ASDay Articles 2013

These three articles were posted for Autistics Speaking Day 2013, and cover some interesting topics!

Sparrow Rose Jones (Unstrange Mind blog) writes about Autistic History Month. Celebrating Autistic history and culture, she writes about mainstream and community heroes, symbols, books, and historical tragedies and victories. A very interesting read!

Speaking from the shadows, by Nightengale of Samarkand on LiveJournal. The author discusses three reasons why she has chosen not to be openly autistic at work (she is a doctor)- disbelief, discrediting and tokenisation.  She feels that she can currently advocate more effectively without having to wade through these issues first- and hopes to make her community and field a place where one day she can be openly autistic.

But what about those fluorescent lights? (Turtle is a verb blog). While social and communication issues are visible when interacting with others, stimming can be obvious, and issues with change can quickly become so- sensory issues are often invisible. The author outlines the effects of a fluorescent light, suggests some alternatives/accommodations- and appreciates the opportunity to discuss autism and sensory issues with people who enquire about the blue tinted glasses.

Recognising Invisible Disabilities

There are so many things I like about this post! It starts with a Youtube clip called “I’m Brianna Couture”, three girls all posing as 15-year old Brianna Couture, who all describe Brianna’s invisible disability- but it’s not till the end of the clip that the girls divulge which of them is the “real” Brianna Couture.

Too often, when discussing inclusion in faith communities, I have heard: “We don’t have any members (of our congregation) with disabilities, so we don’t really need to think about inclusion.” Really? There are NO members with disabilities? Watch the video again.

We don’t “do inclusion” for our members. Rather, creating an inclusive community is about being ready. When we wait until someone comes through our doors, often it is too late and the accommodations become reactive. True inclusion is proactive.

Teaching kids kindness

It’s a sad fact that many kids are bullied, and especially those who are different.

I really liked these classroom strategies to teach children kindness, and I’m sure they could be used in many other places as well.

The first one is called Erasing Meanness, and videos over a couple of days about bullying, the teacher filled the whiteboard with synonyms of meanness.  She then erased a few words to ask “How do you want to be remembered?”, and invited the children to replace some of the mean words with kind words of their choosing.

The second is to create an ongoing paper chain of kindness– write down the kind things that they had done or experienced that day, and add them to the chain.

Autism survey results

Chris Bonnello, author of the Autistic Not Weird blog, wrote and advertised a survey a few weeks ago.  He received 477 responses, some of which surprised him, others were very predictable. Questions were across a range of topics, including public understanding of autism, willingness of Autistic people and/or family members to discuss autism with others, school accommodations, religion, language preferences (person with autism vs Autistic, and the use of mild/moderate/severe/high-functioning as descriptors), maths abilities, cure, vaccination, and whether autism has taken away or added to the respondent’s life.

Autism in church

Here are some great resources promoting disability inclusion in the church.  While written by and for different denominations, the information and suggestions would work across most church communities.

The Diocese of Oxford has put together a very thorough 23-page booklet called Welcoming Autistic people in our churches and communities.  It’s a very practical set of guidelines, explaining some of the features of Autism, and some quick low-cost changes that can make a huge difference for Autistic people (eg change fluorescent lighting, check noise levels, give clear instructions, explain any complicated language either at the time or later, warn of physical events, have a quiet/rest area available etc).  I especially liked the “hard” and “easy” descriptions of an Autistic person visiting church.

Based on the above booklet, is this checklist for How Autism Friendly is your church?  Readers are encouraged to consider the place and environment, events and what is going on, and people and social activities.

This clip, by Rev Malcolm Duncan, senior pastor at Goldhill Baptist Church, is fantastic- says it all.  I highly recommend listening to it.  He talks about how disabled people are treated in the church, and the church’s mission to, with and alongside people with disabilities. People with disabilities are not first and foremost people who have something wrong with them, they are sons and daughters of the living God. Inclusion isn’t about ramps and loos, as important as they are, it’s about heart and attitude, it’s about a change of mindset that sees people, not as objects of charity, but as equals.

Making churches accessible– this short article has some simple suggestions for how to make church services accessible for people with learning disabilities.

“Evidence suggests that churches that have actively made their worship services accessible to people with learning disabilities the services become accessible to many others; people with poor literacy, for those whom English is not the first language, people from un-churched backgrounds who have no experience of Christian language, and increasingly for people with dementia.”

Managing dysregulation

We have autism all wrong: The radical new approach we need to understand and treat it, an excerpt from “Uniquely Human: a different way of seeing autism” by Barry Prizant.

Instead of just managing behaviours, he suggests listening carefully, observing closely, and seeking to understand the child’s perspective and experience.

Usually the answer is that the person is experiencing some degree of emotional dysregulation. Our neurological systems help by filtering out excessive stimulation, telling us when we’re hungry or tired or when to protect ourselves from danger. People with autism, primarily due to underlying neurology (the way the brain’s wiring works), are unusually vulnerable to everyday emotional and physiological challenges. So they experience more feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and confusion than others. They also have more difficulty learning how to cope with these feelings and challenges.

To be clear: Difficulty staying well regulated emotionally and physiologically should be a core, defining feature of autism. Unfortunately professionals have long overlooked this, focusing on the resulting behaviors instead of the underlying causes.

Here is the important irony: Most of the behaviors commonly labeled “autistic behaviors” aren’t actually deficits at all. They’re strategies the person uses to feel better regulated emotionally.