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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alone in the Universe

I like to be alone.

I am completely comfortable in my own company, probably because it’s only when I’m alone that I can be myself. There’s no need to pretend to be normal. I can just be me.

When it comes to loneliness, people usually identify it with physically being on their own. Not me. I can be in a room jam-packed full of people and still feel incredibly lonely because I know I don’t belong. That’s my lonely.

I didn’t ask to be born. None of us do. We are here by choice or mistake and nine months later, out we pop, with no instructions on how to do life. We are at the mercy of those around us and all too often those people let us down.

Those people who had a duty of care to me at school let me down.

As a child I played alone until the age of five and then I had to attend school, or ‘shithole’ as I call it.

School was where I was expected to socialise and interact using skills which I didn’t possess or understand.

School was where I was bullied by children AND teachers.

School was where my sense of not belonging started.

It was clear that other children didn’t like me but I didn’t know why. I tried my best to be invisible but all that did was make me even MORE conspicuous. All I know is that I came to dislike myself too because of it. I couldn’t bunk off because I knew it was wrong. Nor was I able to express my struggles to my teachers or parents so I had no choice but to endure every hellish second of it until I got home.

Home was where I felt safe.

Home was where I was loved unconditionally.

Home was where I could lose myself in my obsessions.

Yet even with my closest family, I was unable to be me. I belonged, yes. My parents would have loved me regardless of anything but I didn’t know how to be myself in front of them. Most of the photographs from my formative years are of me looking away from the camera. That was me before life pressured me into being someone I wasn’t in order to try and fit in. Personas and masks became necessary in order for me to survive.

Something that is common to ALL humans is the need to belong and be accepted by others. I have a need to belong in some meaningful way just as much as anybody else and I want to leave this world having made a difference in some small way. Yet for most of my life, I have felt alien, like I don’t belong here. I breathe the same air. I am a human being in every respect of the word except that my brain is wired differently and people know you are different. They can sense it even if they can’t see it, like Will Smith in Men in Black, who can spot the aliens a mile off despite them wearing their ‘human suits’. That’s how it feels to be me sometimes – an alien wearing a human suit.

These past few months have been an eye-opener for me. The most important change is that for the first time in my life I no longer feel alone in this world. Why? Because there are 700,000 autistic people in the UK alone so add to the rest of the planets autistic population and that’s bloody shit-loads!

There is an autistic community where I don’t have to think, ‘Will this freak people out?’ before I ‘speak’ because people get it. Imagine. After ALL these years. I get to be my freaky self and other human beings say, ‘Yeah, I do that’.

AWESOME!!

I’m hoping that the therapy I am currently receiving will help to address the many years where I was treated badly simply for being me..

The girl who walked up to me one day and slapped me across my face for no reason at all? She was a coward. She was a big girl hitting a small girl – a bully who needed to be flanked by her cronies at all times. I blamed myself for so many years but I know now that I wasn’t responsible for what she did. Nor have I ever been responsible for the actions of others. The problem is with them, not me.

At some point I need to let the past go and move on in order to make the most of the time I have left. Four years ago I felt that nobody would ever understand how I feel. Then my son was diagnosed ASD and I knew that I was autistic too. On hearing my own official diagnosis, I got control back of my life. I know who I am now and why I am different and these next years of my life are going to be lived MY way. I may be in a minority but my life counts just as much as everybody else’s on this planet.

It always has.

I still like to be alone because that’s when I function at my best but liking to be alone and feeling alone in the world are very different things. That’s changed now. There are people in this world who get me. There are also people who don’t get me but are willing to understand and support me. So you see, I am not alone in the universe.

CC Image Via Pixabay

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview With a Pokemon Master Aged 7 3/4

The Boy granted me an interview in return for some Jaffa cakes. What can I say? He’s cheap. So without further a do.. here it is. Enjoy! 🙂

Question: What do you like to do the most?

Answer: You know! Playing Pokemon Moon! Duh!

Question: What is your favourite food?

Answer:. Chocolate digestives. You know that! *tuts*

Question: Who is your favourite person in ALL the world?

Answer: Mum, you know that too. It’s you. *theatrically rolls eyeballs*

Question: Universe?

Answer: Still you.

Question: What is your favourite TV show?

Answer: Pokemon Sun & Moon series.

Question: What’s your favourite book?

Answer: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Double Down cos at the first page Greg says “Hope you creeps are enjoying yourselves”. It’s really funny. *laughs hysterically*

Question:. What do you want to be when you’re older?

Answer: *throws his hands up in the air* Pokemon Master, of course!

Question: What things don’t you like?

*deep intake of breath* Vegetables cus they make my mind go pop, spotty bread, brown chips, black sausages, nuts, lime, black lollipops and Pokemon killing me.

Question: What do you like to wear?

Answer: Pokemon trainer clothes.

Mummy: Which are?

The Boy: Er, shorts and a top with no sleeves, backpack, cap and LOTS of Pokeballs.

Question: Mummy or Pokemon?

*looks shifty* Pokemon. Sorry Mum.

Question: What’s your favourite colour?

Answer: Yellow. YOU KNOW THAT!!

Question: Favourite animal?

Answer: Chicken? Don’t really have one so I’ll say chicken.

Mummy: What about owls?

The Boy: OOH YESSSS, OWLS! *starts hooting*

Question: What’s your favourite place?

Answer: Home. Ya gotta love home. *American accent*

Question: What is your greatest talent?

Answer: Singing and making Mummy laugh.

Question: What do you wish for?

Answer: To be a professional Pokemon trainer.

Question: What makes you nervous?

The Boy: “Shall I tell you what makes me nervous?”

Me: “Please do”

The Boy: “People cutting my hair”.

Question: What makes you smile?

Answer: When Mummy smiles (and my Pokemon)

Question: What age do you want to be?

Answer: Seven. Because I am seven. Actually, I want to be twelve so I can look cool because most people start their Pokemon journey at 11 years old?

*Mummy’s face goes screen-saver*

So there you have it, folks. As you can see, there is a Pokemon obsession going on and I intend to repeat the interrogation interview every year to see how his likes and dislikes change. Crafty, huh?

Many thanks to The Boy for being a TOTALLY AWESOME Pokemon Master and most magnificent interviewee.

Spectrum Sunday

Creative Commons Image Via Pixabay

The Boy, The Playground and Me

I’ve never been one for playgrounds..

Too crowded. Too noisy. A sensory nightmare.

The squeak of bare legs being forced down a hot metal slide on a summer’s day still makes me shudder as if there’s a hairy-arsed tarantula about to pounce on my face..

When The Boy was younger he hated playgrounds with passion. The first time we put him on a swing he like TOTALLY screamed the place down. Sure, children having tantrums are common place in parks but I’m talking TOTALLY LOSING HIS SHIT meltdowns where people stare at you because it MUST be down to bad parenting, no?

Er, no.

Playgrounds are a danger area for us because of the stimulus. Even now (aged seven) ten minutes is all he can handle before he starts to go into meltdown. Although the stimulus affects him, he likes the playground now. He is a sociable child but the problem is that he is too sociable and doesn’t understand the rules as is the case with autism. It doesn’t matter how young or old the other children are because they are all equal in his eyes and this causes problems..

For instance, on one occasion The Boy ran up to five teenage boys who were hogging the roundabout. He jumped on there with them as if he’d known them all his life. I hesitated to see how they would react to this little interloper but The Boy’s idea of play involves lots of incoherent shouting so it wasn’t long before the teens started nudging each other and laughing, the twats, though to be fair, they were just acting the way that most teenage boys act, it’s just that I’d have given anything for just one of them to show my son some compassion..

The Boy laughed back but had no idea that they were laughing at him. This took place in a matter of seconds but I’d seen enough but as I made my way to him the teens got up and just left him spinning on his own, not that it bothered him. As usual, he was oblivious as to what had taken place..

The thing is that he stands out.

His autism is IN YOUR FACE, autism.

We let him go into playgrounds whenever possible as long as he’s not showing signs of overwhelm before he goes in. We know that he’ll get over-excited pretty quickly so he’s given a ten minute countdown and those minutes seem like hours, believe me. All this on top of my own sensory issues makes it a stressful experience..

The last time he went into a playground was a few months ago. It was the adventure type playground and he homed in on a big rope type roundabout that could take about ten children at a time. My heart sank because I knew what was coming. I have a fluffy sensory toy which I keep in my pocket to calm myself and I stroked it so fast, I practically rendered it bald!

The Boy scrambled on with no qualms whatsoever. Aside my anxiety, I had to marvel at his inability to be apprehensive in certain situations. So, there was a little girl stood next to him and he shouted away to her. He was totally animated but she just stared at him open-mouthed and then asked to be let off. Once again, my son had been rejected only it was me who felt the pain, not him.

OH and I exchanged ‘the look’.

When we’d entered the playground, it was noisy with children screaming and parents chatting. It literally took five minutes for the atmosphere to change. One by one the kids on the roundabout fell silent as they stared at the little boy who excitedly screamed out incoherent babble to nobody in particular..

Then the parents stared at him and started looking around to see who he belonged to.

Er, that’ll be us, folks.

We knew he wasn’t going to make ten minutes as he was seconds away from meltdown and I wasn’t far behind having one of my own, so we grabbed him and left.

I didn’t look behind me because I didn’t want to see the judgmental looks on the faces of people who haven’t got a clue about our lives or his. I’ve seen those looks too many times and each time it hurts. I physically and emotionally hurt for my son..

So, I slammed the gate shut and pulled him close, mentally effing at the lot of them for not seeing my beautiful boy as I see him.

The blessing is that he is unaware of the way people stare. I was aware from the age of five so I’m glad he’s been spared for as long as he has but the day will come when he does notice and being different and knowing you’re different is hard. You’re forever having to work at appearing ‘normal’ and I pray that my son remains oblivious of people’s intolerance and ignorance for as long as is possible.

Those five minutes in the playground are still bothering me, obviously because I’m writing about it months later. It’s in my head now, logged with all the other ‘incidents’ and it makes me sad that some people show more compassion for their cars than they do human beings, especially vulnerable ones who could really do with their support..

Here’s a thought..

How about people stop staring and start supporting these kids?

Why shouldn’t my son express himself in the way that is natural to him? He’s not hurting anybody. It’s not an aggressive reaction. What people see is happiness minus the filters. To me, it’s beautiful. He is beautiful. It isn’t him that needs to change, it’s society.

“How would your life be different if…You stopped making negative judgmental assumptions about people you encounter? Let today be the day…You look for the good in everyone you meet and respect their journey.”~ Steve Maraboli ~ Life, the Truth and Being Free

Creative Commons Image Via Pixabay

 

Spectrum Sunday