Friday, 20 April 2012

Autism Awareness

A Fact About Autism:
More and more doctors and researchers are referring to autism as 'autisms', because each child’s case is different, as are each child’s causes and treatments.


Autism is a spectrum condition that covers a range of learning difficulties. Though it has not touched my family personally, with a job in education, I have come across the condition on numerous occasions. The moments I remember have ranged from amusing to disturbing, inspiring to upsetting. I could never imagine the amount of love, support and patience that is needed when the condition affects someone within a family unit. It's nice to be able to say that in such cases people do amaze me and I mean that in a positive way.

Obviously not all situations are the same, nor is their severity. Even from day to day things can change. I grew up next door to a boy with severe autism. It was kind of strange, and certainly as a child you don't necessarily understand why someone's acting so different to you and your friends. There'd be good days where he'd hold his mum's hand and walk past the front of the house or where he'd stand at the top of his slide, look over the fence and watch me and my siblings playing in the back garden. Most times he'd simply stand quietly and stare, sometimes he'd want to engage with us a little, saying hello over and over and laughing when we said hello back, and then on summer days when his parents had left the hosepipe out, he'd enjoy spraying us with water. Luckily as kids we found it fun, my mum and her clean laundry, not so much.

There'd also be odd days. He went to a mainstream primary school and was in the same year group as my sister. There was a link with her being his neighbour and he latched onto her at school and especially at playtime. He'd share with her some swear words or rude things he'd learned or seen from somewhere, and he had no sense of boundaries and the way to act with someone who is a girly-girl compared to his older brother at home.
And then of course there were the bad days. The walls were pretty thin between our houses, and his bedroom was against the shared wall. Some days something would just click and I would sit doing homework and listen to the scary sounds from next door—slamming doors, banging, shouting, screaming, crying, the 'I-hate-you's—full blown tantrums. 

I haven't lived at home in a long time, but from seeing him around it seems with age, he's 25 now, he's mellowed a bit. He made it through school (a special school for his secondary education), he still lives with his parents and I think this will probably always be the case. He's able to go out by himself for a walk and to the village shop. He's come a long way from the child I knew, though I know he still needs a lot of support. He's a big lad now and to imagine that strength behind the tantrums he had as a child would scare me, so I am in awe at how his family has coped over the years.

This is just one case. I know things can be worse and I also know they can be better. Working in a school I've come across a range of children with learning difficulties, those able to cope in a mainstream environment, or at least for the most part—there's still a few that struggle in the big feeling of high school. They differ in age and maturity, in intelligence and abilities—some are whizzes at maths, others so very talented at art or music or drama. The words they use, their home backgrounds, the support they get away from school and also in school. Some accept the help, some push you away, some are aware of what they need and what works for them to be able to learn and some have slipped beneath the radar for years and only just start to get the help they need. They're bold and noisy and they're quite and reserved. They're the sporty kid, the artistic kid, the geek and everything in between. I've laughed and joked with them, worked with individuals and groups, worked with them patiently but also got frustrated. I've cried, I've been angry, upset and just once I got scared. They are all so very different and every success, no matter how small, should be celebrated.


And here's your chance to win a copy of my and RJ Scott's recent release The Art of Words.


Tom offers Blu his dream of a gallery show.

Though an attraction exists, their worlds collide because Blu speaks through paint and brushes and Tom's life is filled with words and paperwork.

Though opposites attract, these differences might push them apart.


"Please take a few moments to look at the menu and I'll return." The waiter smiled. "Also, Mister Harrington said to tell you if he didn't make it here in time, you pick anything you want and he will have the same," he added before leaving.

"Anything," Blu said to no one in particular as he picked up the menu and opened it. He flicked through the pages, stopping at the section containing the chicken dishes. He narrowed his eyes as he looked at the black font printed on the white page. The curly and excessively fancy text seemed to vibrate as he stared at the list of meals. It was times like these he really appreciated having Jackson in his life. There was no way he would have been able to read this menu. At sixteen he'd been diagnosed with severe dyslexia. Unfortunately by then, it was too late. Maybe if it had been noticed earlier or if he'd stayed in the Belmont High School longer than three months, it would have been different.

Growing up, he'd attended more schools than he cared to remember. Wherever there was a cause, that's where his parents were, travelling from town to town and state to state for his entire childhood and into his young adult life. Reading and writing had always been a problem, but because they'd never stayed longer than a few months in one place, it was simply dismissed as something else. He was seen as unintelligent, lazy, and poorly behaved. He did everything he could to avoid having to read or write. Misbehaving seemed the quickest way out of any situation he couldn't talk his way through. As an adult, it was exactly the same. Avoidance was the key. Jackson had tried to encourage him to take a class, but how could he? He was twenty-four years old, a grown man that could barely read or write a simple sentence. It was too embarrassing.

Silver link: Here

Just leave a comment for a chance to win. A winner will be selected at the end of the month. Good luck.

Other information

Don't forget the Spectrum Competition being run by Silver Publishing in support of Autism Awareness hosted on Silver Publishing's Forum. If you haven't already, register to be a part of the Forum and have a chance at the amazing Prize.


  1. I'm not entering the contest, as I've already read and enjoyed the book. :)

    I can barely imagine how different it must be to be an educator or a student now, compared to when I was in primary school in the 70s - there wasn't any concept of autism as a spectrum, and only the most visible and severe learning disabilities were recognized. It's good those times are behind us.

    1. I think we had an autistic girl in our class when i was five... I remember her so distinctly and she was so much like my Matt... x