our children. We give them the tools they need to survive and they take what they’ve learned out into the world. With autism, the work starts earlier. It has to. Richard Mylan knows that. I know that. Most autism parents will understand that. Another thing that unites us all is the fear of not being here for our special children so we do the very best we can while we are still around.

Thanks to Richard and Jaco for a glimpse into your lives and for helping to spread awareness.

Richard and Jaco: A Life With Autism is on BBC iplayer for one more week. Well worth a watch, folks.

Spectrum Sunday