Tag Archives: autism

Relaxed friday at the ‘Leccy.

Blimey was that only two days ago? Had loads of stuff happen since then.

Twice a year the Electric Theatre holds a very lovely Family Festival – a chance for younger kids to get involved in holiday activities they might normally not be a part of, like art classes, discos, theatrical workshops and so on.

During the latter half of last year, can’t remember when, I was asked if I could help them collaborate on a relaxed Friday within the week where special needs children of all types would feel welcome and catered for. Not that they’ve ever been unwelcome at anything the ‘Leccy has put on and I’ve always had a good ratio of ASC* kids in my art classes… but to put on an event where they would be the principle audience? Exciting and terrifying all in one go, for the people who’d not done them before (and for me too, way back when before my journey with Autism began).

In the end I was needed far less than was expected (turning up for a few meetings, suggesting changes in signage etc) and was on hand during the day to talk to parents and children but did so less often than the Electric Theatre staff who seem amazingly qualified in stepping in and talking to people at the drop of a hat. All of the training and talks and ‘what ifs’ disappeared in a melee of 100 kids and parents, all happily chatting and helping each other and providing very positive feedback at the end. I’m fairly sure this is just the beginning of this provision from the venue.

Personal highlight? More than a few. One young boy wanted to be on the stage, so the actors let him and he became an unassuming star of the show, a few kids with severe motor impairments came along and ended up smiling and laughing in a circular dance with others around the actors. It was a hugely, wonderfully, completely joyous time and, speaking as a parent of an Autistic child, I could completely relate to the nervous looks on the faces of the parents as they walked in and relieved and happy faces at the end, they and their children having been a part of something that seemed always aimed only at neurotypical children and families.

(the quiet corner, which was so lovely as a space I could happily have curled up in there to chill out myself…)

*Autistic Spectrum Condition seems to be taking over from Autistic Spectrum Disorder which I’m glad about. The latter description has always felt very negative to me.

OLL

Not that I’d have been able to but one of my favourite performing podcasts, One Life Left, did a live show in Nottingham as part of the Games City event. Would have loved to be there but sadly not to be. Holidays are the bane of autism for a start and have been sick as a sickpig for the past couple of weeks (as I’ve not doubt gone on about too much, just feel tired and yukky and energy less).

Had to settle for doodling this:

oll001c-small

and now signing off for the night.

Happy Dad’s Day, dear ol’ Dad.

So, Dad’s day. Mixed feelings at mo’ as I’m trying to talk son boy out of screaming anger over Mario not doing the things he wants him to do and daughter has retired with a headache. Still, the morning was lovely (church service on the green) and the day before equally nice (fun day on green and then talking at a youth service which was excellent fun).

So, been one of those weekends really 🙂 Lots of fun with all of the issues autism raises up added into the calmness to stop it becoming boring or something.

Dad’s day card from my side was this

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iezr6EFoPZk[/youtube]

and this 🙂

beer-picture

I’d fancied playing with brushes for a while, mainly since all the hoo hah with the New Yorker cover brought it’s cleverness to everyone’s attention. This sprung to mind for a card and muchos fun it was to do, too.

Brekkie in bed: this is not the surprise you were looking for…

OK so regular readers (hey mum and Ian and others 🙂 ) will know that son boy is autistic. Depending on the day it’s either severe (non-understanding and head hitting) or… well, I was about to say mild, but that’s not necessarily the word… Cope-able. Some days we feel like we’ve survived, others we feel like we’ve been hit by a hurricane.

Sometimes it’s a complete downer and yesterday I had one of those moments. Standing at a bus stop watching others watch him as he sat and played with his new toys that he’d saved for in the way that he plays…  I must admit I as standing there feel quite demoralised and wondering if I’d be standing in the same place in ten years using the same coping strategies watching people watch and judge us. 

Fast forward to today and maybe the answer is there and it’s not the one I expected. Being autistic means (and this is a generalisation – it’s a lot of things) that there’s a lot of routine and a lot of cause and effect. Sometimes it helps: son boy ran through stinging nettles once and I kissed it better and said it was and then stopped crying and went back to normal, looking down at the stings with a questioning look every so often. (I didn’t say all better with that in mind natch, was just surprised at the result).

It also means that, for the past five years, he’s woken up at 4 or so, come into our room at 6 and that’s when the day starts, noisily and without slowing down. He’ll jump on one of our heads until we get up and get him breakfast which, with the occasional deviation, is always the same thing and works around his trigger colours (in face we realised recently that everything he eats, especially his favourites, are based around his trigger colours: duh, THAT only took us three or so years to work out). 

And then, today, he surprised us. I mean full on, out and out mouth open surprise. Still came in early but, this time, closer to 7. We woke up groggily – a little lay in will do that to you – and he said the normal questions: do you like this, do you like that… After a half hour or so we said: daddies turn to make breakfast (I didn’t even wake up at all yesterday after the filming of the school show) and he replied, in a very off the cuff remark, that he’d already had it.

Cue  brakes slam on, tires screeching, mouths open. Whu de Whu?

He made his breakfast, still, from the state of the kitchen table, very much to the rules he lives by and I’d be surprised if the order deviated at all… But he made his breakfast, on his own, because he wanted to…

Maybe I won’t be standing at that bus stop in ten years time… Who knows. But breakfast in bed was a lovely surprise.

Summing up…

Photobucket

Without wanting to sound maudlin this sort of sums up living/coping with autism. Spent a lovely time with son boy drawing pictures of Rayman (Rayman 3 being a current favourite of his and mine when it first came out) but taking the pictures was a step too far and he ended up banging his head on the table (because that’s what Frida does, he told me).

That said seeing him draw was delightful and the pictures make me smile, but it’s s strange thing of balance, is trying to work out what to do and say to encourage onwards and not push too far… But maybe it did feel like pigeon steps forward.

Anyhow: Rayman 3… Crossing generations, abilities, all that 🙂 Was a well designed, beautifully presented game. One day a Rayman 4 Ubisoft? Hmmm? How about it? And no, Rabbids don’t count, although they are ace too.

Bit of a creative evening all round in fact: son drew, daughter wrote a story (and played the grow games online – and if you haven’t played Grow cube, RPG et al then you should, they’re loads of fun), wifey created a groovy level on Little Big Planet and I did this and other stuff (primarily updating the www.kercal.co.uk website a little with some more to come once I get the chance to re-encode the video files)… Yay for playing about and having free evenings and all that.

Currently listening to: Monkey soundtrack. Currently playing: Grow Cube. Currently watching: 24, Lost, Gallactica.

Wall-E is autistic.

OK the title gave away the subject: no point doing the slow dance into the bombshell, there it is.

Starting with a couple of caveats:

1: I don’t mean the comment as either insulting or derogatory. I also don’t really mean it as a flamegate: the opening to a series of arguments over a subject whether I believe in the truth of it or not. In the simplest reading of the words that’s what I mean…

2: I am a total fanboy when it comes to Pixar films. I’ve got the majority of the DVD’s, a couple of the toys and bubble baths and so on and so forth. Again, this is not aimed as being a hidden argument or criticism. The story of Wall-E is touching and beautifully rendered (in both senses of the word) so, again, no criticism implied.

3: My son is on the autistic spectrum, high in some areas, low in others. He requires and receives special education and… well… You can possibly guess the rest.

Wall-E was a phenomenal film. I loved it from start to finish, as I knew I would, and, as soon as the film was finished, both of my children asked for the DVD, innocently unaware that I would have bought it anyway. During a family holiday we had all taken an afternoon out to see Wall-E on the ‘big TV’ as it’s called in our world and we all came out with big smiles and, for both my wife and I, a certain thoughtfulness. My main question was whether the majority of the audience knew that an unlikely hero had made it onto the screen in more ways than one and just how remarkable the hero was.

A short while later we returned home from holiday – these things a fraught experience at times because a change of routine – while welcome for some people – is a huge burden on autists. We struggle on because it’s good to try and break some routines and my daughter needs things to feel normal, sometimes, even though our lives are often far removed from that particular mirage. Hence a holiday, despite the fact that we know three of the ten or so days will be a minefield and that it gives complete strangers the chance to look at us and judge us as bad parents.

One of the first things I did when the list of needs had been addressed was to do a search for reviews of the film. I assumed that someone would be asking the same questions that I was: how had such a unique characteristic been captured so beautifully? Had anyone realised the honesty of autism that the film portrayed in such a positive way? The lack of any answers, or more to the point any similar questions, surprised me. 

Caveat 4: in my experience I find that it’s fairly normal for parents of autistic children to project the normalities and consequences of autism onto any or all seemingly normal facets of life. Autism was, at one point, referred to as ‘extreme maleness’ and there’s a truth to that still. Many people who I know and love can be mildly autistic in some of their habits and oddities, I am too, in ways. None of us like a routine broken, many of us misunderstand certain social understandings when they are first introduced to us, it’s easy to be so sure we’ve explained something adequately only to be faced with the reality of our self centered instructions, many people watch and re-watch a dvd or video to take comfort from the secure repetition and so on… The problem is that the word is such a weighted one it’s hard to use in a normal context: much like cancer the word autism has become a fashion label for fear delivering a parcel of well known misunderstandings far greater than any real information, unless you live in or around that world… It amazes me to find how many people have relatives, friends, relations who are on the spectrum yet misunderstand some of the more usual facets of it.

Which brings us to the evidence for the assertion: why do I believe Wall-E is autistic? 

In brief: Wall-E – and I mean the central character rather than the film in total – is echolalic: he speaks in echoed patterns rather than understood meaning. He is socially unaware – maintaining the routines and regimes of the world he has locked himself into rather than adapting to the social norms of others. He is kind an naive, innocent and childlike, despite being a much older model than his behaviour might point to.

There’s more: he plays and replays a favourite video, understanding the world through the context of an invented and unlived fantasy rather than the world which is in front of him… He collects strange objects which have no meaning other than to himself and he loves, cares for a categorises these objects with a fondness that goes over and above a simple collection. His best friend, until the arrival of EVE, is a non-verbal insect which Wall-E finds comfort in being around despite the lack of interaction on a verbal level… In fact it is the lack of trying to understand verbal commands that would make Wall-E so comfortable with the insect in the first place. If he were an autistic child.

He meets and befriends people, whether they want to be accepted or not, not aware of when they want to maintain a distance from his actions and simply conform to type. He accepts and responds to the help of a similarly unique bunch of characters – all shunned for not being able to stick to the accepted rules of the society they live in… There’s more, lots more, although as the DVD is out in a few short days I dare say there’ll be time to add to this and edit it. There’s also, I’m told, a short film which continues the story which I’m interested in catching.

I’m not, in any way, trying to diminish the achievement of Pixar in creating such a unique character as Wall-E. In fact the opposite is more the case. I found it an affirming message when confronted by so much that focuses on the negatives of autism. I found it reminded me of the things I love about my son, especially when that is a hard thing to keep sight of, and I found it something that I’m sure he and I will watch over and over and we will both enjoy for our own reasons. To have such a sympathetic character so beautifully portrayed is an incredible achievement – something which I feel Pixar should have been more praised for yet we seem to simply expect it of them.

The film is out on monday in the UK on DVD. I’ll be using it to teach others about the intricacies of the autistic mind when and if I need to do so as it puts so much across in the most subtle and heartfelt of ways. Mostly I’ll be watching it with my son, probably quite a few times, and enjoying the closeness that it brings us because, for the first time that we sit together and watch something it truly will be closer to our world than anything we’ve watched to date…

… and the irony is that it was a sci-fi film rendered on super-computers that managed to send the message home.