Autism Blog

Autism Resources Blog

Happy Holidays!  

Ahhhhh, its the Holiday time of year.   As you probably know, the word
And a time of year when many extended families make the extra effort to spend time together, especially if they have not had the opportunity to spend time together much during the year.  A time of year of great excitement and expectations.
"Holiday" is formed from the words Holy Day.  And December is a time of year when most religions have a significant holy festival – Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwaili, Hijra, Ashura, Rohatsu, Yule, and more.
But, that also means it can be a time of year of great stress if you have autism, or have a loved one or family member with autism.

Pause a moment to reflect on how many areas of a person with autism's life may be affected by the holiday season.....

  • Upset and different routines.
  • Different foods and sometimes drinks.
  • Different tastes and smells.
  • Noise.
  • Decorations – i.e. changes – to the home.
  • Visits from excited people and or family members who you may not know very well – invasion of your personal space.
  • Lots of people rushing about.
  • Possibility of gifts and all of the excitement and or anxieties that this can entail.
  • Different clothing to wear.
  • Possibility of extra people staying in the home, or of staying at another family member's home or in an unfamiliar place.
  • Expectations of certain behaviours.
  • Tired  parents and or caregivers.
  • School performances.
  • Other events.
  • Alcohol.... and so on.
All of this jollity can lead up to and or cause extreme anxiety, and anxiety and stress can  lead to meltdowns and or other upsetting behaviours, in addition to dipping the immune system.

The key is to listen to your loved ones, picking up on their sensory needs and disruptions, and to keep yourselves as well rested and nourished with health giving food and fluids as possible, whilst considering what pace is the best for all members of the family to participate at optimum. This will obviously be unique to your family's individual culture, religion and needs.

For example, based in the Christian culture,  I used to give my autistic children 1 gift each day – that was more than enough, and they played happily with their gift – and depending on the generosity of family and friends, Christmas could go on well into January! We initially alternated between each family at Christmas – one family in England and one in the USA, until we had no money to visit anyone due to redundancy / lay off. That year we had a wonderful Christmas in our own home, without any stress or masses of visitors....

We still managed to visit our families – who are a very important part of our lives - but we did it at less frantic (and cheaper) times of year.

When my daughter became distraught at the time of taking down the Christmas decorations – my family tradition for this is on 12th night – I did some research and incorporated 3 Kings day into our family festival.  The 3 King figures from the nativity were placed in the centre of the table in a place of honour and we cooked a traditional French 3 Kings zesty lemon cake, baked in a bundt tin and sprinkled with 'snow' of icing sugar. My daughter was happy then for all of the decorations to go away and the 3 Kings stayed in pride of place for a few weeks.

Similarly I gradually eased into the festival with a special advent calendar – the same one each year – and by incorporating the German St Niklaus leaving a sweet in our shoes on Dec 5th, and added lots of talking about the festival and what it is about and how we celebrate it.
However you celebrate December holidays I most sincerely wish you and your loved ones a very happy and healthy holiday season.

Gut Reaction!

I was hugely pleased to read the Autism Speaks funded research on the 'Gut Bacteria - Brain' connection  - you can read the artical on ALR's  facebook page.
What I am really excited about is that researchers are recognising that there is a gut – brain connection, and researching into this concept.
Research is demonstrating that in autism there can be a fragility in the gut, caused by bacteria imbalance, and also a fragility in how the brain processes the information fed to it by not only the gut, but by all of the senses.
In my book  'Autism: Making Sense of the Senses'  I briefly talk about the gut brain – a subject that has had much written about it.
Have you ever experienced 'butterflies' in your stomack?
Or had a 'gut – feeling' about something?
Or had the feeling of being 'gutted'?
Or felt that your stomach was 'in your throat'?
Or just 'know' something in your gut? - 'I just knew in my gut that …..'
That is an awful lot of experiences that we refer to in every day language about feelings that we experience in our gut.
Most people in the western word would insist that all of their feelings and sensations are governed by their brain. Yet the ancient culture of the Japan believes that the centre of our being is in our gut.
Food for not only nourishment but also for thought?

Picture Perfect

I learned something very interesting today that I want to share with you. I wasn't previously aware of this exciting sounding service – although you may already be aware of it I think it's worth a mention!

Whilst I haven't as yet had the opportunity to experience this service myself I write about it because it is a demonstration of raising awareness in a positive way of some of the sensory issues that affect people with Autism and an effort to make one aspect of life more accessible.
Normally when my children were younger, my family would watch films at home via DVD or video. This was a bit frustrating when we had to wait, often for months, for the film we wanted to see to be released in a format available to rent or buy. But watching at home afforded the safety factors of being in a protective environment and also being able to control the sensory environment;

  • We could control the time the film aired – when it suited us. 
  • We could even pause or interrupt the film if anyone was experiencing a sensory or emotional  overload – or even if having an urgent call of nature. 
  • We could control the amount of lighting in the room, and also the sound level.
  • We could get up and move around if we needed to.
  • Whilst watching we could, of course, have what snacks and drinks we wanted – free from Gluten and Aspartame, artificial colours and E numbers. 

However watching a film at home isn't the same exciting experience of going to a cinema to see the latest film that you have really been waiting for so very long to be released...
Therefore I was really interested to be brought today a leaflet from Vue Cinemas, who offer Autism friendly screenings on the last Sunday of the month.
The leaflet from Vue says the special features they are offering include: no adverts or trailers before the film; higher than usual lighting levels; lower than usual sound levels; allowance for increased levels of movement and noise.
Am going to have to check this out!

Documentary that brought back painful memories

I recently watched a documentary program on BBC4 about Autism and Challenging Behaviour. I can tell you it brought back many painful, heartbreaking and emotional memories of Challenging Behaviour...

The program was mostly about ABA (Applied Behavioural Analysis), which  I found very difficult to watch, and it didn't really look at any other alternative approaches other than some brief looks at the work being done at St Christopher's School, and some exerts interviewing Damian Milton.
Damian Milton, is an academic and sociologist who has autism. I have had the pleasure of hearing Damian speak, twice, at The Autism Shows in 2012 and 2013 at the ExCel in London, and talked with him afterwards. Damian has helped me to formulate and develop my views about not labelling people with autism as high functioning or low functioning, and calling everyone on the spectrum autistic or as having autism.
As we know, autism is a developmental delay, so how can labelling be helpful, when different parts of development are delayed?
Whilst personally ABA is not a therapy I would choose, it may well be helpful for some individuals. What this underlines is the individuality of each individual.
And within the individuality of each individual, Autism affects each individual in a different way.

The list of places where people with autism often excel is long and diverse.
Some individuals with autism can excel in the lack of structure of the arts, some are totally brilliant in the very structured armed forces. Within the armed forces some individuals with autism can be the very best of the best extraordinary soldiers, whilst others with autism can be the most inspiring and brilliant of leaders, strategists and commanding officers.

I use this analogy only to demonstrate the infinite individuality of individuals.
I would like to see further documentaries addressing Challenging Behaviour in autism that look at different therapies, and offer parents different ideas and approaches so that they can make a more balanced and informed decision on what therapies might work best for their individual child.

Autism's independent living skills challenge

Recently I've been thinking more about supporting people with autism with independent living skills. My son has just gone to University and is teaching me much in this area!
I have been thinking about my dream of having a self catering, sensory  aware and supportive holiday facility for families with a loved one who has autism.
Within my plan for this facility is to have information about a variety of different therapies and approaches that people have found helpful; and also to have Gluten Free food available to purchase – along with having de-mystifying GF cooking classes available and a variety of sensory aware activities.

This facility could, when not being used during the school holidays, or by home-schoolers and or adults wanting a retreat during term time, make a marvelous training centre for individuals with autism wanting to learn and practice independent living skills in a supportive environment.
Specialisterne students

My mission is to help people with and families affected by autism to be all that they can be and to live as independently as they wish to and are able.

Recently I was introduced to the global social enterprise originating in Denmark: Specialisterne.  See information on my FaceBook page about this very inspiring company. Specialiststerne place individuals with autism into the IT workplace, testing software. Many of these highly skilled individuals have not been able to find work because of their autism, and have been abandoned, ignored and labelled 'unemployable'.

The courage of these individuals with autism seeking to find employment against all the odds is wonderful. The world is often not kind to people who are a little bit different.

This extra challenge is not just about finding employment but is also about the challenges of living independently and covers a vast topic. I'll certainly be writing more about this area in due course.

I am really excited by and fully support what Specialisterne is working towards as it fits well into my personal mission statement, and so very glad to have learned about the fantastic work they are doing.

Specialiststerne has just started in England, under the leadership of Tom Brundage.  For more information please see:

Exciting networking

This has been an exceptionally exciting time for me of learning about what some  other companies are doing to help people with autism. I was also recently introduced to Hao2 .  Hao2 is, potentially, a dream come true for person who has autism and who also likes gaming!

Nikki Herbertson has developed a virtual world platform to deliver information, teach and develop skills, via using a personal avatar. Its a totally brilliant concept and not only that, she  employs people with autism to develop the software!

Individuals with autism who have access to the  programs that Hao2 sells can develop their avatar and then attend meetings and seminars as their avatar, from the safety and sanctuary and sensory support of their own home.

I know Nikki has been developing and offering her programmes for a while now, but I have only just learned about this fantastic work she is doing – the scope for her work and its application is both awesome and endless.

As you can tell I am very enthusiastic about what Hao2 has to offer the world – not just the autistic community but for every teaching situation....
I expect to be writing more on this subject in due course too.

Holidaying with Autism!

Summer time is generally holiday, or vacation time. Families with Autism need holidays too, but face extra challenges in making this dream come true.

The difficulty of changes of routines, changes of environment, changes in food, changes in bed, bedding, cup, cutlery, the complexities of travelling to a holiday environment or facility and so on can be so overwhelming - before cost is even considered – that actually accessing a holiday is an amazing achievement!
Some families like a camping holiday – with an autistic child the movement of the tent's sides can be overwhelming. Their senses can also find the thinness of the fabric between them and the outside world just too much, despite tents coming in all sorts of shapes and varieties so that you could have a canvas 2  bedroom tent, an mega marquee or a little 1 or 2 man A frame or a delightful bell tent...
Caravans, whilst having the benefit of solid walls that don't waft in the wind also are very thin and noise and sound travels. Hypersensitive ears can find this very overwhelming. Also Caravans can be smaller than some tents. On a positive note, if you have your own caravan or motorhome then you can reduce some of the stress of a change of situation by having all your familiar things in the van or home.
Bed and breakfasts have multiple stresses – and if you are gluten free then can pose and extra challenge
Similarly with hotels. You are also forced to eat in a dining room with lots of other people – unless you have room service – demanding extra behaviours of an already stressed person, who may not be able to find the special food that they like and want, cooked in the way they like it and without their special plate and cutlery. Also mealtime are within a set time range.
Self catering is great – in that whilst the environment is different – family favourites and special diets are easier to accommodate and if air travel is not involved then favourite bedding, crockery etc can be brought along too.

All this before even considering where to holiday....
And what sort of sensory environment you plan to visit.....

Imagine a self catering holiday complex catering for families with extra sensory needs and an understanding of such family needs?
A place of understanding and accommodating of sensory needs, and where each individual cottage has thick walls.
A place offering sensory safety and sanctuary away from the overwhelming world outside.
A place with acres of space to run and shout and scream or just to walk and explore?
A place at one with nature with sheep grazing the surrounding fields and 'baaa-ing' gently on the wind.
A place with a natural waterfall cascading down the hillside and along by the self catering cottages that you can not only hear the gentle flow of water but you can also paddle in its many little pools as it makes its way down the hillside.
A place that is only a short 15 min drive from a very quiet and non commercial beach, yet has a few minutes drive further a commercial beach area.
A place with bird sanctuaries and a castle nearby to explore, and a dinosaur coast and museum.
This is my dream, goal, passion to be able to offer to families, a holiday in such an environment!
I have indeed located such a perfect place – all that is needed is the funding or sponsorship to make it a reality...

Autism Conference Update

In June I had the fantastic opportunity to attend both the Treating Autism Conference in Edinburgh – where among other delights I had the great good fortune to be the dinner companion of Harvard Professor of Neurology and Author Professor Martha Herbert; and The Autism Show in London.
There is so much I have to share about all the great people I met and information I learned form both events that it will trickle out in subsequent blogs.

At a folk festival recently I was watching Morris dancing (I am a morris dancer) and was delighted to see a beautiful little girl, with obvious (to me) challenges who was enthralled by the dance and the beat of the acoustic music and I could see her feeling it with all of her senses as she danced and shook her several bells to the music.
This little girl was really embracing the music and allowing it to flow through her in a positive and meaningful and inclusive way.
I am a huge advocate of music therapy and dance therapy as you will know if you read my work, and here was proof positive in a very public environment and a joy to see.
Over and over again I see children, unleashed from the 'bonds' of caring what people think just dancing their hearts out to the morris tunes when we are out performing. I see a few adults too casting caution to the wind and tapping or even jigging to the music! It is not only a great feedback that the music is doing its job and reaching out to people, its a great stress release!

I'm now working on my 2nd book, its about Stress, and what happens to your body physiologically when you are stressed.... Its a passionate subject for me as I live with a lifetime of experiencing stress :-)

Summer, Snow and Sleep

Well it may be summer - but many of us have been snowed upon!  Snowed upon by
beautiful apple blossom petals blowing in the wind and carpeting the ground around the trees?

And if the stunning apple blossoms aren't enough, what about the magical carpets of bluebells currently festooning the woods?
The farmer in the fields across the valley from our home has, this year, started to graze sheep and the gentle 'Baa-ing ' wafting across the valley is really pleasing to the senses! And finally, here in the UK, we have seen the sun! That has to be pleasing to the soul (unless of course you have a light sensitivity and or migraine).

I have recently been looking at correlations between sleep disturbances; tension headaches and migraines and stress.
For those of us with children taking exams this might be a hot topic of interest. In Feb 2009 the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine published JC Ong's study of young adults  'Pain coping strategies for tension-type headache: possible implications for insomnia' and I quote from the abstract of the results :

“A significantly higher proportion of the headache group relative to the control group reported sleep problems as a trigger of headaches, stress as a trigger of headache, and going to sleep as a coping strategy for pain. The headache group also reported significantly  higher ratings of pain interference with sleep”.

Now, there was no mention in the study about any of the participants being Autistic. However, sleep disturbances, insomnia and stress feature predominantly in the experience of many people with Autism – and I have to wonder if tension headaches are also widely experienced.

Maybe we should do our own little survey on this – please email in your answers to the website.

This month seems to be Conference Season - there's the Treating Autism Conference – hosted at the Royal College of Physicians in Edinburgh no less, and the NAS sponsored The Autism Show at the ExCel in London and also in Manchester. If you are in the UK and can manage to get to any or all of these events I think you will find them interesting!

And finally, my goal and dream.... To have a farm in a beautiful area and self catering holiday facilities geared towards families who have a loved one with Autism and or sensory challenges.

Have you ever had the experience of clearing a beach in 5 minutes?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to have a family holiday in a safe place where people not only understand and can be supportive, where care and consideration is taken to decrease sensory overload and also to have a safe space and base from which to go out into the surrounding areas to explore.

Ahhh, How does it get better than this?

Earth Energies of May. you feel that wonderful rush of energy pulsing up through the earth in the Northern Hemisphere to welcome the springtime?
Brilliant yellow daffodils have given way to carpets of bluebells as the seasons turn their way through the cycle of the year.

May dancers photo in autism blog
Morris dancers all over the country have been getting their dance kit in pristine order and are out before dawn on May 1st dancing in the dawn and beating the earth in the very ancient customs of waking up the spirit of the earth that our ancestors believed was responsible for producing healthy crops and, therefore, putting food on the table.  This represented the difference between eating and starvation, so this was a very important time of the year.
It is a time of festivity, the colourful Maypole dancing is another vestige of the  springtime fertility celebrations, in its present form most commonly danced by the local school-children. In some villages the ancient Green Man or Jack-in the Green make an appearance, whilst in Padstow and Minehead the ancient Hobby Horses dance through the streets accompanied by hypnotic drumming and music.

The community festivals so prevalent throughout the UK in the month of May, with its two bank holidays, always remind me of happy times noticing communication that takes place in different ways.

I remember one May holiday at a very well attended village festival, replete with hog roast, May queen, maypole dancing, entertainers, all manner of races – the egg and spoon, the 3-legged, the Dads race, the tug-of-war, and much more, Brass bands, Morris dancers, stalls selling every kind of food and confectionery, Punch and Judy, jugglers, small fair-ground rides, several plant stalls, coconut shy, trampolines, bouncy castles, excited children and so on... All on a very busy but "perfect" May day, enhanced by a blue cloudless sky, sunshine, birds singing, flying and calling in the air above, a gentle breeze rustling the budding leafs on the trees...

Communication - it doesn't always happen the way we think

I remember two young boys who happen to have autism were at this fair.
You can imagine that a great big group of people, all moving and milling about, the masses of noise, the smells from the food, would all be very overwhelming to most people's senses and to these two boys even more so.

But on this occasion I noticed how Richard and David not only coped with the crowd, they also, in their own unique way, communicated throughout the afternoon without saying a word or looking at each other. They were actively present and participating in the day as they wandered around and through the crowd, seemingly unperturbed by all the assaults to their senses all around them...

These two lads had brought their Gameboy's and were walking around the fair together - but not talking or otherwise communicating – just playing their respective games.

They were participating in being at the fair, together, and found a socially acceptable method of not only coping, but also of being sociable on their own terms and doing an activity together, whilst having an enjoyable afternoon outside in the fresh air, in the company of a few hundred people all enjoying themselves.
The fact that Richard and David were together and engaged in an absorbing activity that enabled them to cope with the crowds meant that the rest of their families were also able to enjoy  their afternoon at the fair in their own ways.

Whilst I am not a big fan of television nor of electronic games, on that day Richard and David taught me something rather profound. They had creatively found and used a way to enable themselves to spend time together doing something that they both enjoyed. Furthermore the boys found away to dampen down the gross sensory input all around them, from the large crowd, the noise, the smells and the fast moving and unpredictable movements of so many people all around them, and successfully cope with a family outing that the rest of their families were enjoying in different ways.

Photographs of the boys and various other family members were taken at different times during the afternoon, to put in their respective  'Happy Book's of memories that remind us on days that are difficult that we have had good and happy times - and that it is reasonable to expect that we can have them again.

Autism Awareness Month

I am SO excited... 
...April is Autism Awareness month and to celebrate I am putting the finishing touches to my new book so that it can be released simultaneously in paper and in bite sized pieces on Kindle!
My book includes an in depth investigation into the senses and how disruptions, distortions and developmental delays to the senses might affect people with Autism.
Just before the deciduous trees burst forth into bud, blossom and leaf in the
Twigs being used to explain autism
Using twigs as metaphors to explain autism...
see Janet's latest book, out soon.
Northern hemisphere, take the time out to just look at the tree trunks and how the branches evolve from the trunk, then the twigs grow out from the branches.
If you ever been present at a rendition of  'Hi Ho The Rattlin' Bog' you will know exactly what I mean!
You will notice, whilst the trees are in their winter state of 'undress' that the branches and twigs on the branches and indeed trunks come in all manner of different shapes and sizes – just like people....
If you look closely, you will notice that some trees have a single twig on the end of the branch, whereas others actually have clusters of twigs at the end of their branches.
I wonder at how much information from the world around them those twigs are sensing and passing along the twigs to the branches and on into the limb and the tree? And in reverse, sap is rising from the depths of the tree, up through the limbs to the branches and out into the tips of the twigs.
I wonder, when I look at the trees that have multiple clusters of twigs at the end of the branches, if every one of those multiple clusters of twigs represented neural pathways, how much excess information and overload might be carried along the branches, through the limbs and into the tree.
Continuing my musings, I wonder, if the trees were human and some people had multiple clusters of twigs, or sensory receptors, on the end of their 'branches', what their sensory experience might be like?
Might the amount of information being received and needing processing sometimes be painful and, or overwhelming?
Might this represent an aspect of Autism?

Whatever you're doing let's all raise Autism Awareness in our parts of the world!

Hi! Ho! The Rattlin' Bog

This traditional English cumulative song contains multiple stanzas to test the dexterity of the singer. Its referred to as “the everlasting circle”, and variants of it are found in many countries throughout the world. This version was collected from Seamus Ennis in Dublin.
It is a great family favourite of mine, and I feel like I have to burst into song, and dance, and share in the joy of all that is good in the world, Autism Awareness and my new book. Enjoy!

Hi! Ho! The rattlin' bog and the bog down in the valley-O
Hi! Ho! The rattlin' bog and the bog down in the valley-O

In this bog there was a tree, a rare tree, a rattlin' tree;
The tree in the bog, and the bog down in the valley-O

Now on this tree there was a limb, a rare limb, a rattlin' limb;
The limb on the tree, And the tree in the bog, And the bog down in the

Now on this limb there was a branch, a rare branch, a rattlin' branch;
The branch on the limb, And the limb on the limb on the tree, And the tree in the bog, And the bog down in the valley-O

Now on this branch there was a twig, a rare twig, a rattlin' twig;
The twig on the branch, And the branch on the limb, And the limb on the tree, And the tree in the bog, And the bog down in the valley-O

Now on this twig there was a nest, a rare nest, a rattlin' nest;
The nest on the twig, And the twig on the branch, And the branch on the limb, And the limb on the tree, And the tree in the bog, And the bog doewn in the valley-O

Now in this nest there was an egg, a rare egg, a rattlin' egg;
The egg in the nest, And the nest on the twig, And the twig on the branch, And the branch on the limb, And the limb on the tree, And the tree in the bog, And the bog down in the valley-O

Now in this egg there was a bird, a rare bird, a rattlin' bird;
The bird in the egg, And the egg in the nest, And the nest on the twig, And the twig on the branch, And the branch on the limb, And the limb on the tree, And the tree in the bog, And the bog down in the valley-O

The Perspective of Daffodils...

Depending on where you live the daffodils may have started their show of brilliant yellow as early as February, yet March is the traditional month of the daffodil.
March 1st is St David's day, celebrated not just in Wales but across the globe, wherever the Welsh have made their home and shared their traditions. The 5th century St David is the patron saint of Wales and the daffodil is one of the two generic emblems of Wales (the other being the leek – the personal emblem of St David).
So, I have a lovely vase full of daffodils on the shelf between the kitchen and the conservatory, sharing their delicate perfume between the 2 rooms, and whilst the sun was shining I decided to take some pictures of the lovely flowers – their vibrant yellow trumpets, proudly proclaiming that spring is on its way, bringing with it longer days of light and new growth.
As I was taking pictures of the flowers I noticed how very different the pictures appeared if I looked at the vase of flowers appeared from inside the kitchen, looking out into the conservatory, and again, looking at them from the conservatory into the kitchen.
The flowers, in their vase, had not moved, but I had, and when I moved I looked at them from a totally different viewpoint and what I saw was an  entirely different picture.
Same flowers - different perspective!
This made me think about the differences of Neuro-typical and Autistic brains and how sometimes we have the same information in front of us, for example a vase of daffodils,  the same picture, but our brains process and interpret what they see and experience in a very different way.
If we want to understand, and to learn what someone we care about is experiencing we need to make every effort to see the view of the vase of flowers that they are seeing in addition to our own view.
Perhaps we can ask them to help us to see their view of the vase, ask them to interpret what it is that they see for us to help us understand better so that we too can appreciate the picture from a different perspective.

It takes much effort and commitment to move to try to see what the other person sees, to see their perspective. Every day we interact with other people - whether we are Autistic or Neuro-typical or anywhere in between – we have multiple interactions however large or minuscule, and every one of them can be viewed from a variety of perspectives

Wouldn't life be wonderful if everyone we meet, and work with, and care about was committed to seeing the vase of flowers not just from their own view but also from the other perspective?

Life is all about communication and how we interact with those around us :-)

Nodding all the way with Dr Temple Grandin

February 2013

I just have watched the lecture given at the national autistic society by Dr Temple Grandin.
Having read most of Dr Grandin's books on autism this was the first time I had seen and heard her speak and I was riveted to every word she uttered!
I had the unusual experience of noticing that I was actively nodding most of the time she was speaking and frequently heard myself saying “ yes” when she made a point or comment.
What struck me quite profoundly, was that so many of the things she was saying were things that I have put into practice in my own life too a greater or lesser degree, while raising my two autistic spectrum children, before she had published her books. Dr Grandin's insights of her own personal experience and learning are invaluable to help open a window into what a person on the autistic spectrum might be experiencing in a certain generalised situation, for example trying to communicate verbally, or clothes feeling extremely uncomfortable, or in noisy crowded situation.
Autism is an umbrella for  developmental disorders and disturbances of the senses. The senses include SIGHT, SOUND, TOUCH, SMELL, TASTE, EMOTIONS, FEELINGS. Autism also can include developmental delays and disturbances in motor control and the gastrointestinal system, and effects everyone in an individual way.
I was surprised and delighted that hearing Dr Grandin speak her lecture, and also seeing h her speak, brought her wisdom even more to life to me than reading her words in her articles and books.
To me much of Dr Grandin's suggestions are pure common sense, especially in the realms of being creative, finding things that work, and doing them.
You will also notice that like Dr Grandin I am also great advocate of finding a special-interest and strength in the autistic spectrum child or adult and using those strengths to develop friendships, jobs, careers, positive life experiences, with a view to becoming a functioning, self-supporting member of society.
Dr Grandin also showed slides of scans of her brain in comparison with the neuro typical person which proved scientifically that there are differences in the brain of a neuro typical person and a person with autism.
We are living in a very exciting time of new research and understandings into autism and how to help people gifted with autism to be able to share their gifts with the rest of humanity.

View from the stage - Panto this week!

January 2013

I have just had a fantastic week playing in our local village amateur pantomime, raising money for local charities.
For those of you not aware, pantomime is a very old English theatrical experience that is generally performed in the winter months between December and February.
Loosely based on a fairytale, there are elements in it that also run through the ancient tradition of mumming, whereby a troop of players will travel from village to village and give a traditional performance, with the themes of life, death, resurrection, heroics, the little magic, and all living happily ever after. This correlates with the life of a farmer dependent on the seasons for their food, bringing to life the new growth in the fields in the New Year.
The Dame of the pantomime traditionally is a man, similarly in mumming, there is always a man and woman figure.
In pantomime traditionally the principal boy is played by a girl, usually possessing a fine pair of legs and a good singing voice!
Traditionally also there are baddies, who take on a clown role, and also an evil or greedy king, or leadership character who is persecuting the Dame character. The Dame character is usually the mother of the principal boy character, sometimes the mother of the principal girl and occasionally a nurse or nanny character -as in Babes in the Wood. The principal boy character and the principal girl character will fall in love, face danger and problems, come through this all, and the finale this would they get married.
Pantomime presents a great story of good triumphing over evil, inviting lots of audience participation, harking back to the theatre experience of Shakespearean days as well as Vaudaville, and encompasses a robust range of emotions and offers very good all-round family entertainment.
Pantomime has been an aspect of my family life and experience since before I was born. Beyond my grandparents I don't know how far involvement with pantomime goes back.
The nature of pantomime in addition to having a girl play a boy and a woman played by a man is the very exaggerated facial expressions and body language of the characters, there is nothing subtle in pantomime, it is very “in your face”.
People with autism have difficulty recognising facial expressions, tones of voice, body language, social cues and intentions, in varying degrees.
There are various games on the market to help practice correct interpretation of different facial expressions.
In my experience pantomime is another tool for people with difficulty interpreting facial expressions tones of voice body language social cues, to help practice these skills - both participating in the audience, or indeed on stage as a member of the cast.
With the exaggeration of all tones of voice, body language, facial expressions and social cues in a traditional pantomime performance, I find this a very useful practice arena for both wondering what the character is trying to convey, and noticing how they do it - a great starting point for discussion, observation and learning to be used and incorporated, in a more subtle context, into everyday life.

Not only have I had a great time preserving an English tradition on a local level for another year, I also had the feel-good factor and knowing that I have helped to raise money for local charities. If that wasn't enough I have had so much fun nothing about my colleagues antics on-stage, laughing at myself, and the unbelievable antics of getting into my own costume.
Laughter is a wonderful and free resource to help reduce stress.
Stress, in its chronic form, reduces our immune system and thereby challenges our health and well-being. Laughter helps beat stress!
A win-win all round!