Meetings and Those Moments.

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If we were having coffee today I would be grateful for the chance to sit down and chat with you over a nice hot beverage. It’s been a busy week for me but today I have space to relax for a while and share a story with you.

On Thursday I had a meeting at my son’s school. Let me tell you something, when you’re the parent of an autistic child life becomes one long cycle of meetings, appointments, phone calls and administration. It’s all for a good purpose of course but it does get exhausting at times.

The meeting I took part in this week was a particularly important one to discuss my son’s future. He is in his final year at the school he is currently attending and we need to hatch a ‘What next?’ Plan for him. For me this is a stressful time and there are difficult decisions to be made. There were seven of us in that meeting, all of us have been working with my son in one capacity or another and know him well. Still, at this point we are struggling with ideas for his immediate future.

In the midst of the seriousness of the discussion there was a moment that really made me smile. My son’s teacher was describing where he is at in terms of his development at school and she mentioned how well he contributes to class discussions and how vast his general knowledge is. “In fact” she said “he is always teaching me things that I never knew”. At this everyone else around the table, myself included, nodded their heads in agreement and laughed knowingly. My son is a fountain of knowledge, he teaches everyone he meets things they never knew! 😊

That is one of the amazing things about autism. Autistic people often have what is described as ‘scattered skills’. Neurotypical people tend to be relatively consistent in their abilities across skill sets, but autistic people tend to have large variations in abilities from skill to skill. Thus autistic people can perform significantly below average in some areas, average or thereabouts in others, and significantly above average in yet other areas, all at once.

The shame of this is that people tend to focus heavily on the things that a person with autism struggles with, and when they do this they are overlooking and missing out on the many areas in which that person may have remarkable and exceptional strengths. I hope to encourage people to look more at the strengths.

The #Weekendcoffeeshare  is hosted by Diana on her blog Part Time MonsterFollow the link to read other coffee share posts and find out how to join in yourself. 

Different NOT Worse

I’m a day late with this post for Autism Awareness Day but hey, it’s still Autism Awareness Week and Autism Awareness Month! 🙂

To be honest the reason I didn’t get a post written yesterday is because I didn’t know where to begin, there are so many ways to approach an Autism Awareness post. Yesterday I was online most of the day reading and reading some of the many great posts out there on social media for Autism Awareness Day. One of the recurring themes I read was the debate over whether the day should be about Autism Awareness vs Autism Acceptance. To my mind it’s just semantics. Of course what is needed is both awareness and acceptance but I think that the two go hand in hand. For me it doesn’t matter what the day is specifically called, what matters is that information is getting out there and that understanding of autism is increased. Anyway, here’s my contribution:-

 

Historically people with autism have been treated as if they were in some way deficient or lacking as compared to the general population. Therapies have focused on trying to ‘normalise’ behaviours and traits in an attempt to help autistic people ‘fit in’.

Thankfully times are changing and there is a realisation now that what society ought to be doing is appreciating the differences of an autistic brain and harnessing and utilising it’s strengths.
Autistic brains are different NOT worse. To use a simple analogy; it’s as if most of our brains are running on Windows but the autistic brain is running a different, much less common operating system. Both systems work but they work differently.

One of the key areas of difficulty for autistic people is social interaction and communication. This means that in conversation an autistic person may appear (on the face of it) to be a bit odd or stupid or lacking or weird. (Blunt words but that’s the harsh reality). But it’s a classic case of ‘don’t judge a book by it’s cover’. Behind the sometimes awkward exterior all kinds of amazing things are going on.

Test after test after test has highlighted certain areas in which autistic people are far superior to the rest of us. They have intense focus, an eye for detail, superior memory, superior pattern recognition and ability to process complex patterns. They have a superior ability to carry out repetitive tasks with careful execution. They are perceptual experts and problem solvers. In short, not only are they capable of work but in certain fields e.g. Software testing they actually far out perform NT’s.

What’s more, it’s not just in the tech. realm where the autistic brain excels. Contrary to popular myths, autistic people are also incredibly creative thinkers. To illustrate; if you give people a paperclip and ask them to name all the things that it could be used for, NT’s tend to think of all the obvious and easy answers first and then move on to more innovative users whereas autistic people jump straight in with ingenious responses.

It’s their very ability to think differently and unusually to the norm that will make autistic thinkers invaluable when it comes to solving problems in areas like climate change and alternative energy sources. The world needs people who are able to conceive of radically new solutions. The world needs autistic minds!

As the famous Temple Grandin put it “After all the really social people did not invent the first stone spear. It was probably invented by an Aspie [chipping] away at rocks.”