There’s Nothing Wrong With Autism

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I have autism. My brain is wired differently than the neurotypical brain, but I live in a world created by neurotypicals. I need support to deal with the sensory issues that arise in non-controlled environments. I work from home to circumvent both social and sensory differences.

But I can also solve problems better than the hundreds of people I work with because of my wiring. I’m the one they come to for help. I can see the forest as well as the trees. I can make connections where others cannot. I can understand complex processes in minutes whereas it takes others weeks or months.

Autism versus neurotypical. Blue eyes versus brown eyes. Either give us support to live in the neurotypical world and reap the benefits of our differences, or focus on making us conform and get nothing since all our energy will be focused on being like you instead of being ourselves. Your choice: support differences or conformity. We only have so much energy to spend each day, so you have to pick one.

Before you decide, what makes you happier? Being yourself, or being what others want you to be? I think the world would be a much better place if everyone, autism spectrum and neurotypical, could just be themselves.

There’s nothing wrong with autism, but people’s perception that everyone should be shoehorned into the same societal role has to change before the world can realize that.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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U.K. Releases Card to Protect Autistic People Against Hate Crimes

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The U.K. is making an effort to protect autistic people from hate crimes.

The Bedfordshire Police teamed up with a disability advocacy group called Pohwer to release “hate crime cards” to 1) make it easier for people with autism to report hate crimes and 2) serve to recognize the social and communication difficulties associated with autism and the importance of improving communication between the autism community and police officers, according to a press release.

Autistic people designed the cards, which began rolling out across the U.K. on Friday as part of Bedfordshire’s Hate Crime Week of Action.

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People with disabilities are victimized at much higher rates than the rest of the population, according to Victimsofcrime.org. A hate crime, however, is defined as a crime where the motivation is the offender’s bias against victims of a particular group.

 Between 2004 and 2012, victims in the U.S. identified disability as the perceived offender motivation in hate crimes 11 percent of the time, down from 22 percent in 2011.

In the U.K., a person with autism can now show the “hate crime card” to the demonstrate he or she needs help either reporting a crime or communicating. It’s the size of a credit card and contains contact information for the police department.

“We continue to seek ways to deliver services to our communities with diverse needs. It is important that vulnerable people in our county know about hate crime and that being targeted is wrong,” Bedforshire Chief Inspector Gayner Coulson said in the press release. “Hate crime remains underreported and we are working hard with partners to tackle prejudice and crime against someone with a disability in our county.”

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Mother Outraged After Officer Handcuffs 7-Year-Old Son With Autism

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A mother is outraged after her 7-year-old son was handcuffed and detained at his elementary school.

Sande Bard-Butler says her son, Allen, who has autism and a traumatic brain injury, was handcuffed by a school resource officer at Calusa Elementary School in Boca Raton, Florida, who then tried to to involuntarily commit him at a mental health hospital, 10News WTSP reported.

Allen, who can be aggressive when triggered, according to his mother, had a meltdown where he lashed out at his special needs teacher, raising a pencil as if to stab her. That’s when the resource officer handcuffed him and tried to commit him to North Bay Recovery Center in Lutz, Florida, but a doctor there refused to admit him.

“Allen can get triggered and upset and be very aggressive, but if you handle it in the right way, it can be de-escalated very quickly,” Butler told 10News WTSP. “They put him on his stomach on the floor and put handcuffs behind his back.  I’m frustrated, and angry, very angry.”

Bard-Butler posted photos on Facebook of her son’s wrists after he had the handcuffs taken off.

I am so disgusted with the school system here. Allen says a child stepped on his lunch today so the teacher threw it…

Posted by Sande Bard-Butler on Thursday, January 28, 2016

 

The Pasco Sheriff’s Office told the outlet that under state law, deputies can be handcuff or zip tie anyone, no matter their age. Butler has hired attorney Nicolette Nicoletti to deal with the district and sheriff’s office. She plans to sue.

Nicoletti says that the case is currently being investigated at the school board and sherriff’s office.

“The allegations being set forth are extremely serious and we are doing everything we can to make sure no child suffers the way that Allen has again,” Nicoletti told The Mighty.

Get more on the story from the video below:

The Mighty reached out to both the school district and the sheriff’s office for comment but have yet to hear back. 

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To Myself on the Day of My Son’s Autism Diagnosis: Here’s What You Won’t Hear

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Dear Sazini,

I know you thought today’s visit to the hospital would be quick and easy, simply a matter of picking up the piece of paper that confirms what you already know. You accepted Ethan’s diagnosis of autism several months ago. However, after you receive the official diagnosis, so many questions come flooding at you as you wait for the psychiatrist to finish the call he took on his flip-phone.

Will Ethan ever talk?

Will the meltdowns stop? When?

How will you choose from all the available therapies? There are so many!

Will you be able to handle everything without your family close by?

You have a long road ahead of you, and I want to tell you something you won’t hear for a while and that will take you several years to accept: You have to prioritize taking care of yourself. I hear your arguments: right now you have to focus on Ethan, he needs early intervention. Between work, reading about autism until the wee hours and everyday household duties, your name barely makes the list!

Here’s the thing: When you eat well, get enough sleep and exercise, Ethan will benefit. You will be a better mom when you are not exhausted and your mind isn’t foggy. I’m telling you this to save you from waking up in three years’ time with excruciating pain because your neck and shoulders have locked in place from carrying all that tension. (And by the way, please use that gift certificate to the spa. Your guilt about using it is irrational.)

All the talk on the importance of early intervention makes you feel like you have to grab it all, do it all, for fear that you might leave out the essential therapy that will help Ethan. It’s true that early intervention will be helpful for you and Ethan, but it’s OK to take your time choosing between therapies and therapists. Not all of them are a good match. Trust your instincts; you know more than you give yourself credit for. One day, you will grab Ethan and walk out of an evaluation with a therapist because you’ll know it’s just not going to work out. After that, you will learn to interview potential therapists, and eventually, you are going to build a great team of professionals who work with you and inspire you. You will call them the “A-Team.”

There’s one more thing you need to know: You are now a “waiter on lists.” There will be a list to get a social worker, for the special needs school, for the social skills group, and on and on. You will also wait for almost two years for the early intensive behavior intervention therapy provided by the government. You will feel angry, frustrated, abandoned, sad and disempowered on that waiting list. But those months of feeling forgotten on a waiting list will inspire you to help other parents.

I know that right now you feel like you are in free-fall. As unfathomable as it seems, you are going to land on your feet. You will be happy and feel in control. You will meet many people who will need no explanations — they will just “get” you. They will become part of your community. They will be on their own journeys, but you will find strength in each other, laugh and cry together.

Ethan will make tremendous progress and start to feel more comfortable in his own skin.

He will learn to talk.

He will sleep through the night.

He will overcome many sensory challenges

And yes, there will be days, then weeks and even months without a single meltdown.

Remember to hold on to the good times with Ethan, because there will be many. Your life will be filled with joy, love and a dash of adventure.

Knowledge and acceptance of people with autism continues to grow, and we really have no idea what the future holds. Help Ethan discover his calling so he can live a happy, fulfilled life.

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Sazini and her son.

The Mighty is asking the following: Write a letter to yourself on the day of the diagnosis. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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Rosie O'Donnell Facing Backlash After Making Autism Joke

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Comedian Rosie O’Donnell is facing backlash form a recent joke she made involving autism.

On Sunday, February 7, at Caroline’s Comedy Club in New York City, O’Donnell joked she’d rather have “autistic triplets” than each of her teenage children, the New York Daily News reported.

“I had four teenagers when I decided to adopt a newborn baby. You might ask why,” O’Donnell said. “I needed to remind myself that I actually do love children, because I would trade each teen for autistic triplets. I’m just saying I would.”

O’Donnell, who has fought publicly with her estranged 18-year-old daughter Chelsea O’Donnell, pointed out that she has children on the spectrum herself and then went on to speak about the difficulties of raising teenagers.

Social media users responded to the news of O’Donnell’s joke on Twitter, some defending the comedian, who has raised money for autism charities before, and others criticizing the comedian. O’Donnell responded to one Twitter user who took offense to a child with autism being used for “the punchline of a joke.” O’Donnell responded, saying, “I am the punch line — not your kids.” She later added, “Our kids — mine too. The spectrum is vast.”

A representative from the National Autism Association spoke harshly of O’Donnell to TMZ, saying the comedian has crossed a line for the sake of a “desperate, low-blow joke.

In response to the criticism she’s received online and from autism advocates, O’Donnell accepted fault for the joke and said it was never her intention to offend.

“Although it was not my intent to hurt people, I realize I did. It was my fault.” O’Donnell told TMZ. “I have two children with spectrum disorders. I’m aware of the challenges and stigma associated with autism.”

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When a Meeting at School for My Son With Autism Made Me Cry

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I didn’t plan on crying today. In fact, I rarely cry at all. My husband and I talked about this very thing yesterday. I internalize most of my feelings and try to stay cool, calm and collected in almost any situation. Today, I could not hold it in.

Just yesterday we had our very first appointment with a developmental pediatrician. My husband and I left the visit feeling pretty good about the therapy and help we have in place for our son Drake. We discussed his increasing anxiety and went over several other concerns. She saw no need to change anything.

But on the way to therapy this morning I started second guessing myself again. I started thinking about the future and about kindergarten. What we have in place now is working for Drake; the thought of altering that in any way scares me.

But I didn’t cry because I am worried about Drake. I didn’t get in my car and totally lose it because of the long road ahead. Today, I cried tears of complete joy. I don’t think I have ever cried so hard and so long over something that made me so happy.

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Jill’s son, Drake.

Earlier today I met with Drake’s preschool teachers. I went into the meeting knowing what to expect. I knew Drake was doing well, and I felt confident his days were mostly good. I walked through the doors of that school with my wall totally up. I was prepared to hear Drake’s strengths and weaknesses. What I didn’t expect was two teachers looking at me with tears in their eyes, telling me how amazing my little boy is. I can hardly type, even now, without my eyes filling with tears.

I am a happy, blessed, emotional mess today. I felt so blessed to be Drake’s mama. I honestly do not know what I did to deserve him. The challenges that can come with autism are sometimes hard and make me worry about the future. But despite any worries and fears, I feel so extremely blessed.

These wonderful teachers, who just met Drake in September, told me over and over how wonderful my child is. It was honest, raw and heartfelt. One teacher told me several times how much she loves Drake. He has exceeded all expectations. The more they spoke, the more I felt that familiar tightening of my throat. It was all good, so good to hear. The wonderful things they said about my child are still playing through my mind: “He stays on task and works hard, and his play skills have increased.” “He is sweet, animated, loving and a joy to be around.” These are just a few things she said about my sweet boy.

Drake’s report from his teacher.

She emphasized how the other kids approach Drake and talk to him, and in turn he listens. She told me that Drake being in this class with 11 other children is helping them. Drake is teaching them to be understanding. These children treat Drake as one of their peers and friends. It is all so beautiful.

What makes me cry is the joy I saw on the teacher’s face as she talked about how well he is doing. That’s the good stuff. The kind of stuff that gives you chills. The very stuff that has left me feeling at peace, happy and so exceptionally blessed that God made me Drake’s mama, as I believe He did.

I truly believe he is doing so well and exceeding all expectations because he feels empowered by the phenomenal support system he has at therapy, school and home. So many people love my child, and I’m so thankful they do.

The Mighty is asking the following: Share with us an unexpected moment with a teacher, parent or student during your (or your loved one’s) school year. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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