Hate Crime and Autism

Hate crime against autistic people happens because of ignorance and prejudice. I have a theory that some people only have to hear the world ‘autism’ and they immediately think of American high school massacres where the shooters happened to be autistic.

Take Adam Lanza (Sandy Hook) for example.

Obviously, what Lanza did was unforgivable – not to mention inexcusable – but here’s the thing: being autistic did NOT made him a murderer.

Adam Lanza allegedly had a mental illness that had gone untreated. He was also suffering from malnutrition as a result of anorexia. Malnutrition causes brain damage. He’d also been bullied, rejected and isolated for the majority of his school life. One of the most important factors of all? His gun enthusiast mother taught him to shoot at an early age and he had access to guns. This is one hell of a toxic mix, no? There are numerous factors as to why he became a mass murderer but the one thing that some people focus on is the fact that he was autistic.

The fact is that after the story about Adam Lanza broke, young autistic people were bullied, especially online.

This is how ignorant people can be.

The truth is that an autistic person is more likely to commit suicide (or be murdered by a family member) than mass murder.

Why do autistic people commit suicide?

“These are individuals who have been struggling all their lives to fit in,” “Along the way, they have really been suffering.” ~ Simon Baron-Cohen – professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge in the U.K

Why? Because society won’t allow them to be themselves. Autistic people are put under enormous pressure to adapt to society in order to fit in and to conform.

Getting back to mass murder – most school ‘shooters’ are Caucasian males. So, if every autistic boy is a potential mass murderer, then this must mean that every Caucasian boy who goes to school is also potential mass murderer, right? Of course not. So why would people think that a child is likely to go off on a murderous spree just because they’re autistic?

Because they are f**king idiots, that’s why.

A mass murderer may well be autistic but that doesn’t mean that it’s the cause of the crime anymore than being Caucasian, having blue eyes or wearing a Nirvana tee shirt is.

“Correlation does not imply causation.”

One problem the autistic community has is irresponsible journalists mentioning mass murder and autistic in the same sentence. The two are linked together and what we have are ignorant people who think that just because a child is autistic – they are potential murderers. So when a boy is known to be autistic, what chance does he have? He’s autistic, therefore he’s a danger to all the NT kids?

My son is eight years old and he’s autistic. He’s one of the loveliest and kindest people I have ever known. He likes to make people laugh. His friends matter to him. When those friends reject him, it hurts him deeply and he can’t express that hurt in words, so he lashes out or he harms himself.

He’s not an angel. He can be rude. He can be grumpy but what 8/9 year old child isn’t?

Earlier this year he came home from school and he’d been having meltdowns. He had another one at home only this time he was self-harming – banging his head against the wall. We eventually learned that one of his friends had told him that they were forbidden to play with him. Why? Because he’d given this child some of his money to buy a snack. The child’s parents interpreted this as my son trying to ‘buy their child’s friendship’.

What?!

He doesn’t understand the concept of bribery.

He was being kind because he cared about his friend.

NEWSFLASH – autistic people do have empathy.

My son broke his heart in front of me.

“I hate myself, Mummy”

I don’t blame the child in question but I do hold the parents accountable for my son’s epic meltdown that day. I don’t know about you, but I would be absolutely mortified if I knew that a child had self-harmed because of something I’d said or done.

The depressing fact is that the leading cause of premature death in autistic people is suicide. If society changes their attitude towards us, that statistic will change. As an autistic person, I understand it. As the mother of an autistic boy – it terrifies me.

Research suggests that autistic boys (especially those with aspergers) from the age of 10 years up are more vulnerable to suicidal thoughts and attempts to take their own lives. Sadly, some succeed, like 11 year old Shane who killed himself as a result of being bullied because he was autistic.

Those who bullied him didn’t directly kill him but they abused him to the point that he felt life wasn’t worth living. It’s hate crime. They are accountable as far as I am concerned. Yet they are free to grow up and get on with their lives. Sound fair to you?

“Shane was a fighter. He made everyone he met happy. He put a smile on their faces. He was extremely intelligent in science, history and any type of animals and their habitats. He had a huge, loving heart (Tammy Laycock – Shane’s mother)

Going back to journalists..

Bethalto boy struggled with autism before killing himself.

Lets be clear here. This boy did not ‘struggle with autism’ before he killed himself. He struggled with how he was treated by staff and children at his school. Had they have treated him with the kindness and respect he deserved, do you honestly think he would have chosen to kill himself?

Autism didn’t kill this beautiful little boy. Prejudice, ignorance and intolerance killed him.

My son won’t become a statistic if I have anything to do with it. For me, the fight starts here. At 8 years of age he is unhappy because of the actions of a few people. The latest being an incident when we were verbally assaulted in the street. The tirade was aimed at me but it was about my son and he happened to be stood next to me listening to every word..

“Why don’t you have some self respect and remove him from school”

This coming from someone who was EPICALLY losing their shit in the street in front of their own child?

“Your son’s a bully”

Obviously I’m not supposed to get irony because I’m autistic (we do sarcasm too) but here is a person who is verbally abusing me and my son in the street and who is also making a concerted effort to get him kicked out of school because he’s ‘a bully’ despite there being no actual evidence for it.

He’s not a bully. He’s a vulnerable child.

So tell me. Who’s the bully?

I reported the incident to the police and the person got a caution and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

My son isn’t Adam Lanza. Nor is any other autistic boy. I wish that people would educate themselves about autism instead of reading sensationalised news stories written by irresponsible journalists.

I will fight for my son’s right to live in this world free of fear because it’s his world too.

Because when it comes to my offspring I will fight with the fangs of a wolf and the claws of a dragon. And no one, or nothing will stop me from protecting them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview: Meet and Greet Monday – Blogger: Inside the rainbow

I don’t know if it’s the done thing to re-blog a post that’s about yourself but sod it. LETS DO IT ANYWAY. 🙂

The Way of the Squirrel

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So, another Monday and another Meet and Greet. This week I have the pleasure of interviewing Tracy from the bloghttps://insidetherainbow.blog

Tracy’s blog is always interesting and is often peppered with witty and dry humour that often makes me genuinely chuckle. Her honest and bare-all posts are refreshingly grounded and regularly include nostalgic recollections that, as I’m of a similar age, often get me thinking about my own past. I always look forward to her posts and enjoy our follow-up comments-section banter.

So, Tracy, without any further ado, please let me ask you:

Who on Earth are you?

I am a forty-something wife, mother and misfit.

And where on Earth are you?

I live in a Victorian mill town in Lancashire. Technically, it’s Greater Manchester but historically it was Lancashire. I can live in either, depending on what mood I’m in.

So, when did you start blogging?

About five years…

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One Love

Two weeks ago, a suicide bomber targeted the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. He chose to detonate his bomb as people were leaving the arena. 22 people were killed, many of whom were young. 116 people were injured. Manchester mourned its dead and the rest of the world mourned with them.

My heart ached with sadness that a human being could deliberately set out to do this. That he could stand next to people throughout those hours just waiting for his moment to devastate lives. It’s beyond comprehension..

I know I should avoid the news. It affects me long after it’s no longer ‘news’. It sends my anxiety spiralling and is bad for my health but sometimes I get caught up in things and I got caught up in this.

Whatever life has thrown at me.. music has been there to comfort me in a way that nobody ever can because music speaks where words fail. Having gone to concerts myself, I understand the feeling of euphoria that comes with seeing your idols perform live and I take comfort in the knowledge that those kids got themselves some happy in their last hours on this earth. That means something to me.

As a parent, my heart broke. So many lives cut short and for what? Ariana Grande was also in my thoughts. Most artists live for what they do and making people feel good is a huge part of why they do it. They want people to leave their concerts feeling happy with memories that will last a lifetime. Imagine being Ariana, knowing that children died in the worst way after seeing her perform? That must have been incredibly hard to cope with. Lets not forget that she is only 23 years old herself.

When the attack happened, I’d never heard of Ariana. I love my music but I am out of touch with what’s in the charts. To look at her, you’d think a decent gust of wind would pick her up and carry her off but last night she proved just what she’d made of as just TWO weeks after the attack she came back to Manchester to play a benefit concert for the 50,000 people with anybody who could prove they were at the original concert getting free tickets.

I watched it via live stream on Twitter. I was an emotional wreck watching it this way. I can only imagine how emotionally charged the atmosphere was at Old Trafford. It wasn’t your average concert, you see. It was special. It was about musicians and people coming together and sticking the Vs up to the terrorists. It took guts to be there. Ariana would have been forgiven if she’d have disappeared off the radar for a while. Not this lady. Not only did she come back, she also brought people with her.

The likes of Katy Perry (who I thought was Annie Lennox until I shoved my specs on), Little Mix and Miley Cyrus may not be my cup of tea but they all showed courage last night, especially as London had been attacked the day before. Even though I don’t connect with their particular style of music, I enjoyed watching the faces of those who do. The infinity you feel to someone who speaks to you via music is something I can definitely identify with.

The highlights for me were Robbie Williams, Coldplay and most of all, Liam Gallagher –  Mr Rock and Roll star himself – who flew in from Germany to support his city. The music changed to a distinct ‘rock like feel’ and my first thought was, ‘OMG, Oasis?’ Just as I was about to reach for my Beta-Blockers, Liam strolled on stage wearing his orange cagoule. No Noel, but we got to see Chris Martin perform with him on Live Forever which I thought was kind of cool given that Liam once compared him with a geography teacher but I guess even rock and roll stars grow up, eh?

Tweet of the night had to be this by Dean Lane about LG.

Daughter: Who’s that in the big coat, daddy?

Dad: That’s an absolute fucking legend, sweetie.

There’s been a lot of flack for Noel about him not reuniting with his brother for this concert. Personally, I feel it wasn’t the right time for an Oasis reunion. Why? Because they are one of the biggest and most iconic rock bands, ever. For Liam and Noel to share the same stage again would have overshadowed everything else. It was Ariana’s night, not theirs. It was right that a concert in support of Manchester should have Mancunian artists on the set list. Chris Martin, singing part of James’ ‘Sit Down’ wasn’t lost on me as James are a Manchester band. Take That were formed in Manchester..

Seeing Ariana sing with the Parrs Wood school choir gave me proper panda eyes. She held a girls hand and when she started to lose her composure, Ariana held her closely. Not a dry in the place. It was an act of love from one human to another but the night was all about love. People connected by a love of music and a determination that no arseholes will dictate their lives for them. The point of terrorism is to strike fear into people, divide them, and to stop them from living their lives. The One Love concert was proof that they have failed to accomplish it. Manchester’s response to terrorism was to sing it’s heart out.

What Ariana accomplished is nothing short of amazing. Any concert takes time and planning but when it involves numerous artists it’s a huge undertaking but she pulled it together in a week. Ariana has my utmost respect. Respect for how she’s found the courage to come back after what must have been a tremendously traumatic time for her, but also her ability to stay vertical in her eight inch heels- an amazing feat in itself.

Her song, ‘One Last Time’ is beautiful in it’s own right but after May 22nd the lyrics took on a different meaning as it was one of the last songs (if not THE last song) those kids ever heard before they went ‘home’.

So one last time
I need to be the one who takes you home
One more time
I promise after that, I’ll let you go

A good thing happened in Manchester yesterday. In the space of two weeks we’ve seen humanity at its worst with the bomber and at its very best in the aftermath. Music has united us in the way that only music can and from my little corner of the world, I was part of it.

Blessings to Ariana and everybody who took part in the One Love concert, including the policeman who was filmed skipping with some children. You Sir, are a legend. This is what the world needs to combat the evil. Love will beat evil, every time.

I’ll leave the last word with Liam, the voice of my generation and one of Manchester’s own.

Misfits and Meetings

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When it comes to school – I do the necessary. I drop The Boy off in the morning and pick him up at home time. Sometimes I go in to calm him down if he’s having a particularly difficult day, though I should add that it’s at my request that they phone me.

Some parents do other stuff like going in to read with the children and going on school trips etc., I don’t. Not because I’m a lazy cow who’d rather be sat at home watching Jeremy Kyle point at chavs – no- it’s because I have social, sensory and anxiety problems.

In every playground you will see the ‘perimeter ‘hoggers’. These are the lone wolf parents who lean against walls and railings looking at their phones trying to be invisible. I am one of those people.

My coats have pockets which disguise the fact that I am constantly fiddling with my keys. If I’m not fiddling with my keys I am looking at my phone – sometimes I am doing both. I look at the parents who socialise with ease and know it will never be me, not unless I have lobotomy anyway.

The thought of being jammed on a school bus with noisy kids is my idea of hell and when I was asked if I could help out I had no choice but to tell the truth.

‘I’m having a panic attack just imagining it. I’m not great with crowds and I have anxiety problems, you see. Sorry!

The school are understanding of this now and don’t ask anymore. I feel sad but accept that I have limitations and to push beyond those would do more harm than good as they would have a hyperventilating lunatic to look after as well as the children.

Thankfully The Boy has his SSA and he probably copes better without me in those situations as he could pick up on my anxieties no matter how much I tried to mask them – especially if a full blown panic attack was to occur.

However, when I heard that our SENCo was setting up a group with the parents of children with special needs, I knew I had to be part of it. I was apprehensive but knew the group would be small and that my friend would be there. She’s very lovely and reassuring, bless ‘er.

Having missed the first two meetings due to being elsewhere and, er, mixing the date up – I finally made the third.

Even something as trivial as this causes me anxiety especially when it’s something I haven’t done before, (fear of the unknown), but my mind was made up. I was going to do it because the school has given us so much support and I wanted to give something back.

So the day came and I ran through my notes.

Have something to eat so tummy doesn’t growl like a bastard.

Take reading specs.

Pen and paper because you know you’ll totally forget everything that’s said.

Wear hearing-aid to avoid saying ‘Eh?’ all the time.

Have massive wee before you go.

Drawing on my years of coping skills I went in earlier than the others. I find it hard to walk into a room with people in it I aim to be first in whenever possible. There were six of us in total – so a nice small group which I can cope with.

Heart clanging away I waited for the others to arrive.

I recognised one of the other mothers as a lady who used to work at The Boy’s nursery, (where he was first suspected of being autistic), so there was only one parent there who I didn’t know, at least by sight.

First job – tea and cake.

After years of practice I can now drink in front of strangers but food is still iffy. So the flapjacks were a no-go area for me. Better safe than choking to death having breathed in whilst trying to swallow, eh?

I may not have felt entirely comfortable but I was there.

Most people will consider this an insignificant thing. ‘It’s only a little meeting yer silly mare!’ but I know there will be others who will nod like mad. ‘Oh yes! That’s me too!’

It felt good to be in the presence of people who understand what it’s like to have a child with conditions like autism. They understand the daily challenges and judgement by ignorant gits. I’m used to the feeling of not belonging because I’ve never fitted in anywhere, (hence the misfit reference), but for the hour and a half I was there I didn’t feel quite the “misfit missy”as I usually do.

The school supports our son but they also support me. If I go into school to comfort him and the hall is full of kids catapulting themselves over the vaulting equipment the receptionist takes me around another way to avoid my anxiety levels going orbital. It’s a small thing but means that I am better mentally equipped to deal with my son’s meltdown.

I’m passionate about autism awareness so I really need to be as proactive as I can. My next goal is to attend the autism show. Don’t get me wrong I have been to crowded venues in my time – sometimes it’s required a nip of the hard stuff and sometimes I’ve gone in cold but it’s always been a struggle which is why I tend not to bother now.

It will be crowded and my anxiety will be off the scale both before, during and after but I figure that even if I was to lose the plot – it wouldn’t really matter because most people there will have seen much worse.

My drive comes from years of being ignored or misunderstood at school. Without doubt I have a learning disability and struggled every day of the ten years I was there. Nobody saw my distress and as a result I left school with nothing to show for it. Going through the SEN process makes me realise that, with support, I’d have been capable of much more. As it is all I have are a bunch of ‘if onlys’.

If only I’d have been allowed to stay in at play-times my anxiety might have lessened to a degree where I could take in information in order to learn.

If only I could have entered the class early and left after everybody else then I would have been spared the anxiety of being pushed and shoved in crowded corridors.

If only I could have worked in small groups – I might have learned something except fear.

If only I’d have had somewhere to escape to when it became too much instead of having to endure the stress, the stimulus and the bullying.

If only somebody would have seen beyond ‘shyness’ and recognised that I needed help.

How different my life might have been..

I point blank refuse for my son to go through that.

But thanks to an amazing school with teachers who care.. he hasn’t.

Image Credit Public Domain CC

Sons, Sand & Sauvignon